Beware the debate coverage

Sports-style debate coverage fundamentally equates the two candidates. It suggests that they are playing the same game, when they are playing entirely different games. It casts them as competing on an even playing field, when they are nor playing by remotely the same rules.

Subscribe to our newsletter

RECENTLY

Finally, at least for now, alarm bells go off in some of our top newsrooms

It took arguably the most outrageously anti-democratic statement by an American president ever – and nearly a whole news cycle – but major news organizations are finally responding with the strong headlines and alarming rhetoric that the moment requires.

The alarms are ringing everywhere but in our top newsrooms

People who know and care about elections and democracy frantically sounded the alarm on Wednesday as Donald Trump’s intention to steal the election became undeniable. But the leaders of our nation’s top newsroom went about their business as usual.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought for equality. The media should be clear that Trump’s pick will do the opposite.

The breathless horserace coverage about the fate of Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court risks normalizing as just another partisan squabble what is in fact an epic clash between two starkly different visions of America.

The inflection point that might have been: 5 free masks in the mail in April

Donald Trump has failed to protect the country against the pandemic in too many ways to count. But this one really hits home: The U.S. Postal Service was about to send five face-masks to every household in America – in April! -- until someone at the White House nixed it. I can’t think of any one act that might have changed the pandemic timeline more than that – and we were so close!

Stop headlining Trump’s loony disinformation about Covid-19

Trump's latest obviously delusional fantasy is that every person in America will be able to get a vaccine “very soon”. Why did something so nutty make it into an Associated Press headline? Will they ever learn?

Failing to clearly identify what’s at stake in 2020 is bad journalism

The nation's political journalists face a moment of reckoning: Will they continue to treat this like a normal election, acting as if both sides have equally compelling claims on the American voter? Or will they sound the alarm, and make it clear in every story precisely what is at stake for the country?

TRUMP AND THE CORONAVIRUS

OBJECTIVITY

No, Americans are not hankering for more “objectivity” in journalism

A major new survey of public opinion about the news media is being misinterpreted by its sponsors to suggest that Americans don’t think there’s enough objectivity in journalism anymore. I think it shows the opposite.

The failed promise of “objective” political reporting

Our leading journalistic institutions engage in “objectivity” to achieve two major goals: An informed electorate, and immunity from accusations of bias. So, here’s my question to New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet, Washington Post executive editor Marty Baron, Associated Press executive editor Sally Buzbee, and the other proclaimed and self-proclaimed guardians of our biggest, finest news organizations: How’s that working out for you?

EXPLAINERS

A scene from "All the President's Men"

Anonymity for sources shouldn’t come cheap

The granting of anonymity in political journalism has always been a source of confusion and concern. But the dynamics are even more fraught when the White House is awash in chaos, misdirection, and lies. Are reporters getting valuable information in return for the anonymity they grant? And what should they do when the people to whom they have granted anonymity lie to them?

That thing that just happened didn’t just happen in a vacuum

The ultimate antidote to what ails political journalism today is context. And that doesn't necessarily mean doing a lot of extra reporting. It may mean just remembering.

TIMIDITY

Trump threatens Social Security and Medicare and the press yawns

Maybe in a few weeks, it will become conventional wisdom that Trump’s vow to cut the payroll tax was an outrage, an act of impetuousness and malice and lunacy, a gift for his grifter friends. But for now, the news reports won’t tell you what you need to know.

The critical subtext for Trump’s rage against mail-in ballots is that he wants the minority to rule

Political reporters from our top news organizations aren’t falling for Donald Trump’s transparently deceitful campaign to demonize mail-in voting. But they're not putting this latest attempt at voter suppression in its essential context: as part of a massive Republican program to create the possibility of minority rule.

When Trump takes a step toward autocracy, journalists need to call it out

Even as Donald Trump and members of his administration have asserted greater and more unilateral executive power, our top news organizations have tended to interpret those moves narrowly and naively – giving too much credit to cover stories, marginalizing criticism as just so much partisan squabbling, and leaving the accurate, alarming description of what’s really going on to opinion writers.

Subscribe to our newsletter

To be updated with all the latest news, offers and special announcements.

Welcome to Press Watch, a collaborative project to monitor political reporting and encourage more responsible, informed and informative campaign and government coverage before the 2020 election. Please read more About This Site and be free with your feedback!

Dan Froomkin

Editor in Chief