Hillary Clinton's new memoir, What Happened, blames, in part, the US news media for her defeat in the 2016 US presidential election.

Clinton starts out by accepting responsibility for her failure to win the White House before moving on and sharing the blame. That's where the US media come in. Clinton's primary grievance with the coverage was the fixation on one story: that during her time as secretary of state she used her family's private email server for official communications. She says that story overshadowed any substantive reporting of her policies, and that that helped put Donald Trump in the White House.

It (Clinton's book) raised a challenge to the press ... which is that many institutions in the United States failed over the last year, creating the circumstances that gave us Donald Trump. The press needs to do as much self-examination as the parties themselves, as all the rest of the American fabric does. So I hope this would be a prod for some self-examination by the press.

James Fallows, national correspondent, the Atlantic

But is that really what happened? Or was Clinton killed by the same media ecosystem that helped make her what she is, or was?

"I do think there's some validity to it," explains journalist Sarah Jones of The New Republic. "Major outlets like the New York Times kind of made a mistake by treating the email scandal with the same weight that they treated Trump's scandals, when in fact there is never as much evidence to support that anything too nefarious went on with Clinton and her emails. But I think she overstates its influence a little bit."

Clinton is hardly the only losing candidate to decry the mainstream media's lack of substantive coverage of the policy.
It is a common refrain. However, the aversion to substance during campaigns is not limited to the journalistic side, it also occurs at the other end of the news cameras.

"Hillary Clinton raised hundreds of millions of dollars, spent much of that money on television and radio ads, and most of those ads were not policy based. They focused on demonising Trump. She didn't run any national television ads explaining her position on healthcare, on the environment, on taxes. That being said, it's also the media's fault. We did see a very tabloid style coverage of the campaign. A lot of kind of personal discussion, about personal attributes of the candidates - at the expense of a serious policy discussion," says Lee Fang, journalist, The Intercept.

Other politicians have faced the dilemma on how much substance, how much exposure is best for the campaign. But no other American presidential nominee has been a woman.

Gender is a recurring theme in Clinton's book. She talks of a continuing double standard, the need to be better and work harder than male politicians. And the one she was up against - debating against - was repeatedly labelled as a misogynist.

"The media didn't necessarily, in its entirety, treat her misogynistically, but it was refracting an incredibly structurally misogynistic society, that does not envisage a woman as being president, and I think she had to fight against that," says Jon Allsop, Columbia Journalism Review. 

"In this country, leadership qualities that are valued - charisma, and strength - and people love it when Donald Trump flaps his arms around and gets really angry. Hillary Clinton couldn't do any of those things, because when a man does it, it's considered to be charismatic and strong, and when a woman does it, it's considered to be hectoring or screechy," he adds.

It is hard to argue with what Hillary Clinton says about journalism and gender - or her criticism of the media failing to properly scrutinise candidate Trump sufficiently, until late in the election cycle. But what she fails to mention are the advantages she had with the Washington press corps and news networks that crowned her the presumptive Democratic nominee well before the first vote was cast in the primaries.

"In the year leading up to the Democratic primary, the major network media outlets provided 120 minutes of coverage to Clinton, and her campaign, and only 20 minutes to Bernie Sanders. "The network news failed in many ways," says Fang.


James Fallows, national correspondent, The Atlantic
Sarah Jones, journalist, The New Republic
Lee Fang, journalist, The Intercept
Jon Allsop, Columbia Journalism Review

Source: Al Jazeera