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US election

Trump tops Swiss president in media coverage

By Veronica DeVore with input from Duc-Quang Nguyen

Even in Switzerland, Donald Trump has been the media darling of this United States presidential election. A swissinfo.ch exclusive analysis of the Swiss press shows the presumptive Republican nominee generating more headlines than any other candidate in the primaries.

A look at the number of articles referencing each candidate from the top Swiss papers by circulation shows a clear focus on Trump and Hillary Clinton, considered the respective Republican and Democratic frontrunners. And even Switzerland’s own president, Johann Schneider-Ammann, couldn’t top Trump in terms of media mentions.

Meanwhile, coverage of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders – the winner of the Democrats Abroad primary in Switzerland – waned slightly after early primary contests. 

And John Kasich and Ted Cruz, the other Republican candidates who at one point tried to unite to beat Trump before exiting the race, got much less coverage in Switzerland than Clinton or Trump.

The Trump question

Deciding how to cover Trump has become a challenge for journalists after the media so grossly misjudged his potential. 

“The American press just underestimated him so much, and it’s strange how they were always so wrong,” says Sacha Batthyany, US correspondent for Zurich's Tages-Anzeiger newspaper. He also admits to writing a piece calling Trump a flash in the pan.

The Tages-Anzeiger’s approach to Trump coverage has changed over the course of the primaries, according to Batthyany.

“In the beginning, because his insults were new and his style was new, I wrote about them because I thought it was all he had to offer,” he says. “But after a while we said no, we won’t do it anymore.”

“Now I ask myself, is it important enough, does it explain something bolder? Is it just rumors? It is a small detail that Trump said this or that to someone? If it shows a bigger picture, then I would consider it.”

That’s not to say it isn’t still tempting to jump on every Trump twist and turn, like much of the American press. 

“It’s easy to do Trump stories, you know you have an audience,” Batthyany says. “Everything is there.” 

“We try to balance the coverage among the candidates, but with Trump it’s difficult [to hold back] because it is fascinating.”

The United States Embassy in Bern called on Swiss journalists to ask the questions in a mock debate between a Democrats Abroad member standing in for Hillary Clinton and a Republicans Abroad member standing in for Donald Trump. Here's an excerpt from that event.

Contact the author of this article on Twitter: @vdevore



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