Posted in Industry Insights

AP’s top editor: Facts ‘foundational’ in 2020 election

, by Patrick Maks

Speaking to media executives and journalists at the News Xchange conference in Paris on Wednesday, AP Executive Editor Sally Buzbee underscored the importance of factual reporting in covering the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Buzbee said the reporting of facts — and the American public’s ability to discern fact from fiction — will play a pivotal role in the outcome of the U.S. presidential race.

“It seems like such an easy, simple thing and yet it is actually almost elementary and completely foundational to this campaign: what really are facts and how do people determine what to trust as they make their voting decisions,” Buzbee said.

To illustrate that dynamic, Buzbee pointed to a recent poll by the AP-NORC Center for Public Opinion Research and USAFacts, published Wednesday, that found Americans are broadly skeptical that facts underlie some of the basic functions of democracy in the U.S.

AP Executive Editor Sally Buzbee speaks at News Xchange, Nov. 20, 2019, in Paris. (AP Photo/Antoine Vessaud)

“Americans are challenged about what’s factual information,” said Buzbee. “That’s true for both Democrats and Republicans.”

Buzbee also emphasized the need for fact-based journalism in a fraught environment of hyperpartisanship.

“I think we’ve been able to keep our reputation for accurate, non-biased reporting,” she said. “I do feel we’ve been able to keep ourselves true to our mission. It takes constant thought and constant self-monitoring to make that happen.”

Buzbee also made clear the need for geographic diversity in political journalism.

“We have to make sure that we’re not just ‘inside the beltway,’ as we say, and focused on the East Coast, but make sure we’re really talking to people around the country and figuring out what they think about things,” said Buzbee.

She pointed to two key items to look to as the presidential campaign ramps up: whether the impeachment probe into President Donald Trump will change people’s opinions or make them dig into further polarization, and the eventual selection of a democratic presidential nominee. The latter, she said, is “the single biggest question” before Election Day. 

Watch a replay of the discussion here.