The 2016 presidential election will be remembered for many things, but for many of us in the news media, one thing that has certainly stood out is the level of animosity it has generated toward our profession.
Bashing the press has always been a staple of high-profile campaigns, but in this cycle, we saw it taken to a new level of hostility. For some, an image that reflected the climate journalists are working in was captured over the weekend when a man was photographed at a rally wearing a shirt that joked about lynching reporters.
Now I'm not writing this column to deflect criticism of the news media, criticism that's come from both sides of this presidential campaign. In many ways, our industry performed badly — way too much horse-race coverage over focus on issues, way too much ignoring of lies from the candidates or campaigns, way too much reliance on polls that clearly have some significant limitations in their ability to capture the sentiment of the electorate.
On the other hand, there were examples of remarkable investigative reporting on the campaign trail. And though it often was overshadowed by the reality-TV aspects of this election cycle, there was some top-shelf issues-oriented reporting done by news organizations of all sizes.
Ultimately, the news media must and will do significant reflection and analysis on how it performed this election cycle. On the whole, it can and will perform better going forward.
Having said all of that, my main goal here is to defend this profession as I see it from my desk in a messy little office in our Dill Street building in downtown Auburn. The best way I now how is to give you a description of what I saw in our newsroom on Wednesday.
After a long and pressure-packed night, even by Election Day standards, all of us were exhausted. But as sure as the sun rose, our journalists were back on the job just a few hours after they had completed the previous day's work.
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Robert Harding, who probably wrote several books' worth of election stories this summer and fall, was sifting through numbers to put together an interesting piece on the Cayuga County presidential results. He also picked up a school funding story, and scooted over to Syracuse to tape a regional political show.
Gwendolyn Craig, Megan Blarr and Greg Mason all put in long days Tuesday to help out with our coverage of local races, and each was back at it the next morning. Gwendolyn was doing work on an investigative story involving Freedom of Information Law requests and also putting together another important piece on the Owasco Lake water quality concerns. Megan was digging into a couple of court-related stories while also putting together reports on a felony arrest and the relocation of an agricultural science lab from the Finger Lakes region to Albany. Greg was following up on a local election race that had incomplete results the night before and working on a different court-related story.
Jonathan Monfiletto, our West Onondaga County Journal editor, was getting this week's publication finalized with election coverage while also getting the next edition's work started while Journal reporter Ellen Leahy was out reporting. Managing editor Mike Dowd was putting together our opinion page and overseeing the final production steps for this week's Go section. Jean Bennett was proofreading news pages, processing letters, gathering records at the county clerk's office and fielding calls. Kevin Rivoli was working on his photo galleries and video stories and also getting out to shoot some more of his compelling images. Features editor David Wilcox, who had a scheduled day off, was still sending me important emails about content for his section that was just coming in.
That was all going on as I was working on this column in the late morning and early afternoon. Later in the day, our sports staff of Justin Ritzel and Jeremy Houghtaling would be in to continue their work on fall sports all-stars while getting the daily section completed. And Chris Sciria, our assistant news editor, would come in and help get our news pages planned, designed and proofed.
All of these people care so deeply about the work they do, and the service that our company aims to provide our community. And I guarantee that there are similar collections of dedicated journalists in hundreds of newsrooms around country.
That needs to be better understood and appreciated by the American public.