Now That Trump Is Mostly Irrelevant, It Is Time for the Media to Put Up or Shut Up

Alex Edelman/Getty Images Thanks to a last-minute impeachment, and a super-short trial with a conclusion which was never in any real d...


Alex Edelman/Getty Images

Thanks to a last-minute impeachment, and a super-short trial with a conclusion which was never in any real doubt, the news media’s “Trump Era” was extended for three extra weeks. For the Fourth Estate, especially the very liberal elements of the media, this was like a five-year drug addict being finally forced to go rehab, and then finding a surprise stash with a small supply hidden under their bed.

But now that the last of those stimulants are in the process of being used up, the news media has come to an important fork in the road regarding former President Donald Trump. Will they do what is journalistically sound and consistent with most of their own views of his presidency by basically ignoring him, or will they continue to use him whenever possible as a reliable source for the two things they desire most: easy content and good ratings.

CNN already got a taste of the coming crash when their ratings nose-dived between President Joe Biden’s inauguration and Trump’s second impeachment trial. There is little doubt that, particularly left-wing outlets, have relied on Trump to be their villain driving the powerful human motivations of fear and anger among their core audience. Just as the former president predicted numerous times, most news outlets are going to suffer without having him around on a regular basis.

In a world where people in the news media were actually sincere, and not playing a very selfish game where their incentives are usually the opposite of what they pretend them to be, this development would not be a significant factor when it comes to news coverage. Liberal outlets would be genuinely thrilled that Trump is gone, that Biden is in office, and that we can all return to some semblance of pre-2015 normalcy before Trump shattered all the old rules by turning politics into a 24/7/365 reality TV show.

Breaking “cold turkey” from non-stop Trump news should be easy for liberal outlets, at least in theory, given that they have universally, and not without good reason, declared him an outlaw who should be banished from the kingdom, never to be spoken of again. If they are going to be remotely consistent, especially after some of the rhetoric that they used to describe him after the assault on the Capitol, they should treat Trump moving forward almost the same way that the news media (until the rules changed in recent years) used to handle people who committed suicide; like they essentially just disappeared, or never even existed in the first place.

Obviously, such an extreme position on future coverage of Trump is neither realistic nor journalistically justifiable. He is still a former president, probably the most famous person in the world, and maintains a strong — if no longer total — control over the Republican Party and his cult of supporters.

However, there should be some rational ground rules for how Trump, who has to be “jonesing” for his own attention fix, will be handled as he inevitably remerges rather soon. Here are some simple suggestions.

  1. A Trump speech is NOT worthy of being carried live and definitely no longer warrants “empty podium” coverage beforehand, or “Oh my God, I can’t believe he just said that!” analysis afterward. If he says something TRULY newsworthy, short clips can be played in context.
  2. Since he no longer has a Twitter account, this will make things a LOT easier for news outlets, but should he post something on another social media platform, it is NOT A NEWS STORY unless he is officially announcing that he will, or will not, run for president in 2024 (or something else close to that standard).
  3. Rumors, or poorly sourced stories, about what Trump MAY have done in the past, or MIGHT or MIGHT NOT do (or MIGHT have done to him with regard to criminal prosecution) in the future, are NO LONGER news stories. This includes the batch of coming “Can you believe Trump almost did this while president?!” stories which are sure to be coming soon now that former members of his administration have more flexibility to share their tales of the White House of Horrors.

Some have already compared the current relationship between Trump and the news media as being similar to that which once existed with regard to Sarah Palin. As one who lived through, and played a significant role in that melodrama, I can see the similarities.

When Palin resigned as governor of Alaska, she was both an incredibly hot political property, but also had no real power, or even much of a platform to get her message out other than her Facebook page. Like Trump, she was almost totally beholden to the very news media who hated her, and vice versa, to be treated and perceived as if she was still a significant figure.

Had the media just collectively decided that Palin was no longer a legitimate newsmaker then that “problem” (as news outlets routinely referred to her) would have instantly faded away. Eventually, once her ratings punch weakened, that is indeed what happened (when The Drudge Report finally decided to ignore one of her more incendiary Facebook posts I remember thinking that it was the beginning of the end of her as a political figure).

But Trump, partly because he has actually been president, is Palin on steroids and the temptation for the news media to portray him as a shadow president will be nearly overwhelming, especially since they can rationalize that they are simply reporting on the state of the GOP and the landscape for the 2024 presidential election. How much oxygen the news media gives Trump in the next few weeks and months will go a long way in determining his ability (or maybe even his interest in doing so) to eventually dictate how the next presidential election cycle goes down.

If, as they claim, the liberal elements of the news media really don’t want Trump to be a major player in our politics for the next four years and maybe beyond, they should finally act like it and do everything they can to disregard him. It is far more probable, however, that like most drug addicts, they will not be able to live without their obsession, partly because they know it is good for them, and bad for Republicans, to keep Trump around, and at least somewhat viable, for as long as possible.

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.



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Newsrust: Now That Trump Is Mostly Irrelevant, It Is Time for the Media to Put Up or Shut Up
Now That Trump Is Mostly Irrelevant, It Is Time for the Media to Put Up or Shut Up
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