For roughly 500 days, CNN jumped aboard that fast-moving Trump Train and covered the soon-to-be-president-elect with all the full-throttle verve and overkill that a TV reality-show star -- which Donald Trump was until recently -- deserved. Hours of prime time were converted into endless infomercials of Trump's rallies, with viewers on the edge of their seats not knowing what the future short-fingered-vulgarian-in-chief might say next. CNN covered Trump's pronouncements, his foibles, his scandals and his spectacles all the way to the bank, recently admitting to Wall Street that the whole sordid exercise reaped $100 million in extra profits.
There was, in fact, only one big Trump story that CNN (with the occasional rare exception) couldn't find enough hours in the 24-hour news cycle to cover before November 8.
What a President Trump would actually do.
On November 10, America's Most Trusted Source for News was all over the story, making the major policy shifts that Trump would enact in his first 100 days this morning's lead story. I have to think that many voters -- excuse me, former voters, as least as far as 2016 is concerned -- were hearing for the first time that Trump will kill American involvement in the Paris climate change accord, which will make the United States a global pariah as the rest of the world tries to fight off climate change, or about his plan to increase certain tariffs by 35 percent, a move aimed at saving jobs but would likely increase the price of some consumer goods.
I guess it's like that famous Nancy Pelosi line about health care reform. We had to elect Trump to find out what was in him.
I've been in journalism for 35-plus years, and I have a hard time explaining why policy issues didn't become sexy until the day after America was saddled with the Trump administration until January 20, 2021 (when the 76ers will hopefully be going for their three-peat championship with grizzled veterans Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons...but I digress). But then, I have a hard time explaining or understanding a lot of what the media has been doing for the last 17 months beyond -- in the case of TV news (but definitely not in the case of print newspapers) -- milking a cash cow named Donald.
Remember back in February when the head of CBS, Les Moonves, said in a rare moment of candor that Trump "may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS," adding:
"Man, who would have expected the ride we're all having right now? ... The money's rolling in and this is fun," Moonves went on. "I've never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It's a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going."
And now the fun times will last another four years -- maybe longer! It reminds me of the incessant ads for the Broadway musical "Cats" that aired when I moved back to New York in the mid-1980s: "Trump! Now and forever at the Winter Garden Theater!" Hillary's cabinet choices would have been a snoozefest. Trump's next hires -- Steve Bannon? Sarah Palin? Omarosa? -- will surely keep the money rolling in.
Even before all the votes were counted or hacked (just kidding) or whatever, the media was already giving itself its own colonoscopy. From what I've read so far, journalists went crazy with their bias against Trump...or else they were too blinded by their fake objectivity to warn America enough about the dangers of his presidency. Newsrooms don't hire enough whites from working-class Rust Belt backgrounds...but also don't hire enough blacks, Latinos and women (spoiler alert: Both of those things are true.) Basically, whatever people think is wrong with the media seems to largely depend on the predetermined outcome they wanted the media to produce.
There were actually a decent number of well-reported pieces from struggling, deindustrialized communities in the American heartland. Yes, there could -- and should -- have been even more. This week, in the 48 hours or so since Trump's victory, I've read a couple of new pieces from "Trumpland." What struck me was not so much that the media was misinformed about the white working class as the fact that the white working class has been so badly misinformed by the media. Several Trump voters, pressed on what they didn't like about Clinton, blurted out, "Benghazi!" -- a completely made-up non-scandal (I mean Hillary's reaction, not the actual tragedy) that was nonetheless hyped incessantly not by Fox News but also by more mainstream outlets.
Other Trump voters cited their certainty that something horrible was up with Clinton's emails because they were in the news so much. As already noted here a couple of time, Hillary's emails -- found not once but twice by the FBI to be a giant nothingburger -- got more than three times as much coverage on the network nightly news as coverage of ALL substantive issues combined.