TV news just can't quit Donald Trump.
According to data compiled by the Tyndall Report and first reported by the Associated Press, the network evening news broadcasts have devoted more time to covering his campaign than all the other Republican and Democratic candidates combined.
Trump was the focus of 62% of NBC Nightly News' campaign coverage during an eight-week span beginning on June 1. The CBS Evening News isn't far behind, devoting 53% of its 2016 coverage to Trump's assorted antics, while ABC's World News Tonight has dedicated a smaller proportion, 31%, to the ascendant GOP frontrunner.
Taken as a whole, Trump emerges as the undisputed king of the Big Three newscasts. As of July 24, 60 of the cumulative 114 minutes spent on the primary campaign have been focused on Trump. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush came in a distant second, with 15 minutes across the board. Of the time the networks have spent covering Democrat Hillary Clinton, only five minutes have centered on issues unrelated to questions surrounding her use of a private email account while serving as secretary of state between 2009 and 2013.
Given the size of the Republican field — which has ballooned to 16 or 17 candidates, depending on how you count — it makes sense that Clinton would command slightly less attention than she is expected to invite as the process moves forward. NBC, for all its Trump coverage, has also led the field in total minutes spent on the campaign, with 56 to CBS's 31 and ABC's 27.
The fixation on Trump's ramshackle candidacy has come under fire from the Huffington Post, whose top editors resolved on July 17 to post stories on Trump only under the site's "Entertainment" banner.
"Our reason is simple: Trump's campaign is a sideshow," they declared at the time. The next day, a number of posts about Trump's inflammatory remarks about Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) appeared under bylines from Huffington Post political reporters, all of them in the Entertainment section.
Online or on the evening news, the Donald's daily doings have proven too enticing for the political media to pass up. In a GOP field of mostly cautious contenders, there has been a reluctance to stake out controversial positions. That leaves Trump, to paraphrase the parlance of the newsroom, as the lone dog-biting man. Now, though, as he continues to rise in the polls, especially in early contests like Iowa and New Hampshire, there is a growing belief that his surge says something very important about the state of this race.