In the last two weeks of the mid-term elections, according to data from the subtitles compiled by the Internet Archive, Fox News and Fox Business Channel each mentioned the word caravan in an average of just over 3% of the 15-second segments in the course one day. In other words, the caravan has been mentioned on average almost eight times at the time. On CNN and MSNBC, the mentions were more modest, but not non-existent.
On Monday, both CNN and Fox News have mentioned the caravan more than 80 times. Tuesday, over 40. On Wednesday and Thursday, the topic was raised less than 80 times on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and Fox Business together.
The caravan still exists, in several parts. After reaching Mexico City – still hundreds of kilometers from the US border – many caravan participants stayed for several days, but the procession voted on Thursday evening to start walking again on Friday morning.
Why has the caravan coverage decreased? One reason, of course, is that there was an excess of other news: the results of the mid-term elections, the resignation of the former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump's interactions with the press. More pressing news has not reduced Fox News and Fox Business from constantly talking about migrants. At the end of October, the arrest of a suspect in a series of attempted postal bombardments and mass shootings in a Pittsburgh synagogue prompted CNN and MSNBC to reduce the discussion on the caravan. The foxes no.
So why has coverage decreased? The caravan was formed by President Trump specifically as a campaign issue in multiple interventions. While his administration announced Thursday a policy change aimed at curbing the number of caravan participants who could apply for asylum when they reached the United States, the caravan itself did not earn much space in the conversation, even on Fox News and Fox Business. .
We have already seen this model, a topic that has come to the fore in the last weeks of a campaign that has since fallen off the radar.
In 2016, it was the announcement of FBI Director James B. Comey of the discovery of new e-mails related to Hillary Clinton.
In 2014, it was the Ebola crisis (something that was a key element of President Trump's tweeting at the time).
Both Comey and Ebola have become central parts of the political debate while the elections have ended. But each of these examples differs from the coverage of the caravan in an important way: the stories have largely ended on election day. Comey's complementary investigation ended before the campaign ended. A series of Ebola cases in the United States were successfully treated or contained days before the end of the election. In other words, there were not many reasons to keep talking about the topics, even if there was no competition in the news.
It will be interesting to see if the coverage of the caravan resumes pre-electoral levels in the days and weeks following, while the participants are heading towards the border with the United States. If not, the case of the cynics will have been demonstrated: Coverage of the caravan was a function of the campaign much more than anything else, the coverage led by Fox networks whose audience is largely supportive of the president.