American news media got a lot of things wrong throughout the 2016 presidential campaign.
Common to every erroneous piece of punditry was media elites’ prognostication of the election. Speculation and sensationalism manipulated the ways journalists conducted reporting.
Reporting on real issues fell by the wayside as news outlets relentlessly talked about emails and the term “yuge.”
Suffice it to say, the media messed up.
However, that isn’t entirely the fault of the media. Media only said what they knew to be true. That is, what they knew to be true among the media elite who worked alongside them. Besides, almost no news networks thought President Trump should be taken seriously.
Not all journalists made the same mistakes, however. Many younger reporters were producing a much more accurate story of how the election would unfold. Ambitious in their reporting, they were eager to get the story right during the most exciting time in American politics.
For instance, Jaqueline Alemany is a young CBS embed reporter who published a great article on angry Ohio Democrats who turned to Trump out of frustration with their own party. The piece is timely, well-researched, and authentic. It’s an actual article on actual people instead of an abstraction about either candidate.
We need more of this sort of media.
Young journalists like Jaqueline did the reporting on the ground natural to an entry-level news media position and ended up doing a much better job than tenured, confident higher-ups sitting behind desks.
Arrogance certainly contributed to the consequential inaccuracies of the elite media. Cameras could have turned their attention away from an empty podium to pick the brains of voters in Iowa, where many counties flipped Republican in 2016, according to a November Washington Post article.
Every piece of political pageantry and campaign theater became an opportunity for a new hot take. But on-the-spot commentary wasn’t the public’s number one priority when a man the media refused to take seriously continued to falsify the elites’ self-truths, until that man was elected president of the United States.
Instead, the daily news-cycle needed to focus on what was happening on the ground.
It needed reporters from major news organizations who would go to middle America and gauge the political climate, who would collect perspectives on individuals’ hopes and fears for their livelihood, and how that would influence whom they voted for.
It needed journalists who were willing to break out of their bubble and talk to some people with differing perspectives — perspectives that very may likely represent a larger population than assumed.
Young reporters new to the career proved to be the majority of those willing to trek these terrains.
Having already seen headlines from President Trump’s first day in office, younger journalists have learned there’s a price to pay for taking assumptions of the future at face value.
The 2016 election will leave a long-lasting imprint and serve as a haunting reminder to journalists to not explain what they truly do not know.
And if the level at which the media at-large crashed and burned last November indicates what could happen again, it seems the ambition to get it right among young reporters will be self-sustaining.
News media will need humbled journalists willing to shut up and listen, and young reporters are up to the challenge.