US Elections, Media Coverage and Minorities’ Issues

Published: 10 November 2016

Country: USA

Trump_Journalists“I honestly don’t know what to say. I am a woman. I am a woman of color. I am an immigrant woman of color. I am an immigrant non-Christian woman of color. And I’m viscerally horrified at the direction this country has taken, though, as my friend Brig Feltus notes with her poignant words, I should not be surprised,” wrote Nirmala Nataraj on her Facebook wall after Donald Trump was elected to be the next president of the United States.

There have been many articles, interviews and comments on what Trump’s victory means for the future of the country and the world, how it will affect racial relationships amongst the American population and what percentage of the immigrants should be worried when they become openly told that they are not welcome anymore. Without simplifying reasons and circumstances that brought Trump to the White House or trying to blame anyone for the fact that 47,5% of the American voters wanted him as the president, it is important to put the media under the spotlight. Were the American media treating racial, ethnic and gender issues enough when reporting on Trump-Clinton electoral race? How often journalists talk to the people such as Nirmala Nateraj? How often they ask them for the opinion?

For instance, Media Matters for America published the report Immigration: “The Forgotten Issue” In The Presidential Debates stating that the moderators in the first and the second presidential debate did not ask any “specific question about the immigration”. Journalist Jorge Ramos twitted: “There were lots of issues that were also ignored, but immigration is an unpardonable omission.” Another journalist Maria Elena Salinas suggested a Latino moderator for presidential debates.

How important is the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities’ issues to the voters in the USA? That was the topic of the Pew Research Center survey conducted in June 2016. Overall results show that the answers vary by the race of the voters and which presidential candidates they support.

Though a 63% majority of registered voters overall name treatment of racial and ethnic minorities as very important to their vote, it is not the top issue on the voters’ agenda: Eight-in-ten or more rank the economy (84%) and terrorism (80%) as very important issues to their vote. Other issues that rank highly on voters’ 2016 importance list include foreign policy (75% very important), health care (74%), gun policy (72%) and immigration (70%).

In the more immediate reflection about the media performance during the election 2016, the Editor in Chief of the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), Kyle Pope, wrote: “There is so much else to do, and so much to learn from last night, including diversifying our newsrooms so they more accurately reflect the country we’re supposed to be covering; breaking out of the reporting silos of official agencies and spokespeople; and de-emphasizing social media so people can pursue stories that are important and true, but may not result in a flurry of retweets over a 15-minute span”.

The CJR Editor in Chief believes that journalism’s fundamental failure in this election is much more basic. “Simply put, it is rooted in a failure of reporting”.