The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Report: Nightly newscasts have covered Hillary Clinton e-mail story as much as her candidacy

Hillary Clinton delivers a speech concerning America’s economy at the New School in New York. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Network news watchdog Andrew Tyndall is out with some numbers on how the big nightly newscasts have covered the presidential race, and the figures are chilling for the campaign of Hillary Clinton. In those marquee programs, ABC News, CBS News and NBC News have spend just as much time — 83 minutes — on the candidate’s e-mail scandal as they have on her candidacy — 82 minutes, according to Tyndall’s number-crunching. The calculations stem from the weekday nightly news broadcasts on campaign 2016 from the start of the year through Sept. 18.

Minus the e-mail coverage, Clinton’s exposure on the nightly news falls short of Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s — which is 145 minutes across the three networks. That accounts for 29 percent of all campaign 2016 coverage on the three networks and 43 percent of the Republican side. Writes Tyndall in an e-mail: “NBC has covered him most heavily (63 mins vs ABC 41, CBS 41) but NBC has covered all aspects of Campaign 2016 most, so in percentage terms (NBC 29%, CBS 25%, ABC 32%) ABC has focused on Trump most closely.” The Trump factor in large part accounts for why the Republican side of campaign 2016 swamps the Democratic side by a count of 338 minutes to 128 minutes. (Tyndall sent the report to the Erik Wemple Blog via e-mail and it is not available on the Internet as of right now; his site is here).

To sum up, Trump is dominating coverage (no surprise), and half of Hillary Clinton’s nightly news coverage is, by definition, negative (alarming).

The full report:

NOTE: these findings cover Campaign 2016 coverage for the year to date (through last Friday, September 18th) on the weekday nightly newscasts of the three broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC combined). Year-to-year comparisons cover nightly news coverage for the penultimate years of the previous six Presidential campaigns (starting in 1991).
> 1. At this early stage, this is the most newsworthy Presidential campaign on record. Year-to-date the three-network total is 504 mins (ABC 128, CBS 161, NBC 215). At this stage in the previous two cycles, both lagged behind (2007–462 mins; 2011–277 mins).
> 2. This year’s coverage is already more than the entire penultimate year for four previous campaigns (1991–146 mins; 1995–294 mins; 1999–339 mins; 2003–167 mins). The previous record annual total was 2007 (1072 mins) with 2011 in second place (790 mins).
> 3. Republicans have attracted the lion’s share of Campaign 2016 coverage: 67% of the total (GOP–338 mins; Dems–128 mins; not party specific–39 mins). In part the Republican boost derives from the fact that it has already held two debates (63 mins) but their impact is minor compared with that of Donald Trump.
> 3. Donald Trump alone (145 mins) accounts for 29% of all coverage and 43% of GOP coverage. NBC has covered him most heavily (63 mins vs ABC 41, CBS 41) but NBC has covered all aspects of Campaign 2016 most, so in percentage terms (NBC 29%, CBS 25%, ABC 32%) ABC has focused on Trump most closely.
> 4. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign (82 mins) looks like a laggard compared with Trump — except for the unexpected story that she did not plan for. The networks have spent just as much time on the investigation into her e-mails as Secretary of State (83 mins) as they have on her candidacy. Add the two together and HRC turns out to be even more newsworthy than Trump. CBS has found the e-mails more newsworthy than the candidacy (31 mins vs 19); NBC has focused more on the candidacy than the e-mails (42 mins vs 26); ABC has treated them roughly equally (e-mails 25 mins vs candidacy 21).
> 5. Other candidates have received scant coverage. The third most prominent is Jeb Bush (43 mins) while the fourth is not even a formal candidate but only a speculative one, Joe Biden (31 mins). In descending order of minutes of coverage here is the remainder of the Top Ten: Rubio (11) Walker (10) Christie (9) Romney’s decision not to run (8) Sanders (8) Cruz (7).