You gotta’ love The National Enquirer, you know—the sleazy tabloid found near grocery checkouts that your mother used to glance at when she thought no one was looking? It was as nutty as it was outrageous. Here are a few of their iconic headlines:
Supreme Court Justice Scalia—Murdered by a Hooker (May 2016)
DEA Sting! Jeb Bush Snorted Cocaine on Night Dad Became Pres (Feb. 2016)
Rita Hayworth says…”I’m back from the dead: two years a Zombie” (Dec. 1968)
Cosby had Son Murdered (October 2015)
Like your goofy Uncle Barney’s outlandish stories he weaves after a few toddies, the attention-grabbing premises—built on the tiniest grains of truth—are too scurrilous to resist.
But now the venerable Enquirer has some competition. In the face of falling ratings, CNN has adopted an Enquirer-like disregard for realism, spinning every story possible with an “ain’t Trump awful” twist to appeal to the side of liberals that desperately wants to believe the silly articles. Here are a few headlines from or about CNN:
“Donald Trump’s 57 Most Outrageous Quotes” (CNN Aug. 2017)
“Donald Trump’s last 7 days are just mind-bogglingly bad” (CNN Sept. 2017)
”CNN Faces Backlash over Doctored Trump Video” (CNBC July 2017)
These are just a few recent ones. And if you think I’m overreacting, scholars at the notoriously liberal Harvard conducted a study of news coverage about Donald Trump. They found CNN stories about the president were negative 93% of the time, the worst of any outlet studied. The Washington Examiner (May 2017) said of the study
“..coverage was so negative it is hard to argue it was anywhere near neutral…CNN’s Trump coverage was 93% negative..negative stories outpaced positive by 13-1”
Hey, but maybe you think CNN’s exaggerated anti-Trump spin is just good business. If so, you’d be wrong. During the study period, CNN continued to have weak ratings. According to TVNewser (adweek), a website devoted to covering media developments, CNN was only 8th among cable news programs, while Fox News easily held the Number One spot.
So is there a lesson here? Maybe it’s if your theory is “sell the sizzle, not the steak” in news coverage, at least make sure there’s a real steak there. Otherwise, you might just go hungry—at least TV viewer-wise.