Saturday, 28 January 2017

The US media need to improve their Trump coverage

If you’ve dragged yourself out of bed at any point over the last few weeks, you will have heard about the ‘leaked' Russian dossier stating crude things that President Trump allegedly did in Moscow some years ago. Although many news sites admit that it had been on their radar for a while now, they had decided not to publish it because the provenance wasn’t even slightly credible. Enter BuzzFeed. 

BuzzFeed published the dossier and sparked a media frenzy as mainstream news organisations (such as the BBC and CNN) started to report the story too - admittedly, in a more delicate kind of way. In a press conference following the reports, President Trump slammed CNN as “fake news” and wouldn’t take their question whilst he condemned BuzzFeed as a “failing pile of garbage”.

CNN has a network that reaches millions of people every day meaning when they lay a blow in to President Trump, it has impact. However, if CNN continue to run with stories with little evidence to support it, the impact of their scrutiny will start to diminish. I use CNN as an example but this is the same for any news organisation which decided to report on the Russian dossier.

As for BuzzFeed, they've always been a lost cause in my eyes. I commend them for being a large part of the investigation that exposed the malpractice at Kids Company and for having such a large network. However, their habit of publishing sketchy stories and then saying “it’s up to the reader to decide whether it is true or not” undermines their status as a news organisation and makes the whole news industry untrustworthy.

Another reason, news organisations in general should clamp down on their coverage of Trump controversies is because none of them stick. He is a snake sliding effortlessly though a field of scandals. Analysis of newspaper headlines after the election showed that Clinton’s consistent criticism was for her deleted emails yet there were dozens of Trump scandals. Muslim-ban-gate, Mexicans-are-rapists-gate, sexual-assault-allegations-gate, women-who-have-abortions-should-be-punished-gate, and grab-them-by-the-pussy-gate - to name a few. 

Chart via Media Matters
The more scrutiny the better, right? Wrong. Unlike Clinton’s deleted emails, most of Trump’s scandals could only be explored superficially because it was only a matter of days before the next one came along. This meant that the significance of Clinton’s deleted email was blown way out of proportion because the coverage spanned many months.

If liberal news organisations are trying to turn Trump voters off Trump, they need to realise that controversies don’t repel his supporters. In fact, they make him appear politically incorrect thus anti-establishment (like what many Americans desire). Instead, news organisations should really start scrutinising his policy decisions. The first steps have already been made to repeal Obamacare which could cause 18 million people to lose health insurance. This is an issue which needs far more attention than what it is getting. By covering this extensively, the liberal media might win over some Trump voters but, more importantly, they would be doing an effective job of holding the President to account.

Credit where credit is due though, Vox is getting a name for itself producing in-depth policy analysis. Just before the Obama administration ended they held an hour-long interview on Obamacare and its future. Plus, they have recently also published pieces on possible Supreme Court nominations, Trump killing the TPP free trade deal, and Trump’s plan to cut Medicade. These are all matters of serious substance which need scrutinising and exploring in order for voters to understand what Trump’s administration is achieving. Sadly, at the moment, not many news organisations are rising to that challenge and instead opt to publish the platitude entertaining scandal stories.

To conclude, although it acts as excellent click-bait, the media should try and report less on the next alleged Trump scandal and, instead, home in on the many executive orders he has been signing this week and what they will mean for the American people. As for BuzzFeed, they should go back to publishing quizzes about which character from Friends I would be – and nothing else.

Sources: Washington Post,  Media Matters