Schieffer Discusses Post-Election Media Landscape

Bob Schieffer
Bob L. Schieffer speaks at the Harvard Kennedy School on finding the truth in today’s deluge of news.
Former CBS Chief Washington Correspondent Bob L. Schieffer spoke about the challenges facing journalists in the wake of the 2016 presidential election at the Kennedy School Wednesday.

Schieffer, who published a book this year on recent developments in media, discussed the need for the press to reconnect with voters on an individual level. He also spoke of social media’s effect on political discourse and the most recent election.

“With the coming of social media...it was an election that was not really about the issues, it was more about attitudes,” Schieffer, a former “Face the Nation” moderator, said. “In every way, this was an election unlike anything that we’ve had.”

Schieffer said voters from rural areas in particular are more likely to resort to Facebook and social media feeds for their news since newspapers or other news services were potentially not as readily accessible for them.

Schieffer recalled a rally for then-candidate Donald Trump that he had attended in South Carolina during the 2016 election campaign. He said supporters cited Trump’s “honesty” as a large reason for their support and said Trump spoke in a language that was easy for them to understand.

“He did what Hillary Clinton was never able to do. He crafted a message that cut through all the chatter,” Schieffer said. “He told them they would not be forgotten.”

Schieffer also lamented that the “best and brightest” were turning away from politics and that public opinion toward the electoral process has soured, a phenomenon he attributed to deep political polarization since the election.

“When I was a little boy, my grandmother was absolutely convinced that I was going to grow up to be president of the United States,” Schieffer said. “How long has it been since you heard anybody say, ‘I hope my child grows up to be a politician?’”

Discussing recent clashes between the Trump administration and several media organizations, Schieffer spoke of the differing responsibilities of journalists and politicians: A politician delivers a message to the public, while a journalist fact-checks that message.

“If [journalists] do that right, it’s as important to a democracy as the right to vote,” he said. “When people try to undermine the media in this country...I think they are doing a disservice.”

Schieffer added that he believes most journalists go into the job for good reasons.

“The majority of reporters I know, the majority of editors I know are simply hardworking people who are trying to get the story...and get it right,” he said.

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