Effects of media in election warrants skepticism

Published Dec. 1, 2016, 1:12 p.m. - 133 views


In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, some are thrilled, others are somber and many are terrified. Democrats were left heartbroken and confused on the night of Nov. 8, 2016. Once people had a chance to accept the results, they were left wondering how it happened. The media did not predict a Donald Trump presidency. What we must acknowledge is that the media itself contributed to Hillary’s loss and Trump’s rise to victory. 
From the start of the election cycle, it was no secret that Trump said some very outrageous things. During the primaries, he went on record insulting women and numerous minority groups, including Latinos and people with disabilities. Just a few months later, towards the end of the election, a tape was released where Trump could be heard encouraging sexually assaulting women. Many people thought that this tape would be the end of him. Every time Trump said something offensive, it was covered for days by the media. All of this coverage was not endorsed by Trump himself, begging the question of whether or not he used such outlandish language to receive more free coverage. This is very possible, given that Trump got nearly double the media coverage that Hillary Clinton received in the race. According to USA Today, from July 2015 to the end of October, coverage of Trump cost $5.6 billion in articles, TV and radio news segments, blog posts, podcasts and social media mentions. Although a large portion of this coverage was negative, any coverage is good coverage when you are competing to be the President of the United States. 
Not only did Trump star on the 6 o’clock news most nights, but more and more reports have come out stating that Facebook was riddled with fake news stories. This is a problem seeing as many voters turn to Facebook for their news. According to The New York Times, Facebook has been accused by many of swinging some undecided voters in favor of Trump through misleading and outright false stories that spread quickly via the social network. One story that was shared by thousands on Facebook stated that Pope Francis had endorsed Trump. For many Americans who knew no different, Facebook was their primary way of getting information during the election. With stories like the one about Pope Francis circulating, however, it’s hard to say that these Americans were rightfully informed about who they were planning to vote for. 
Now that Donald Trump is the President- elect and will soon be inaugurated, it’s still hard to say whether or not the American public can ever again trust the mainstream media, or if the media is at all prepared to handle a Trump presidency. The Atlantic argues that government news sources are granted a high degree of credibility, and that claims endorsed by the government can be difficult to dispute. Political journalism is highly dependent on these credible sources, which nowadays are few and far between. Today, anybody’s brother can say something and the media will swoop in with several stories discussing it, be it true or false. 
Writers and consumers of news need to be triple fact-checking everything and not relying on one source for the truth. With the media failing the public during the 2016 election, it’s hard to believe they’ll do a better job when Trump actually takes office. 
There’s only one thing people can take away from this election now that the initial shock has passed. It’s something our kids are taught from the first day they make their Facebook profile, but something many adults need a reminder of: don’t believe everything you read online. Every online article has an opposing one out there to prove why it’s wrong. Media coverage is everywhere nowadays, and it’s important to remember that everything is subjective. It’s easy to believe news that seems to support your opinion, but it’s important to be well rounded in our arguments as well. It’s too late to change the results of the 2016 election, but it’s not too late to make sure America doesn’t make the same mistake in the future. 

Megan Hussey ’20 (hussey2@stolaf.edu) is from Minneapolis, Minn. Her major is undecided.

Megan Hussey

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