Politico’s piece on the media clustering in overwhelmingly Democratic areas sought to back up the argument of conservatives that cultural elites are out of touch with America and distorting the news. As evidence they cite the fact that the media missed the forces conspiring with each other that resulted in Donald Trump becoming president.
But what is missing here is the real clustering in the fourth estate that distorts the news product, and it has very little to do with the fact that news organizations are in the same zip codes that were ready for Hillary.
The Media Is Very White And Very Male
Pick a newsroom at random in America, and the odds are that the people you will find there will be white men. They show up in the bylines and on-air for the news divisions of the major broadcast stations, as well as on cable news. Even on the radio, it’s white guys all the way down.
It is not out of the question for reporting and opining on issues affecting women and ethnic minorities to be led by white men. They dominate the industry.
I Know What You’re Thinking
Of course, being white and male doesn’t mean you can’t do a good job of reporting the news. Some of the best reporters in America are white and male.
The problem here is that it is such a dominant point of view in the press that it squeezes out other perspectives. So much of the news (as in pop culture) is filtered through the lens of a white man that we regularly see pieces make it through the entire news process that would be radically different if someone had thought to include the input of someone with a different set of life experiences.
Consider This Crap Website
Breitbart News, the playground of Trump advisor Steve Bannon, was recently denied a permanent Congressional press credential. Much of this was because the outlet could not demonstrate clear editorial independence from Bannon and the money people behind Trump.
But one of the glaring blind spots missing from coverage of this is that Breitbart is a hate site. It has a section of its site called “Black Crime,” and the purpose of this section is to make the case that blacks are out of control, committing rampant crime, and must be brought to heel. It is a message that Breitbart pushed for a long time, and has appeal within a large swath of the conservative right, and in Donald Trump.
But reporters speaking about Breitbart’s denial didn’t think much about this. Politico’s Jack Shafer simply referenced “Breitbart’s outré views on race,” while New York Times politics reporter Glenn Thrush insisted “@BreitbartNews is a legit news outlet.”
Both Shafer and Thrush are white men.
The Rest Of Us Don’t Have The Luxury
People outside of the white/male/straight world don’t have the same luxuries. A black man, whether in journalism or not, cannot go about business without being very aware of what white people think. We don’t have a choice. What white people think matters, is a factor in how we think about issues, and affects all of us.
Even if you create content for a predominantly non-white audience, the considerations of white people and how they will react to it is still a factor.
On the other hand, the vast majority of the modern media is white men speaking to each other. They should be more inclusive, but there is no overriding incentive – other than to better serve the public – for them to do so.
Even in their reaction to missing the 2016 election, instead of including more of everybody in their coverage, they’ve gone to their safe space: white men. So to assess the Trump phenomenon, white men from Manhattan are now going to diners in the Rust Belt to talk to… more white men. Sure, they’re lower income classes and blue collar, but they’re still white guys talking to white guys. Post-election the press has harped on the fact that these white voters still back Trump, while ignoring the voters in the coalition that for a third election in a row generated the most votes.
But white men were not a majority of that coalition, so it matters less to the white men who are making the decisions about what to cover, writing the stories, and presenting them to the public.
It is a perfect bubble. And we have suffered as a result.