By:
October 30, 2020

Sports radio host Colin Cowherd wasn’t trying to make a political statement during his show on Thursday. In fact, he was talking about something sports-related. But he used an analogy about polls that turned out to be a very reasonable point.

Cowherd argued that for years and years and years, polls were typically accurate when looking at elections. Then 2016 happened. Donald Trump defied the polls and ended up defeating Hillary Clinton to win the presidency.

And now, many act as if 2016 is the norm instead of what it might have actually been: the outlier.

To be fair, there are those who argue that the polls in 2016 really weren’t that off, that many of us merely misread them, didn’t read them fully or didn’t take into account the margin of error.

Still, Americans are gun shy about polls and, because of 2016, the question is: Why should we ever trust polls again? In addition, there are those who believe that Trump is such an out-of-the-box, atypical candidate that polls really don’t apply to him, that there is no poll that can really get a handle on how people feel about him.

That’s why there are so many out there now who aren’t putting much faith in most polls that show Joe Biden winning this election. But, just as a reminder, the polls in 2016 never said that Trump had no chance.

As FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver told CNN’s Oliver Darcy, “We warned folks that Trump could win and a lot of people didn’t heed that warning.”

So what then should we think of this year’s polls, like the FiveThirtyEight forecast that, as of Thursday, has Biden winning 89 times out of 100?

Silver told Darcy, “We’re not going out on any sort of limb here. We’re just stating the obvious. Biden’s pretty far ahead in polls and the candidate who’s ahead in polls by a margin like that usually wins.”

So even this year’s FiveThirtyEight forecast leaves room for a Trump victory. But with Biden such a heavy leader in that forecast, Darcy asked Silver if he’s worried that a Trump victory might cause people to lose faith in his models.

Silver told him, “I don’t really give a (expletive) because I can’t do anything about the election outcome. Obviously I can predict that some people might get disillusioned, etc. But it’s not something within my control. So if the 10% chance comes though … that’s going to happen every once in a while. It’s supposed to happen! And there’s not much we can do about it.”

More anonymous fallout

In this 2019 photo, Miles Taylor (middle) listens to Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio (left) talking with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, right. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

As I wrote in Thursday’s Poynter Report, Miles Taylor, the former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security, is the “Anonymous” who wrote the scathing New York Times’ op-ed in 2018 that slammed the presidency of Donald Trump. These days, Taylor spends some of his time as a contributor for CNN.

And he still will, despite recently telling CNN’s Anderson Cooper on the air that he was not the “Anonymous” who wrote the op-ed. Washington Post media writer Erik Wemple tweeted, “A CNN spox just told me that Miles Taylor will remain a contributor despite lying to Anderson Cooper. CNN cannot have it both ways — slamming Trump for his lies, yet condoning a very big and blatant one by its own contributor.”

CNN’s Chris Cuomo confronted Taylor on his show Wednesday night, saying, “You lied to us, Miles. You were asked in August if you were ‘Anonymous’ here on CNN with Anderson Cooper, and you said ‘No.’

Now, why should CNN keep you on the payroll after lying like that?”

As he did in his statement revealing he was “Anonymous,” Taylor told Cuomo that he wanted Trump to have to concentrate on Taylor’s words, instead of turning it into personal attacks.

Wemple reached out to Taylor about his lie to CNN and Taylor emailed Wemple to repeat that he wanted the focus to be on Trump’s presidency. As far as Cooper, Taylor told Wemple, “If he’s willing, I owe Anderson a beer and a mea culpa.”

But check out this passage from Wemple’s column: “Beers and mea culpas are appropriate salves for collegial infelicities, like, perhaps, blindsiding a co-worker at softball practice, or inadvertently chugging a colleague’s iced latte sitting in the office refrigerator. They don’t mitigate a lie on national television. Yet that’s the mind-set with which the New York Times and CNN are now associated.”

Greenwald resigns

Glenn Greenwald in 2019. (AP Photo/Leo Correa, File)

Glenn Greenwald, who co-founded The Intercept seven years ago, abruptly turned in his resignation Thursday after claiming editors refused to publish an article he wrote unless he removed “all sections critical of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, the candidate vehemently supported by all New York-based Intercept editors involved in this effort at suppression.”

Greenwald wrote, “The brute censorship this week of my article — about the Hunter Biden materials and Joe Biden’s conduct regarding Ukraine and China, as well my critique of the media’s rank-closing attempt, in a deeply unholy union with Silicon Valley and the ‘intelligence community,’ to suppress its revelations — eroded the last justification I could cling to for staying.”

The Intercept responded in a statement by saying, “He believes that anyone who disagrees with him is corrupt, and anyone who presumes to edit his words is a censor.”

The statement also said, “The narrative he presents about his departure is teeming with distortions and inaccuracies — all of them designed to make him appear the victim, rather than a grown person throwing a tantrum.”

In the statement, The Intercept also said, “A brief glance of the stories The Intercept has published on Joe Biden will suffice to refute those claims.”

Intercept editor-in-chief Betsy Reed told The Washington Post’s Jeremy Barr and Elahe Izadi, “It is absolutely not true that Glenn Greenwald was asked to remove all sections critical of Joe Biden from his article. He was asked to support his claims and innuendo about corrupt actions by Joe Biden with evidence.”

In a really long blog post, Greenwald says he will now publish his work on Substack. He might be best known for publishing reports about the American and British global surveillance programs that were based on classified documents provided to him by Edward Snowden. He was part of the team at The Guardian that won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Public Service for reporting on the National Security Agency.

Big move in Miami

Aminda Marqués González is stepping down as executive editor of the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald to take a job as vice president and executive editor at book publisher Simon & Schuster. She had led the Herald newsroom for a decade, overseeing two Pulitzer Prizes.

The Miami Herald reported that Marqués thanked the staff in a memo and called her time at the Herald “the pinnacle of my career.”

Marqués also was Florida regional editor for McClatchy, which owns the Herald, as well as senior vice president/news and executive editor of the Herald, El Nuevo Herald and the Bradenton Herald. She is co-chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board.

Marqués has enjoyed a stellar career at the Herald, but she recently stopped serving as publisher of the Herald and El Nuevo Herald after El Nuevo Herald published a magazine insert called LIBRE that contained misinformation and racist and anti-Semitic remarks.

The Herald reported Marqués’ last day will be Nov. 12 and a search for a successor is underway. Rick Hirsch, the Heralds’ managing editor, will serve as interim executive editor.

Hurricane coverage

A powerful hurricane with 100-plus mph winds crashed into the Gulf Coast this week and yet most of the news coverage throughout concentrated on the final days leading up to next Tuesday’s election and the coronavirus. That’s unfortunate, although somewhat understandable. This is a historic election and a once-in-a-hundred-year pandemic.

Still, Hurricane Zeta did damage where it made landfall near New Orleans and, as of Thursday afternoon, had claimed at least three lives. It then raced up the East Coast and back out into the Atlantic Ocean by Thursday night. But before getting there, the inclement weather forced President Trump to cancel a rally in North Carolina. NOLA.com has excellent coverage of the storm, as does The Weather Channel.

Meanwhile, there could be another storm brewing next week in the Caribbean and there continue to be wildfires out west. Perhaps another good thing about getting the election over is stories that are being undercovered at the moment can, once again, start getting more attention.

Disturbing video

Check out this video of CNN’s Jim Acosta at a Trump rally as Trump supporters surround the press pen and chant “CNN sucks!” In his tweet, Acosta wrote, “This happens at just about every Trump rally. I’ve covered five presidential campaigns… long enough to know this isn’t normal. Sometimes I’ll scan the crowd, not for the folks who are chanting but for the people who look back at me silently, letting me know they know it’s wrong.”

Powerful words

Dodgers player Justin Turner (middle with red beard) after the Dodgers won the World Series on Tuesday night. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Bill Plaschke, the wonderful sports columnist at The Los Angeles Times, had strong words in his latest column after Dodgers slugger Justin Turner joined his teammates on the field to celebrate their World Series victory on Tuesday night. Turner was pulled during the series-clinching game after tests for COVID-19 came back positive. Yet he went back on the field for the postgame celebration even after, reports say, he was told not to by Major League Baseball. He was not always wearing a mask when he went back on the field and was in close proximity to others.

In his column, Plaschke praised Turner’s baseball prowess and leadership, but added, “Who would have thought he could be so irresponsible?”

What makes Plaschke’s words so powerful is that he battled COVID-19 earlier this year, which he wrote about in a chilling column. In his recent column, Plaschke wrote, “As someone who suffered with the COVID-19 virus a couple of months ago, this columnist can attest that transmission is a dangerous act, infection is a big deal, and anyone who would willingly risk either is just wrong.”

Plaschke wrote that Major League Baseball and the Dodgers should’ve convinced Turner to remain in isolation after the game, but really, only Turner could have stopped Turner. Plaschke said Turner could have sent a wonderful message by being selfless and thinking of others.

“But instead, it was an opportunity lost, an image possibly damaged, a legacy potentially stained,” Plaschke wrote.

Sports figures weigh in

Speaking of sports, a couple of well-known sports figures have come out in support of President Trump. One is legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus, who tweeted that he has “been very disappointed at what he’s had to put up with from many directions, but with that, I have seen a resolve and a determination to do the right thing for our country.” He also called Trump “more diverse than any President I’ve ever seen.”

Nicklaus also said, “You might not like the way our President says or tweets some things — and trust me, I have told him that! — but I have learned to look past that and focus on what he’s tried to accomplish.”

Former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler commented on Nicklaus’ endorsement on Instagram by saying, “never a doubt” and, later, “sign me up.”

Introducing the Latinx Files

The Los Angeles Times is introducing a free weekly newsletter dedicated to the American Latinx experience called “Latinx Files” The Times’ Angel Rodriguez wrote that the newsletter will “highlight the issues affecting our community — from the pandemic and recession to immigration, from critiques of our exclusion from mainstream culture emerging from Hollywood (because we all know that will continue) to the latest Bad Bunny release, and everything in between.”

Rodriguez also wrote, “While the Los Angeles Times hasn’t historically covered Latino communities well (when it has covered them at all), today there are close to 100 Latino journalists working at The Times to tell their stories, in English and in Spanish. We‘ll build on that coverage and deliver it every week to your inbox. There can be no L.A. Times if it doesn’t reflect our city, and the Latinx Files is just one part of our commitment finally to tell the stories that have gone underrepresented in our pages for too long.”

You can sign up for the newsletter here.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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