Monday, August 06, 2007

I guess I struck a nerve

Clint Brewer has really gone after me for not conforming to the standards to which the MSM must conform. Liz Garrigan agrees that I wouldn't last a minute under the conditions that she must operate. I don't disagree with either of them, and I never set out to become a journalist.

However, if I am free to speak my mind about the impact of polls on voting behavior, but the exacting standards under which the MSM must labor does not permit that, then I think we may have a bigger problem.

All I did to provoke this response was point out that calling me a "nattering nabob" was just name calling, and that the last guy to use that phrae was in the wrong.

My original posts simply tried to point out other interpretations that the polls could be given as a way of reminding people that voting, not the polls ought to determine the outcomes of elections. That point is relatively non-controversial, but it almost never finds its way into the frontline news story. The editors will blog about it, but by their own disparaging of blogs, the work they do there lacks credibility compared with the work they do in print.

I let the gloating "We Nailed It!" post stand unchallenged, but what journalistic investigation could prove the hypothesis that the poll accurately REFLECTED the electorate was more true than the hypothesis that the poll CREATED the electorate? I raise a question, because the answer to this question is not proveable. One simply decides to believe that a poll is MORE LIKELY a reflector than a shaper.

For the record, my posts have raised questions about the three major print outlets in Nashville as well as other bloggers. Here's what Clint did not quote:

I am not saying that this poll won't end up being correct, but I would hate for any survey of 564 people to be correct because it led people to vote as if the poll were an instruction sheet. Everyone needs to make his/her own decision and vote that way. That is the only way democracy really works. Polls are fun to talk about, but if the polls shape how we vote, we are giving our decisions away.

In each election, there are many polls taken. Often on a national level, one of them ends up being pretty close to the results. The problem is that you never know which one will be accurate until after the results are in.

Don't let anyone (polls, bloggers, pundits) decide who you want to be your mayor. You get to make that decision on your own. With just a little over a week remaining, you still have time to consider all of the candidates thoughtfully, and make your own decision. If you want that decision to help shape Nashville's future, just be sure to act on it.

I am concerned that implicit questions of my ethics have been tossed around in comments to the post. What did I do in the above statement that was unethical?

Print journalists have hard jobs, and I respect their efforts to do them as well as they can. Why they don't report the negative implications of polling and horse racing is because if they did, it might leave them without a story on the polls.

I don't think that would be so bad, but it is not my place to tell them which of their opinions they can write.

I'd love to see a print article about the limitations of the polls and the potential that they will shape, rather than reflect the results. Until then, I guess I will have to keep putting that stuff here, in my own diary of personal opinions.

At least now someone important is listening, and I sincerely appreciate that.


Clint Brewer said...

It is not a question of hitting a nerve, Alan, you just didn't accurately report what I said.

Here is the relevant passing from my blog today:

"For starters, Coverstone should try some of the same fairness he calls for from our newspaper and others in his own coverage. Somehow, Mr. Coverstone has parsed down three references in my above referenced blog post with links provided to three very different kinds of journalists and through his own prose made my post all about bloggers. I’m not sure how he reached that conclusion, but the substance of the original post in question does not support it.

From Mr. Coverstone’s blog:
'Today, it is bloggers who try to hold the mainstream press accountable. The nattering nabobs of negativism were the good guys when they held Agnew accountable, and it seems to me that nabobs in this case may well do the same thing with a press that has lost its way a bit.'

One problem here, Alan. Two of the three “nabobs” I mention were members of the MSM, you being the exception. You are, of course, welcome to your own opinion but not your own set of facts. The links were plainly provided to a television station, a newspaper reporter and Coverstone’s blog. My original post dealt with a broad cross section of critics from three different media platforms two from the MSM - not just bloggers."

Your an educator in charge of shaping young minds, Alan. You should get the facts correct. I have yet to see anywhere in this latest entry where you defend yourself on the point I made in my blog today repeated here in this comment.

Anonymous said...

Don't you see Clint? If you hadn't written your "horse race" articles, Briley would have only lost by 10,000 votes instead of 15,000 votes. It's all your fault!

Alan Coverstone said...

Look, I am not a full time journalist, so I don't have time to fight some battle. I obviously don't understand what has gotten you so upset, but I would be happy to take you to lunch sometime (my treat) to discuss it and see if I can understand. Might be fun to invite Liz and Sean as well.

Either way, I think we are in this thing together. We need to set some standards for measuring our public officials, and we need to ask tough questions.

So, the second comment here is ridiculous. If you hadn't spent as much time horse racing, more time would have been available to report on issues. You do a pretty good job of reporting on issues generally.

Stop picking on me, and start asking how each of the remaining candidates plans to solve the NCLB problem in metro schools. Spend time asking how the looming budget crisis in the city will be handled differently under a Dean as opposed to Clement administration.

You have the capability to do these investigations. I do not, but it is not the role of this blog to do that. It is the role of this blog to press anyone listening to ask the questions citizens need answered.

Clint Brewer said...

You're still not answering my question, Alan. Do you or don't you admit you took my work out of context and painted an inaccurate picture of my viewpoint? It is a very simple question. You have expelled literally hundreds of words at this juncture NOT answering it.
Simply state whether what you did was right or wrong and will or won't you correct it? That is all I want.

Alan Coverstone said...

Clint, I do deny that I took anything out of context. I guess those reading this increasingly unnecessary dispute will have to judge that claim for themselves. I am comfortable with what I said.

I usually would have stopped responding to a line of questioning that is becoming ever more disturbing to me, but I answer you because I respect your position. I am trying to offer an olive branch to discuss any concerns you have about me personally, but I do not believe that this is a forum where the obviously personal concern you have about me can be fruitfully resolved.

If you don't like my opinion, you don't have to read it. I am more interested in what the next mayor will do to improve our schools.

I'd still be happy to take you out to lunch if you'd like to get to know me. Just drop me an email.

Clint Brewer said...

Thank you. That is all I wanted was an answer. I will assume that you also will not be correcting the blog entry in question.
I am not sure what you find disturbing about this. I write and edit a newspaper for a living. You, in my opinion, took my work and misrepresented it. Now, you are doing it again. I have not made one single comment about you personally, and I have no concerns about you personally. I do not know a thing about you. I have only made reference to the content of this blog, other than to note your profession which you state in your profile here.
If you find this exchange disturbing then perhaps you should choose your words more carefully when you blog. Someone may call you on them.

Alan Coverstone said...

Now you've really lost me, and I think only face to face conversation can solve it.

I stand by every word I wrote. I do choose my words carefully. They were fair, and I did not distort the context. I tried to have a little fun that I thought anyone using the nabobs phrase would have to take in good spirit. That's why I noted in the title that it was just for fun. It is obviously a funny phrase with historical baggage. You obviously did not enjoy it.

I will say this: I wish you were as interested in the questions I raise in my recent entry about the next mayor and his education plans as you were in whether or not some random blogger distorted your words.

We need you, as a newspaper editor, to be aggressively helping the citizens of Nashville ask and answer those questions. That is all I am aksing for. As I have repeatedly said, you do that most of the time, and I appreciate your work. If I believe you are not doing that however (and I do believe that reporting on horse race polls is counterproductive to discussions about issues), I will feel free to say so. You are free to ignore me or to respond as you see fit, but this whole episode worries me a little.

Clint Brewer said...

Alan, I am about 48 hours ahead of you on the NCLB issue. We published that story online yesterday, remember. The story you are asking for has been in the works since about noon yesterday. Fret not.
As far as our paper's work on the mayoral candidates and their education plans, you clearly did not read our coverage of the mayoral race or our endorsement. I would encourage you for your piece of mind to do so.
I meet with plenty of people every week, Alan. I will tell you what I told Brittney and others - my door is always open.

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