There are some hurt feelings over at Media Matters for America this week and they all boil down to a study in cable news metrics. Since there is unlimited time to be filled in a seemingly endless campaign season, someone has taken the time to measure how many hours of coverage the various cable news outlets have allotted to live speeches given by the two presidential candidates. To the surprise of nobody, Trump has gotten a slightly larger slice of the pie and that’s just not fair gosh darn it! (AT&T Live News)
The three biggest cable news networks spent more time covering live Donald Trump rallies than they did for Hillary Clinton in September, with the widest disparity at Fox News Channel.
A study released by the liberal watchdog Media Matters for America said Fox aired 7 hours, 32 minutes of coverage from Republican Trump events, compared with 3 hours, 25 minutes for Clinton, the Democratic candidate.
It was much closer at CNN (5:18 Trump, 5:04 Clinton) and MSNBC (5:48 Trump, 5:14 Clinton).
Without taking these claims too seriously here, there are two points about this argument which we need to keep in mind:
Let’s face it. Trump is just more interesting to watch
Cable news is a business like any other and their profits depend on keeping people tuned in to their network. Trump delivers the kind of catnip that producers want to put on the air. He rarely works off a teleprompter and his meandering, stream of consciousness comments take him down any number of rabbit holes. These are the moments which produce the highlight reels that cable news thrives on. The Donald basically writes the scripts for all of his detractors on cable discussion roundtables as he goes and helps to fill the empty wasteland of the 24 hour news cycle. Why wouldn’t they give him more coverage?
By comparison, the greatest danger posed by Hillary Clinton’s events is having the camera operator fall asleep. Her speeches are focus group tested to the point of exhaustion and completely predictable. She strings together lies and misdirection about her many shortcomings and scandals on the rare occasions where she chooses to address them and mixes them with vague promises of pipe dreams she will somehow deliver as president. Her attacks on Trump mostly likely come from the offices of Media Matters to begin with and they are word for word the same things already being said by all of her surrogates. It’s not exactly compelling television.
Giving Trump more coverage hasn’t exactly hurt Hillary Clinton
There’s an old adage which assures us that any media coverage is good as long as they spell your name correctly. But as with so many other things in this topsy-turvy election season, Trump has proven this long held belief to be wrong. Yes, the news networks are covering his speeches, but rather than expanding on any policy points he might be making, they are almost uniformly used as platforms for analysts and even news anchors to immediately attack him. We’re used to seeing Republicans get the short end of the stick on campaign analysis, but Trump has been the subject of a media onslaught the likes of which I’ve never seen in an American election.
Normally it would be great news for a candidate to have their speeches covered more thoroughly, but that’s because too many candidates start the race badly in need of name recognition. That’s never been the problem for Trump. Everyone knows who he is and I doubt there are too many folks left who haven’t formed an opinion about him. But the cable news networks have largely made it their job to follow up every speech with a lengthy explanation as to why Trump is unfit to even share the planet’s oxygen with the rest of us, say nothing of being president.
Be careful what you wish for, liberals. You’re benefiting by having less time spent on Clinton. If cable news dedicated one third of the energy they spend on Trump to fully exploring all of Clinton’s claims and scandals she probably wouldn’t be polling in double digits.