Alternatives to Horse Race Coverage of Elections

In case you haven’t seen. My thread with reactions and pushback from journalists who cover politics. ⚡️ “Election coverage in 2020 is on track to be even worse than 2016” by @jayrosen_nyuhttps://t.co/NtQ07El3lF— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) February 10, 2019


This thread is to discuss alternative ways to cover a presidential campaign–specifically avoiding emphasis on the horse race, which candidates are ahead versus behind, and the analyzing the strategy and tactics the candidates employ to win the contest.

Rosen mentions going to voters to find out what they want to hear the candidates adddress, and build the coverage around these concerns. I like the idea, and I will respond to some of the other concerns that Rosen raises, but I want to start by discussing an approach that I’ve longed favored.

In addition to covering the the issues that the candidate and voters care about, including the policies favored by the candidate, I’d like to see the press evaluate whether the candidates have the attributes that good president’s possess. To do this the press should first identify the qualities that most good presidents seem to possess, seeking the help of historians, former presidents, white house aides, etc. Once the press identifies these qualities, they can then seek ways to analyze the candidates based on whether they have these attributes or not. Here, the press would work like an employer doing research on a potential employee.

One way the press could do this is creating a chart for each candidate. As the campaigns progress, the journalists can gather information and fill in the chart. Maybe at the start of campaign there will be many unknowns about the candidates–the journalists may be uncertain about certain attributes–e.g., knowledge, character, leadership, negotiating skills, etc. Over the time voters will see these charts fill up as journalist collect more information.

On a related note, part of the candidates’ profiles can include the overall governing philosophy of the candidate. What is their political philosophy and ideology? How was it formed? What are some expressions of this philosophy? I care about this as much, if not more, than their specific policy proposals.

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