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“It’s Not The Polls, It’s The Ratings”: The Staggering Numbers Behind The Media’s Trump Obsession

2-to-1. 5-to-1. 10-to-1.

Those are some of the lopsided ratios that appear when you start examining just how imbalanced the campaign coverage has been in favor of Donald Trump this election cycle. And it’s not just that front-runner Trump is getting way more media time and attention than front-runner Hillary Clinton. It’s that Trump’s getting way more than Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

During March, the network evening newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC devoted a jaw-dropping 143 minutes to the Trump campaign, compared to just 26 minutes to the Clinton and Sanders runs, according to an analysis compiled by Andrew Tyndall, who’s been monitoring the evening newscasts for years. Specifically, on NBC Nightly News, 51 minutes were set aside for Trump last month, but just six minutes for Clinton and Sanders. (Two minutes for Clinton, four for Sanders.)

Meanwhile, in the last 30 days, CNN has mentioned Trump approximately 25,000 times according to the GDELT Project using data from the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive. Clinton and Sanders? A relatively paltry 13,000 CNN mentions in comparison.

In terms of free media, Trump’s wall-to-wall coverage has earned him $1.9 billion worth of free media in nine months of campaign, according to the New York Times’ analysis, compared to $746 million for Clinton and $321 million for Sanders.

And during a one-week survey of online news campaign coverage overseen by University of Southern California researcher Ev Boyle, nearly 70 percent of the Washington Post homepage mentions of presidential candidates were for Trump, while the remaining five candidates — Republican and Democrat — accounted for just 30 percent of the mentions.

“Trump’s name appeared on the homepage 112 times across these 7 days, while Hillary Clinton’s name only appeared 13 times,” Boyle noted. “That’s almost 10 times more mentions of Trump than any other single candidate.”

There’s been lots of debate about whether the press “created” Trump’s front-runner status via its obsessive (and often subservient) coverage, or if voters themselves are solely responsible for his campaign success. But it’s also important to focus on the sheer tonnage of the Trump coverage and the wild inequity on display. (Even Fox News marvels at the “clear imbalance.”)

Overeager to portray Trump as a political phenomenon, the press has gorged on his campaign while often losing sight of the fact that perhaps the only true phenomenon has been just how much time and attention the press has decided to give to the Republican. (That, and how Trump has completely “bent television to his will.”)

The staggering imbalance comes in the face of new polling that shows Americans by a huge, bipartisan margin think Trump’s getting way too much press attention.

The disparity is also leading to tensions between supporters and the press. Over the weekend, hundreds of Sanders supporters protested outside CNN’s Los Angeles studios, demanding the candidate get more airtime. “Stop showing Trump so much,” one protester urged. “Stick to the issues.”

Keep in mind this endless buffet of Trump coverage comes at a time when the Republican campaign itself has essentially declared war on the media. When not allegedly assaulting the press, Trump’s team is herding them into pens while the candidate hurls endless insults their way.

We’re witnessing two extraordinary occurrences play out simultaneously: Nobody has ever treated the White House campaign press as badly as Trump, and nobody has ever been rewarded with more coverage than Trump.

So here’s the simple question that won’t go away: Why is the Republican front-runner often deemed to be four or five times more newsworthy than the Democratic front-runner? And why is the Republican front-runner constantly getting way more news coverage than both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, combined?

Statistics like the ones cited above badly undercut a favorite journalist defense that Trump’s massive amount of free media simply reflects his front-runner status. Note CNN chief Jeff Zucker has brushed off claims that the channel’s Trump coverage has been badly out of whack. “The front-runner of the party is always going to get a disproportionate amount of attention,” he said. (There’s too much “handwringing” about Trump coverage, Zucker reportedly told CNN employees.)

But again, why does the likely Republican nominee land almost twice as many mentions on CNN as Clinton and Sanders combined? Especially when current polling indicates Clinton and Sanders have a much better chance of becoming president.

The answer clearly seems to revolve around the short-term profits Trump helps generate. “I go on one of these shows and the ratings double, they triple,” Trump recently told Time. “And that gives you power. It’s not the polls. It’s the ratings.”

But newsroom executives seem reluctant to acknowledge that fact.

“I think that taking candidate rallies unedited is actually a valuable service,” CNN Washington Bureau Chief Sam Feist recently explained, when pressed about the Trump tsunami. “I think that taking those rallies live, unedited, without commentary is useful,” he added

In theory, that’s great. If CNN wants to turn itself into C-SPAN during the campaign season and just televise rally after candidate rally in their entirety, more power to them. But have you seen lots and lots of Clinton and Sanders rallies aired uninterrupted? (Veteran journalist Jeff Greenfield compared the regular airing of “unvetted” Trump events to state-run television under Fidel Castro.)

Meanwhile, the numbers are still hard to make sense of. As mentioned, Trump received 143 minutes of network evening news time during the month of March. By comparison, Obama’s reelection campaign garnered 157 minutes of evening network news time during all of 2012.

Seen another way, Trump in just three months this year has received more than 250 minutes of network evening news time, which far surpasses all of Obama’s 2012 re-election coverage.

And there’s still seven months left until November.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters For America, April  6, 2016

April 12, 2016 Posted by | Campaign Media Coverage, Donald Trump, Media | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“The Master Media Manipulator”: It’s The Donald Trump Show, And The Media Are Nothing More Than Players

I wrote earlier about the peculiar spectacle Tuesday night of Donald Trump giving a 45-minute infomercial for his product lines, but I think it’s also worth noting how his post-primary press conferences illustrate his genius for media manipulation.

Two things specifically stuck out at me watching these performances. The first was that he stacks the first few rows of these events with his friends and supporters. And being a friendly audience, they eat up his shtick – laughing at his jokes and cheering on cue. For the casual viewer who doesn’t know any better, it might seem like he’s giving a “press conference” to an adoring media (as opposed to, say, a victory speech in front of supporters where crowd enthusiasm would be more expected).

Combine that with the second thing that has stuck out to me: When he gets around to taking questions, only he is mic’d up – you cannot hear his interlocutors’ questions. This gives him a couple of advantages. First, he can, at minimum, answer the question he wants to rather than the one asked, or he can go further, and on a rolling basis, screen out or ignore questions he doesn’t like. So Tuesday night, an NBC reporter reportedly – of course, TV viewers couldn’t hear the question – asked Trump about his verbal vulgarity and how parents should explain his language to their children. Trump didn’t like the question, so he didn’t answer it. Instead (perhaps taking a page from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s bullying playbook) he derided the reporter: “Oh, you’re so politically correct, you’re so beautiful. Oh, look at you – aww, he’s so – oh I know you’ve never heard a little bad, a little off-language. I know, you’re so perfect. Aren’t you perfect? Aren’t you just a perfect young man. Give me a break. You know what? It’s stuff like that that people in this country are tired of. It’s stuff like that.”

What was the question? All viewers got was Trump the Dominant ridiculing a reporter while the rest of the audience at this “press conference” laughed along. It’s Trump’s show, and the reporters become muted bit players abetting him.

Of course that doesn’t even get at their bosses, the “cable news” execs who carry his every utterance as if he actually were the president. (And does any other politician get to phone in interviews as much as Trump, rather than having to get in front of a camera?) Look, I get that Trump has some entertainment value and that his unscripted nature means that you never know what is going to pop out of his mouth at any time. But there’s got to be some sense of balance and/or responsibility. Fox, CNN and MSNBC gave Trump 45 minutes in prime time. As Politico’s Hadas Gold noted Tuesday night, “Forty five minutes of uninterrupted TV time on the three cable news networks is the equivalent of millions of dollars in free media for a campaign – a stunning amount of TV time.”

And he gets it routinely, because he’s a master of manipulating the media.

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, Managing Editor for Opinion, U.S. News & World Report, March 9, 2016

March 10, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Media, Reporters | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Real Threat Trump Poses To Hillary—And Us”: Spending Time On Endless, Pointless & Corrosive Questions

Donald Trump says Ted Cruz may not be eligible to be president, and what happens? It dominates the news cycle for three days. Going on four.

See a pattern here? You should. A few months ago people used to ask, “What impact is Donald Trump having on the race”? Now we know very clearly exactly what it is. He takes over the news cycle. He says something about one of his rivals—or occasionally about an issue, although it’s always un-substantive and full of untrue assertions—and it sucks all the other oxygen out of the room. The rivals have to answer Trump, and the cable shows do panel after panel on whether what Trump said is true, whether it even matters whether it’s true, how so-and-so handled the response, and how it’s going to change the polls.

It’s happened over and over again. In fact it’s happened pretty much nonstop. Trump says Jeb is “low-energy”; Jeb has to prove he’s high energy. He hammers Marco Rubio for this, Chris Christie for that, and now Cruz. In a nutshell, this is the campaign, at least the campaign that those of us who aren’t in Iowa or New Hampshire see.

The effect has been to turn the campaign into a vacuous, reality TV dick-swinging competition. And bad as that is, the effect has been far worse when Trump makes one of his assertions about the country or world. He says these things about the world that are either just false or crazy, and everybody has to spend three days explaining why it’s false or crazy. He saw “thousands and thousands” of American Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the 9-11 attacks. That was eventually debunked. But it took nearly a week. And by the way, it hasn’t been debunked everywhere; certain web sites on the right spent days if not weeks defending Trump.

This is the real Trump Effect: He forces us to spend an endless series of three-day cycles debating at best pointless or at worst toxic and corrosive questions. That week we had to spend proving that American Muslims didn’t celebrate 9-11 wasn’t just a stupid and wasted week. It was a hatefest week that pulled an entire country in reverse, unlancing boils, raising temperatures. It was the same, more or less, when he said what a great guy Vladimir Putin was.

No. These are things we know. Putin is not a great guy. He’s a thug, just like you, Donald. We may not know for a fact that he’s had journalists killed, but a lot of anti-Putin journalists have died mysteriously. American Muslims did not cheer 9/11, bub. The government of Mexico is not “sending” rapists. And on and on and on.

But this is our level of discourse with Trump in the race. I’ll grant him that it’s a skill, of a kind. He says things in a hot-button way, a way we’re not accustomed to hearing from most politicians, certainly most presidential candidates, who usually strive for some simulacrum of dignity. It’s catnip, especially for cable news. He gets ratings. Every night all the shows get their figures on how each individual segment did in the crucial 25-49 demographic. Undoubtedly, the Trump-Cruz segments right now are doing better than the North Korea segments. And in any event, it’s not like the media can just totally ignore the demagogic claims of the Republican front-runner.

What a way to elect a president. The process has been corrupt enough. The billions of dollars spent by the rich, the dishonest attack ads, the stupid emphasis on things like who we’d supposedly rather have a beer with.

But now, we’re really going down the sinkhole, and Trump is leading us. Republican primary contests lately have not exactly been flower gardens of new policy ideas, as candidates in 2012 and this year basically just compete against each other to see who can offer up the most irresponsible tax cut and who can sound toughest on immigrants and moochers and terrorists. But there are a few ideas out there, and a few interesting differences. We hear about them a little, but then Trump comes along and says something and he smothers everything.

And yes, it can get worse. Imagine Trump as the GOP nominee. Imagine a general election run like this. General elections, underneath all the spumes of nonsense, actually are contests of ideas. There were clear and important policy differences between Barack Obama and John McCain, and between Obama and Mitt Romney, and they had to talk about them.

There will be clear and important policy differences between Trump and Hillary Clinton, but the difference is we’re not likely to have a real debate about them. Instead, we’re going to have more of this. Clinton is going to give some normal and slightly over-earnest speech about paid family leave. Important thing. And Trump will respond…not by stating his counter-position, but by saying something about how women want to be paid to sit at home and watch soap operas, and we’ll spend three days on it. And of course he’ll issue an endless stream of false or over-the-top statements about Whitewater and Vince Foster and, as he’s promised, Bill’s sex life.

And the campaign will just be that, over and over and over. Trump says crazy thing A. Cable shows salivate. A few responsible outlets read by 4 percent of the population point out that what Trump said isn’t true. Clinton spends three days repeating that. Upshot: Much of America is left with the impression, because Trump will be attacking and Clinton will be responding, and in TV land that’s what mostly matters, that it’s probably true. And then he’ll say crazy thing B, and then crazy thing C…

There is no force that can stop it. Well, maybe the Clinton campaign. They’ll sure need to figure out how, if Trump’s the nominee. I don’t think he can beat her, barring really bizarro circumstances or developments, but it’s not her losing I’m most worried about. It’s us.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, January 8, 2015

January 9, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Perfect Echo Chamber”: Why Is Matt Drudge Boosting Donald Trump?

Who’s responsible for Donald Trump? The establishment honchos of the Republican Party first and foremost, for not having the stones to stand up and stop the crazy in their party over the last seven years when Steve King and Louis Gohmert and Michele Bachmann and all the others said the unhinged things they said. The cable networks, for covering his every utterance and letting him play them like a fiddle.

A less discussed culprit: Matt Drudge. He may not get the headlines he got 15 years ago, so if you don’t read his site you might think he’s kinda gone away. Well, he has not. The Drudge Report is as huge as ever: Around 700 million visitors a month.

And what they’ve been getting for the last six months is a steady stream of pro-Trump agitprop. Drudge’s own weird, quasi-libertarian, crypto-racialist-populist political views have found their perfect echo in Trump’s campaign. If you’ve read the Drudge site over the years, you know how expert the site has always been at finding and promoting news stories that aren’t capital-P political on their face but whose political moral, and the reason Drudge highlights them, is obvious.

A preposterous-sounding grievance from a minority group member; a left-wing academic making some nutty claim or another; some new manifestation of political correctness afoot. These stories are the mother’s milk of the site, and they create the same paranoia that Trump is creating, and among the same audience.

And the audience is gobbling it up—and regurgitating it in the hoped-for way. As Republican-turned-independent (and now Hillary Clinton supporter) Jimmy LaSalvia noted at Salon recently, after every GOP debate, the Drudge site polls its readers on who won. And every time, Trump has won, usually big.

It’s no wonder. The Drudge site is (gulp) its readers’ most trusted news source, and nearly every day it’s playing a pro-Trump piece high up. As I write this, Tuesday the 29th, the story is “New poll shows Trump strong among minorities.” The link is to a story on World Net Daily, a far-right site whose stock in trade is headlines like “Democrats Think Christians Bigger Threat Than Muslims,” and it’s to a poll commissioned by…World Net Daily! It finds that “40 percent of blacks are lining up behind Trump, as are 45 percent of Hispanics, and even nearly 19 percent of Asians.” Right.

Now, if you’re reacting to this by thinking so what, tell me something new, my answer is that I am telling you something new. In 2012, Drudge generally backed not Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul or Rick Santorum or Herman Cain, but Mr. Establishment himself, Mitt Romney! You can go back and Google it and find loads of stories from that cycle about how Drudge highlighted pro-Romney stories and how the other GOP contenders groused that Drudge was helping Mittens.

Why the change? I’m not exactly a Drudge world insider. The public evidence we have is the big and very rare interview Drudge gave back in October to wingnut radio host Alex Jones, where he delivered gems like this one: “You’ve got to be the greatest you can be now—now. Before this country is so completely altered and we’re left with Hillary’s brain in the Oval Office in a jar. Cuz that’s what we’re getting. She is old and she’s sick. She is not a contender. They’re making her a contender with these propped up Saturday Night Live things; it’s like a head on a stick. And then on the Today show with [Savannah Guthrie]—a head on a stick. She is not a viable, vibrant leader for this country of 300—including the illegals, 380 million—Americans. So the media is trying to put us to sleep.”

Eighty million illegals. And you thought it was 11.5 million. See how the corporate media have been lying to you? For what it’s worth, Drudge has been a major promoter of Jones’ conspiracy-mongering websites, often giving them prominent links.

So now we’re getting to crunch time. How much juice does Drudge still have with GOP primary voters, especially in the key states? Probably a lot is my guess. It’s obviously impossible to say how much Drudge has helped Trump thus far. Trump probably didn’t need a push from Drudge to get where he is. But look at it from the reverse point of view: If Drudge had been anti-Trump these last six months, Trump very well might not be where he is right now.

The more serious question is how much juice Drudge might have in a general election contest. He will want to destroy Hillary Clinton, there’s no doubt about that. If Trump is actually the Republican nominee, Drudge will have his dream match-up: the right-wing nativist fuck-the-establishment candidate versus a Clinton. Destroying, or trying to destroy, a Clinton (Bill) is what made Drudge world famous in the first place, back in 1998. But that didn’t work out for him. And promoting the candidate that half the Republican Party would run away from holding its nose doesn’t seem like the best way to stop this Clinton.

Maybe deep down on some level even they only dimly grasp, all these people want her to be the president. She’s great for ratings and page views, and everything they don’t like about a changing country that they no longer speak to or for can be immediately blamed on her. Only a Clinton victory would support their idea of America as a place where the corporate media are brainwashing people to become diversity-worshipping automatons, and conservative media will be there to ride the decline.

And that’s what Drudge’s move from Romney to Trump proves: On the radical right, it’s not about stopping liberalism anymore. It’s about demolishing conservatism.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, December 30, 2015

January 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Matt Drudge | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Will We Do After The Next Slaughter?: Shut Up About San Bernardino, Because There’s Nothing Left To Say

The right and the left have both issued verdicts on what not to say after a mass shooting.

The right ridicules calls for gun-safety measures. The left mocks what it perceives to be hollow nostrums about “thoughts and prayers.” I think they’re both right. I think it’s time to say nothing at all.

I realized this when I discovered the most trenchant thing I’d read about San Bernardinonoting that Sandy Hook didn’t begin a national conversation about guns so much as end it—was actually written about the murders at the Emanuel AME Church.

There is no way to overdramatize the speed with which San Bernardino followed Colorado Springs; it happened too fast for hyperbole. There wasn’t even time for an idea to be proposed, much less fail. Columns written about Richard Dear are still being published even as we hunt for answers about the massacre farther west.

Sure, the particular gruesomeness of this crime—at a center for the disabled—seems like it might be enough to…what? What about this crime will shove the graceless leviathan of our national consciousness from the sludge-gummed track we’ve developed to deal with what should be unspeakable, unthinkable, at very fucking least rare?

In the hours after the California killings, heavy traffic crashed a mass shooter database. Which is more horrifying—that so many people needed the information, or that there was so much information to be had?

We have reached the point where mass shootings have a “news consumer handbook,” where the most helpful journalistic tool in covering a killing isn’t local sources so much as search-and-replace: Newsweek reporter Polly Mosendz keeps a pre-written mass shooter story fresh in her text editing files. “A mass shooting has been reported at TK, where TK people are believed to be dead and TK more are injured, according to TK police department,” it says. “The gunman has/hasn’t been apprehended.”

So I propose a columnist strike, a hot take moratorium, a sound-bite freeze. The only response that could possibly match this gut-punching tragedy isn’t made up of words but silence.

I envision blank blog posts, empty sets, magazine pages slick and white from edge to edge. I want to open up The Washington Post or The New York Times and find the grainy gray of naked newspaper stock in place of columnists’ prose.

Let’s fill Twitter with dead space and leave Facebook with a total absence of “likes.”

Let the cable talking heads mute themselves.

Hear in that noiselessness the echo all the prayers and the pleas, all the policy proposals and screeds that were written about the last mass shooting, and the one before that and the one before the one before that. Hear the thundering clap of absolute inaction in Congress, and the crazed, giddy titter of those loosening gun laws state by state. Hear the voices that don’t speak, that can’t, the conversations some families will never get to have.

What I want is not a “national moment of silence,” nor really a prayer. I don’t wish to summon contemplation or reflection but choking sobs and knotted throats. I want to share with the world the wordless groan that is the only prayer the grieving have.

I want a strike, a shutdown, a refusal to move. Not just inaction as a pause—rather, stillness as an action in itself.

I don’t think what I want to happen actually can happen, not in this world. The media machine inexorably churns and, less reflexively, our mutual ache and mourning demands recognition on screens and off.

Then again, our suspension of discussion doesn’t have to last forever. I don’t want to create a vacuum so much as create awareness about how much has already been said.

There’s nothing left to say, so let’s just not say it.

I write this, my fingers cold and my heart broken and hesitating before I press “send.” If I publish this column now, if I let this idea into the world after this slaughter…Why, then, what will we do after the next?

 

By: Ana Marie Cox, The Daily Beast, December 3, 2015

December 4, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Mass Shootings, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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