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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

“Phoning It In And The Media’s Trump Surrender”: The Press Throws In The Towel Before The First Bell Is Even Rung

Tuesday offered a sad but telling snapshot from the Donald Trump campaign trail, capturing how the Republican seems to intimidate the press and how journalists too often bend to his will.

Tuesday morning, Trump was scheduled to appear live on several morning programs, via satellites from his home in Florida. But after Trump reportedly didn’t like the way his remote shots looked on television, he canceled the satellite Q&A’s and simply phoned in his interviews live.

That evening, after winning primaries in Mississippi and Michigan, Trump spoke for more than 40 minutes. His rambling address included a weird pitch for his brand of products (steaks, wines, vodka), many of which he didn’t actually own. The all-news cable channels carried Trump’s performance in its entirety and refused to break away even for a minute to cover any of Hillary Clinton’s primetime address, celebrating her Mississippi victory.

As Trump was leaving his televised address, his campaign manager reportedly grabbed the arm of a Breitbart News reporter who was trying to ask the candidate a question. The reporter, Michelle Fields, was nearly pulled to the ground after being forcibly grabbed. “Fields was clearly roughed up by the move,” a witness told Politico. The Daily Beast reported the encounter left her bruised.

So yes, the day featured all the discouraging telltale signs of the media’s Trump mess. The press allowed him to play by new, call-in rules? Check. The press showered Trump with an unprecedented amount of free, uninterrupted airtime? Check. Members of the press were physically insulted or physically manhandled by Trump and his handlers? Check.

If this Trump vs. the press battle were an actual fight, the referee would’ve stopped it a long, long time ago. Indeed, rather than a bout it’s more like Trump stands in his corner, tapes up his gloves, and the press throws in the towel before the first bell is even rung. And yes, to suggest Trump enjoys pushing the press around would be an understatement.

“He’s getting by with a lot of stuff that no candidate should get by with,” according to Walter Mears, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former Associated Press campaign reporter.

But it works for Trump. It definitely works.

That said, note that Tuesday also included an unexpected sliver of media pushback: CBS This Morning stood alone in refusing to allow Trump to replace his scheduled on-camera interview with a phone-in chat. The program cited its longstanding rule against allowing guests to call in.

For most of the campaign, Trump has been awarded the special privilege of calling into programs. Many observers think phone-ins are beneficial to politicians since it’s easier for them to talk over journalists and harder to be pinned down. (Phoners generally preclude the use of on-screen graphics as a tool to confront candidates and get detailed responses.)

“Broadcasting and cable maybe aren’t being as tough as they should be. I have questioned having [Trump] on by telephone, it’s deferring to him in a way, letting him set ground rules that they don’t for others,” former New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt recently told Media Matters. “You do not see his demeanor and it is not the same as having him sit across from an interrogator.”

Between March 1-8, Trump did 17 live interviews with ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. More than half of them were phoned in.

So why did television producers last year invent the running exception for Trump’s phone-ins; the exception that most shows used on Tuesday for him?

“I think there’s enormous interest in Donald Trump as a candidate,” Mary Hager, executive producer of CBS’s Face the Nation, told the Huffington Post last year. “I think if he is only available for a phone interview, we need to be able to help our viewers out in understanding him.” She added, “It’s the Sunday shows responsibility to cover the news.”

Right, but as one veteran TV news pro in the same Huffington Post article pointed out, while front-runners have in the past been able to negotiate the formats of interviews, letting guests phone in for non-breaking news stories is “unprecedented.” So why is it suddenly the media’s “responsibility” to rewrite the rules for Trump? Hager’s answer last year indicated it was because Trump was wildly popular; because there’s “enormous interest.”

Note that Hillary Clinton has accumulated more votes this year than Trump, and according to some recent polls she would easily defeat him in November. (Trump’s among the most disliked politicians in America today.) So again, why the special media rules for the guy who might lose badly in the general election?

On Tuesday, when Trump walked away from his on-camera interviews while claiming his campaign was having technical difficulties with the satellite feed, television sources told CNN’s Brian Stelter that they thought Trump was using a hollow excuse. Yet the candidate, who’s treated like a ratings wonder by news channels, was still given a green light by most of the networks to simply call in.

Why are the phone interviews a big deal? They represent one of the first tangible campaign examples of the press acquiescing to Trump, beginning last summer; making it clear that news executives had no reservations about applying special standards to him. But as CBS This Morning showed this week, the phoners also represent a very simple way for the press to push back. They’re probably the easiest and quickest fix the media could make in an effort to recalibrate its lost leverage with Trump.

Just don’t do it. It’s really that simple.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters For America, March 10, 2016

March 12, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Journalists, Media | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Brian Williams’ Tangled Web”: If I Were Williams, I’d Get Out The Resume Or Check My Retirement Portfolio

None of us is without sin, but still, you have to wonder how this sort of thing happens (per Stars & StripesTravis Tritten):

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams admitted Wednesday he was not aboard a helicopter hit and forced down by RPG fire during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a false claim that has been repeated by the network for years.

Williams repeated the claim Friday during NBC’s coverage of a public tribute at a New York Rangers hockey game for a retired soldier that had provided ground security for the grounded helicopters, a game to which Williams accompanied him. In an interview with Stars and Stripes, he said he had misremembered the events and was sorry.

The admission came after crew members on the 159th Aviation Regiment’s Chinook that was hit by two rockets and small arms fire told Stars and Stripes that the NBC anchor was nowhere near that aircraft or two other Chinooks flying in the formation that took fire. Williams arrived in the area about an hour later on another helicopter after the other three had made an emergency landing, the crew members said.

“I would not have chosen to make this mistake,” Williams said. “I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.”

I guess the “conflated” account of Williams being under fire became part of his official “bio,” and couldn’t be de-conflated until someone finally blew the whistle. I can’t even begin to assess what the punishment should be for this deception, but if I were Williams, I’d get out the resume or check my retirement portfolio.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, February 6, 2015

February 8, 2015 Posted by | Brian Williams, Journalism, Media | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Normalizing Illegal Behavior”: Why Are Torturers Being Given “Balance” In The Press?

After the publication of the torture report, the torturers and their enablers have been all over the airwaves defending themselves and the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques.” These “techniques” included horrific acts of rape, threatening family members with rape and death, suspension from ceilings and walls for days on end, forcing prisoners to soil themselves in diapers, and various forms of psychological torture including sleep and sensory deprivation. In many cases the people being tortured had done nothing wrong and had no information of value.

There is simply no defense for any of this. None. “It gave us actionable intelligence” isn’t a defense. It happens to be untrue. We know that torture doesn’t produce valuable information, and it didn’t produce valuable information in any of these cases, either. But it doesn’t matter if it worked or not. Cutting the hands off of thieves works wonders to reduce theft, but we don’t do that. A moral people does not do these things. “We’re not as bad they are” isn’t a defense, either. That’s not the standard by which a moral people judges itself–and besides, most of the rest of the industrialized world does hold itself to a higher standard, despite also being victimized by Islamist terror attacks.

This stuff is obvious. And yet the TV shows and newspaper stories are full of balance given to the pro-torture side. Why? Despite objections to the contrary, journalists do not always give balance to both sides of an argument if the other side is deemed irrelevant or depraved. Whenever the deficit bugbear rolls to the forefront, almost no balance is given to the Keynesian point of view despite their predictions being consistently correct: the idea that one needn’t actually cut the deficit during a recession is treated as so outre as to require no journalistic attention.

More pointedly, when journalists write about torture and depredations of current or former regimes, journalists don’t feel the need to get the torturers’ side of the story. No one is rushing to ask Assad’s torturers in Syria if their tactics are necessary to keep “terrorists” in check. No one is asking North Korean guards if their treatment of their people is OK because some other country is worse. No one rushes to counterbalance the accounts of Holocaust victims with the justifications of Nazi guards. It simply isn’t done, any more than we “balance” stories of child sexual abuse with a hot-take counterpoint from a member of NAMBLA. The reason we don’t provide “balance” in these cases is that to do so would be to normalize those behaviors as part of legitimate discourse.

So why in the world are the torturers who subjected innocent people to anal feedings and dungeon ceiling hangings given the courtesy of “balance” in the press? Where is the line that separates issues that require balance from those that do not?

In a decent moral universe, torturers don’t get the benefit of explaining themselves to the press any more than serial killers do, except potentially out of morbid curiosity.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, December 14, 2014

December 15, 2014 Posted by | Journalists, Media, Torture | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Are Americans “Stupid” Or Uninformed?”: The Purpose Of The Media Is To Produce ‘Eyeballs’…For Advertisers

Republicans are making hay out of Jonathan Gruber’s suggestion that those who crafted Obamacare thought the American public was stupid. While that was a politically incorrect (and stupid) thing to say, we’ve all seen enough “man on the street” interviews where too many people don’t know which party controls Congress or who the current Vice President is to simply dismiss it as untrue.

But a more relevant question would be to ask whether or not the American public is “stupid” (inferring a lack of intelligence) or uninformed. That is the question sparked by this recent Gallup poll. They found that – while the violent crime rate has dropped dramatically since the early 1990’s (from 80 incidents of violent crime/1000 people to 23/1000), 63% of Americans think that violent crime is increasing.

Back in the 1990’s I attended a workshop on the effects of television on young people. The presenter asked the audience, “What is the purpose of television?” After a lot of responses that focused on entertainment, the presenter said that the purpose was to produce eyeballs…for advertisers. I would suggest that the same thing is now true of our news media. The perception of an increase in violent crime is likely a direct result of the old adage: “if it bleeds, it leads.”

Media Matters recently produced a report showing that both cable and network news reporting on Ebola spiked in the days leading up to the 2014 midterms and then simply went to almost nothing afterwards. I don’t buy the idea that this was some collusion between the media and Republicans. I suspect it had more to do with the way that fear of the disease spreading grabbed everyone’s attention, and then a total elimination of coverage once it was clear that wasn’t going to happen (at least not in this country). In other words, success at containing the spread of Ebola doesn’t produce eyeballs.

Circling back to the subject of Obamacare, its interesting to note the effect all this has on the perceptions of the public.

Jon Krosnick, Wendy Gross, and colleagues at Stanford and Kaiser ran large surveys to measure public understanding of the ACA and how it was associated with approval of the law. They found that accurate knowledge about what’s in the bill varied with party identification: Democrats understood the most and liked the law the most, independents less, and Republicans understood still less and liked the law the least. However, attitudes were not just tribal. Within each party, the more accurate your knowledge of the law, the more you liked it.

These researchers found that in the unlikely event that the public had a perfect understanding of the law, approval of it would go from 32% to 70%. That’s the price we pay for an uninformed public.

Its true that technology has allowed partisans and ideologues to choose media sources that confirm their beliefs. But those who simply want “the news” are pretty regularly fed a diet that inflames more than it informs. If you doubt that, take a look at one retired anchorman’s reaction to the movie “Anchorman.”

If we want this to change, we’ll need everyone to think twice about what they do with their eyeballs.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, November 23, 2014

November 24, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Media, Public Opinion | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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