In an interview with NPR, President Obama was careful not to blame the media for Trump’s win, but he did diagnose how the media’s decision to cover the election as a reality television show played into the hands of Trump.
Transcript via NPR:
Q: Was that the media’s fault for focusing on the wrong things or the candidate’s fault for not finding ways to get her message through?
Obama: Steve, you know, I’d say that Monday morning quarterbacking is always easy to do. And what I’ve said already publicly, and I’ll repeat: There is something about our current political ecosystem — and we’re all part of it, the parties, the candidates, the media, the voters — that leads us to avoid going deep into the issues that are really gonna affect people’s day-to-day lives, that put a premium on what here in the White House we call the shiny object: the faux scandals, the trumped up controversies, the, um, you know, insults that are flung back and forth. So that it ends up being covered like a reality show or — at best, a sporting event.
And we lose track of the fact that this has an impact on some family that’s trying to send their kids to college or some veteran who’s trying to get their benefits, or whether or not some of our young people get sent to a far away land to fight a war. And if we don’t, you know, do some hard reflection — all of us — on how that happens, then we’re like a body that is already weakened and then becomes more vulnerable to foreign viruses, becomes more vulnerable to manipulation and demagoguery and that’s something that I’m also going to be thinking a lot about in my afterlife, my post-presidency.
The media didn’t get Donald Trump elected, but what Trump understood was how to feed our lazy corporate media the cheap reality television style stories that the 24-hour cable news cycle runs on. There is precious little discussion of policy on cable news. Cable news doesn’t inform citizens of what their candidates and government are doing.
It is easy to blame the media for the current coverage landscape, but Democrats must also understand what they need to do to get coverage. Part of the reason why Clinton’s coverage was only based on her scandals was that Clinton committed to running an issue-based campaign, but when faced with Trump and the cable news scandal and reality TV machine, Democrats complained, but some still expected the press to do their duty and inform the American people.
The lesson from the 2016 election is that the corporate run press is more interested in profit than informing the public.
Going forward, Democrats should continue to discuss issues, but if the media wants scandals, the Trump administration is a bonanza of scandals waiting to be discussed. Obama perfectly diagnosed the media landscape, and Democrats are in a position to use it to their advantage once Trump takes office.
A change in Democratic tactics could lead to a takedown of the reality television president.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association