Thursday, December 08, 2016

The Media Failed The Public During The 2016 Campaign

These charts are from a study done of how the media covered the 2016 campaign. The study was done by the Harvard Kennedy School's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy.

As you can see from scanning these charts, the media did a poor job of covering the election campaign. The top chart shows that the negativity of the media coverage was one of the worst since 1960 (with only the 2000 campaign being more negative in coverage.

The second chart shows that negative coverage was on both candidates -- although when the entire campaign was considered, Clinton had more negative coverage (62%) than Trump (56%). The third chart shows that Trump received significantly more coverage than Clinton did throughout the campaign. And the fourth chart shows that only a pitiful 10% of media coverage was about the policy stands of the candidates -- with the press being far more concerned with the horserace (who was winning), controversies, and other things.

The fifth and sixth carts show the negative and positive coverage of Trump -- and the seventh and eighth charts show the negative and positive coverage of Clinton. The final chart shows the increase in "scandal" coverage of Clinton by the media as the campaign concluded.

Taking all these charts into consideration, it's easy to see why the general public was disgusted with the presidential campaign and both major candidates. The media seems to have gone out of its way to create that disgust.

Here is part of the conclusion of the Harvard study:

A healthy dose of negativity is unquestionably a good thing. There’s a lot of political puffery, ineptitude, and manipulation that needs to be exposed, and journalists would be shirking their duty if they failed to expose it. Yet an incessant stream of criticism has a corrosive effect. It needlessly erodes trust in political leaders and institutions and undermines confidence in government and policy.
Negative news has partisan consequences. Given that journalists bash both sides, it might be thought the impact would be neutral. It’s not. For one thing, indiscriminate criticism has the effect of blurring important distinctions. Were the allegations surrounding Clinton of the same order of magnitude as those surrounding Trump? It’s a question that journalists made no serious effort to answer during the 2016 campaign. They reported all the ugly stuff they could find, and left it to the voters to decide what to make of it. Large numbers of voters concluded that the candidates’ indiscretions were equally disqualifying and made their choice, not on the candidates’ fitness for office, but on less tangible criteria—in some cases out of a belief that wildly unrealistic promises could actually be kept.
False equivalencies abound in today’s reporting. When journalists can’t, or won’t, distinguish between allegations directed at the Trump Foundation and those directed at the Clinton Foundation, there’s something seriously amiss. And false equivalencies are developing on a grand scale as a result of relentlessly negative news. If everything and everyone is portrayed negatively, there’s a leveling effect that opens the door to charlatans. The press historically has helped citizens recognize the difference between the earnest politician and the pretender. Today’s news coverage blurs the distinction.
Indiscriminate criticism also works against the party in power. If voters think everything is bad or going downhill, some of them invariably think that it’s time for a change. In our two-party system, that handicaps the in-party, whether a Republican or Democratic administration. It’s hard for those in power to maintain public support if their policy successes get little note and their shortcomings draw headlines.
An irony of the press’s critical tendency is that it helps the right wing. Although conservatives claim that the press has a liberal bias, the media’s persistent criticism of government reinforces the right wing’s anti-government message. For years on end, journalists have told news audiences that political leaders are not to be trusted and that government is inept. And when journalists turn their eye to society, they highlight the problems and not the success stories. The news creates a seedbed of public anger, misperception, and anxiety— sitting there waiting to be tapped by those who have a stake in directing the public’s wrath at government.
It’s ironic, too, that negative news erodes trust in the press, which is now at its lowest level in the history of polling. Watchdog reporting can build confidence in the press, but when journalists condemn most everything they see, they set themselves up to be as credible as the boy who repeatedly cried “wolf.” In the closing days of the 2016 campaign, the nation’s editorial rooms rang the alarm bell, warning voters not to make the choice that many of them seemed ready to make. It went for naught. The watchdog had lost its bite, as well as the respect of the public it claims to serve.  In a Pew Research Center survey taken shortly after the November 2016 balloting, only one in five respondents gave the press a grade of “B” or higher for its performance. Four of five graded its performance as a “C” or lower, with half of them giving it an “F.”

1 comment:

  1. Showing that any publicity is good in the public's braindead eye!


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