Donald Trump Is Breaking News

This spring and summer, millions of Americans will go to the polls and vote. For most of us, our political participation begins and ends at the ballot box. The rest is mediated: through a mix of respectable newspapers and radio firebrands, punditry, hearsay, and Tweets.

The play of politics came with a set of old-saw formulas. The respectable candidates ended up winning. Ad spending buys votes. Gaffes are costly. And the party decides.

None of that has proven true this unconventional year. So maybe it’s no surprise that the big papers and networks seem to have first missed, then dismissed, then discouraged the popular movements behind Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

This exciting, profane, profound election has served as chum on the water for a media industry that was already agitated by the Internet, “disintermediation,” and vanishing income. 

But has the frenzy diverted American journalism from its fourth-estate duty: of holding candidates accountable? Giving voice to the voiceless? Referring readers to history and policy? Staying straight and honest with the citizenry? Or is that all 20th-century nostalgia?

Some of our guests, and most of our Twitter followers, feel that the big story this year was of a confrontation between a dissatisfied people and an establishment — that goes for the media, too. The big papers and networks seemed to have first missed, then dismissed, then discouraged the popular movements behind  Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. But that’s just the beginning — there were lots of weird media stories on the trail this year.

Let us know your favorite subplot in the grand electoral soap opera in the comments below, on Facebook or on Twitter.

Guest List
Jay Rosen
Professor of journalism at NYU, board member of The New Republic, blogger of PressThink.
Sarah Sobieraj
Professor of sociology at Tufts, co-author of The Outrage Industry.
Alex Pareene
Editor of Gawker.
Margaret Sullivan
Public editor of the New York Times, soon to be media columnist at the Washington Post.
David Bromwich
Professor of English at Yale and writer at London Review of Books and other publications.

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