Media & Politics Must Reads, November 11, 2016: Making Sense of the Election

November 10, 2016

Friends of the Shorenstein Center,

This entire election cycle—and its outcome—raises many questions about the state of media and politics in the United States. How did the polls get it so wrong? Was the media too soft or too hard on particular candidates? How do we handle a foreign government hacking and leaking information to impact the electoral outcome? What role did social networks play, from narrow-casting to spreading fake news? What is to become of truth-telling and fact-checking in our politics and our media?

But right now there is one clear conclusion from this election: there is no middle:

  • We have hollowed out the middle class in America. Income inequality is at its greatest spread since the Gilded Age over one hundred years ago.
  • We have hollowed out the middle of the country. A report from The Washington Post showed that in 2004, 1 in 8 reporting jobs were in D.C., New York or Los Angeles. Ten years later, that ratio is 1 in 5. The consolidation of the news media to these three cities has led to a national media insulated from the realities of most Americans.
  • We have hollowed out our institutions—especially the local press. The collapse of local news institutions means that Americans don’t have independent eyes and ears in Washington DC. A recent Pew study shows that 21 of 50 states do not have a single local daily newspaper with its own dedicated Congressional correspondent. That means 21 Congressional delegations who don’t have to confront a reporter from back home while going about their DC business; but that also means 21 states where Americans don’t really know what’s going on in our national government.

I wrote this past summer that “It is gradually dawning on the Acela corridor that their consensus about the state of the country is not widely shared outside of Manhattan or Washington, D.C.” But it is not clear to me that even the election of Donald Trump will lead to the change the American people want and expect.

In moments like this the poet Thomas Hardy comes to mind. In his lifetime he saw the invention of electricity, the steam engine, the telephone, and the machine gun. And in 1899—right before the turn of the century—he had a grim premonition of where all of this technology was taking him, and he wrote the poem “The Darkling Thrush.” I work here at the Kennedy School because our world faces terrible challenges even without President Trump. But the students are my “Darkling Thrush”—they give me hope for the future my children will inherit, and it is the knowledge that we might shape the lives of a handful of students who will go on to change the world—it is that knowledge that animates me and gives me the hope to get up and tackle the great challenges ahead. So read this poem—read it out loud, even if just to yourself, for strength and hope to tackle the challenges the nation faces.

With great respect and affection,

Nicco Mele
Director, Shorenstein Center

News from Our Faculty

For President Trump, the Road Ahead. Harvard analysts, including Pippa Norris of HKS and Jill Abramson, ponder changes across the American and global landscapes.

Crowdsourcing, Prizes, Moonshots, and More: Bringing New Ideas and Tech into Government, by Nick Sinai, Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy.

Missing the Story

The Media Didn’t Want to Believe Trump Could Win. So They Looked the Other Way. From The Washington Post.

A ‘Dewey Defeats Truman’ Lesson for the Digital Age, from The New York Times.

How the Media Missed President Trump, from Poynter.

Want to Know What America’s Thinking? Try Asking, from The New York Times.

Problems with Polling

Why 2016 Election Polls Missed Their Mark, from Pew Research Center.

What Went Wrong with the 2016 Polls? From The Atlantic.

In Defense of Polling, from Poynter.

The Role of Social Media

After Trump’s Win, Even Some in Silicon Valley Wonder: Has Facebook Grown Too Influential? From the Los Angeles Times.

The Forces That Drove This Election’s Media Failure Are Likely to Get Worse, from Nieman Lab.

Press Freedom

A Donald Trump Presidency Presents a Grave Threat to the Press, from Huffington Post.
What Trump Could (and Couldn’t) Do to Restrict Press Freedom If Elected, from Columbia Journalism Review.

How Can Journalists Protect Themselves during a Trump Administration? From The Atlantic.

What Comes Next?

Trump Won. The Media Lost. What Next? From NPR.

Fallout from Trump’s War on the Media Will Linger after Election, from CNN.

Here’s to the Return of the Journalist as Malcontent, from Columbia Journalism Review.

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