Column | News by the numbers
“90% of media coverage of my Administration is negative, despite the tremendously positive results we are achieving.”
No need to check the math in President Trump’s recent tweet. For argument’s sake let’s say he’s correct. Fact is, “negative” reporting about him these days might even be closer to 95 percent.
How could it not be? Anything written about Robert Mueller’s investigation, separating migrant children from their parents at the border, gaffe-plagued meetings with Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin, chaos among the White House staff, and worldwide turmoil related to Trump’s tariff policies - to name just a few topics - is by definition negative.
So, yes, virtually 100 percent of what’s reported about those ongoing stories is negative and appropriately so.
The remaining 5 or 10 percent of recent news relates mostly to employment and economic growth statistics, and could be reasonably categorized as “positive.”
But the concern among journalists is not what a scorecard might show about coverage of the Trump Administration. It’s the distorted view among the president and his communications staff that journalism can be measured on a scorecard in the first place.
An acknowledged fan of Fox News, the president undoubtedly embraces its ersatz slogan: “Fair and balanced.” No one would argue against fairness, but “balance” is rarely a part of journalism. Only in certain, limited situations, such as during the run-up to an election, should balance come into play.
Clearly, the president wants his supporters to conflate story selection with story content, and hard news reporting with cable-TV commentary. They are simply not the same.
Depressing as it might be, news tends to be negative. It is newsworthy, for example, that wildfires are ravaging California, but there’s not much news in the fact that Minnesota, at last report, was relatively fire free.
The New York Times has taken to summarizing “The Week in Good News” in its Saturday edition, advising readers that, “it isn’t all bad out there.” Stories covered range from the discovery of water on Mars to the mother duck who cared for 76 ducklings. President Trump should have been pleased with the paper’s page-one lead that day: “Consumers Push Growth to 4.1% in Hot Economy.”
So, it’s not all negative, but when it is don’t fault media.
The president is undoubtedly riled by the volume of negative commentary on MSNBC and, to a lesser extent, on CNN. However, commentary is not news reporting, and shouldn’t be tabulated as such. Besides, for every negative opinion uttered about the administration on MSNBC there are positive spins on Fox News Channel – where “balance” exists only in slogans.
Sadly, we are living at a point in time where 90-plus percent of news about the current administration is, indeed, negative. But the stories aren’t fake, they’re fact.
If the president wants more positive news, he would be wise to make some.