Presidential Politics, Pop Culture & The Press – A Recap from CEIR Predict 2016
Facilitator Vinnie Polito, mdg and VPI; Robert Bierman, Principal, Tiny World Media; Kevin Daum, Columnist, Inc.com; Brian Kelly, Assistant Managing Editor, U.S. News & World Report; and Daniel Lippman, Associate Editor for States, Reporter, POLITICO
Summarized by Nancy Drapeau, PRC, CEIR Research Director
Just before CEIR Predict was held, attendees were polled on who they expect to win the U.S. Presidential Election. Poll result – 84% predict Hillary Clinton will be the next U.S. President.
With this year’s Predict taking place in the nation’s capitol during a presidential election year, attendees were treated to a front row seat of a thoughtful discussion with leading media pundits. The discussion covered a lot of ground. Summarized below are the themes and commentary.
A Contentious Campaign Cycle – Damaging Both Candidates Likely Fated to a One-term Presidency
Panelists discussed the contentiousness of this year’s election. Daum noted that the acrimony of this election on both sides have motivated business leaders, who are typically accustomed to staying on the sidelines to speak out. He noted, “It is a primary topic of conversation with customers. This has never occurred before. There is distaste on both sides.”
Though the overwhelming majority of CEIR attendees at the time of Predict expect Hillary to win, the panelists weren’t so sure. And despite who wins, panelists observe the victory is apt to be short-lived. Kelley commented, “The polls are as close as reported given Clinton’s mistakes. In the future, her emails, there could be an October surprise. The only liability for Trump is Trump. The American public has been very divided for many years, with little shift. Now it is a circus media. Either way, whoever wins will be a one-term president. Many will jump in to take it away from the winner.”
U.S. Presidential Campaign Season Showcases Shift in Media Power – Traditional Press Overtaken by Information Disseminators
Early in the discussion, panelists concurred that that the role of the press as the ‘gatekeepers’ of content is gone. Kelley remarked, “Presidential politics, [I have] never been in one like this. Getting outside of the echo chamber, presidential politics is a chance for this, to see what the country sentiment is. Today, gatekeepers are gone, there wouldn’t have been a Trump 20 years ago.”
Daum notes that media thinks they are the primary providers of information when they are not. Distribution of information is occurring in profoundly new ways, outside traditional channels – Hubspot among others have multiple micro distribution channels. He explains these information disseminators provide a wide array of content, not just news. For example, another company, recently acquired by ARI, distributes content from Facebook.
Bierman observes this election shows cracks in the media, financial weaknesses threatening their survival. Making it challenging to serve in the role of fact checker, interpreter.
Trump has seized this shift in media power and is using it to resonate with those who feel marginalized. His campaign is giving Hillary’s heavily financed campaign using a traditional campaign approach a credible challenge.
Lippman notes, “Trump has gotten substantial free media; rally turnouts; gets bookings on CNN. Media had turned against him, though this may be turning around. Why is he thriving? They have only one press person who was a former Ralph Lauren model, only 27 years old. The fact that a campaign can get to this point versus Hilary has never been done in politics before.”
Biermann observes, it is “An innovator’s dilemma, political machinery versus ‘just good enough’ to break through.” In earlier remarks he also noted that there is a demand for authenticity, “craving for something that is unvarnished, authenticity even if it is not true. Trump is ‘good enough.’”
Lippman said, “Trump is the Uber of politics and Hilary is the cab. She does big TV ads, high-powered fundraising. Trump does speeches and rallies. He lies and makes misstatements, one in every five minutes. It doesn’t matter because his supporters can’t stand Hilary.” Bierman added that although certain regions of the U.S. supported Cruz or Rubio in the Republican primary, they have shifted support to Trump. He explained that “There is a feeling of a loss of culture – urban versus rural. It is pretty emotional.” He added further that there is a perception that media is “all lies unless it agrees with the person. Even fact checking isn’t believed. They believe Trump, over even a video.”
Kelley commented, “Some in media think old ways still work and they don’t. People don’t go to those sources, fact checking, etc. One needs 35 disciplines to be effective in reaching people. People curate their content. They can segment it….Need to know how to entertain them….One needs to understand patterns and anomalies; what to look for to get the story out. We are now dealing with micro places; need to exploit these.”
Kelley further adds that Trump supporters are immune to mainstream media anti-Trump commentary. He explained that the sentiment among Trump supporters is that there is disdain for them among the media, “if you are a Trump supporter, you are stupid.” He further added supporters feel mainstream media are condescending and uncaring about the plight of those who have lost jobs to outsourcing, that the sentiment is to “just get another job.”
Future Outlook of a Clinton vs. Trump Presidency
Kelley predicts if Clinton wins, it will be a “retread of things already going on. The question is Congress, expect gridlock.” Kelley finds a Trump presidency hard to forecast, “Trump is all over the map.” He observes that markets are skittish. He also finds both candidates are more willing to spend and that this may prompt an end to gridlock on sequestration.
Daum counters the perception of economic uncertainty. Based on his interactions with the business community, the perspective is that the economy will continue to grow regardless of the outcome of the election as, “80% of the people still need to buy things.”
Consumer Trends Likely to Have a Major Impact in Future – Social Media
Kelley notes, “How people get info, will get info…We have to accept the uncertainty that disruption is in play. If media was a baseball game, we’d be at the top of the third.”
Panelists note social media is shifting to ‘ephemeral,’ short-lived formats. It was noted that fewer Millennials are using Facebook to connect with friends and that Facebook acquired Instagram for this reason.
Any person has a chance to create their own brand, job via social media. It was noted that one guy systematically takes three pictures a day of dogs. He has over one million followers, sponsors and has published a book.
Bierman noted that the first media company that is a Snapchat native company was launched only two months ago. He further observes that little is understood about the upcoming generation. “We do not understand anything about them. We can if we listen. Younger folks don’t want to pay their dues. They want their voice heard.”
STEM vs. Liberal Arts – Way Forward for Needed Job Skills in the 21st Century?
The panel debated about the merits of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) versus Liberal Arts education in supporting the evolving needs of the workforce.
Daum advocates the value of a liberal arts education, that this course of study will help prepare individuals for the evolving needs of the economy. He states that through his work with entrepreneurs where demographic profiles have been quantified, it is found that “less than 5% have advanced degree, 35% have degrees in the arts, very low % in STEM. Four of five traits are liberal arts traits.” He is concerned about courses of study that focus on technical elements only. He notes that such jobs as coder jobs will disappear in the future as those functions become automated. He further observes that, “What is missing are people who can communicate. Technology has enabled small players to be effective communicators – text, audio, visual, live. Knowledge is not what they need; what they need is process. Liberal arts gives one the tools.”
Kelley notes that STEM programs “focus is on the middle skills job – not learning algebra. Has a real flaw, [misses teaching] skill sets to succeed in the 21st century. Liberal arts, teaches how to communicate, how to persuade to get a project approved, project management.”
In the midst of this debate Bierman stated, “It is not a binary issue. We need STEM, we need it all. What is missing [at this time] is the dialogue between the two.”
Watch the video footage here…
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