Journalists on Media Credibility in an Election Year

Political commentator Margaret Hoover and White House reporter Eugene Daniels discuss the challenges of covering the hotly contested 2024 presidential race.

While the U.S. economy is strong on paper, many Americans say they’re not feeling it in their own pocketbooks. High interest rates—which may continue longer than expected as the Federal Reserve readjusts its monetary plans to fight inflation—are having a big impact on the decisions consumers make. That impact encompasses more than the products and services they choose to purchase, like properties and professional real estate representation.

In a hotly contested election year, interest rates are an issue that is likely to influence the way many Americans vote, two veteran political reporters said Monday during the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings in Washington, D.C.

Margaret Hoover, a conservative political commentator and host of “Firing Line” on PBS, said the media would be wise to pay closer attention to these issues instead of focusing solely on covering the “horse race” of the 2024 presidential election. She discussed recent surveys showing that many Black business owners in Georgia are leaning toward supporting Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, because of high interest rates. That’s a narrative that hasn’t gotten much attention in mainstream news outlets, she said.

“Credibility is really important for the media, particularly now,” Hoover said, suggesting that news outlets can build trust with their audiences by reporting on the specific issues that are important to the communities they serve.

That’s why local journalism—which is closest to the communities on the ground—is so important not only for members of the public but also community leaders like real estate professionals, said Eugene Daniels, a White House correspondent for Politico. He argued for greater financial support for local news, saying “If we want good information, sometimes we have to pay for it.”

Hoover and Daniels lamented the role disinformation plays in the election cycle, noting that every newsroom needs specialized fact-checking teams. “The point of disinformation is not to convince you of anything,” Hoover said. “It’s to confuse the heck out of you so you don’t know what’s real.”

Daniels added that there’s “an incentive structure on Capitol Hill for people who don’t want to be helpful,” which requires skilled journalists to speak truth to power—even if it doesn’t always land well with news consumers. “Journalists are not on anyone’s side,” he added.

That’s a pillar of journalism that must hold, particularly as a polarized public seeks out information to corroborate their own beliefs, Hoover said. “Some people are ‘raged in’ to the news while others are tuning out. The biggest threat to democracy is apathy among voters and apathy in newsrooms.”

The two journalists discussed House Speaker Mike Johnson’s tenuous political future, saying the likelihood is Democrats will help save Johnson from an ouster threat—but that will lose him even more support from his own Republican caucus. And finally, Hoover gave a warning: “Every single citizen should be prepared for the real possibility that we’re not going to know the results on election night. It’s going to be close.”