The “Student Blog Post” series invites students from my PLS 321: Electoral Process course to author their own blogs about recent election events.
On October 5, 2016, Fox News anchor, Megyn Kelly, criticized Donald Trump for not appearing on shows that ask the tough questions and for “…not venturing out to the unsafe places these days…”. In the same statement, Megyn Kelly criticized Trump for appearing on Hannity, and “pretty much only Hannity”. The subtle swing at her colleague incited a Twitter response from Hannity accusing Kelly of supporting Hillary Clinton.
The seemingly trivial feud between two news anchors of an openly conservative media outlet raises the question of what role the media does have and should have in politics and elections. According to “A Virtuous Circle”, Pippa Norris states that the function of the news media is to act as a civic forum. It should act as a mediator between the public and the government, providing both groups with an outlet to communicate with one another. In addition, Norris emphasizes the need for balance in reporting and an unbiased presentation of the facts. This, in turn, creates a better educated population, more readily able to form their own opinions about politics. In contemporary times, this does not seem to be the case. In order to increase ratings and appease a specific audience, the news media have increasingly “spun” stories and events to fit their narrative. Norris states that this imbalance in reporting has contributed to media “malaise” theories’ assertions that the news has caused widespread apathy and cynicism of public affairs and political leaders.
The quarrel between Kelly and Hannity highlights a major flaw within American news reporting: the media is not presenting information without the addition of their own “spin” and opinion. Although these shows that air on Fox News are not blatantly portrayed as being unbiased or objective, to the untrained eye, they may appear to be. For example, a young adult just exposing themselves to political conversations on television may tune into these shows and believe that this is objective news. This young person may form opinions based on the opinions of Hannity or Kelly without realizing their influence. Norris states that this type of rhetoric within the news media creates an “ignorance about the basic facts of politics”. This young adult tunes in to Fox News or CNN to hear a presentation of current events, and instead he encounters an anchor shouting personal criticisms of a presidential candidate. He will not have heard proposed policy of Trump or Clinton, but instead personal attacks on either candidate. This pre-formed opinion will have great influence on his political views and may translate into votes in the future. Therefore, the news media play a highly influential role in presidential elections.
The dispute between Hannity and Kelly is also evidence of the long arm of the media. The feud was extended onto Twitter, where a different and great audience is also influenced. Although Twitter is not a news channel, users may believe Hannity and Kelly to be reputable journalists and may as a result, form opinions based on theirs’. In addition, a valid criticism from Megyn Kelly about Trump’s choice of appearances was transformed into a personal conflict between her and Hannity. The malaise caused by the news media that Norris cautions about may only become greater with the addition and widespread use of social media outlets like Twitter. Furthermore, with much more of the younger population growing up with increased social media exposure, this malaise will only continue to spread.
Leilani Benavente is a 4th year Political Science major who plans to pursue a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and a career in government. Leilani enjoys spending time with family and friends, the ocean, and the outdoors.