A question of sourcing: Fair? Unfair?

Did you see the Washington Post’s story about the Pennsylvania woman who is a big Trump supporter?

Read it. Comment below. I want to know what you think.

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7 Responses to A question of sourcing: Fair? Unfair?

  1. Just another reason not to take The Washington Post seriously. They clearly tried to find the worst possible example of a Trump supporter that they could in order to further their narrative that all people who support Trump are racist, ignorant, xenophobic, etc.

  2. johntsadler2014 says:

    This left a bad taste in my mouth. There’s definitely a huge alt-right, conspiracy theorist group backing Trump (also, as an aside, I hadn’t heard seen the Yoko Ono/Hillary Clinton affair. That was new), but to dismiss all of his supporters as complete nutjobs is dangerous. A large percentage of the country is going to vote for this man, and this article doesn’t get to the root of anything. It just seems like one long insult against a group of people that are already distrustful of the media.
    You could definitely find at least one person similar to this that supports Clinton and make the same points. I know the Post really dislikes Trump, but this is a little too far.

  3. emmabeyer123 says:

    I know there was a lot of discussion about the ethics of this piece– I’m torn about my position on that. Can audiences make the assumption that the Washington Post is portraying Trump supports as literally crazy? Yes. Does this bring up a lot of questions and issues about and around mental health, hospitalization and medication. Yes. But part of me also thinks: there is a portion of the population that is very much like this and there are Trump supports, in this case, that do fit this profile. There have been other articles covering Trump supporters, as mentioned in class. These portrays have widely been of working class, “regular” Americans. Perhaps this is adding to the dialog and the broader view of who are Trump supporters? Who are people in society who believe these outlandish ideas of Obama being a Muslim or founder of ISIS?

    It particularly struck me that the article said, about Melanie, that she was apart of the “fringes” of politics that are becoming more mainstream. That seemed to frame this article as a focus on that. There ARE groups of individuals on the fringes of society, with over the top and untrue ideas, but these individuals are becoming the voting populous due to the polarization of politics, of Trump running.

    Is this article going to change people’s minds about Trump supporters? I doubt it– much like how many facts won’t change ideology. I doubt someone thought “Trump supporters are probably unbiased despite listening to a racist, sexist unqualified leader– but now that I see this article, they actually are bad!”

    I think this might just be an addition to coverage of people. I like it.

  4. emmabeyer123 says:

    I also think it gives a lot of insight about WHY she thinks how she does. It’s not just a blanket statement of a crazy woman. It’s a narrative about hardships and how that’s formed her political ideology. Somehow the anxiety medicine and hospitalization seem to be giant red flags for people. As if Wash. Post was saying (LOOK HOW CRAZY AND STUPID SHE IS). I don’t think that’s the case at all. That makes the assumption that people with mental illnesses don’t have stories, can’t have beliefs and if they do, it means they’re unfounded. Her history of sexual abuse and stress seem to really justify (to me) why she believes what she does.

    I decided I like it even more.

  5. I mean, they set the scene with a distasteful image of Melanie Austin (didn’t know who Trump was, lit a cigarette and anti-anxiety pills all by the third paragraph??) and just kept on going from there. I agree with John that this article doesn’t get to the root of anything. A potential reader might be looking for a real, accurate depiction of someone/some people who support Trump. However, the article just presents one Trump supporter as disturbed, unintelligent and crazy and states random details about her that may or may not be relevant in her decision to support Trump. I also think the story’s structure is terrible– it jumps around and random details about Austin are just stuck in there. For example, some of the important background about her hometown is just thrown in there mid-way through. Overall, this article is terrible and doesn’t achieve whatever goal it was supposed to (if there was one). I think it’s clear the Post hates Trump and I don’t think this article helps their case at all, I don’t think it’s funny like it might have been intended to be, and I think the writer is being unethical in her treatment of Austin. All these things might be true about Austin, but its insulting and unethical for the writer to make her into the model stupid and crazy Trump supporter.

  6. miranda_writes1 says:

    I hesitated adding anything to this conversation when it was first posted because I didn’t know if I could contribute anything more than what was already said. But it stayed in the back of my mind. In hindsight of the election, I think this conversation takes on a new poignance.

    Today (the day after Donald Trump won the presidential election, for those reading further into posterity) we know that there are more voters like Melanie than journalists predicted. Melanie no longer represents the outlier – she represents the mainstream electorate. It’s becoming apparent that she may well have represented the mainstream all along, but the mainstream was never acknowledged as such by the press.

    Rather than looking at Melanie’s story as ethical or not, I’m looking at is as a missed opportunity. WaPo had the opportunity to profile someone whose views represent shifting feelings of the country, and instead, they ridiculed her (or at least it feels like that to me, in my read of it). Alternately, the reporter and editors responsible for choosing Melanie as a subject chose to profile someone who appeared to them to be so outside the mainstream that her support of Trump was delegitimized. There are huge swaths of the country that journalists missed in their gauging of the electorate. This profile is a glaring example of that negligence.

    There will be various debriefs of election coverage in the coming days and weeks discussing what the press did wrong. Journalism, as an industry and as an ideal, has some important existential questions to work through. I think that this profile should serve as an example in the conversation to come.

    • reedkath says:

      I agree with you. Wholeheartedly. And I am very glad you revisited this topic, post-election. I saw a Tweet today about how the East and West coast news media live in a bubble that makes it impossible for them to see the rest of the country clearly and accurately. And it wasn’t just the media on the coasts. It’s far too easy for journalists to live inside their little closed worlds with others who are very like them, confirming their biases and validating their elitist tendencies. But this isn’t just the fault of the news media. Americans have stopped engaging with each other honestly and directly. Social media play a very big role in that, but so does our life style, which allows us to get in the car in our garage, drive to a job, go into an office where the discourse is of a predictable and “safe” variety (usually) and then tunnel home to our closed-up worlds where we watch far too much TV and do far too little engaging with our actual physical communities. So we don’t know each other or what people are struggling with. Or how angry or afraid they are. When I was growing up, the edict was that you never discussed religion or politics at the dinner table (except with your family). But I think that’s wrong. We need to engage in fearless conversation with each other about what has happened to our country. Journalism should help do that.

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