Did The Media Underestimate Trump, Or Did They Create Him?

Trump is still standing, bigger and louder than ever.

Members of the media are scratching their heads. By this time, if their predictions had come true, Donald Trump would have faded into an orange smear on the pavement of “also-rans.” They surely didn’t expect him to still be a viable candidate for President.

But according to journalist Amy Goodman, the media has essentially created Donald Trump.

CNN claims that the gap between the media elite and Trump’s crowd has been yawning into an abyss for some time now. There is even a name for it: CNN calls it “The Disconnect.”

Media elites, according to New York Times columnist David Brooks, did not listen carefully enough. In an op-ed he called, “No, Not Trump, Not Ever,” he described Trump backers as “a coalition of the dispossessed.” He added, “They have suffered lost jobs, lost wages, lost dreams. The American system is not working for them, so naturally they are looking for something else.

“Moreover, many in the media, especially me, did not understand how they (Trump supporters) would express their alienation. We expected Trump to fizzle because we were not socially intermingled with his supporters and did not listen carefully enough. For me, it’s a lesson that I have to change the way I do my job if I’m going to report accurately on this country.”

But, he added, reality is reality. He went on to imbibe in a scathing declaration that cited the Politico fact-checkers who when poring over four-plus hours of Trump speeches and press conferences, found more than five dozen statements “deemed mischaracterizations, exaggerations, or simply false.”

“Trump is perhaps the most dishonest person to run for high office in our lifetimes. All politicians stretch the truth, but Trump has a steady obliviousness to accuracy. He is a childish man running for a job that requires maturity.”

CNN Money said that today, Time Magazine editor Nancy Gibbs commented about the duration of Trump’s belligerent, yet tenacious campaign.

“I think seldom have so many people been so wrong so consistently about so much.”

So, what gives? How did the media miss the cues from the endorsers of one they thought would be so obviously dismissed?

Today on Reliable Sources, CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter said that panelists attributed “The Disconnect” to four factors:

  1. An over-reliance on established, Beltway sources (Voters have to be considered, not just sources in the Beltway)
  2. Predictive, data-driven journalism
  3. A failure to report the views of average American voters
  4. Acela corridor bias (failure of journalists to consider voters outside the DC/New York realm)

Feedback came in via email and Facebook, and Stelter shared some of the comments:

“The clubby, larded media machine just couldn’t see their toes around their stomachs… At first, Trump was a joke, a flash in the pan. Pundits predicted he would disappear. Then, he became a loutish jerk chewing the scenery. Trump supporters were dismissed. No one took the time to understand what they were saying.” —Monica Collins via email

“We need a more decentralized media apparatus that includes includes journalists from major publications based outside-the-Beltway with a national, not regional, focus.” —Pete Seat via email

“He scares me to death, but I get him because I am frightened over my future. He strikes a nerve that most journalists do not understand.” —Deborah Troop via email

“Why was Trump not taken seriously? It is simple: Who, in their right mind, would have imagined such a vulgar, self-absorbed individual who repeats everything twice, flaunts their own abuse of the system, and is so filled with hate could become the leader of this great country?” —Betty McEnaney via email

“In the movie ‘Spotlight,’ experienced editors and journalists missed the story for years out of deference to a mighty institution, the Catholic Church. I see a similarity here — the real Trump story was missed because ‘the media’ in general is too focused on ratings and not on the real responsibilities of journalism — to investigate and hold accountable.” —Roberta Russell via email

Is it true that the voters haven’t been given a voice? Or is CNN over-analyzing? Is Trump really a Frankenstein of the media’s own making?

[Image Via Evan Vucci/AP Images]