Main­stream me­dia needs to re­cap­ture its in­ves­tiga­tive thread, start a two-way con­ver­sa­tion

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It was clear since Elec­tion Day that the main­stream news me­dia gravely mis­un­der­stood deep vis­ceral un­der­tones through­out the Amer­i­can elec­torate, ex­em­pli­fied by a strong Don­ald Trump vote. The main­stream com­pletely missed the even­tual out­come of the race. In some ways, it may also have been partly to blame for the re­volt against the elites that shaped the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

A num­ber of prob­lems with the way main­stream news­pa­pers and TV sta­tions cov­ered the 2016 elec­tion ex­ac­er­bated the deep-seated dis­con­tent that we saw with Wash­ing­ton -- mea­sured through hor­ren­dous ap­proval rat­ings for Congress, and an over­all dis­like of ev­ery­thing com­ing from the cap­i­tal.

“The one-way re­la­tion­ship be­tween the main­stream me­dia and its au­di­ence devel­oped into an over­ar­ch­ing ar­ro­gance that just didn’t con­nect or at­tempt to con­nect with the Amer­i­can elec­torate,” Niko­lay Mal­yarov, the chief con­tent of­fi­cer and gen­eral coun­sel at the dig­i­tal news ag­gre­ga­tor PressReader, told Red, White & Blog.

This was es­pe­cially the case on TV, where the lat­est Clin­ton scan­dal or out­ra­geous Trump tweet was top of the news, whereas in­ves­tiga­tive re- port­ing about what ru­ral, sub­ur­ban, post-ur­ban or even ur­ban Amer­i­cans re­ally cared about on a daily ba­sis was scant.

An­other prob­lem in­her­ent in jour­nal­is­tic en­deav­ors is the ten­sion be­tween of­fer­ing read­ers what they want to read, and defin­ing the po­lit­i­cal nar­ra­tive from the news­room. That is, be­tween click­bait and re­ports/ar­ti­cles that fur­ther the con­ver­sa­tion in a pos­i­tive di­rec­tion.

Cover­ing Trump’s tweets or ral­lies with al­most re­li­gious fre­quency and harp­ing on Clin­ton’s emails non­stop may have been great for rat­ings, but it does not fur­ther the po­lit­i­cal dis­cus­sion, nor does it ad­dress is­sues that are tan­gi­ble to the vast ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans.

“This ten­sion is only ag­gra­vated by the na­ture of chang­ing busi­ness mod­els in journalism, an is­sue that is yet to be solved in any mean­ing­ful way,” Mal­yarov noted.

“The main­stream me­dia needs to earn back the trust of those out­side the af­flu­ent bub­bles by en­gag­ing in a two-way rather than a one-way con­ver­sa­tion with read­er­ship,” con­tin­ued Mal­yarov.

“Dig­i­tal is a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity to work in this di­rec­tion. So far, how­ever, dig­i­tal has in­stead cre­ated echo cham­bers of like-minded con­sumers who do lit­tle to chal­lenge the way they think about the world and about pol­i­tics.”’

The re­sult of the 2016 elec­tion will jump start some much-needed soul search­ing in the news me­dia. Hope­fully by 2018 and 2020, we can have a new it­er­a­tion of the main­stream me­dia that de­cides how to best ed­u­cate read­ers while also cap­tur­ing their in­ter­est.

“The main­stream me­dia needs to earn back the trust of those out­side the af­flu­ent bub­bles by en­gag­ing in a two-way rather than a one-way con­ver­sa­tion with read­er­ship”. Niko­lay Mal­yarov

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