Negative US media coverage

Quite a bit is being said and claimed about political media bias in the US, and negative bias against President Donald Trump.

A new Harvard study calculated that no less than 80 percent of the media’s coverage of President Trump during his first 100 days was unfavorable.

The Trump administration is “setting a new standard for unfavorable press coverage of a president,” according to a new study by professor of government and the press Thomas E. Patterson at the Harvard Kennedy School and Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.

The Fox report has this graphic:

But the study doesn’t prove ‘media bias against Trump’, if found more negative than positive coverage.

Is this because much of the media is biased against Trump?

Or is Trump doing a lot of notable negative stuff, dumb stuff, genuinely concerning stuff,  and getting appropriate coverage.

Fox News at times looked like they were campaigning for trump during last year’s election. In that context 50/50 positive/negative might indicate even they have a lot to complain about Trump’s performance.

Should media try to aim for 50/50 positive/negative coverage regardless of the big news and regardless of the performance of the president? That would be a bit ridiculous.

Is Trump directly responsible for greater than normal negative coverage due to his at times absurd and at times provocative tweets?

There’s a contrast of headlines on this.

From Zerohedge: Harvard Study Reveals Huge Extent Of Anti-Trump Media Bias

A major new study out of Harvard University has revealed the true extent of the mainstream media’s bias against Donald Trump.

To Forbes: Trump’s Getting Killed In The Media, But Not Because Of Bias

If your favorite football team gets destroyed by another team, and the local newspaper writes a story about the game, is the resulting news story–which paints an ugly picture of your team’s performance–an example of the newspaper’s bias against your beloved team?

Of course not.

But that’s essentially what some conservative media believe when it comes to coverage of the Trump White House. In their view, since most coverage of Trump is negative, that proves the media is biased against the president.

“Harvard Study Reveals Huge Extent of Anti-Trump Media Bias” screams a headline by Heatstreet that was picked up by The Drudge Report Friday:

Academics at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy analyzed coverage from Trump’s first 100 days in office across 10 major TV and print outlets.

They found that the tone of some outlets was negative in as many as 98% of reports, significantly more hostile than the first 100 days of the three previous administrations.

Well, yes, the “tone” of stories about Donald Trump have tended to be fairly negative overall. But the negative tone is no more proof of bias than coverage of Trump’s presidency could be considered proof of bias in favor of the president.

Didn’t people during the campaign say that any coverage was good coverage for Trump?

But isn’t CNN, at the top of the list with 93% of its stories deemed negative, clearly biased? InfoWars sure thought so, calling the study proof of “overwhelming anti-Trump media bias,” while the American Thinker said the study’s results proved “a shocking level of media bias against President Trump…the extreme percentage of negative coverage of the president is absolutely breathtaking.”

But breathtakingly negative media coverage doesn’t equate to “a shocking level of media bias.” Remember, the study looked at tone. Here’s how the researchers defined it:

Tone is judged from the perspective of the actor. Negative stories include stories where the actor is criticized directly. An example is a headline story where Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer criticized Trump when the Labor Department’s April economic report showed that fewer jobs were created than had been predicted. Schumer was quoted as saying, in part: “Eleven weeks into his administration, we have seen nothing from President Trump on infrastructure, on trade, or on any other serious job-creating initiative.” Negative stories also consist of stories where an event, trend, or development reflects unfavorably on the actor. Examples are the stories that appeared under the headlines “President Trump’s approval rating hits a new low”and “GOP withdraws embattled health care bill, handing major setback to Trump, Ryan.”

Is it bias to report that the president’s approval ratings are historically low, or that Trump’s efforts to enact his policies have been delayed and overwhelmed by constant questions about Russia, the firing of FBI Director James Comey and other self-inflicted wounds?

The Harvard report actually says:

“The fact that Trump has received more negative coverage than his predecessor is hardly surprising.

The early days of his presidency have been marked by far more missteps and miss-hits, often self-inflicted, than any presidency in memory, perhaps ever.”

Here is the Shorenstein report: News Coverage of Donald Trump’s First 100 Days

Findings include:

  • President Trump dominated media coverage in the outlets and programs analyzed, with Trump being the topic of 41 percent of all news stories—three times the amount of coverage received by previous presidents. He was also the featured speaker in nearly two-thirds of his coverage.
  • Republican voices accounted for 80 percent of what newsmakers said about the Trump presidency, compared to only 6 percent for Democrats and 3 percent for those involved in anti-Trump protests.
  • European reporters were more likely than American journalists to directly question Trump’s fitness for office.
  • Trump has received unsparing coverage for most weeks of his presidency, without a single major topic where Trump’s coverage, on balance, was more positive than negative, setting a new standard for unfavorable press coverage of a president.
  • Fox was the only news outlet in the study that came close to giving Trump positive coverage overall, however, there was variation in the tone of Fox’s coverage depending on the topic.