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Weekly reads from CJR for July 7, 2021

Covering the race for New York’s mayor

Primary elections in New York—the main event in a city where registered Republicans are about as common as Mets World Series titles—took place in June. The race for mayor was wide open, and there were lots of down-ballot spots to fill (comptroller, public advocate, borough presidents, city council seats). This year, for the first time, voters ranked their choices; compared with past campaigns, candidates and reporters had less time on the dance floor, and the pandemic limited how close they could get. For months, New Yorkers seemed to be largely undecided. Savannah Jacobson spoke with voters across the city about how they were informing themselves about the election. “People who don’t take an interest in the race will go with the most superficial thing they hear,” Paul Johnson, a seventy-two-year-old from the Upper West Side, feared. He was especially worried about Andrew Yang—who, as Jon Allsop observed, was the obsession of journalists for months, as they granted him “a narrative of unstoppability.” Scott Stringer, a progressive with loads of city government experience, was accused of sexual harassment and, as Andrea Gabor reported, many news organizations scaled back their coverage of him. By primary day, Allsop wrote, the New York press experienced “a narrative unraveling, into various threads of uncertainty.”

After the votes were cast, the city began a patient wait for the outcome; Errol Louis, the anchor of NY1’s Inside City Halltold Kyle Pope that he wasn’t making any travel plans until mid-July. On The Kicker, CJR’s podcast, Louis looked back on his primary coverage, including a memorable interview with a mayoral candidate named Paperboy Love Prince. “I’ve never seen that much smoke with somebody I was interviewing,” Louis said. “I kicked myself afterwards—I should have asked him what kind of smoke that was and whether he had inhaled any of it.” Louis also noted how, even in New York, community-focused media has withered; the dearth of reporting was especially noticeable in coverage of city council races, he found: “That’s where the lack of local journalism resources made itself felt.” As the days went by, the Board of Elections struggled to count; Jacobson warned against early conclusions and broad takes. “New York City is a cautionary tale in looking to deduce national trends from local events,” she wrote. She offered a suggestion: “We should consider the possibility that what serves voters best is not rushing to fill dead air.” This week, Eric Adams, a former cop, was projected as the winner. His opponents have not all conceded. —Betsy Morais, managing editor


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