The recent presidential election was nothing if not shocking, and it called into question the polls and media coverage that predicted a strong Clinton win. As numbers came in and Donald Trump edged ahead on election night, news platforms across the country were questioning how they got it so wrong.
In the aftermath, many people looked to blame the media for the confusing and surprising results of the election. But what exactly happened throughout the campaign months and how did the media really influence the election?
The Portrayal of the Two Candidates
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the media plays a huge role in what people believe and how people think. For many Americans, media coverage is their only source of information regarding important political information. Because of this, the media has a duty to provide fair and accurate information.
One of the major problems the media had in this election was its simple misunderstanding of an entire group of Americans: the working class. Most media professionals sit in their offices in New York or Washington, surrounded by people who overwhelmingly have a single viewpoint. It was easy for them to latch onto a singular viewpoint instead of discovering what the rest of the country thought.
Leading up to the election, the polls predicted a Clinton win by a landslide, and journalists assumed that the polls were right. Instead of covering Trump as if he would be the next president, they laughed him off and didn’t give him enough serious attention.
The media didn’t understand that there was a huge number of working Americans who wanted change and were planning to vote for Donald Trump. Overlooking that population was part of the problem, as it discounted those who positively responded to Trump.
Throughout the election the media focused on only a handful of issues instead of giving decent coverage on a large variety of issues. For example, the Dakota Pipeline debate was hardly covered, despite the atrocious nature of the issue. Instead, the media gave extensive coverage to Clinton’s email scandal and Trump’s questionable morals.
The emails and moral issues deserved coverage, but not at the cost of ignoring issues concerning actual policy and human rights. The media should have given broader consideration to important issues instead of only focusing on a few heated stories.
Media: Broader and Bigger
Media now saturates every part of our lives. Social media, TV, opinion articles, newspapers, advertisements and the neighbor’s lawn sign. With so many voices in the media, it’s almost impossible to control a message, which is both good and bad.
The widespread rise of media coverage is good because it forces consumers to see multiple sides of one issue. If people only read one newspaper, they will read and understand only one side of a problem. If people are exposed to thousands of media messages a day, they have the opportunity to understand multiple opinions, which helps them form their own conclusions.
With the incredible rise of social media, people can broadcast their opinions with no facts or data, which means rumors and lies can spread like wildfire with nobody to control the message and fact check. It’s incredibly important not to trust everything you read. Doing your own research and making sure you listen to a variety of sources is the only way to make an informed decision.
There’s no way to precisely gauge the media’s influence of the last election, but the media without a doubt plays a huge role in our country’s politics. Understanding how the media works and pushing for fair and accurate coverage is an important step to reaching well-rounded and fair decision making.