Trump 2024: Has the press learned anything?

Rules to protect truth amid the coming authoritarian onslaught

Trump 2024: Has the press learned anything?

The bad news: Donald Trump appears certain to become the Republican nominee for president in 2024. This means ignoring him will no longer be an option.

But has the American political press learned any lessons since 2016?

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The good news: Newsrooms have gotten a bit smarter since Trump’s first election.

For example, some newsrooms have reporters actively reporting on misinformation and disinformation as a full-time beat. News organizations that once hesitated to use the word “lie” now have no qualms about affixing the label where applicable.

In addition, prominent journalists are raising the alarm about the need for media organizations to reform their practices to prepare for the coming authoritarian onslaught.

Writes Margaret Sullivan in the Guardian:

Here’s what must be hammered home: Trump cannot be re-elected if you want the United States to be a place where elections decide outcomes, where voting rights matter, and where politicians don’t baselessly prosecute their adversaries.

The problem, Sullivan says, is that a systemic threat such as that posed by a second Trump term can be hard to communicate in simple terms:

Trump’s threats to democracy? That’s a harder story to tell. Harder than “Joe Biden is old”. Harder than: “Gosh, America is so polarized.”

Journalists need to figure out a way to communicate it – clearly and memorably.

She offers a few suggestions for newsrooms to get prepared in advance for next year, including this one, which is crucial:

Use direct language, not couched in scaredy-cat false equivalence, about the dangers of a second Trump presidency.

We can think of a few more:

  • Ban repeat liars from live interviews
  • Never put a lie in the headline
  • Use a truth sandwich when reporting on lies
  • Don’t take the bait (stop rewarding drama with visibility)
  • Abandon the social media algorithm (don’t let Xitter dictate the news cycle)

What ideas do you have for helping the press avoid the mistakes of the past? Please share them in the comments (or via email). We’ll consider them for our full official list of proposed media reforms.

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Further reading:

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