Wagner to media: Get out of your bubble

The Axe Files, featuring David Axelrod, is a podcast distributed by CNN and produced at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. The author works for the podcast.

Chicago (CNN)Donald Trump's surprise victory last month should serve as a clarifying moment for the media to begin covering presidential elections through the experiences of voters and focusing less on who's leading in the latest poll, according to journalist and political commentator Alex Wagner.

"I think one of the reasons we missed the story is that we didn't look at it in terms of the fabric of American society," Wagner told David Axelrod on "The Axe Files" podcast, produced by the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN.
Wagner pointed to the shuttering of a factory in the Iowa town in which her father grew up as a microcosm for what's happening throughout the country. "These stories are unfolding across the country," she said, "and we focus on a campaign in the context of the candidates but not the voters. And I think what 2016 showed us is, we need to recalibrate that and refocus on the voters."
    Pointing to the revolutionary changes in technology that are being unleashed quicker than societies can adapt to them, Wagner argued that it is more important than ever to understand the experiences of people outside our immediate communities.
    "The trick right now is to not talk amongst ourselves," said Wagner, who was recently named co-anchor of CBS News' "This Morning: Saturday," an opportunity that she says will allow her to reach and hear from millions of viewers.
    "We need to be talking to each other right now," Wagner stated. "There is a desire, I think, to kind of close the doors and say, 'Can you believe what happened [in this election]?' But, really, if we're moving the ball forward, you've got to talk to everybody about things that matter to everybody."
    Wagner is mindful, however, that the media is operating in a difficult environment. "I think it's a really bad thing that the public trust in media and the fourth estate is deteriorated to the point that it has," she said.
    The low standing of the press, coupled with the proliferation of partisan news outlets and the burgeoning problem of fake news sites on social media platforms, is presenting real challenges, Wagner said.
    "I think people are going to news for emotional catharsis and not actual information," Wagner stated. "And that's really problematic. That's not what news and information is supposed to be for.
    "You know, facts are not supposed to be affirming. They are what they are, and when people want to sort of tailor-make their world, that's when you run into real problems," she concluded.
    To hear the whole conversation with Wagner, which also covered her time doing humanitarian and activism work with George Clooney, her swift rise from being a member of the White House press corps to hosting her own show on MSNBC, the book she just finished writing which traces her family's unlikely origins to tell a larger story about contemporary America, and much more, click on http://podcast.cnn.com. To get "The Axe Files" podcast every week, subscribe at http://itunes.com/theaxefiles.