In the early 20th century, print journalists often identified with the working class. Small newspapers were created by and read by people who live and often grew up in the same area. Online jobs tend to clump around big cities, meaning that reporters increasingly live in a media bubble that isolates them from the life experiences of Americans who live outside the big cities. This article doesn’t romanticize rural conservatives, or spread media conspiracy theories, or scold reporters for not taking Donald Trump’s candidacy more seriously. Rather, this article explores how the physical location of online publishing jobs (clustered around big cities) creates challenges journalists must face if they want to avoid the kind of mistake (calling the election an easy win for Clinton because nobody they respected seriously thought Trump was a good choice) that calls their credibility into question.
How did big media miss the Donald Trump swell? News organizations old and new, large and small, print and online, broadcast and cable assigned phalanxes of reporters armed with the most sophisticated polling data and analysis to cover the presidential campaign. The overwhelming assumption was that the race was Hillary Clinton’s for the taking, and the real question wasn’t how sweeping her November victory would be, but how far out to sea her wave would send political parvenu Trump. Today, it’s Trump who occupies the White House and Clinton who’s drifting out to sea—an outcome that arrived not just as an embarrassment for the press but as an indictment. In some profound way, the election made clear, the national media just doesn’t get the nation it purportedly covers. | What went so wrong? What’s still wrong? —Politico