Accuracy in Media

Donald Trump’s rise to the top of the GOP presidential field can be blamed on TV news, according to former CNN anchor Campbell Brown.

Brown, who spent 14 years as a correspondent and anchor for NBC News and CNN, calls out the media for its obsessive coverage of Trump in a piece she penned for Politico:

“I really would like to blame Trump. But everything he is doing is with TV news’ full acquiescence. Trump doesn’t force the networks to show his rallies live rather than do real reporting. Nor does he force anyone to accept his phone calls rather than demand that he do a face-to-face interview that would be a greater risk for him. TV news has largely given Trump editorial control. It is driven by a hunger for ratings—and the people who run the networks and the news channels are only too happy to make that Faustian bargain.”

All the networks spend an inordinate amount of time covering Trump, especially the cable news networks, which have been tripping all over themselves to air almost everything Trump says. MSNBC has been one of the worst panderers as the liberal network has pre-empted its regular programming several times to cover Trump rallies across the country, even though hosts like Chris Matthews are clearly supporting Hillary Clinton.

Brown also bemoans the decline of TV news since the time that she was reporting:

“The 800-pound gorillas of TV news are gone. When I was the White House correspondent at NBC and Tom Brokaw was anchor, the reporters were protected. Great TV journalists like Tom had enormous influence; they could and did push back on commercial decisions that affected our coverage. When another one of those powerhouses, Meet the Press host Tim Russert, was alive, he used to tell us: ‘Beware the pamphleteers.’ By that, he meant avoid a story that’s presented to you fully baked. Now that’s impossible; there’s no way to allow TV reporters to apply the filter of their journalism to a story like Trump. And more to the point, there’s little genuine interest in letting them.”

All this coverage is great for Trump. Brown points out that The New York Times estimated that he has received close to $2 billion in free media as of March, and is probably well over that by now, and growing. She said no campaign advertising budget can compete with that, which is sad but true.

Brown calls Trump a “chronic liar,” and says that while journalists may not be able to cover him less, they can cover him better by abandoning the “laziness that too often comes with just playing referee.” She argues that they should also use their knowledge and experience to get to the truth and expose misrepresentations.

The media have loved covering Trump as he bashes his Republican opponents and the GOP establishment. But their enthusiasm is likely to wane as he steps up his attacks on Hillary Clinton in the battle for the presidency.

Photo by Nathan Congleton

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