Networks' nightly newscasts have ‘incessantly hostile’ tone toward Trump, study indicates

A new study by a conservative media watchdog group concludes that the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts have covered President Trump with negative spin 90 percent of the time, but claims the coverage has done little to sway the public's overall opinion of his administration.

Media Research Center senior editor Rich Noyes analyzed every episode of “NBC Nightly News,” ABC’s “World News Tonight” and “CBS Evening News” since Trump’s Jan. 20, 2017 inauguration. Noyes noted that the “tone of coverage remains incessantly hostile” and was only positive 10 percent of the time.

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NBC’s “Nightly News with Lester Holt” averages 8.4 million viewers a night.

NBC’s “Nightly News with Lester Holt” averages 8.4 million viewers a night. (NBC)

“To determine the spin of news coverage, our analysts tallied all explicitly evaluative statements about the President or his administration from either reporters, anchors or non-partisan sources such as experts or voters,” Noyes wrote. “Evaluations from partisan sources, as well as neutral statements, were not included.”

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The study indicated that the tone of coverage was “exceptionally hostile” toward the administration in February 2018 when then-White House aide Rob Porter resigned amid domestic abuse allegations.

While traditional broadcast newscasts have been losing viewers for years, they still command a considerable audience. During the fourth quarter of 2018, roughly 23 million people tuned into evening newscasts on a nightly basis, according to TVNewser. ABC averaged 8.7 million viewers, NBC averaged 8.4 million and CBS finished third with 6.1 million nightly viewers.

ABC News anchor David Muir.

ABC News anchor David Muir. (© 2017 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Noyes wrote that “polls show this negative coverage has had no discernible impact on the public’s attitudes toward the President.”

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Conservative strategist Chris Barron told Fox News that “overwhelmingly negative coverage of Trump in nightly news casts certainly hurts the President with low-information voters,” but echoed Noyes when it comes to the grand scheme of things.

“The constant barrage of unfair and negative coverage also has the effect of hardening Trump’s support among his base,” Barron said. “Further, I think more and more average Americans are simply tuning the coverage out. The non-stop faux outrage machine has gotten very boring and very predictable. If everything is a crisis, then nothing is a crisis.”

Jeff Glor attends The Hollywood Reporter's Most Powerful People In Media 2018.  (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images)

Jeff Glor attends The Hollywood Reporter's Most Powerful People In Media 2018.  (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images)

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The MRC study also indicated that Trump’s presidency accounted for 87 hours of coverage in 2018, which is down from 99 hours in 2017. Noyes noted that it could be “a sign the networks are wearying of treating every Trump tweet as deserving of crisis-level coverage.”

The MRC also noted that the study matches a recent examination by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.

“Pew’s bottom line looks like ours,” Noyes wrote. “93 percent negative spin, vs. just 7 percent positive.”

Noyes concluded: “The media elite have clearly waded into the political fray to wage war against this President. But have they accomplished anything beyond cementing their reputation as political partisans, not objective journalists?”