On the Media’s editorial meeting is a portrait of newsrooms after Election Day
Even for a pair of veteran media critics, Election Day was a major wake-up call.
"On the Media" hosts Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield took a moment on Wednesday to discuss how Donald Trump's victory would affect their coverage.
It's not hard to imagine similar conversations in many newsrooms across the country as journalists grapple with big, unanswered questions: Did they discount Trump's candidacy before his surprise win? Now that he's headed to the White House, how should their coverage change, if it should change at all?
Much of the 17-minute editorial meeting, which was recorded for listeners, focused on whether the show overlooked Trump supporters as others in the media did. Gladstone said they should give more airtime to people with diverse political opinions, and Garfield raised the possibility that "On the Media" may have gotten caught in a left-leaning echo chamber.
Going forward, the show should spend more time on reporting undercovered stories and less time on criticism, Gladstone said.
"I don't think that our role is to be Cassandra in Chief or even consoler in chief," Gladstone said. "I think that our main role is to make what seems to have been invisible to us and everyone we know visible. We have to do an even better job of reporting and pull back — not entirely of course — but to some degree from commentary...I think we need to be more fair."
The conversation then shifted to a decision made by "On the Media" — and other news organizations, including The Huffington Post — to ditch traditional notions of journalistic balance and portray Trump as a "threat to our democracy." Was the show's decision to veer into advocacy appropriate? And what should it do now that Trump is president? Here's a brief excerpt of the exchange:
Garfield: For the 16-year history of this show, we have had conversations in our editorial meetings that our audience is not privy to about stories in which we're fighting for truth, justice and the American way, and we're trying to decide how to report them or whether to report them. And there is a term of art —
Gladstone: And we haven't used in years!
Garfield: The term is, is it too "Democracy Now?" Are we turning from being journalists whose beat is the media to activists flogging a set of political ideas?
I've been pounding that message as often as I can, and that crosses the line between journalism that we expect into activism. I don't think I ever mentioned Hillary Clinton's name in the course of the campaign. But I, and by extension the show, became an activist player in anti-Trumpism. So now what do we do?
Gladstone: This brings me back to the beginning. What I feel we need to do is to start making what was invisible to us visible. That means to bring in voices to argue with honestly, face to face.
Gladstone and Garfield are planning to start by examining the possibility that journalists deluded themselves by failing to spot Trump's foothold, according to a note at the end of the podcast. For "On the Media" — and many other journalists across the United States — it's the beginning of what's sure to a lengthy reckoning.