Some days the waves are calm and ready for a smooth ride. Other days the waves are choppy and looking to leave some scrapes and bruises. But I’m not talking about surfing!
Welcome to world of covering presidential campaigns.
Four years ago on my Ohio-based program Capitol Square I explained to viewers that covering the presidential campaign in America’s top battleground state was a lot like riding a wave. There was no way to know, week to week, how big the wave would be and what direction it would take you. One thing you could do, however, is ride it in the same way each time and, in the end, things would balance out.
I mention this because my website Front Row Seat at the Circus has been criticized in recent weeks by supporters of Donald Trump. They argue, correctly, that there have been more negative stories on their candidate than Hillary Clinton. And for that I am guilty as charged.
But there isn’t bias in why and how this happening.
Let me explain it, from a decision making process, this way:
- If fundraising reports are released and candidate A is way behind candidate B.
- If major polls are released showing candidate A is way behind candidate B.
- If members of candidate A’s own party publicly endorse candidate B.
- If candidate A makes controversial statements and candidate B responds.
- If the Supreme Court rules on an issue that sides with candidate B over candidate A.
ALL of these things, everyone of them, is reportable on a political website. They are major items within coverage of presidential campaign. Now imagine them all happening within a week. When combined it adds up to a chill wave for candidate B, no question, and a brutal one for candidate A.
Look, I’ve been around politics a long time. It is perfectly reasonable for supporters of Trump to say, “hey, this is some awful coverage this week.” I get it. It is lopsided when all of these types of things happen at once.
But supporters of candidates must understand the press doesn’t control the timing of all this. It is what it is, and for Trump the past few weeks have been some of the most brutal waves in history.
Here’s the thing. The next wave could be very different. New fundraising or poll numbers could change the narrative. A misstatement from candidate B could give candidate A an opportunity. Something even larger, say a criminal indictment, would completely change the direction of the wave for days, if not weeks.
So, my job of a political reporter isn’t to pick one positive and one negative story each day to “balance” the coverage. My job, and the job of this political website, is to report what’s happening. And after many years of experience I can only tell you that after months of riding the waves, it all comes out pretty smooth in the end.