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News Analysis: U.S. media missed biggest story of 2016 election


They’re still not talking about it. Almost two weeks after the presidential election, the U.S. media has yet to discuss or analyze its role in the worst called election since Dewey-Truman in 1948.

Almost 70 years ago, The Chicago Tribune printed the famous “Dewey Beats Truman” headline that Republican Thomas E. Dewey had won the presidential election, but the Missouri Democrat Harry Truman actually prevailed. It is cited as an historic example of media incompetence.

On the election-eve of 2016, Reuters said Democrat Hillary Clinton had a 90 percent chance of winning and The Huffington Post said she had a 98.2 percent shot. CNN, and both Washington Post-ABC News and the New York Times-CBS News polls confirmed a Clinton victory.

However, Donald Trump was elected America’s 45th president on Nov. 8 despite most of the analysts and opinion polls predicting his defeat to Clinton.

“It should be on the front page of every newspaper in America: ‘We Blew It!'” a 65-year-old veteran, international political correspondent told Xinhua, on the condition of anonymity.

A media insider, a political TV producer in Washington, D.C., agreed that America’s media dropped the ball.

“The establishment press was covering the establishment pollsters. The press didn’t take Trump seriously for a long time,” the 55-year-old government journalist told Xinhua. “They didn’t do their job,” she added.

On the West Coast, anti-media criticism is surfacing as well, and this time blaming the U.S. “Corporate Media” for advancing Clinton instead of Bernie Sanders, who barely lost the Democratic nomination and was considered by many a better candidate against Trump.

“Corporate media will never understand the disenfranchised, working class whites and blacks in America because they don’t live it – even though Bernie (Sanders) brought it out in his campaign,” Marilyn N. wrote on San Francisco’s KALW public radio 91.7 FM’s web site.

A veteran, 68-year-old international political print journalist, based in Denver, told Xinhua the U.S. media needs to stop analyzing why and start discussing its “blown coverage.”

“The reporters flew around in her fancy plane, landed at well-staged, big city locations, saw her grounds crew in action, and thought she had it locked,” he told Xinhua.

And, a LA-based network reporter told Xinhua, “This is serious ‘egg-on-the face’ of America’s media, and none of our colleagues are really talking about it. We have to recognize that we are seriously out-of-touch with American voters.”

Media experts told Xinhua that because of the way the U.S. media covered the election, it energized some sectors of the electorate and caused complete apathy in others.

Proof of a disconnected electorate is easy to muster. Voter turnout this year dipped to nearly its lowest point in two decades, with only 55 percent of voting age citizens casting ballots (126 million votes), the lowest turnout since 1996.

Ironically, in the month before the election, more people watched American media to get election information than ever before – a number that didn’t translate into participation at the polls.

All five of the major TV Networks – NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox and CNN – reported large numbers of viewers watching their news (campaign) coverage in October, 2016.

But the media never saw educated whites voting for Trump, non-educated whites abandoning Clinton, Christians and women turning out for Trump, the heavy, rural Trump support, and a huge voter apathy triggered by their own lackluster coverage, pundits said.

“Almost all of the polling data from dozens of sources, public and private, was misleading – often in the extreme. The same data misled me and the others in my field,” Dr. Larry J. Sabato, the Director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, admitted to Xinhua.

Sabato, 64, has authored more than 20 books on American politics, has interviewed Clinton, and appeared on very major TV network as an expert media analyst.

“I can’t say what the news media will do, but there are sure to be many dozens of studies about this election that will influence coverage in 2018 and 2020,” Sabato said.

By Peter Mertz