Monday, December 05, 2005

Note to political writers

I haven't been in the News department for a number of years now, so perhaps those folks will consider me unqualified to make this statement.

But having browsed a number of headlines about the 2006 election and how the Republicans are doomed, I have the following point to add to the discussion.

Pardon me while I shout for emphasis -- it's a bit difficult to be heard in all the fray ...

The 2006 election is ...


Poll numbers at the moment mean absolutely zip. Nada. De rien. If they did, Michael Dukakis would have been elected president in 1992, and Jerry Kilgore would be preparing for his inauguration in Virginia.

By November 2006, for all we know, George Bush could be up to 60 percent in the approval ratings, Tom DeLay could be claiming victory over his accusers and a resurgent Green Party could be sneaking a few members into Congress. Or Bush could be at 30 percent, DeLay could be in jail and the Democrats could reclaim the House.

We just ... don't ... know.

We in Sports are prediction-crazy, but even we don't try to tell you whether the Redskins are going to win next November based on how they did against the Rams on Sunday. That's because we're smarter than News folks. Or at least a little more aware of what we don't know, which the ancient Greeks would consider intelligence.

In fact, while I'm on this kick, don't blame the weather folks for getting the storm forecast "wrong." Weather forecasters deal in probability. They know this. News folks do not.

I once had the following conversation in a newspaper office, with no meteorologists present:

Editor: "Well, we know the hurricane is going to hit High Point."

Me: "Actually, we don't know that. Hurricanes aren't that predictable. It could veer 50-100 miles north or south, or it could take a strange turn. We should be prepared for it to hit anywhere in our coverage area."

Editor (after a pause): "So it's not going to hit High Point."

For the record, the outer bands grazed High Point, but the Triangle area -- 50-60 miles to the east -- was hit far worse.

No comments: