The candidates. Their families. His tweets. Her emails. Inaccurate polling and fake news. This was an unprecedented presidential election, and it seemed to have had it all: humor, horror, scandal, and a dramatic, trust-shaking plot twist of an ending. But in the media’s collective post-election mea culpa — one thing stood out. Much of the coverage had overlooked a key factor. One that was so simple, and so available. As The New York Times (speaking for so many) confessed: “[We missed] talking to different kinds of people.”
We get most of our “hard news” from TV hosts, talking heads, analysts, experts, and spokespeople. But as administrations and policies change, one thing is for certain: the effects will be felt not only by institutions and industries, but by people. Everyday Americans whose work lives, family lives, and quality of life will be affected — for the better or for the worse. The media has a responsibility to cover these “small” stories. They illuminate, deepen, give heart and soul to the “big” stories.
As an aural medium, public radio — and now the exploding podcasting arena — champions people’s voices. With regional specificity and personal flair, individual stories and authentic voices have the power to create empathy, connection and understanding. Programs like This American Life, StoryCorps, Radiolab, 2 Dope Queens, and so many others are doing this to great effect.
I predict that in 2017, more news outlets will listen more deeply to the people of this country with genuine curiosity and without preconception. To find common strands and common solutions. To bridge a chasm that is wider than we realized. Authentic voices — not fake news. In 2017, the media will let the people have their say.
Laura Walker is the President and CEO of New York Public Radio.