We're eight months into the Trump presidency, and we can now draw one frustrating conclusion: Very few of the voices opposed to the president want to learn anything from their experience in 2016.
The media will not slow down and make sure they get the story right as well as getting it first. Does it feel as if the country's largest news organizations attempted any serious self-reflection about how they covered the 2016 election? Are they attempting to be more fair-minded, more dedicated to accuracy, resisting groupthink and the temptation to become an echo chamber? Hardly. At Politico, journalism professor Mitchell Stevens boasts with pride, "Our most respected mainstream journalism organizations are beginning to recognize the failings of nonpartisanship." Yeah, that was the problem with 2016, journalists just weren't clear enough about which candidate they wanted people to support.
Almost 63 million people heard the mainstream media's encyclopedic criticism of Donald Trump in 2016 . . . and they voted for him anyway. They either didn't believe the criticism or didn't find it sufficient when confronted with the alternative of a Hillary Clinton presidency. One of the axioms of self-help is "if you keep doing what you're doing, you'll keep getting what you're getting." In the aftermath of the greatest upset in presidential election history, most of America's media have decided to keep doing what they're doing.
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Are the issues debated in Washington any more serious and substantive, any less focused through the prism of personality and conflict and the shallow measurement of "optics"? Before you answer, consider that the Washington Post wrote more than 900 words in the Style section about the "black snakeskin stiletto heels" that Melania Trump wore while walking from the White House to Marine One, beginning a day meeting hurricane victims. (She changed on the plane and emerged in Texas wearing sneakers.)
American society has never lacked outrageous controversy-courting personalities who probably need several hours (or years) on a therapist's couch instead of being taken seriously. But in the Trump era so far, our public debate is more focused, not less, upon these types, and we keep rewarding these gadflies with fame and a high-profile platform.