The Politics of American Media

By James Osolo.

Nothing is more important in election season than the media. How the media analyses the election will most likely  swing the voters decisions when it comes to the actual voting day. Moreover, how the media portrays the candidates will likely influence how the public views them as Malcolm X puts it “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power because they control the minds of the masses.”

Even though the role of the media has been viewed as greatly influential, sometimes, and rarely they get it all wrong. Looking at the recently concluded US Elections, this statement can’t be proven any further.

There are three forms of media; Broadcast, Print and Social Media. They all play a very crucial  role in an election period. The mainstream media in America is broadly divided into two factions based on their ideological standing.  The factions include the far right media which is the conservative mouthpiece and the far left media which represents the liberal agenda. The social media is a standing in between with no clear identity or clear standing.

The conservative media includes the likes of  Fox News, Newsmax, WorldNet daily which represents mostly the interests of the Republican Party.  In understanding how Conservative they, picture this;  the current President of US, Obama has only been granted two  interviews by Fox News  in the course of his  two term  presidency. On this particular election, they favoured Donald Trump giving him a lot of press coverage and very many interviews and at the same time covering only the ills or at least the perceived ills of Hillary Clinton.

The liberal media on the other side includes Network News shows such CBC, ABC and NBC cable news channels CNN and MSNBC and on the print media the likes of New York Times, Washington Posts are generally deemed liberal in thoughts and ideas.

The cable news channels like CNN covered the election minute to minute. This was of great advantage to Donald Trump who performs well in environments like these which do not require intellectual standing.

On the other side, most of the media houses were openly bias to Donald in fact, 53 newspapers endorsed Clinton and most of the television media were highly leaning towards her and it’s because of this that Donald Trump said the media were bias towards him(part of the alleged system to rig him)

A good example was John King of CNN trying on election night to find a path to Clinton’s victory even though it was already clear she had no path, they did want her to win that much.

But Trump also did not treat the press any better. There were  times he could leave reporters on the tarmac as he zoomed out in his jet then later on, enjoys the whole episode. We can also not forget him mocking a disabled reporter, in one of the instances which made media form a complete opinion about him.

Clinton too had her own share of fights  with the media, she developed a tendency to avoid the media at all cost, and she even took a year without filling any live press questions from the reporters  despite the media houses requesting for a number.

The media also did let Donald out of the hook when he gave his half truth answers and most journalists did not do a follow up to ask him how he was going to do some of the crazy things he was suggesting. There was a time he appeared on Matt Lauer show at NBC where he spoke a lot of lies and Matt did not do necessary follow up. But when Clinton appeared on the same show minutes later he was much hard on her

To be honest to the media they did their best  since this was not an ordinary election, by all means. This were two candidates who were extremely unpopular and who had two different ways of viewing the media. Trump loved and praised the media when they were covering his rise but when they questioned him and reported some of his weakness he declared them bias, while Clinton, on the other hand, loved the media when they exposed his opponents weakness but hated them when they questioned some of her past decisions

We must also check on how the media handled the election two biggest issues which surrounded the elections; the Hillary Clinton email scandal and Donald issue with women. They both attained intense media coverage and on both cases the media left what was important and covered the sides shows.  Both sides felt that the Media coverage was skewed in one way or another.

The social media is unregulated and unguarded but it’s the most important media since it can be accessed by a large number of users within a very short time and Donald Trump was a master in this, his Twitter Account was always busy with controversial posts every now and then which thrilled his base. The Clinton camp also made some very good in roads in social media especially with the hash tag” I am with Her “which used to trend every time there was a debate.

The only problem with the social media is that in not easy to verify and anyone can post anything and people will take it as the truth.

To say that the American Media was biased in the elections is an understatement. Yes, can you blame them for that? No, Trump was an impossible candidate and some of his action and statements made it little bit easier for the press to side with Clinton more. This dynamic is interesting, because it will be expected of a modern democracy to be impartial.

Should they have done better..?Yes. But this was an extra ordinary election and one which the media did not anticipate they would do did the best they could under the circumstances .The lessons have been learned and now everyone must dust themselves off and ensure that president Trump is not left unquestioned. More than ever the press are called upon to play their esteemed role in oversight and dissemination of information.

I will conclude by quoting Turner.  He created the Cable News Network (CNN) in 1980. He said: “We won’t be signing off until the world ends. We’ll be on, and we will cover the end of the world, live, and that will be our last assignment . . . we’ll play ‘Nearer, My God, to Thee‘ before we sign off.”

The media did their best given the circumstances and now more than ever they are called upon to be more aggressive and ensure the unpredictable President  Donald Trump is checked and all his decisions are scrutinized to the borne.

The Writer is an International Political Commentator based in Mombasa Kenya. Email-

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