The federal government is still partially shut down and many agencies are working with severe deficiencies, including the Transportation Security Administration, where agents are calling in sick so they don’t have to work without pay.
It’s now on the verge of being the second-longest shutdown in US history, surpassing the 2013 shutdown during the Obama administration.
But a Vox analysis shows this shutdown isn’t getting nearly as much cable news coverage as the 2013 shutdown did. This chart shows the percentage of airtime devoted to the government shutdown on the major cable news networks. (Note: The data is missing for December 31, 2018.)
In the days before the 2013 shutdown, more than 10 percent of coverage on CNN and MSNBC was devoted to the standoff, with Fox News also giving continuous airtime to the shutdown. This time, in the days leading up to this shutdown, less than 5 percent of airtime was devoted to the story — and only slightly more since.
One factor might be sheer timing: The 2013 shutdown happened in October, while this shutdown started before Christmas and is continuing into the new year. In the meantime, a new Congress was sworn in, and there’s been plenty of other news coming out of Washington.
But the other factor is that Trump has successfully made this debate about the border wall.
Fox News has successfully created drama around the border wall
The government partially shut down because Trump wanted funding for a border wall, which Congress was unwilling to give.
But during this shutdown, Trump has successfully made much of the conversation about the southern border — with plenty of help, or perhaps guidance, from Fox News.
On all networks, especially Fox News, there has been far more talk about the border than there has been about the actual shutdown.
This certainly isn’t what happened in 2013, when the government was shut down over Obamacare funding. While shutdown coverage was prominent on all networks, coverage of the actual policy debate quickly faded one the government shut down.
Trump may not get the border wall funding he wants. But on his television, he’s managed to make it about the things he wants, rather than the things he’s taken away.