When does the postmortem for the media begin?
posted at 7:21 pm on November 9, 2016 by Jazz Shaw
When I woke up this morning I was flipping through the cable news channels while sorting through all the news alerts on my phone and in my inbox. It turned out that the entire thing hadn’t been a dream and Donald Trump had actually won the election. As a result, all of the analysts who had gotten the entire thing so completely wrong were scrambling to interpret exactly what had happened when the wheels fell off on Tuesday night. One of the most common phrases I heard (or variations thereof) was that this was an unexpected surge of voters “giving the middle finger” to the establishment in Washington, D.C. It was also the same aforementioned rude digit directed at the Republican establishment and the old guard. There were even some describing it as a flip of the bird to the Democrats who had taken their national electoral advantage for granted.
I suppose all of those things are true to one degree or another, but there was one question which I’m really not hearing at all. Wasn’t this also a gigantic Eff You to the mainstream media? This wasn’t just a question of the pollsters getting their likely voter models massively wrong. That’s just number crunching. It was the media spokesmodels who took it upon themselves to tell Trump supporters not only that they had no chance, but then went on in great detail to tell them why their cause was hopeless. They were terrible people, probably fully deserving of the title, basket of deporables. Trump was terrible so that segment of the audience was obviously supporting a terrible person who voters of good intent and pure souls would soundly reject on election day.
Worse than that, thanks to Wikileaks we’ve been treated to one revelation after another of journalists – including debate moderators – who were working behind the scene to help the Clinton campaign in every way possible. Some resorted to cheating by leaking debate questions. The occasional analysis of how much time, both positive and negative, was devoted to each candidate spoke volumes. Trump’s negative coverage was an ocean compared to Clinton’s puddle.
The pollsters screwed up their math. Cable news hosts and the editorial boards at outfits like the Washington Post engaged in an all out war to stop Trump at all costs and paint him in the most unflattering light possible at every turn. The voters turned around yesterday and told them to go pack sand. Why is this not being discussed?
It’s the rare editorial writer who has been willing to point at the log in their own eye. One exception is, of course, Erik Wemple, ironically enough working at the Washington Post. He recently went so far as to call out CNN for their participation in the debate rigging scheme.
Though CNN didn’t want to open up about its internal investigation, WikiLeaks apparently had other plans. Should it have to craft any further statements on this sequence of events, CNN may want to reconsider its approach and orientation. Because right now its strategy boils down to blaming some guy named Roland Martin of TV One for its decision to place a political hack in close-enough proximity to its town hall and debate-preparation proceedings to corrupt the process. This is CNN’s scandal, not Roland Martin’s scandal.
Would that it were only CNN we were talking about here. The fix was in from the beginning as far as the mainstream media goes. (With a few notable and noble exceptions, I’ll admit.) So do you suppose they’ve learned anything from all of this? Apparently not, because Margaret Sullivan, writing at the same paper as Wemple, was out of the gate first thing this morning, calling on her colleagues to go after Trump even harder now that he’s been elected.
One thing is certain in the presumptive era of President Trump. Journalists are going to have to be better — stronger, more courageous, stiffer-spined — than they’ve ever been.
Donald Trump made hatred of the media the centerpiece of his campaign. Journalists were just cogs in a corporate machine, part of the rigged system. If many Americans distrusted us in the past, now they came to actively hate us.
His threats to change the laws that protect the press resonated with people who felt that the media is a protected class that gets away with far too much — those who cheered at Gawker being put out of business.
What we can’t do is buckle. What we can’t do is slink off and hope someone else will take care of it.
It goes on from there with more heartfelt moans about the importance of truth telling and fact checking and all of the other things that newspapers and cable news shows are supposed to be doing but so often fail at. There isn’t a moment of self-examination in this piece. The media is the wounded victim and it’s yet another attack on Trump. Remember what I said above about the way journalists covered and described Trump? Here we go again.
I deeply hope that journalists won’t normalize Trump’s behavior, as we started to see in the “Well, I guess Americans just wanted change” narrative on cable news networks as the states started to pile up for him. In fact, as it turned out, his followers wanted to throw the entire government and its values on the bonfire.
I suppose I’ve answered my own question if Sullivan’s column is at all representative of the majority of journalists. Have they learned anything from the experience? Only that they need to do a better job at stopping Republicans.