The media must shoulder blame for this election. We failed at our jobs, spectacularly. I want to write a post about the shortsighted strategy of pursuing ad views, about prioritizing clicks over thoughtful consumption, about chasing fads and virality. I could write that post and feel personally vindicated for 15 minutes, but the harder conversation to be had, specifically in the news/journalism industry, is asking what our purpose is.
In a new world where users have turned to their friends’ recommendations on Facebook, where algorithms decide what we see and consume, are we still adding value by writing another article with a catchy headline? How do we define and add value, and then how do we monetize it? Because that’s maybe the biggest hurdle the news industry must grapple with. One thing is for certain, if we start with money before value, we will continue to fail at our jobs.
I live in a bubble. I spend hours every day following the news cycle, I work amongst people hyper-focused on world events and truth, my friends believe similar things to me. I could not foresee a world that could possibly support Trump; I thought Clinton was a lock. The hard conversations I’ve had with people outside my bubble, including my family, in the last 12 hours has made it painfully clear that I failed them. I failed to calmly and respectfully clarify my opinions and the facts that supported them. I failed to consider their frame of reference. I failed to use the time and benefits afforded to me because of my profession to listen and communicate directly with them.
This hurts. A blog post won’t fix that. Writing is a small sliver of catharsis that allows me to say we fucked up and need to own up to that. Journalism exists to distill the insane amounts of information bombarding us on a daily basis and making sense of it all. The future of journalism most certainly isn’t a morning show, it’s not a new form of a listicle, it’s not an app. The future of the journalism hinges on better connecting to our audience, and distilling the content and topics that readers and listeners care about.
Building trust with consumers is a long, difficult process; losing trust takes a moment. We have lost consumer trust, and in an ever-worsening environment for ad-supported media, we’re going to face very hard times ahead to rebuild that trust. It will take dedication and determination, and it is absolutely necessary to the future of our democracy.
But the sun will rise tomorrow.