Thursday, September 15, 2016

CNN: Back to the Basics

Justin Holbrock

Part of the media's focus since Friday has come from Hillary Clinton's words at a New York City fundraiser. There she said, "You could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables."

This story and what has happened since has gained a lot of attention from the media, and while there's no doubt it's a story of public interest, it reflects an ugly truth about the state of political coverage.

Hillary Clinton speaking at the LGBT for Hillary Gala at the Cipriani Club in New York City on Friday. Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan.
What seems to get the most coverage in this election season are the back-and-forth exchanges between Trump and Clinton with her "deplorables" comment being one of the most recent examples.

In fact, CNN devoted a story to the ways in which Clinton has been critical of Trump and how he's used Clinton's own words against him to attack her.

One thing is for sure — these verbal attacks won't stop. Trump has built his campaign largely on harshly critiquing whoever his opponent may be and seems to have no limit on what insult he'll use next.

Meanwhile, Clinton hadn't gotten into this type of controversy before Friday. While it's unlikely she'll make another comment like that, there's a good chance she'll continue to harshly criticize Trump.

I say this because many American citizens feel that they have to vote for the lesser of two evils and Clinton wants to leave no question Trump is the worst decision they can make.

That's where the media comes into play, especially a major news outlet such as CNN. The company has a decision to make on how it's going to cover the rest of this election.

The Choices

Whenever Trump or Clinton says something critical about the other, it automatically gains first priority on CNN both in television and online.

An example would be Clinton saying Trump has "built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia," while Trump examples include calling Clinton "trigger-happy," a "bigot" and that she runs a "policy-free" campaign.

These stories are introduced as breaking news on a variety of CNN shows and appear at the top of the CNN Politics webpage.

CNN can choose to stick with this approach to covering the election, however, there is another alternative the company has been using sparingly so far.

That option is returning to the basics and putting more emphasis on investigative journalism and journalism that analyzes candidates for what they think about the issues facing this country, not what they think about their competition.

CNN has shown an ability to do this on a video and written platform:

A story like this sheds light on an important issue involving one of the presidential candidates. But the problem is that it doesn't get the same attention as a segment featuring four guests talking over top of each other on Anderson Cooper 360°, which got 12,000 more views on YouTube than the video shown above.

More investigative pieces from CNN will help its audience stay informed on topics that would otherwise go uncovered. This type of journalism also shows CNN wants to do more than just report on comments Trump or Clinton make about each other.

Thorough, investigative reporting is lacking from major media outlets but it's not too late for CNN to make a return to this type of journalism. The question now is, will CNN makes this change?

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