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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

“A Ransom By Any Other Name”: The Larger Concern Is That Republican Tactics Are Too Dangerous And Destructive

Words have power and meaning, especially in politics, which is why the parties and their pollsters invest so much energy in choosing the most effective phrases possible. Fox News didn’t push “slimdown” as an ideologically pleasing alternative to “shutdown” for entertainment’s sake — it’s about winning an argument by defining the parameters of the debate.

Professional news organizations are often careful on this front because they don’t want to advance one set of talking points over another, and this in turn sometimes leads to interesting media pushback.

Last week, for example, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney used a variety of metaphors during a press briefing to describe congressional Republicans extortion strategies, but as Scott Wilson noted, one in particular was not well received.

[I]t was “ransom” — a word Obama has used repeatedly to describe Republican negotiating tactics — that struck the last press corps nerve. The usual briefing room decorum, such as it is, broke down entirely when Carney said finally that Obama would sign a debt-ceiling extension but not if it meant “paying a ransom” to Republicans.

“The president will not pay ransom for … ” Carney began.

“You see it as a ransom, but it’s a metaphor that doesn’t serve our purposes … ” NPR correspondent Ari Shapiro shouted back with broad support from other confused reporters.

There’s an official transcript online if you want to see the complete context, but it appears that “ransom” was a bridge too far for some of the journalists covering the White House.

I’m not unsympathetic to reporters’ concerns — “ransom” is not exactly a neutral term. Republicans have acknowledged publicly that they’ve held the debt ceiling “hostage,” but they have not gone so far as to accept “ransom” as a broadly agreed upon term.

But under the circumstances, I’m also not sure which word would satisfy the political establishment as less shrill.

Congressional Republicans threatened a government shutdown unless their demands were met, then they threatened a debt-ceiling crisis, too. GOP officials not only embraced the word “hostage” and threatened to do deliberate harm to the country unless they were satisfied by Democratic offers, but they also said they expected Democrats to make concessions in exchange for nothing — except the release of their metaphorical hostages.

If “ransom” is excessive, what’s the alternative that’s both temperate and accurate? Payoff? Is that better or worse?

It’s challenging to apply terms to circumstances like these, in large part because the conditions are so unusual. We’re just not accustomed to seeing major political parties threaten the nation with deliberate harm in order to get their way, and these radical tactics force us to use descriptions that would probably be overly harsh during more traditional political times.

Sometimes, though, a word may be provocative, and may even carry a politically charged meaning, but it may also be right. In the case of the latest Republican hostage crisis, I’d argue the larger concern isn’t whether “ransom” is too mean but whether the tactics are too dangerous.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 14, 2013

October 15, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, Government Shut Down, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Warped Prism”: Sequestration And How The “Liberal Media” Keeps Blaming Obama For Republican Behavior

Reading what has now become a cavalcade of Beltway pundits, led by New York Times writers, denouncing President Obama for failing to avoid the drastic budget sequestration, and berating him for not “leading” by getting Republicans to abandon their chronic intransigence, I keep thinking back to the earliest days of Obama’s presidency when the press concocted new rules regarding bipartisanship.

Specifically, I recall a question NBC’s Chuck Todd asked at a February 2009 press briefing as the president’s emergency stimulus bill was being crafted in Congress. With the country still reeling from the 2008 financial collapse, and the economy in desperate need of an immediate stimulus shot in the arm, Todd asked if Obama would consider vetoing his own party’s stimulus bill if it passed Congress without Republican support.

Todd wanted to know if Obama would hold off implementing urgent stimulus spending in order to a pass different piece of legislation, one that more Republicans liked and would vote for, because that way it would be considered more bipartisan.

I mention that curious Todd query because only when you understand the warped prism through which so much of the Washington, D.C. press corps now views the issue of bipartisanship does the current blame-Obama punditry regarding sequestration begins to make sense, even remotely.

Here’s what the prism looks like, and here’s what it’s looked like for the last four years: Blame Obama for Republican obstinacy. (Or, as a backup: Both sides are to blame!)

And remember, most of the pundits currently taking misguided aim at Obama on sequestration are part of the supposedly “liberal media” cabal, the one that conservatives insist protect Obama at any cost.

As key observers have noted in recent days, the facts on sequestration are not in dispute: Obama has made repeated offers to meet Republicans in the middle with a proposed deficit reduction plan built around a mix of spending cuts, reform to entitlement programs, and revenue increases. Republicans have countered by saying they will not agree to any deal that includes revenue increases. In terms of “leading,” Obama has done everything in his power to try to fashion a deal with Republicans. In response, the absolutist GOP has refused to move off its starting point; it’s refused to move at all. (Hint: They wanted sequestration to occur.)

So, because Obama, who just won an electoral landslide re-election, wasn’t willing to concede to Republicans everything they wanted, the sequester impasse was reached and $85 billion worth of across-the-board spending cuts went into effect. From those facts, too many pundits have rushed in to blame Obama. Why him? Because he hasn’t been able to change Republican behavior. He wasn’t able to get them to agree to a bipartisan solution.

Question: If you’re an obstructionist Republican and the press blames Obama for your actions, why would you ever change your obstructionist ways? Answer: You wouldn’t. And they haven’t.

Remember, the recently concluded confirmation battle over Chuck Hagel becoming Secretary of Defense wasn’t just about the Republicans’ unprecedented opposition to the cabinet choice. It was also about the press’ ongoing refusal to acknowledge the GOP’s radical obstructionism. A refusal that simply encourages more of the same destructive behavior.

Not surprisingly that theme now runs through the sequestration coverage, as pundits and commentators do their best to downplay those obstructionist tactics in order to clear a way at their real rhetorical target: Obama. (Notable exceptions are appreciated.)

My sense of déjà vu on the sequester media mess is especially intense. I noticed this same trend 49 months ago:

If Republicans simply do not want to cooperate in any meaningful way with Democrats, is there anything Obama can do to change that? No, not really. But according to the press, Obama — and Obama alone — is supposed to change that mindset.

For four years this nonsensical narrative about how it’s up to Obama to change the GOP’s conduct has been promoted and celebrated inside Beltway newsrooms. And now all the savvy pundits agree: Republicans’ obstinate ways created the sequestration showdown, so that means it’s Obama’s fault. By failing to lead, by failing to change Republican behavior, Obama must shoulder the blame.

As noted though, the agreed-upon sequester facts are not in dispute. So in order to blame Obama for Republican obstructionism, pundits have been inserting boulder-sized caveats to their illogical writing that ultimately points the finger at the president [emphasis added]:

“And, of course, it is true that much of the responsibility for our perpetual crisis can be laid at the feet of a pigheaded Republican Party, cowed by its angry, antispending, antitaxing, anti-Obama base.” (Bill Keller, New York Times)

“We have a political system that is the equivalent of a drunk driver. The primary culprits are the House Republicans.” (David Ignatius, Washington Post)

“The great debt-ceiling crisis of 2011 was initiated entirely by the Republicans refusing to do anything.” (Howard Kurtz, The Daily Beast)

“Most Republicans in Congress have been utterly irresponsible in this debate.” (Washington Post editorial).

But never mind all that. It’s Obama’s fault that Republicans are the “pigheaded” “culprits” who “initiated entirely” the “utterly irresponsible” debate over sequestration.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, May 5, 2013

May 10, 2013 Posted by | Sequestration | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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