Apparently the so-called ‘deplorables’ who voted for Donald Trump detest the media. Judging by the sneering disbelief on network anchors’ faces Wednesday morning, the feeling is mutual.
It shouldn’t be this way, though. They really have a lot in common.
Print journalism has been shrinking for more than two decades in much the same way that Rust Belt industries have. Print jobs fell 40% between 1994 and 2014 as ad dollars dried up or shifted online. Corporate giants Alphabet and Facebook are vacuuming up ad money that used to help fund investigative reports, travel budgets and long-form journalism. With the advent of automated reporting, the situation is only likely to grow more dire for the industry.
Stuck in their East Coast bubbles, however, the media elites will no doubt, blather on, heads cocked, looking on at the curious phenomenon of Donald Trump and his coarse followers.
Still, there are steps the media could take to reconnect with American voters and stop looking so unbelievably stupid at election time. Here are five:
1. Stop reporting polls
They’re basically useless “data” filler for 24-hour cable news and round-the-clock internet blather. Just because an entire industry of overpaid campaign consultants has sprung up around them doesn’t mean they should be treated as important, or factual. In the end they simply don’t matter.
2. Stop hiring only liberals
It’s a buyer’s market for journalists these days and has been for a long time. Those conditions only aggravate the old-boy network and nepotistic hiring habits in the industry. But if you’re a news organization and you want to know what’s happening, you need to do more than keep a token right-wing nut on staff.
3. Remember the job
People in journalism seem to have forgotten why the press is protected by the First Amendment. The point is to provide an additional watch on government outside the checks-and-balances structure built into the Constitution. It’s a solemn duty that requires impartiality. And it doesn’t work if you only apply it on one side or try to use it to tip the scales.
4. Shutup already
The media are constantly demanding that people “stay tuned,” “see more,” and “keep it here.” A brave news organization should let their viewers know it’s OK to stop watching for a while, and take time to digest. It won’t be easy in the age of social media, and advertisers will hate it. But it’d at least start to rebuild some of that badly damaged trust with readers and viewers to say “we won’t bug you until we have something significant to say.”
5. Stop flying over
Don’t embed with political campaigns. Embed with real people in their communities. You know Ohio will be in play every election, so just have someone live there for the duration. Sticking around would give you a better sense of whether the campaign messages are taking hold. Americans still do most of their living, working and dying on the ground. You can’t possibly understand them, or what they’re thinking if you just fly in for a couple of hours. Sit down and set a spell.
This article was originally published on Marketwatch.