Donald Trump is the Death Rattle of TV News
Luke Thompson

I’m not going to deny the correlation between trump coverage and tv ratings and trump poll numbers demonstrated in your graphs, but I don’t buy your causation explanation or the conclusion that broadcast media companies are sacrificing themselves and our country for short term profits.

  1. It should be expected even with an absolutely accurate, unbiased, and proportional broadcast outlet, that the mentions will increase before the polls show it. Not because the media is affecting the polls, but because media can accurately reflect public opinion and buzz sooner. Polls are released days or weeks after they’re taken, and reflect opinions when the question was asked not when the poll was released.
  2. From your graph, it looks like network coverage did not increase at all until after a poll came out putting Donald at 20%. It was an outlier, sure, but how can you fault the media for mentioning when Donald Trump pops up that high in a poll? It would be poor reporting not to, and only after that blue dot did media coverage explode.
  3. I think it would be more accurate to use the derivative of the polling numbers rather than the straight average. When Donald Trump’s numbers started to go up, but before they were steadily high, is when media coverage increased rapidly. CNN and the other networks were simply reporting an unprecedented change in momentum, and accurately at that -especially when you consider that the polling data is inherently delayed because results aren’t immediately reported.
  4. Even if the networks our their execs choose trump to be the nominee for their ratings, I don’t think that means they hurt their companies or the country by doing so. Many media types are democrats (at least that’s what the AM radio tells me).. The trump campaign is the best thing for democrats since Scalia died, Trump is forcing the republican party to confront the fatal paradox to their existence and success. Because of Trump, low tax right wing elites will now always have a harder time convincing low income socially conservative religious folk to support economic policies that hurt them. Furthermore, moderate business type conservatives now have to explain why their party of choice has a frontrunner who is racist sexist nativist and generally offensive and embarrassing. I love trump because I am a lifelong democrat and he is doing damage to the republican party that could only be done from the inside. If the networks did play a part in getting him here then good for them for helping save the country from a republican administration.
  5. Trump really does represent the viewpoints and feelings if a large part of the American population. Trivializing his rise by pretending like it was all the broadcast networks' doing misses the point that he is a real candidate who successfully represents real Americans' concerns, and we’re going to have to deal with that. We need to somehow win these people over and address their concerns in part, or else the problem will get worse. Whether it’s educating people or having an economic boom or having an economic bust or something else, Donald Trump’s rise is evidence of American issues that have been developing for 100+ years and cannot seriously be explained away by blaming greedy TV stations. Without the media this trump problem would be here in some form or another, at least now we need to address it.
  6. Broadcast media is not in demise because they parted from some grandiose journalistic ethics of yesteryear, they are in demise because of the massively increasing online and mobile news sources that people use to get information. As online sources get better faster and cheaper of course the airwaves or cable based media outlets will suffer. Whether they covered Trump or not, this would still be the inevitable trend, and I think seeking profit and buzz like they do in the present is slowing, not accelerating their demise. It’s a rough business to be in in 2016, but from your column I see it’s much easier to criticize blame and demonize the networks than to reach a balanced and objective explanation.