Daily Archives: February 14, 2012

Santorum catching up to Romney in national poll

OK, so now it’s hard to dismiss Rick Santorum’s victories as just isolated anomalies here and there.

A new New York Times/CBS News poll has him catching up to the erstwhile front-runner nationally:

After his surprise triple victories in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, Rick Santorum has begun soaring among Republican primary voters, erasing Mitt Romney’s lead in the race for the party’s presidential nomination.

A New York Times/CBS News poll released Tuesday morning showed Mr. Santorum surging among Republican primary voters nationwide, lifted by support among conservatives, evangelical Christians and Tea Party supporters.

In the new poll, 30 percent of Republican primary voters say they support Mr. Santorum, compared with 27 percent for Mr. Romney. While Mr. Santorum’s lead is essentially a tie with Mr. Romney because it is within the margin of sampling error, it reflects a significant jump for him from earlier polls.

The two other major candidates are further behind, at 12 percent for Ron Paul and 10 percent for Newt Gingrich. Mr. Gingrich’s numbers have fallen sharply since his win in South Carolina on Jan. 21…

Newt who?

And of course, therein lies the cautionary tale for Santorum. Several weeks back (starting the week before the SC primary), we saw Gingrich catching up to Romney in national polls.

All Romney can say in defense of his status is that he is always the guy the other people are talking about catching.

So what do you think? Is this real, or just another one of these whack-a-mole upsurges of the “not-Romney” flavor of the week?

A new business model for journalism?

Romenesko brought my attention to this idea today. It’s intriguing, because the holy grail in journalism today is to find a new way to pay for it, now that the old business model that sustained newspaper journalism for generations has collapsed so spectacularly.

Interest in news and commentary is as great as always, but in the past, those who demanded such commodities were not the ones who paid for it — it was advertisers, who came to the newspaper for completely different motives. Now that marketing has changed so radically, turning from mass media to targeting messaging, how do you pay people to come up with the professional-quality content that the public still desires?

Here’s one way:

I call it the eBay of investigative journalism, and here’s how I envision it:

  • Bring donors and investigators together in an exclusive online network, creating a forum where they could pitch ideas to each other.
  • Donors in the network who want specific topics covered would propose stories and agree to fund the investigations. Journalists in the network would bid on the projects, outlining how much money they need. Multiple donors could contribute to each project.
  • Project pitches would work the opposite direction, too, with investigative journalists outlining their own ideas and donors “buying in” by providing the funds. Donors could contribute the full amount to fund projects they really like or fund parts of multiple projects. Journalists also could pitch ideas as teams or recruit teams within the network.
  • The network would have a team of editorial directors whose job would be to vet the donors, journalists and ideas. Only the best would make the cut, just like applying for media jobs.

Of course that only applies to investigative journalism — or more, broadly, what we referred to as “enterprise” stories: Someone (traditionally an editor) says “go out and look into this.” Traditionally, the journalist did so because he was paid a salary. Now that the revenue source that paid that salary has collapsed, this is an interesting idea for paying for a journalist’s time and expertise to pursue a subject.

Of course, there are real problems with it. Not every worthwhile story, not everything that citizens need to know, is marketable. That’s why it worked better to pay journalists salaries so that their scope of investigation was unlimited by what attracted a paying customer.

Then, there’s the fact that it does little good for the area of opinion journalism, which has been my specialty since 1994.

But perhaps most critically, it does nothing for the most fundamental, basic, bread-and-butter kind of journalism: simply covering everything in a community — crime, public safety, courts, politics, business. If you try to cover news according to whether someone wants to pay to see that particular story, it becomes PR.

But it’s still an intriguing idea.

My loss of innocence, in the bicentennial year

On my last post, I said something about how insulting I find it when someone says that my opinions would be different if my personal circumstances were different. Such as when people say, “A conservative is a liberal who has been mugged,” or “if your daughter were pregnant, you wouldn’t be opposed to abortion,” or whatever.

I was insufficiently clear, as I learned when one commenter thought I mean people shouldn’t change their minds. I’m all for mind-changing based upon new information. (And indeed, sometimes that new information is conveyed by changed personal circumstances.) What I object to is the suggestion that, if it were in your self-interest to change your mind, you would.

Part of the reason why I find this so offensive is the puritanism of the journalist. News journalists aren’t even supposed to have opinions, which I’ve always understood to be absurd, of course. But when journos are allowed to have opinions, and even paid to express them publicly, as I was for more than 15 years of my career, it’s such a special gift that the responsibility is huge to formulate political opinions according to the greater good of the community, limited only by your ability to discern the greater good. Anything that smacks of abusing that privilege for self-interest is appalling to me.

I’m a bit more wordly today than I was in the early stages of my journalism career, but the ideals are intact.

This led me to share an anecdote from the days when I realized that not everyone, not even all journalists, looked at the world as I did…

In 1976, I was pretty excited about Jimmy Carter’s candidacy. I saw him as what the country needed after Watergate, etc. One day close to the election, I had a conversation with another editor in the newsroom. She said she favored Gerald Ford. That sounded fine to me; I liked Ford, too — I just preferred Carter.

What floored me, flabbergasted me, shocked me, was that she said the REASON she supported Ford was that she and her husband had sat down and looked at the candidates’ proposals, and had computed (who knows how, given the variables) that if Carter were elected, their taxes would go up by $1,000 a year.

My jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe it, because of the following:

  • I couldn’t believe that ANYONE would actually make a decision based on who should lead the free world based on their personal finances. (I really couldn’t; I was that innocent.)
  • I thought that if there WERE such greedy jerks in the world, you would not find them among the ranks of newspaper journalists, who had deliberately chosen careers that would guarantee them lower salaries than their peers from college. If you care that much about money, this would be about the last line of work a college graduate would choose.
  • If there WERE a journalist whose priorities were so seriously out of whack, surely, surely, she’d never admit it to another journalist.

But I was wrong on all counts.

For a time I regarded her as an outlier, as an exception that proved the rule. But that delusion wore off, too, as I had more such conversations with many, many other people. (Although she still stands out as the must unabashedly selfish journalist I think I’ve ever met. Others may be as self-interested, but they’re more circumspect.)

Today, I have a much more realistic notion of how many people vote on the basis of self-interest. But I have never come to accept it as excusable.