The hand-wringing is continuing today in the wake of Tuesday's "surprise" in which Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama in the New Hampshire primary, an event which has, in the last 24 hours, grown in stature to eclipse Harry Truman's defeat of Tom Dewey and is moving closer to Jesse Ventura shocking the world.
The New York Times analysis this morning says:
The polls, which consistently showed Mr. Obama running much more strongly than Mrs. Clinton, may have been unable to keep pace with events. In the end, it seems, the preferences of a considerable number of New Hampshire voters were very much in flux in the final days of the campaign. What pollsters call “considered opinion” — the kind of opinion born of reflection rather than one elicited in an instant by a poll taker — registers only when people step into the ballot box.
"Ah," as Captain Queeg might say if he were interested in politics, "the polls. That's when I knew I had them."
The industry -- mine -- that so embarrassed itself in 2000 by being driven by polls as a substitute for journalism, had done it again; surprised by itself.
By now, perhaps, you've heard of the rallying cry for better political journalism from Tom Brokaw, when he schooled MSNBC's Chris Matthews on Tuesday night.
MATTHEWS: We’re going to have to go back and figure out the methodology, I think, on some of these.
BROKAW: You know what I think we’re going to have to go back and do? Wait for the voters to make their judgment.
MATTHEWS: What do we do then in the days before balloting–
BROKAW: What a novel idea–
MATTHEWS: –We must stay home then I guess.
BROKAW: No, no, we don’t stay home. There are reasons to analyze what they’re saying. We know from how the people voted today what moved them to vote. We can take a look at that. There are a lot of issues that had not been fully explored in all this.
But we don’t have to get in the business of making judgments before the polls have closed and trying to stampede and affect the process.
Look, I’m not picking just on us. It’s part of the culture in which we live these days.
But I think the people out there are going to begin to make some judgments about us, if they haven’t already, if we don’t begin to temper that temptation to constantly try to get ahead of what the voters are deciding, in many cases as we learned in New Hampshire, as they went into the polling place today or in the past three days. They were making decisions very late.
The most illiuminating words in the exchange, however, weren't Brokaw's, they were Matthews'. Take away the polls, he suggested, and there's nothing for journalists to do.
At one time, it was impossible to get out out of Iowa without being exposed to some sort of discussion on agriculture in the United States, or, now, ethanol. There was almost no coverage of the economics of agriculture or the minefield of ethanol economics from journalists in the year they had to follow the campaigns in Iowa.
Similarly, it was nigh on impossible for any candidate to spend a week in New Hampshire in the past without talking about the issue of taxes, in a state in which the issue has moved more than a few residents to tears (it's that big of an issue.) There was no coverage of the issue in the week leading up to Tuesday night, but for a brief exchange in the Republican debate.
And, back in the day, on it would go from state to state, each with its own particular issue. The net effect was at the end of the campaign, politicians were not only better schooled on -- wait for it -- issues, but so were we. Those days are over. Pollsters talk to voters. Journalists don't.
In the aftermath of a primary, we are left instead with an analysis of the efffect of a candidate's tears (ignoring the fact that there weren't any actual tears) instead of an analysis of the effect of the ideological differences between the winners and the losers.
Here's one analyst's take today:
We become so caught up in the horse race that we often don’t pick up on the nuances as well as the unpredictable makeup of voters. We realize that many voters both in New Hampshire and across the country are on some level trying to send a message to the media that they are simply too powerful — and that we in the media are too impatient with the voting process.
That comes from Steve Adubato, the media analyst at MSNBC, whose column raises a simple question: If the people making the mistake are acknowledging they're making a mistake, why not just stop making it?
It would appear that the problem really isn't the polling or its methodology; it's that the people covering campaigns don't appear to know what stories to do without them. Take away pundits, pointyheads, and polls, and what are you left with? Voters and whatever issues they really care about.
MPR's servers have been inundated with people -- 48,000 yesterday alone -- using our Select A Candidate program. As one of the people who put it together, I can tell you it was a massive amount of work finding candidate answers to about a dozen obvious issues. Why? Given the millions of dollars invested by news organizations to cover the presidential campaign almost two years in advance, it shouldn't be such a struggle to get a concise overview of where candidates stand on issues. And yet, it is.
That's a heck of a story.(4 Comments)
Two questions seem to be dominating the discussion in the wake of news that Eden Prairie High School administrators disciplined students whose pictures -- allegedly showing them drinking -- were posted on the social networking site, Facebook: "what were you thinking?" and "what's the number for our lawyer?"
There's another question, however. "Do I hurt my chances of getting into college by posting stupid things online?"
First the bad news. A recent survey of 453 admissions departments at colleges and universities in 49 states found one out of four are using blogs, search engines, or social networking sites to evaluate applicants.
"While certainly the traditional factors will still play dominant roles in selecting applicants for admission or rejection, students need to understand that their social network sites are being examined by colleges and universities," Dr. Nora Barnes, the researcher, said. "The content of their sites could have far-reaching effects on their academic futures if they are not careful."
The good news for high school partygoers documenting their lives online? In Minnesota, you don't have to be that careful. A sizeable number of Minnesota colleges don't use social networking sites to evaluate students. Marsha Schuemaker, internal communications director at St. Cloud State University says the school does not check the online lives of potential students, but she was intrigued enough by the question to contact Linda Kohl, a vice chancellor at the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, who said no MnSCU admissions office is using social networking sites in such a way.
The University of Minnesota also does not check online sites for background on applicants, according to university spokesman Dan Wolter.
The National Association for College Admission Counseling offers these tips for high school kids who want to move on to higher education:
Social networking sites aren't merely an investigative tool for higher educators; it's also a method of recruiting potential students.
Colby College in Maine, for example, has set up what amounts to its own social networking site -- Inside Colby -- and encouraged its students to write blogs and post pictures "to give potential applicants an authentic perspective into college life," according to the Boston Globe.
Ten things you may not have known about the new owner of the Minnesota Wild:
In 2002, Leipold quit the board of directors of LaCrosse Footwear, when the company decided to close down the Racine plant of its subsidiary, Rainfair, a company he sold in 1996 for $10 million. The company makes protective footwear.
Leipold is the founder of Ameritel Corporation, a business-to-business telemarketing firm in Neenah, Wis.
He serves on the board of directors of Gaylord Entertainment, owners of the Grand Old Opry and other venues.
Leipold is also the son in law of Samuel Johnson, scion of Racine's S.C. Johnson & Company.
He and his wife, Helen, have five children.
Leipold is a Republican. He's a contributor to Mitt Romney's current presidential campaign. In the past, he was a financial backer of the George Bush's campaign, as well as Lamar Alexander's bid for the White House. He's a contributor to the Republican Party of Wisconsin. His total political contributions, according to the Federal Elections Commission, amount to $61,714.
Leipold was on the Governor's Milwaukee Stadium Commission, which pushed for public financing of a new stadium for the Milwaukee Brewers in the mid-'90s.
He ended up selling to a local group for a reported $193 million, after buying the rights to the expansion team for $80 million.
He sent this letter to season ticket holders in May:
Dear Predators' Season Ticket Holders:
June 25, 2007 will mark the 10-year anniversary of the awarding of the NHL franchise to Nashville that became your Nashville Predators. It's been an incredible 10-year journey for me. I can't tell you enough how much I appreciate your strong emotional and financial support of the Nashville Predators. You are a big part of the team's on-ice success. On behalf of the entire franchise, I thank you.
Ten years ago, I couldn't call myself a hockey expert. Today, my family and I are as passionate and competitive about the game as the most hardcore fans.
When the franchise began, I said we would run it as a business in order to be successful. We developed a game plan both on and off the ice. We became an integral part of the community, especially downtown Nashville. We made sure we had some fun. And, we indicated that making a huge profit was not a top priority - but we certainly didn't make plans to lose a significant amount either.
As part of those plans we developed a loyal fan base - every team should be fortunate enough to have a Cell Block 303 and the loudest arena in the league. We built a team that the community could be proud of on and off the ice. We grew our hockey skills exactly as general manager David Poile outlined, using the draft as a foundation and then supplementing at the appropriate times with trades and free agents. We gave back to the community - well over $2 million in grants and in-kind donations through the Nashville Predators Foundation. We created an entertaining in-arena atmosphere for every game night. And, we did it all while keeping our ticket prices near the bottom of the league.
Unfortunately, the success on the ice has not translated to success for me as business owner.
Here are just a few facts as to why:
The Nashville Predators tallied up 216 points in the last two seasons, fifth most in the NHL, yet because of below-average attendance, the team will still have a real cash loss of $27 million during that time. Additionally, that loss is despite receiving the most money in the league from revenue sharing. Over the last five years, the team has lost over $60 million.
We've invested heavily in sales and marketing efforts, spending over $50 million in 10 years, most of that with locally-based businesses.
Our average regular season attendance this past season was 13,589, up from the year before, but still 2,000 below the NHL average. A low turnout, combined with a low ticket price results in a poor financial situation.
The new NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement with revenue sharing is not a cure-all. Each local market must still support its local team. In addition, this attendance does not qualify us for our full revenue sharing allocation under the collective bargaining agreement.
While individual fan support has always been strong, we've worked aggressively to increase our local business support since Season Four. We've tried a variety of approaches with minimal success. Our records show today that corporate support for the Nashville Predators makes up about 35% of our season ticket base. The average in other markets is around 60%. During our first two years, approximately 4,000 businesses owned season tickets. Today, only 1,800 businesses have season tickets.
While my heart and my love of the game tell me we can still be successful, the facts outlined above suggest otherwise. I've reached the only possible conclusion and it's one of the most difficult decisions of my personal and professional life.
Later today, I am announcing an agreement to sell the Nashville Predators franchise and Powers Management to Jim Balsillie. We plan for the sale to be final in early July after a short period of due diligence and approval from the NHL Board of Governors.
I've carried the franchise as far as it can go from a business standpoint. It has been well-reported that we have attempted to attract local ownership since 2002. The truth is, we had only one serious inquiry in that time from someone who was interested in a small minority share of the team. Jim Balsillie is interested in full ownership.
It's time to give someone else a chance to take the Nashville Predators to the next level in terms of local business support. Last week's announcement that the Sommet Group has signed on as a naming rights partner for the arena is a strong first step in the right direction. The new energy and leadership of Jim Balsillie will be another.
Jim Balsillie is co-CEO of Research in Motion, the company which developed the Blackberry device. He is an avid hockey fan who still plays recreationally. I know he is dedicated to putting a great team on the ice.
The past 10 years have laid a foundation, but there's still much to be done to both build corporate support and to win a Stanley Cup. I know Jim shares my passion for the game and my commitment to a strong franchise to pursue the greatest trophy in sports.
Despite the financial challenges we faced, owning this franchise has been the thrill of a lifetime. I've made many friendships here in Nashville. It's been an exciting 10 years, and as I move on from the ranks of team ownership, I'll always remain a fan.
Craig L. Leipold
He apparently left town in the good graces of the city and the NHL.(2 Comments)
Now that the Minnesota Wild have -- or has -- been sold, is it time for a new team name? Anything will do that will, once and for all, settle the question of what verb should follow the name?
Are they an "is" or are they an "are"?
Minnesota Wild is sold said the headline on the MPR Web site. Technically, I suppose, that's correct. Wild at least sounds like a singular noun so it would take the singular form is, even if it sounds wrong, especially when newscasters announce that the Wild is in Detroit tonight to play the Red Wings, who, it should be pointed out are home to play the Wild tonight. Perhaps that's why we can never beat them; it's many against one.
The big problem comes with the fact wild is not a noun, it's an adjective that, through repetitive misuse, became a noun as people dropped the noun that went after it -- the wild woods, the wild prairie etc.
A few months ago I submitted the question to the arbiter of proper usage in manners of journalism, the Associated Press. I got this response from style guru David Minthorn:
The "collective nouns" entry of the AP Stylebook says team names take plural verbs. So, the Minnesota Wild are ....
The AP's story on the sale today showed the organization's plural style.
Success on the ice has been limited for the Wild, who have made the playoffs twice in six seasons and are currently in seventh place in the Western Conference.
But the Wild, and many news organizations -- I'm talking about you, Star Tribune -- insist Wild takes the singular. If true,one would read, perhaps, that however many dollars Leipold paid for the team are a lot of money.
Nonplused, I submitted the issue to local grammar arbiter Luke Taylor, who handles the Grammar Grater podcast.
"The difficulty with this singular form is that we as humans tend to think of the Wild as a group of players and naturally want to refer to the team in the plural, yet people in the U.S. and Canada are generally trained to use singular verbs with groups. And that's where a real mess arises: using the singular verb in the sentence is fine, but the you're required to use the singular pronoun 'it' later on.
We'd be relieved from all this insanity if we just adopted the BBC News Styleguide's approach. It reads, 'In sport, teams are always plural. England are expected to beat the Balaeric Islands; Tranmere Rovers have extended their lead at the top of the Premiership.' (See page 31 in this pdf)
The problem with that approach is that using plural verbs after words like 'England,' 'Manchester United' or 'Chicago' sounds strange to North American ears. but I have to admit I'm partial to the BBC's approach on collectives because it just seems to fit our human instinct to refer to a group as an actual group and not as an amorphous, inanimate 'it.'
Long story short: my final say with a team such as the Wild is to do what you think sounds best, singular or plural, but then adhere to that form once you've made your choice, remembering to stay consistent with any subsequent pronouns you may use throughout your piece of writing.
As Luke's reponse indicates, a definitive "rule" is hard to come by here.
And so I asked Mary Steen, the English Department chair at St. Olaf College in Northfield.
I'm not a complete authority on such matters, but I'd say that the singular verb is appropriate for a team.
Here's what Diane Hacker says in her Pocket Manual of Style (I don't have the Chicago Manual or some more journalistic manual at hand, but you probably do.):
Collective nouns such as jury, committee, club, audience, crowd, class, troop, family, and couple name a class or group. In American English, collective nouns are usually treated as singular. ...Occasionally, where there is some reason to draw attention to the individual members of the group a collective noun may be treated as plural: A young couple were arguing about politics while holding hands.
Vern Bailey, who runs the English Department at Carleton says...
British sportcasters and most Brits consider a sports team a group of individuals -- "Manchester are leading the rest after the second series."
The American sportcasters and public conceptualize a sports team as a single entity so they say "Notre Dame is leading after two quarters."
Both are correct. The difference can be considered idiomatic, an established pattern that needs no rule to explain it.
Paula Rabinowitz, English Department chair at the University of Minnesota...
I don't have my copy of the Chicago Manual with me--I'm home and it's in my office--but I would say is is what is.
"Is is what is." Now that's style.(6 Comments)