As I sit and write today we are in day two of Donald Trump’s presidency. Across the United States and around the world, hundreds of thousands of people are marching in protest of Trump’s disregard for women and minorities. It’s likely that the number of attendees at the marches in Washington, DC, will far outnumber the crowds at Trump’s inauguration yesterday.
I’ve seen a broad number of first-hand reports from those marches all morning via Twitter. What astonished me, though, was seeing the broad difference in coverage between various online news sources. Here’s what I found. I screen captured these websites around 11:30 AM central time.
ABC’s top story is the march, with a photo. It’s followed by headlines about President Trump’s visit to the National Cathedral, a tornado in Missisippi, and an avalanche in Italy. A fair spread of news for the first screen.
Again the lead is the marches, with special note taken that there are protests around the world, not just in DC. They quickly link to analysis pieces. “Why are the women marching?” “Trump’s angry call to arms.” And who can resist the delicious headline “Democrats flail in abyss”?
NPR leads with the themes of President Trump’s inaugural message: “American carnage” and “America First”. Second comes the marches.
CNN is all about the marches on the first screen, including live video coverage and individual stories apparently profiling marchers. Just below the digital fold is a section titled “The Start of the Trump Era”.
Then there’s Fox News. Screen one: Trump signs an executive order to try to gut the Affordable Care Act. Trump’s “new vision” for America. I was curious, so I kept scrolling.
Screen two: Obama’s flight to a vacation diverted due to bad weather. Full text of Trump’s inauguration speech. Other news sites deem Trump’s speech offensive. Trump has to part with “beloved cellphone”. Trump attends prayer service. “Three Things Every Christian Owes Donald Trump”. (Well, OK, then.)
Let’s keep going.
Screen three: “Food Network Star implies Trump plagiarized Inauguration Cake”. (Take a look at the side-by-side pictures. Totally plagiarized. But I digress.) And there it is! Finally! One line! “Hundreds of thousands of women march on Washington”. No photo. But a big photo of tornado damage in Mississippi and one of a bust of Winston Churchill that Trump has returned to the Oval Office.
Now friends, the disparity in coverage is, I hope, so obvious that I don’t even really need to point it out. What this highlights, though is that how and where we get our news matters.
Every reporter and news organization has some sort of bias. We will never find a source that is completely neutral. There have been Washington marches in the past (e.g. the Right-to-Life march every year) that CNN will ignore and Fox News will headline.
What we can learn to do, though, is to read widely and to become aware of those biases. If your only source for news is Fox, I beg you, watch some CNN as well. Or read the New York Times. If your only source is MSNBC or NPR, read some Fox for balance.
Facts are facts, but perspectives are tricky things. For us to navigate the upcoming years as people of good will we must work diligently to learn the facts, and to recognize perspective and bias in ourselves and those around us.