Media lacks journalistic ethics in coverage of presidential primaries

Media lacks journalistic ethics in coverage of presidential primaries

Duo-Wei Yang

The 2016 presidential campaign cycle kicked off a year ago, prompting regular and repeated mentions of presidential candidates by the media.

Unfortunately, instead of mainly reporting on which issues the candidates supported, news stories and press-sponsored debates concentrated on irrelevant personal opinions, Donald Trump’s latest politically incorrect statement and how Hillary Clinton was practically guaranteed the Democratic presidential nomination.

Moderators in debates sometimes asked questions that provoked candidates to take cheap shots against one another. In the first Republican debate, moderator Megyn Kelly asked then-Republican candidate Jeb Bush if he called Trump “a clown, a buffoon [and] something else that cannot be repeated on television.”

The media lacks responsibility in covering Trump. He certainly has an unusual background compared to most of his rivals, but news stories concerning him don’t warrant front page headlines.

For example, media outlets reported on Trump’s inappropriate “blood coming out of her wherever” comment about Megyn Kelly after the first Republican debate. Time, CNN and the Washington Post sensationalized the story for about a week, an amount more than necessary.

Another example is when Vladimir Putin announced his approval of Trump as U.S. president back in December. Media outlets blew his statement out of proportion by reiterating headlines like “Donald Trump’s bromance with Vladimir Putin,” and “Putin praises ‘bright and talented’ Donald Trump.”

As the public, we do need to understand a candidate’s characteristics and potential diplomacy skills with foreign nations and state leaders, so coverage of Trump’s attitude towards certain social groups or way of speaking is essential, but not to the current extent. Over the course of the presidential election, he was mentioned in the media 214,969 times according to The Atlantic. That sum is almost double the mentions of Hillary Clinton, the second most-mentioned of all the candidates.

Another candidate that received unnecessary prominence was Clinton herself.

For the first few months, the media largely ignored rival Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. According to, Clinton was mentioned on national news around 2250 times from last June to September. Sanders was referred to less than 750 times and O’Malley was only mentioned by national media outlets a few hundred times.

Clinton was also declared the winner of the first Democratic debate. Following the debate, CNN wrote that she delivered a “poised, polished performance in the campaign’s first Democratic presidential debate, firmly defending herself against claims that she flip flops for political gain and likely quelling nerves in her own party after a stumbling start.” Another article describes her as “unflappable throughout the debate” and stated that she “proved without a doubt Tuesday night why she is the Democratic Party’s presidential front-runner.”

Adding to this bias, CNN discussed how Sanders “likely didn’t inspire voters in the African-American community” and how Vice-President Joe Biden, who was not part of the debate nor in the running, lost to Clinton.

This might be because Time Warner, one of Clinton’s top donors, owns CNN.

The way the mainstream media reports on the presidential election is flawed and dangerous. Sensationalizing irrelevant stories diverts from the candidate’s platforms and additional media bias favoring certain candidates obscures the truth.

Today we can easily connect to the current news on our phones, but we need to digest what we’re reading or watching. Certain news outlets are biased toward conservatives or liberals.

Some openly endorse politicians and increase positive coverage of them. Not all polls are conducted accurately and may only collect data from a small portion of the country’s voters.

As stakeholders in how the country is governed for the next four years, we have a responsibility to be aware of the facts. The best way to understand what candidates stand for is to watch original footage of their speeches and  then compare their statements to fact-checking websites. Potential voters can also answer questions on political quizzes like to find which candidate aligns the best with their beliefs. To find the most accurate and current polling, statistician Nate Silver and his staff provide the latest results on

We might not be able to control what media outlets report on, but we can still vote for the most worthy candidate for president.