The President of the United States has always been a primary topic for the media. Mainstream media has had healthy coverage of every American President since John F. Kennedy, and rightly so. But coverage of our current President has eclipsed the notion of “healthy coverage.” They’ve become absolutely obsessed by him, and it’s not because they like him. Believe it or not, it’s not only because they hate him, either. Their bottom line is THE bottom line.
I’ll paraphrase Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. “The point is, ladies and gentleman, that Trump, for lack of a better word, sells.”
It doesn’t matter how many stories they post about him. It doesn’t matter whether they’re fair or not. It doesn’t matter whether they’re lucid or unhinged. All that matters is that every story on any topic that might have a remote tangential connection to the President MUST be told from that perspective.
They know that stories about Trump will be wildly shared. They also know that the stories that get the most attention are the ones that either prove the President is absolutely wrong or incredibly right. CNN, NY Times, Washington Post, MSNBC – if they have a story where they debunk the most insignificant part of a meaningless Tweet by the President, it will get a massive amount of pageviews and social media shares. Conversely, Fox News, The Blaze, and DailyWire understand that any time the President is vindicated, such as when the migrant caravans turned violent at Mexico’s southern border, they’ve struck viral gold.
Some will argue that the Weekly Standard, which recently announced its shuttering, died because it had the wrong message for its audience. They’ll say their criticism of the President was contrary to the right-leaning audience they enjoyed as a news outlet. There may be some truth to this, though we’ll likely never know since all we know about are the circumstances on the surface. They may have gone under because they invested their funds into Bitcoin a year ago. Who knows?
Nevertheless, news outlets that are consistently anti-Trump even when he does something positive are doing well with the left while news outlets that cover for the President when he makes mistakes are doing well with the right. The business model has changed. But did it change with Trump?
The real change happened with the previous Presidency. Barack Obama was such an icon to the left that the extreme polarization of the news was very much like it is today, except opposite. One would be hard pressed to find a popular article on the Washington Post that was truly critical of President Obama, just as you wouldn’t find anyone at Fox News singing his praises. The polarization of the media isn’t new. It’s simply amplified greatly by the extreme sentiments of love and hate that surround President Trump.
Do we blame the media for doing what works? Their bias may be geared towards aiding or antagonizing the President, depending on their political leanings, but aren’t they simply catering to their target audiences? If CNN viewers were tired of hearing everything negative about the President, they’d turn it off. If Fox News viewers were tired of hearing how President Trump is making America great again, wouldn’t they turn it off as well?
It’s easy to say the media is biased. We point it out all the time. However, is it really fair to blame them for following the eyeballs and viewership numbers? Perhaps we need to ask if their bias is simply a reflection of the polarization that has overtaken us, the people who provide them with the eyeballs in the first place.
I’m Tammy Rucker. Thank you for listening.