MY TURN-I freely admit that I am a news junkie and have been most of my life. I also admit I am becoming increasingly bored with many of my favorite newscasters, panels and opinion makers. It feels like every other story or expert panel is about President Donald J. Trump. So, maybe he has given an economic boost to both print and digital media... but when is enough enough?
Just to make sure I wasn't being overly critical I did some research and discovered that Trump has garnered 42% more press coverage than our previous three Presidents -- the preponderance being negative, as in, 80% negative to 20% positive. His most positive week occurred in week twelve of his term when he ordered the airstrike on Syria.
Even Fox News has carried 52% negative stories according to a study done in May by the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University. That was a surprise. Fox News has a reputation for heaping constant praise on him.
The report is based on an analysis of news reports in the print editions of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post; the main newscasts of CBS, CNN, Fox News and NBC; and three major European news outlets.
The study also found there was "not a single major topic where Trump’s coverage was more positive than negative." Ninety-six percent of all immigration coverage was negative; the highest for any topic. Health care and Russia and the election tied for second, with an 87/13 negative/positive split.
Trump fares relatively well when outlets focus on the economy, with 54 percent of the coverage counted as negative and 46 percent as positive.
According to the study, "Presidents are more than the main focus of U.S. reporters. Presidents are also their main target. Although journalists are accused of having a liberal bias, their real bias is a preference for the negative. News reporting turned sour during the Vietnam and Watergate eras and has stayed that way.
"Journalists’ incentives, everything from getting their stories on the air to acquiring a reputation, as a hard-hitting reporter, encourage journalists to focus on what’s wrong with politicians rather than what’s right.
"Once upon a time, the “honeymoon” period for a newly inaugurated president included favorable press coverage. That era is now decades in the past. Today’s presidents can expect rough treatment at the hands of the press, and Donald Trump is no exception. Of the past four presidents, only Barack Obama received favorable coverage during his first 100 days, after which the press reverted to form. During his second 100 days, Obama’s coverage was 57 percent negative to 43 percent positive."
I find that true even in our microcosm of CityWatch readers. I get far more response to a mostly negative article than I do when I write about people who are doing positive things.
In reading some of the reactions to the Harvard report I was still taken aback by the vitriolic comments. There were no major surprises here. The press has assumed an adversarial relationship with government since the Vietnam War. But no one threw brick bats at Walter Cronkite and Edgar R. Murrow...they were the personification of truth and wisdom.
If they weren't...don't tell me. Let me have my illusions!
It is true that personality and showmanship are the major attributes of many of our TV news personalities. Some look good and read well. Some view their profession as a "cause" and I for one don't want to see restrictions on a free press.
On the other hand (my Libra fair and balanced outlook) I would like to see some changes before I revert back from just reading the "News" headlines on my iPhone.
Why, as an example, does everyone have to comment on the President's tweets? Couldn't there be an unwritten policy where they are collected and released on Saturday for news entertainment? He has proven over the years that he craves press coverage and maybe if less attention were paid to his tweets, he might be more tempered. It’s the press coverage that keeps him going.
Sure, he has millions of Twitter followers, though admittedly some Bots, but nothing like the numbers that he gets with all the TV and radio coverage. President Obama used one-on-one interviews; he did over a 1000 of those but at least they were two-sided.
I have been an MSNBC "Morning Joe" fan for several years. I did take umbrage at Joe's patriarchal treatment of his co-host Mika Brzezinski on many occasions, but I chalked it up to his being a conservative Republican. Now that they are engaged, Mika knows what she is getting into!
Every morning, since last year's election, almost without exception Morning Joe has been devoted to Trump bashing. I used to enjoy their eclectic panel of guests representing different points of view, but now most of them are the same, rotated through the week. Instead of discussing topics with a depth of knowledge, too much is just partisan prattle. I still DVR it since watching at three o'clock in the morning Pacific Time a bit much, but I tend to fast forward a lot. For those of you now saying, "I always knew she was a liberal," I’m also a regular viewer of Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.
Cable news stations all fill their 24 hours with not just the same news but with many of the same guests. CNN does make an effort to have a mix of Democrats and Republicans but I swear they look for the most ridiculous Republican spokespeople they can find. There are some bright thoughtful Republicans out there who back up their statements with real information; I have even met some of them. But CNN is showing its liberal bias by choosing only stooges as on-air Republican guests.
The Harvard study concluded with what I think is excellent advice:
"The press should also start doing what it hasn’t done well for a long time... focus on policy effects. Journalists’ focus on the Washington power game who’s up and with some who’s down, who’s getting the better of whom—can be a fascinating story but at the end of the day, it’s food for political junkies. It’s remote enough from the lives of most Americans to convince them that the political system doesn’t speak for them, or to them.
"A broadening of the scope of political coverage would require journalists to spend less time peering at the White House. Our analysis of news coverage of Trump’s first 100 days found that, except for his court-challenged immigration orders, the press paid only minimal attention to Trump’s executive orders. He issued a large number of them, covering everything from financial regulation to climate change.
"Collectively, these orders, immigration aside, accounted for less than 1 percent of Trump’s coverage, and rarely did a news report track an executive order into the agencies to see how it was being handled."
Not enough attention is being paid to deregulation and other executive orders pushed out by the White House. It would be helpful to have more experts and less politicians on the news panels.
We depend on a free and responsible press, but it works both ways. As readers and "watchers" we have a responsibility to use our abilities to become informed. And journalists need to accept responsibility to help make sure we have an educated, knowledgeable electorate.
As always comments welcome…
(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist. She is a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: Denyse@CityWatchLA.com). Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.