Mr. Granatstein also agreed with Ryerson University journalism professor April Lindgren's suggestion that, with polls handy, anecdotal evidence often gets short shrift.
"I think reporters have gotten away from trusting what they hear on the street because it's considered unscientific," Ms. Lindgren said.
But even the subtler signals of public intentions proved hard to read. Mr. Ford's overt decision not to court the mainstream media, and in some cases to shut writers out entirely, obscured what is often the best litmus test: the body language inside a leading campaign team.
"[Ford's team] basically gave the finger to the traditional media," Mr. Strashin said.
And some, including Globe and Mail columnist Marcus Gee, speculated that a spate of recent endorsements Mr. Smitherman garnered from public figures, including former mayors David Crombie and Art Eggleton, may have created a false sense of momentum.
Ultimately, Mr. Strashin thinks many journalists misjudged Mr. Ford's huge stable of campaign workers, many of whom "weren't seasoned politicos in any sense."
"One thing everyone underestimated was Ford's ability to get the vote out on election day," he said.