Wednesday, January 21, 2004

PROFESSIONAL EXPERTISE, AMATEUR ACCOUNTABILITY

Last night (this morning?) Jon Stewart brutally satarized political commentators for only covering the primaries from the angle of a horse race and on top of that doing it badly. He makes an excellent point.

First, why does political punditry so often never rise above the level of trying to predict who wins? Where's the coverage of 'issues' and 'ideas?' Perhpas the pundits are only giving the public what they want, or perhaps they're being intellectaully lazy and making us the same by extension. Its a chicken and egg thing.

Secondly, when commentators do nothing else but attempt to predict outcomes, how do they so often manage to be wrong? Stewart highlighted this point quite well. Of course he picked the most damning examples, it wouldn't be funny otherwise, but the point is the same. For all the energy pundits expend they're hardly ever right.

Finally, when they aren't right, they rarely acknowledge or explain their wrongness. Stewart satarized this by mockingly asserting that CNN had totally failed in Iowa and that if they didn't nail their predictions on New Hampshire then they would probably be obliged to drop out of the primary coverage.

The important point however is this: Broadcasters and particularly political commentators assume a position of expertise. They claim expert knowledge and wrap themselves in the trappings of experience. When they refuse explanation or apology for being wrong and suffer no consequences for it they indicate that they are unaccoutable. But if our professornal commentators, these perceived experts, are unnacountable then what's the point in listening to them? What's the point of expertise or professionalism?

Anyone can become a political commentator and publish predictions on their blog, many people do. Except that the community of bloggers often imposes its own high degree of accountability. Why should the opinion of a percieved expert hold any greater currency than some amateur when the results they reach are often the same and the latter is arguably more accountable for his opinions?

Posted by Matthew @ 2:36 AM