To Cover or Not to Cover Melania Trump
More than one week after the release of the 2005 Access Hollywood tape, Melania Trump broke her silence. For ABC and NBC her Oct. 17 interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper was major news. CBS ignored it totally. Which network was right?
ABC’s David Muir began with the breaking news of the Republican candidate’s wife and spent more than two minutes on the story.
NBC spent more than a minute on Mrs. Trump after first covering Donald Trump’s “rigged” election claims.
In the CNN interview, Mrs. Trump stood by her Oct. 8 original statement:
“The words my husband used are unacceptable and offensive to me. This does not represent the man that I know. He has the heart and mind of a leader. I hope people will accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world.”
CBS’s newscast included: Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, Mr. Trump’s voter fraud allegations and Russian hacking.
By ignoring the interview, CBS raises the journalistic question: was Mrs. Trump’s interview newsworthy? Should networks cover candidates’ families when the candidates are in the eye of the hurricane?
Journalist Hooman Majd said: “I do believe that Mrs. Trump’s interview was newsworthy inasmuch as Mr. Trump’s video was newsworthy. … His wife’s reaction, and her take on what his attitudes towards women means, is also newsworthy, if she is potentially to be the first lady of the U.S.”
Former ABC and CBS correspondent Jack Laurence said, “Because she is married to the GOP candidate and her husband’s recorded comments about molesting women were a major news story, her reaction did have some newsworthiness.”
Majd added, “I think families are fair game, or should be covered, when issues relating particularly to “family values” are part of the campaign. In the case of Trump, and especially of Republicans who tend to make “family values” part of their appeal to the conservative American public, I do believe that anything that reflects on those so-called values is newsworthy.”
Was CBS right not to cover Mrs. Trump? If so, why did ABC and NBC include her?
“This is the kind of story that could be called “junk news.” To put it at the top of a serious evening news broadcast appears to be more of an attention-getting device than a sound journalistic one,” Laurence said. “The fact that CBS News did not report a marginal story like this one is not important, in my opinion.”
More from Majd:
- “My sense is that the media has a responsibility to not just the elite—the ones who despise Trump and the vulgarity he represents—but also to the millions who aren’t the elite, and who hear something they like in his rejection of politics as usual. This is exactly where the media has failed—in understanding the deep-rooted appeal of someone like Trump.”