Clickbait trumps all: Why media are all in on Donald Trump
Unless you live in an underground cave with no cable or Wi-Fi, you can’t help but notice which presidential candidate is getting the most attention.
Donald Trump — real estate mogul, former reality TV show star, egotist, blowhard, and would-be narcissist-in-chief — is everywhere. There’s something about the Trumpster on every news channel and every online news source. And the media just can’t stop covering him or get enough of him.
A piece in the Christian Science Monitor wonders how much is too much — or if we’ve passed that point already. Its headline is “Has the media lost its collective mind?”
“The event that finally jolted us into reality is the realization that some media outlets are formalizing their constant Trumpian coverage into Trump sections,” the story says. “Salon has The Daily Donald, a column which summarizes Trump’s activities everyday in handy digest form.” So does Alternet, it turns out, although you’ll pardon me if I don’t supply live links.
“When some legacy mainstream publication starts a morning e-mail newsletter named ‘Trump Cards’ we’ll know things have gone too far,” the Monitor says.
Several media outlets published pieces last winter with advice on covering or not covering Trump, most not taking him very seriously even after a major speech in Iowa. Advice from Bloomberg, for instance, gave several choices, the first of which was “never, ever cover him.” (Hah!) The piece also quotes various news outlets saying that there’s “no reason to think that this man will run for president.”
A recent Politico story shows the media’s about-face. Politico tells the tale of CNN President Jeff Zucker sending a memo last spring to producers with the message: Don’t cover Trump. Now, since Trump’s announcement on June 16, CNN has covered Trump more than 400 times on TV and its website.
“The dilemma facing CNN is one facing every political media outlet: How much coverage should be given to a notoriously self-aggrandizing business mogul and reality television star who, despite reporters’ contention that he can’t win his party’s nomination, is drawing an enormous audience by offering the media sensational quotes and highly clickable fodder?” the story asks.
And it’s a subject that frustrates political journalists as well as the Republican establishment, even as Trump continues his rise in the polls.
“Many political journalists chafe at the way the media has helped to fuel Trump’s rise,” Politico says. “The outpouring of coverage is an example, some say, of how news outlets’ desire for ratings and traffic has diminished editorial judgment. Stories about Trump draw abnormally high viewership and readership, and many reporters fear that editors are commissioning Trump pieces solely to draw more eyeballs.”
Trump also is an overwhelming presence on social media. He’s by far the most mentioned candidate on Facebook, according to a compilation by Buzzfeed News. In the first week in July, there were 10 million unique pages about Trump, with more than 25 million interactions. Far down in second place was former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with about 3 million unique pages and about 8.5 million interactions. In third place was Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, with about 2 million unique pages and about 7 million interactions. The rest of the Republican field was left in the dust.
“Imagine the Hulk doing a cannonball into a pool and, as a result, all the other people and water in that pool being catapulted from it, so that the only thing left is the Hulk,” the Buzzfeed story says. “But in this case, the Hulk is Donald Trump.”
Buzzfeed also measured public sentiment. It seems that positive sentiment about The Donald hovered close to 60 percent before Trump announced his run, dropped to under 50 percent after his infamous comments calling Mexican immigrants drug smugglers and rapists, then rose again until positive sentiment is approaching 60 percent once more.
Who are these people who have a positive view of Trump, you might ask. For that, let’s look at the Twitterverse, under the hashtag #DonaldTrumpforPresident. (We report so you won’t have to read the racist memes, all in 140 characters or less.)
There are many tweets making fun of Trump, and some from people scratching their heads who can’t figure out why anyone would support him. But most can’t wait for the Donald to slap his hand on that Bible on Jan. 20, 2017.
Here are a few examples — and there are many. I won’t include the names (some ironic examples are @CommenSenseGuy!), as those folks might look back on this someday with embarrassment and mortification:
@realDonaldTrump: “I Want To Make America Great Again” Amen! #WakeUpAmerica
No notes. No teleprompter. Only truth. #TrumpinPHX
TIME FOR MAJOR CHANGE If u live in this country & want it to fail-its time for you TO LEAVE!
DonaldTrump winning the GOP nomination would be the greatest thing…ever. Better than sliced bread.
A liberal just called me “hateful”. I said, “yeah, I hate you and you hate me. WTF is the difference?
Immigrants took our american dream when they took all our jobs
What card tops all cards EVEN the race card? The TRUMP card
Our last great president with our next president. (accompanied by photo of Trump and Ronald Reagan)
OK, that’s enough, my fingers feel soiled.
Until other candidates can figure out how to break through the dominance of the Donald, we’re stuck with all-Trump, all-the-time coverage. Maybe the worst fears of writers at the Christian Science Monitor are about to be fulfilled, and some media outlet will start publishing “Trump Cards.” But only if they’re not playing with a full deck.
UPDATE: Huffington Post has announced it will cover Trump as an entertainment story, not a political one. “If you’re interested in what The Donald has to say, you’ll find it next to our stories on the Kardashians and The Bachelorette,” the online site posted.
We’ll see how long that lasts if Trump keeps topping the polls.