Meet the press

A tale as old as time: Politicians preferring to do the people’s business out of sight.

The Huffington Post: Reporters were kicked out of Mitt Romney’s talk at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday night.

It’s not a Republican thing. President Obama did the same thing when he spoke with the same group, the Business Roundtable. And it’s not just a national thing.

WRAL‘s description of a planned meeting between N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis and the president of the NAACP: He said Tillis finally agreed to a May 23rd meeting with restrictions including an approved guest list and a media blackout.

I know it is naive to think that politicians would talk policy in public. Banning the news media or having “a media blackout” suggests that the politicians have something they want to say, but they don’t want the public to hear. Which is probably true. And which doesn’t inspire trust.

What’s more unsettling is that the public really doesn’t seem to care about being shut out. And the politicians know it.

Political polls: today’s junk journalism

WASHINGTON — Entering 2012, President Barack Obama’s re-election prospects are essentially a 50-50 proposition, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

That’s the first sentence of today’s political poll, which was printed in newspapers across the country. Did it tell you anything that you didn’t already know from last week’s political poll? The story goes on to tell us that Americans are unhappy with the way Obama has handled the economy. Really? The AP spent money on this?

It’s not just AP that is throwing away money. It’s the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and all the TV networks. I’ve always thought that most of the political polls were just handicapping a horse race that wasn’t going to occur for another year. That is to say junk journalism.

Now there is academic research to back me up.

That “likely-voter screen,” the battery of questions (Gallup’s contains seven of them) asking people how probable they are to vote, is a staple of just about every survey you see these days. “Public polls”—the ones that now pop up with metronomic regularity under the banner of news organizations and colleges—typically rely on such screens to filter likely voters from the much broader pool of people they get on the line by randomly dialing numbers. In their unpublished paper, Aida and Rogers poked big holes in the screen, suggesting in some cases it was no better than flipping a coin in determining who was likely to vote.

You know that coin? Imagine if the new media spent it doing real journalism, covering the news that affects people.

(Hat tip to Mark Binker.)