As last night’s election coverage results came in, many were shocked, none more so than the media.
In real-time, we watched many network reporters struggle through their emotions with dismay written all over their faces and haltingly in their voices. The failure went deeper than a campaign, it was a failure of a profession to adequately deliver on what it was created to do – to understand the pulse of the people.
As the graphics in the background depicted the march of the red, the verbal commentary seemed not to match the reality of what was happening.
How did we get here?
Not very long ago, journalism was a revered profession. In journalism school, reporters were taught to do the hard work – to research and get to know their local communities, what people were thinking, what challenges they were facing. To get out of the newsroom, talk with people, ask the hard questions.
As newsrooms were privatized in the 1980s, the profit agenda began to rise within newsrooms. Jobs were reduced, beats were reduced, and investigative reporting was no longer the norm. As a result, journalists began to spend more time in the newsroom seeking out other stories online to expand on – not spending as much time out in communities, interviewing and understanding what people were thinking.
Over time that has expanded to become the media bubble that is New York and Washington with an over reliance on pundits and the pressure of the 24/7 news cycle to seek out experts who may not truly be so in their field.
How do we move on from here?
The chasm between those covering the election and those voting was obvious. To close it, national media outlets must strive to reconnect with the American people – to understand their lives, their challenges, their hopes and dreams from all corners of the country. They must re-invest in the basics of reporting and recommit to the ethics of journalism – to present the news in a fair, impartial manner.
In short, they must re-invest to regain their relevance in the eyes of the public.