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The Media’s Addiction to Donald Trump

Can’t live with him, can’t survive without him.

They denounce him. They decry his existence in the public realm. But in reality, the denizens of the Fourth Estate would be entirely lost without former President Donald Trump to “push around.” There exists an almost symbiotic relationship between the 45th president and the media, each feeding off the other’s exploits. The Donald is a showman who has always craved the spotlight – and those in the ever-diminishing big box media industry have hitched themselves to his mercurial wagon and see no way to drop the Trump habit.

Trump Dominates the Front Pages

A perusal of any of the notable left-leaning news sites might give the impression that there is only one story in town – and that would be correct. Trump’s ongoing trial in New York and his upcoming immunity hearing at the US Supreme Court make him prime fodder for coverage. Yet this deluge of Trump-related content is not a reporting outlier.

The New York Times, for example, on its April 24 digital homepage, had nine stories about Trump, with plenty more tangential mentions. For comparison, President Joe Biden had three, the war in Ukraine had two, and Israel had four.

That same day, CNN’s digital offering included six Trump-related stories versus just three each for Biden and Ukraine and four on Israel. This pattern of media dominance by the former president was repeated across the spectrum of left-leaning news carriers. Perhaps the most significant example came courtesy of MSNBC, which ran an enormous 32 pieces on Trump but only a scant four on Biden – notably, three of the four were about him being beaten by other candidates.

Media on Life Support

It is more than just the fact that Trump is engaged in newsworthy endeavors. Over the last eight years, he has become the focal point of media attention because journalists and publishers have forgotten what their precise roles are. For this journalistic sin, the public has judged them harshly.

In the week of April 15, the total prime-time viewership for the top three cable channels was 1,983,000 for Fox, 1,351,000 for MSNBC, and 596,000 for CNN. Total daily viewers also had a similar ranking. Notable about Fox’s success is that it did not follow the formula of “all Trump, all the time.” In fact, the Fox homepage displayed six stories on Trump and six on Biden, with eight stories on Israel and the recent pro-Palestinian happenings across America. Indeed, one might even call that “striking a balance.”

Sucking the Oxygen

Instead of being an impartial observer with a duty to the public, the so-called legacy media has slowly morphed into a bunch of partisan stalwarts with a visceral disgust for people who hold opposing views. Worse still, this new persona has meshed openly with the progressive left of American politics to the point where one can’t really exist without the other. Yet real journalism does still remain – albeit in a much-reduced arena.

Veteran British broadcaster and journalist Andrew Neil recently appeared before a House of Lords Communications Committee and was asked how “interventionist government should be in supporting the news sector.” He replied:

“You should stay the hell out of it. You don’t know anything about it; you’re only trouble. We’re not on your side, you’re not on our side; we’re different. I mean relations between journalists or journalism media and government should always be bad and never on any account be allowed to get better. So, I don’t want any of your help.”

There is little doubt that Trump is the current big beast of modern politics, with an almost black-hole ability to pull in everything that approaches his event horizon. But this is not necessarily his fault nor, indeed, his superpower. By strapping themselves to one side of the political divide, the media denizens have created an us-and-them mentality with a bad case of mentionitus. They have made Trump the center of their universe and cannot escape his gravitational pull.

This was a self-inflicted wound in which the chief casualty was the entire reputation of the once-vaunted Fourth Estate. And the long-term prognosis is dire.

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