Guest Blogger – Ashley Patton
Ashley Patton is a community relations professional in Kansas City, striving to make a difference in her community. She graduated summa cum laude from Arizona State University with a B.A. in Communication and B.S. in Political Science. She just can’t stop learning, though, and is continuing her education as a graduate student and public speaking teacher at the University of Central Missouri.
THE ROLE OF THE MEDIA (TELEVISION, FILM) IN POLITICS
As a person with degrees in Political Science and Communication and research experience in this area, and a woman, the recent election deeply affected me. However, it intrigued me just as equally. I teach public speaking at the collegiate level and have had an exceptionally tough time all year because how can I encourage my students to follow traditional public speaking technique and theory when the man running (and elected) to the highest office in the country defies all of these rules and theories? Donald Trump is a phenomenon that could fill a substantial gap in literature in this sense.
However, in a practical sense, yet also from a communications perspective, there is also room to research another phenomenon: the media’s infatuation with President-Elect Trump. It’s not totally fair to say just the media was infatuated with him, as America, and the rest of the world was, too. For example, between June 16, 2015 when Donald announced his candidacy to July 16, 2015, he was talked about online almost twice as much as Jeb Bush and Hillary clinton.
But, the key difference is that the media is powerful and classic journalism theory, like practicing medicine, will suggest that first, journalists must “do no harm.”
SO WHAT DID THE MEDIA DO WITH THEIR POWER?
A few things:
- They fed the beast. In early primary race coverage, it was estimated that Donald Trump received $2 billion in free coverage while Hillary received only $746 million. Closer to the election, the gap was never fully closed (see graph above).
- Perhaps they did not listen to the people. Journalists are for the most part liberal, and perhaps couldn’t fathom a Trump presidency. Many of us wondered how he won when all of the media’s polls indicated a Clinton victory. Perhaps the media didn’t want to believe Trump could win, so they looked the other way.
- A Harvard study indicated that as Trump won, the coverage was more and more negative. However, as Trump would say, maybe any coverage is good coverage.
- The media also had a lot of fun. From The Daily Show with Trevor Noah to Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show to Saturday Night Live, Trump was a gift to comedy writers everywhere. However, all of the free coverage added up quickly.
All in all, I think we can take away from this election with a few things. The media is extremely powerful, but can definitely be wrong. However, when a phenomenon such as Donald Trump’s campaign comes along, the media can not refrain from showing bias and giving exponentially free coverage. Of course, there is much more than can be examined (gendered coverage being a huge issue at stake in this election), but it’s clear that film and media matter to politics.