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Is Trump really the media's fault?

Is the media to blame for the Trump ascendancy? What difference does Trump journalism make?

Donald Trump celebrated his second whole day as heir apparent to the party of Abraham Lincoln by tweeting a #CincoDeMayo shot of eating a taco bowl (true story!) in luxurious Trump Tower, adding "I love Hispanics." (At least it wasn't "I Love The Hispanics"....but still.) Is this part of his promise to be "so presidential" that we'll be bored? Because it's not boring. Or presidential.

You may ask did we get here?

Trump's big win in Indiana (there's an R. Dean Taylor joke in here somewhere) and the subsequent disappearing act of Ted Cruz and John Kasich turned out to be the primary  win that launched 1,000 "think pieces" on who's to blame for all of this. You'll be shocked to learn that some people blame the news media -- apparently we covered Trump too much...and also too little, which is a neat trick.

Jim Rutenberg, the media critic handed the too-big-to-fill shoes of the late David Carr at the New York Times (and is doing a darn good job of it so far) dove into this morass. Here are some relevant excerpts:

Every election cycle brings questionable news coverage. (Remember the potential president Herman Cain?) But this season has been truly spectacular in its failings. It has been "Dewey Defeats Truman" on a relentless, rolling basis. The mistakes piled up — the bad predictions, the overplaying of every slight development of the horse race to the point of whiplash, the lighthearted treatment of what turned out to be the most serious candidacy in the Republican field. The lessons learned did not.


The problems weren't at all only due to the reliance on data. Don't forget those moments that were supposed to have augured Mr. Trump's collapse: the certainty that once the race narrowed to two or three candidates, Mr. Trump would be through, and what at one point became the likelihood of a contested convention.

As Mr. Silver wrote on FiveThirtyEight on Wednesday, there were a lot of extenuating circumstances that made the Trump story hard to call. Mr. Trump has rendered useless the traditional rule books of American politics.

That's all the more reason in the coming months to be as sharply focused on the data we don't have as we are on the data we do have (and maybe watching out for making any big predictions about the fall based on the polling of today). But a good place to start would be to get a good night's sleep, and then talk to some voters.

I think a lot of what Rutenberg says here is spot on; as I wrote earlier this year, the roots of Trump have been exposed for all to see in the American Heartland for years. That said, I also think that in all this reporting on the 2016 race and its flawed journalism is fundamentally, um, flawed. There remains this assumption that if the media had somehow done earlier and more aggressive reporting on the many problems with Trump, like unsavory past business dealings, then voters might have rejected him.

But to echo what I've said earlier, there already has been good investigative reportng on the Trump University scam, his shady business practices, etc., etc, etc. You'll never believe what happened next? No one cared. Check that -- people who would vote for Zombie Pol Pot before they pulled the level for Trump took notice, but not a single actual Trump voter cared. One of their philosophical cornerstones is that the media cannot be trusted. So what type of investigative reporting would have eroded Trump's support? Nothing.

Yeah, I think that CNN, MSNBC and Fox could have covered the traveling freak show a lot less, and mainstream news orgs should have probed a little more. But as someone  -- I can't remember exactly who it was -- once said, what difference does it make?