Consider this column as notes from the (election) battlefield.
• I wrapped up my part of the election coverage early Wednesday morning. All the local stories were filed and edited, the local election results lists were complete, and everything was well in hand.
It was the end of a long campaign for everybody, and honestly, I looked forward to no more phone calls from election pollsters and watching TV without being bombarded by ads of Mitt Romney telling me how he had “watched” Mia Love run her small Utah city as mayor and we all needed her in Washington because of the bang-up job she did. To be fair, and so the Republicans don’t yell at me, I was just as tired of Jim Matheson’s ads featuring Republicans from all walks of life voicing their support for the veteran congressman.
My relief lasted only as long as it took to make a last check of the wires. It all came crashing down when the first thing that popped up was a Washington Post story, speculating on whether Vice President Joe Biden might run for president in 2016.
Yes, folks, as of early Wednesday morning, we’re off and running on the 2016 presidential campaign trail.
I can hardly wait.
• Our Tuesday morning front page was proof of two things: No good deed goes unpunished, and beauty is still in the eye of the beholder.
When planning that page, there was lengthy discussion among editors about how to be fair to both presidential candidates in our photo and story selection. Our graphics and design people settled on two pictures, one of each candidate, to be given equal display and prominence on the page.
We thought we did well.
Before noon Tuesday, we received a letter to the editor about liberal bias because, among other things, the photo of Romney was on the left side of the page, not where the eye first goes, our letter writer said, and because his photo was blurry, while that of “the other guy” was clear and pleasant- looking.
One letter does not a consensus make, but I have been at this long enough to know if somebody is upset enough to call/write about what they see in the paper, they are not the only one feeling that way.
The afternoon brought a little yin to the morning yang, when a newsroom staffer mentioned to the visuals editor that he thought the Romney photo was clearly a better picture than the one we used of Obama, and that photo choice showed bias toward the Republican candidate.
Glad we settled that one.
• In any election, you can treat yourself to numerous polls, all claiming insight as to who is ahead. Naturally, as the election draws closer, “who is ahead” tends to translate into “who is going to win.”
They can be tricky, though. All you need to do is look at Salt Lake City, where polls conducted by, and on behalf of, competing media organizations produced dramatically different predictions in several key races.
Polls can only be as accurate as the people who participate in them. And therein lies the potential for problems.
Are the questions phrased in such a way as to be neutral and fair to both sides? Are the people being polled answering the questions truthfully? Did the pollsters contact a truly representative group of the bigger demographic — based on ethnicity, gender, party affiliation or lack thereof, age, income levels, employment status and so on?
Miss on those parameters, and the poll’s accuracy as a predictor flies out the window.
Despite the complexity of constructing and carrying out an accurate poll, they’re as popular as ever.
Personally, as a voter, I don’t pay much attention to the pre-election polls, placing them in the category of what I call background noise.
The best, most accurate, poll and the only one that really counts is what voters decide when they cast their ballots.
Dave Greiling is managing editor of the Standard-Examiner. He may be reached at 801-625-4224 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.