Lessons learned from media’s flawed election coverage

Editorial Staff

In Journalism I, one of the first lessons we learned was about journalistic ethics. We were taught to cover all sides of every story, and to write balanced articles that accurately portray an event in its entirety. We learned to remove our personal biases from the articles we write by avoiding conflicts of interest.

These standards that formed the basis of our journalistic education, however, were disturbingly absent in the media’s coverage of the election. After newspapers predicted a likely Clinton victory, many Americans were in disbelief when at 3 a.m. on Nov. 9, Hillary Clinton called Donald Trump to concede the election. This was the final surprise in a presidential race filled with many instances of poor, as well as biased, reporting.

For the press, a good story has always meant good business. Trump’s meteoric rise was prime material to draw readers and viewers, but the media didn’t believe that his ability to sustain this momentum was as feasible as Clinton easily winning the election. While these decisions may have been what was best for ratings, at a certain point, the pursuit of economic success for journalism companies both overlooks and undermines our core journalistic values, something that a number of journalists seemed to realize only too late.

After the election, major news organizations including The New York Times, The Washington Post and CBS published columns admitting their faults in their coverage of the election. James Hohmann, national political correspondent of the Washington Post, wrote that the GOP elites, pollsters and the media all missed Trump’s base of voters even though “it was right in front of us the whole time.” Executive editor Dean Baquet and publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. of The New York Times wrote that their paper will “aim to rededicate ourselves to the fundamental mission of Times journalism … to understand and reflect all political perspectives and life experiences in the stories that we bring to you.”

The significance of these statements is twofold: first, it is an admission of guilt by major news organizations over their poor election reporting. Second, and more importantly, it is the direction in which we must move forward as a nation.

To put it simply, our country cannot function without the media. Whether it be reports on global news regarding international treaties, national headlines about the election or local coverage of the plentiful Metro mishaps, knowledge of current events is something upon which our lives are dependent.

It is with this relationship in mind that we must look to the future. We must take it upon ourselves as consumers of the media to not only hold the media up to these standards, but also to take the initiative to become better readers. This includes not restricting our news intake to clickbait articles, as well as reading from a wide variety of news outlets.

As the staff of The Lion’s Tale, we promise to hold up our end of this agreement by continuing to report accurately, substantively and fairly on the events in our community. In the same regard, we hope that you, our readers, continue to demand quality stories and reporting, both from us and all other media outlets you read.