Throughout this long election cycle, OPB has strived to cover candidates and issues at every level of the ballot, providing facts, context, analysis, a forum for civil dialogue, and including diverse perspectives.
I’ve been reflecting on what we experienced over the last year and what the implications are for journalism and the urgency of OPB’s public service in the years to come.
First, I’m deeply proud of OPB’s reporting and analysis throughout the year leading up to and following this election. We’ve increased our reporting with key additions to our team of journalists and grown our audience for OPB’s news coverage through digital and social media, which add significantly to strengths we already possessed. We took other big strides forward, launching new podcasts (including the weekly OPB Politics Now and This Land is Our Land, which covered the Malheur occupation trial), and a comprehensive election site.
All of our gears were engaged in turning out the best election coverage we’ve ever provided—from thorough examinations of our regional ballot measures and candidates to regional perspectives on the national races.
Here are some of my observations:
- Collaboration strengthened coverage. OPB and The Oregonian worked together to provide comprehensive coverage of Ballot Measure 97. Our strategic partner, NPR, worked more closely than ever with member stations, including OPB, to cover issues and events from across the country.
- With regard to the national races, the pundits got most things wrong. And there was a lot of punditry, rather than reporting, on cable news. There was intense focus on the latest poll results but much of the coverage didn’t capture the diversity of voters and their concerns.
- Fake news and propaganda reached an all-time high in this election season and it’s something that the public will have to contend with more in the future. Social media has become a platform to spread fake stories which are designed to seed doubt about the truth. This week, the top hit on Google for “election results” led to a fake news page saying that Donald Trump won the popular vote (as of this writing, Hillary Clinton is ahead by more than one million votes).
- The “media,” as it is now so broadly defined, is experiencing historically low levels of public trust. While OPB has emerged as a leader in our region’s news ecosystem, we must continue to differentiate our brand of editorially-sound and independent journalism to excel as a service for all.
We have many questions to consider. Will people turn away from news now that the election is over or will they become more engaged? We’ve seen hard fought and divisive contests at the national level as well as closer to home. And there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty about how the election outcomes will affect our country, region and local communities.
OPB has an obligation to cover these issues and we will. In the months ahead we’ll continue to provide you coverage of politics and government, alongside our robust content about arts/culture, history, outdoors/adventure, books/ideas, and music.
There’s also reason to wonder if the election will have an impact on the federal funding of public broadcasting. While it’s impossible to know for certain, a good sign is that Vice President-Elect Mike Pence became a strong champion of public media funding in his home state of Indiana. While government support represents a small portion of OPB’s operating budget, it is a vital source of income for public broadcasting nationally and especially important in providing services to rural communities across our country.
One thing has become strikingly clear: OPB’s public service mission is more essential than ever.
I’m confident our path toward a stronger journalistic service focused on our region will best serve people now and in the future. Further, our vision to do more to cover education, business/innovation, science/technology, rural issues, and diversity/changing demographics of the Northwest, has only become more pressingly urgent.
This is a time to be bold in our aspirations and confident in our ability to become an even more essential part of the fabric that binds our communities together.
President and CEO