As political scientist Bernard Cohen put it, the press “may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling them what to think about.”
The Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy analyzed news coverage during the 2016 general election from January 1st to November 8th, 2016. The study titled “News Coverage of the 2016 General Election: How the Press Failed the Voters” flies in the face of the narrative that the Russians gave the election to Trump. Even MediaMatters for America agrees with the Harvard study and goes further to blame the “Fakestream Media” for Hillary Clinton’s loss.
In a MediaMatters column titled “Post-Mortem: How 2016 Broke Political Journalism” Matt Gertz writes:
The [2016 Presidential] campaign broke political journalism. Despite the vast differences between the two candidates, the message media consumers heard from journalists was that to an equal extent, both candidates were flawed.
In fact, according to Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics and Public Policy, which reviewed an analysis of news reports in major newspapers and cable and broadcast networks from January 1, 2015, through November 7, 2016, the conventional candidate actually received a higher proportion of negative coverage over the course of the campaign.
Gertz goes on to point out:
In a prescient July 2015 essay, reporter and Clinton biographer Jonathan Allen explained that over the course of her career, “coverage of Hillary Clinton differs from coverage of other candidates for the presidency,” and warned that the “difference encourages distortions that will ultimately affect the presidential race.” He pointed out the reason public perception of Clinton is distorted: because “the media assumes that Clinton is acting in bad faith unless there’s hard evidence otherwise” and outlets are willing to serve as a vector for unhinged, unfair, or false attacks on her character.
Here, according to MediaMatters, is the real reason for Hillary Clinton’s loss in one graphic:
It was media coverage of Hillary’s email servers, stupid, not the Russians.
Overall, however, editors and executives at major media outlets failed in their responsibility to present to their audience the full picture of the election in proper context, instead providing disproportionate scrutiny to relatively minor Clinton “scandals” in a way that ultimately resulted in a skewed picture of the election.
And that’s because the political press was unable to adapt its methods and practices to a dramatically different election season. In typical elections, news outlets often treat both major presidential candidates as relatively similar — comparing their flaws, scrutinizing their respective scandals, and framing the vote as a choice between two comparable options.
But this was not a normal election between two comparable choices. That sort of equivalency could not hope to provide viewers and readers with an accurate picture of this unusual race. And on balance, the press did not rise to this unique challenge.
Even after 16 months on the campaign trail, political journalists never figured out how to accurately depict the unprecedented nature of Trump’s candidacy…
So, even MediaMatters says it was the Fakestream Media who did in Hillary Clinton.
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