Photo: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

One year on – looking at media coverage of President Trump

It’s hard to believe we’ve passed 365 days of Trump. I don’t know about you, but his screen time seemed endless over the past year. And according to statistics released by the Media News Center, that’s because Trump took up a third of news airtime over the past year in the US, and it’s clearly trickled down to news stations further afield.

If Trump waged war on the mainstream media in 2017, it seems as though they fought back. Across the three main networks in the US (ABC, CBS and NBC), 90% of the coverage was negative. This could be chalked up to a few possible causes: the fact that, in his first term in office, Trump was more disapproved of than any other president since such polls began; that his presidency has so far been filled less with agenda and policy, and instead with kicking up controversy; and that a lot of his pent-up rage was aimed at the very people in charge of informing the public.

It’s a modern day Watergate

Needless to say, the alleged Russian involvement in the election took up the vast majority of airtime – in fact, it got over twice the length of coverage that the next biggest issue was given. Unsurprising, giving the magnitude of the allegations and the potential repercussions on the notion of American democracy. It’s a modern day Watergate, and I don’t doubt it will continue to garner just as much public concern in 2018, especially if Trump continues his Nixon-esque accusations of a witch hunt.

Of the other top issues with the greatest airtime, four were policy-based. The repeal of the Affordable Care Act (or, courtesy of the Republicans, ‘Obamacare’) came in second with 475 minutes across the three networks. This is the Obamacare that Trump still hasn’t successfully repealed in its entirety, and that has increased in public popularity since the beginning of his term.

All Trump is achieving with his Twitter usage is reinforcing the media’s narrative that he isn’t a competent leader

In third place comes Trump’s Twitter showdown with North Korea. I think the airtime on this has a lot to do with how Trump has revolutionised the use of social media as an intermediary between the Executive and the people… and, apparently, the Executive and dictatorships. A medium that could have the potential to transform diplomatic relationships is being used for gratuitous displays of bravado with clearly little regard to potential (nuclear) fallout. All Trump is achieving with his Twitter usage is reinforcing the media’s narrative that he isn’t a competent leader.

Rounding out the top six are three other policy issues – lowering immigration, the infamous travel ban, and tax reform. The first two were not well received, and the third somehow managed to pass through Congress to massive backlash and an estimate $1 trillion deficit. Nothing screams successful presidency like crippling national debt, after all!

Is the media’s vilification of Trump justified? He’s clearly not the most effective president

Is the media’s vilification of Trump justified? He’s clearly not the most effective president; he managed the shut down the government for three days with his spending plan, after all. He hasn’t achieved that much legislatively in his first year in office. Given his poor record on his agenda’s fulfilment so far, it can only be deduced that the majority of the media coverage is white noise feeding off the fact he is an exceptionally controversial and exceptionally present individual. Journalists would probably be out of jobs if Trump abstained from Twitter for a month and actually focussed on his job instead of provoking and retaliating at journalists. I also think a fact-checker following him around 24/7 wouldn’t go amiss, since it seems a disproportionate number of news stories are disproving some of his questionable statistics and deductions.

The media is thriving off this caricature president. Great for journalists, horrible for the USA (and, if nuclear war does break own, potentially everyone else). Just remember that when you’re sniggering at his Twitter feed.

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