Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Donald Trump’s tweet about the media’s being “the enemy of the American people” was a classic distraction — in this case, from questions swirling around his team’s troubling ties with our Russian adversaries. While the FBI, CIA, and Senate Intelligence Committee investigate, a few thoughts on how news sources under Trumpian attack should respond.

When Trump tweets that CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC and The New York Times stink, what should the scolded media do? For starters, they should watch their audience, ad revenues, and subscriber lists grow. The last thing they should do is droop in shame and promise to be nicer next time. No, this is working for them.

Trump may bash the traditional media to please his base of die-hards, but the anti-Trump base is a lot bigger, and it’s growing. It’s also affluent. And one way to resist is to buy what Trump condemns.

When the White House boycotted CNN, the news channel’s ratings actually rose. CNN’s audience among viewers ages 25 to 54 is up more than 50 percent this year.

MSNBC’s viewership among this prized (by advertisers) demographic has surged more than 30 percent. In January, The Rachel Maddow Show posted a 71 percent jump in total viewers.

Trump tweets about the “failing” and “dwindling” New York Times, but in the last three months of 2016, the company added 276,000 paying subscribers to its digital-only news product. Such startling gains couldn’t have happened without Trump.

The Washington Post’s website ended last year with record traffic and digital ad revenue. New subscriptions were up 75 percent over the year before, and the company announced plans to hire 60 more reporters.

Two things are happening. One, Trump has made the news gruesomely fascinating. And two, the traditional media outlets are providing refuge for those who find Trump appalling.

And here’s an encouraging trend for venerable newspapers: Younger Americans were likelier to patronize the Times, the Post, and The Wall Street Journal for election news than those 50 or older. The Pew Research Center found that younger consumers increasingly want to read the news (overwhelmingly online), as opposed to watching and hearing it.

Trump has dumped a lot of customs in how White Houses deal with the media. In the early months of his ascendancy, the legacy news organizations stumbled around, trying to maintain their rules of coverage. They seemed to feel a patriotic duty to maintain a cushion of respect around the office of president — a weakness Trump exploited.

At a certain point, though, the mainstream media understood they and Trump were playing a different game. They started smoothing out the playing field by replacing headline words such as “hedges” and “shifts” with words such as “lies.” And they stopped giving Trump and his surrogates valuable forums to answer their questions with empty propaganda.

When Joe Scarborough ditched Kellyanne Conway’s freelancing idiocy on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, he improved the conversation while generating buzz for himself. Same with CNN’s Don Lemon when he cut off a Trump spokesman babbling about fake news. Were Trump in the news business, he’d do the same.

To feed the growing hunger for some version of the truth, traditional news sources must maintain standards. That means not distorting Trump positions (to the extent they can be ascertained). It means quoting Trump surrogates when they have something to say that matters.

What’s not going to happen is that one side unilaterally disarms by observing old norms while the other smashes through the barriers of a gentler political tradition. Legacy media are biting back, and that, it turns out, is good both for the news and for business.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at

IMAGE: U.S. President Donald Trump attends  a meeting in Washington U.S., February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

  • Share this on Google+0
  • Share this on Linkedin0
  • Share this on Reddit0
  • Print this page
  • 1054

6 responses to “Trump Has The Media Crying All The Way To The Bank”

  1. ray says:

    The Democratic Party needs to start standing up to Trump.

  2. I of John says:

    Good article, just the chicken soup i needed,

  3. Morbid curiosity is another way of describing the attention Trump has generated. First, it started with ordinary citizens fascinated with the unusual, all the bombast, the buffoonery and spectacle of the Republican Debates. (Sanders also had a method and style that appealed—fortunately, he was at least pragmatic, and was able to appeal to a higher level of the human mind. One or two Republicans almost achieved the same level of sanity—but only for the briefest of moments).
    Humans are wired to be easily excited by the bizarre and the outlandish, and those with less motivation to look at what’s behind the outlandish are easily seduced to embrace Trump’s buffoonery, which would explain in large measure for his zest appeal of his character with those easily impressed by Marx Brothers-like zaniness.

    Somehow, society to a much larger degree need to move beyond childish infatuation with showmanship, and begin to be more thoughtful, critical, and to sharpen their ability to discern.

  4. Dominick Vila says:

    Should we assume this is part of the strategy to Make America Great Again? It is obviously something Trump should brag about when he talks about all the jobs he has created since his EC victory in November. All kidding aside, the ascendancy of an arrogant narcissist, intellectually and temperamentally unfit to be President, has been a bonanza to the “fake news” outlets who dared challenge the Savior and question his alternative facts. BTW, has anyone heard Donald say anything about the tens of thousands of workers that ALCOA is planning to lay off?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.