Navigating power in Trump’s America

“Welcome to fear and loathing in Trump’s America. Fear and loathing not only by the American citizenry, but also by the media whose job it is to cover him.”

In the prophetic words of Kanye West, “No one man should have all that power.” Welcome to fear and loathing in Trump’s America. Fear and loathing not only by the American citizenry, but also by the media whose job it is to cover him. Meanwhile, trust of journalists and the media industry at large is at an all-time low. Oh and hey, how about that fake news?! We’ve got “trust issues,” to quote Drake.

cory-haikOur industry is in somewhat of an existential free fall. Will the fourth estate continue to exist as we know it? (We’ve been asking this since the dawn of digital.) To cover or not to cover Trump’s tweets? (Some of them, obviously.) Does my work even matter? (Yes — but not all of it.) Is the filter bubble real? (Yes.) Do I live in a filter bubble? (Probably.) Am I a filter bubble? (Existential, can’t answer that for you.)

Marty Baron says to do your job. Jack Shafer says starve the troll. Both of these are smart and worthwhile, and there are many others that will follow. This is just the beginning of our journey into a very heady and navel-gazing time in which we spend a majority of our energy recalibrating our relationship not only with the new administration, but also with our audiences and ourselves.

2017 is the year we grapple with trust issues and navigate power. To get ahead of the next wave of takes, I’m laying out a few questions for fodder. Some of them we definitely need to ask, and some of them we have to solve.

A sample of questions we should ask and answer over the next year:

  • Do social platforms need to take ownership over the content they spread?
  • Should the media cover Trump differently? (i.e., was procedural “pool” coverage ripe for disruption anyway?)
  • Who are we fact-checking for? Ourselves?
  • Do we assume that fact-checking doesn’t matter because it didn’t seem to seem to impact everyone who voted this year?
  • How does the national media, and the power structures of influence, reach outside of its own bubble to reach all citizens?
  • Is there a portion of the population that simply doesn’t care about the facts — and is that group growing?
  • How do we weigh the contours of propaganda and disinformation against the realtime journalism we think we are producing?
  • How do we talk to strangers in an authentic way? Can we break free of the digital vessels that carry us to them?
  • Should we throw the idea of objectivity out the window?
  • If fact-checking doesn’t change many minds, how much of our time should be spent aggressively attacking purveyors of falsehoods? Is it a media war against the untruth-tellers?

This obviously is not an exhaustive list (tweet me your own!) but I believe the bigger question, once we answer these, is how then do we do it? The devil is in the details and relies on execution of our collective vision. America has spoken (sans the popular vote) and it wants something different — different people in office, different people reporting what happens in that office, different voices for them to trust. If you’re looking for a silver lining, this is it: Navigating these new mandates the audience has passed down will create pressures and opportunities to try making news differently. Crisis of conscience or not, it’s time to meet the moment and ask yourself the tough questions, journos.

Cory Haik is chief strategy officer at Mic.

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