But it’s worth remembering that one of the first things voters need to know (and want to know) about the campaign is simply where the candidates stand—and that, even in a fragmented media landscape overrun with never-before-seen quantities of “paid media,” many readers still turn to trusted local sources for that information. Political reporters should aspire to do more than the basics, and to bring scrutiny and skepticism to bear on the messages coming out of the campaigns. But that process begins with helping voters learn what those messages are.

Erika Fry is a former assistant editor at CJR.