Ryan Holiday on the media’s campaign coverage collusion
Ryan Holiday sounds about right:
That sure worked out nicely didn’t it? If you were in the news business, this election could not have gone better for you.
There must be conflict, it must be dramatic.
How else can Politico, Talking Points Memo, Huffington Post, and their brethren post dozens and dozens of blog items a day? Without incessant online buzz, what will the ttalking heads debate? What will the newspapers round up and review?
Romney polled ahead early but then suddenly it got close until he ultimately won the nomination. Obama polled ahead early but then suddenly it got close until he ultimately won the election. How well that worked out!
If reality does not support the economic demands of the news media—then reality can be changed. When everyone in the business wants certain kinds of events, those events must be willed into existence. And then we can chatter about them endlessly and sell ads against the ensuing din. And hope that it holds us over until a real news story like Hurricane Sandy can wash all the artifice away.
While sitting on the couch watching CNN coverage, I commented to nobody when Wolf Blitzer tugged the reins on John King who starting basically calling Ohio for Obama. King’s reporting was very precise and it basically showed that Romney didn’t have much of a chance in that state. It is the very same technology that CNN and other media outlets rely on to cover elections that makes the entire horserace process so interesting. As a nation, we love watching those numbers roll in and those states get filled in red or blue. There is money to be made by keeping us all tuned in, and I saw Blitzer playing the role of a football announcer who is overly optimistic about the team down two touchdowns with only a few minutes to go. The networks don’t want a Heidi moment like they had in 2000 where the drama there could have kept more eyeballs glued to the television. Of course, the networks have to balance with caution. Part of Blitzer’s reining in of King was likely due to not wanting to recreate the 2000 early call debacle. Regardless, media outlets make money by having stories to tell. When that is the incentive, that is what will happen. Holliday continues:
For the most part, I find the politics of Noam Chomsky to be abhorrent, but when it comes to analyzing the media he’s as good as they come. What I’ve described above was no overt manipulation, no puppet master pulling our strings. Instead, it’s what’s he called a Tacit Collective Action (or Tacit Conspiracy). When actors like Fox News and MSNBC, Drudge Report and Huffington Post share the same incentives and business model—despite their heated ideological differences—they cannot help but act in concert to further each other’s interests. Together, they can conspire and not even know it.
Nate Silver’s polling methodology was called into question down the stretch. Perhaps instead of bias against conservative candidates there is a larger bias against a runaway outcome.