Behold the terrifying future of journalism

Don’t try to understand it. It makes no damn sense at all.

Miracle Mike Sebba sent me a link to this page of “unskewed polls,” which purport to show actual public opinion by correcting poll results for “massive over-sample of Democratic voters.” That phrase comes from the article that comes up when you click on the Reuters/Ipsos poll link. It’s also in the Examiner article you get from the NBC/WSJ link, the Examiner article from the NY Times/CBS News poll, and every other poll link on the page, all of which point to Examiner articles by one Dean Chambers. Mr. Chambers also appears to be the sole writer at QStar News. He’s a whole damn network.

It is difficult to understand what Chambers means by “unskewed polls.” He seems to be basing his argument on a Rasmussen Report form August titled Number of Republicans in America Reaches Record High. That survey found 37.6% of those polled identified themselves as Republicans—a number Chambers uses to declare any poll whose sample does not contain 37.6% self-identified Republicans as “skewed.” He then weights the results of those polls accordingly; if 30% of respondents in a poll identify Republican, for example, Chambers “unskews” the results by increasing the weight of cross-tabulated Republican responses by 20%.

That’s what he appears to be doing, anyway. His methodology is unclear, but you can’t argue with the results: Romney is in fact leading in all polls by an average of 7.8%. Interestingly, he enjoys his smallest lead in the poll conducted by Fox News, which would presumably sample a larger number of Republicans—and therefore offer Chambers a smaller coefficient with which to correct the numbers. Suspiciously, no Rasmussen poll is mentioned at all.

As we mentioned earlier, Chambers has broken news that Mitt Romney is actually leading Obama by large margins in all polls—and that the national news media is deliberately hiding that fact—in a dozen cookie-cutter articles on is owned by Clarity Media Group, which acquired the domain when it purchased the San Francisco Examiner.

As of 2009, contributors to were payed a penny per pageview, although that system has since been adjusted to include other metrics. Perhaps the best assessment of the Examiner’s validity as a news source comes from its executive editor, Jim Pimental, who told the San Francisco Weekly that Examiner uses “a less-strict standard for accuracy and attribution in stories that appear on the Web.”

In other words, is a content farm, and the people who own it don’t care if what they publish is strictly, you know, true. There are plenty of essentially unedited content farms on the web, but not many of them present themselves as news outlets, and very few are connected to actual newspapers. In this regard, presents a unique platform for partisan hacks, cranks and propagandists. Its political section, for example, is divided into Republican and Democrat categories, which feature the stories Romney gaining in the polls in a very close race and Obama holding solid lead, Romney fading in all areas, respectively.

Both of those reports cannot be accurate. Dean Chambers’s bizarro landslide certainly is not. Which brings us to a pertinent question Mike posed yesterday—why would you spread false information about polling data? Presumably, both sides in a political contest benefit form accurate assessments of public opinion. In November, we’re going to take a very accurate poll of the presidential preferences of 100% of likely voters across America. It seems pointless to lie to the about their own preferences in the meantime.

I do not see the angle, unless it’s to make a bunch of pennies for Dean Chambers. Maybe his spate of articles—he published five on September 21 alone—soothes his desire to believe that popular support for a president he dislikes is not real, or some similar reason that operates on the level of psychology rather than planning. The angle for Clarity Media Group is more obvious: they get pageviews and sell advertising without having to pay professional journalists. All they have to do is stop thinking about whether the information they offer as news to millions of people is true.

So that’s maybe the future of journalism: you run everything; the important story is what the most people read, and accuracy is what the most people believe. It’s an efficient model if you believe that the purpose of disseminating information about local and world events is to make money. If you believe that having an informed populace is maybe of a different order of importance than manufacturing cell phone cases, there are some holes. But what everybody thinks about journalism is different from what everybody says, anyway. Ask anyone.

Combat! blog is free. Why not share it?
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Reddit


  1. Truth has always been decided by what most people believe. New media just makes this fact objectionable by putting out in the open what we could ignore before.

Leave a Comment.