Five Questions The Political Media Is Wrestling With In Covering America's 'Uncivil War'

fivethirtyeight.com
7 min read
fairly difficult
The political media has long been both powerful and controversial — no surprise, as it essentially plays the role of referee in American politics. But how the …
The political media has long been both powerful and controversial — no surprise, as it essentially plays the role of referee in American politics. But how the media covers politics is perhaps more important than ever right now, as the United States is dealing with big, super high-stakes issues, most notably the COVID-19 pandemic and America's partisan "uncivil war." Like major corporations, the media is in the crosshairs of fights between the two parties where there may be no middle ground.

So here are five of the major questions about how the media should be covering politics that are now being debated among journalists, people who work in politics and media experts.

How negatively should the media cover the Republican Party?

Even at the start of the Trump presidency, political journalists covered Trump more negatively than they had recent other presidents. And in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, news coverage of Trump was scathing. The Washington Post wrote — in a news article (so not an opinion piece) — that the president had "willfully damaged two bedrocks of American democracy," trust in the media and faith in government. The New York Times ran a piece with the headline, "77 Days: Trump's Campaign to Subvert the Election."

The political media has generally been somewhat less critical of the broader Republican Party, often implying that Trump was a threat to democratic values but not necessarily other GOP elected officials. But two recent events in particular have forced the media to question whether treating Trump as a separate phenomenon from the GOP really makes sense. First was the 147 congressional Republicans who refused to certify the election results in Arizona, Pennsylvania or both, based on false allegations of major voting irregularities. Second, Republicans in Georgia and other states are passing and pursuing laws that could make it harder for Democratic-leaning Americans in particular to vote and have their votes…
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