At this point, the media’s relationship with Romney may be irreparable. Still, it’s within reporters’ power to break this destructive cycle. How might they do so? First, while the vast majority of voters have already selected their preferred presidential candidate, there’s still value in substantive coverage that explores the consequences of the candidates’ agendas (for instance, a new analysis of Romney’s tax plan that was widely covered yesterday).

Second, journalists should seek to provide smarter coverage of campaign dynamics. We’ve seen innovations in political coverage from non-traditional outlets like HuffPost Pollster (where I often cross-post) and Sasha Issenberg’s fascinating Victory Lab series for Slate. Rather than churning out an endless series of gaffe reports and commentary, why not incorporate the best aspects of these approaches and develop a new model for horse race journalism? With more types of stories in the mix, the pressure on reporters to manufacture gaffes might lessen.

In the end, the cycle of gaffe coverage and access restrictions produces little but bad journalism and poisoned press/campaign relationships. No one wins—least of all readers.

Brendan Nyhan is an assistant professor of government at Dartmouth College. He blogs at and tweets @BrendanNyhan.