A hack staff writer, James Fallows of The Atlantic, wrote a piece titled: The Media Learned Nothing From 2016.
The subtitle was, “The press hasn’t broken its most destructive habits when it comes to covering Donald Trump.”
The title and subtitle of the article intrigued me, so I read the piece. Thus the reason I called Fallows a hack.
Fallows missed the mark mostly with a small exception. Read the article if you want, but the exception interested me most.
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Much as Mueller didn’t recognize these realities in time, neither did much of our print, broadcast, and cable media four years ago. Networks ran Trump’s rally speeches endlessly from mid-2015 onward, giving him free airtime valued at some $2 billion. Why his speeches, and not Hillary Clinton’s or Bernie Sanders’s? Because they were deemed great TV, and the channels’ own ratings went up when the rallies were on. As the race continued, cable channels demonstrated their supposed balance by stocking political discussion panels not with representatives of conservative viewpoints but rather with tribalists and die-hard team members, people who would defend whatever Trump had done or said. (One of these people is now the White House press secretary, and her press briefings are like her old cable hits.) The choice of panelists did not reflect a range of policy viewpoints; it was sitcom casting, with people playing their predictable, recognizable parts.
So Fallows contends correctly that the excitement over Trump caused the media to provide $2 billion of “earned media”. He’s correct.
And that media frenzy for ratings, ergo income, fed their fervor to get more of Trump by way of surrogates. He called them “tribalists”; people who defend Trump no matter what. There certainly couldn’t have been “tribalists” for Obama, right?
But what Fallows neglects to cover is the amount of negative media Trump endured. Documented 90+ percent negative press coverage in the fake news media. So whatever Trump gained, it was a trade-off. Moreover, what Trump did is called “earned” media, because one must actually earn it. He did that and more.
Next, Fallows points out the next media screw up:
Also in pursuit of the ritual of balance, the networks offset coverage of Donald Trump’s ethical liabilities and character defects, which would have proved disqualifying in any other candidate for nearly any other job, with intense investigation of what they insisted were Hillary Clinton’s serious email problems. Six weeks before the election, Gallup published a prophetic analysis showing what Americans had heard about each candidate. For Trump, the words people most recognized from all the coverage were speech, immigration, and Mexico. For Clinton, one word dwarfed all others: EMAIL. The next two on the list, much less recognized, were lie and Foundation. (The Clinton Foundation, set up by Bill Clinton, was the object of sustained scrutiny for supposedly shady dealings that amount to an average fortnight’s revelations for the Trump empire.) One week before the election, The New York Times devoted the entire top half of its front page to stories about FBI Director James Comey’s reopening of an investigation into the emails. “New Emails Jolt Clinton Campaign in Race’s Last Days” was the headline on the front page’s lead story. “With 11 Days to Go, Trump Says Revelation ‘Changes Everything,’” read another front-page headline.
One would really need a biased view to see Clinton’s emails as anything but a scandal.
A Secretary of State not using protocol, setting up a server in her private residence, downstairs in her basement bathroom closet. Clinton then hired a private IT manager for her server. All this while employed by the government.
Given what we’ve learned about her charitable dealings, it’s safe to say the Clintons have gotten a pass up to this point.
Put another way, imagine if a Trump Secretary of State did anything close to this. How would the media cover it?
Balance this with the so-called negative of Trump. What negative? False accusations of misogyny? Or what about paying off a porn star? How much traction did Michael Avenatti get on the Stormy Daniels story? Or Gloria Allred in her coverage of the bimbos?
The truth is, the press did everything they could to torpedo Trump. But Trump sank their battleship. If any media elected Trump, it was Trump News that elected Trump. Thus, Trump elected Trump.
If Trump were boring or unqualified in any way, the press would have ignored him. And as for targeting Hillary Clinton, Trump did what neither McCain nor Romney would. Trump fought back.
The press needed Trump then, and they continue to need him now. Why? Because Trump is a media juggernaut. He creates his own media vortex. And he simply cannot be ignored. Thus, the press has no choice but to, wait for it…do its job and cover the top story. Ironically, most of the time Trump is the top story.
Consider the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. For the first minute of this story, the press considered her death. But in the second minute, the press was consumed with Trump’s ability to appoint a judge in her place.
And this battle will rage, with Trump orchestrating the media. Already Trump has said that he expects the Senate to vote on his future candidate. It won’t take long before Ginsburg drops out of the discussion, outside of her funeral. But then things will go back to Trump. And he will appoint his third justice either before the election or after the election.
Because as Fallows rightly contended, the media learned nothing from 2016.
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