Understanding the small form of bias of a news organization documenting its own journalist — On the Trail: Inside the 2020 Primaries is still an intimate viewpoint of journalist behind-the-scenes; that is also well polished and thoroughly told.
On the Trail captures the flashiness, grit, and hectic nature of journalism following political campaigns during an election year. This HBO Max and CNN Film documentary follows a group of female CNN political reporters as they cover the 2020 Democratic primaries on the campaign trail, back when there was one. This documentary came out in August, and the Democratic primaries were back in March — nevertheless — this primary season feels like ancient history, due to COVID. At times, On the Trail might feel like a small infomercial for HBO Max and CNN — however — I enjoyed watching the behind-the-scenes nature of longtime and up-and-coming female journalists. We see and hear from journalists like Dana Bash, Kyung Lah, and Kaitlan Collins as they report from the campaign trails. These reporters travel from one state to the next (often on short notice), fighting to stay on top of the relentless 24/7 news cycle. "There is nothing like the rush of covering a presidential campaign," chief political correspondent Dana Bash says in the documentary. "We get a front-row seat to history." We also get to see an in-depth look at the lives of 'embeds' — Daniella Diaz and Jasmine Wright. It's important and encouraging to see so many women and women of color in the field of journalism, continuing to demonstrate why representation matters.
Embedded journalists are assigned to different candidates during the primary season, like Democratic candidates Joe Biden (now the Democratic nominee), Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg. Some also covered the Trump campaign rallies that happened as these primaries were taking place. We see the chaotic and always on the move lifestyles these embeds are going through on a daily basis. Here, they travel from state-to-state, covering a candidate's every move and the 24/7 news cycle that can change on a dime. Example: Joe Biden's comeback win at the South Carolina primary that propelled him back into the spotlight, ultimately carving a path for victory to seal the 2020 Democratic nomination. Even with its minor flaws, On the Trail, is an important documentary for anyone interested in journalism should watch. For far too long, we have been seeing a White House whose priority has been to discredit the very bedrock of journalism — shouting 'Fake News' out of their megaphones. We have a president who is trying to erode the very pillar of journalism, dismaying daily misinformation to the public. This is a dangerous precedent set before our country, as the future of democracy is on the ballot come this November.
The journalist's job is to hold public figures accountable and to keep the public informed on the truth. No public figure or politician should ever shy away from hard-hitting questions. Questions are only perceived to be hard-hitting if it makes a public figure and or politician feel uncomfortable. We, the people, have a right to know. So, in this way, journalists become our voice by proxy and help us uncover the truth. That is why we need them to keep asking the hard questions. It's a very ethical approach to the structure of journalism, and it is something that we do not want to see be taken away. I'll leave you with this quote by my favorite modern politician, the late John McCain: “If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That's how dictators get started.” Right now, you have the opportunity to be on the right side of history and to vote for a candidate who believes in the fundamentals of preserving our democracy, upholding the oath of the office, and will help unite our polarized country as one. Or, you can choose an incumbent who has spent the last 4-years eroding the very pillars of our government, has attacked our democratic norms, has weakened our alliances across the world, and has further wedged a divide between our already hurting country for his personal gain. I know which direction I want our country to head towards, do you?
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On the Trail is Note Rated NR
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