Donald Trump has been taking the polls by storm, winning state after state in the presidential primaries. He has had so much success he is currently the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. As the election season continues to wind on, I constantly find myself asking how an abrasive, rude, rash man with no political experience can be doing so well.
The more I have thought about it, the more I realize much of Trump’s rise in the polls is likely related the amount of attention he receives from the media.
There is a common saying that “all publicity is good publicity,” and in this case, that is true. Early on in the presidential campaigns, Trump started gaining attention because he chose not to act like a politician. He openly criticized others, demeaned minority groups and didn’t care what anyone had to say about it. Trump’s actions on a presidential campaign were simply unprecedented, and early on the media ate it up.
According to a recent analysis conducted by Media Matters, a nonprofit media-related research and information organization, Trump received $29.7 million in free airtime on Fox News from May 2015 to the end of the year. While Trump appeared on the network for about 23 hours, none of the other candidates had more than 10 hours on the same network.
Other networks like ABC, CBS and NBC had a combined total of 17 hours of coverage related to the presidential campaign on their weekday nightly newscast for 2015, according to the Tyndall Report. Trump, of course, had the most coverage with 327 minutes total, which is 32 percent of the total time dedicated to all candidates. Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic Party who had the second-most coverage, only had a total of 121 minutes combined on all three networks last year. Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders and Marco Rubio only had about 20 minutes on those same nightly newscasts.
Clearly, media outlets have favored Trump and for obvious reasons since he is so outlandish. But this is problematic, not just because it gives Trump an enormous advantage over the other candidates, but also because it has turned this election into a reality TV show.
Every time Trump says something crazy and unfathomable, you can pretty much guarantee you will see almost every outlet talking about it in some way. I mean, why not? As someone who is striving to have a career in broadcast journalism, I can understand that it happens because Trump’s large personality draws in viewers and can easily be sensationalized. It’s exciting, it’s different and it’s something that never seems to get old.
Plain and simple, it is easy election coverage, but it’s not necessarily the best election coverage. The comical and absolutely ridiculous sound bites have in a way created this perception that this election is more like a reality TV show rather than an actual election to elect a president that will be the commander-in-chief of our country. In a way sometimes it feels more like I’m watching the “Real Housewives” or “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” instead of election coverage.
I know this article is ironic since I am part of the media, but in this case I am not paying attention to the candidate, but rather the systematic problem of sensationalism found in today’s media.
The way the media has played into Trump’s character over the course of this election has only increased his popularity. Instead of giving him hours of free airtime on networks every time he says something politically incorrect, it would be better to give candidates a more equal share of attention and to remember that not everything sensational is actually newsworthy.
Jessica Babb is a junior journalism and political science major from Harker Heights. She is broadcast managing editor for the Lariat.