Local Democrats: Media Not Feeling The “Bern”

By Jayme Lozano

As the race to the White House heats up, voters are taking a harder look at how presidential candidates are portrayed by the media.

While there is no lack of coverage for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, supporters of Bernie Sanders across the country have expressed concerns about a media blackout against their candidate.

Bernie Sanders campaigning in New York in 2015. Michael Vadon/Flickr.

Bernie Sanders campaigning in New York in 2015. Michael Vadon/Flickr.

Cole Adams, who is majoring in global studies, political science and Spanish at Texas Tech University and has worked with the Democratic Party, says the shortage of Sanders coverage is obvious.

“When I was on The Hill, you sit there for hours watching cable news,” Adams said. “It was Trump, and then a lot of Hillary, and then maybe every five days there was something about Bernie that was of substance.”

Adams interned in Washington, D.C., last fall and is currently working on Tristan Ramirez’s city council campaign. He said the pro-Clinton bias  in the Democratic Party can be problematic locally.

“There’s a big out-of-touch of rural areas of Lubbock,” Adams said. “I’ve seen a lot of what goes on, and I’m not necessarily sure it’s what’s best for the party and best for growth in areas that are heavily controlled by Republicans. At the end of the day, the party has got to start looking at new, fresh alternatives, and Bernie Sanders is one of those fresh alternatives.”

Erik Bucy, Marshall and Sharleen Formby regents professor of strategic communication, said the media coverage has been similar to the campaign he worked on for Jerry Brown against Bill Clinton in 1992.

“He was kind of the Bernie Sanders of the day,” Bucy said. “His phrase for falling out of media favor was that you were put into the black hole of media anonymity, and it was really hard to come out of.”

While Bucy has not seen content analyses comparing the coverage of the two democratic candidates, he said Sanders has not been completely blacked out by the media.

“I see a lot of coverage for Sanders, given that he’s the trailing candidate,” Bucy said. “More coverage is going to the frontrunner, and it really depends on the outlet, but I haven’t seen Sanders where we were in 1992, where he’s being asked to leave the race.”

To take his message to the Democratic National Convention, Sanders should focus on social media because he has many young supporters, Bucy said.

“He’s not part of a machine,” Bucy said. “People want to hear something real, genuine, and authentic, and I think he’s delivering that. He seems to be speaking from the heart, he’s saying what he feels he should, and for whatever reason, it appeals to younger people.”

Samantha Fields, a member of the Lubbock County Democratic Party, said that although she does not have cable TV, she can tell there is a media bias toward Clinton based on headlines about the campaign.

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“The way they spin things is incredible,” Fields said. “Like Bernie Sanders’ fundraising and how it’s low this month and it’s a sign that it’s the end of everything, but they fail to mention he gets more donations after contests, and in April, there were only two, so it’s less opportunities to get money.”

Fields said another instance of media bias against Sanders was during a primary in which he did well in, but MSNBC put the camera on an empty stage and waited for Trump to come on.

“For a good five minutes, it was just an empty stage,” Fields said. “It’s pretty obvious that there’s a media blackout, on Bernie and it’s sad. We’re supposed to be depending on journalism to get people educated and, obviously, it’s not doing that.”

She added that if Sanders starts winning in the West, the media will have to recognize him as a legitimate candidate.

“They’re going to have to acknowledge that he exists and that Hillary is not the end all be all for the Democratic Party,” Fileds said.

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