It’s been hypothesized by numerous journalists that the rise of Donald Trump can be attributed to the grossly excessive coverage of the candidate by the mainstream media.
Networks such as CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News have given Trump over $2 billion worth of free media coverage, which is appalling considering we are dealing with a racist bigot whose candidacy should have been treated as a joke from day one.
A study by Harvard University discovered that thanks to the endless coverage, Trump’s poll numbers and fundraising actually rose: “He was neither leading in fundraising nor in the polls when his exaggerated coverage began…he was lifted to that height by an unprecedented amount of free media.”
It wasn’t just that the media was relentlessly talking about Trump—it was the fact that they legitimized and normalized the ridiculous ideas he was putting forth, framing him as a candidate worthy of consideration.
The study points out that, “Trump’s coverage was positive in tone,” rather than critical of his complete lack of logic and policy.
“Trump is arguably the first bona fide media-created presidential nominee. Although he subsequently tapped a political nerve, journalists fueled his launch… Trump couldn’t compete with the likes of Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or Jeb Bush on the basis of his political standing or following. The politics of outrage was his edge, and the press became his dependable if unwitting ally,” the study argues.
Journalists for outlets such as the Washington Post have already admitted culpability in their excessive coverage of Trump, but news networks still seem loathe to admit that they had anything to do with Trump’s growing populism.
As the study put it, “Trump exploited [journalists’] lust for riveting stories.” This is essentially journalistic malpractice, but it is what happens when journalists are forced to compete for viewership thanks to ownership by large corporations such as Time Warner and Comcast.
The media undoubtedly played a crucial role in allowing Trump to spread his rhetoric, and considering where this election is headed, it might have been a permanently detrimental choice.
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