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Eight Ways the Media Blew Coverage of the Obama-Romney Race | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

Media, politics and culture.

Eight Ways the Media Blew Coverage of the Obama-Romney Race

Since Obama’s easy win on election night, much criticism and mockery have been directed at over-confident GOPers, their candidate Mitt Romney and the Fox News propaganda network.  But a critique of the wider media mishandling of election news and trends has been rather muted.

In fact, many in the media—I am trying not to tar with too broad a brush here—for whatever reason (a varied lot, no doubt) got so much of the Obama-Romney wrong from the get-go or in spurts as it went along. I’ll return to this in a more in-depth way in a future piece, or you can find much more now, and all of the key links, in my new ebook on the race, Tricks, Lies and Videotape. For now I would accuse many in the media of the following, with apologies to the fine journos (you know who you are) who did good work.

1) Starting with the obivous: repeatedly framing this as a “toss-up,” “tied” or even eventually “Romney has edge,” when (as Nate Silver has shown) Obama always led, and by comfortable margins, where it counted in our dumb and undemocratic Electoral College system: in the handful of swing states. In the aftermath, many of the same reporters and commentators simply blamed the Romney forces for misleading them with their claims of an “enthusiasm gap” or change in electorate since 2008.

2) Treating the pick of Paul Ryan from the start as a bold and positive stroke when it was obvious to many that it was born of desperation (much like the McCain choice of Palin) with little upside and some major drawbacks, including (like Palin) the veep candidate’s not appearing to be ready to be president. Indeed, Ryan would prove to be a negative factor, when he wasn’t invisible, and put on an embarrassing performance in the vice-presidential debate. Many reporters, as in 2008, falsely observed that crowd size translated to general enthusiasm and extra votes.

3) Too often adopting a “false-equivalency” or “view from nowhere” approach to fact-checking. The examples are too numerous to mention here—and then there was “Buzzfeed Ben” Smith writing essentially “who cares about facts or factcheckers,” everyone lies, etc.  For example, conducting an entire convention based on a lie — under the banner “You Built That”—was not the same thing as misstating an aspect of Romney’s record in a PAC ad or three.

4) Overstating the impact of Romney’s win in the first debate—the bump was real but limited, changing nothing in the swing states—and understating Obama’s smashing wins in debates number two and three, which wiped out number one.

5) Related to that, and apparently desperately hoping for a nail-biting finish, the hyping of “Mittmentum” in late October long after it had disappeared, even in the national polls.   As part of this, too many apparently fell for the "skewed polls" narrative (even if they didn't mention it in what they wrote).  Also, while highlighting a "gender gap," few declared it was more than enough to practically guarantee an Obama win.  We won't even mention the many claims that key Senate races were getting tighter when, in fact, most of the Dem candidates in key races won going away.

6) As I’ve pointed out all year—promoting each month’s official jobs report as likely having a major impact on the race, when all evidence suggested they have very little effect.

7) Considering the Benghazi consulate tragedy as anything more than a sad ripple across the brains of most voters (beyond the hardcore Hannity watchers).

8) Not even attempting to force issues such as climate change and Afghanistan into the campaign debate and debates.

Greg Mitchell’s unique ebook on Obama-Romney race (Tricks, Lies, and Videotape) covers the contest right up to election night and the aftermath, and in a special feature includes over 500 clickable links to the most important articles, blog posts and videos. For Kindle, iPad, phones, PCs.

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