The failures of the media in covering the presidential election are many and varied, but one that stands out is the tendency of outlets to engage in what NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen calls accusation-based reporting, as opposed to evidence-based reporting. His exchange with a USA Today reporter over her article about Trump supporters attacking George Soros illustrates this dichotomy. There is, of course, no evidence that George Soros is funding professional protesters*, or resembles in any way the boogeyman that conservatives have painted him as for years. But, people are saying…
*I had Thanksgiving dinner with a couple of friends who worked at Tableau, the company who actually hired the buses in Austin that were falsely linked to Soros-funded professional protesters, and tried to find out if there was a double-secret fakeout going on and that Soros was just using Tableau to throw the Trumpers off the scent and I could somehow get in on this professional protester thing, but alas, they really were in Austin for a user conference, not a political protest. They saw the protesters, who looked like college students to them. But then they would, wouldn’t they.
Accusation-based reporting showed up all over the election coverage. Much of the coverage of the emails and Clinton Foundation stories was more about accusations than evidence, but you had to read deep into the article to find that out. Meanwhile, stories with real evidence, like the massive conflicts of interest that a President Trump would inherently face, were lightly covered. Zeynep Tufekci finds there were five times as many stories about Clinton’s emails during the leadup to the election in the NYTimes, the Washington Post, and Politico as stories about potential Trump conflicts of interest. The period of time covered July 1st to election day; James Comey announced on July 5th that no “reasonable prosecutor” would file charges* based on the evidence.
*Because there was no evidence of a crime; careless mishandling of confidential emails is not a crime, not really what happened here, and not at all equivalent to what David Petraeus did, the conservative’s favorite comparison.
There was no new evidence revealed in the Clinton email stories. There was lots of evidence sitting right out in the open about Trump’s conflicts of interest, the lack of a blind trust, that letting his children run his business would not eliminate the conflicts of interest in any way, that there probably wasn’t even any way to avoid the conflicts of interest. All sitting right there, but it’s only now that he’s won the election that significant media attention is finally turning that way.
When people tried to point this out during the election, this problem with the coverage, the response of many journalists was to fall back on that this is what people are talking about (and to point to the few really good stories that were done, like David Fahrenthold’s excellent work on Trump’s lack of charitable giving.) People are saying…
4 thoughts on “People are saying”
“Accusation-based reporting.” That’s a great way to put it.
Well, honestly and truly – Donald Trump looks like a train-wreck-in-progress, right now.
Leaving aside his genuinely ignorant inner-circle of advisors, and his genuinely YUUGE(!) pending responsibilities – even a Republican Congress might find it impossible to simply ignore flagrant disregard for the US Constitutional bans on ’emoluments’ from foreign governments and/or their agents and representatives.
Indeed, as much as I dislike our Bobby Knight-look-alike Vice President-elect, Congress might look at him and say “OK – bombs away!” – and begin impeachment proceedings against our money-grubbing new president
I can’t believe I’m saying this: Actually a Pence presidency doesn’t look as bad as Trump. Much as I disagree with just about everything about Pence.
I suppose a Pence presidency wouldn’t be as bad as Trump, but it seems like what Lindsey Graham said about Trump and Cruz. It’s like choosing between being shot and being poisoned. If not taking the PDB and counting on “other sources” cough, InfoWars, cough, for his information doesn’t give the electors pause, then nothing will.