By Terence Smith
Day after day, year after year, Donald J. Trump dominates the news cycles of American newspapers, networks and websites. Everything from his investigations and indictments to his latest preposterous statements makes page one.
Will he go on trial before the 2024 election, or not? Will he be indicted for inciting the rebellion of January 6? Or for his blatant, recorded efforts to steal the votes he lacked to win Georgia in 2020? Why did he stubbornly cling to the boxes of documents tucked away in Mar-a-Lago? All questions, no answers, at least not yet. And no real news.
And still, Trump often leads the evening news broadcasts and frequently is above-the-fold on page one. When Trump showed up for his arraignment in Miami recently, the broadcast networks all had their anchors on duty on site, vamping away as the proceedings took place beyond the cameras. As the estimable Maureen Dowd wrote last Sunday, Trump “has burrowed, tick-like, into the national bloodstream, causing all kinds of septic responses.”
It is hard to remember another former president who has had similar coverage. Even Richard M. Nixon largely disappeared after he resigned and was pardoned for his role in Watergate. We knew he was out in San Clemente strolling the beach in his black leather shoes, but we didn’t have to read about it.
All of which raises a question: is it time for editors and producers to reduce the coverage of Donald J. Trump? Should they deliberately downplay his antics and provocations? Or, at least apply the same standards and judgement to Trump “news” that they rightly apply to other news? Yes, Trump non-news sells papers and attracts viewers, but at what price? CNN certainly suffered when it staged a Trump town hall before an audience of unabashed Trump-lovers who laughed at his jokes and applauded his most outrageous comments. In the end, the joke was on CNN.
It is past time for editors and producers to be tough-minded when reporting about Trump. It is past time that they look hard at his antics and decide what truly constitutes news and what is inadvertent promotion. If he is indicted again, that’s news. But another rally in which he fantasizes about the “deep state” and rants about Hunter Biden? That’s not news.