The New York Times’ Michael Grynbaum explained that because presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump “has become a daily fixture on influential programs” on television news, “even personally calling [networks] to shape coverage,” networks have struggled to provide equal time for other presidential candidates, including Hillary Clinton.
Media outlets have been widely criticized for showering Trump with nearly endless coverage. According to a study by The New York Times, Trump has received nearly $2 billion in free earned media over the course of the campaign. Networks have also been criticized for allowing Trump the unprecedented advantage of conducting interviews over the phone rather than in-person.
In a May 30 piece, Grynbaum noted that while cable networks “are seeking novel ways to maintain balance” by getting other candidates coverage, “the presence of Mr. Trump can be irresistible” due to possibly getting “tens of millions of dollars in additional revenue for an industry threatened by digital competition.” The article quoted anchors, executives and news producers who “admit[ed] unease at the unfiltered exposure [Trump] has received,” including one anchor “describing frustration about being asked to conduct on-air interviews with Mr. Trump by telephone, rather than in person.” From the May 30 New York Times piece:
Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has become a daily fixture on influential programs, startling producers by even personally calling control rooms to shape coverage.
Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, is not absent from cable news; she called in to CNN and MSNBC last week to rebut attacks from her rival. But she remains leery of TV’s unscripted nature, appearing far less often than Mr. Trump and irking some bookers who complain about the difficulties of luring her on the air.
Networks are seeking novel ways to maintain balance, like staging voter town halls that provide candidates with equal airtime; seeking a wider spectrum of on-air contributors and campaign surrogates; and bringing more fact-checking into segments, as Jake Tapper has done recently on CNN to some acclaim.
Still, the presence of Mr. Trump can be irresistible, especially in an election where viewership and advertising rates have soared, generating tens of millions of dollars in additional revenue for an industry threatened by digital competition.
Last week, none of the three major cable news networks — CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC — carried Mrs. Clinton’s speech to a workers’ union in Las Vegas, where she debuted sharp new attack lines against Mr. Trump.
Instead, each chose to broadcast a live feed of an empty podium in North Dakota, on a stage where Mr. Trump was about to speak.
In interviews, more than a dozen anchors, executives and news producers displayed admiration for Mr. Trump’s facility with their medium. Some expressed a bit of soul-searching, admitting unease at the unfiltered exposure he has received, with one anchor describing frustration about being asked to conduct on-air interviews with Mr. Trump by telephone, rather than in person. But several offered the defense that whatever viewers make of Mr. Trump, he is undoubtedly newsworthy — and always accessible.
“I don’t think anybody has seen anything like this,” said Bret Baier, the chief political anchor at Fox News.
Mr. Baier, who has moderated a Democratic town hall with Mrs. Clinton and has interviewed Mr. Trump on his show, said that producers are “really trying to think outside the box” to balance Mr. Trump’s ubiquity onscreen.
He also said he was stunned when Mr. Trump telephoned a control room at CNN this month, urging a midlevel producer to pursue a story he deemed favorable. It was an intervention virtually unheard-of in presidential politics, where candidates typically rely on an army of media handlers for such tasks. Mr. Trump had called producers at MSNBC that morning, as well.