Bonfire of the Vanities: The U.S Elections and a Growing Distrust of Aligned Media…
As the US presidential election builds toward its conclusion, a panel of media experts gathered in London to discuss the lasting impact the contentious 2016 election season has had on American voters, and their relationship to the mainstream press.
According to some of the speakers at the event, partisan politics and biased journalism have all but destroyed the public’s trust in news organizations in the US, as the separation between opinion and fact has become increasingly blurred. Matt Negrin, a New York-based political correspondent, speaking via video link, adopted an irreverent approach to covering the US elections:
“The only way to cover this presidential race is by being stupid in my opinion. After all, Trump’s campaign has been stupid. Clinton’s campaign has very much become stupid. You just can’t normalise this!” he told the panel.
UK-based journalist Laurie Penny does not share the enthusiasm around representing serious politics as entertainment. Speaking as part of the panel, she told the audience:
“This election has been a combination of feelings and opinions versus policy. In essence, the election is also showing how real people have grievances about economics. This election doesn’t excite me like it does many. Brexit in the UK didn’t excite me either. I’m very much troubled by what we are all seeing.”
The panel discussed comparisons to previous US presidential elections, suggesting that many issues highlighted during the campaign, including unemployment, inequality, and class divisions in America, are simply long-standing grievances re-emerging in new ways.
“Economic issues are very much colliding with issues of identity and I don’t think there has been enough emphasis on policies and the things that will actually affect people’s lives more deeply,” Penny told the panel.
Kevin Grant, co-founder and managing editor of The GroundTruth Project, a US-based media training organization that organized the discussion, shared his perspective of working with young journalists in the US who, he feels, have become disaffected by mainstream election news coverage:
“In my opinion the truth has gotten lost in the ongoing debates about the elections. And many mainstream media companies have been forced to focus on click-worthy sensationalism as opposed to the nitty gritty realities. Many people are tired of this fact,” he said.
The panel delved into the future of the mainstream news media following the presidential elections:
“What we will see, I think, is the large institutions will eventually struggle more and more in retaining the trust of their audience, and smaller news networks may form. Individuals may even be seen as more trusted, and so the challenge in this area will be how these individuals and groups sustain themselves,” Penny asserted.
Michael Goldfarb, veteran US-based journalist, shared his thoughts about the present and future of American for-profit news media:
“We all have more free choice for what news sources we access, and the role of citizens in our democratic society will evolve regardless of the results in the election. When people are more secure in their everyday lives it will become easier for them to fulfill their roles as engaged citizens, and this is something both the politicians and media companies need to be aware of,” he stated.
The panel suggested that the global power of social media is also an emerging alternative to mainstream news, and plays an intrinsic role that is defining the future of journalism.
A member of The GroundTruth Project team concluded the discussion with some closing words:
“The mainstream media of now has a lot to answer for when it comes to the discourse we are all witnessing. And this may also be the case beyond just in the US too.”