In lieu of election reporting: In fairness, nothing of value will be said until the votes have been cast.
That said, the New York Times has to keep pretending that it is reporting a White House campaign. We were struck by the worthless “election reporting” in today’s hard-copy Times.
On page one, there were two election reports; neither was totally worthless. One report covered Mayor Bloomberg’s surprise endorsement, offering several absurd speculations as to why he gave it. The other report described the way the two parties are assembling teams of lawyers for Election Day and beyond, especially in embattled Ohio.
The report glossed past Ohio’s unfortunate history with eight-hour lines, nor was True the Vote ever mentioned. But in our judgment, this report wasn’t completely worthless.
Then, we turned to the eight campaign reports inside the paper, in the Election section.
By our count, four of these eight reports are completely worthless. Do we really need a profile of David Axelrod at this extremely late date? Why? Meanwhile, for sheer inanity, just drink in this timely report, which tells us all about Matt Romney’s recent trip to Russia.
That’s Matt Romney, the candidate's son, not Mitt Romney, the actual candidate! According to this timely report, Matt Romney “met with Russians whom he hoped to convince to invest in his company, Excel Trust, which owns shopping centers across the United States.”
Why in the world should anybody give a fig about that?
Those were both full-length reports—1049 and 879 words. At even greater length, Ashley Parkers gushed and swooned about the unutterable brilliance of Candidate Romney’s advance team.
Headline: “Romney Advance Team Works Every Angle in Pursuit of Visual Perfection.” Parker, the next generation of Dowd, offered such piffle as this:
PARKER (11/2/12): Thirty-six hours spent with the team last month, watching a political rally come together, reveals how thoroughly Mr. Romney's advance team–like all presidential campaigns—tries to dictate the candidate's image. To do it well, they must not only attend to details, but also handle the unforeseen hiccups that must be navigated before Mr. Romney utters a single word.If we were able to follow that, Romney’s team, like all such teams, “tries to dictate the candidate's image!” But then, Parker is always on the cutting edge of waste-of-time pseudo-reporting.
The planning for the Oct. 12 event began in earnest on Oct. 9, in the Boston campaign office of Will Ritter, 29, the director of advance. In a meeting, Mr. Ritter rolled through a list of questions, ticking off potential obstacles.
Not much escapes scrutiny. When choosing the campaign theme song, aides considered ''I'm in a Hurry (And I Don't Know Why)'' by Alabama. But they worried that the ''I Don't Know Why'' verse might undercut the campaign's message of strong leadership. They settled instead on ''Born Free.''
Other reports were pointless too, but in reassuring, familiar ways. In this report, Trip Gabriel milled around in the state of Wisconsin, offering cans-of-quote from random citizens, as such reports always do.
As of 2003, Jayson Blair had come to see it’s easier to just stay home and invent these standard predictable quotes. For quite a while, nobody noticed. For all we know, Gabriel’s quotations today come from some old piece by Blair.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Peters ginned a full-length report from a small piece of news—Romney is scheduled to appear in Pennsylvania on Sunday. Lacking anything much to say about that, Peters went with this:
PETERS (11/2/12): Republicans believe that even if they cannot stop the president from winning the state—and rob him of its crucial 20 electoral votes—they can cut into his margins with certain key demographics. Mr. Obama carried the state by 10 points in 2008, a victory in large part because of strong support in Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs, some of which he carried by 20 points.Intriguing! But why would Republicans care about "cutting Obama’s margin with certain key demographics" if they end up losing the state? Peters didn’t explain. Beyond that, he didn’t say if Hurricane Sandy might eat into Obama’s vote from eastern Pa, nor did he offer any thoughts about possible lingering attempts at voter suppression. What’s that?
That covers five of the eight reports! Incongruously, David Leonhardt offered a report about a possible way to obtain more accurate polling results in the future. Even if the report makes sense, it has exactly nothing to do with anything that will be happening in the next week.
Two reports are left:
In a large, photograph-festooned report, Shear and Landler explained that the two campaigns are going back to full-scale, post-Hurricane Sandy campaigning. Right in their second paragraph, they dazzled us with this:
SHEAR AND LANDLER (11/2/12): Mr. Obama enters the last stretch with a slight and consistent—but in some cases, shrinking—edge over Mr. Romney, his Republican rival, in polling from most of the 10 swing states where the campaigns are waging fierce and costly battles with television ads and armies of supporters.Say what? In most of the swing states, Obama’s lead is slight and consistent—although, in some of those same swing states, his consistent lead is shrinking!
In the section's final report, Katharine “Kit” Seelye sent this down from up in Maine. Given the writer, we hate to admit it. But if you haven’t followed the Maine Senate race, you might learn some basic facts from this report about one of next Tuesday’s elections!
By the way: How little does the Times seem to care about its Election section? Why not agree to take The Election Section Challenge!
Click here for the “Today’s Paper” listing. Your assignment: See how hard you have to look just to discover the fact that there is an Election section!
Tell the truth: If you didn’t know there was such a section, could you really expect to find it, given the peculiar placement the Times has chosen to give it? Given the way they've failed to include it in the links at the top of the page?
The Times doesn’t seem to care about its Election section. Given the kind of reporting it offers, we almost think, in this one case, the Times has gotten it right!