July 6, 2015


Here’s why one reason why Hillary Clinton might have ducked questions from the press until recently: Clinton chroniclers are tough, unforgiving and they don’t let admittedly outlandish stories die.

In a listicle for the explainer site Vox, Clinton scribe Jonathan Allen explained that the press’ default posture toward the former Secretary of State is one of suspicion and intense scrutiny, where nearly every nugget of news is worthy of a story.

Among the rules governing Clinton coverage, per Allen: Every allegation is believable until proven untrue, every ludicrous story merits further reporting and Clinton is perceived as acting in bad faith until she demonstrates otherwise. From the article:

As an author, I felt that I owed it to myself and the reader to report, investigate, and write with the same mix of curiosity, skepticism, rigor, and compassion that I would use with any other subject. I wanted to sell books, of course. But the easier way to do that — proven over time — is to write as though the Clintons are the purest form of evil. The same holds for daily reporting. Want to drive traffic to a website? Write something nasty about a Clinton, particularly Hillary.

Allen’s unforgiving dictums for covering Clinton come just as the Democratic frontrunner is angling for a thaw in relations with the media. Last night, Clinton’s campaign announced she intends to give several interviews to national television outlets, starting Tuesday with CNN.

The media tour might signal a shift in Clinton’s long-term relationship with the press: New York Times presidential campaign correspondent Maggie Haberman noted on Twitter Sunday night that the pre-emptive move represents a departure from Clinton’s usual reactive media strategy.

It sounds like Allen doesn’t think Clinton’s perception problem is going anywhere, though:

That said, the media can definitely weigh down — and even destroy — a candidate. The emphasis on a candidate’s flaws — real or perceived — comes at the cost of the candidate’s ability to focus his or her message and at the cost of negative attention to the other candidates. This is a problem for Clinton, and it seems unlikely to go away.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

More News

Back to News