The U.S. Election has been bizarre from start-to-finish. Last Wednesday, Trump spent much of the day at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for his new hotel. Hillary Clinton, one of the most loathed election candidates in history, goes into election night with a near 80% change of winning. One of the most polarising electoral campaigns in history, where practical politics and visionary goals gave way to “Lock Her Up” and “Dump Trump.”
When the dust has settled, the US media will have a great deal of soul searching to do. In September last year, 4 in 10 Americans said that they had a “great deal” or “fair amount” of confidence in the mass media to report the news fully. I’m not sure what those figures will look like after November, but I can’t imagine they’ll be any better.
But the campaign had its high points too. It had moments where politicians were held to account by the media, where correspondents dug deep to fact check candidates in real-time and late-night shows skewered candidates at will. Here are my favourite 12 aspects of the 2016 campaign.
- Katy Tur slamming Trump surrogate Jack Kingston – Trump surrogate Jack Kingston appeared on MSNBC’s Hardball after trying to defend Trump’s birther movement. Tur tore into Kingston, and argued that Trump had tried to convince his followers that Obama wasn’t a legitimate President. “Let me tell you what Donald Trump supporters tell me on the campaign trail often,” she said. “They often say they believe he was born in Kenya, they often say they believe he’s a Muslim. Some of them go on to say he’s an undercover operative, a Manchurian candidate. that being said, Donald Trump has not backed away from this. let me finish this, Mr. Kingston. Donald Trump has not backed away from this because he’s never backed away from any statement on this campaign trail so far.”
- New York Times reporting Trump’s leaked taxes – In early October, Susanne Craig, a reporter for the New York Times, received leaked 1995 tax documents from Donald Trump in her mailbox. They were the first tax returns of Donald Trump’s that had been publicly looked at, and appeared to show a $915.7m net operating loss that could have been used to reduce his taxable income and pay less tax. It was fortuitous that the Times had one of the biggest stories of the campaign land in their lap, but a lot of hard work went into verifying the story, including tracking down Trump’s former accountant Jack Mitnick.
- Sopan Deb’s Twitter feed Reporting for CBS News, Sopan Deb’s Twitter feed has been one of the standout features of the 2016 election campaign. Deb has painstakingly transcribed the most important moments from every Trump speech or media appearance. In March, Deb was knocked down and arrested while covering a Trump rally. The bogus charges against him were eventually dropped.
- David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post has broken some of the biggest stories of the entire campaign – from the really big one with the tape to a forensic examinationof Trump’s charitable giving (or lack thereof). Fahrenthold has also been incredibly open about his methodology, sharing some of his pen-and-paper notes with Slate magazine.
- Jamelle Bouie of Slate Magazine Back in August, when most networks still considered the race between Trump and Clinton to be very close, Bouie penned a piece for Slate blasting that conventional narrative. His piece, “There Is No Horse Race” argued that Clinton would win comfortably due to Trump’s lack of a ground game. I’ve also enjoyed Bouie’s regular presence on ”Face The Nation.”
- Clare Malone of FiveThirtyEight Malone’s work has succeeded in putting a human face on the normally dry world of political data. Her pieces on the Election Profit Makers podcast and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson stand out as particular favourites of mine.
- Zoe Chace I loved Zoe Chace’s deep-dive into the psyche of Trump voters in St. Cloud, Minnesota. The piece for This American Life looks at many of the racial and economic anxieties in America, and looks at how the Republican establishment is dealing with its nominee.
- FiveThirtyEight Election Podcast – There have been loads of great election podcasts this election year, but FiveThirtyEight’s Elections Podcast has stood out for me. Checking in with the stars of FiveThirtyEight every evening during the dying embers of the campaign has been like catching up with old friends.
- Mike Pesca – Mike Pesci’s “The Gist” was in my regular podcast file even before the election, but the election cycle has seen Pesca file “rapid response” dispatches breaking down the presidential debates. It’s been Pesca at his best – funny, insightful, and thought-provoking.
- CNN Reliable Sources – I only discovered Reliable Sources at the start of the campaign, but Brian Stelter’s email has become a firm part of my morning ritual. The newsletter is powered by scoops by Stelter and his colleagues – I’m amazed that they manage to unpick so much with such consistency. It’s been a must-read.
- Andrew Kaczynski – Kaczynski’s scoop that Trump supported the Iraq War was one of the best discoveries of the campaign. And he’s still only 26.
- PBS “Frontline’s” “The Choice 2016.” – This was a superb, balanced, nuanced two hour special that provided an insightful look at both Clinton and Trump. PBS Frontline specials are often high quality, but this one more than earned its place in the election canon.