Why we don't have a better press corps:
Scoop Dupes: [Jonathan] Martin’s tweet also reveals a broader issue in reporting… the unhealthy cult of the inside scoop… the search for the “secret sauce”, as Martin puts it: the insider who knows What’s Really Going On. Background interviews with top officials are regarded as gold, and the desire to get those interviews often induces reporters to spin on demand.
But such inside scoops are rarely… worth a thing…. This is sort of obviously true in election season: in a vast, diverse country, no amount of talking with big shots (who are pushing an agenda) — or for that matter hanging out at campaign events and trying to assess the mood — is a substitute for polls that collectively sample tens of thousands of voters. It’s even more obviously true on economic matters…. Remarkably, it has even been true for national security. Reporters with top-level access got completely snookered by the lies about Iraq, while many ordinary concerned citizens, looking at what we actually seemed to know, figured out early on that the Bush administration was cooking up a false case for war….
If the right way to assess an election is by parsing the polls, this elevates nerds from nowhere at the expense of political reporters who spend their lives cultivating contacts, and really aren’t comfortable with numbers…. [A]nyone who understands numbers and has access to polling data is in a position to make a very informed judgment about the state of the race; and nobody who doesn’t understand numbers is in a position to do the same, no matter who he knows.