TV news coverage ignores Sanders, puffs Trump

Public opinion polls show Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders with roughly equivalent public support.  Yet Trump dominates TV news coverage while Sanders is hardly even noticed.

Eric Boehlert of Media Matters quoted these results from a survey called the Tyndall Report.

The network newscasts are wildly overplaying Trump, who regularly attracts between 20-30 percent of primary voter support, while at the same time wildly underplaying Sanders, who regularly attracts between 20-30 percent of primary voter support. [snip]

Obviously, Trump is the GOP frontrunner and it’s reasonable that he would get more attention than Sanders, who’s running second for the Democrats.  But 234 total network minutes for Trump compared to just 10 network minutes for Sanders, as the Tyndall Report found?

Andrew Tyndall provided the breakdown by network of Sanders’ 10 minutes of coverage, via email … :

  • CBS Evening News: 6.4 minutes
  • NBC Nightly News: 2.9 minutes
  • ABC World News: 0.3 minutes

But how can that be?  ABC News, for instance, clearly devoted more than 20 seconds to covering the Democratic debates, which featured news of Sanders, right?

As Tyndall explained to me, the number “counts stories filed about the Sanders campaign or from the Sanders campaign.  Obviously he is mentioned in passing in other coverage of the Democratic field overall, specifically his performance in the debates.”

So in terms of stand-alone campaign stories this year, it’s been 234 minutes for Trump, compared to 10 minutes for Sanders.  And at ABC World News Tonight, it’s been 81 minutes for Trump and less than one minute for Sanders.

Other Tyndall Report findings:

  • Trump has received more network coverage than all the Democratic candidates combined.
  • Trump has accounted for 27 percent of all campaign coverage his year.
  • Republican Jeb Bush received 56 minutes of coverage, followed by Ben Carson’s 54 minutes and Marco Rubio’s 22.

Did you notice the Bush figure?  He’s garnered 56 minutes of network news coverage, far outpacing Sanders, even though he is currently wallowing in fifth place in the polls among Republicans.

And you know who has also received 56 minutes of network news compared to Sanders’ 10?  Joe Biden and his decision not to run for president.

Source: Media Matters for America

Hillary Clinton does get a lot of coverage, but it’s mostly about e-mails and Benghazi.

Why the disparity?

It could be that the corporate moguls who control the big broadcast networks and newspaper chains see Bernie Sanders and what he stands for as a threat.  But I think the answer is more that somebody such as Sanders—an avowed socialist, without big money behind him, talking seriously about bread-and-butter issues—is outside their frame of reference.

As Upton Sinclair said long ago, it is hard to make somebody understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it.

Another reason Trump and, to some extent, the other Republican candidates get disproportionate coverage is that both he and the big TV networks appeal to primary emotions—outrage, disgust, shock and above all, fear—rather than the rational mind.   Tom Engelhardt, in the article linked below, describes this very well.

Trump gets TV coverage because he is a natural fit for TV news.  That’s true even of Fox News, which is trying to take Trump down.

I could of course be wrong about all this, but the motive doesn’t really matter.

What matters is the fact of the news blackout of Bernie Sanders.


Winners and Losers in Our New Media Moment by Tom Engelhardt for TomDispatch.

Report: ABC World News Tonight Has Devoted 81 Minutes to Trump, One Minute to Sanders by Eric Boehlert for Media Matters.

Fear not: More Americans support Bernie Sanders than Donald Trump – no matter what the TV says by Travis Gettys for Raw Story.


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2 Responses to “TV news coverage ignores Sanders, puffs Trump”

  1. Holden Says:

    I really don’t think Sander’s lack of coverage has anything to do with his socialist platform. Donald Trump was/is a reality TV superstar.

    Trump is simply smart enough to know how to manipulate the media and get the attention. He apparently spends no money on promotion either (as the post above suggests why Sanders might not be getting the coverage).

    Personally, I think if Trump really wanted to win, he’d secretly promote Sanders just to edge out Clinton. Once they’re nose to nose in the election, no way Sanders could beat Trump, just do to media prowess alone.


    • Jeff Lewis Says:

      Perhaps it is not so much how ‘smart’ Trump is, but that he is just a natural performer, fitting the need of media to easily fill air-time with compelling entertainment. So, if this is the case, there are two major elements of our present failed ‘news’ system: (1) the people running our news shows are solely about making money (which means manipulating coverage to draw more money) and they do not care to expend resources objectively questioning and researching; and (2) entertainers prevail over substance (same thing happened with Reagan in 1980?). Both elements have led us to a point where critical thinking is gone; not being done by Edward Murrow types, and not by the vast majority of voters, who instead focus on shopping or the playoffs.

      If Sanders gets past Hillary, he will win, easily. There are so many people hurting in this country, and things are clearly worsening on the whole. And, the blatant crony capitalism practiced by both GOP and neoliberal Clinton-types has just gotten out of control, and infuriates too many people at all points on the liberal-conservative spectrum.


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