Tag Archives: Pallavi Guha

FJ Blog – Election 2016: What Did Journalists Miss?

Pallavi Guha is a Merrill College adjunct lecturer and Ph.D. candidate.

By Pallavi Guha
Ph.D. Student
Philip Merrill College of Journalism

For the past few months, U.S. and global media have been engaged in predicting the next commander-in-chief of the country. Until the election results were announced, the various legacy media organizations favored Secretary Hillary Clinton in this political spectacle. It was nothing short of a horse race, in which the various media outlets focused on the surveys and polling numbers.

Before FBI Director James Comey announced reopening the investigation of the Clinton email, the New York Times predicted Clinton had a 99% chance of winning against Trump, eventually reducing it to 85% on the day of the election. But it was still way off the actual outcome. And the Times is not the only one that misread voters; others like AP, FOX, CNN and FiveThirtyEight got it wrong too. These inflated numbers completely blindsided the Democrats and the Clinton campaign.

Since then, journalists, political leaders and the citizenry, have been asking the same question: How was the fourth estate not able to gauge the public opinion?

Cut to June 2016, the Brexit polls in the United Kingdom, where the national British media took sides in the referendum. The prestigious ones like The Guardian, The Observer, The Times and a few others endorsed remaining in the European Union. The polls and predictions to remain or leave the EU once again were not close to the result. Yet again, the stalwarts of journalism got it wrong.

Why are we seeing repeated failures of the media to predict or understand public opinion? Having covered pre-election coverage in the UK and India, the reliance on data and statistics are much greater now compared to previous elections. Depending on social media platforms and survey results seldom gives journalists access to public opinion. Most individuals are skeptical to share their political preferences on social media platforms. According to Pew, only 9% of social media users engage politically on social media platforms. These platforms don’t always provide the true public opinion since they are known to be echo chambers.

Secondly, the phone-in surveys completely ignored the undecided voters. These voters were not all undecided – many were closeted Trump supporters. But the constant labeling of Trump supporters as “racists” by the legacy media, forced them to withhold their choice.

Being a resident of suburban Maryland, I saw numerous Trump-Pence signs on the road and front yards, compared to Clinton-Kaine. And Maryland is a true blue state. Isn’t this a sign of something? And I kept wondering how could journalists miss it?

One of the many reasons that this signals to is the increasing disconnect between the legacy media and the people. A key example would be the media endorsement of a candidate or an issue. Endorsing a candidate or an issue takes away the objectivity of journalism. The media fails to look beyond its position and assess it dispassionately, much like the signs and phone surveys.

In spring of 2016, we discussed the issue of media endorsements. Most of my students at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism objected to them. Irrespective of their political choice, they thought it was biased.

As a former journalist and a journalism educator, I have always believed objectivity is the cornerstone of journalism. A bit of media credibility erodes every time, when the media fails to understand public opinion. We fail the people, we fail ourselves and we fail the country every time the news media makes a wrong prediction.

Pallavi Guha has been a professional journalist and media educator for a decade. Pallavi has worked internationally for leading media organizations including BBC News and television in London and The Times of India in India. Pallavi has been a teaching assistant and taught courses on gender, race and class in media, Images of journalists in films and Media Literacy. Pallavi’s academic background is in international relations, politics, communication and women studies. She has been published in peer-reviewed journals on intersections of gender, social media and politics. Pallavi frequently presents her work at academic and professional conferences. Currently, Pallavi is working on multiple research projects including sexual harassment of women journalists in Indian newsrooms, implications of social media for voter engagement in India. Pallavi’s research interests include social media communication, gender, politics and media in India and US. Areas of expertise: India, social media, politics and feminist activism in India.



Merrill Ph.D. Students Take Prestigious Awards

Ph.D. Award Winners @merillcollege.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Merrill College’s Ph.D. students continue to distinguish themselves.

Allissa Richardson (top left) has been awarded the Dr. Mabel S. Spencer Award for Excellence in Graduate Achievement. “There is only one Spencer given out, campuswide, per year,” said Ph.D. Director and Professor Sarah Oates, adding that for a student from one of the smallest colleges on campus to receive such a prestigious award is “amazing.” Writing to UMD Graduate School Assistant Director for Fellowships and Awards Robyn Kotzker, Richardson said, “I am so proud to be a Terp today, and even more grateful to help highlight the terrific academic support system that I have found at Merrill!” Richardson entered the Merrill Ph.D. program in 2014.

And there’s more:

Joanna Nurmis (bottom left) has won an Ann G. Wylie Dissertation Fellowship. This semester dissertation fellowship carries a stipend of $10,000 plus a Graduate School Tuition Award. Nurmis, who is in the fifth year of the program, will use the fellowship for the final stages of writing her dissertation on image and climate change communication. She began her Ph.D. program in 2011.

Pallavi Guha (top right), who is in her 3rd year in the program, has been awarded the Graduate School All-S.T.A.R. Fellowships for academic year 2016-17 for the Journalism College. Guha successfully defended her dissertation proposal this week and is researching and writing about the framing of rape in the media in India. The all-S.T.A.R. Fellowship provides a $10,000 stipend in addition to the student’s GAship.

Finally, Carole Lee (bottom right), who is in her 3rd year in the program as well, won the Graduate School’s Outstanding Graduate Assistant Award for 2016 for the Journalism College. The award conveys the honor of being named among the top 2% of campus Graduate Assistants in a given year. In particular, Carole was recognized for her critical role in helping to deliver JOUR175 (Media Literacy) to approximately 1,000 students over three years.