The Media Today

The media today: A year after Trump’s surprise, a new narrative emerges

November 8, 2017

One year later, CNN’s John King was back at his electoral map, The New York Times’s prediction meter was ticking away, and pundits were poring over exit polling data. Exactly 364 days after Donald Trump won a stunning victory, the hallmarks of election night in America were back, if on a much smaller scale.

The results, as you’ve likely heard by now, represent a revitalization of the Democratic party and a stinging rebuke of the Trump presidency to date. Ralph Northam outperformed his polls in the closely-watched Virginia governor’s race, Danica Roem became the first openly transgender person elected to a state legislature by defeating Virginia’s “homophobe in chief,” and Democrats picked up victories in several contested mayoral races around the country. Expect last night’s results to shift the narrative as journalists project what lies ahead across the political landscape.

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The anniversary of one of the most shocking results in American political history has also provided outlets with an opportunity to look back at how we got here. Esquire kicked things off with a great oral history of “the untold stories of election day 2016,” while Slate has an innovative chronicle of the year in push alerts.

After the failure to foresee Trump’s election, journalists across the industry questioned their processes and vowed to do better. Explorations of “Trump country,” debates over fake news and threats to the press, and conversations about collective blind spots (as well as dozens of panels covering all of the above) soon followed. A year in, The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan takes stock of the media’s progress and finds it lacking. “The scoops have been relentless, the digging intense, the results important,” she writes. “But in another crucial way, the reality-based press has failed. Too often, it has succumbed to the chaos of covering Trump, who lies and blusters and distracts at every turn.”

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The volume of information, both important and trivial, emanating from the nation’s capital is difficult to process even for those of us whose jobs require constant attention to the news. For Americans just trying to keep up, it’s overwhelming. Sullivan argues that great reporting has too often been drowned out by shiny-object journalism. The result is that “citizens are left with a confusing, chaotic picture—one that many doubt is true, and many others have decided to block out. That isn’t good enough.”

Below, more on the results of last night and the events of the past year.

  • A new narrative on Trumpism: The New York Times’s Michael Tackett argues that Ed Gillespie’s loss in Virginia signals that “Trumpism without Trump” won’t work going forward.
  • Grading the first year: The Washington Post’s Jenna Johnson looks back at Trump’s victory speech in which he promised to be “president for all Americans.” That, Johnson writes, hasn’t happened.
  • What we read: CJR’s Justin Ray got several newsrooms to list their most-read stories over the past year. Surprisingly, Trump coverage didn’t dominate the pack.
  • How we got here: For CJR, Mark Edmundson argues that boredom gave us Trump.
  • Inside the room, one year ago: GQ has an oral history of the Trump campaign’s night on November 8, 2016.


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Pete Vernon is a former CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.