Written by Deiana Hristov
Published in the September 11, 2015 issue
On June 16, the media exploded. Donald Trump, one of America’s most notorious media moguls, announced his campaign for the presidency. Over the next few months, any coverage of other Republican candidates was washed away in a wave of Trumpmania. A new, interesting light was shed on the election as Trump’s absurdity drew in more and more people at the cost of unmuddled, unbiased information.
The amount of focus on Trump’s campaign is the very definition of a media circus. Even though he is just one of 17 Grand Old Party (GOP) candidates featured in the national polls, Trump is mentioned in 46 percent of Google News articles. The closest runner-up was Jeb Bush, who trailed at 13 percent. On July 20, The Washington Post estimated that Trump received between 20 and 30 percent of all GOP media coverage. Following the controversial Fox News debate on Aug. 6, Trump’s total airtime on major television networks made up 72 percent of all GOP candidate coverage.
This media coverage would be great if it centered on topics including Trump’s platform and policies. The focus, however, remains on topics like Trump mocking Jeb Bush on Instagram. This leads to people viewing the campaign as one big joke, and as a result, many Americans are not taking it seriously. This is a problem since Americans are the ones that decide who makes the major decisions for our country in the next four years, and will either vote for candidates that do not truly represent the nation’s interests, or not vote at all.
Right now, the other Republican Party candidates are left to eat Trump’s dust. What about the Democrats? The two most prominent candidates so far appear to be Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Coverage of Sanders has been scarce—the media has only focused on the unexpected number of people attending his rallies. Sanders is aware of this lack of coverage. During his announcement for candidacy, he called out the media’s tendency to focus on the flashy parts of the campaign: the scandals and the mudslinging. Sanders stated that he aims to talk about straightforward topics like unemployment, income inequality and foreign policy. These are not nearly as interesting as Trump’s newest antics, so the media has not covered it.
The other Democrat candidate regularly recurring in the media is Clinton. Her candidacy gives the media the perfect opportunity to drag out old and new scandals: Benghazi, Lewinsky and the recent email misconduct. The press’ attack on Clinton is not going unnoticed. 54 percent of Democratic party members think that the media is tougher on Clinton than it was in previous years.
The focus on political gossip is not always bad. The flashy parts of the election will attract more viewers, who will then have to educate themselves about the candidate’s political platforms to be able to follow the story. Hopefully these people will show interest in the actual politics, not just the juicy articles, and cast their votes as educated, opinionated citizens.
At the same time, the media is far from perfect. During an interview with CNN, Sanders slammed the media, saying that the media’s job is not to cover the scandals and personal lives of the candidates, but to present different points of view. And he is completely right. Instead of focusing on Deez Nuts, the fifteen-year-old who submitted an application for candidacy and polled at nine percent, or Clinton’s order at Chipotle (yes, that is a real article), the media should do its job by making sure the public is informed on important topics like the candidates’ platforms without bias or favoritism.
Our role, as students and consumers of media, is to take the media with a grain of salt, to try our best to seek out reliable information and to educate ourselves as best possible with the most trustworthy sources. If we do this, the media will follow by producing the type of content we want to see.