There is an expectation that the media always needs to be correct. They need to understand the entire country and every situation. Although that is an unrealistic expectation, the expectation that they will do their best is reasonable. In this election, journalists did not do their best, and, although they criticized themselves after the election, they still haven’t done much better since then.
After the election, the media wrote their typical post-mortem pieces. They paid more attention to arguments than issues. They didn’t feel a need to get outside of their liberal city bubbles. They didn’t make a point to understand the complexities of people in this country. They didn’t take people seriously (and that includes President-elect Donald Trump). They didn’t stay unbiased, and they even took sides. They made wrong assumptions and they got lazy. The problem is that they are still doing many of those things.
One of the biggest issues with the media during the election was that they were caught up in the smaller incidents rather than the bigger picture. They talked about Trump’s scandals and Hillary Clinton’s emails, which were important, but didn’t need as much coverage as they got. The media made the election a smear contest where every publication was competing to have the best scoop of the day’s scandal.
Since the election, the media have doubled-down on their coverage of the day-to-day of Trump. When Trump decides to get mad at The New York Times and cancels a meeting over Twitter, there’s an article about it. When vice-president-elect Mike Pence is booed at a Broadway show, there’s an article about it along with tweets from the president-elect. The media have done a slightly better job of covering the big picture, such as Trump’s business conflicts, but they’re still not getting all of the big picture issues.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t publications that are doing their job and learning from their mistakes, but the majority of the media aren’t.
Media, like the The Los Angeles Times, focused on stopping the “catastrophe” that, they feel, is Trump instead of educating voters, and they haven’t stopped that. The blatant slant that seeped in from editorial boards to the reporting staff was obvious to the people of this country, and it contributed to making the media public enemy number one.
Throughout the campaign, Trump aimed his anger at the media, and his supporters followed him. Jewish journalists received anti-Semitic hate mail, shirts that say “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required,” were popular, media buildings and vehicles were vandalized, along with so many other instances. Journalists like CNN’s Christiane Amanpour have warned that journalists need to protect themselves.
Even before this election, there was a growing distrust of the media. People in small towns and flyover states didn’t feel that institutional publications, such as The New York Times, were written for them. They didn’t – and still don’t – see them as fair. According to a 2016 Gallup poll, only 32 percent of Americans say they have a “great deal or fair amount of trust in the media.”
Now that the election is over, the media needs to earn back the trust of the American people. This election became noisy with all of the little day-to-day things, and the transition period is still noisy, instead of focusing on the bigger picture on educating the American public.
The media refused to take Trump seriously – and they still aren’t. When news concerned looking into his background, doing real in-depth reporting on his past, or taking what he said seriously (but not literally), they failed. Part of this is because the media got lazy under the Obama administration. They were so enamored by him during his campaign that when he got into office they forgot to hold him accountable, and that ran into the 2016 election.
The problem is that the media haven’t learned fast enough from their past mistakes. Reporters like to think that they are smarter than politicians or the public – but they aren’t.
The job of journalists in an election is to educate the public about the issues and relevant details about the candidates, and journalists did not do their job. They focused on getting readers, but not on improving the knowledge of the American electorate.
This election should have been a wake-up call for the media. Now that Trump is going to be president, they are going to have to step up. More publications need to do in-depth reporting. They need to have longterm reporters in flyover states. They need to not be afraid to report on the uglier truths that might not sell as many subscriptions, and they need to understand all the people in this country better by spending more time with the voters.
The media wants revenge for this election, but if they allow the smell of blood to blind them, they won’t improve their coverage, and that would be a disservice to the American public.