Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Is Sanders really running in 2020?

More authentic sources are needed
(Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
(Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

As a 20-year-old nerd I woke up overflowing with nothing but sunshine and potential at seven in the morning on Saturday. Upon my typical pre-exit-the-undoubtable-safety-of-my-bed rituals, including a peruse of Twitter’s trending topics, I stumbled upon a spread of information carrying slightly more weight than the usual hot-button issue of what’s going in Justin Bieber’s love life.

Some 12 hours before, Yahoo news had published an article titled: “Bernie Sanders set to announce 2020 presidential run.” Of course, the “social justice warrior” in me was nearly brought to tears by solely the headline, but as a journalist I had to dig a little deeper before I woke up my parents to tell them the news.

The introduction to the piece states that Sanders is “making another run for the white house” — seat belt unbuckled. Then the adjacent sentence reveals: “Two sources with direct knowledge of his plans told Yahoo News that Sanders… plans to announce his presidential bid imminently.”

Seat belts strapped, helmets on, operator please let me off this ride — I can see the piece of missing track 20 feet in front of me.

While Yahoo is not as highly-esteemed in the news world as major sources like CNN or The Washington Post, one would still expect them to practice mediocre journalism. Neglecting source attribution upon release of a major allegation seems like a real rookie move. For everyone out there who is not familiar with the principles of news writing, source attribution is perhaps the most essential element to accurate reporting. Let me give you an example: If my friend John tells me he is going to give me 20 dollars on Tuesday, it would look something like this: “‘I’m going to give you 20 dollars on Tuesday,’ said John.” Because I directly attributed John to this quote, I can expect 20 dollars from him on Tuesday. If John doesn’t give me 20 dollars on Tuesday, I can call and ask him where my money is.

Using the same example, this is the path that Yahoo took: “‘You are going to receive 20 dollars on Tuesday,’ sources said.” While that’s great news, you still can’t trace the accuracy of the information, nor can you track down the person who is allegedly going to donate to your personal charity. See the issue?

Throughout the rest of the article, Yahoo quotes these “sources” multiple times in addition to tossing in a few more unnamed sources with a sprinkle of mystery: attributing statements to an “ex-staffer,” which in the current political climate is near comedy.

While I could write my dissertation on lack of attribution, unnamed sources are not the only issue with this publication. Diving into the meat of the story, the journalist behind this hot mess states: “the source also alluded to aspate ofrecent polls that show Sanders as the most popular politician in the country.” It is essential to note that polls are just about as reliable as unnamed sources. Remember who the polls said was going to win the 2016 presidential election? Me too, and yes, my therapist and I are still working on my “ability to cope with being let down.”

Ignoring the heinous neglect of ascription, there are two links to articles supporting this statement. The first link is to a piece titled: “America’s Most and Least Popular Senators” published by Morning Consult. This is almost on the right track. The article was published in April 2018 and provides explanation to the methodology behind the rankings. But I’m unsure as to why author Hunter Walker cited the rankings from April when Morning Consult published an updated version on Oct. 10. Still, both confirm Sander’s as the United States’ most popular Senator. Sloppy journalism, but sure, I’ll take it.

The second link leads to an article titled: “Bernie Sanders is the Most Popular Politician in America, Polls Say” published by Vice. We’ve already discussed the issues with polls, so I need not delve into that nightmare, but we have yet to dig into neutral reporting. A source such a Vice – a liberal-leaning outlet – is going to publish an article supporting the most popular progressive political figure. By no means, however, is that reflective of the perspective of the United States as a whole. While the Vice piece does have relatively solid source attribution, it was published on Aug. 24, 2017, over two years ago, which makes this link entirely moot.

It is a journalist’s job to be honest with the public, especially in the United States where journalism is commonly referred to as the fourth branch of government. So please, if you’re a journalist, notably if you’re a political journalist right now, keep the core values of your trade in mind and stray away from propaganda that might “get a lot of clicks.”

For now, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an announcement of a 2020 Sanders campaign, but they will be hidden behind my back.

Andrea Hanley is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected].

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    NITZAKHONJan 28, 2019 at 8:02 am


    100 million dead in the 20th century wasn’t enough for you? People eating rats, garbage, and zoo animals in Venezuela as it dissolves into anarchy isn’t enough of a lesson for you – right in front of your eyes?

    How many dead does it take? How many times has it “not been done right” does it take?