Accuracy in Media

The first primary election in the 2020 presidential cycle was expected to provide clarity on the Democratic Party’s field of presidential candidates, but instead, it clouded the race. An app coding issue delayed caucus results, after which CNN published the following headline: “The Iowa caucuses just died forever.”

CNN’s headline underscored the problems facing the Iowa Democratic Party, which was using an app for the first time in its caucus. The app suffered a coding issue, which delayed accurate reporting of the caucus results. The media expected to declare a caucus winner by the end of the night, but the state party told the media that it will take at least another day to verify the accuracy of the caucus results.

This current state of chaos contributed to CNN’s dramatic headline, which was very sensational and premature. CNN’s analysis on the Iowa caucus delay offered a sensationalist headline that could not be objectively corroborated. The headline relied on hyperbole rather than facts to grab readers’ attention. Time will tell whether the Iowa caucuses will be eliminated in favor of a voting system, but it was inaccurate for CNN to immediately declare the caucus system dead.

The analysis extensively quoted opponents of the caucus process, such as former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Democratic strategist Jesse McIntosh. Both made the case that the Iowa caucuses should be eliminated due to its low turnout and allegedly discriminatory nature. Although CNN quoted two defenders of the caucuses, former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum and former Iowa Democratic Party chairman Gordon Fischer, the analysis focused on the caucuses’ shortcomings and not the benefits of the system.

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