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UK Journalism Panel Offers Blunt Assessment Of 2016 Election Coverage

Josh James
From the left: Al Cross, Lars Willnat, Les Fugate, David Hawpe, and moderator Liz Hansen

A panel of journalists and media experts performed a post-mortem on 2016 election coverage at the University of Kentucky Tuesday and the results weren't pretty.

The joke at the beginning of the discussion – titled “The 2016 Presidential Election: What Did Journalists Get Right?” – was that the panel would be short.

Over the course of an hour, veteran Kentucky reporters Al Cross and David Hawpe, along with RunSwitchPR’s Les Fugate and UK School of Journalism director Lars Willnat painted the picture of a fragmented media landscape, beholden to entertainment value and ratings, and slow to pick up on the trends that led to unexpected Donald Trump’s victory.

Willnat criticized what he dubbed an “elitist media bubble” that largely ignored the middle of the country while focusing on the day-to-day strategies of the campaigns.

"We didn't hear much about the consequences of all this. What does a Trump presidency mean to all of us in the long term. We didn't hear much of that," Willnat told the audience. "We heard about Trump's latest escapades and Hillary's emails, but never really about what this election might mean to you."

While some of the panelists traded accusations of bias, the speakers were unanimous in denouncing the lack of substantive policy discussions – leaving issues like climate change and the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court to be debated only after the polls had closed. 

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