Was the media the biggest loser of the primaries?
posted at 2:01 pm on June 20, 2016 by Jazz Shaw
Bernie Sanders is probably the most famous loser of the Democratic primary (assuming James Comey doesn’t ride to his rescue by asking for an indictment prior to the last week in July) and the list of “losers” on the GOP side is too long to recount yet again here. But was the biggest loser of all the American mainstream media? Our friend Andrew Malcolm (better known as the Prince of Twitter, in case you’re unfortunate enough not to be following him yet) examines the media’s role in the primary battles this cycle and ponders whether the blame lies more on the Fourth Estate’s talking heads or the voters themselves.
The contemporary press has fallen on tough times for a variety of reasons we’ll explore. But in the summer of 2016, media have found, not of their own choosing, a major new role in this cycle’s politics of presidential selection: Whipping boy.
Hillary Clinton ignores the mainstream media, granting few interviews and only to select mainstream outlets that don’t pose the kinds of persistent hardball questions Republicans confront…
Perhaps you’ve noticed, Donald Trump flaunts wealth with his own gold-fauceted 757 that bears his trademarked name in large letters visible from the ground. He even does flyovers before outdoor events to allow supporters to witness the arrival in his aluminum chariot.
More importantly, the reality-show celebrity has made media-bashing a regular talking point and easy applause line.
Let’s face it. We have one presumptive nominee who may or may not be on the verge of facing serious felony charges and another who is… well, he’s Donald Trump, with all that entails. If this election has turned into a mess, I suppose we’ll have to blame someone once the dust finally settles, but how much of a role did the print and cable news media play in it all? Andrew talks about, inattentive Americans in their messy, raucous decision-making process, and it’s true that the final credit (or blame, if you prefer) goes to them. But the media is, by definition, where much of the information which drives that messy decision-making process originates. Can at least some of the blame be placed on their doorstep?
Nothing is ever quite that black and white. Some media figures have accounted themselves quite well (for the most part) and seen their fortunes rise, while others have been left looking less than prescient in their analysis, to put it kindly. The Hill offers one breakdown of the halls of heroes and villains this week, so let’s see who scored the best and the worst in their estimation.
First the winners:
- Megyn Kelly
- Hugh Hewitt
- Jake Tapper
- Steve Kornacki
- Ben Ginsberg
- John Dickerson
- Morning Joe
- Chuck Todd
And the losers:
- National Review
- Bill Kistol
- Nate Silver
- “The Anti-Trumpists: George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Glenn Beck, Erick Erickson”
- Melissa Harris-Perry
I can’t do an analysis of all of these selections without this turning into a novel, but there are a few candidates in each category worthy of mention. As far as the winners go, it’s tough to argue with Megyn Kelly as a choice. (With apologies to all Trump supporters.) She didn’t ask any questions at that first debate which were out of line but quickly became target number one. Her ratings remain solid and her name recognition is clearly up, so she survived at a minimum and flourished a bit at best. Hugh Hewitt was probably one of the biggest winners. He was already a national staple of conservative radio and widely respected, but he’s since moved on to hosting presidential debates and being sought out for commentary on virtually every news network. (Disclosure: Hugh broadcasts on the Salem network, part of our parent company. He’s also someone I’ve come to consider a friend and media mentor.) Jake Tapper was already a widely respected star in the news game who plays it equally tough with politicians from both sides. He’s had a couple of stumbles, in my opinion, but overall he remains one of the most reliable. The big question mark on that list is Steve Kornacki, who does seem to be getting more face time on MSNBC throughout the day, but hasn’t really expanded his reach beyond that or varied his hard liberal leanings.
And the losers? Yes, National Review went all in on #NeverTrump to an almost embarrassing degree and if you’re rating them on the effectiveness of their efforts they seem to have utterly failed. But the fact is that they are a conservative opinion outlet and they made their collective opinions known… forcefully. I’m not sure that makes them “losers” in this game. The same can probably be said for the collective cited by The Hill comprised of George Will, Kruthammer, Beck and Erickson. There was a lot of opposition and even scheming to take down The Donald, but the fact that he succeeded in the primary can’t be dropped entirely at their doorsteps. Nate Silver got some numbers wrong (wildly so) but he’s in the business of prognostication and you’re going to miss one eventually. And lastly, I’m not sure why the now unemployed (in media) Melissa Harris-Perry is on the list. She didn’t fall from grace over anything to do with Trump or Clinton. She threw a bit of a tantrum over her show being preempted for election coverage and rebelled against her bosses wanting her to talk about the election (the biggest political story of the season by far) rather than her Social Justice Warrior themed programming. As a result she walked off the job at one point and her bosses canned her. That’s not really a failing generated by the election.
Feel free to share your own picks. Who is at fault and who won or lost? And going back to Andrew’s point, are we being too quick to “blame” the media when perhaps we should be looking in the mirror instead?