A week after the 2016 Presidential election, The Spectator hosted “The Role of the Media in the 2016 Election,” the final SpecSpeak lecture of the semester. The guest was Scott Bixby ’11 who spent 16 months covering the Republican race to the White House for The Guardian. Bixby has written for several high-profile news organizations including the New Republic, Mic, and The Daily Beast.
Bixby began by recalling where his role on the campaign began, 16 months ago after the first primary where he scrambled through hordes of journalists to speak with Donald Trump. He managed to scream a question at now president-elect Trump and take many pictures of the candidate’s iconic hair.
Bixby discussed the Republican race to the White House and how the media influenced the 2016 election. He spoke to the current trends of sensational journalism where the population’s news outlets include “PBS NewsHour and Keeping Up with the Kardashians…and we [the population] decide what is most important.” He explained that having so many news outlets encourages reactionary journalism, and this supports an environment where people only read news that aligns with their confirmation bias, instead of reading various sources. Bixby noted Trump’s ability to use the structural bias in the media as a tool in his election, providing the exact controversial pieces that would attract readers.
Bixby also acknowledged that the media was dishonest at times in the 2016 election, producing stories that could easily “instill passion, be shared, and clicked on” over being truthful. In the aftermath of the election, Bixby believes that the Internet can be a “democratizing force” for many, but only if it remains truthful. Many participants asked about the future of journalism after the election and Bixby was optimistic that honest and fair reporting could make a comeback, but did admit this will take time.
The timeliness of the event pulled the biggest crowd for this semester’s SpecSpeak series, and the question session showcased the varying interests in the audience from politics to journalism. Daphne Assimakopoulous ’17, a government major regarded the talk with enthusiasm, noting, “The media played such a high role in this election. I was attracted by the intersections of politics and media, which is a hugely relevant topic.”
Bixby’s talk was well-geared to the audience, and he also spent time speaking about his journalistic path. “I wrote as often as I could, as long as I could, and sent my work everywhere,” he recalled. Bixby also spoke to the necessity of journalism to be more than factual. “The best journalism isn’t just truthful, it is an art… it tells a story that makes me know more and feel more.”