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Can We Make America Care Again?
Kira Boden-Gologorsky
La Pietra Dialogues
November 17, 2016

Last week, the Inside American Politics series culminated in the an event titled: The 2016 Presidential Election: What happened? Why? And What’s Next? Over the course of two days, five different panels featuring political insiders deconstructed the results of the 2016 Election from their perspective points of view: Republican, Democratic, and Journalistic.

The 2016 Presidential election results came as quite a shock to both sides of the aisle. Most politicians and their advisors are looking forward, addressing issues of party rebuilding and image rebranding to gear up for the 2018 Midterm and Governorship races. 

Mainstream media’s task is the opposite. Deep analysis is required to understand how reporting and polling failed to correctly grasp the sentiments of the American people. The second panel of the conference entitled The Role of the Media and Changed Political Landscape was designed to address exactly that issue. Panelists ranged from TV to print media, featuring Jonathan Martin (NYTimes), Jonathan Capehart (Washington Post), Betsy Fischer Martin (NBC News), and Steve McMahon (Purple Strategies, NYU Washington DC), moderated by Linda Douglas (Bloomberg Media). 

Though the panel covered many subjects, it focused on the role of the media in a campaign which didn’t follow rules. This election, in particular, highlighted the general democratization of information (or what people perceive as information), which in turn hindered the impact of journalism in effectively communicating the gravity of the election. It seems the contemporary news media landscape is forced to interact with an audience that largely lives in a post-factual reality. 

The media pundits argued that they, especially The New York Times , covered the Trump campaign in full. They featured story after story concerning his alleged sexual assault cases, his racist and bigoted comments, and his refusal to show his tax returns, to name a few. This is not to say the media isn’t at fault. False equivalency, lacking investigative reporting in middle America, and the coastal (and often liberal) bubbles in which large media outlets exist did contribute to the incorrect projections concerning the direction of the election. 

These issues were acknowledged by the panel, and it is obvious that there must be a shift in the way journalism operates moving forward. A larger issue, though, is the fact that most of the electorate doesn’t care about facts. We live in a world with digitized media, almost anything we want to understand or believe exists and is available on the internet. 

It isn’t that mainstream media failed during this election. Its that the electorate simply didn’t care. The question moving forward is how does an independent and free media function in a society which dismisses notions of objectivity based on the denial of facts, the inability to comprehend that certain subjects are not opinion, but are based in reality. Accepting that we live in the same reality is integral is creating a dialogue between the journalist and the audience. 

Furthermore, even if there is an agreement on what distinguishes fact and fiction, the electorate doesn’t care. The fault of the media isn’t that it didn’t try to convey the abhorrent aspects of Trump’s actions and beliefs, it is that the American people don’t care. They either choose to dismiss these allegations as false, or choose not to care. News media’s next challenge is to make Americans care about fact, decency, accountability, and honesty again.

 
 
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