The 2016 Propaganda Election: What is the Media Telling Us?

 

Take a minute to ask yourself, who you would vote for in this election and what information are you using to make that decision. Is it information you received from the media? Do you remember what channel or news outlet you got that information from? Where did you get your information and have you ever questioned the quality and accuracy of this information?

“A strong argument could be made by all candidates — Democrat and Republican — that there has been some level of media malpractice as it relates to the amount of coverage received by their campaigns and that of the Republican front-runner, and they would be right. “

 

Where are you getting your information?

The presidential hopefuls all have their own websites and social media presence that we can seek out to learn about them. However, we receive information all the time, in a variety of mediums, that influence our thoughts, opinions, and beliefs, whether we seek it out or not. Consciously or not, we as a people are constantly bombarded with information that we assimilate into our perception of reality. It’s up to us to sort through what is truthful and what resonates with us.  To be a critical thinking participant in a democracy, we must listen to our hearts and our reason, and make subsequent choices.

During the Primary elections, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were both hoping for the Democratic party candidacy.  Back in March, Hillary Clinton won most of the state primaries. Afterwards, Bernie Sanders gave a speech for almost an hour, in Arizona, to give hope to his supporters. This speech was not covered by any of the major cable news channels, not even a summary.  Instead, they focussed on awaiting a Donald Trump reaction to the evening. Rather than airing Bernie’s speech, the leading news networks left their cameras on Donald Trump’s empty podium! 

“The New York Times recently quantified the ‘free’ media time given to the presidential candidates, showing that Donald Trump received almost $2 Billion worth of free air time.”

Is the coverage equal?

The Tyndall Report monitors the weekday nightly newscasts of the three American broadcast television networks: ABC World News, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News.

Hillary Clinton’s coverage on television was far greater than Bernie Sanders. In December of 2015, the Sanders campaign complained in a news release about the lack of Sander’s coverage.  They stated, “(The Sanders) campaign, that has drawn the biggest crowds on the presidential campaign trail, has been all but ignored on the flagship television network newscasts.”  The Tyndall Report’s annual totals for 2015 found that Clinton received 121 minutes of campaign coverage on the networks while the “noticeably under-covered” Sanders received only 20 minutes.

The bulk of the Sanders campaign’s complaint seemed to be aimed at the coverage of the Republican front-runner, Trump, whom the campaign accused the networks of “wildly overplaying,” “while at the same time wildly underplaying Sanders.”

A strong argument could be made by all candidates — Democrat and Republican — that there has been some level of media malpractice as it relates to the amount of coverage received by their campaigns and that of the Republican front-runner, and they would be right. It’s not out of the question to state that if any candidate had received the huge media coverage of the current Republican front-runner, Donald Trump, they might be in a stronger position now. The New York Times recently quantified the ‘free’ media time given to the presidential candidates, showing that Donald Trump received almost $2 Billion worth of free air time.

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Who is the media catering to?

Charle’s M Blow wrote an opinion piece for the NY Times that brought up many good points about the role the media has played in the current election season.  There appear to be two parallel universes of Democratic voters this season — one disproportionately older, the other disproportionately younger — whose habits make them almost invisible to each other.

Clinton’s voters may be less likely to show up to rallies, or post on social media or be serial commenters who commandeer comments sections, but they do show up to vote. But these are the same voters who are less likely to hear much news about Sanders.  Sanders gets the “cool” vote from the millennials and first time voters, but again, this demographic has sadly not voted consistently enough to make an impact.

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In a February Pew Research Center survey, a plurality of people 18 to 29 years old said that the social media was their most helpful source for learning about the 2016 presidential election. A plurality of those 30 and over cited cable news as the primary source. Network news was the second most popular source for those 65 and older.

Indeed, the Tyndall Report pointed out that nearly as much coverage of Clinton was about controversies as about her candidacy. In addition to the 121 minutes of campaign coverage Clinton received on the nightly network newscasts in 2015, she also received “88 minutes devoted to the controversy over her emails as secretary of state and 29 minutes to the investigations into the Benghazi Consulate attack.”

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Is there an agenda?

Whether or not this media coverage will have an impact on the election results, remains to be seen.  And then, its up to us and watchdog’s like the Tyndall Report, to reflect on how the media may have affected the race.  As for now, we have cold hard facts to look critically at the coverage of each candidate.  Why do certain candidates receive more media attention than others?

“It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS. [Laughs] The money’s rolling in …. This is fun.” – Les Moonves, CEO of CBS

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Some say that the media is simply a leftist propaganda machine that aims to promote liberal sensibilities, and paints conservative issues in a negative light.  Within that accusation, there are signs that the media is biased around a specific democratic candidate as detailed in this article.  Others say the opposite, that the conservatives have made a concerted effort to move away from the liberal media, and examples of this can be debated legitimately.  Such as the case with the coverage of 9/11, with the Bush administration vs the scrutiny President Bill Clinton received during his scandal in the 90’s, as well as Donald Trump’s popularity in the news.

Are they chasing ratings?

The CEO of CBS, Les Moonves, has on several occasions expressed his delight about the revenue that Donald Trump’s campaign is bringing to his network. He even went as far as to say, “Man, this is pretty amazing. Who would have thought this circus would come to town? It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS. [Laughs] The money’s rolling in …. This is fun.”

Whether or not this will change in the future is not relevant to this year’s election, what has been done is done.  Now, we must become aware that the media may not give us a clear picture of the candidates, and then try to balance our own knowledge and make our own choices based on that.

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Media

Some media may contain mature content. Discretion is advised when viewing with students.

Substance vs. sensationalism: Media and the 2016 election

The Newsmakers: The US media in the presidential race

The Media Gives Trump Free Air Time (Note: This video may not be suitable for all age groups)

CBS CEO Says Trump is Bad for U.S., Good for Profit
Lesson Plan

Lesson Objective:  Media Literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media.  In this lesson, students will get the chance to look critically at a piece of media using the key questions of Media Literacy and also learn the concept of Propaganda.

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View the Lesson Assignment

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Lesson tags: 2016 election, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Eighth, Election Day, Eleventh, Featured, Hillary Clinton, History, Media, Ninth, Politics, Pop Culture, Presidential Election, Primary Elections, Social Media, Social Studies, Tenth, Twelfth

Melissa Pelletier

Melissa has a Masters in Educational Communication and Technology from NYU. She has worked in academic publishing, games, and the educational toys industries.