Thursday, September 18, 2008

Grumpy Beat Writers Are Everywhere

One of the things I like best about Nate Silver's rise from moderately anonymous Baseball Prospectus author to big-time-important political blogger is that he's been able to bring some baseball observations to bear on political stuff. For example, today he explains how political writers exhibit the same kind of annoying behaviors as baseball writers do:

One of the unpleasant things you discover when you sit in major league baseball press boxes from time to time is that the press -- or at least the print media -- actually do not like close baseball games. A walk-off home run or a blown save means that they have to re-write their lead paragraph and perhaps their entire game story, leading to angry phone calls from their editors, and forcing them to work later than they might otherwise like to.

I was reminded of this when seeing this headline from Mark Halperin today [Tight Race! Obama 49, McCain 45]. A tight race? It certainly is a tight race, and has been all year. But this, of course, is not really the lead story. The story is that there has been a rather dramatic shift in the national polling toward Barack Obama in the past 2-4 days, coinciding with the Wall Street financial crisis. Some pundits will love this, since it gives them something fresh to talk about. But others, like those cynical beat writers in the Wrigley Field press box, will be annoyed, because it means that the the story they were telling us just a few days ago -- that the Obama campaign was in trouble, that Sarah Palin was the greatest thing since sliced bread -- has now been more or less invalidated.
I understand politics pretty well, but I enjoy it a hell of a lot more when there's a good excuse to bring baseball into it somehow.*

Before you comment, please remember, I cite this for the baseball comparison and the media dynamics of it all, not the politics, and I have no desire for this place to turn into a political blog. This is not a fatwah on political talk, but please, respect each other and remember why we're all here.


Motherscratcher said...

I, too, would like to someday use fatwah in a sentence.

Oh, and, Nate Silver is great.

Saramerica K said...

Again you force your extreme socialist agenda upon us! Next I suppose you'll be doing "baseball" columns in Mother Jones, eh comrade? (stomps away fuming)

Craig Calcaterra said...

Mother Jones? Too conservative. For years I've been trying to launch a magazine that is so in tune with the needs of the workers of the world that it isn't even printed because, as we all know, those presses are built for the enrichment of the plutocrats. For a while I thought the Internet would be the saving grace of my comrades, but someone somewhere has to build this accursed machine on which I type, and I'm sure they too are being explploited.

I'm sure the proper medium exists, but until I can find it, I will be ranting loudly in my shower.

bigcatasroma said...


Ban saramerica k for not listening to your command!

Actually, beyond politics, I'm sure that there are lots of scopes in which the grumpy beat writer, etc. gets one-upped by, you know, actual events.

Grammies that go to someone not written into the byline, obits that have to be put on hold because the dude in the coma doesn't die. It would be interesting to see where these can be found . . .

Blaze said...

Reporters keep a folder of "if only" stories that require only a quick puff to blow off the dust.

John Peterson said...

Nate's site is terrific. If only he would realize that Obama himself is merely a convenient media storyline with little relation to reality.

Oh well. I better get to work making sure I don't own any means of production, for when the revolution comes.

Travis M. Nelson said...

Sticking with the baseball metaphors...

It's amazing to me to see how quickly the balance can shift, from Obama in June, when the housing crisis was on the front pages, to McCain in July and August, when he brought a fresh face to the fore, back to Obama in September when the stock market takes a few hits.

It's like when beat writers (and other fans) talk about "momentum" in a baseball game. There's probably some truth to it, but if somehting can shift so easily and quickly, how much effect does it have? How important can it be?

These polls, like the score in the 4th inning, don't mean a whole lot.

Ironic Goat said...

Someone has to build showers, too.

I did not really begin to get into baseball(and the lesser sports) until 2005, when the Nats moved to town. Before that, while I would go to a few games a year, I would not read the sports pages.

During 05, I had this brief honeymoon period where I was talking up sports journalism, because it was about real and true facts. What place was there for arbitrary opinion?

Now I read fire joe morgan and believe in nothing and no one.

Motherscratcher said...

Dang Ironic Ghost, you're a nihilist?

Say what you will about the tenets of national socialism, at least it's an ethos.