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Media Coverage of the Election: Are We Obsessed With Sex?

Recently, Newt Gingrich made the comment on ​Megyn Kelly’s show that the Fox anchor is “fascinated with sex” after she mentioned Donald Trump’s offensive statements in the leaked “Access Hollywood” recordings. It got me thinking: does he have a point? Is the media covering Trump’s tapes, and stories relating to sex scandals, because they like talking about sex? We all know sex sells, so it seemed like there was truth to it. Let’s dig a little and find out.

The first study I came across was by the Media Research Center, which – it should be noted – is a conservative organization. They studied the time spent by broadcast news shows on Hillary Clinton’s paid Wall Street speeches and Trump’s recording, between the Friday that the speech excerpts were released, and the following debate on Sunday.

Their results showed that there were 103 minutes devoted to the recordings, and eight minutes to the speeches. By Monday night, there was a “15-to-1 ratio” between them.

This seems pretty clear. In fact, the article that discussed the study also quoted former journalist Fred Bayles, who said that “the stuff coming out about Trump is very visceral.” In contrast to Clinton’s scandals, which he said are “not as salacious.”

An article by Politico also mentioned this study. It added that the study found that 91 percent of the coverage of Trump was “hostile.”  Could this be because of the recording and sexual assault allegations? Probably.

Then there’s the study by the Tyndall report. It compared the amount of time that nightly news spent covering the issues during the past elections since 1988. It’s almost insane. In 2008, they spent 220 minutes, in 2012—114 minutes, and in 2016—a whopping 32 minutes. So who’s fault is it? The media, for not covering the candidates’ positions? Or the candidates, for neglecting the issues and instead focusing on throwing around insults, accusations, and vague promises? (And yes, I’m looking at you, Trump.)

When I sat down to write this article, I had several questions I wanted to answer. Let’s break it down:

Is the media spending more time on Trump? Yes. Is it more negative? Seems likely. Should they be covering the election like this? To me, it seems warranted. Clinton has her flaws, but they’re nothing like Trump’s.

Is the media covering Trump’s sex-related scandals more because as a country, we are obsessed with sex? Yes. As I said, sex sells. Everyone knows it. But there’s another reason why: the lack of substantial information to report on. The reporters talk about the news. If they heard about Trump’s tape, but not about his policies, guess what they’re going to talk about? So, yes, as a country, I believe we’re drawn to the scandals—the secret tapes, the deleted emails— and the more salacious, the better. However, if the candidates want the media to talk about the issues, then that’s on them to make their policies clear.

Images: 1, 2, 3

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Irina Kovari

U Mass Amherst

I'm a senior marketing major at UMass, with a passion for writing and equal rights. I'm on MASSPIRG at UMass, drink too much caffeine, and eat too much chocolate.
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