We usually write our Raw Data section using information extracted from the articles we analyze. Yet this time we pulled more than half of the data from external sources. Why? Because the articles were largely opinion, with little information about the general assembly itself. When we did find data, it was mostly about one subject: Trump.
It’s beneficial for the media to inform readers of Trump’s potential impact on this year’s General Assembly, particularly in reference to his proposed U.N. reforms or issues such as Iran or North Korea. But the coverage we analyzed focused almost exclusively on Trump and contained dramatic speculation about what he might do or say, with minimal information about other issues (which is slant). When it came to information about Trump’s potential impact, the articles were lacking in specifics (more slant).
Here’s how these slant issues appear in the articles:
Is it all about Trump?
“Trump’s debut on Tuesday is perhaps the most highly anticipated moment…” (The Washington Post)
“Spotlight turns on Donald Trump for debut UN address.” (Financial Times)
Trump isn’t the only topic of interest at the General Assembly, although the above sentences may suggest otherwise. What’s mostly missing from the articles is a discussion of issues that may be covered at the meeting, such as the situations in North Korea, Myanmar or Venezuela.
Worry without specifics
“…world leaders [are] anxious about what he’ll say.” (USA Today)
“…all eyes will be on the US president’s tone.” (Financial Times)
So, leaders are worried, or at least closely watching Trump, but why? What might Trump do or say? What effects, positive or negative, could he have? The word “worry” implies possible negative outcomes. The articles leave some clues – such as the possibility of the U.S. pulling out of the Iran deal. This may be negative, but the coverage lacks specifics on exactly how.
The media plays an important role in focusing our attention and shaping our worldview. It can help broaden readers’ understanding of the world or it can narrow it. What happens, then, when the media focuses on and dramatizes one subject – Trump in this case? It potentially encourages readers to become caught up in the drama, distracting them from considering other relevant data to better understand the issues at hand. To read more about the agenda for the General Assembly, check out our Context section.
Jens Erik Gould
Jens is a political, business and entertainment writer and editor who has reported from a dozen countries for media outlets including The New York Times, National Public Radio and Bloomberg News