On Thursday, The New York Times announced that it had reached 3.5 million paid subscribers and 130 million monthly visitors, a figure that is more than twice the paper of record’s reach two years ago. The Washington Post, meanwhile, has also seen massive growth, on the back of nuanced and important coverage—their reporting on Roy Moore represents everything that is right with journalism in 2017. Mainstream news outlets, meanwhile, have been more comfortable calling out the daily assaults on truth that emanate from the Trump administration. In many ways, these outlets have learned important lessons from their coverage of Trump’s rise.
But these publications have also shied away from reckoning with one of the biggest and most calamitous journalistic errors in recent memory: The over-coverage of Hillary Clinton’s emails, which took up much more print and television space than any of Donald Trump’s far more important and damning scandals. On Thursday, The Columbia Journalism Review published a long and thorough analysis of that coverage, calling out these same organizations for failing to acknowledge that they made a mistake. Some highlights:
- “The various Clinton-related email scandals accounted for more sentences than all of Trump’s scandals combined.”
- “In just six days, The New York Times ran as many cover stories about Hillary Clinton’s emails as they did about all policy issues combined in the 69 days leading up to the election.”
- Researchers “found roughly four times as many Clinton-related sentences that described scandals as opposed to policies, whereas Trump-related sentences were one-and-a-half times as likely to be about policy as scandal.”
It’s no wonder that many voters concluded that Clinton was just as scandal-prone and damaged as Donald Trump—the media coverage of her candidacy suggested her scandals were at least as important as his were. News outlets have gone to great lengths to decry the rise of fake news and its impact on the 2016 election. But the coverage of Clinton’s emails by professional journalists at mainstream news outlets may have had as much, if not more, of an impact—something these outlets have thus far failed to grapple with.