Thursday, September 15, 2016

Trump 'steels' media attention in Youngstown

Christine Holmes |

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to see a newsroom at work during a presidential election season. So it's important to point out the subjectivity of this blogpost from the beginning. I'm going to be analyzing how WFMJ in Youngstown is covering visits from presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and I'll be adding my personal observations and opinions from my time in the newsroom.

Campaigning for Youngstown
Youngstown is always a political hot spot during any election. The city is located in a swing state, so that's already enough reason for candidates to be in the area, but it's also a geographically convenient location for visits since the city is just an hour's drive from both Cleveland and Pittsburgh. 

Also making Youngstown an appealing stop for politicians is its history. Youngstown was once a booming city, a steel town that even feared attack during the Cold War era due to its vital position in the American economy. 

However, the steel mills eventually closed and moved overseas, putting thousands without jobs, forcing family to relocate. Youngstown has never quite recovered from that devastation, and candidates use that sad story as an opportunity to instill false hope in the hearts of the city's last standing. 

Trump and the rust belt
                                                                        CNN via YouTube

Around the time of the Republican National Convention, CNN published a story about the uprise of voters switching to republican ballots in Mahoning County, Youngstown being in the heart of it. 

Youngstown news outlets were well aware of this shift in voting back in March, but Trump didn't catch wind until it made national headlines. 

That's when the GOP nominee turned his attention to the Mahoning Valley. He even went as far as giving the Youngstown area a shoutout on his personal social media accounts, raising speculation that he'd soon be visiting the Valley following the RNC.

Trump in our backyard
Even though Trump had just discovered Youngstown as a campaign target in July, WFMJ was already covering his every move. As mentioned before, Cleveland is only an hour away from Youngstown, so WFMJ treated coverage of the RNC as covering the Valley's own backyard. 

WFMJ had constant coverage of the convention, from start to finish by switching out members of a team of reporters of photographers and reporters each day. 

Stories included anything from insurance policies at Quicken Loans Arena, to protests outside the venue and even local high school students making the trip to Cleveland. 

Those inside the newsroom, working the assignment desk in particular, played a vital role on the web. Desk assistants/ web producers, like myself, monitored the public scanner broadcast of the RNC on Broadcastify

We would listen for any big protests to alert our crews in Cleveland if they needed to get to any spot news. We would also write anything for the web as remotely possible, this mainly came from press releases and social media or writing stories we'd previously broadcast but never turn around for web. 

Trump in our front yard
Following the excitement of the RNC, Donald Trump was sure enough in the Mahoning Valley, and on several occasions. WFMJ was there for all of it, as it's a never-ending job. 

Donald Trump has made two visits in Youngstown since he turned his attention to the Mahoning Valley during the RNC. His first visit was at Youngstown State in August. 

WFMJ provided full coverage of the visit, online through stories and live streams, and on air during news broadcasts. Stories began with preview information and commentary from Mahoning County Republican Party Chair, Mark Munroe. Other stories included information about Rudy Giuliani's remarks during Trump's visit, as well as coverage of protestors at the University.

Donald Trump waves to supporters at Canfield Fair/ WFMJ
Not even a month later, Trump was back in Youngstown, this time making a visit at the Canfield Fair (the largest county fair in the state). 

After much speculation, the station confirmed Trump's visit through officials at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.

Trump had already created controversy at the fair before his arrival. Trump supporters built a model wall that received polarized reviews from supporters and protestors. 

Despite the outcry in distaste from anti-Trump fair-goers, a record crowd was still present to welcome the GOP candidate back to the Valley.

And Hillary, too
Just like patterns in national media, WFMJ also has a hard time keeping balance between Clinton and Trump. Even though WFMJ sent a team to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, the democratic candidate didn't receive as much coverage due to proximity of the convention. 

The station provided content covering the DNC, but it was nothing compared to the RNC coverage. Only two reporters made the trip to Philadelphia, so there were more AP stories than local stories showing up on the station's website.

However, the station did an equal job covering Clinton's visits to Youngstown

Trump trumps
There's no better way of explaining Trump's media presence than with his own name. For whatever reason, the GOP candidate attracts attention not only from news media, but from citizens. And because the public craves Trump, he's in the news more than Clinton. The man who openly criticizes news media is also a hot subject for the media. It makes no sense, but neither does this election. 

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