Accuracy in Media

CNN’s latest political analysis on the 2020 Democratic Party primary race between Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former vice president Joe Biden was not as sensational as its headline. Instead, readers read an analysis that oversold its content to CNN’s readers. The headline that CNN chose to run with was, “If Biden wins Michigan, is it all over?”

CNN editor-at-large Chris Cillizza did not definitively answer his analysis’s main question of whether Sanders had to win Michigan to remain competitive in the primary. He did not give a yes-or-no answer and wrote, “probably.” He said, “All of which brings us to this: Does Sanders have to win Michigan on Tuesday to continue to make the case that he is a viable alternative to Biden? The answer is probably.”

Cillizza outlined several reasons, such as Michigan’s primary voting demographics (for example, it is a 70 percent+ white electorate) and national news media coverage showing “an energized Biden” with multiple recent endorsements. He then played devil’s advocate and said if Sanders lost by double-digits, only “his most loyal supporters” would believe that Sanders could make a comeback in the primary race.

CNN’s analysis concluded that Sanders “can stay in the race as long as he wants” due to his loyal base of supporters and fundraising ability, but it would be tough for him to beat Biden with a loss in Michigan. Based on CNN’s analysis, the conclusion should have been either “yes” or “no” as it made a stronger case for either result. The analysis failed to deliver on its sensational headline and it was an example of clickbait. CNN should do a better job in monitoring its own headlines to more accurately reflect its content.

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