Now That The Election’s Over, Where Do We Stand?

 

 

I am sure you are all wondering what the election results mean for each of you personally, for our company, for our country, and for the world. And my honest answer is I don’t know. But here is what we do know:

1. A DIVIDE REMAINS BETWEEN RURAL AND URBAN AMERICA.

Watching the CNN map unfold on Tuesday night revealed stark differences in how people voted based on where they live. Rodale, the company that I am CEO of, is based in both places (“rural” Pennsylvania and New York City), and we see in our daily lives just how different the experiences and the people are. Years ago I did research on the political leanings of our customer base, and I discovered we have extremes on both sides—conservative and liberal—which we see whenever we feature a politician in one of our brands. Here is what we need to remember: All Americans, no matter what their political leanings, are seeking to be healthy, happy, and well.

2. FEELINGS ARE AS IMPORTANT AS, IF NOT MORE IMPORTANT THAN, FACTS.

This whole election has been about rage and a desire to upend a status quo that has been frustrating and difficult for many people, on both sides. If we expect only facts to change people’s minds or behavior, we will never succeed. We must understand, acknowledge, and care about each other’s feelings, even if we don’t agree with them. In fact, understanding each other’s feelings is the only way we can build unity.

 3. THE MEDIA WAS PORTRAYED AS THE VILLAIN, AND THE MEDIA IS HUMBLED.

The polls were all wrong. The prestige of major newspapers and news outlets didn’t make a difference and missed the real story. Liberal news comedians making fun of candidates and the uninformed just made those people even angrier and more determined to fight back. We all have a responsibility to educate, inform, and respect all Americans…and to do it with kindness.

4. SOCIAL MEDIA SKEWS THE WORLD FOR EVERYONE.

Think about it: On social media we create a bubble of people we like. We connect with our tribes, which confirm our biases and view of the world whether it’s true or not. And as we cultivate these tribes, we become more susceptible to adopting their beliefs and transmitting their emotions and messages. I was struck by two completely different “memes” on Facebook about the same event: the “assassination attempt/rally protester takedown” the week before the election. On my liberal friends’ pages, everyone was sharing a video of Donald Trump flinching and a similar situation where Hillary Clinton stood firm and confident. But on my Trump-supporting friends’ pages, there was an image of a serene-looking Trump being guarded by the Secret Service, with text that reads: “Look closely. You see that look on Trump’s face in the midst of what could be life-threatening danger? See that calm? Vote for that.” What is the truth when we use events to reaffirm our own convictions to ourselves and our social tribes? When anyone can Photoshop anything, and share it, to facilitate that? Knowing the power social media has to affect individual and group behaviors, we need strong, balanced communication more than ever. We must communicate with each other in direct and authentic ways that build trust and don’t rely on false information.

5. THE INTERNET HAS DISRUPTED EVERYTHING, AND THE WORLD WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN.

It’s not just the newspaper and magazine businesses that have been devastated by the Internet. Every aspect of our world—rural and urban—has been impacted by the disruption. Facebook and Google have had a major impact on many areas of our business, including ad revenue, content distribution, and customer attention. Amazon has shifted the retail market to the point where small towns and big cities can’t sustain “brick and mortar” shopping. That’s jobs, which are rapidly being replaced by technology and even “AI” (artificial intelligence) in giant distribution centers where work conditions are difficult at best. But we all are a willing party to it. We order through Amazon Prime rather than support our local businesses. We spend our money on entertainment and binge watch our favorite shows and then are surprised when reality doesn’t go our way. At this point, we will never put the genie back in the bottle or Pandora back in her box. The only thing we can do is adapt. We need to create a new economic model that works for the many, not just the few.

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