Last night, millions of Americans (and millions more around the world) sat glued to their TV sets watching what, for many of them, was impossible. Donald Trump was elected the President of the United States. (I had, by the way, predicted this here in the Huffington Post in August... But don’t let us dwell on the past).
The idea of a Trump victory was ‘impossible’, because for many months, we have depended on the news media to tell us what the country was thinking. This was a mistake.
The pundits and the pollsters are now all backtracking furiously. Their never-ending predictions of a Hillary win, a Hillary sweep, a Hillary victory were all clearly wrong. Not only wrong, but dead wrong. Something fundamental was amiss (not to mention the millions of dollars that the pollsters charged for what turned out to be totally worthless information).
What happened? How could they all have gotten it so wrong.
The answer is right there on your TV set. Turn it on and take a look.
What do you see?
If you were watching the news last night (and I assume you were), then you were looking at the heart of the problem right there on your screen. Every network news organization covering the election does it in the same way. They have a big plexiglass desk with four or five of their ‘top’ correspondents and pundits sitting around - discussing the implications of the polls and the electorate.
Top correspondents like Lester Holt who makes a reported $4m a year, but is angling to get Brian Williams’ old $10m; Anderson Cooper who pulls in a cool $11m a year; Chris Matthews who gets a reported $5m a year and poor Chuck Todd who only pulls in a paltry $500K a year (call your agent, Chuck!). I could go on and on.
So here were all of these millionaires and multi-millionaires sitting around the room talking about how they had missed the fact that the vast majority of Americans were unhappy with the economy and the state of the nation; that they felt cut out and ignored. How could they have missed that? Hmmm...
The American journalist and pundit Finley Peter Dunne wrote in the 1890s that the job of the journalist was to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Today, the most comfortable ARE the journalists. And it seems that the best effort they can make is to, on occasion, send out the lesser-paid reporters (more in the $250K range) to shove a microphone into the face of ‘real people’ in the Rust Belt and elsewhere to ‘see how they feel’.
Is it any wonder that this does not work? Is it any surprise you are getting a skewed view of America? Is it any wonder that they don’t want to talk to ‘pollsters’? Is it any wonder that they don’t trust ‘the media’?
There was a time, not so long ago, when the reporter was the working class guy. When local newspaper reporters lived in the community, rolled up their sleeves and told the stories of their friends and neighbors. Those days are gone. Long gone. Now, we have to depend on pollsters. Clearly that doesn’t work either.
Trump tapped into a lot of stuff, but one thing he tapped into very clearly was contempt for the press. And with good reason. They don’t reflect the views or the needs or the concerns of the vast majority of Americans any longer - whether it is Fox News or MSNBC. It doesn’t matter. They are out of touch.
Now, like the failed Democratic Party, it’s time to take a hard look at what went wrong. The solution to this is not ‘better reporting’. And, by the way, for displaced Americans, it is not depending on a billionaire like Donald Trump to ‘take up their cause’. This will also end badly.
Instead, the solution to the vast majority of Americans whose story and concerns are no longer heard (except in the most patronizing way), is for them to seize control of the media themselves. This does not mean storming the walls of 30 Rock, (though that might be interesting).
Rather, every aggrieved and ignored American has a smart phone or an iPhone in their pocket. Those phones are for more than texting your friends or sharing photos on Instagram and Facebook. Those phones all contain broadcast quality video cameras, edit software and the ability to upload and share video worldwide for free at the touch of a button.
Use them. Tell your story, express your anger and frustration. Tell the world. Do with your phones what Martin Luther did with the printing press. Post your 95 Theses. Do it.
You don’t need Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer, Megyn Kelly or any of those other millionaires to ‘tell your story’. You can do this yourself. What Donald Trump did (bypass the establishment) you can do too.
Take control of the medium and it will do what it is supposed to do - inform the nation and the world of your needs and concerns. Carpe medium. Today, there is no need for pollsters or professional and vastly overpaid ‘journalists’. They are as dead as... well, the Clinton machine.