Report: New York Times coverage of 2016 was more harmful than fake news

[ Originally published on this site as post ]

Amid all the reports about fake news infiltrating our world in 2016 and stealing the election comes a damning piece in the Columbia Journalism Review detailing the damage real journalists did last year.

Frankly, it’s as jaw-dropping as it is unsurprising given the media’s obsession with Hillary Clinton’s email “scandal” while Donald Trump largely slid by as an unconventional boob reporters just couldn’t get enough of.

But the numbers provide an even more forceful indictment of election coverage in retrospect, especially as we watch our republic unravel at the hands of a mad man who had zero public service experience, zero respect for the foundational principles of our democracy, no interest in the art of governance or diplomacy, and no coherent platform other than rank nativism.

First, a research team divided all the campaign stories written in mainstream outlets like The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Huffington Post, and Politico into scandal and policy-related stories. Here’s what they found:  

1. Clinton’s email scandal and campaign hacks got 20,000 more sentences than all Trump’s scandals (bankruptcy, Trump U., Trump Foundation, Gold Star bullying, sexual assault, race-baiting nativist statements, etc.)

They found roughly four times as many Clinton-related sentences that described scandals as opposed to policies, whereas Trump-related sentences were one-and-a-half times as likely to be about policy as scandal. Given the sheer number of scandals in which Trump was implicated—sexual assault; the Trump Foundation; Trump University; redlining in his real-estate developments; insulting a Gold Star family; numerous instances of racist, misogynist, and otherwise offensive speech—it is striking that the media devoted more attention to his policies than to his personal failings. Even more striking, the various Clinton-related email scandals—her use of a private email server while secretary of state, as well as the DNC and John Podesta hacks—accounted for more sentences than all of Trump’s scandals combined (65,000 vs. 40,000) and more than twice as many as were devoted to all of her policy positions. (emphasis added)

Then the Columbia Journalism Review dug further into NYT coverage specifically and broke the stories into several categories: personal scandal, policy, and miscellaneous.