Exhausting. Surprising. Unusual. Painful. Chaotic. Exhilarating. Slanted. Hectic. Labeled. Never-ending.
No, we’re not describing how you feel about spending the holidays with your in-laws. These are the words leading radio reporters and producers from across the country used to describe the 2016 presidential election.
Similar to surveys we have completed in years past, our goal was to find out a little more about the pulse of radio newsrooms. Dissimilar to years past, however, is this year’s presidential election for the ages. For this year’s in-depth survey, we focused the survey largely on open-ended questions to elicit candor and provide a place for open discussion. In this post, we’re sharing some of the insights we found to be most interesting, and helpful for us as communicators, to have a window into the world of our journalist counterparts.
We asked respondents in what ways they think the experience of the 2016 election will shape news coverage in future elections. Some of the responses we received included: “I think the polling systems will come under more scrutiny and must become more accurate to be seriously considered reliable. I also believe (hope) another election won’t be as contentious as this one,” “All candidates will be taken more seriously, sooner in the process. News media will be slower to report a candidate’s comments/tweets as fact,” “I think it will make journalists more aware of their biases, and how to avoid them,” and “The media were blind-sided by this election. We couldn’t win. If you pointed to a falsehood by a candidate you were taking sides. Both sides were more rabid than ever before. Plus, there was so much “false” news out there I think people didn’t know who to trust.”
When asked how they took fresh and new angles on election-related topics, responses included: “We tried to leave no stone unturned. From covering the Asian-American vote to how cancer research could play into the election, we tried to add different angles and new ways to talk about the election without regurgitating what other stations were doing,” “I read non-traditional media sites and used them as angles most people didn’t have,” “Hit the streets…talk to people. Ask them what mattered to them then covered those stories,” and “Local angles. Local reaction. Local impact on policy plans stated by the candidates.”
We found that 77% of reporters and producers surveyed said they found themselves more intrigued by story pitches that were tied into or related to the election. Twenty-three percent responded that they liked having something different pitched to them. Since a lot of these journalists have covered many elections, we asked them if they thought this election evoked more passion and emotion among voters than in past elections. Sixty-nine percent said they thought it did; 23% said it didn’t; and eight percent were neutral. Some of the respondents who said that this election did elicit more emotion than in past elections, indicated that gave them opportunity to get more personal reactions and voices in their stories.
We asked reporters if their station has a political slant, and how they covered the opposing view. We got responses such as: “We seek to be balanced, so if we get a Republican perspective, we try to follow it up with a Democratic response. Usually we will pair the responses so it doesn’t come across that we are only covering one side,” “Our news doesn’t have a slant, but we were careful to also include a Clinton story with every Trump story to make sure we were never leaving one controversy out in favor of the other,” and “We are conservative talk radio, tried to offer stories that did not upset our listeners, but still ran stories with democrats that were not demeaning to the left.”
Eighty-five percent of respondents said they found their listeners to be more engaged on social media this election season than in the past, for reasons such as: “Donald Trump took his campaign messages straight to social media, prompting more engagement with his audience,” “Any political cycle usually makes people more vocal, but this year probably a little more so due to the candidates, their platforms, etc.,” and “They are more passionate and they are looking for an outlet to speak about their opinions. They also used it a lot for research.”
When asked if and how they incorporated social media into their coverage of the election, some of the most interesting responses included: “Donald Trump did that for us,” “Driving traffic to our social media accounts, finding what’s trending and using the popular hashtags,” “Ugh….couldn’t get away from it….Twitter mostly supplied us with some information…especially breaking angles,” and “Completely. We were posting all our stories, getting them out there on Twitter and Facebook, and using new tools like Facebook Live to promote special election coverage.”
Speaking of social media, we asked if the reporters and producers felt that social media helped or hindered the process of the public knowing the facts when choosing a candidate. Thirty-one percent said it helped, while 69% said it hindered.
Stay tuned for our video recap below…