The Media and Donald Trump

Last week, there were a small storm on Twitter. Two journalists who criticized Donald Trump were targeted on Twitter by his supporters. I suppose it’s old news, but let me just recap. Julia Ioffe was let go from Politico a week before her contract was up for an inappropriate tweet. The anti-semitic comments on her twitterfeed were truly frightening. Another journalist was set a flashing gif that caused him to have an epileptic fit.

Among journalists, there is a strong fear that the next four years will mean more personal attacks and reprisals against the whole industry. Freedom of the press is in jeopardy.

But at the same time, Donald Trump is good for business. People want to read articles about him. Any articles – positive or negative – about him go to the top of the charts. Those same newspapers and magazines are watching numbers bump up and are making big ticket hires, because they anticipate good business in the next year.

Trump is a master of the media. He knows that his actions gather attention. The whole country has become a reality show with him as the star.

Today’s news is all about the electoral college. What will they do? (Nothing) The last couple of weeks were all about his picks for the cabinet. When have we ever paid such close attention to this process before? (Never)

He has orchestrated the pick process perfectly with people going up in the elevator to his office. It’s drama, dammit. And people love the drama.

Meanwhile, we have the Russian involvement in the election. More drama. And that Kellyann snake doing her evasion magic on the morning news shows.

Politics should not be drama. It’s serious, boring business. How do we make sure that people get health insurance? The details are horribly boring, even though the outcomes are so important. How do we keep people from getting massacred in Aleppo? There aren’t clear answers. Instead, we get a photo-op with Kanye.

It’s the media’s job to not jump at the easy hits and sensational headlines. We have to stop letting Donald Trump use us. And it’s up to the readers to demand facts and figures.

UPDATE: This New York Times story.

13 thoughts on “The Media and Donald Trump

  1. If I were 22 and had journalistic inclinations, I’d move to DC and take any kind of job, maybe waiting tables, and just be there to watch things unfold. If he moves away from doing traditional press things, there need to be hundreds or even thousands of journalists on the ground talking nonstop to people in different agencies, departments, etc.

    I keep reading stories about Aleppo. It’s clear that no one knows what to do, and there are a lot of powerful people with good intentions trying (from Obama to Samantha Power). I read one story about how they actually had buses in place for evacuating civilians, but then were not allowed to do it. This isn’t something that the general public needs to call their congressman about so that they will pay attention to it.

    This isn’t a criticism of your point – it’s just that sometimes you can be well-informed and there’s absolutely nothing you can do except feel awful. I wonder if this is why the Trump stories are so popular – we at least feel like we can do something. I clicked on that Vanity Fair piece and considered a subscription. I know someone who sent personal letters to every single elector (a futile effort to keep hope alive). There are MoveOn petitions galore.


  2. As a general rule, I don’t think the media is going to start successfully demanding facts and figures on its own. The Democrats need to find, train, pay, and encourage a group of people willing to be continually on the attack so that the media always has something to report contra Trump.


  3. The best thing I have done over the last few weeks is just refuse to listen to NPR in the morning. That way I don’t have to hear anything about DT’s tweets and can just wait until midmorning to read the NYTimes. It is much better and calmer. I still get information but don’t have to hear K Conway’s voice and her lies and and I can just get on with my day. And I think that reporters can take it. I’m sorry for Kurt Eichenwald but I’m not even sure how that happens (maybe he can put a screen on his computer or phone) and maybe he just needs to stay off twitter a little more. Good for him for starting a lawsuit, but it isn’t really going to help. The genie is out of the bottle and he’ll have to stay off social media a bit. I also don’t really watch late night tv anymore: Stephen Colbert seems unnecessary and I’m boycotting NBC altogether as much as possible until they take off the Apprentice or whatever stupid show DT is making money from. I think NBC is totally corrupt honestly. Just limit yourself and focus on a few things and make some noise in those areas. I actually think the newspapers have been fine, even the WSJ. The smartest thing Maggie Haberman is doing is not showing her face anywhere so she can report in peace. We added a subscription to our local paper (which is doing an ok job actually) and I’m seriously tempted to subscribe to the Washington Post. But I’m in a bubble.


    1. I agree about boycotting NBC. I don’t really watch TV anymore, but I can’t believe that isn’t something they are attacked on daily.

      On Kurt Eichenwald, the same forces that elected Trump are running Twitter. Any display of weakness invites more attacks. It’s like Cobra Kai, but without less subtle. I don’t know how to put the genie back in the bottle, but I’m pretty sure Twitter has to figure how to drain the swamp or they’ll die.


  4. It would be better for journalists if they were to stay off of Twitter. 140 characters lead to snark, and truly regrettable statements.

    Meanwhile, the Russian ambassador to Turkey has just been shot dead in Ankara by a gunman.


    1. That’s exactly the wrong solution. It means Trumpists have driven off sane people from Twitter just because of the occasional (funny) comment in poor taste. The trick is to make so many comments in poor taste either everybody abandons it or Twitter polices itself.


  5. I’m utterly horrified at the anti-semitism on Twitter. I had no idea that people were really that evil.

    I’m also thinking about subscribing to the Wash Post. I keep hitting my article limit on it.


    1. I subscribed to it; I was ready to pay their “list price,” but almost immediately got the $39/year offer, so be sure to hold out for that.

      Anti-semitism is real. It’s one reason I’m glad Bernie didn’t get the nomination; it would have been all over the place.


  6. The Eichenwald attack was awful. But Ioffe tweeted filth, and got filth back. Is it surprising that the public can be as nasty as the journalist herself?

    Twitter has been an absolute disaster for the credibility of the press.


    1. Responding to an off-color joke with death threats and what can only be described as “pro-Holocaust” sentiments isn’t a “Both Sides Have Issues” kind of situation.


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