The Press is Already Fumbling the 2024 Election
The press has failed to learn some Trump-era lessons and over-learned some some others.
Is the press up to the task of covering the 2024 election? Have they learned the lessons of 2016 and 2020?
The early signs are not promising.
We are only a few months into the Republican Primary and the political media’s worst habits are already rearing their ugly heads. Once again, there is a disturbing trend of normalizing dangerous behavior, prioritizing balance over accuracy, and ignoring or missing important information simply because it is uncomfortable to cover.
In fairness to the hardworking journalists who are trying their best, covering an increasingly radical Republican Party led by corrupt insurrectionists and powered by propaganda and disinformation presents difficult choices which the old rules of journalism do not account for. Covering MAGA Republican events is often dangerous with violent invective — sometimes from the stage — being directed at the media in attendance. Plenty of great, hard-hitting journalism correctly calls out and contextualizes the dangers of extremist Republicans. But those are exceptions to the rule. Every day brings countless examples of deeply naive journalism that ignores and normalizes the threat.
1. Piercing the Right Wing Bubble
The strictures of campaign trail coverage have stagnated since the days of the Boys on the Bus. Reporters followed candidates as they barnstormed the early primary states — attending house parties, rubber chicken dinners, state fairs, and local party events. News was made on the stump, in speeches, and during appearances on news programs like the Sunday shows and cable television outlets. Thanks to Trump, posts on Twitter became content worthy of coverage. That model of coverage is dramatically outdated. It misses the real action and the real story of Republican politics in the MAGA era.
Because of the dominance of the MAGA media infrastructure, Republican candidates for President no longer communicate through the traditional means. The “mainstream media” is a foil to prove their conservative bona fides, not a vehicle to reach voters and build name ID.
Republican candidates communicate directly with the MAGA base through Far-Right websites like Breitbart and Gateway Pundit, MAGA podcast hosts like Ben Shapiro, Steve Bannon, Seb Gorka and Michael Knowles, and fringe cable channels like OAN and Newsmax. Instead of using Twitter and Instagram, where every reporter has an account, they are communicating through Alt-Right messaging platforms like Truth Social, Rumble, and Telegram.
What happens in the MAGA media bubble is rarely covered by the rest of the media. Republican candidates and politicians feel comfortable letting their fascist flag fly without fear of alienating the swing voters needed in a possible general election.
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