Talk that the “Big Lie” — that the 2020 election was illegitimate — has not stopped since Biden’s inauguration. Margaret Sullivan of the Washington Post has suggested steps for journalists to combat the spread of these untruths. Rather than pointing to claims of election fraud as “baseless,” journalists need to take the time to explain why these claims are false. The media also should use an “honesty litmus test” for election deniers since this kind of misinformation shouldn’t be given airtime alongside other news. Journalists have a role to play in countering propaganda. Says Sullivan, “democracy depends on a society accepting a common set of facts.”
According to Poynter reporter Kelly McBride, completely cutting Trump out of the news now that he is no longer president may backfire. Ignoring the former president, who is unlikely to be satisfied slipping out of the spotlight, might lead to the “Voldemort effect” in which Trump gets a sort of “ironic power” from a confirmation that media coverage of him is unfair. Reporters still need to be extremely conscious of how they are covering Trump, though. They can start by explicitly telling readers why Trump is being mentioned or quoted in their story, refraining from giving him headline quote attention and generally being cautious and selective in deciding which stories to cover.
Media workers are arguing that polls are overplayed and unreliable, according to a new study coming out of Medill School of Journalism. 63.1% of the respondents “either agreed or strongly agreed that there was too much coverage” of polls. This matters because polls can affect voting patterns and donations. However, the negative responses may be emblematic of a larger issue, which is that overall election coverage needs to be reevaluated.
The Boston Globe has followed suit with some other newsrooms across the country with their introduction of a “fresh start” initiative which allows people to request to have stories published about them to be reviewed and removed from the Globe’s website. The process of anonymizing people who have been shadowed by embarrassments, mistakes, or minor crimes is part of an effort to improve criminal justice coverage. The initiative has changed the way that the Globe is looking at coverage.