With the election of Donald Trump as president, the media's fading power and influence over the public is more visible now than ever as the lack of trust in mainstream media may very well have paved the way for Trump and became Hillary Clinton's biggest disadvantage
For many, this week has been one of surprise, hope or despair, but most importantly, this week was one of revelation and realization. This was the week the world realized the great decline of the fourth power, the media or perhaps more accurately, mainstream media.
Prior to election night in the United States, there was little doubt of the outcome. Hillary Clinton had all but won the presidency, and it would be a smooth transfer of power from one Democrat to another. The polls were singing the praises of the Clinton campaign, placing her comfortably in the lead for most of the key states, giving Donald Trump little chance for a light at the end of the tunnel. Think tank groups were already discussing Clinton's rapport as the Secretary of State and what we could expect from her presidency. The minority, who dared to speculate a Trump win, was either ridiculed or accused of being a Trump supporter and pelted with accusations of racism, sexism or overall ignorance. When the special election coverage started and famous faces sat behind election tables to inform the masses, they were all smiles, but as the night progressed, things started to change. Despite the polls, despite the media, Trump was painting the states in Republican red one-by-one. In the morning, people were listing the long shot probabilities of Trump's win, but in the end, it was all about how Hillary Clinton would win by combining this-and-that state's electoral votes. To cut the long story short, at the end of the night, the United States had a new president-elect, and it was Donald Trump.
The important question is: How could the media, polls, analysts, experts and all manner of people who predicted a clear Clinton win be so wrong? Let us have the first look at international media and work our way out from there.
The majority of the international media deferred to the mainstream American media for election statistics and acted as a megaphone for their broad claims and data. However, there were those who wanted to approach it more carefully, especially after the equally surprising outcome of the Brexit vote earlier this year. Europe was once bitten and twice shy, after all. Despite all the caution, the confidence of the American media was contagious and on the day after the elections several headlines announced a Clinton win. Even in Turkey there was such a case, and the Posta daily newspaper released a correction after the blunder.
Nevertheless, in the case of Turkey, the majority of our media was more cautious about sounding the trumpets ahead of time. After all, our latest elections showed us how the polls and media can fail to predict the election results, especially considering the waning power of the media in the minds of the people. In the last Reader's Corner article, "Do we get the real picture of Hollywood on Trump?" we predicted the surprise outcome. However, we will come back to Hollywood's effect in the elections in a bit.
Jumping the gun
Most of the international blame-game pointed towards the American mainstream media. Similar mistakes, such as incorrect headlines, were visible there as well. For example, Newsweek had Clinton on the cover with a headline saying "Madam President" on the day after the election, reminiscent of a similar case decades ago when the Chicago Daily Tribune had the headline "Dewey Defeats Truman," after the United States presidential elections back in 1948. Contrary to the headline, Harry Truman won the elections that year against his opponent Thomas Dewey, the Republican candidate. This time the tables have turned in terms of party affiliation it seems.
Apart from its anecdotal value, this shows us the self-confidence the media has in in its predictions and influence, as well as demonstrating its lack of place in the current state of affairs.
The media seems to believe that the majority of the problems stemmed from polls and expert analyses, the sources used in creating the coverage, however, this wasn't the case in this example. It was no secret that the majority of the American media was either in clear opposition of Trump or, at the very least, ran negative coverage of his campaign. So it is quite possible that the media picked and chose the polls or the polls were affected by the media as well. After all, mainstream media, along with influential figures, made it almost an offense to give voice to pro-Trump statements, ostracizing people who did. This led many Trump supporters to hide the color of their vote. Last week's article tackled the Hollywood front in this regard. Most world famous actors, actresses, directors, producers and musicians had no qualms about supporting the Clinton campaign. Italian-American actor Robert Davi said, it was true there were many who supported Trump, but they were afraid to announce it in fear of being shunned by their social clique or possibly facing difficulties when it comes to finding a job in the future.
We said that this could lead to a situation where the loudest weren't the majority, only the most influential in their sector. However, this wasn't unique to Hollywood either. If we are to believe that polls are not cooked in some way, and they actually predicted a Clinton win, this leaves us with one conclusion: There was a silent majority of Trump supporters in America, and many of them were reluctant or even afraid to air their views to polling companies and remained mum on the matter until they were in the voting booth. Considering this atmosphere was mostly created by the mainstream media, shifting the blame entirely to polling companies would be amiss.
Predicting the apocalypse
After the elections were concluded and Trump became president-elect, the media's attitude also cemented the idea that coverage of the presidential campaigns was the main perpetrator in the creation of the electoral atmosphere. For example, the Huffington Post had no qualms expressing how they were feeling on their website with a headline, "Nightmare President Trump." The New Yorker dubbed the situation, "An American Tragedy."
We could list more examples, but there is no need to reiterate the media's stance, as it was clear from the first day when Trump managed to grab the Republican nomination. Before that, the Trump campaign was mostly a way to get hits and make a few snarky comments.
When we break down the numbers of newspapers and other magazine endorsements of Clinton and Trump, we are left with a staggering picture: 243 daily newspapers supported the Clinton campaign, while 20 threw their lot in with Donald Trump. Weekly newspapers had a similar percentage with 148 for Clinton and six for Trump. Fifteen magazines supported the Clinton campaign, while Trump didn't have one. But despite the blatant disparity in media support, Trump triumphed.
We said at the beginning that the media's influence is waning, and mainstream media no longer has the ability to be the fourth power. It seems that the media not only failed to sway the public in favor of Clinton, it might have even managed to push them even further toward Trump. On Sept. 28, Victor Smith from Regated wrote an article titled, "Mainstream media support of Hillary Clinton will cost her the election." A good point, especially considering a study by the American Press Institute quoted in the article proclaimed that in a group of 2,000 people, only six percent expressed their trust in the media.
So not only has mainstream media lost the trust of the public, they also managed to earn the public's spite. Therefore, it is quite plausible that the open support by the mainstream media and figures to the Clinton campaign may very well have spelled its doom.
We stressed in numerous articles how credibility is the mainstream media's only support in the fight to stay relevant against new forms of news outlets and social media. We now see the result when mainstream's last support is in shambles.
Placing the blame
Social media had its fair share of finger pointing in the post-election atmosphere as well. Facebook was blamed for the outcome because of hoax news sources and fake statements, since of them either originated on Facebook or spread there. It is true that the lack of accountability in social media has been a problem for quite some time both in political situations like this, as well as during emergencies when news organizations are sparse and people are desperate for breaking news. However, the burden of credibility lies with the mainstream media. It is also important to note that the social pressure of the Clinton supporters was quite visible in Facebook breaking up friendships, causing 200 comment-chain arguments and so forth.
We don't know what the next four years will bring to Americans and the world with Trump as president of the United States. It may very well be everything Clinton supporters fear with increased pressure on ethnic and religious minorities or it might be business as usual with minimal changes, as Trump showed signs of reconciliation with his victory speech. But all of this is irrelevant to our point. The media has lost the trust of the public, and now it reaps the consequences with a lack of influence, scorn from the public and a constant string of failures. We no longer have the luxury of being the only source of news to the public and continue with that confidence. We must get our credibility back or in the next election or referendum, we won't even be relevant to the outcome, much less influence it.
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