Feb 25, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Bernie Sanders' rise forces media to reckon with how to cover him

illutsration of bernie sanders speaking with a white cut out
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Staff

Bernie Sanders' rise is forcing news outlets to come to terms with ways they should covering his candidacy as a frontrunner, instead of a fringe candidate.

Why it matters: The media finds itself in the same position as it was in the 2016 election, when Donald Trump began to pull ahead in the Republican primary.

Driving the news: MSNBC plans "to seek out more smart, pro-Sanders voices," shifting coverage amid criticism, Vanity Fair's Joe Pompeo reports.

  • The news comes on the heels of MSNBC's Chris Matthews apologizing on air to Sanders after making comments comparing Sanders' Nevada win to the Nazi invasion of France.
  • Other mainstream news organizations, like the New York Times, have since revisited their coverage of Sanders' 2016 campaign, to better understand their coverage blindspots when it came to covering Sanders' "underdog" campaign.

The big picture: The Sanders campaign has long-asserted that the mainstream media is biased against it.

  • Earlier this year, the campaign created "The 99," an in-house live-streamed show that highlights the campaign's policy initiatives in a way that looks and feels like a news media broadcast. 
  • Sanders' campaign manager Faiz Shakir argued on CNN in August that the campaign has had to create its own outlet because mainstream media is too incentivized by corporate interests to cover issues fairly. 

Be smart: Media companies are an easy target because media has become one of the most polarizing institutions in America, and particularly during the Trump era. But it's usually Republicans that are likely to cry foul over mainstream media bias, not Democrats.

Go deeper: The evidence doesn't back Democrats' panic that Bernie can't win

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