Friday, June 9Welcome

If your story is political, make sure it’s not politicized

Rob Torno | For Editors and Publishers

The New York Times Pitchbot is a satirical Twitter account run anonymously by a 52-year-old math professor that aims to satirize the lazy conventions of the paper.

Last month, the popular Twitter account was busy making fun of The Times after the FBI raided former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago mansion in Palm Beach, Florida. Both sides have a criminal problem when they commit crimes and when Democrats try to indict Republicans for these crimes. ”

Naturally, the FBI’s raid on the former president’s home was unprecedented, and the news outlets took action to cover the breaking news. But with so few real details to fill a huge interest gap, many outlets quickly veered to bland horse racing stories about the upcoming election. It even adopted Trump’s own words about what happened in Largo.

“The FBI went to Mar-a-Lago, knocked on the door, and collected a box of classified material that Trump had stolen from the White House. Decided — raid,” he wrote. Parker Malloy covering media, politics and culture in The Present Age newsletter.

How reporters cover the first hours and days of such political events is essential to properly informing local and national audiences. The themes are distinctly different, such as the FBI raids on former presidents, the business dealings of local politicians, or crimes not directly related to politics. But, as New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen suggests, reports should be mindful of the distinction between being appropriately political and being overly politicized.

What’s the difference? On the online news site PressThink, Rosen said during his 2020 election that the proper political act of journalism is, for example, hitting back at prominent politicians who make toxic claims or unsubstantiated accusations. I wrote that there is. He is to “prevent lies from being brought into the universal principles of politics.” But when the same media outlets become cheerleaders for individual candidates, or their coverage is distorted by ideology, it can become overly politicized.

“This is not good,” Rosen wrote. “It undermines credibility, justifies malicious attacks on the media, and ultimately renders journalism useless as a check on power, because journalism is trying to become power.”

Unfortunately, with so few details and a huge interest gap to fill, many news outlets quickly veered away from the political framework. The Washington Post said, “Garland vowed depoliticized justice. Then the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago,” suggesting Garland was unfairly politicizing the Justice Department. After garnering criticism from media commentators who rightly pointed out that

The Times also drew criticism for a new analysis article describing the FBI investigation as a “high-stakes gamble”, even though it was unaware of most of the details that led to the investigation and what actually unfolded. This was made public a few days later — eleven sets of documents containing some sort of top-secret or top-secret classification, including “classified/classified information.”

Of course, these are just two stories from the broader network of news outlets that extends to cable news. Cable news doesn’t have a lot of corroborating facts that circulate for experts to speculate at will. However, this trend reflects the urge to quickly turn articles involving politicians into political articles.

Journalism professor Jeremy Rito said, “In other contexts, if you pluck a famous politician from an article and replace it with a random citizen or big business, it’s considered a crime story.” Lehigh University. “So I think anything involving political actors tends to cover along the partisan divide as the default narrative gimmick.”

Rittau was one of the media critics to criticize the coverage in the immediate aftermath of the FBI investigation. It was called shorthand. In one example Rittau shared, the Wall Street Journal is filled with statements from Republican lawmakers sympathetic to Trump under the headline “FBI Search of Trump’s Florida Home Mar-a-Lago Criticized by Republicans.” published an article.

“If I were to go to a Republican source, if I felt the need to speak to a party member, what would I look for? and what role parliament plays in overseeing whether all rules and regulations are being followed,” Litau said.

Elsewhere, if he feels the need to ask Republicans for citations, Litau recommends that if there is no evidence to support their fiery statements, attach them to the allegations along with the citations or simply not quote them. I am proposing.

In “The Maddening,” John Allsopp of the Columbia Journalism Review wrote, “There are limits to what officials can say properly. , it would be irresponsible to respond by calling it Garland’s fault.” Coverage of the Mar-a-lago search.

Another difference Littau makes is that in a breaking news situation where there are few facts, the opposite side of the coverage should not default to political statements or speculation, but context and understanding. is.

Why bother telling parrot stories from political supporters or opponents of Trump when you can explain to readers that the Justice Department does not normally disclose details about the warrant process and ongoing investigations? do you have?

Littau said the best stories he saw in the first 24 hours were how the FBI got permission from a judge to search a house and what safeguards were put in place to prevent politicization by serving the police. He said he explained and clarified the warrant process, including whether there were any. Former President of the United States. They helped him understand the event, even though they didn’t know the details of how it was carried out.

Another option in a breaking news situation is to speak candidly to your readers and provide articles that summarize what they know and what they don’t know.

“Instead of going directly to people who prefer the limelight and are trying to raise money from the cynical dismantling of our institution, that really seems like a sensible approach,” Litau said. .

Rob Tornoe is an editor and publisher cartoonist and columnist who writes about trends in digital media. He is also a digital editor and writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Please contact him at

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