September 17, 2020

Good morning, everyone. Tom Jones is on vacation, but the team at Poynter is keeping tabs on the latest media news and analysis. Here’s what you need to know today.

Is 2020’s election going to be deja vu all over again? In The Atlantic, James Fallows argues that journalists are repeating mistakes they made in 2016 and haven’t adapted to a world in which the rules have changed.

Fallows writes about “both-sides-ism,” “horserace-ism” and coverage as entertainment instead of news, and dissects articles from the Associated Press, The Washington Post and The New York Times to illustrate real-world examples of each.

He writes “The institution I am part of, the media, is also being tested. The press isn’t the only part of America’s institutional crisis. But it’s an important part of the predicament we are in, and of the hope for getting out. For as long as the press has existed, it has been shambling and imperfect and improvisational. At our best we get things right on average, and incrementally, with a lot of getting things wrong along the way. Most of us in this business do our imperfect best. But any hope of doing better depends on the ability to learn.”

The top Republican in Pennsylvania’s state senate is suing journalists over the cost of producing public records. Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati is seeking $6,070 from weekly watchdog publication The Caucus, Caucus bureau chief Brad Bumsted and Spotlight PA reporter Angela Couloumbis to cover accounting fees, attorney’s fees and court costs. Journalists had used the records to uncover “questionable spending by the lawmaker and other politicians,” Spotlight PA reported.

Should this suit prevail, Spotlight PA reported, “the suit could make it easier for politicians to hide their campaign spending from the public, while at the same time have a chilling effect on investigative reporting, media experts said.” A public records expert they spoke to called the suit “kind of scary” and said “authoritarian practices seem to be picking up speed.”

The Justice Department says media outlet AJ+ must register as a foreign agent, Mother Jones reported. AJ+ is owned by Al Jazeera, a Qatari state-owned broadcaster. “The designation follows a years-long push by lobbyists hired by the autocratic government of the United Arab Emirates, which has long resented the critical coverage it receives from Al Jazeera,” Mother Jones reported.

Americans with certain media diets are more likely to believe an untrue claim about Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s stance on police funding. Biden does not support defunding the police, though President Donald Trump has falsely claimed that he does. An analysis from the Pew Research Center’s American News Pathways project found that U.S. adults whose major sources of political news are Fox News and/or talk radio are far more likely to falsely believe Biden supports defunding police (66% vs. 27%).

The study also found that while similar percentages of Democrats and Republicans say they are following election news very closely (33% and 30%, respectively), their news sources of choice seem to make a big impact on how closely they follow that news. 55% of Republicans who cite Fox News or talk radio as their main political news source say they are following election news very closely, while only 17% of Republicans who get their news from other sources say they are following it closely.

Layoffs, buyouts and more fallout from the pandemic continue hitting local news. This week, several newspapers owned by Lee Enterprises in Virginia laid off staff and two Lee-owned papers in North Carolina also laid off staff. The Tribune-owned (Newport News, Virginia) Daily Press will permanently close its office. And 24 staffers at KCRW, an NPR affiliate in Santa Monica, accepted buyout offers. You can see our full list here.

Daniel Dale, CNN’s whirlwind of a fact-checker, identified 22 false or misleading claims that President Trump made during a town hall Tuesday night. Dale categorized the claims by topic and explained what the president said and how it was misleading.

The New York Times and Facebook are working together to build an augmented reality reporting project. Instagram users will go to the Times’ Instagram page and interact with filters and effects, which a Times assistant managing editor said will be “useful to convey our journalism.” The lady isn’t looking so grey these days.

Today’s Poynter Report was written by Kristen Hare and Ren LaForme.

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