Harvard University’s Shorenstein Institute on Media, Politics and Public Policy studied media coverage for Donald J. Trump’s first 100 days as president of the United States. What they found wasn’t surprising — but the reasons behind their findings were.
They found that media stories about Trump were negative a vast majority of the time — a record amount. (Negative coverage is defined as a story that would be deemed unfavorable in the eyes of the subject.) But the researchers didn’t find a partisan bias — instead, researchers said, they found a bias toward the negative.
In short, media coverage tends to be negative for all political candidates — and most presidents. As the researcher interviewed on NPR’s On the Media said, people accused mainstream media of trying to get Hillary Clinton elected, but the majority of news stories about Clinton were negative.
Overall, coverage of the president in his first 100 days — before the Russian inquiry took off — was 80 percent negative. That beats the record set by Bill Clinton, who did not have a single quarter when he was president where positive news coverage exceeded the negative coverage. (Some might say it’s his own fault; others would say the same about Trump.) It’s a record no president since has matched — but Trump’s negative news coverage could beat Clinton’s.
Trump also can’t claim he’s being ignored. He’s the topic of 41 percent of all news stories — and that’s more than three times the amount of coverage received by previous presidents.
And it’s not that Trump doesn’t speak out — he is the voice in his own coverage 61 percent of the time; Republicans as a whole make up 80 percent of the subjects interviewed. Democratic leaders are 6 percent of people interviewed in articles; protesters were 3 percent.
According to the study, news media turned negative in the days of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal. It’s grown increasingly negative in the years since.
And researchers believe that the overwhelmingly negative coverage equates to distrust of the media. The failure to cover positive items doesn’t necessarily mean those don’t exist, but reporters have an overwhelming tendency to go negative. It’s a better story, right?
And maybe we’re doing our profession an injustice. While we have an absolute responsibility to act as a watchdog of government, to seek the truth and report it, sometimes the truth is that there’s good news if we look for it. We need to share the positive right along with the issues that need to be addressed. If we can provide balance, people will find journalism — real journalism — relevant to their lives and their experiences once again.
While the Colorado Springs Business Journal is not an advocate for business — it’s a resource, providing a voice to industries small and large — we do believe in celebrating the good, right along with pointing out mistakes, misjudgments, wrong calls and issues.
It’s one reason we celebrate so many different kinds of businesses and community leaders: Best in Business, Healthiest Companies, Fastest Growing Companies, Women of Influence. We recognize that there’s a lot that is right about Colorado Springs — and we want people to talk about those successes.
It doesn’t mean that we shy away from covering the bad news, but we believe that balanced coverage does both. We don’t have an ax to grind here — but we are on a mission to be a comprehensive business resource for Southern Colorado.
That means providing the business communities of Colorado Springs, Pueblo, the Tri-Lakes, Fountain, Ute Pass and Teller County with news about how to improve their industries and ways to celebrate. It’s why we provide the Book of Lists — filled with countless resources and leads to target marketing, engage the business community and make the connections necessary for success. And it’s why we publish The Transcript, a newspaper that publishes legal notices, new business incorporations, new construction permits, deed transfers and marriage licenses — all ways to connect with new customers, find new prospects and the business services needed for success.
Our responsibility is to provide our readers and subscribers with news coverage that can make a difference in their business lives. We strive for stories without bias, neither always good nor always bad.
It’s not advocacy; it’s journalism.