The media's obsession with the Trump-Russia story by the numbers

Tuesday the Media Research Center (MRC) published a breakdown of the media’s fixation on the Trump-Russia story. Since May 17th when Robert Mueller was appointed as special prosecutor to investigate the case, the networks evening newscasts have devoted 55 percent of all coverage of the President and his top advisers to this story. From Newsbusters:

For this report, MRC analysts reviewed all 364 evening news stories — totaling nearly 640 minutes — that discussed President Trump or other top administration officials. Of those, 246 were full reports focused solely on the administration; the rest were brief, anchor-read items (36), or stories about other topics that included some mention of the administration (82).

The Russia investigation was by far the dominant topic in these stories, totaling 353 minutes of airtime, or more than half of all Trump coverage during this period. The Russia story was featured or mentioned in 171 evening news stories (126 full reports, seven brief, anchor items and another 38 mentions in stories on other topics).

ABC’s World News Tonight was the most enraptured by the Russia story, devoting 134 minutes to the investigation, or nearly two-thirds (63%) of all of its Trump news during this period. The CBS Evening Newschurned out 124 minutes of Russia news (54% of its Trump coverage), while NBC Nightly News spent a total of 95 minutes talking about the investigation (48% of its overall Trump coverage).

Fox News put together this graphic based on MRC’s findings. It shows the breakdown of various topics being covered by the network newscasts:

Newsbusters also found 1/3 of all the stories on Russia were based on anonymous sources. You can certainly argue that a different emphasis from the networks wouldn’t necessarily be better for the Trump administration. For instance, spending more time talking about Obamacare repeal, which is very unpopular according to polls, probably wouldn’t be a boon to the White House. But at least that’s a real policy issue which, one way or another, will connect to the lives of millions of people.

Meanwhile, the Trump-Russia story, which has been sucking all of the oxygen out of the room for months, has yet to change much of anything. Even if we eventually learn that some tangential figure (Paul Manafort?) did something questionable, will it justify this level of intense focus month after month?

The Democrats have created and perpetuated a circus atmosphere to keep this story in the news day after day. Frankly, President Trump sometimes plays into that on Twitter, feeding the story unnecessarily. But none of this is getting him, the Democrats or the networks anywhere. Democrats have at least belatedly realized they have created a monster and have started to dial back the Russia story. Will the networks take the hint and do likewise of will they let the fixation lead to further embarrassment? Right now, if pressed, I’d bet on further embarrassment.