November 9, 2016

Sometimes the worst thing happens. And it’s no secret that for many journalists and just over 47.6 percent of the American public, the election of Donald Trump signifies the worst thing.

His election draws back the curtain on a world that looks very different today than you thought it looked yesterday. This world is a place where at least half of the fellow citizens that you serve are good with a leader who scapegoats foreigners, marginalizes women, and calls for violence against religious minorities.

The country has elected a candidate who was more untruthful than his rivals and who successfully projected that same criticism onto his opponent and onto the media who repeatedly called him out.

Half the country is not interested in factual arguments you thought they would be interested in.

If you believe in the truth, there’s only one response: Get up and get back to work.

Just because the worst thing happened, doesn’t mean that what you value is meaningless. Instead, it means that the job in front of you is a lot harder than you thought it would be. That happens.

It’s like when you thought you’d have to work until you were 62 and then you could retire. Only halfway through that journey, you realized you’d have to work your entire life because the paycheck got smaller and the bills got bigger. What did you do? You got up and went to work. You found the next job.

In a way, that’s the task that journalists are facing this morning.

Tell stories. Maybe we were telling the wrong stories to the wrong people. But we know that stories help people understand each other. So we have to keep looking for stories to tell.

Hold the powerful accountable. This will be easier with a president than with a candidate. An actual president causes real consequences, starting with the economy today, and extending to our justice system, education system, our social welfare system and the security of our nation.

Explain more things. This may be the one area where journalists universally fell short. While there was some great explanatory work over the past 18 months, it paled in comparison to the horse race banter.

Help identify the pathway forward. Give your audience a way to be heard, a way to listen to each other and concrete actions they can take.

Finally, model compassion and civil discourse. We need that now more than ever.

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Kelly McBride is a journalist, consultant and one of the country’s leading voices on media ethics and democracy. She is senior vice president and chair…
Kelly McBride

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