The majority of media, much to its chagrin, was wrong about the expected outcome of the 2016 presidential election. It would be inaccurate to say ‘most of the country’ was wrong but the sea of red across the country proves otherwise.
So far, president-elect Donald Trump was correct about one thing. He really does have a huge support base. A base, the majority of mainstream media and liberal pundits, underestimated. However, the more his presidency becomes a reality, should those who work in media and public relations really be that shocked?
The new age of media
At first, yes the results were really shocking. But now, almost two weeks later, it isn’t so surprising. Understanding the media is the cornerstone of PR. But when there are thousands of outlets across 50 states, it’s utterly impossible to have a pulse on all major national and local broadcast, print and online outlets in the U.S.
The news used to come in the form of a daily or weekly paper, printed locally in-town. Now, the 24-hour news cycle, unfiltered blog-sphere and news under 140 characters, has transformed modern media into a growing beast often times lacking hard facts. There are still local and regional outlets whose readership tunes in because of the coverage of local issues and events. But unfortunately, a lot of these publications are overlooked next to the big players in publishing.
Staying privy to all news
The typical reading ritual of client industry news and general trends structures the PR professional’s day. But by the time you’ve read the news that keeps your job relevant and clients happy, and exhausted all story angles, the day is over; however, the news is not.
The challenge of being well-read and balanced professional has taken on a whole new meaning since the election. It seems that in a country as diverse and enormous as the U.S., reading publications whose agendas are skewed towards the hue of blue is probably not the best approach.
To be decently-informed professionals, and overall Americans, it would take one to read or watch at least one local news source from each state, everyday. Which is most likely impossible.
Is it feasible to stay privy to all news when some states are bigger than most European countries, and broadcast and online news never stops?
Unfortunately, there’s not a one size fits all solution, just like how there’s no one size fits all president. Nevertheless, keeping an open mind while not gawking at the news that doesn’t hold true to personal beliefs and outlooks is a good start.
Instead approach the media with an unbiased agenda and treat it for its sole purpose - an engine of information. Because in the end, the issues are important regardless of medium and they impact us all.
There were thousands of hours of news that people, including myself, dismissed during the election because it wasn’t deemed important since it didn’t follow suite with our outlooks and lives. In retrospect, this is a major regret. But again, should we be that shocked at the outcome. Publications, including major networks, did cover Trump’s support base and the media did speculate that the so-called "silent supporters" would be Trump's biggest edge against the Democrats, we just chose to tune those outlets out.
But at the end of the day, the so-called well-informed who bookmark the Times, The New Yorker and CNN on their Apple laptops, should really not be so surprised. Ignoring national outlets that are simply doing their jobs and local outlets who report the real grass-roots issues should be a part of our daily news round-ups. Because even though we may not agree with their outlooks or coverage, the information they're spewing to the public touches all of us despite differences in zip codes.
Media will always be an influential part of our lives. And for those of us who work with media, we'll hopefully start paying closer attention to all publications.