President Trump likes to divide media outlets into what he calls “fake news” and “fair news.” Critics would say he tends to label sources that present unflattering stories fake news, while the ones that offer up puff pieces are considered legitimate.
Supporters would argue that fake news outlets fabricate stories, while the real ones take an unbiased approach to covering the administration.
Of course, those same supporters never label his Twitter account “fake news,” even when he makes statements that are demonstrably false and never apologizes for the errors. Apparently he’s held to a lower standard by those who put him in the highest office. But that’s for another time.
So how can a discerning media consumer (that’s you) figure out where the bias lies? Usually, it’s in the chyron.
The what? The chyron is the graphic overlay found at the bottom of the screen on cable news stations. Usually it’s a capsule of a news event or relevant quote or something the network thinks you need to know. Often they add “Breaking News” above it (whether it’s actually breaking news or not) just to make sure it catches your eye.
The idea is that you can learn something quickly by reading what it says. But sometimes what it doesn’t say can also reveal something about the network itself. On March 20, FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers appeared before the House Intelligence Committee to answer questions regarding to the Trump campaign, Russian hacking and leaks from the intelligence community.
During questioning, Comey admitted that the agency is investigating the Russian government’s attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election, and the Trump campaign’s ties to that government.
Sounds like news, eh? Maybe even “Breaking News.” And many outlets treated it that way. Around 11 a.m. EST, here are the chyrons from the major cable news networks:
CNN: (Breaking News) Comey Confirms FBI Investigating Trump/Russia Collusion
MSNBC: (Breaking News) FBI Director Confirms Trump-Russia Ties Investigation
HLN: (Breaking News) FBI Confirms Investigation Into Alleged Trump/Russia Ties
Even if you were just flipping through channels with the sound off, you’d probably figure out that the FBI Director said that they were looking into connections between Trump and Russia.
Not all channels, though. One chyron was a little different.
Fox News: Comey, Rogers Testify to House Intel Cmte
That’s it. No “Breaking News” designation and no reference to potential Trump campaign ties to Russia. They didn’t even mention an investigation. Just “Here are a couple of guys talking to a committee. Ho hum.” It’s technically true, but it doesn’t offer much news from a news network.
So guess which network is the president’s favorite? The ones that referenced an investigation into potential ties between his people and a foreign government…or the one that didn’t bother to mention any of that annoying stuff?
It’s the latter, of course. Maybe Fox somehow didn’t find it newsworthy. Maybe they weren’t trying to get too in-depth with their chyron (success!). Or maybe they’re mindful of keeping their most-favored-station status with the White House, so they dull their news blades to protect President Trump’s thin skin. Whatever it was, one chyron was not like the others, and it’s different because they seemed less eager to report news that might hurt him.
To be fair, that’s just one snapshot in time. Maybe Fox put it up it earlier, but didn’t let it linger on their screen too long before going back to something neutral. Maybe they brought it up later. Or maybe they rotated their chyrons so fast, it just wasn’t in sync with the news found on the other networks. Like bell-bottom jeans, leg warmers and the Nickelback CD that’s hidden in your collection, nobody wants to be judged based on one moment.
Still, at that particular moment every news network thought the FBI director confirming an ongoing investigation was worth mentioning — except one. And it happened to be the one President Trump likes.
Then again, if they’re going to downplay FBI investigations that involve the administration, you can’t really blame him.