The local newspaper had two articles dealing with the two major party Presidential candidates this morning. The one featuring Donald Trump was headlined,“Trump not only billionaire who turned to politics.” The one featuring Hillary Clinton was entitled “Promises by Clinton Might be hard to keep.” Both articles were of two columns, and both featured pictures of the candidates speaking, and both were set at the same height on the page opposite the editorial page, which did not feature an endorsement.
The “problems” story only dealt with Clinton’s possible difficulties in keeping her promises on taxes and the deficit and debt, and did not mention at all the fiscal impossibilities of Trump’s tax plans. The “Billionaire” story mentioned that, while Trump was the first U.S. billionaire to seek the presidency, other wealthy Americans, such as Herbert Hoover and George W. Bush, had sought and won the Presidency. It then went on to mention billionaires in other countries who had been elected to high office.
The superficial fairness reveals the editorial set of the paper without ever actually declaring a stance. First, whoever wins is going to have problems keeping their promises, and it’s more likely that Trump will actually have more trouble doing so even if he has a Republican House and Senate, simply because he’s promised more that is impossible, given technical, legal, Constitutional, and economic limitations. Yet by highlighting only Clinton’s difficulties the editors have created the impression that Trump is more “reasonable” and practical.
This is only one newspaper, and I’m more than certain that other news media have done the same thing, in a way to benefit one candidate or the other, but what bothers me about this is that, in years past, there was at least a vestige of impartial coverage. When the supposed “news” media engage in deception, whether overt or covert, this erodes their credibility – something that, ironically, Trump has charged repeatedly, especially when the media has been brutally factual about his foibles, and something which may have benefited him more than Clinton.
And, whether I like Trump or not, the issue he’s raised is real, despite the fact that the very reason he’s become a viable candidate is exactly because the media has turned from an emphasis on factual reporting to an emphasis on sensation and dollars. The more sensationalism becomes the basis of supposed “reporting,” the less that reporting is trusted, yet paradoxically, the more effective it becomes in reinforcing people’s personal biases, because most people, knowing the media is not impartial, more and more pick out only that news that suits their mindset to accept as “true.”
In essence, then, the emphasis on the bottom line not only bolsters profits, but boosts societal polarization at a time when we need more societal cooperation, not less. And I have yet to see anyone in the media who seems to recognize this. If there is, and there may well be, they certainly haven’t gotten media coverage. Go figure that.