Maximum attrition, minimum ideas – the journalistic challenge of the US election

Future News 63

Here comes the big one. With just over a week to go, the world’s media is descending on the US. Pennsylvania has become a common, almost clichéd, destination thanks to Donald Trump’s past working-class support there, while other hacks have headed to Florida, one of the key states when it comes to who inhabits the White House next. Washington and New York are the two safest destinations for planning teams, but several variables could easily turn the election into a logistical nightmare. 

The incumbent ‘leader of the free world’, for instance, has heavily hinted that he will not leave his seat of power depending on the strength of the initial result, while the counting of votes is expected to take longer than ever because of the Covid-19 scourge. This is despite the majority of ballots already being submitted (in 2016 only 55.4% of votes were cast in person). Any legal shenanigans, meanwhile, will have to stop on 8 December, according to US federal law. 

A quick fortnight across the Atlantic could turn into a slog over Christmas and potentially up until the planned inauguration on 20 January. Even then there are several known unknowns, the biggest and most worrying being a question around potential civil unrest (we always hope not, but the Trump era has been defined by divisiveness). A longer-term query is what the post-Covid Republic looks like. 

Since there are no election manifestos in sight (potential president over party, remember) journalists have been forced to paste pledges and promises together. The New York Times has done an admirable job here (Trump’s and Biden’s plans), but the horse race continues to dominate the style of coverage, effectively turning the whole shebang into a sport where ideas are a secondary concern and constitutional curiosity – after four years of institutional argy-bargy –  gets buried. 

🗳️ Election 2020


  • BuzzFeed UK quietly published its Annual Report for the year to 31 December 2019 on Friday. The company covers the outlet’s operations in Brazil, Japan, Mexico and India as well as Germany, the division that was sold off in August of this year. Group revenues increased by 4% from £21.4m to £22.4m, while losses shrank to £7.4m down from £9.4m in 2018. Split out, revenue for the UK division of the company dropped to £4.5m to £6.6m and the rest of Europe generated sales of £1.4m, up from almost £750,000 the year before. The rest of the world, meanwhile, posted revenues of £22.3m, an increase from £21.5m in 2018. 

  • Amid reports that 50% of Mail+'s staff are set to be cut, Daily Mail General Trust posted a strong trading update last week. The company adjusted its guidance upwards on profits, expecting it to be in the range of £85 to £90m when it posts its Full-Year Results on 23 November.

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Illustration: Freepik