It was clear since Election Day that the mainstream news media gravely misunderstood deep visceral undertones throughout the American electorate, exemplified by a strong Donald Trump vote.
The mainstream completely missed the eventual outcome of the race. In some ways, it may also have been partly to blame for the revolt against the elites that shaped the 2016 presidential election.
A number of problems with the way mainstream newspapers and TV stations covered the 2016 election exacerbated the deep-seated discontent that we saw with Washington -- measured through horrendous approval ratings for Congress, and an overall dislike of everything coming from the capital.
“The one-way relationship between the mainstream media and its audience developed into an overarching arrogance that just didn’t connect or attempt to connect with the American electorate,” Nikolay Malyarov, the chief content officer and general counsel at the digital news aggregator PressReader, told Red, White & Blog.
This was especially the case on TV, where the latest Clinton scandal or outrageous Trump tweet was top of the news, whereas investigative reporting about what rural, suburban, post-urban or even urban Americans really cared about on a daily basis was scant.
Another problem inherent in journalistic endeavors is the tension between offering readers what they want to read, and defining the political narrative from the newsroom. That is, between clickbait and reports/articles that further the conversation in a positive direction.
Covering Trump’s tweets or rallies with almost religious frequency and harping on Clinton’s emails nonstop may have been great for ratings, but it does not further the political discussion, nor does it address issues that are tangible to the vast majority of Americans.
“This tension is only aggravated by the nature of changing business models in journalism, an issue that is yet to be solved in any meaningful way,” Malyarov noted.
“The mainstream media needs to earn back the trust of those outside the affluent bubbles by engaging in a two-way rather than a one-way conversation with readership,” continued Malyarov.
“Digital is a wonderful opportunity to work in this direction. So far, however, digital has instead created echo chambers of like-minded consumers who do little to challenge the way they think about the world and about politics.”
The result of the 2016 election will jump start some much-needed soul searching in the news media. Hopefully by 2018 and 2020, we can have a new iteration of the mainstream media that decides how to best educate readers while also capturing their interest.