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Tuesday, November 3, 2020
MRC Bogus Trump-Coverage 'Study' Watch
Topic: Media Research Center

Election season is almost over, which means it's time for yet another bogus Media Research Center "study" of media coverage. Whine away, Rich Noyes:

Four years ago, the Big Three broadcast evening newscasts tried to destroy Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign with historically negative press coverage. This year, those newscasts are doubling down, with coverage that is even more hostile to the Republican. Meanwhile, his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, is enjoying mostly positive coverage and a friendly media that’s virtually ignoring all topics — such as the scandal swirling around his son, Hunter — that might harm his prospects.

For this study, the MRC analyzed all coverage of President Trump and former Vice President Biden on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts from July 29 through October 20 (including weekends). This is the same time period examined by the MRC four years ago, in advance of that year’s election.

This time around, it’s obvious that the networks are pouring their energy into confronting and criticizing the President, not equally covering both campaigns. During the twelve weeks we examined, Trump received 839 minutes of coverage, compared to just 269 minutes of airtime for Biden, a three-to-one disparity.

Even more lopsided, our analysts found ten times more evaluative statements about Trump than Biden: 890 comments about the President, of which 822 (92.4%) were negative, vs. 68 (7.6%) that were positive. Note that these totals do not include statements about the candidates’ prospects in the campaign horse race (i.e., standings in the polls, chances to win, etc.), nor does it include partisan statements from the candidates or their surrogates.

The issues with the MRC's so-called study are the same as always:

  1. It focuses only on a tiny sliver of news -- the evening newscasts on the three networks -- and falsely portrays it as indicative of all media.
  2. It pretends there was never any neutral coverage of Trump. Indeed, the study explicitly rejects neutral coverage -- even though that's arguable the bulk of news coverage -- dishonestly counting "only explicitly evaluative statements."
  3. It fails to take into account the stories themselves and whether negative coverage is deserved or admit that negative coverage is the most accurate way to cover a given story.
  4. It fails to provide the raw data or the actual statements it evaluated so its work could be evaluated by others. If the MRC's work was genuine and rigorous, wouldn't it be happy to provide the data to back it up?

Noyes went on to whine further that the media pointed out negative things Trump did:

The topics tell the story: Trump’s coverage during these crucial 12 weeks has been dominated by the coronavirus (424 minutes — 284 minutes spent on policy and 140 minutes on the President’s own diagnosis), his comments about mail-in voting (87 minutes) and the ongoing protests in major American cities (63 minutes). Notable controversies include The New York Times’reporting on Trump’s apparently stolen tax returns (23 minutes), and the hotly-disputed Atlantic story about the President supposedly calling U.S. war casualties “suckers” and “losers” (19 minutes).

The newscasts are airing practically nothing about controversies that could jeopardize Biden’s lead in the polls. Topping the list: the former Vice President’s age and health, with 10 minutes, 33 seconds of coverage — a tiny fraction of the airtime devoted to President Trump’s health following his coronavirus diagnosis (140 minutes).

The criticism that Biden and his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, would pursue left-wing policies outside of the mainstream was given a mere five minutes, 43 seconds of airtime over the past 12 weeks, or barely two percent of the Democrat’s total coverage.

Noyes is, in effect, saying that he wants false balance -- that positive and negative coverage should be balanced, regardless of whether that reflects reality. At no point does he argue that any of the negative Trump coverage regarding his tax returns or his handing of the coronavirus pandemic wasn't deserved; he wants positive coverage about him (and negative coverage about Biden) to be manufactured -- and, more to the point, that it reflects the partisan priorities of the MRC. And because he's so far to the right, Noyes thinks that accurate reporting about Trump is "liberal":

But the basic premise of our democracy is that voters are presented the facts about both sides, and then make up their own minds based on their own values and their own views of the candidates. What we’ve seen in this campaign, and over the past four years, is the establishment media choosing to abandon its traditional role and become combatants on behalf of liberal politicians.

Noyes is a combatant on behalf of Trump, which makes his defense of this bogus "study" even more suspect.


Posted by Terry K. at 7:39 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, November 3, 2020 7:40 PM EST

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