#2 The end of the gatekeeper


In case it wasn’t obvious before, one of the most apparent takeaways from Donald Trump’s election is that the traditional “gatekeeper” for guiding public opinion, our newspaper editorial and op-ed pages, has lost much of its influence.

Notably, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton walloped President-elect Trump in the newspaper endorsement race, receiving endorsements from at least 240 papers compared to only 19 papers for the now President-elect.  That disparity clearly had little impact on many voters.

MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes summed it up well, stating: “The gatekeepers have been extraordinarily diminished… The best example of this, to me, is the newspaper editorial page.  It’s the ultimate old-school gatekeeper.  I find it so remarkable that the Columbus Dispatch, USA Today, all these gatekeepers have come to the proper, correct conclusion on Trump, and said, ‘No f**king way!’  But no one cares.  They don’t control the gate.  They can lock the gate and someone can walk around it three feet down the fence.”

As we described in our earlier Trust Endangered post, the loss of influence of traditional media voices is part of a larger loss of trust and respect for American institutions across the board.  The public either isn’t paying attention to what these editorial boards are saying or simply doesn’t care.  The same goes for columnists, pundits and other once-respected opinion leaders.  And with the rise of personalized feeds for online content, or “curated content” options, this trend is only going to continue.

The new reality is that social media influences public opinion more than traditional media, and much of that social media is unfiltered by the screen of journalists and news organizations, or otherwise unbound by the same threshold for objectivity.

As communicators, we need to keep this shift in mind in developing communications strategies.  It is more important than ever to reach audiences where they are and ensure our message is being conveyed by voices those audiences trust.  We need to identify new validators to make our case, whether that be local businesses, bloggers, community activists or online social networks.  Because increasingly, that list of validators doesn’t include our newspaper editorial and opinion pages.

** This Post is part of our “Next Stop, 2026: 10 Communications Trends for the Next 10 years.” To read the full post – click here. **