Sunday, November 4, 2012

The nailbiter that wasn't

Paul Krugman notes the misleading banner headline from Saturday's Financial Times: "US election hangs on a knife edge", when in fact, as Nate Silver and the other numbers wonks say, Obama is clearly ahead.  This is part of a larger trend within the American media establishment of insisting that the presidential race is closer than it is.  Krugman does not ask why this is happening, so I think I'll ask.  And then answer.

Why is the media establishment insisting that the race is a toss-up when it clearly isn't?  Because it's in their financial interest to do so.  After all, a media corporation is still a corporation, which means its only goal is to make a profit by any means necessary.  And a close presidential race is more profitable for the media than a not-so-close race, or even worse, a blowout, because, a close race attracts more eyeballs than a blowout, and more eyeballs means higher rates for advertising.  (There's also the fact that both campaigns will pay more money to the media to run their political ads if the race is close than they will if it's a foregone conclusion, but presumably the campaigns know perfectly well how close the race is, so they won't let their ad budgets be influenced by inaccurate reporting.)

"But," you say, "surely you don't think that the objective journalists would intentionally distort the nature of the race just because their bosses tell them to.  Surely they aren't that corrupt!"

What I think is that when you take someone's money, you have to do what they tell you to do, and that includes accepting a salary from a media conglomerate and reporting what they tell you to report.  In other words, yes, they are that corrupt.

And don't call me Shirley.

UPDATE 11/10/12: I'm going to have to revise part of my post above.  According to CBS News, the Romney campaign apparently didn't know how close the race was.  They deliberately skewed their own internal polls to make it look like they had a better chance of winning.  So, I stand corrected.  The media can make more money by convincing election campaigns that it's worthwhile spending more on campaign ads.  Good to know.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The BBC keeps insisting that the race is neck and neck (I quote). I've been finding this quite irritating.