During the New York Times rather sedate and solemn (wonder why?) live election night coverage, reporter Maggie Haberman whined that “the amount of open misogyny during this campaign has been really striking, from a lot of Trump’s supporters.”
Sarah Lyall’s front-page story in Wednesday’s edition (which went to press before most of the results were in) also took a feminist angle: “Many Women Feel Echoes of History in Vote for Clinton.” For whatever reason it cannot be found at the Times website. Just as well, given that its laudatory lines about Hillary Clinton’s imminent triumph have been overtaken by events: “Women across the country felt history tapping them on their shoulder, propelling them out the door, following them into voting booths.”
The Times has for some time been supremely confident, even cocky, about a Trump victory. Two weeks ago, it ran this headline in the lead slot: “Victory In Sight, Clinton Presses Beyond Trump – Appeals to Vote Early – With Lead in the Polls, She Turns to Backing Other Democrats.” Two weeks really is an eternity in politics. The morning of Election Day in-house stat guy Nate Cohn filed “This Time, There Really Is a Hispanic Voter Surge.”
Before the results arrived, two of the Times media and TV writers, James Poniewozik and Jim Rutenberg, got together to talk Trump lies and his deplorable supporters.
RUTENBERG: “...Does the media emerge from this campaign year having learned important lessons that made it better -- quicker to call a falsehood false (or, if you prefer, a lie a lie) and treat all comers seriously? Or does it limp into the new phase of coverage unrepentant, ready to make similar mistakes all over again?”
PONIEWOZIK: “....I’ll start with one topic you raised: reporters’ willingness to truth-squad. I hope that Mr. Trump’s asymmetric, weirdly brazen dishonesty has broken reporters of the bad habits of false equivalency, euphemism and forced balance. The job of journalism, always, is to describe reality as we honestly find it, regardless of appearances. I hope that’s a permanent change. I fear that the profession will decide Mr. Trump was a one-off, an asteroid, a special circumstance requiring Special Trump Rules.”
RUTENBERG: “The new twist was that we had an asymmetry no working journalist had ever seen. Donald J. Trump lied more than his opponent did. It meant that the press was seen calling him out for falsehoods more than it was seen calling out Hillary Clinton, who fibbed less (but did aplenty). That created the impression of imbalance. But so much of it was reflecting what the reporting found, objectively....”
Then Rutenberg relayed a Pauline Kael moment on behalf of his colleagues (after the movie critic who wondered how Richard Nixon had won because she didn’t know anyone who voted for him).
RUTENBERG: “I was struck by how many times I saw prominent journalists say, “Gee, I don’t know anybody who would vote for Mr. Trump, I’m going to have to work on that,” or some such. Take it from me -- having friends who supported Mr. Trump from early on didn’t mean you were going to expect him to win the Republican nomination. But there was without question a big disconnect between mainstream reporters and Trump supporters (and a segment of Bernie Sanders supporters, too, for that matter).”
Poniewozik bought in to the comforting liberal argument that white “economic anxiety” was just a cover for racism: “This election has exposed a lot of bubbles. Chuck Todd this morning writes that if coastal journalists were more in touch with economically hard-hit areas, they’d have seen the Trump phenomenon coming. As a southeast Michigan native, I’ll give him that. But I would add that a more diverse press corps would have been less likely to deflect so much of the overt racism, misogyny and anti-Semitism on the campaign trail as ‘economic anxiety.’”
Rutenberg agreed, and found lack of racial and class diversity a problem in the press corps (leaving out the obvious lack of ideological diversity, as when he himself argued in a front-page editorial that the press should crusade against Trump was necessary, fairness be damned):
I think that’s right, in that the press corps’ lack of diversity -- not only in terms of race but also class perspective -- left it blind to the power of the movement that carried Mr. Trump to the nomination. That said, I think that to the extent that the Trump campaign surfaced pockets of racism, anti-Semitism and misogyny, the news media did a good job calling that out for what it was, which doesn’t come naturally.