Is Negativity in the Media a Leading Cause of Media Distrust?

The talk of the town this past week has been the implementation of President Trump’s executive orders. The news cycle has erred on the side of being negative, and some are questioning why the media is focusing merely on the negative aspects of Trump’s executive orders. Current Press Secretary Sean Spicer also posed the question of why the media is so negative toward the administration in a discussion with Frank Sesno at The George Washington University on Monday night.

This does pose questions as to whether or not the media actually does paint a negative picture of both domestic and international news, and if that picture contributes to the public’s dislike or distrust of the media.

On Monday night, Spicer sat down with Sesno to discuss the Trump administration’s relationship with the media. Following that discussion was a panel of journalists that also included former Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. While the discussion covered many topics, a recurring point was negativity within the media.

Specifically, the discussion was pointed at claims that the media has only focused on the negative aspects of President Trump’s campaign and the current administration, which led to the discussion of  regarding the public’s level of trust in the media. Fleischer provided the audience with headlines from the November election. These headlines painted President Trump’s win in a negative light, which Fleischer claimed was a sharp difference when compared to the last three presidential outcomes  (though this was later proven false).

Fleischer may have had incorrect information for his example, but his claims are still valid. In a recent Gallup poll, research shows that 32 percent of all Americans trust the mass media to “report the news fully accurately and fairly” while only 14 percent of Republicans do. This yearly poll shows that trust in the media is currently on a consistent downward decline. Public opinion of the media has not risen above the majority line since 2007.

According to the same Gallup poll, the drop in media trust is a result of Republican’s distrust. Could that be a result of the media’s coverage of President Trump?

Politico recently reported on a study that showed that 91 percent of the coverage of President Trump on the evening news was negative. And, in addition to that, the president received the most media coverage of all his Republican opponents.

During his discussion with Sesno, Spicer made the claim that “too many reporters have crossed the lines becoming reporters to opinion writers.” He claims that the media consistently spins Trump’s presidency in a negative fashion,but ignores or only touches on the positives of his first week in office.

“There is a big difference between a skeptical press.. and the default of always being negative,” Spicer said.

Jeff Mason, the current White House Correspondents Association president, rebutted that it is the job of the media to report the “newsiest news or lead of the day,” and that it is not the media’s job to write about the positive stories for the president’s administration, but to write the biggest news, and the biggest news of the weekend was the refugee executive order.

Fleischer argues that the solution for the press is not to be hard on Trump because he says offensive or outlandish things. To him, doing so tells Republicans and many Independents that “the press is out to get them.”

His assertion has allowed the the president’s supporters to continue to believe that the press has not been kind during the administration or the election. However, Trump and his White House are saying offensive and outlandish things. To call him untraditional would be an understatement.

I agree that the media does take a more negative stance when it comes to the president. For example, when on The New York Times site, a search for “Trump wins the election” brings a first page of headlines like:

But, this does not mean that the president has not made negative statements that are worthy of negative headlines. There is a valid list of grievances against Trump.

At the SMPA event CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta asked, “Did we say that Mexican Immigrants are rapists and bringing crime into this country? Did we in the news media refer to women as fat pigs? Did we in the news media say that it was ok to grab a woman by her privates? Did we in the news media say John McCain is not a war hero? Did we in the news media say that you could go out on 5th avenue and shoot somebody on the street and get away with it?”

With statements like the ones Acosta is alluding to, how does the news cycle not air on the side of negative?  While the media may not have aired many Trump positives during the election and so far during his administration, they are still doing their job in reporting the “newsiest news” of the election and of the day.

Though the nature of much of the president’s coverage during the election was indeed negative, Hadas Gold of Politico made an important point at the GW event when she said that “analysis is bleeding in with the news coverage.”

When it comes to news shows and channels, producers don’t “suddenly switch their chyron when it’s an opinion person coming up” according the Gold. In addition, she claims that the rise in opinion-heavy shows has aided in the decline in the public’s trust in the media.

Networks like CNN are not only focused on getting the news outthey also have an overwhelming amount of pundits and expert analysts on their shows daily, which can confuse the viewer on what is fact and what is analysis. With a panel of three to five people, does the viewer really get the news or simply the opinions on the news?

As Ari Fleischer says, “stop telling the American people what conclusions to reach, we are smart enough ourselves to reach those conclusions.” This election cycle and administration have lead to an increase in subscriptions and viewership, but the trust in the media is still not there. It is important that the media strives to cover all points of view as opposed to feeding the American people theirs.

To many Americans, Trump’s presidency is a positive. Many people do agree with the policies, actions and statements that he has made. And while there are also many who disagree vehemently with him, it’s important that all sides of a story are told regardless of personal feelings.

In the end, the media is here to report the news and let the people make their own conclusions based on the facts and opinions they’ve heard. The media needs to be wary of negative connotation when it comes to headlines and reporting — viewers should not have to be skeptical when consuming mainstream media.       

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