But Her Emails

Did the press go overboard on its coverage of Hillary Clinton’s email server?


I wish reporters would honestly engage with this question. I don’t think anyone has ever suggested that the emails and the FBI investigation weren’t a story. Of course they were. The question is, were they this big a story?

Or this big?

This question isn’t important because it’s worthwhile to relitigate 2016 forever, but because it matters for the future. The press got badly played on the Clinton Foundation story, which was almost completely baseless, and they got played only slightly less on the email story, which was kept alive by a calculated campaign to drip information to the press every week—mostly from sources that should have set alarm bells ringing instead.

Pointing out the failures of Hillary Clinton’s campaign is fine but nonresponsive. The question isn’t whether there were lots of things that decided the 2016 race—there were—or whether Clinton’s emails should have been covered at all—of course they should have been. The question is about editorial judgment in an era of widespread media manipulation. If we don’t want 2020 to be like 2016, political reporters should be willing to ask some hard questions about how and why Hillary Clinton’s emails got such massively outsized attention.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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