Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Novelty vs. Non-biased Reporting

Abbey Knupp

What makes something newsworthy? Timeliness, proximity, prominence, and novelty are some of the biggest factors when it comes to deciding what runs in the press.

No one wants to read about the humdrum daily happenings of life. It’s not newsworthy that someone ate their third burrito today or tripped while walking up the stairs. People want to read about things that impact them, things that are relevant, and, most importantly, things that are interesting.

That is why Donald Trump is getting so much attention in the press; people are interested. Like Trump is quoted saying in The Columbia Journalism Review’s article, The media’s Trump conundrum, “If you get good ratings…you’re going to be on all the time, even if you have nothing to say.”

With Waka Flocka’s brief stint in the presidential race, Trump’s campaign, “Deez Nuts” polling at 9% in North Carolina, and the alleged Kanye West campaign for 2020, political journalism has been a flurry of the unexpected.

Trump’s campaign has been fueled by public interest. Social media sites have been buzzing with commentary since the very first rumor that he was going to be a contender. Even content with a negative message that is meant to poke fun at Trump, such as the memes, the comments comparing his hair to a flannel moth caterpillar and the “sexy” Halloween costumes, are spreading his name and his message like wildfire.

Image courtesy of mashable.com

As with every political issue, media has a duty to remain non-biased when reporting on political candidates and topics so the public is able to formulate their own opinions without being persuaded in one direction or another. So, how does the media cover a candidate like Trump?

David Uberti of The Columbia Journalism Review states that the extreme coverage of Trump has made it difficult for the other Republican candidates to get airtime sufficient enough to compete with Trump, especially with the added bump from social media.

In the past, there have been a few efforts made by the government to increase fairness between presidential candidates, including the equal-time rule and The Communications Act of 1934. The equal-time rule stipulated that equal time on air should be given to all presidential candidates who request it, in the hopes of leveling the playing field.

However, it is ultimately down to the journalists to ethically uphold the value of fair, non-biased reporting because there have been many loopholes found within the acts. For instance, the equal-time rule is not applicable to impromptu news events, documentaries, or scheduled interviews, which means that there are plenty of leniencies for news organizations to favor one candidate over another.

It would be easy to put the spotlight on a candidate like Trump, who has already gained so much attention online that he would easily draw viewers to the screen, just as it would be easy for a reporter to frame a candidate in a way that would make viewers more responsive to his or her political views.

That is where the importance of personal ethics comes into play. While the novelty is tempting, it is important for journalists to focus on all of the candidates and all of the facts to remain fair and unbiased to all participants.

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