The short answer is “yes and no”, but I offer the following three points for explanation.
- The big complaint that the Trump campaign has right now is that the media is paying too much attention to all of the sensational things that Trump is saying in his rallies and is ignoring the substantive things. However, the media has always been characterized as being drawn to sensational things. I’m reminded of the old newspaper adage which states, “Dog bites man is not a worthy story. Now, man bites dog…” Trump succeeds in biting dogs on a regular basis, and when you say ten things and one of them is outrageously sensational or controversial then you can only expect that this will receive disproportional attention. As it should. If you are running for president and you embed one outrageous statement among a slew of others, that one statement still speaks to your integrity. You can speak to all the wonderful things you might have done on a previous day and then, among them, state that you kicked a puppy. What do you think is going to be noted and talked about? As it should. It speaks to integrity, and whatever you may say on policy, integrity is (forgive the pun) a trump card.
- However, speaking of policy being included in speeches and rallies, one of the reasons that the media doesn’t report on it for Trump is that it is extremely meagre. “You pay attention to that one statement and ignore the rest,” is the standard complaint. I’ve paid attention to Trump speeches, and the fact is that with few exceptions Trump has remained true to his Primary strategy of providing lots of assertions but very little substance. How will you help minorities? By making this the best economy ever. How will you stop ISIS? Not telling you is the best tactic. How will you help the country? By making America great again. How will you improve health care? By getting rid of what we’ve got and replacing it with something better. The fact is that there’s not much substance to report, and what little there is such as allowing people to shop across borders for health insurance, is covered to the degree that they can along with the appropriate critical commentary. On the other hand, while still lacking substance in many areas, the Clinton side of the discussion is providing far more substance to report and discuss. This has been evident in the three Presidential Candidate debates. Simplistic and blanket assertions are difficult to report with any kind of rigor. Especially when allegations of being a sexual predator are looming in the background.
- In spite of this, I do believe that there is a lot of media bias in many areas. I, for example, would like to hear more details about some of the accusations against Clinton. Not the Benghazi and email server stuff. That, you have to admit, has been covered to death and certainly does not support any contention about media bias in her favour. But there are many other issues connected to her foundation and recently emerging emails that deserve scrutiny, whether justified or unjustified. With regard, for example, to the accusation of her having “attacked viciously” the 13 year old rape victim when defending her assailant, a little digging reveals a fantastic story of a totally botched prosecution. It was a great story, but why did I have to dig for an hour in order to uncover it? I’d like to hear a more substantive analysis of the whole “pay for play” scandal. I suspect there’s little to it, being much more smoke than fire or poor timing rather than actual criminal intent, but I don’t know, because CNN is so busy talking about Trump, that there’s little time to actually examine and disentangle these issues. I watch enough news that I should know as much about Clinton’s issues as I do Trump’s, but the fact is that I don’t. Here’s a web page that presents a lot of the Clinton controversies and debunks them, but I’d love to see the questions debated seriously so that I can confirm that these are the full stories. I suspect there’s at least a little more to them than is being presented in this article.
And then there’s the whole Bernie Sanders thing. There was no question that for the first half of his campaign he was deliberately ignored by the media. It should be a huge embarrassment for them. I remember one Sunday morning, after reading about a huge Sanders rally on the Internet, it got five seconds on CNN. And when they put up a picture of him, someone had accidentally put Hilary Clinton’s name underneath it. This was on a morning where Clinton got a fair bit of coverage, but, of course, Trump was the poster boy. Trump, if anything, has received so much free exposure from the media that claiming their bias against him now is nothing but laughable.
And therein lies one of the most important things that the media needs to soul search about after this circus is over. They have done a very poor journalistic job of covering the issues in this election. Time and time again I’ve seen discussions on CNN cut off to go to break just when they’ve begun to become substantive. And CNN is far from the only culprit. They are just the most obvious ones because they seem to suffer from some sort of ADD where they are incapable of concentrating on more than one issue at a time. They took the bait when Trump was just too outrageous to ignore in the Primary, helped create a monster, and now has to deal with it. They often claim, with justification, the exact same thing of the Republican Party, but miss the fact that they are equally guilty themselves. It was, I admit, an easy trap to fall into, but now there needs to be an effort to learn from the mistakes.
There are two good things that can potentially come out of this debacle of an election campaign. The first is for the media to examine their own role in that debacle and to reassert or redefine the role of journalism in enlightening the people rather than chasing ratings. The second is to recognize that the Trump supporters are real and need to be factored into the overall situation. The hard core Trump supporters are a faction that has long been dormant in American politics and found a crusader in Trump at a time when frustration with the Federal government was particularly high and when the Republican party and media were all too ready to fan the flames (before discovering that they couldn’t control the fire).