Well, it’s almost here. Finally, mercifully, it’s almost here.
Election day is upon us.
On Tuesday, we’ll finally have the chance to pull the lever (OK, push the button. But I wish we could still pull levers.) in the God forsaken train wreck that has been the 2016 presidential election.
No, this is not a column about the race itself. I suspect most of you don’t want to read one more word about Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Most of you probably just want to get in the voting booth, vote, then get out and forget you were ever there. Kind of like Walmart on Black Friday.
But, there is one offshoot to this year’s election that has continued to draw my attention. Over and over again during the campaign I’ve read and heard references, mostly negative and almost always broad, to “the media.” There’s seemingly no issue that can’t be traced back, in the minds of some, to the nefarious intent of “the media.”
Now, people have been blaming the media for things for years. It’s a tradition as American as baseball, apple pie and late night re-runs of “The Golden Girls.” If you’re in the press, you come to expect it.
But, during this election cycle, I have seen numerous references to the idea that members of the media are somehow part of a ruling class of “elites.”
I’m here to tell you that, as it relates to the vast, VAST majority of journalists working in this country, that simply is not true.
Oh, sure, there are huge, wealthy media companies in this country. The 24-hour channels yelling at you all day long. Model-perfect talking heads on the morning shows. I get it. That’s a big machine.
But it’s not the whole machine. For the most part, the men and women who bring you the news — all the people working at all those newspapers in towns across this country — are Working Joes and Janes. I’ve always said journalism is a blue collar job with white collar trappings.
Elite? Geez, most of us are just trying to pay the mortgage, get the oil changed, send the kids to school and hope we have a little left over to go to a movie on Saturday night.
Let me tell you a bit about “the media.”
The media is my friend Henry Green, over at the Abbeville Press and Banner. This man, who has been toiling away at the P&B literally since I was just a kid, essentially writes an entire newspaper every week. By himself. EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK.
For decades, Henry has been, and continues to be, everywhere in Abbeville County. Council meetings. Parades. Baseball games. Church socials. Political debates. Fourth of July celebrations. School board meetings. And so on.
If more than three people are gathered at any particular moment in Abbeville, you can be assured that Henry will be along shortly to report on it. I’m not sure exactly how he does it. Maybe he’s like Doctor Strange and he can make a portal and transport from one place to another.
But every Wednesday, that Press and Banner comes out, and there’s Henry’s byline on about 30 stories. The man has literally poured his life into telling the truth and bringing the residents of Abbeville County the news, big and small.
That’s “the media.” In Abbeville and in a thousand other little towns, all over the map.
On Saturday morning, you’ll pick up the Index-Journal and read about your favorite high school football teams. About your beloved Eagles and Vikings and Wildcats and Panthers. If you have a son who’s a player or a daughter who’s a cheerleader and they get their picture or their name in the paper, you’ll clip it out and hang it on the refrigerator. Or stash it in a drawer for safekeeping. Or share the online version to your Facebook page or Twitter feed.
Those stories, those keepsakes, don’t just show up through some kind of magic. They show up because men and women, writers and photographers, leave their homes and drive out to stadiums near and far and crank out those stories on deadlines so tight you wouldn’t believe it.
I’ve written game stories in press boxes and hotel lobbies and McDonald’s parking lots and under the harsh fluorescent lights outside of a 7/11. I’ve had deadlines so tight I’ve literally had to call an editor and just dictate a few extra paragraphs over the phone, like the old days, so that he could put it straight on the page, because there wasn’t time for anything else. The pressmen were “standing on the presses,” and they weren’t going to stand much longer.
That’s “the media.”
Elite? Ha! On multiple occasions I’ve literally walked to work in the snow to put out a paper. One time the Index’s press broke down, so we had our papers printed in Laurens. Executive Editor Richard Whiting drove over to Laurens, loaded hundreds of papers in his car and brought them back to the carrier loading dock. One of my co-workers at Free Times in Columbia keeps packets of Taco Bell hot sauce in her car. A former colleague at the Index, the indefatigable Matt Bruce, used to sleep on an old couch back in the pressroom. I once had a copy editor who would occasionally wear a Star Trek uniform to work. Not because it was Halloween, but because he didn’t have anything else clean.
And, despite being in my 13th year in this business, I’ve yet to sit in a dark, smoky room and secretly discuss how to “cook up” a story against any person or thing. The only dark, smoky room I’ve ever sat in with other journalists was the old Sports Break.
There’s plenty of blame to go around as to why this year’s presidential race has been completely insane. And, yes, some of the machinations of the biggest news enterprises are certainly a part of that.
But I’m betting that Lester Holt won’t be covering your town council meeting or your kid’s next soccer game. And I can guarantee you Megyn Kelly doesn’t keep Taco Bell hot sauce in her car.
Chris Trainor is a contributing columnist for the Index-Journal. Contact him at ChrisTrainorSC@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter@ChrisTrainorSC. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.