Last Thursday, the Yale Daily News rained insulting (and aged) statistics onto the campus’s crowd of Obama supporters. The title of YDN staffer Divya Subrahmanyam’s article alone could reap the scorn of anyone who’s ever worked on a campaign: “Double take: Months of canvassing, 430 votes to show for it?” The article goes on to calculate the underwhelming performance of Yale for Obama workers according to a 2002 formula by Yale political scientists Donald Green and Alan Gerber.
Yale’s Obama faction was not pleased. The flurry of disgruntled comments on the article can pretty much be summed up with phrases like “I’m overwhelmingly disappointed by Divya’s article,” “And your point is????,” or “What a terrible, thoughtless, and irrelevant article.” Others point out the YDN‘s hypocrisy in undermining the efforts of some when the paper celebrated the work of canvassers in Virginia the day before. But Nathan Tek ’09 has a point:
just because it makes you feel bad doesn’t mean the research is bad or that the article is incorrect. grow up, Dems.
None of which stopped Yale for Change, which sent out a passive-aggressive group email including the word “appalled,” accusing YDN of destroying democracy and freedom as we know it, and demanding an apology:
The paper never covered our efforts on election day, only here, an article that demeans our work. It says nothing of the overall ground operation of the campaign. It denigrates civic engagement. It ran a news analysis piece without running the news. There are any number of problems that I have with the story, and I imagine the same is true for most of you. … We asked [YDN editor] Tom [Kaplan] to issue an apology, but he refused.
So goes this now classic yet always tired battle pitting poor reporting by Ivy dailies against the soft-shelled emotions of students. Check out Yale for Change’s email and some good ol’ fashioned fact-checking after the jump.
As the “Oh no they didn’t!” remarks pour into the YDN website, readers are focusing more on the sting of the grim statistics than the statistics themselves. Gerber and Green are, after all, some of the nation’s hottest political statisticians—that is, if statisticians can be hot. The book version of the 2002 study quoted in the YDN article is now in its second edition and according to at least one critic is “bound to become a bible.” The fact remains that the formula Subrahmanyam used to ring up the unholy number 430 is not only over six years old but was originally intended to calculate local election results.
Without sounding like a Philip Glass record, let us remind everyone that the 2008 Presidential race was an election of superlatives and firsts. Old standards don’t apply, and the whiz kids in New Haven should’ve taken the article’s obvious fallacies in stride.
At least the Yale Dems are keeping their heads up. Their guys still won the election even if they truly did only contribute a few grains of sand into the landslide. In more than one anonymous tips, we caught wind of the reactionary email:
From: “Yale for Obama” [redacted]@gmail.com
Date: November 6, 2008 10:22:05PM EST
Subject: Today’s YDN
Dear Yale for Obama,
Once again, congratulations on the incredible task you accomplished on Tuesday. Each of us was a part of history.
Like many of you, I was appalled by today’s lead story in the YDN (http://yaledailynews.com/articles/view/26298). The paper never covered our efforts on election day, only here, an article that demeans our work. It says nothing of the overall ground operation of the campaign. It denigrates civic engagement. It ran a news analysis piece without running the news. There are any number of problems that I have with the story, and I imagine the same is true for most of you. I have met with the editor-in-chief, Tom Kaplan, and expressed my point of view. But remember the message from this whole campaign: we can make a difference if we are willing to, if we do the work required. We asked Tom to issue an apology, but he refused. He shouldn’t just hear from the leaders of the group, he should hear from everybody. To that end, we’re asking you to email Tom, (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tell him yourself, if you feel so inclined, your thoughts on the piece.
Thanks so much, and have a great night.
–Ben Lazarus, on behalf of Yale for Change
Cheers, Ben. Readers, do what he says. If we do nothing at IvyGate, we might as well help blow things even further out of proportion.