Reporting on Trump's 'forgotten men and women'

Reporting on Trump's 'forgotten men and women'_00023717
Reporting on Trump's 'forgotten men and women'_00023717

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Reporting on Trump's 'forgotten men and women' 06:27

Story highlights

  • Chris Arnade travels across the country writing about poverty and addiction
  • Arnade said his work had shown him that there are "two Americas"

(CNN)Photographer and journalist Chris Arnade said Sunday that America was currently experiencing a divide between the "front row" versus the "back row."

In an interview with CNN's Brian Stelter, Arnade, a former banker who now travels across the country writing about poverty and addiction, said that his work had shown him that there are "two Americas," who look at things "really, really differently."
It's a divide, he said, that the election of President Donald Trump had "exposed."
    "The front row defines itself through its career. You can think of it that way. That's their meaning to them. Whereas the back row is somebody who if they have an education beyond high school it's been cobbled together through community colleges, through smaller state schools. And they generally work with their muscles, not their mind," Arnade told Stelter.
    Arnade said there was only one question he needed to ask during his reporting trips to tell if someone belonged to a back-row community.
    "One of the biggest questions I'll ask is -- do you think your children's life will be better than yours? And is your life better than your parents'? Almost in unison, the answer is no, I don't think my children's life is gonna be better than mine," he said.

    Blaming the media 'convenient'

    It's these people who were so attracted by Donald Trump's campaign promise to "drain the swamp" of the Washington establishment, Arnade explained.
    "Their life is worse than it was 20 years ago in their mind, and so if they're gonna blame somebody, they're gonna blame outside politicians or the outside world, and the media is convenient to blame in that sense as well," he said.
    That's why, Arnade pointed out, people in these communities often feel distrustful of the press, who, he said, are an innately "front row" group.
    There is an "elitism in the media that's not intentional, necessarily," he said.
    "By definition, to break into the media, you have to become front row. You have to go through journalism school. You have to go through all this process. After five or six years, you're front row. You may not intend to be that. You may not think you are, but you are. That elitism is kind of a creeping elitism, but I don't think it's badly intended. It just is," he added.
    Back row communities, Arnade argued, are "more tuned in than we realize, but not necessarily to issues that we talk about."

    Division is growing

    That's why investment in local press is so key, and why the national press needs to do a better job at speaking to those communities who feel so left behind, he told Stelter.
    " I think local issues are just extraordinarily important. People still read local newspapers. People still consume that to the degree that's there. In any of these towns, there are empty lots where there used to be factories. This is a real thing, and that loss, I don't think the national media up until recently has really covered it to the way that it really impacts communities."
    Asked by Stelter if his work had ultimately led to him feeling "more hopeful or less," Arnade's answer was simple.
    "Less. Sorry. I wish I could say hopeful," he said.
    Trump, he added, had capitalized on and continued to exploit the divide between front- and back-row communities "in very negative ways."
    "The reaction to Trump has only made that divide larger. I think we, the front row, the back row, all of this is a division that is only growing, and unfortunately I don't see good things ahead," he said.