Trump’s Administration is working hard to advance the interests of their wealthy donors and corporate friends. Federal regulators passed a proposal to soften parts of the Dodd-Frank law. Scott Pruitt, head of the EPA, has moved to gut air and water regulations. Ben Carson, secretary of HUD, has proposed increasing rent for low-income people in subsidized government housing. The Supreme Court ruled that immigrants facing deportation are not entitled to a bond hearing, even after years of detention. These stories are major decisions made under the Trump administration that affect large amounts of people. They should have headlined for days. Yet they were all buried.
Turn on any cable network and all you’ll hear for hours on end are endless talking heads and panelists. The subject is most often Trump. It’s all too familiar to the 2016 election when Trump dominated the media with his inflammatory statements and offensive personality. Though now that he’s president his tweets are informally stamped with the official seal, inflating their importance. Something like the ‘covfefe’ typo receives pressing all day media coverage. By time spent, their coverage equates a typo to scaling back bank regulations. And there are real consequences to this misuse of time. When cable news creates outrage, they inadvertently provide the perfect distraction for Trump and his wealthy elite friends to slip their agenda past the American public.
Trump is always going to dominate cable news. They cover Trump because Trump is attention-getting. Attention means ratings. Like all businesses, cable news cares about increasing profits. They inadvertently helped elevate him to the presidency and they are profiting off the popularity they created. According to a study by Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy Trump received 63 percent of the coverage compared to the 37 percent of Clinton. It’s no secret that the more coverage a candidate gets the more likely they are to win that election. Our elections have become so long and bloated that most Americans don’t have time to follow them closely. They follow the headlines, and Trump dominated them. The weekly scandals were too tantalizing for cable news to pass up. More than two thirds of the stories surrounding Trump were on his personality rather than his policy. When news coverage becomes gossip and scandal the reality TV star will take the spotlight.
When a new study reported Hurricane Maria was 70 times more devastating than initially thought the news hit on the same day ABC canceled the Roseanne reboot. The Roseanne story took up 10 hours of airtime compared to the 30 minutes for Puerto Rico. Upwards of 5,000 people perished in the storm, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters to hit America. Yet like many stories about the failures of the Trump administration it failed to garner its own news cycle.
Trump isn’t a disease of our political climate, he’s a symptom. He will come and go. But corporate interests attempting to influence the course of our country have been around for decades, and will continue to dominate the public narrative unless stopped. Our system relies on the media to shine a light on injustice and wrongdoing so that the people can speak up and march against it. When the media plays their own game for their own benefit, we all suffer. Cable news needs to divert their attention from Trump’s spectacle and start focusing on the background actors who are making the production possible.