Two troubling topics have surrounded the Trump administration in recent days, as he has received criticism for his handling of the shooting at a Florida high school, and the verdict of the Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election in 2016. In an article from the New York Times, authors Katie Rogers and Maggie Haberman mesh the two stories into a critique of President Trump’s responsiveness and overall temperament since the events.
The article, titled “Trump’s Evolution from Relief to Fury Over the Russia Indictment”, analyzes his Twitter posts as well as his visits and conservations with state and local officials in the Parkland, Florida region. The article has little groundbreaking news, and is more a recap and analyzation into President Trump’s tweets.
The New York Times is a noteworthy publication, with a reputation of leaning to the left on many issues, especially regarding Trump and his interactions. While this doesn’t represent bias in and of itself, it should give the reader an idea of what type of writing it is.
The first couple sentences in the article have a sarcastic and comical tone, as the two authors are quick to mention his Florida estate, golf, and television, all within the same sentence. These have been points of criticism from the left of the president, as many believe he is away from Washington too much. The next paragraph dives into President Trump’s social media posts, calling the posts a “Twitter tirade that was unusually angry and defiant even by Mr. Trump’s standards.” This type of language shows clear bias and opposition against the President.
Transitioning into the Russian collusion investigation, Rogers and Haberman discuss what has been said from the Trump administration and Trump himself. They spend five paragraphs refuting stances and positions taken by the Trump administration. In summary of this portion they essentially recap positions taken by Trump, and spin the narrative to frame his as guilty or hiding something. This type of approach is aimed to create distrust.
An argument could also be made that the authors used the conflict approach here. Instead of recapping the investigations and its findings which showed that meddling took place but not directly with the campaign, they decided to focus on inaccuracies of the investigations and how the findings could still lead to collusion.
There is also clear journalistic bias because of where certain information was presented. The first portion of the article, where most will only read until, mentioned only negative things about the President, which created the perception that he wasn’t handling the two events in an acceptable manor. The overall picture that readers will take away is that the President was at his Florida estate, not playing golf only because it would be insensible following the shooting, watching TV, and going on a “Twitter tirade”, “outburst”, “eruption”, or was “lashing out”.
Referencing the journalistic pyramid of what readers capture, this is at the top. At the very bottom of the article, the authors finally mention his meetings and visits to officials and survivors of the school shooting. They described an interview from the major of Parkland Christine Hunschofsky where she talked about her conversation with President Trump. She said she was “struck by how affected the president had seemed by his hospital visit.” This is the first attempt for readers to see the President in a positive light, however most readers will not even see this information because it was placed at the bottom of the article.
Overall the article clearly portrays the President in a negative light, and taking away the end portion, never details him as somebody caring or responsible, even in the wake of a tragedy. This type of language adds to the conflict surrounding Trump and how he handles different types of events. This added conflict is strategic in making readers believe that Trump is essentially unfit for office and is irrational.
In order to analyze this bias a study must be conducted. An interesting study would be to look specifically at the two topics mentioned in this article (shooting and Russian collusion) and ask how you think the president is handling the situation. Take a group of moderate voters and get input on how they think President Trump is handling these two situations, and then take another group of moderate voters, make them read this article, and get their input on his actions. Theoretically the group that was shown the article will have less favorable opinions compared to the group that is not shown the article. This is a very simple study, however it directly shows how one article can have an impact on an opinion.