05/19/2010 12:41 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

This Day In Shoddy Political Media Narratives

When it comes to shoddy political journalism, nothing beats those frozen moments when the media strives to half-bake their limp narratives ahead of an election result and end up revealing their biases.

And thanks to an emailer named Barry, I have a wonderful example to share, from AP special correspondent David Espo, who tried to pull off a feat of extreme cognitive calisthenics in a piece yesterday:

Here's the second paragraph, emphasis mine:

In another race with national significance, Democrat Mark Critz won a special House election to fill out the term of the late Democratic Rep. John Murtha in southwestern Pennsylvania. The two political parties spent roughly $1 million apiece hoping to sway the outcome there, and highlighted the contest as a possible bellwether for the fall when all 435 House seats will be on the ballot.

Three paragraphs later, things come a little unglued:

But any attempt to read into the results a probable trend for the fall campaign was hazardous -- particularly given Critz's victory over Republican Tim Burns to succeed Democrat Murtha in Congress.

Huh-what? Rewind that. Armed with the knowledge that Critz had won the race, Espo says in one moment that both parties were attempting to cast the race as a bellwether. Moments later, however, he deems any "attempt to read into the results a probable trend for the fall campaign" to be "hazardous" -- but his sole criteria for this judgment is that the end result was a Critz win. In other words, the race would have only been a "bellwether" if Burns had won. But since he didn't, NOTHING TO SEE HERE, PLEASE MOVE ALONG.

Ahh, if only the Democrat had lost! Then, we'd be free to jump to all kinds of kooky-ass conclusions!

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