When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President, it became clear to everyone that he was producing big ratings for the media. Newspapers, magazines, and news channels all found themselves in a 24/7 non-stop cycle of Donald Trump coverage. The main reason for this, is the fact that the audience just can’t seem to get enough. Trump was a pop-culture phenomenon before, but he was quickly taken to the next level when he began his run to the White House. The President even realized this when he famously said in early 2016 that he “could shoot someone and not lose any voters.” However since then, Trump has used this popularity to his advantage time and time again.
For years the common approach of Presidents had been to not routinely comment on minor news stories or hold press conferences often. The reason for this being that considering the fast pace of the news cycle and short memory of the audience, stories are often forgotten in a week if not given extensive coverage. With this being the case, Presidents often elect not to comment out of fear that doing so will hurt their image or give the media and their opponents a soundbite. However, Trump has not taken this route, often electing to take to his twitter account to sound off on recent events. Not only has Trump used his popularity to gain attention, he has used it to steer attention away from something else and onto himself.
When Trump felt he has being treated unfairly by FOX NEWS, he decided to skip a planned Republican debate just before the Iowa Caucuses. Instead, he held a fundraiser for the wounded warrior project at the same time as the debate, directly competing with it in the ratings. While both parties suffered, Trump lost in Iowa to Ted Cruz and ratings for the debate were much lower than those when Trump participated, he never got rid of that strategy and has used it twice since taking office. He used it by having Press Secretary Sean Spicer talk about the inauguration attendance distracting news coverage from the Women’s March held earlier that day. The tactic was used again just this week when the President held a press conference seemingly out of nowhere, the exact same day as the “Day Without Immigrants Protest”.
Now whether or not these events were more newsworthy is entirely subjective, however the fact that the media has repeatedly shown that Trump is the forefront of their coverage. The reason for this, is simply because the news industry is dying. With news outlets struggling to meet their bottom lines, many have compromised journalistic integrity by simply covering events that will be more newsworthy. In the case of the majority of news sources, that means covering minor stories about President Trump over major stories happening elsewhere. It has even led to an extreme disregard for journalistic principles in the case of buzzfeed who published a completely unverified conspiracy theory about the President’s ties to Russia.
The media is in dire straits, and the situation is delicate. If they elect not to cover President Trump with diligence, then they risk normalizing his behavior. However if they continue to cover his every move, they only play into his game and further his narrative of a biased press. While many believe the media is biased, or some outlets are more biased than others, the truth is that all media is biased. They are biased to money. And until the audience decides that they want fair and reasonable coverage presented to them, journalistic integrity will take a backseat.