The following piece, written by the editorial editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.
It is hard to recognize a historical shift when you’re in the middle of one. But we’ll give you a hint: we’re in the middle of one.
Donald Trump’s unprecedented win (unexpected even by his own party) is now forcing those outside of the primarily white working class men and women that heeded his call to reexamine what their America actually looks like. If anything, this election calls on America and its institutions to look at how they failed to understand the undercurrents of his campaign. And, perhaps, the institution that needs to reexamine America — and itself — the most is the media.
But the media is also in a strange and disturbing position. So we ask the question: what does it mean for journalists that Donald Trump will be president after a campaign so heavily based on hatred and distrust of the media?
Through the duration of his race to the White House, Trump blacklisted multiple media outlets from covering his rallies and speeches. Buzzfeed News, Univision, Politico, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, The Des Moines Register and, most significantly The Washington Post, were all stopped at the door throughout his campaign. His rhetoric surrounding journalists included making fun of one for his disabilities, saying that the media was rigging the election and calling it “disgusting and corrupt” on his Twitter account (an account that was taken from him three days before the election by his own campaign managers).
The reality of the situation is that America’s trust in the media has slowly gone down since the 1974 coverage of the Vietnam War and the Post’s groundbreaking investigative journalism in the Watergate scandal. Back then, about 72 percent of Americans trusted news outlets. But by the time the 21st century rolled in, that trust was down at around 54 percent.
Now, after Trump’s campaign, America’s trust in media is at just 33 percent. Even more jarring, while Democratic trust in the media is up at 51 percent and Independent trust in media sits at 30 percent, Republican trust in media is down at 14 percent. That’s it.
While we can blame Trump for this severe drop, it is clear that this election was simply the breaking point for many Americans.
“What we are seeing is in part a revolt of the country that people had written off as the country of the past,” says Nicholas Confessore of The New York Times, “against the country that most people thought they were living in: a country of the future, of a multicultural future, of a globalized world. This was a revolt of people who did not feel vested in that future America.”
Media outlets were confronted with a confusing and scary reality — that they had a presidential candidate that was being racist, sexist, was proven to be involved in the sexual assault of at least a few women and who had no political experience that was going up against a woman who had been in Washington D.C. for decades. And they were forced to answer the question: how can we remain neutral when we can directly quote a presidential candidate who said “grab them by the pussy,” or who perpetuated the proven lie over and over and over again that Obama wasn’t born in the United States? How can you report on that without bias?
The answer for most media outlets was that you couldn’t. The reality is that the media had entered into a new era of post-truth politics. This election was their first run at trying to report on two parties who were such radical failures to the people in their opposite parties.
But under a Trump presidency, many media outlets are worried that his administration will have a negative impact on journalism. It is likely that it will. But journalists around the country have already made it clear that we’re simply going to have to buckle down and keep going. It’s going to have to be a faster, more brutal job and the truth — the real truth, not the “truth” that we got from polls — is going to have to be pursued with real conviction. That means leaving the city, where most highly-regarded papers are, and travelling the nation to find out what is actually going on.
Just as Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The New York Times says in Thursday’s issue of the newspaper, “New York is not the real world.”