One thing for sure: those of us who are political junkies who’ve been obsessed with the American presidential race are going to have to get a life after tomorrow if Hillary Clinton wins and wins comfortably. Well maybe not. What will happen to Donald Trump? If it’s a close election, will he and his alt-right media try and turn their followers into storm troopers and provoke violence declaring as he has repeatedly that it was all “rigged.”
Or if Clinton wins but Democrats fail to win a majority in the Senate, will we be right back at the deadlocked politics that have plagued President Obama? Will any Supreme Court nominee get approved?
Will the media continue to give loser Trump a “Live, Breaking News” platform for his demagogic ranting in order to continue to earn record-setting ratings and profits?
While I ponder that, I’m also reflecting on what was the best and worst of all the journalism that I consumed over the past year. Who emerged as real journalistic stars? What really did stand out as innovative ways of reporting and storytelling the American election campaign. What also were the low points of coverage? That’s an easy one to answer.
1. The Best of the best: The New York Times followed by the Washington Post. I give the NYT additional plaudits for its brilliant podcast The Run-Up. Great reporting day in, day out. It showed neither fear nor favour. Its other cross cross-platform stroke of genius was its viral video of the vicious stuff being shouted by Trump supporters at his rallies.
2. The emergence of the political podcast was for me the biggest single media innovation. I got more hard information and in-depth conversation out of podcasts than from any television coverage or radio programme. Again I rate the NYT Run-Up as the best, and applaud host reporter Michael Barbaro. I probably logged the most time listening to The Axe File with the amiable but always insightful David Axelrod engaged in wonderfully informative conversations with leading journalists and politicians. Axelrod isn’t a hard-edged interviewer but in his Columbo-styled approach relaxes his guests who can be thoughtful and expansive without the sound byte pressure of commercial broadcasting. The other political podcast that stood out for me was the Trumpcast for Slate Magazine featuring the lively mind of Jacob Weissberg.
3. Before I rap CNN, I do want to acknowledge how I much of their political coverage I’ve watched over the past year. They remain for me my go-to channel for political coverage. CNN drives me crazy for all kinds of reasons but they’re still far and away the most compelling and authoritative watch. An array of outstanding anchors led by the indefatigable Wolf Blitzer, Jake Tapper, Carol Costello, Anderson Cooper, Fareed Zakaria and many others. But for all of CNN’s commendable coverage, it disgraced itself during the primary election campaigns by rejecting any sense of editorial balance and giving Donald Trump unfair live airtime especially after the candidate debates had finished. In doing so it racked up record profits and ratings, as did Fox and MSNBC.
I also blame CNN for its endless panels that blended professional political analysts including its own reporters and valued contributors with highly partisan, ideological, truth-challenged party activists. This was a terrible decision on CNN’s part. It eroded the credibility of its own analysts and gave undeserved respectability to outspoken, often deliberately lying or distorting paid professionals such as Trump’s discredited ousted campaign manager Cory Lewandowski. It’s no wonder that Americans can’t tell the difference between fact-based analysis and partisan disinformation. It’s just noise and who shouts the loudest who carries the argument on CNN. CNN should jettison this approach if it takes seriously any sense of responsibility for ensuring this most disgraceful of campaigns is never repeated.
4. I give high marks to Britain’s Channel 4 News for is consistently high quality reporting, analysis, and on air discussion of the American election campaign. Channel 4’s Washington-based Kylie Morris has been impressive throughout the primaries and general election. Channel 4 with its relatively small editorial team has out performed BBC News. Also I don’t recall one memorable BBC documentary on the campaign that came anywhere close to the ” The Choice” -PBS Frontline’s docmentary profiles of Trump and Clinton.