The mainstream media is obsessed with Donald Trump. It has been this way for several years now, especially since he went from reality star to birther conspiracist to presidential candidate and, now, to leader of the free world. This has been detrimental in many ways because it has meant free publicity for all of his many lies and stunts, but it also means that coverage isn’t balanced (just ask Hillary Clinton). Sadly, the people and issues that need the most attention are being ignored while the media focuses on every Trump tweet, gaffe, and random argument.
Take Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, for instance. The mainstream media has lacked serious coverage of the storm, both before and after it struck the island. But the coverage only picked up when it went from a storm impacting Puerto Rico to a recovery effort that Trump botched.
But even those in charge of American newsrooms who are aware that Maria and its aftermath is a domestic disaster [since polls show that nearly half of Americans don’t realize that Puerto Ricans are US citizens] did not cover the catastrophe as extensively they did Texas and Florida, hit just weeks before Puerto Rico was by massive hurricanes.
National media only started to pay attention to Puerto Rico after days of silence by Trump (as they merrily jumped on the story, they seemed to forget the fact that they had also ignored the island’s plight). When Trump started a fight with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, Puerto Rico finally started to get more coverage.
This is what it means to live in the Trump era: 3.4 million Americans suffering through an unprecedented disaster for over two months can’t get media attention unless Trump is calling them financially irresponsible and engaging in a Twitter feud with a woman of color.
An examination of over 80 print and online media coverage across the United States shows that more than 1,100 news outlets carried stories about Harvey and Irma, the two other monster storms that struck U.S. soil this hurricane season, while only about 500 carried stories on Maria in a similar time frame. Overall, Hurricane Maria received three times as few mentions in text than hurricanes Harvey and Irma.