Liveblogging Postwar: June 9, 1946: Ted Williams

(Late) Monday Journamalism Smackdown

If a horse takes a four-length lead and holds it for the entire race, that's what a competent horse-race reporter reports. Even horse-race reporting has its standards. But journamalism...

In the middle of March Alex Seitz-Wald--a smart man--wrote a story:

Alex Seitz-Wald: Hillary Clinton Back on Track to Win Democratic Nomination

But when did HRC get off track?

She didn't: she was always on track:

Who s On Track For The Nomination FiveThirtyEight

But Alex Seitz-Wald wrote as if the default assumption was that Bernie Sanders' win in Michigan in early March had in fact knocked HRC "off track":

Alex Seitz-Wald: Hillary Clinton Back on Track to Win Democratic Nomination: "Bernie Sanders' upset in Michigan last week may have simply delayed the inevitable.... Tuesday was not a blowout, though.... If Sanders was going to suffer a major loss, now is a good time to do it...

He paid no attention to the fact that HRC's early-March performance had showed her on track even before her mid-March wins:

Who s On Track For The Nomination FiveThirtyEight

And he then doubled down down by claiming that, at the time of his writing, maybe she wasn't back on track after all:

...as front-runner Hillary Clinton appeared to sweep all five primaries held: Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois and Missouri.... [But:] Tuesday was not a blowout, though. Early returns showed Sanders ahead in Missouri, and with a chance in Illinois. However, Clinton closed the gap and by early Wednesday was the apparent winner in both states. If Sanders was going to suffer a major loss, now is a good time to do it. With a slew of Sanders-friendly caucuses and two primaries they're targeting, the Vermont senator's aides expect he could win seven of the next eight contests...

And, indeed, Sanders did:

Who s On Track For The Nomination FiveThirtyEight

But Sanders did not win those by enough to lower the share of future delegates he needed to win as of mid-April relative to what it had been in mid-March: Sanders's campaign faced a tougher task in terms of needed delegate percentage in remaining contests in mid-April than he had a month before.

The narrative a normal reader would get from Alex Seitz-Wald's story--HRC on track, knocked off track by Michigan, wins but not by enough to get her on track in mid-March, Sanders comes roaring back winning "seven of the next eight contests" to knock her off track by mid-April--that narrative is fundamentally false.

So why do this? Alex Seitz-Wald's future career as a journalist does not depend on him writing purple prose as clickbait. It depends on him establishing a reputation as a trustworthy information intermediary.

If he wants to write horse-race stories, fine. But writing bad horse-race stories? That's not a way to gain or keep your reputation as a trustworthy information intermediary.

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