I was teaching class on election night. I told the students they could leave their laptops open and let me know as the states were called. After I heard Florida and Ohio had gone for Trump, I knew the election was over. I drove home listening to NPR and BBC radio, and I felt like a head of state must have died by the tone and tenor of the conversation.
Once settled in my living room, I turned on the television and flipped among ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, PBS, and MSNBC. Likewise, the hosts and guests had a grey pall over their demeanor; they were visibly, audibly shocked and dismayed by the results of the American vote. By no means were they objectively reporting the news, they had taken a side and that side had lost. It was undeniable in their every motion and turn of phrase: they were devastated.
According to Brian Stelter in his CNN article "In Their Own Words: The Story of Covering Election Night," most of the reactions were due to shock. Many believed Hillary Clinton would win the election. Michael Scherer stated, "It wasn't as if we had written off the possibility that Trump could win. We had stories prepared. We had outlines. We had reporting. We were prepared to do it. But in terms of our preparation for the magazine, we were definitely leaning into a Clinton win."
Carolyn Ryan stated, "I went down to the Times Center to talk to this group, it was probably 400 people, and they had been in this bubble for a few hours. I said, 'Florida's looking very uncertain for Clinton.' They just gasped." While Amanda Carpenter said, "I was watching The New York Times ticker go wildly. I would walk away and go breathe and say, 'Is this really happening?'"
But I think the story is far bigger than just shock.
in 2013, Dylan Byers for Politico wrote an article titled "Journalist Consensus: Media Leans Left." I would say even more so in 2016 and 2017. Byers explained, "Top journalists from The New York Times, NBC News and CNN acknowledged Wednesday that, generally speaking, the national media have a liberal bias. On a Playbook Breakfast panel, the Times' Peter Baker and Mark Leibovich, NBC's Kelly O'Donnell and CNN's Jake Tapper all said 'yes' when asked if the news media lean left."
Tapper went on to say, "A certain type of person becomes a reporter, and generally speaking - generally speaking, I'm not saying every reporter in the world - the kind of person who is a reporter in Washington, D.C., or New York City has never worked a minimum-wage job outside of high school, has never experienced poverty, is not an evangelical Christian, like much of the country is...There are a lot of experiences that the kinds of people who are reporters, editors, producers in Washington and New York City have not had."
Chris Matthews, writing for Forbes online, in "Conservatives Are Right: The Media Is Very Liberal," asserted, "And the thing is, conservatives have a point. Study after study has shown that the mainstream media leans left, and that, as economists Tim Groseclose and Jeff Milyo have written, 'an almost overwhelming fraction of journalists are liberal.'" Matthew went on to explain that "it is safe to say that the median journalist in America is to the left of the median American voter, and that this affects how the news is presented to the public."
Matthews further asserted, "When economist Daniel Sutter examined the question of how a liberal media can persist in a free market, his most convincing explanation was that journalists themselves, and the type of person who aspires to journalism, are almost uniformly of a liberal disposition. 'People with the talent, temperament, and personality to be journalists might also be inclined toward liberal political causes.'"
In "Re-thinking Objectivity," Brent Cunningham constructed a case against the age-old ideal for journalism, arguing objectivity could cause lazy reporting, appeal to the broadest audience, or silence important causes, among other things. But part of me wonders if the problem is less the loss of objectivity among television journalists as it is a call for good manners. Someone voted for Trump, don't they deserve to have a newscast as well? And if good manners aren't enough, then perhaps the major media market executives might try recruiting a more diverse group of journalists to host their television shows.