In the wake of yesterday’s more nuanced piece of press criticism, and in light of the Harvard study Lauretta wrote up earlier, it felt like a bit of trolling might be in order. If you missed her post, she highlighted the findings of a review conducted by researchers at the prominent Ivy League university regarding media coverage of President Trump’s first 100 days in office. Unsurprisingly, Trump set a new record for negativity, with eight out of every ten stories about his administration framed in a negative manner. This far exceeded the hostility encountered by his three immediate predecessors — especially Barack Obama, who was the only recent president upon whom the news media showered majority-positive coverage. Trump complained this week that he’s been treated more unfairly than any politician in history.
Fans of the 44th president and detractors of the 45th president will insist that Obama deserved his glowing coverage, and Trump has earned every bit of press scorn thrown his way. I’d agree that a parade of unforced errors and stupid controversies from the very beginning made the media’s job much easier, but I don’t think ‘the merits’ fully account for the entirety of the enormous gap between the tone and content of Obama’s coverage (+18) versus Trump’s (-60). Most of the media is appalled by Trump and furious that he won; not only because they’re pro-Democratic liberals (which most of them are), but because his victory blew apart their near-unanimous consensus that he had virtually no chance. Proving the Smart Set wrong angers the Smart Set. But are elite-level journalists really the Smart Set? They fancy themselves as such, of course, but The Science might tell a different story:
According to a study released Thursday by neuroscientist Dr. Tara Swart in association with the London Press Club, the highest functions of the human brain operate at a lower level in journalists than the average population. Her research titled “Study Into The Mental Resilience of Journalists,” blames journalists’ cognitive shortcomings on dehydration caused by excessive alcohol consumption along with poor diet, including higher levels of sugar and caffeine. Less than 5% of journalists drink enough — or any — water while 41% drank more than 18 alcoholic drinks per week.
Fact check: Mostly true. Here’s the full study, if you’re interested. I’ll leave you with this nugget from the Harvard study, highlighting a clear outlier among media outlets’ treatment of Trump. Anyone could have guessed that Fox News would rank as the friendliest major news source for Trump, but I’d be surprised if people would also have figured that Fox’s coverage was still slightly net-negative overall. For all the talk about FNC being “in the tank” for the new president, or the American version of “state television,” this breakdown actually makes Fox look quite a bit more — what’s the phrase I’m searching for here? — fair and balanced than the rest of the pack:
Liberal critics of both Fox and Trump would say that airing a roughly even split between positive and negative stories about this new president is evidence of bias because he’s so obviously a disaster. But that viewpoint is also evidence of bias. By comparison, Fox’s negative tone during President Obama’s first 100 days was much heavier than that of the Obama-postive competition — but it closely mirrored the rest of the media’s take on Trump eight years later. I’ll leave you with this critique from famed Watergate journalist Bob Woodward, who ironically uses a drinking analogy in chiding the press:
— Paul Bedard (@SecretsBedard) May 19, 2017