It’s called the “40% trick” and people in the know should learn to recognize it:
Talking heads have learned if you predict something is 40% likely to happen you’ll never be wrong. It’s a favorite tactic of Wall Street analysts and other prognosticators trying to make bold calls without being too bold.
With a 24-hour news cycle, outlets from cable channels to newspapers are always looking for an expert to weigh in. If they offer an audacious estimate that will get clicks, all the better. The trend has boosted the industry of analysts and talking heads who predict everything from election outcomes to corporate earnings.
Once upon a time, “reporting” meant “reporting” on something that had already happened. Today, reporting means endless speculation about future possibilities. This gave rise to a hunger for “experts” making predictions about future outcomes.
Look at any news aggregator and read the headlines and summaries. A large number of “reports” are not reports about events that have happened but are a mashup of anonymous sources and speculation about upcoming events.
These methods of reporting are close to “fake news”; a better term is “speculative news”. It is no longer real reporting but is instead a seemingly innocuous way of spinning a message.
Speculation opens a Pandora’s box for the propagandist. Public opinion can be swayed by quoting speculative experts, whose ability to predict the future is poor to nil. When speculation leads to fear and anxiety coupled with a click-bait headline, we have the perfect meme for the friction-less spread of propaganda messaging to be shared on social media.
In other words, today’s modern “speculative news” has become an effective means of propaganda messaging. As the article says,
Courageous contrarian calls are the best way forecasters capture the public’s attention, and get television time.
Rather than being enablers of this nonsense, journalists should act as firewalls against propaganda. But they do not because speculative nonsense sells eyeballs to advertisers. We are way past the days of when “reporting” meant “Who, where, when, what, why and how?”