The Center for Public Integrity published some alarming numbers Monday: Hundreds of people who work in the news media have donated a total of about $382,000 to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, while only 50 or so media professionals have given about $14,000 to Donald Trump. That’s a whopping 96 percent of media dollars going to Clinton.
The Drudge Report quickly linked to the center’s analysis, which seems certain to be used as ammunition in Republican attacks on the “liberal” media.
The donation discrepancy certainly won’t boost confidence in the neutrality of news reports, but numbers don’t tell the whole story. There are no campaign trail reporters on the list of Clinton contributors named in the Center for Public Integrity’s report; the only name that could be classified as covering the presidential politics beat in any way this year would be RT host Larry King, whose celebrity-oriented show features occasional political interviews (King has said he counts Trump as a friend, but backs Clinton’s White House bid.)
- New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum
- Former ABC News anchor Carole Simpson, now a journalist-in-residence at Emerson College
- Washington Post Finance Director Damien Brouillard
- New York Times Hong Kong-based videographer Jonah Kessel
- ESPN baseball news editor Claire Smith
- Vogue Editor Anna Wintour
- Vanity Fair features editor Jane Sarkin
- Hollywood Reporter Publisher Lynne Segall
- Elle Editor Roberta Myers
- Verge tech editor Lauren Goode
- Orange County Register restaurant critic Brad Johnson
- Liberty (Mo.) Tribune education editor Ryne Dittmer
- Santa Cruz (Calif.) Sentinel city editor Julie Copeland
- Shelter Island (N.Y.) Reporter local politics reporter Julie Lane
The Center for Public Integrity’s findings would be far more concerning if they included the journalists who shape coverage of the race for the White House.
One could argue that people who work in the media — in any capacity — should refrain from making political donations. But because not everyone subscribes to that philosophy, let’s be clear about who the donors are: They are TV and food critics, sports and fashion editors, and local news reporters.
It is tempting to view these donation figures as a proxy for journalists’ political leanings overall (i.e. 96 percent of journalists are liberal, whether they contribute to campaigns or not), but support for Clinton over Trump is probably an inaccurate gauge. The Fix’s tally of prominent Republican politicians, donors and operatives who back Clinton is up to 67, at last check. Preferring the Democrat in this election does not necessarily make you a liberal.
Plus, Trump has blacklisted news outlets whose coverage he disdains, mocked a reporter with a physical disability, called journalists “scum” and said he would like to “open up” libel laws to make suing media companies easier. Journalists who chip in to defeat Trump might be motivated by a desire to protect a free press, rather than by some left-wing ideology.
The Center for Public Integrity’s report is a bad look for the media — no doubt about it. But it does not prove widespread bias in coverage of the presidential race.