In some cases, as in the primaries in the U.S. Northeast, polls were to blame, but what of other boo-boos?
In late 2007, virtually every media outlet was crowing about the demise of Arizona Senator John McCain. That call was based on his lack of funds, which most reports erroneously equated with the death of his campaign.
Such unfulfilled predictions are all the more remarkable given his recent rising to the top of the Republican field.
How does this happen?
Well, most reporters rely on polls - yes - but reporters also rely on other reporters. If one news agency reports a trend, then others rush to second that report. These reports morph into a kind of conventional wisdom, and only the crash of reality can knock it down.
As for new audiences, I mean young people from 18 to 35, many of whom have never had (or don't now have) land lines - and polling companies are forbidden by law from contacting people via cell phones.
Thus, a whole cohort of people--young people-- those most apt to change their minds--are lost to pollsters.
Another factor is, in this age of new media, news shows don't report what happened anymore; they rush to report what will happen next.
When this is done, it presents a 50/50 proposition; you're right 1/2 the time, or wrong 1/2 the time. You simply can't be right 100% of the time!
Major corporate media outlets do this because it's a battle for audience eyes - and market share. Predicting news is a lot sexier than reporting it, especially to younger viewers who are drawn to the interactivity of the Internet.
Similarly, newspaper circulation is tanking these days, in large part because youngsters aren't in the habit of reading paper copies. For most newspapers, circulation has dropped at least 10% since 2000.
Also, many people, young and old, felt burnt by the cheerleading role played by the media in the selling of the Iraq War.
The corporate media has gotten it wrong - again.
--(c) '08 maj