Friday, October 14, 2016

Trump Protests Media Bias While Overlooking Their Role in Elevating Him to the Nomination

Trump and his blindly loyal followers, the Trumpkins, have declared war on the mainstream media. They claim the media has a liberal bias.  That is not exactly a shocker.  Surveys of journalists for decades have shown that they overwhelmingly prefer Democrats when it comes to Presidential elections.   It is not a reach to conclude that many want Trump to fail and that desire, even if only subconsciously, affects their coverage.

But philosophical bias is not the only bias media has.  The media has a bias for action, for conflict, for good stories that will entice their audience.  At the end, they are a for profit enterprise. They want to sell newspapers, to reel in viewers.

Trump rode these other media biases to the nomination. Even when Trump was far down in the polls and hadn't raised much money, the evening news were filled with extensive live coverage of his rallies. Other candidates were never able to get the same (free) media coverage of their campaigns, leaving their candidacies dead in the water.

Back in June, the Washington Post reported  on a Harvard study on the news media coverage Trump received during the primary stage:
[A]new study by Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University ... documents not only the outsized coverage Trump received — from TV and digital media — in the early days of his campaign but also how overwhelmingly positive that coverage was.

First, it notes that Trump received considerable media coverage during 2015 despite the fact that he was neither a leader in polls or in the fundraising chase — two indicators of uneven media coverage of candidates in past races, according to the Shorenstein study. As the study reports:   
"When his news coverage began to shoot up, [Trump] was not high in the trial-heat polls and had raised almost no money. Upon entering the race, he stood much taller in the news than he stood in the polls. By the end of the invisible primary, he was high enough in the polls to get the coverage expected of a frontrunner. But he was lifted to that height by an unprecedented amount of free media. "
The study then goes on to place a price on that free media Trump received. Of course, Trump and his merry band of followers will insist that much of that primary coverage was negative. But in fact it wasn't.  Trump received an inordinate amount of positive coverage during the primary stage:

Now though the tables are reversed. Weeks away from the general election the news is filled with negative Trump stories detailing the candidate's character flaws and disqualifying history. Those were stories that could have easily been investigated and reported on during the primary stage. If that happened the Republicans might have nominated a candidate who is actually qualified to be President, someone who would be 10 points ahead of Hillary Clinton instead of nearly 10 points behind.

Of course, the media is liberal. Of course, most reporters do not want a Republican in the White House, even a faux conservative like Trump.  The question that should be asked is why the media give Trump so much free coverage leading up to his nomination? Why did the media sat on their collective hands, failing to report the negative stories about Trump when there was time for the GOP to get a new nominee? Was there a coordinated effort by liberal reporters to ensure the GOP was stuck with an unelectable nominee who would embarrass the party and rip it apart?  While I don't buy that the media coordinated their efforts to obtain that result, that is in fact the result of the media elevating Trump to the GOP nomination.

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