Editorial: Irresponsible reporting harms national integrity

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Jackson Hermann

The mainstream media’s coverage of the national election has contributed to false notions and contradictory ideas that are compromising our democratic values.

Over the course of 293 fact-checks by PolitiFact, Clinton has an approximate truth rating (percentage of all statements rated as True, Mostly True or Half True) of 74 percent, while Trump has a truth rating of 30 percent.

Despite this huge disparity in who has a grasp of accurate facts and policy knowledge, many are convinced that Clinton is a liar who compromised our national security and will say anything she needs to get elected.

This is because of a giant, nationwide emphasis by media outlets on covering issues like Clinton’s private email server instead of coverage dedicated to the actual policy issues that will affect our country.

In a representative democracy, the entire point of the system is that an electorate will elect the candidate whose values best represent theirs. When television news spends three times the amount of time on a single scandal than the values that a candidate represents, the election stops being about issues that affect citizens.

Shifting democracy from a discussion of national concerns to a popularity contest destroys our overall discourse and guarantees people will not have access to the information required to vote for those who best represent them.

This is not to say that the coverage of the Republican candidate has been much better. Joe Scarborough said on air that Trump, in an unrecorded discussion about nuclear policy, said “if we have nukes, why can’t we use them?”

Many media sources ran with this, saying Trump was woefully under-educated on foreign policy, even though this was never said on the record.

Additionally, when Trump made the argument that Barack Obama, U.S. president, and Clinton were the “founders of ISIS,” many fact-checked him, thinking he meant the statement literally.

Not being able to give the presidential candidate of a major party the most basic benefit of the doubt about figurative language just further reinforces that voters do not want to hear about the issues, only the gaffes and scandals.

This misreporting and irresponsible journalism creates an air of distrust and anger that discourages many from engaging with the process at all. It hurts our country and makes it harder for the nation to choose a candidate it is happy with.

This election’s candidates have had the two largest unfavorable ratings of any major candidate and with the coverage both have gotten over the past year and a half, it’s not difficult to see why.