2024 - Spring

Reporting the Presidential Campaign 2024

Course Number: JOUR-GA 1182.025

Day & Time: Wed | 1:30 PM – 4:00 PM

Location: 20 Cooper Square, Room 655

Instructor: Steve Adler

Syllabus: Download

Coverage Challenges in the 2024 Election

Press freedom, as guaranteed by the First Amendment, buttresses our democracy by ensuring that the people are fully informed about the workings of government — and thus can hold their representatives accountable. Or so it goes in theory. In an age of polarization, misinformation, AI-generated “deep fakes,” and profound distrust in the media, what happens in practice? Can the media, in a spirit of fairness, rigor, and integrity, provide the public with the information it needs to make informed decisions? This seminar, beginning in the opening weeks of the 2024 presidential primaries, will explore this question in the context of how news organizations go about covering an ongoing campaign.

We will examine, often in real time, the choices that go into political reporting, how such coverage is affected by the economics of the news industry, how newsrooms deal with the raw emotions of a campaign in which each side sees democracy at risk, and how journalists struggle to come to grips with what “objectivity,” “neutrality,” and “advocacy” mean. We’ll also look at how campaign marketing has evolved in the past half century and how this evolution has changed the terrain, and increased the challenges, for those who cover politics.

Readings will include essays, articles, press criticism, and news stories, as well as portions of such books as The Selling of the President 1968 by Joe McGinniss, What It Takes by Richard Ben Cramer, Chasing Hillary by Amy Chozick, and Marty Baron’s Collision of Power: Trump, Bezos and The Washington Post.

STEPHEN J. ADLER is an adjunct professor and director of the newly formed Ethics and Journalism Initiative at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. A lifelong New Yorker, he received his B.A. from Harvard College and his J.D. from the Harvard Law School. From 2011-2021, he was editor-in-chief of Reuters, where his teams won eight Pulitzer Prizes, and has also served as editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek and investigative editor at The Wall Street Journal. Adler is board chair of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which provides pro bono legal services to journalists and news organizations throughout the country. He is the 2023 winner of the Gerald Loeb Lifetime Achievement Award.