What media coverage of Trump and Sanders tells us

Donald Trump has captured the heart of the Republican party. Within weeks of announcing his candidacy The Donald jumped to the top of the polls for the Republican primary.

His campaign, so far, has mostly revolved around fear mongering over the imaginary tsunami of Mexicans sneaking across the border to rape and murder American women. So it wasn’t a surprise that he drew a large crowd in Phoenix Arizona this weekend to listen to him spew his nonsense. What I find interesting, however, is not the fact that Trump has struck a chord with the Republican base, but how the mainstream media is reacting to his candidacy.

Right wing pundits love to prattle on about the so-called “Liberal Media”. But I have long maintained that the mainstream media is not liberal. Neither is it really conservative. What it is, is corporate. When it comes to social issues, media is typically more friendly to a liberal point of view. But when it comes to fiscal issues, the sort of issues that might impact corporate America’s bottom line, the media is much more friendly to the conservative viewpoint.

In this election cycle we have a unique opportunity to compare media coverage of two anti-establishment candidates from different parties: Donald Trump on the right, and Bernie Sanders on the left. An examination of headlines and news coverage reveals a pattern. We can compare, for example, the coverage of the large crowd Bernie drew in Madison Wisconsin and the coverage of the crowd Trump drew in Phoenix Arizona. Here is a write up on Time’s website about Trump’s event:

Donald Trump Outdoes Himself In Defiant Phoenix Speech

This doesn’t endorse Trump’s talking points, but it certainly outlines them nicely. For the most part the article focuses on the content of his speech, including several quotes.

Now compare that with another write up from Time from just a few days earlier:

Bernie Sanders Hits a Triumphant Note As His Crowds Grow

This talks about poll numbers and donation totals, both of which are labeled “surprising”. Then it talks about crowd sizes, and offers a few vague distillations of what Bernie’s campaign is all about. But when it comes to actual policy, they cram everything into a single sentence:

“He called for equal pay, paid family leave, a higher minimum wage, breaking up the big banks, and a massive infrastructure rebuilding program, a la the New Deal.”

From there the article quickly moved on to his campaign schedule.

Take a look at CNN’s coverage of the Trump event in Phoenix.

Trump draws thousands in Phoenix, continues immigration theme

Now look at their coverage of Bernie’s crowd in Wisconsin:

Bernie Sanders draws nearly 10,000 supporters in Wisconsin

Again, the coverage of Trump repeats his talking points, while the coverage of Bernie talks about poll numbers and crowd sizes.

Even MSNBC seems to fall into this pattern.

Trump coverage repeats his talking points:

Donald Trump draws massive crowds during campaign swing

Sanders coverage talks about the horse race:

Bernie Sanders draws biggest crowd of any 2016 candidate yet

When covering Bernie Sanders, the vast majority of articles are not only dismissive, but fail to cover the ideas the Senator from Vermont is actually campaigning on. Some will analyze the size of the crowds attending Bernie’s campaign rallies. Some talk about his history as a politician. Almost every piece of news coverage is sure to mention the near impossibility of his victory, and many discuss how his campaign will affect Hillary Clinton. But I see very few articles discussing in any depth the actual issues Bernie Sanders is trying to address.

Coverage of Trump, on the other hand, is almost exclusively about his ideas. They are sometimes framed as outrageous, but they are given a due process that the media simply isn’t offering for Bernie Sanders.

Liberal media? Hardly.


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