Since the 2016 campaign, a lot of us in the media have been trying to figure out exactly what’s on the mind of the American people, and how we got to this point. There have been a lot of polls taken, a lot of surveys analyzed.
The website Huff Post is trying to go one step further. Huff Post launched a bus tour with stops in 25 cities around the country to in their Listen to America tour. The tour has two stops in Milwaukee today - at the Wellness Commons on Milwaukee’s north side, and outside the Oriental Theater this evening.
Huff Post director of editorial strategy Hillary Frey says this tour stemmed from their organization's want to dig deeper into more meaningful stories and to restore some of the trust the media has lost.
"(We asked ourselves) how can we get out in the world and really understand what people in their communities care about, what's concerning them, what's working, and really get down to that level and get out of this sort of coastal bubble of coverage that so many of us find ourselves in?" says Frey.
Having previous experience working on a bus tour herself, Frey says she has a lot of passion for the "in-real-life exchange of thoughts and ideas and that kind of personal connection with people."
By converting a tour bus into a mobile video studio, Huff Post will record and hear directly from Americans in an open-ended conversation to find out what's on their minds. Frey notes that through this experience, Huff Post will know what it is they need to cover going forward and also show them what is happening in communities that isn't shown on a daily basis in the news.
"We really want to get those local stories and understand those local issues, but then take a step back after the tour and look and all of the people we've talked to and everything everybody said and see, in an overarching way, what are the concerns people have in common and what are the things that are very unique to these different communities," she explains.
So far on the tour, Frey notes that the people who want to talk are not necessarily discussing the latest national headlines. "They're talking about their schools, they're talking about race relations, they're talking about taxes, and they're also talking about successes in their communities and why they choose to live there," she says.
Frey adds that both the Huff Post staff and the people they are meeting have felt a catharsis from the sharing. "There's a real desire from the people we've met on the road to be heard and to have the experience of just sitting with somebody for even five to ten minutes to share something important."
"It all sort of adds up to us being able to tell a story about the country that evolved not from a questionnaire or a poll, but from open-ended interviews with a huge diverse group of people across the country."