Analytical research is often essential to factchecking, of course. But as attacks become “more vicious and more shallow,” attention to the lives of ordinary people can also help journalists cut through the political war of words, Pluta said.

“One thing journalism does okay at is to immediately turn attacks around,” Pluta said. “Good journalists will, after a week or so, step back and say, ‘let’s examine this.’ They get beyond the rhetoric on, say, working moms, and look at how a candidate’s policies will impact the real lives of working moms.”

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Anna Clark is CJR's correspondent for Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. A 2011 Fulbright fellow, Clark has written for The Guardian, Grantland, and Salon; blogs at Isak; and can be found on Twitter @annaleighclark. She lives in Detroit.