How Will Media Cover The Class War?

US media covering the election face a troubling task establishing its role in the first battle for a Trump-inspired class war. Many loyal followers have valid beliefs they are being ignored by a corrupt elite aided by a smug, disconnected liberal media. They are partly right, and they are not going to go away if their messiah loses.

Trump
Trump

Many in the media doubt Trump wants to deliver to his followers or that that he is capable of doing so. A vast swathe of ordinary Americans – a majority of them working class – believe the media and liberal bias. It is basic journalism that Trump’s people deserve a voice and should be listened to, even if you believe they are dead wrong. Media have had to balance the widely held view that Trump is dangerous, egocentric and dishonest against the fact a significant part of the country believes he is right,and so are his views that media are part of the problem.

A classic example of the media dilemma can be seen on CNN and its approach in covering the election. The three main debates have been covered by panels led by relatively independent anchors like Anderson Cooper and political journalists who try to cover both sides objectively – succeeding to a greater or lesser extent.

VaN Jones - Aggresssively pro Clinton
Van Jones – Aggressively pro Clinton

But objectivity is unfashionable. If it is too fair it risks limited the size of the audience. Far better to have a shitfight between Clinton and Trump partisans Its panel for the third debate includes Obama staffer Van Jones and former Obama aide David Axelrod. Both clearly support Clinton Among those boosting Trump we have had former press aide Corey Lewandowski and Right wing commentator Jeff Lord. The format means that CNN actively considers Trump talking points that are clearly wrong. It’s not easy when the candidate blatantly lies. Traditional media are clearly on one side. The issue was covered comprehensively in the Columbia Journalism review on  October 21, after Hillary Clinton got in to trouble referring to Trump’s supporters as “deplorables” which was partly true, but an ill-defined term that summed up her view on a wide segment of the population.

“Journalists have had to grapple with the most consequential questions surrounding the issue: Once you have established what class of people Clinton was referring to, how do you write about them? How do you cover their lives, their opinions, their judgments, their values, especially when their values fall outside the pale of what is socially and morally acceptable? Predictable contrarian takes have emerged in response, arguing that not all of Trump’s followers are economically hard-pressed.

This may be true, but that doesn’t change the fact that many of them are. The idea that a substantial number of Trump voters don’t fit the socio-economic mold of the “deplorables” might satisfy journalists’ ceaseless appetite for new angles on new angles, but the Gallup study by Jonathan Rothwell upon which it is based concludes that the majority of Trump’s supporters are poor, almost poor, or blue collar. The pressing issue here was whether journalists who, regardless of their backgrounds, enjoy a privileged existence relative to the “deplorables”—and often hail from rarefied backgrounds themselves—possessed the sensibility and/or the morality to cover their new subjects without elitist prejudice, elitist condescension, or elitist sentimentalilty.

The last CNN debate saw Jones and Lord going g hammer and tongs where Corey Lewandowsky blatantly made false claims.

Chris Wallace
Chris Wallace -immaculately fair

These issues about representing voters opinions will become more important after the election, whether Trump is elected or not. His threats to media freedom and civil discourse are a warning to the media to be careful and to not dismiss distrust against them. Trump supporters are not going to go away and primed up by Trump there may be a lot of disgruntled people about. Several factors make this relevant to New Zealand politics. The media is only now coming to grips with a wide level of dissatisfaction at a time when the media is struggling to survive financially. There is no revolution happening her, but the country is ancy. Real issues such as poverty and housing are getting a lot of attention n in the volatile echo chambers of social media. New Zealand is small enough that local media might be able to see the writing on the wall and make the necessary changes.

 

 

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