There is a relationship between Pulitzer Prizes and circulation (the correlation is .53 among the 50 newspapers listed here). It’s just that this relationship hasn’t changed much from 10 years ago. The vast majority of newspapers have seen their circulations decline; the ones that win a lot of Pulitzers have suffered about as much as the ones that don’t. You could spin this result as a negative for high-quality journalism — newspapers that win Pulitzers are doing no better at retaining their readers — or as a positive — almost all newspapers are struggling, but the ones that win Pulitzers continue to have more readers.
The key to understanding Krugman’s feuds is that he is driven by a very particular kind of professional elitism that can cut in two directions. He rose to fame as a public intellectual in 1994 as the author of “Peddling Prosperity,” which was both a popular primer about economic policy and a lacerating attack on what Krugman called “policy entrepreneurs,” his term for non-economists who sold politicians on simplistic but false economic remedies. Krugman reserved his deepest ire for supply-siders on the right, but partially balanced that out with attacks on liberals like Robert Reich. Krugman’s premise was explicitly elitist: He believed economic policy needed to stay in the hands of real economists, not amateurs with spreadsheets.
Krugman’s attack on the credentials of populist liberals like Reich made him nearly as much of a hate figure on the left as the right. A 2001 cover story by Robert Kuttner in the liberal American Prospect called him “the conservative’s ideal liberal.” It was decorated with a cartoon depicting Krugman in the trench coat of a seamy peddler, or perhaps a flasher.
Krugman has since rocketed to higher levels of fame by assailing the phony economics of the Bush administration in the last decade, and then, what he called the “Very Serious People,” who clung to superstitious fears of debt and inflation in the face of overwhelming evidence that the economy needed more demand. Krugman’s first incarnation positioned him as a snobbish defender of the economic elite, and his more recent incarnation, as a populist critic. But they both reflect a very particular kind of veneration for credentialed economic expertise.
With the Bridgegate scandal sinking Chris Christie’s standings in public opinion polls, none of the possible GOP presidential candidates is currently polling above 15 percent with GOP voters. Nate Silver found this to be historically unprecedented:
How rare is such an evenly divided field? I checked polling since 1976, the first year in which both the Republican and Democratic nominations were decided completely by voters and not by party leaders.
In surveys conducted from January through March of the preceding midterm election year (so for the 2012 election, we’re looking at polls from Jan. 1 through March 31 of 2010), the Republican atop the polls has always averaged at least 23 percent of the vote.
But not this year. Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and a presidential aspirant in 2008, leads current polling with 14.8 percent. Even if we include Democratic nomination contests, 14.8 percent basically ties for the lowest leader on record (right near the 15 percent Mario Cuomo had in 1992).
I would never have launched FiveThirtyEight in 2008, and I would not have chosen to broaden its coverage so extensively now, unless I thought there were some need for it in the marketplace. Conventional news organizations on the whole are lacking in data journalism skills, in my view. Some of this is a matter of self-selection. Students who enter college with the intent to major in journalism or communications have above-average test scores in reading and writing, but below-average scores in mathematics. Furthermore, young people with strong math skills will normally have more alternatives to journalism when they embark upon their careers and may enter other fields.4
This is problematic. The news media, as much as it’s been maligned, still plays a central a role in disseminating knowledge. More than 80 percent of American adults spend at least some time with the news each day.