Pop quiz: What has been the defining issue of the 2016 presidential campaign?
In most previous election years, the answer to that question has been relatively simple. In 2008 and 2012, it was the economy. In 2004, it was national security and the Iraq War. But this year, it’s much less clear, because the most pressing issues confronting the American people have been overshadowed by outrageous headlines, fake scandals, fake news and shameful coverage of the one-man circus that is Donald Trump. More than in any other recent election, the role of the media itself has become a central, consuming issue of the campaign.
The media malpractice started in 2015, as ratings- and profit-obsessed networks abetted Trump’s rise by granting him free, uncritical and unfiltered access to the airwaves. For the year, the three major evening newscasts covered Trump more than twice as much as Hillary Clinton — and more than 16 times as much as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), whose insurgent candidacy they overwhelmingly marginalized or dismissed. By March of this year, according to one analysis, Trump had benefited from roughly $2 billion worth of free media attention. Subsequent election coverage hasn’t been much better. As of late October, the same evening newscasts had dedicated barely half an hour to every policy issue combined since the beginning of 2016. Climate change, trade and other important issues received no coverage at all.
Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.