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Statehouse Blogs

The most interesting blogs covering state capitols! Lefties, righties and centrists welcome. Suggest your favorites here.


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« Heads Up: 1.8.07 | Main | Heads Up: 1.9.07 »

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Alan Ehrenhalt

I would argue that the overreliance on academic quotes isn't mainly due lack of time or reporter laziness -- it's at least as much the newspaper culture that bars reporters from expressing opinion. You call someone like Larry Sabato so you can get in the paper a judgment you could have made yourself if the editors would let you. I did this a lot myself.

Dave Garrow

I believe Alan Ehrenhalt's exactly right--as someone who's gotten called on several different subjects by a variety of reporters for some years, a significant percentage of those calls are made with exactly the tactical purpose that Alan identifies....

Sara Perkins

For a smaller-time example of the same phenomenon, you might try LN'ing Brown University's Darrell West. The college daily alone must have quoted him six dozen times during my tenure there, and he's a frequent guest in the New York Times, Boston Globe and Providence Journal. Often, he comments within his established subject expertise -- RI politics, Patrick Kennedy and the political media -- but when asked to step outside those boundaries, he often does so. I think that the tendency to rely on him and other quote-giving academics for expert validation of whatever theory the journalist is flogging makes both journalism and political science flabbier.

ivan swift

In Alabama some of the reporters covering a political story will go to a U of Alabama pol sc prof who comes up with the tritest, most pedestrian bits of commentary I've ever seen printed. The guy may have retired but his tired comments emerge anyway. You kind of look forward to them, to see if they are worse than what he uttered previously. There is one pol sc prof in Alabama who makes interesting, pertinent and perceptive commentary -- Jess Brown, at Athens State.

Lucy Morgan

Sabato was also right on with his predictions, a factor that makes him a reliable quote.
His crystal ball predicted we would have 29 new dems in the House and 6 dems in the Senate - exactly the number of winners. He did miss on governors, predicting 7 new ones instead of 6 - but no one is perfect!

Jeffrey Dvorkin

Professor Sabato is so well known in the UK, that the BBC aired a little ditty in his honor:

Want a quote?
Then do not tarry.
Call UVA
And ask for Larry.

James R. Carroll

In defense of all of us who have used Larry Sabato: 1. He knows what he is talking about. 2. He speaks in complete sentences and is coherent. 3. He is pleasant, engaging and, often, very funny. 4. He respects journalists. 5. He returns calls - from airplanes, from wherever he is at a conference, maybe even from the bathroom, though I don't know that for sure. I know that I and many of my colleagues spread the calls nationwide to experts known and unknown - a conscious effort to find other Sabatos out there. And we do sometimes find them. BUT...some advice for the next would-be-Larrys: If you hold yourself out to be a political expert, please keep up ("Gee, I haven't been following that" doesn't bode well for future calls), please have some concise points you wish to make (no 20 minutes of free-style thought before the first quotable sentence), and please, make every effort to return our calls in a timely fashion (24 hours later is eons in today's news world). There is nothing I want more than to add some new names and faces, with diverse perspectives and viewpoints, to the source list.


By all means, Mr. Carroll, we on the "inside" or poli sci types should do everything we can to make it easy for reporters to print sound bites. Being printed in the media is the pinnacle of achievement, I suppose. I enjoy Dr. Sabato, I studied a great deal of his academic work in college and grad school, and think he is one of the foremost political thinkers of his generation. I find it a little offensive that the media turns to him because they get a quote, though. Maybe some day someone will print his thoughts on the political process in detail, instead of using his expertise in such a superficial way. The first two comments especially make my skin crawl. Finding someone to use as a source because they share the same opinion as you isn't journalism in any real sense. It's no wonder to me that shows like "The Daily Show with John Stewart" do so well. "Journalism" as we know it today is no more than Entertainment Television. It's easy to make fun of the total lack of relevance reporters and network news have.

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