Increasingly Partisan: The State of Journalism in the Trump Era

Anyone with a Twitter account knows that President Donald J. Trump is not shy about voicing his disdain for the press. President Trump has revoked press credentials for journalists working for organizations that have published unfavorable articles about him; he has accused several reputable organizations of producing ‘fake news;’ and let’s not forget his 140-character declaration of the press as the “enemy of the American people.” Here, I explore how President Trump’s divisive, combative approach to the media has resulted in increased partisanship of more recent, digital start-ups, while giving traditional news organizations, such as newspapers, a renewed motivation to uncover the truth.

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 4.12.28 PM

When President Trump issues an attack on the credibility and accuracy of the media, more ‘liberal’ news organizations such as BuzzFeed, Vox, and the Huff Post, formerly known as the Huffington Post, are quick to frame these moments as a broader threat to American political norms and the sanctity of democracy. Digitally driven news outlets that have begun within the last decade have produced more biased content throughout President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and subsequent administration than what is tolerated for long-standing, traditional news outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post.

 
President Trump’s continuous attacks on the media and the discriminatory nature of his political agenda has resulted in resistance and pushback by organizations such as BuzzFeed, Vox, and the Huff Post, evident in headlines calling the president a ‘liar’ and a ‘racist.’ These organizations are producing this kind of biased content in part because it speaks to the politically engaged millennial audience they are targeting, and it increases traction on the online platforms through which they are published. Yet the audiences these organizations attract and the methods in which their content is disseminated does not change the fact that some of the most widely shared, viral news articles often communicate fierce opposition to President Trump’s policies.

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 6.56.05 PM

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 6.55.37 PM

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 5.36.54 PM

President Trump’s election has seemingly inspired many recent, digitally driven news organizations to pursue a more partisan approach to politics.

In December 2015, months before Donald Trump had become the Republican Party’s nominee for president, the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed, Ben Smith, posted an internal memo to Twitter in which he essentially gives BuzzFeed employees permission to call Donald Trump a racist. In an email with the subject line reading: ‘Trump and Our Social Media Guidelines,’ Smith writes, “It is, for instance, entirely fair to call him a mendacious racist, as the politics team and others have reported clearly and aggressively: He’s out there saying things that are false, and running an overtly anti-Muslim campaign. BuzzFeed News’s reporting is rooted in facts, not opinion; these are facts.” Although Smith may believe he is voicing facts, he is drawing conclusions based on his own opinions and observations of Trump, and encouraging his employees to produce editorial content based on those same conclusions.

In an article published one day after the 2016 presidential election, Fusion Editor-in-Chief Dodai Stewart called her organization “the voice of the resistance.” Stewart also outlined several efforts the organization is committed to, such as emphasizing the reproductive rights of women, understanding the Voting Rights Act, gerrymandering, and analyzing what the state of the Supreme Court means for women, people of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ Americans. With this article, Stewart makes it clear that, unlike President Trump, the issues concerning women, immigrants, the LGTQ community, and other marginalized groups are some of Fusion’s top apprehensions as well.

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 3.40.53 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-04 at 8.00.50 PM

Similarly, John Avlon of the Daily Beast published a piece titled ‘The Loyal Opposition,’ which describes employees of the publication as ‘early, principled, and unapologetic opponents of Donald Trump’s divisive and demagogic campaign.’ The Daily Beast has subsequently published several articles calling President Trump a liar and a dictator.

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 3.42.12 PM

In December 2016, Lauren Duca, a writer at Teen Vogue, wrote an article titled, “Donald Trump is Gaslighting America,” where she asserted that Donald Trump won the presidency by “condoning and encouraging hatred, but also by normalizing deception.” After an appearance on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” where Carlson attempted to degrade Duca’s legitimacy by referring to previous articles she has written, which discuss topics such as thigh-high boots and Ariana Grande, Duca began a weekly op-ed column called “Thigh-High Politics.” According to the Teen Vogue website, Duca’s column “breaks down the news, provides resources for the resistance, and just generally refuses to accept toxic nonsense.” With Duca leading a new era of political coverage for Teen Vogue, it is fair to conclude that the magazine, which directs its content toward female teenagers, has adopted a highly partisan, anti-Trump approach to its political content.

Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 3.54.09 AM

The Daily Beast, BuzzFeed, and Fusion, among others, are essentially saying they are dedicated to the task of reporting on American politics from a perspective of opposition and disagreement with President Trump. The decision to shift company resources in order to produce editorial content that communicates the opinions of that organization’s employees is an obvious expression of political bias. It is important to acknowledge that the shift these platforms are making are a direct result of the election of Donald Trump as president.

Conversely, long-established, traditional news organizations, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, hear the President’s condemnation of many reputable media outlets and use it as fuel in their search for the truth. It is interesting to note that the organizations that are often the target of President Trump’s condemnations of biased, unfair reporting are the same organizations that are renewing their commitments to editorial accuracy and fairness.

In several of his tweets, President Trump has referred to the New York Times as ‘failing,’ ‘dishonest,’ and ‘fake,’ and has repeatedly criticized the publication for its ‘bad’ and ‘inaccurate’ coverage of him following his election on Nov. 8.

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 3.00.37 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-05 at 3.00.55 PM

In response to the nationwide conversation regarding the accuracy and credibility of their organization, Dean Baquet, executive editor of the Times and Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher, released a letter to their readers on Nov. 13, stating: ‘As we reflect on the momentous result, and the months of reporting and polling that preceded it, we aim to rededicate ourselves to the fundamental mission of Times journalism. You can rely on The New York Times to bring the same fairness, the same level of scrutiny, the same independence to our coverage of the new president and his team.” With this memo, Baquet and Sulzburger are expressing the New York Times’ commitment to seek fairness and accuracy in their news coverage despite the election of a President who has often made accusatory, demeaning attacks to the integrity and motivations of their publication.

The Washington Post, having also come under scrutiny by the President for its coverage of his election and administration, took steps to reaffirm their commitment to seeking the truth by implementing a new tagline: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” After making the announcement regarding the new slogan in February 2017, the Post published an article explaining that the paper’s readers are interpreting the new slogan as an indirect reply to President Trump’s attacks on the media, but that was not the intention. Paul Farhi, the author of the article, went on to say that the paper’s leadership decided to come up with a slogan before Donald Trump was the presidential nominee, with the sole goal of communicating that, “The Post has a long-standing reputation for providing news and information with unparalleled analysis and insight. Our position must be conveyed disruptively so we can shake consumers out of their news-as-commodity mindset.”

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 4.02.25 PM

However, the timing is suspicious. In a time in which the President of the United States threatens to change libel laws, declares any negative polls as ‘fake news,’ and continuously bashes the credibility of reputable news organizations, it behooves the Post to assert their authority as one of the country’s journalistic powerhouses. Although executives at The Washington Post claim their intent with the new tagline was not a response to President Trump, its mere existence inherently communicates the message that the newspaper values the democratic principles of journalism now more than ever.

As some news organizations strive to affirm their reputation of unbiased reporting while others embrace a more partisan approach, one of the most prominent television news networks, CNN, has struggled to determine where it lies on the spectrum of neutrality in the wake of President Trump’s election. After repeatedly facing scrutiny for its left-leaning coverage, the network decided to hire pro-Trump correspondents to appear on the network and express their support for the President. CNN executives made this decision in an attempt to balance the political views of its mostly left-leaning panelists and provide the network with a greater degree of objectivity. However, this attempt only undercut CNN’s goals of authentically informing its audience, and it remains to be seen how CNN will continue to address accusations of political bias.

News organizations attempting to produce fair, truthful content and partisan publications publishing information that reflects a particular political opinion are both valuable assets to a public that is not only trying to understand the current state of American politics, but also develop their own opinions about it as voters. However, an increasingly partisan news climate has the potential to be problematic if there is a lack of disclosure between the organization and its readership. When one watches Fox News or reads an article from The Daily Beast, he or she must always keep in mind the political perspectives through which that organization is relaying the news. It is crucial that partisan and non-partisan news organizations continue to inform readers about the intentions and motivations behind the content they are providing in order to ensure the public is consuming news in a critical, intelligent way.

Advertisements

NewsTrack: My Final Thoughts on Politico.com

After analyzing the content, reporting methods, and trends of Politico.com for an entire semester, here are my final 8 observations about the organization.

1. Politico’s content is largely written for already informed audiences and people such as lawmakers, lobbyists, and strategists, who are directly involved in the issues Politico covers.

Politico stays true to their mission statement, which acknowledges that they are directing their content toward an audience of politicians, lobbyists, and strategists. In some ways, creating news content for audiences who are already politically aware and up to date with the most current events undercuts the quality of Politico’s news coverage. Instead of providing background information on the various acts, deals, and programs executed by the federal government, Politico writers often assume the reader is familiar with those events, and they do not provide detailed explanations.

screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-4-05-57-pm

2.  Politico frequently dissects the detailed aspects of a news story and breaks them up into several more focused articles instead of producing one overview article.

I discussed Politico’s strategy to produce several articles on one topic on my NewsTrack post about breaking news, and I used Michael Flynn’s resignation as President Trump’s national security advisor as an example. Politico often divides the details of one news story into several different articles. While I feel that this allows Politico to keep each article very focused, tight, and relatively concise, it also becomes difficult for readers to navigate through all the different articles to get the full story about one main event. It would be helpful if Politico created one overview article, and hyperlinked the other, more focused articles within that piece. They could also create an interactive, more visual way to navigate through the pieces pertaining to one news topic.

3. Politico operates their social media accounts, such as Twitter and Facebook, similarly to newspaper outlets, by only tweeting with links to stories, going ‘live’ at major events, and posting a ‘Breaking News’ photo to inform readers about recent news.

Politico is very consistent in terms of their social media presence. The organization only produces Tweets with the links to articles included, uses one uniform photo to inform their readers of breaking news, utilizes quicker, more concise communication methods such as lists to craft informative social media posts, and shares live coverage through Facebook and Instagram live. These are all methods more traditional news outlets, such as newspapers, and other more recent and digitally-driven news platforms, such as BuzzFeed and Vice Media, engage in.

Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 5.56.35 PM

4. The regional Politico branches, such as the Politico Europe Edition, Politico New York, and Politico Florida, are much less developed than the central Politico United States.

Politico.com’s United States coverage is much more extensive, in-depth and well-covered than some of the organization’s more localized news bureaus, due to the fact that Politico.com was first only intended to be a platform to report on general American politics, and later grew to include other regions.  Politico.com designates more of its resources to reporting on national news than it does for its regional sections, therefore it is more capable of producing better content than some of the other regions. While Politico New Jersey, Politico Europe, and Politico Florida do a relatively good job of covering the most important news stories in that region, Politico’s general United States coverage is of greater quality and scope.

5. Politico’s video content is not very imaginative – it consists of short video clips and soundbites of live events Politico is covering, such as White House press conferences featuring President Donald J. Trump.

While other news organizations have adopted interesting and innovative video reporting methods, Politico.com’s video content is solely video clips recorded from specific events. It is clear Politico designates few resources to producing engaging video content, as they do not create long-form video stories, which present the opportunity to tell a cohesive story using various video content Politico has accumulated over time. Conversely, Politico Playbook, an opinionated video series, produces much more engaging pieces that involve more creativity and effort than just video clips and sound bites of certain events.

Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 1.39.43 AM

6. Politico Magazine frequently produces sponsor-generated content in the form of news articles focused on political issues.

One of Politico.com’s main revenue streams is through sponsored content. However, I found it interesting that while the advertisements for the sponsored content stories are displayed on the main Politico.com webpage, they are hosted on the Politico Magazine website. I also found it interesting that the sponsored content stories often contained some element of politics in order to be better camouflaged with Politico’s content. For example, an article appearing on Politico.com is sponsored content by JP Morgan called ‘It’s Time to Invest in the Infrastructure Communities Need Most,’ which essentially details the ways in which JP Morgan is currently donating small infrastructure investments to the city of Detroit, Michigan.

7. The way the website categorizes news stories into different sections makes the website more organized and easier to navigate for readers who are only concerned with a specific element of politics.  

Politico organizes its coverage into topics such as ‘Congress,’ ‘White House,’ and ‘The Agenda.’ This serves as a way to organize the website’s content while making it easy for readers to navigate the website and find the stories they are looking for. While this is an effective technique, it would have been better if Politico used additional categorizations for which to organize their various articles. The sections the website currently has are all relative to American politics, yet they could be more specific with sections called ‘Education,’ ‘Immigration,’ ‘The Environment,’ and more.

Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 1.33.30 AM

8. Politico’s editorial coverage is very thorough, easy to follow, written in a consistent format, and their multimedia content, through comics and photo galleries, is very visually appealing.

There is a reason Politico.com is one of the most popular destinations for news on current American political affairs. In general, the content available on Politico.com is clear, informative, and complete. The articles provide adequate information to understand the main premises of an event, but Politico.com provides numerous opportunities to read other articles and gain a deeper understanding of a specific topic. Over the years, as a news outlet essentially serving the political elite on Capitol Hill, Politico has established important relationships with key sources for which they rely on to provide comments on their stories. Politico covers a wide variety of topics in politics, making it a convenient destination to learn about various current events taking place all over the world. The quality of the coverage, scope, credible sources, and exclusive insights Politico.com provides makes it one of the most reliable destinations for accurate, credible news on American politics.

NewsTrack: How Politico Handles Breaking News

To analyze how Politico.com handles breaking news, I looked at the site’s coverage of Michael T. Flynn’s resignation as national security advisor during the first few weeks of President Trump’s administration.

On Feb. 13, the day Flynn issued his resignation, Politico.com published a series of articles about Flynn and the multiple accusations against him regarding his ties to foreign governments. Once his resignation was announced, the coverage began with a general article that summarized the events that led to his departure. Politico then produced a series of more detailed and concise articles that focused on different aspects of Flynn’s resignation, such as pieces on Flynn’s links to foreign governments, the full text of his resignation letter, the involvement of his son in the transition team, and more.

Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 5.55.40 PM

Typically news sites disclose breaking news immediately after they become aware of it, and then edit the article to include details as they arise. However, Politico did not update the first article written about Flynn’s resignation with new information, and instead produced multiple articles about various aspects of the event. With a breaking news scandal like this, Politico’s technique was to publish content on the event as soon as possible, then follow it up with multiple, detailed articles.Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 6.34.12 PMScreen Shot 2017-04-05 at 6.33.11 PM

 

A pattern consistent with Politico’s breaking news strategy is to produce articles that list five important elements of the story. For example, during the Flynn scandal, one article was titled, ‘5 Times Trump’s Team Contradicted Itself About Flynn’s Russia Talks.’ When the news broke that the FBI would be investigating the Trump campaigns ties to Russia, Politico wrote an article called ‘5 Things We Just Learned About the Trump-Russia Probe.’  And when Trump’s tax returns were leaked, Politico published an article called ‘5 Things to Know About Trump’s Leaked Tax Returns.’ This shows that when big events happen, Politico converts the information in a more easy to read format,  similar to Buzzfeed’s style of reporting. Instead of referring to the many articles written on Flynn’s resignation, the list of 5 technique allows readers to get to the heart of the story, quickly.

Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 5.56.35 PM

In terms of social media coverage during breaking news reports, Politico remained consistent with their technique to always include links to articles for each tweet. When the news of Flynn’s resignation broke, Politico began a tweet with #BREAKING, a hashtag they reserve for their biggest breaking news stories. In this case, not only did Politico tweet the link to the first article written on Flynn’s resignation, but they also included a red photo that reads “Politico Breaking News”  in order to immediately grab Twitter users’ attention and draw them to the post.

 

JO 304 NewsTrack: Politico’s Use of Alternative Storytelling Methods

Politico has adapted to the ever-changing digital journalism landscape by producing live content through PoliticoLive, Facebook Live, social media, and using cartoon drawings to humorously depict current political events.

Politico editors described PoliticoLive on its website as ‘an extension of our journalism.’ PoliticoLive includes live streaming conversations with newsmakers and leaders on important national topics and politics. They are formatted to accommodate speaker series, panel discussions, conferences, social gatherings, and more.

Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 2.07.33 PM

Through Facebook Live, Politico live streams several political events, press briefings, and breaking news from Washington, D.C. Here is an example of one of their Facebook Live posts:

Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 2.05.10 PM

In addition to Facebook Live and PoliticoLive, the organization employs several talented cartoon artists to depict some of the latest political events through drawings. The cartoons are displayed through a segment of their website called ‘Cartoon Carousel,’ and they are frequently posted to Politico’s Instagram and Facebook accounts as well.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Politico also reports breaking news and creative content through various social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. They have adapted their content to fit social media story telling methods. For example, on Instagram they have begun to make short videos to summarize important news events in concise yet informative ways. Here, Politico takes a Buzzfeed-inspired approach to news by creating a list titled “Three Things to Watch in  the Gorsuch Confirmation Hearing.”

IMG_9014.PNG.png

In terms of Snapchat, Politico does not operate a ‘Discover’ tool as other news publications such as Buzzfeed, The Washington Post, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Vice, and various other magazines and outlets have. They do have a Politico Snapchat account, which requires users to add them by username.

 

 

Here’s How HI B3AR Rolls

This week, for an assignment in my Online Journalism class at Boston University, I took to HI B3AR Rollup Ice Cream to create a short video on the process of making these beautiful and equally delicious desserts. I wanted to use this short video assignment to film something visually appealing that would demonstrate a multi-step process. I recorded the video on my iPhone 7 and edited it with iMovie. I did not edit the video through other applications, but I used some of the features on iMovie to alter the picture, such as the enhancement tool, speed monitor, and camera stabilizing feature. Hope you enjoy!

 

Song: Shape of You by Ed Sheehan

Spring Break 2017 – As Told By Instagram

For an assignment in my Online Journalism class at Boston University, I created a video compilation of the photos and videos I posted to my Instagram story over the course of my spring break vacation. Check out who I was with, what I ate, and the sights I saw as I go from Boston, Massachusetts to Los Angeles, California, and back to Boston in the span of one week. Enjoy!

 

Song: ‘Dani California’ by The Red Hot Chili Peppers, downloaded from iTunes.

Boston’s Warmest February Day – PHOTOS

Boston residents took to the streets of Beacon Hill, Brookline, and the Boston Common to enjoy the uncharacteristically warm February weather. The temperature hit 73 degrees in Boston on Friday, Feb. 24 – the highest ever to be recorded in the month of February in the city, according to the National Weather Service.