Did NBC News Miss the Trump Story?

On September 14 Donald Trump spoke at the Bethel United Methodist Church in Flint, Michigan. When he began criticizing Hillary Clinton, pastor Faith Green Timmons interrupted, asking him to focus on issues in Flint.

ABC led its broadcast with the story.

ABC Graphic

ABC Graphic

CBS did a story with its White House correspondent.

NBC Nightly News did not air the story, but put out one tweet.

The next night, all three networks aired Trump’s response. The lead was Trump saying the audience was great but that the pastor had set him up. CBS and ABC questioned his statement. NBC did not.

This all came at a time when Trump was consciously trying to gain African-American supporters. Was this incident small enough that it could be passed over on a busy news day? Was ABC overplaying the situation to lead their show with it? Or did NBC simply make a mistake?

David Folkenflik, a media correspondent for NPR, said:

“I think it’s a lively moment on the campaign trail that evokes bigger issues and underlying tensions. In that sense, it’s a nice moment to capture and to cover.”

Folkenflik also said that it is important to give the networks room to pursue other stories. “I’d rather each broadcast provide something distinctive rather than replicating one another.”

Matt Storin, former editor of the Boston Globe, said:

“Bottom Line: it was a story worth doing … NBC obviously chose not to do the story, but it [is] hard to critique them without know what other stories were vying for their attention.”

More from our panel:

  • Folkenflik on NBC not questioning the validity of Trump’s response: “If that’s the case then that’s a failure of reporting, especially with Trump but regardless of the candidate. If he’s saying that a pastor is out to get him when he’s praising a crowd that’s out to get him that’s important context to give the story.”
  • Folkenflik on covering Trump: “An important thing to remember about covering Trump in particular is that there is such a firehose of controversy and incendiary statements and provocative motive that it’s hard to not simply lurch from covering one to the next. It’s worth capturing these [moments] and at the same time that inhibits what you need to know as voters and what is substance.”
  • Storin on the pastor’s interruption: “On a human interest level it was interesting because Trump is usually so in control at his appearances and rarely is he in a humbling situation.”

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