With Election Day just around the corner, we can all agree on one thing about the 2016 presidential race: we have never seen anything quite like this election cycle. With the expansion of news platforms, news media has been incredibly influential with its reporting of the presidential race, by pushing controversies and adding multiple layers of complexity to an already exhausting election. With this said, has the media done more harm than good?
The Trump campaign’s rigged election theory originated from the belief that there is a mass conspiracy by the press to sink the GOP candidate, by focusing on negative news stories (racist and sexist comments, rape accusations, lack of transparency and countless other screw-ups), all in an attempt to hand over the presidency to Clinton. What the campaign discounts is the fact that Trump has received more media coverage than any other candidate. This press advantage created momentum for his campaign and ultimately elevated him to where he is today, the Republican nominee for President.
In the early stages of the election cycle, Clinton was the front runner and mainstream media darling, but the media honeymoon ended abruptly during the Democratic primaries. Clinton being the presumptive nominee and failing to overtake Sanders early on, resulted in negative press and an overall more critical tone. Today, history is repeating itself, largely due to Clinton’s inability to dominate Trump in the general election and the reincarnation of her email scandals.
The media does not generally favor certain candidates and there is no secret agenda to sway elections. It all comes down to the media’s need to focus on the horse race, and the scandals that overshadow the issues that matter. Which begs the question: does media manipulate its coverage to force a tight race? It certainly helps with the ratings…
We might never recover after this election’s news coverage, which also created a new precedent for how future elections will be covered, but at least we now know where the new bar has been set.
How well, or poorly, do you think the media has covered this election? Leave a comment below or email [email protected].
Gus Nodal is public relations senior executive at Landis Communications Inc. with over a decade of media relations and political strategy experience.