Accuracy in Media


CNN aired a seven-hour town hall on climate change, where Democratic Party presidential candidates sparred over how to combat climate change. The townhall was scheduled weeks in advance, but it ended up taking place on the same week that Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas and caused significant damage.

Despite the hubbub surrounding the event, a tweet about Hurricane Dorian from President Donald Trump took most of the attention away from the CNN event. Trump tweeted out a map of the hurricane’s path and claimed it would hit the state of Alabama. The mainstream media countered and said that most updated maps of the hurricane’s path do not include Alabama, but instead, include Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

Confirming the lack of media coverage and overall interest in the townhall, in part due to Trump’s tweet about Alabama, were the Los Angeles Times television critic Lorraine Ali and Nielsen Media Research’s data. Ali wrote that Trump’s tweet “lit up Twitter” and took attention away from the townhall, which she said was a timely townhall to address the issue of climate change.

Nielsen’s ratings showed that the CNN townhall finished last among the three cable news networks when it aired, falling behind MSNBC and Fox News. CNN averaged 1.1 million viewers from 5 p.m. to midnight, which was the duration of the townhall, while MSNBC averaged 1.7 million viewers and Fox News had 2.5 million viewers in the same time slot.

The televised and livestreamed townhall featured ten of the presidential candidates: Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, businessman Andrew Yang, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.

CNN’s townhall announcement played up the event, saying that it comes at an opportune time as the “latest signs of a climate crisis include meteorologists recording July 2019 as the hottest month ever recorded on Earth and Greenland lost 12.5 billion tons of ice to melting on August 2, the largest single-day loss in recorded history.”

Yet, the third-place finish for CNN in television ratings showed that despite the network’s best efforts to get media coverage on their event, President Donald Trump took most of the attention away from the townhall after he tweeted out a Hurricane Dorian map.




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