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Posted on 03.29.2016

The Media and Campaign Rhetoric

By all accounts, the 2016 Republican presidential primary race has hit some remarkably low points, from name-calling among candidates during televised debates to protests and violence at campaign events. How did we get here and where can we point the finger of blame?     

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending Leadership Health Care’s annual delegation to Washington, D.C., and hearing first-hand from POLITICO reporter Jake Sherman about the many factors – some developing over several years – that may have led to this year’s unusual primary race.

Most interesting to me as a former reporter and media enthusiast, was Sherman’s response when asked about the media’s role in the heated and negative rhetoric on the campaign trail. Because, surely, the media’s around-the-clock attention to candidates’ antics must fuel bad behavior, right?

Yes and no.

“The 24-hour news cycle is a pain in the neck,” he conceded. “It’s not healthy for democracy, but it’s what people want.” And of course, that means news outlets are under constant pressure to produce content – sometimes without significant regard for its actual news value vs. entertainment value.

On the other hand, the media isn’t prompting candidates to jab at one another about things like height and “hand size.”

And, as Sherman put it, the Secret Service surrounded Donald Trump at a recent campaign event out of concern that he would be hurt. “The media’s not sensationalizing that, it’s real.” The same can be said of people bringing KKK signs to Trump rallies, he said. “It’s real, and it has nothing to do with the media.”

“The media is part of the problem, not all of the problem,” he said.

Agreed.

What do you think?

Erin George is a Senior Account Supervisor at Lovell Communications. You can view more of Erin’s blogs here. Connect with Erin at erin@lovell.com.

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