A message from the folks in the media

Peter Robinson:

Hi. My name is Anonymous, and I'm a reporter in the mainstream media. Like a lot of my colleagues, I'm nervous.

In the newsroom this morning, I spent an hour running from cubicle to cubicle. Everyone dismissed the new polls showing the race had tightened. "Outliers," they said. When reporters call some polls "outliers," it's not a good sign. I'm telling you, people are nervous.

You see, we in the mainstream media know the very term is a misnomer. "Mainstream?" Us? When Slate, the e-zine owned by the Washington Post Co. (nyse: WPO - news - people ), published a survey this week revealing that its staff favored Barack Obama over John McCain by 55-to-1, every "mainstream" reporter I know shared the same reaction. It wasn't surprise. It was irritation.

What did Slate think it was doing? We know we're to the left of the country, but did Slate want everybody to find out? Now? When ad revenues and share prices for virtually every "mainstream" newspaper, magazine and television news organization in the country are dropping? Was Slate aware that just this month Standard & Poor's downgraded the debt of The New York Times? The Gray Lady--junk! People, we're in trouble here!

Which brings me back to these new polls. We'd rather not deal with them.

A tight race now would muddy our narrative about the transformational figure, The One. Forbes readers may scoff at Barack Obama as the messiah, but we don't. Give him eight years in the Oval Office, and the man with the most liberal voting record in the Senate will move the whole country our way. The One will make us "mainstream" once again. He might even make us profitable once again.

Why am I writing for Forbes? Let's put it this way: The Obamacons--the conservatives who have rushed to endorse Obama--aren't the only ones hedging their bets. If McCain wins, the mainstream media will remain what it really is, the "more and more marginal media," and I have a career to think about.

From my notebook, a few matters that we in the mainstream media would really rather not mention:

Forget every poll you've read before this morning. With the race to be decided in just a few days, the only polls that matter are those that measure public sentiment now. Obama's lead of nine or 10 points a few days ago? Irrelevant. The race has now closed, perhaps to just two or three points. It makes me queasy to say so, even anonymously, but if they can pick up a point a day between now and Tuesday, then John McCain and Sarah Palin may very well find themselves taking the oath of office in January.

A point a day? That's a lot, but it's hardly unprecedented. I don't like to say this, either, but it's true. During the last 11 days of the 1980 campaign, Ronald Reagan came from three points behind Jimmy Carter to finish 10 points ahead of him. Reagan picked up even more than a point a day.


The polling is tightening. I think it is because many of the undecided are starting to break for McCain. Taxes is the current driving force. National security and energy should also be considered. Those are the big three reasons for voting against Obama and the Obama media.


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