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Fox News Talks A Lot About Inequality And Poverty, But Promotes Policies That Would Make The Problems Worse
In the first quarter of 2016, prime-time and evening weekday news programs on the largest cable and broadcast outlets mentioned poverty during roughly 55 percent of their discussions of economic inequality in the United States. During the same time period, Sunday political talk shows mentioned poverty in only 33 percent of discussions of economic inequality.
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Economists Made Up 1 Percent Of Guests In The First Quarter Of 2016, While Shows Focused On Campaigns, Inequality
Expertise from economists was almost completely absent from television news coverage of the economy in the first quarter of 2016, which focused largely on the tax and economic policy platforms of this year’s presidential candidates. Coverage of economic inequality spiked during the period -- tying an all-time high -- driven in part by messaging from candidates on both sides of the aisle, but gender diversity in guests during economic news segments remained low.
In case you missed it over the weekend, something remarkable happened on Meet The Press during a round table discussion about the state of the 2016 campaign: Moderator Chuck Todd hosted an all-female panel, featuring NBC correspondents Hallie Jackson, Katy Tur, Kristen Welker and Andrea Mitchell.
The good news is that Meet the Press deserves credit for bucking a long Sunday morning trend in which male guests dominate the discussions and set the Beltway policy agenda. The bad news is that it's still considered a newsworthy event when Meet the Press, or any of the Sunday shows, features an all-female discussion, especially when the topic isn't considered to be a gender-based one, such as contraception and choice.
Does the recent Meet the Press episode suggest the Sunday shows are finally going to get serious about trying to address their stubborn lack of diversity? Let's hope so. Media Matters has been documenting the trend for years and our latest study, for 2015, confirmed the unfortunate imbalances: The Sunday shows, those elite bastions of public policy debate, remain wed to conservative, traditional bookings, where conservative white men still dominate. (Yes, even with a Democrat in the White House, Republicans pile up more appearances.)
"In 2015, the guests on the five Sunday morning political talk shows were once again overwhelmingly white, conservative, and male in every category measured," Media Matters reported. Last year, while the campaign season featuring Hillary Clinton was in full bloom, 27 percent of the guests on the Sunday shows were women.
But here's the truly strange part about the overall lack of diversity today: It comes at time when the political press has reported, analyzed, and even lectured the Republican Party about how it needs to embrace diversity in order to thrive in a changing America. (And if not embrace, then to at least not purposefully offend and drive away non-white voters.)
"Republicans Can't Win With White Voters Alone," wrote Ronald Brownstein in The Atlantic years ago. The Washington Post confirmed the point this election cycle, writing, "Winning more and more of the white vote will become an increasingly futile endeavor for Republicans if they can't find a way to win more of the Hispanic and/or black vote."
As lots of analysts have pointed out, white voters aren't driving the 2016 election. In fact, it's very likely that if Clinton wins the presidency, she will have done so without winning a majority of white voters. In fact, thanks to America's shifting demographics, she doesn't even have to come close to winning the white vote.
Just ask Mitt Romney. He won the white vote by 20 points in 2012 and lost to Barack Obama badly on Election Day. And obviously, if Clinton does especially well among women, she won't need a majority of male voters to win in November.
But turn on the Sunday shows, and white men are dominating the conversation. And white conservative men in particular seem to be in charge. White Republicans were the largest group of elected and administration guests on the Sunday shows, according to Media Matters' data. And on four of the five shows, conservative men made up the largest group of journalists invited as guests.
Question: Why do the Sunday shows reflect a center-right white country that doesn't actually exist? (Note that the percentage of Americans identifying themselves as "liberal" has surged in recent years.)
Like the Republican Party, the Beltway press corps -- and specifically the very elite members who appear on the Sunday morning talk shows -- often refuses to embrace the increasingly diverse United States, despite the possibility that Democrats may shatter another diversity milestone by nominating the first women to become president.
In many ways, diversity is defining the 2016 campaign season. But the Sunday shows, whose editorial focus has remained transfixed on the 2016 campaign since last summer, appear to be detached from the rapidly changing political landscape. Rather than mirror the transformation, the Sunday shows too often remain entrenched, manning the ramparts against change.
Some other diversity lowlights of 2015, as documented by Media Matters:
* Men represented between two-thirds and three-quarters of all Sunday show guests.
* Men made up more than four-fifths of all elected and administration guests.
* Whites comprised three-quarters or more of all elected and administration guests on all shows.
* Whites made up two-thirds or more of all journalist guests on the Sunday shows.
* Whites comprised more than three-quarters of all guests.
* There were twice as many conservative men guests as compared to progressive men.
This problem is hardly a new one. Four years ago, in February 2012, I noted:
This past Sunday, for instance, NBC's Meet the Press, CBS's Face The Nation, ABC's This Week, Fox News Sunday and CNN's State of The Union hosted 16 interview subjects, 14 of which were with men. That imbalance has been consistent throughout the month. A total of 56 guests were booked on the Sunday programs to discuss national affairs in February. Of those, 52 were men.
Especially galling was the discussion Sunday shows held in February 2012, when controversy erupted regarding the administration's plan to require religious institutions to offer contraception as part of their health care plan for employees. The Sunday programs discussed that story with 24 of their newsmaker guests, but only two of them were women -- Republican women.
Yes, but Sunday show producers are limited in terms of their booking choices, and if Beltway politics is driven by men, then producers have to invite lots and lots of men on the shows, right?
Wrong, because the numbers, as reported by Talking Points Memo, tell a much different story about the makeup of Beltway politics and especially the Democratic Party (emphasis added):
By House Democratic leadership's count, there are 78 white men who are Democrats, out of 188 Democratic members in the chamber. This means that white men do not make up a majority of the House Democratic caucus.
So how is it that political press stalwarts, such as the Sunday shows, remain stubbornly white, male and conservative while the rest of the country, and the rest of our politics, moves in the opposite direction?
The Associated Press highlighted the backlash to Donald Trump's "fondness" for phone interviews, writing that the practice "is changing habits and causing consternation in newsrooms, while challenging political traditions."
Media critics have called out news channels' new habit of granting phone interviews to Trump -- an advantage AP explains has not been granted by Sunday political talk shows to any other candidate -- arguing that the format "lacks the balance of a face-to-face exchange because the audience and the interviewer are not allowed to see Trump's expressions and reactions" and "is also more difficult to follow-up and put the subject on the spot to answer questions more directly." Bloomberg View columnist Al Hunt also pointed out that "a phone interview is a lot easier than an in-person interview, and Trump almost always does well in those situations." As AP reported, Media Matters and MomsRising have launched petitions to ask the media to end Trump's phone privilege.
In a March 26 article, AP examined Trump's phone interview privileges with the media and the growing backlash to them, writing that the practice "often put an interviewer at a disadvantage, since it's harder to interrupt or ask follow-up questions, and impossible to tell if a subject is being coached." AP also noted that Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace and Meet the Press' Chuck Todd are refusing to grant Trump phone interviews:
In television news, a telephone interview is typically frowned upon. Donald Trump's fondness for them is changing habits and causing consternation in newsrooms, while challenging political traditions.
Two organizations are circulating petitions to encourage Sunday morning political shows to hang up on Trump. Some prominent holdouts, like Fox's Chris Wallace, refuse to do on-air phoners. Others argue that a phone interview is better than no interview at all.
Except in news emergencies, producers usually avoid phoners because television is a visual medium -- a face-to-face discussion between a newsmaker and questioner is preferable to a picture of an anchor listening to a disembodied voice.
It's easy to see why Trump likes them. There's no travel or TV makeup involved; if he wishes to, Trump can talk to Matt Lauer without changing out of his pajamas. They often put an interviewer at a disadvantage, since it's harder to interrupt or ask follow-up questions, and impossible to tell if a subject is being coached.
Face-to-face interviews let viewers see a candidate physically react to a tough question and think on his feet, said Chris Licht, executive producer of "CBS This Morning." Sometimes that's as important as what is being said.
Trump tends to take over phone interviews and can get his message out with little challenge, Wallace said.
"The Sunday show, in the broadcast landscape, I feel is a gold standard for probing interviews," said Wallace, host of "Fox News Sunday." ''The idea that you would do a phone interview, not face-to-face or not by satellite, with a presidential candidate -- I'd never seen it before, and I was quite frankly shocked that my competitors were doing it."
Chuck Todd, host of NBC's "Meet the Press," has done phoners with Trump but now said he's decided to stick to in-person interviews on his Sunday show. He's no absolutist, though.
"It's a much better viewer experience when it's in person," Todd said. "Satellite and phoners are a little harder, there's no doubt about it. But at the end of the day, you'll take something over nothing."
Since the campaign began, Trump has appeared for 29 phone interviews on the five Sunday political panel shows, according to the liberal watchdog Media Matters for America. Through last Sunday, ABC's "This Week" has done it 10 times, CBS' "Face the Nation" seven and six times each on "Meet the Press" and CNN's "State of the Union."
None of these shows has done phoners with Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, said Media Matters, which is urging that the practice be discontinued.
The activist group MomsRising said the disparity "sends the message that some candidates can play by different rules, without consequences, and that's just un-American."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) cited what he called the "Biden rule" on several Sunday political talk shows as precedent for not holding hearings or a vote on Merrick Garland's nomination to the Supreme Court, which the Sunday show hosts did question. Yet the "rule" McConnell was referencing was, in fact, a call for a "compromise" nominee and was in reference to a hypothetical vacancy by resignation, not a vacancy caused by death.
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Update 3/27: This study has been updated to reflect appearances by the candidates on the March 27, 2016, Sunday shows. The New York Times' Jim Rutenberg reported in a March 20 column that Meet The Press host Chuck Todd says he "will no longer allow Mr. Trump to do prescheduled interviews by phone."
Republican front-runner Donald Trump has appeared on the five Sunday morning political talk shows 65 times since the beginning of 2015, more than any other presidential candidate. The five shows have allowed Trump to be interviewed by phone a total of 30 times, but none of the other four remaining presidential candidates have been interviewed by phone a single time.
ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, NBC's Meet the Press, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, and CNN's State of the Union have conducted 423 total interviews of the 22 current and former presidential candidates since the start of 2015. The five candidates still in the running -- former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Trump -- account for nearly half, or 209 interviews. Trump was first with 65 interviews, followed by Sanders in second with 58, then Kasich with 43, Cruz with 26, and Clinton with 17.
Outlets have recently come under heavy criticism for allowing Trump to call in for interviews. Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik told Media Matters that the phone format "really shifts control away from the interviewer." NPR media reporter David Folkenflik called the phone interviews "a signal of the extent to which the television cable networks contort themselves to accommodate Trump because he is such an unpredictable and explosive figure."
This Week has allowed Trump to call in for his interviews more than another other show -- 11 times total. Face the Nation followed with seven phone interviews, and Meet the Press and State of the Union have each conducted six such interviews with Trump. 23 of Trump's phone interviews were conducted during 2015 -- seven have happened this year.
Standing out from the other shows, Fox News Sunday did not interview Trump by phone. Host Chris Wallace explained why during an interview last August, saying, "The idea you would do a phoner with a presidential candidate where they have all the control and you have none, where you can't see them, they may have talking points in front of them. ... We are not a call-in radio show, we are a Sunday talk show and he is a presidential candidate -- do an interview on camera."
Media Matters has launched a petition asking news networks to end their practice of phone interviews with Trump.
Appearance numbers for all current and former candidates from the start of 2015 through March 27, 2016 (or whenever the candidate ended their campaign) are below:
|Candidate||Party||Still Running?||Total Appearances|
Media Matters searched the Nexis transcript database and iQ media's video archive for interview appearances starting January 1, 2015, on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS' Face the Nation with John Dickerson (previously Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer prior to June 7, 2015), NBC's Meet the Press with Chuck Todd, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, and CNN's State of the Union with Jake Tapper (previously State of the Union with Candy Crowley prior to June 14, 2015) by the 22 former and current presidential candidates on both the Democratic and Republican sides: Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Lincoln Chafee, Chris Christie, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Martin O'Malley, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump, Scott Walker, and Jim Webb.
When video was unavailable in iQ media, we checked the show's website. We also coded the five candidates still running for their parties' nominations for whether or not their interviews were conducted by phone. We counted interviews that occurred before a candidate officially announced, but we excluded any interviews after candidates end their campaigns.
Fox News Sunday has not hosted a single Latina in the past three years, a bleak data point that is representative of a much broader news media diversity problem.
According to a Media Matters study, guests on Sunday shows in 2015 were overwhelmingly white, conservative, and male. Media Matters analyzed guest appearances in 2015 on the five network and cable Sunday morning shows -- ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS' Face the Nation with John Dickerson, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, NBC's Meet the Press with Chuck Todd, and CNN's State of the Union with Jake Tapper -- and found them lacking in Latino representation. Based on the latest U.S. Census data, Latino men amount to 9 percent of the general population, but only 3 percent of all guests on the five Sunday shows were male Latinos. Latinas, also 9 percent of the general population, amounted to only 1 percent of total Sunday show guests in 2015.
Fox News Sunday, which had its third year in a row without a Latina guest, is a particularly egregious example. Yet 2015 saw numerous pressing policy issues that disproportionately affect Latinas, such as attempts to block access to reproductive health services (a matter of judicial debate last year and currently under review by the Supreme Court), efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, and continued wage gaps between genders.
Newsroom diversity significantly influences news narratives. The lack of Latino representation in these discussions can not only lead to an absence of substantive coverage of the issues that matter the most to Latinos but also to inaccurate portrayals that perpetuate harmful stereotypes. In addition, experts say lack of representation could have long-lasting, harmful impacts on this demographic. Prominent Latino leaders have remarked on the need to improve Latino visibility in the media. For example, National Council of La Raza's (NCLR) Janet Murguía emphasized that Hispanic media figures have "a real understanding of the Latino community" and are therefore uniquely positioned to make "sure that our community is more informed" and "can engage at a higher level."
In 2015, the guests on the five Sunday morning political talk shows were once again overwhelmingly white, conservative, and male in every category measured. This represents little change from previous Media Matters studies of Sunday show guests in 2013 and 2014.
Sunday political talk shows on NBC, CNN, Fox, and CBS all failed to ask Donald Trump during interviews about the allegation that his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, roughed up Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields.
According to Fields, she was "grabbed" and "yanked" down while attempting to ask Trump a question as the GOP front-runner left a March 8 press conference. Audio of the incident obtained by Politico indicates that Fields told Washington Post reporter Ben Terris, "That was insane. You should have felt how hard he grabbed me," and that Terris identified Lewandowski as the assailant.
Fields filed charges against Lewandowski but is encountering blowback from the Trump campaign, which denies the incident ever occurred, and from her own employer Breitbart News. Critics have noted that Breitbart News has an especially cozy relationship with the Trump campaign and have pointed out that the news organization has failed to strongly take Fields' side in the controversy.
Although Sunday news shows Meet the Press, State of the Union, Fox News Sunday, and Face the Nation all asked Trump about his condoning of violence at his rallies during March 13 broadcasts, none of the shows asked Trump about Fields' assault allegation.
By contrast, the two Sunday media criticism shows, CNN's Reliable Sources and Fox News' MediaBuzz, both mentioned the incident.
On Reliable Sources, host Brian Stelter provided an update on the story, reporting Fields "is hiring an attorney, she's the Breitbart reporter who was roughed up by someone, possibly Trump's campaign manager, at a press conference earlier in the week. The campaign denied that the campaign manager was involved, suggesting she made it all up."
While Fox's MediaBuzz did air a pre-recorded interview with Trump where host Howard Kurtz did not ask Trump about Fields, later in the show Kurtz brought the incident up during a panel discussion.
During that discussion, The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky slammed Breitbart News, saying, "I don't think, of the 25 years I've been doing this, I don't think I've ever heard a news organization not stand by its reporter in a situation like this. It's just an unbelievable thing to me. It makes them a not a news organization, it makes them a Trump organization, at least with respect to this incident. It's just unbelievable."
Sunday political talk show hosts and reporters strongly condemned Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump for "encouraging, even condoning violence" in his rallies after a series of violent events and increasingly incendiary rhetoric from the candidate.
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