Over the last few days, it's become clearer and clearer to me that, without intervention, coverage of the 2020 campaign is likely to be a disaster for everyone except Trump and his core voters, who want to watch it all burn anyway. In this thread I describe the danger I see. 1/
By "disaster for everyone," I mean all candidates opposing Trump, journalists themselves, voters from all sides (except those who have exited from the news system by merging with his hate campaign against the news media) and anyone who seeks the repair of American democracy. 2/
Start with the simple fact of inertia. In ruins after the debacle of 2016, the horse race model and "game" schema that have instructed campaign journalism for at least 40 years are up and running again. It appears the bosses have no better ideas, and no will to develop them. 3/
I don't know how our journalists came to see "storytelling" as the heart of what they do, and "storyteller" as a self-description. I can think of 4-5 elements of journalism more central than "story." Truthtelling, grounding public conversation in fact, verification... listening.
Read @ub14 on how bizarre the centrality of "story" can seem. "After I left law for journalism, I learned that journalists do, in fact, call the people in their stories 'characters.' I remember how astonished I was when I learned that..." Good piece. https://t.co/cjuJ4Qx3SG
'Campaign coverage: the road not taken.' There was a path the American press could have walked, but did not. This alternative way was illuminated as far back as 1992. Our political journalists declined it. And here we are. This thread is that story. 1/
One of the problems with election coverage as it stands is that no one has any idea what it means to succeed at it. Predicting the winner? Is that success? Even if journalists could do that —and they can’t — it would not be much of a public service, would it? 2/
A very weird thing about horse race or “game” coverage is that it doesn’t answer to any identifiable need of the voter. Should I vote for the candidate with the best strategy for capturing my vote? Do I walk into the voting booth clutching a list of who’s ahead in the polls? 3/
⚡️ “Election coverage in 2020 is on track to be even worse than 2016.” https://t.co/NtQ07ECEdd My recent thread on one page– with new reactions from journalists. Keep scrolling. You'll find that a discussion has emerged about how to avoid disaster and improve the form this time.
Suzanne Painter @SRPainter
Asking ppl what they want won't help. They don't know, and its your job to tell us what is important, not respond to polls. Talk to some cognitive scientists about how people take in and process information. 2/2
People don't know what they want the candidates to be discussing as they compete for votes? You're sure about that?