The Washington Post has a Donald Trump obsession. Some might call it a vendetta.
Although the flamboyant former president has been out of the White House for more than two and a half years, he gets far more front-page coverage in the Post than the current president, Joe Biden.
And nearly all of the Post’s reporting on Trump is negative.
To be sure, Trump’s endless legal troubles are big news and should be thoroughly covered. But in the pages of the capital city’s venerable daily paper the nation’s economic, social, educational, health, and foreign affairs problems facing the incumbent president take a back seat to Trump’s ongoing indictments of one kind or another.
For June and July – a period of 61 days – Trump’s name appeared 33 times in Washington Post Page-One headlines.
Biden, who is the current president, skated away with just 14 Page-One mentions.
Moreover, 31 of the 33 headlines with Trump’s name in them were negative. For example:
- “Justice Dept. reveals damning details in Trump case”
- “U.S.: Trump flouted law all along way”
In contrast, eight of the 14 Biden mentions were positive, such as these:
- “Biden announces new loan forgiveness”
- “Biden’s border authority affirmed”
Something is wrong here. Trump is not the president; Biden is. That is not to say that Trump is not newsworthy. He is. After all, polls show he is the leading Republican contender for the 2024 presidential nomination.
But more than twice as much front-page coverage of Trump as of Biden seems a little over the top.
Is news about Trump more important than news about the man who is currently charged with leading the nation through these perilous times and who is making decisions that affect our lives every day? And isn’t the front page where we expect to find coverage of the day’s most important events?
Editors running the Post apparently think their readers care more about Trump’s legal troubles than Biden’s leadership through these perilous times. Maybe they do. We live in highly partisan, and highly polarized, times.
To be sure, every newspaper is free to place stories anywhere their editors decide to put them. There are no formal rules for what must be played on the front page. Each newsroom is free to make its own choices.
Most newspapers have what is called a daily Page-One meeting. There, the paper’s top editors gather and discuss the stories they think should be placed on Page One. Each editor makes a pitch for their favorites. Clearly, Post editors agree with robot-like regularity that Trump, not Biden, is the top story of the day.
This past week Trump was in the media spotlight for being indicted again by a federal grand jury and appearing in court in Washington to plead “not guilty” to charges stemming from the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Tons of Page-One coverage of that in the Post, as it should be.
But where was Biden when all this was coming down? He was on vacation at his Delaware beach house, riding his bike, and sunning himself on the sand: lots of nice pictures for TV.
Do you think it was by accident that Biden just happened to be on vacation while Trump was in the dock? Or do you think Biden knew the indictments were coming down – after all, it was his own Justice Department that brought them – and decided to get out of town and leave the big news spotlight all to Trump?
My guess is the latter.
In sum, those who study the Post's front pages over time might conclude that the newspaper – in its choice of story placement and the negative tone of the headlines – is out to get Trump. Or, conversely, out to boost Biden.
Either way, they wouldn’t be far from wrong.