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The work of reconnecting starts November 4

“The aftermath of the election will represent an opportunity for the news media. In this period where the legitimacy of the media (and democracy itself) will be questioned, newsrooms can help the public process what has happened.”

Newsrooms will expend enormous resources and effort preparing for Election Night on November 3, 2020. New apps will be built; new interactive maps will premiere; rooms filled with analysts will pour over the incoming data. And there will be a collective sigh of relief late in the night (or more realistically, early the next morning) at having made it through another presidential election.

But I predict the real work will have just begun. Reflections back to 2016 will follow; after the 2016 election, one could hardly go to a journalism conference without hearing about the need for more listening and for more efforts to get out of newsrooms to understand diverse communities. I suspect that 2020 will be characterized by new lessons about the consequences of under-covered and under-served communities, as well as about communities that have lost faith in the news media as an institution. These communities will have fractured, some turning to alternative sources of information, including those that primarily cater to people’s political predispositions. Others will have opted out of what is perceived as an agonizingly long campaign season.

In the week following the election, weary newsrooms will trod out the typical post-mortems: Why did one candidate win and others lose? What do the exit polls tell us? What can be learned from a trip to the most blue and the most red counties? What strategic blunders defined the election?

The aftermath of the election will represent an opportunity for the news media. In this period where the legitimacy of the media (and democracy itself) will be questioned, newsrooms can help the public process what has happened. Did candidates win on the basis of better maneuvering and strategy, illegitimate tactics, or interference? Or did more voters find alignment with particular candidates? Providing the best possible data to answer these questions will help people to process the election in ways that either preserve democracy or raise fundamental questions about the electoral process. Assuming the election is considered largely legitimate (knocking on wood), newsrooms can help to heal communities and bring people together despite the inevitable disappointment that will be felt by many.

By humanizing those with different views, as opposed to focusing on winners making celebratory remarks for example, journalists can promote understanding and (re)build connections within communities. That newsrooms will be able to do this critical post-election work is my aspirational prediction.

Talia Stroud is a professor at the University of Texas and director of the Center for Media Engagement.

Newsrooms will expend enormous resources and effort preparing for Election Night on November 3, 2020. New apps will be built; new interactive maps will premiere; rooms filled with analysts will pour over the incoming data. And there will be a collective sigh of relief late in the night (or more realistically, early the next morning) at having made it through another presidential election.

But I predict the real work will have just begun. Reflections back to 2016 will follow; after the 2016 election, one could hardly go to a journalism conference without hearing about the need for more listening and for more efforts to get out of newsrooms to understand diverse communities. I suspect that 2020 will be characterized by new lessons about the consequences of under-covered and under-served communities, as well as about communities that have lost faith in the news media as an institution. These communities will have fractured, some turning to alternative sources of information, including those that primarily cater to people’s political predispositions. Others will have opted out of what is perceived as an agonizingly long campaign season.

In the week following the election, weary newsrooms will trod out the typical post-mortems: Why did one candidate win and others lose? What do the exit polls tell us? What can be learned from a trip to the most blue and the most red counties? What strategic blunders defined the election?

The aftermath of the election will represent an opportunity for the news media. In this period where the legitimacy of the media (and democracy itself) will be questioned, newsrooms can help the public process what has happened. Did candidates win on the basis of better maneuvering and strategy, illegitimate tactics, or interference? Or did more voters find alignment with particular candidates? Providing the best possible data to answer these questions will help people to process the election in ways that either preserve democracy or raise fundamental questions about the electoral process. Assuming the election is considered largely legitimate (knocking on wood), newsrooms can help to heal communities and bring people together despite the inevitable disappointment that will be felt by many.

By humanizing those with different views, as opposed to focusing on winners making celebratory remarks for example, journalists can promote understanding and (re)build connections within communities. That newsrooms will be able to do this critical post-election work is my aspirational prediction.

Talia Stroud is a professor at the University of Texas and director of the Center for Media Engagement.

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