“How Does This Make Trump Look?”

The new standard of journalism is terrible for everyone except Donald Trump.

Image for post
Image for post
President Donald J. Trump takes questions from the press during a coronavirus update briefing Sunday, April 19, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

Now that the U.S. and other countries around the world have learned a bit more about Covid-19- most particularly that it does not seem to be as deadly as experts first feared- measured steps are being taken to re-open closed sections of the economy.

These re-openings are being done, almost without exception, under the guidance of the best public health experts, using the best information available. Of course experts, it must be said, don’t always agree. Nor are they always right.

Good thing setting responsible health policy doesn’t require certainty. If it did, we’d be in serious trouble.

But the press has an unfortunate habit of finding and amplifying only the experts making dire predictions, for clicks or in hopes of hurting Trump’s reelection chances; and it is telling. Especially since it isn’t all that new or even unique to the Trump administration or this particular disaster.

After 9/11, the public had to be encouraged by mental health experts in the direct aftermath of that terrible day to stop watching the footage being played on endless loops on television, stop reading about it.

Today, members of media are still writing hyperbolic, misleading, hysterical, attention-grabbing headlines. They are also eroding public trust in the media for anyone who isn’t quite as preoccupied by anti-Trump sentiment.

There are more important things than a presidential election. Yes, even this one.

Instead of the woes of the working-class during these shut-downs, the pre-occupation in the press has been with the threat the coronavirus may pose to Trump’s reelection bid.

It is clear from the media coverage of the Trump presidency during the Covid-19 outbreak that Trump bungling the response was quickly seen as ammunition against the Trump campaign. That’s ok; it is ammunition against the Trump campaign. This is an election year and Democrats want to win.

But the progressive press cannot focus so exclusively on this, nor does it even need to.

News consumers can recognize the zealousness of the press in sensationalizing the Trump administration’s potential mistakes; they can also recognize the complete absence of curiosity about anything the Trump administration may have gotten right about its coronavirus response.

Meanwhile, Trump is benefitting from all the attention. When your news coverage is exclusively bad, it is much easier to dismiss it all outright.

Inevitably, squaring-off against Donald Trump every moment of every news-cycle has created an off-balance media, driven by a bias that has become noticeable to the naked eye of independent and undecided voters.

Apparently, these independent and undecided voters are not impressed by any argument with which they must be beaten over the head.

Public trust in the media might be restored by a more balanced approach: Public trust in Donald Trump might be undermined by it. This is true especially as it pertains to reporting on the ever-growing political divide between the two parties over Covid-19 responses.

It would be fairly easy for members of the progressive press to explain the right-left polarization over the Covid-19 outbreak, and whether or not its time to ease social-distancing restrictions and resume some semblance of normal life, with less inflammatory assumptions.

For instance, districts which voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 have suffered much more from coronavirus than have districts that voted for Donald Trump. In many parts of the country which heavily favored Trump in 2016, Covid-19 has done very little damage to public health, if any.

(One key, utterly noncontroversial reason for this is that large metropolitan areas around the world have typically been harder hit; mass transit, more people, millions of new arrivals every day. In the U.S., these areas tend to vote Democratic.)

With this information, it should be a great deal easier for Democrats in densely populated metropolitan areas to understand why patience for the extended lock-downs is wearing thin for Republicans in rural areas which have seen so few cases, medical staff is being furloughed.

The wide-spread, one-size-fits-all shut downs, on the other hand, have done a great deal of damage to small town economies. Main street in small town America has been suffering in an economic tailspin for a good many years.

Until the Covid-19 shutdowns, small town economies were starting to see some relief. Is it any wonder they are chafing under these restrictions?

But instead of understanding, nuance and facts, American news consumers are being given a choice between the progressive vision: The Bridge to the Post-Pandemic World is Collapsing — The Atlantic. And the conservative vision: How to Reopen Society Using Medical Science and Logic” — The Hill.

Its only a matter of time before more news consumers of every political stripe resist the temptation to click on headlines that are nothing more than click-bait to increase ad revenue and opt for the more sensible option.

Those who write such headlines should be in advertising; not journalism.

Once someone actually reads the tantalizingly-titled article, they understand the headline for the exaggeration it was. Problem is, more people read the headline than read the actual article.

Those who don’t read the article are left with the impression that things are much worse than they are, based on the headline.

Those who do read the article are left with the impression that the headline was misleading, intended to provoke an emotional response and trick them into reading the article- not written for the purpose of objectively imparting information.

This is a neat trick. And it works. But like any trick, the audience inevitably sees through it after a while.

And they stop falling for it.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store