The limitations of depicting Trump with dramatic spin
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The limitations of depicting Trump with dramatic spin

March 9, 2018


Read between the lines. Learn how news outlets distort the information.

Take a look at this list of adjectives:
– angry and increasingly isolated
– abandoned and alone
– uncertain about whom to trust
– long been furious
– frustrated by the circumstance
– uncontrollable commander in chief

And this list of verbs:
– shocks and rages
– fumes in private
– revives old grudges
seethed with anger
– has thrived in chaotic environments
– may plunge into unrest and malaise

These phrases were all used to describe one person: President Trump. And they were all in just one article: a piece last Saturday by The Washington Post. Many more outlets used similar phrases. None of them are objective or measurable; they’re dramatic, emotional and disparaging.

The article was published in the Post’s news section, and wasn’t marked opinion. Yet it read like a novel. There was so much subjective, sensational language that the article rated at 96 percent spun. Its headline, for example, had no measurable information except the words “Trump” and “White House”:

‘Pure madness’: Dark days inside the White House as Trump shocks and rages

The Post also cited other officials who spoke in a similar vein — for instance, a retired Army general saying Trump was “starting to wobble in his emotional stability” and a former official referring to “Trump’s fundamentally distorted personality” which “at its core is chaotic, volatile and transgressive.”

The subjective language supports a single point of view: that Trump is unstable, he’s making bad decisions and the public should be alarmed.

This is an unconventional administration, there is turnover at the White House and there has been disagreement domestically and internationally regarding policy like Trump’s new steel tariffs. Trump may act out of anger at times and some of the recent events may have negative effects. Regardless, it would be more objective to give people the facts — without the emotion. That way, if there are potential problems, people can more easily understand them and respond to them. Anger, fear and alarm don’t usually help.

Let’s try it. Here’s the main data we extracted from the article:
– Trump announced new tariffs on aluminum and steel
– Trump didn’t have prepared remarks for a meeting with steel and aluminum executives
– Former communications director Hope Hicks announced her resignation
– White House senior adviser Jared Kushner’s security clearance was downgraded
– Gary Cohn announced he would resign as director of the National Economic Council
– Trump sent a tweet critical of Attorney General Jeff Sessions
– The Russia investigation is ongoing

Was that a different experience than the sensational adjectives and verbs above? This list of facts isn’t the same as reading about “pure madness” or “dark days.” News consumers can decipher the facts for themselves and come to their own conclusions, instead of being given strong opinions by media outlets.

Additionally, there was little balance in the media coverage. Few other points of view were provided. One would be that the American people elected Trump, and some approve of his leadership, so his administration is in some ways a reflection of Americans’ own choices. Here’s another — perhaps he does get angry, but it’s not leading to the end of the executive branch as we know it. We’ll probably survive.

On Tuesday, several days after the articles about “chaos” in the Post and other outlets, Trump tweeted, “There is no Chaos, only great Energy.” Articles covering the tweet in The New York Times and USA Today rated 43 and 47 percent for overall integrity, which wasn’t much higher than the 35 and 36 percent that The the Washington Post and NBC News received in their original coverage.

Granted, Trump uses dramatic, sensational language himself — in his tweets and in comments to the press. He also makes disparaging remarks about the press and some of his own officials. In fact, we’ve rated his own tweets for spin, slant and logic, and they tend to receive low scores. But the media doesn’t need to respond with language that’s just as — if not more — sensational. That likely perpetuates the drama and the blame. If the press truly wants to hold the executive branch accountable for its actions, it would best do that with facts.

Is it fact or fiction? Which outlet presents the most spin?

  • 84% Spun

  • 84% Spun

  • 85% Spun

  • 96% Spun

The Numbers

See how the articles rate in spin, slant and logic when held against objective standards.

View Technical Sheet >

Raw Data

Unspun and unbiased. These are the facts.

Trump tweets ‘there is no chaos’ in the White House

President Donald Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning that “there is no chaos” in the White House. The tweet came after multiple news articles and opinion pieces said that Trump’s White House was in “chaos,” and criticized staff turnover.

Trump’s full tweet reads: “The new Fake News narrative is that there is CHAOS in the White House. Wrong! People will always come & go, and I want strong dialogue before making a final decision. I still have some people that I want to change (always seeking perfection). There is no Chaos, only great Energy!”

Also on Tuesday morning, Trump tweeted about DACA, oil production, North Korea and the Oscars.