Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Media

Trump Welcomes the Hatred of the Press

Remember back during the 2016 campaign when the media couldn’t stop covering Donald Trump? It hasn’t really changed, has it? The press hasn’t adapted much. Yes, there’s a lot of content about how bad Trump is, and some of it is even policy-oriented, focusing on some of the more odious bits and pieces of the Trump tax plan. But this is having no impact on Trump’s approval rating, which has hovered in the mid to upper 30s for most of the first year of his presidency–higher than the low 30s figures he suffered from throughout most of the 2016 campaign. Why is it that nothing the media says or does seems to seriously harm Trump?

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Morning Joe and CNN: How Trump Goads the Press Into Playing His Game

When President Trump was running, we talked about how he managed to force the media to give him free airtime by making himself ratings candy. Trump’s outlandish statements may have looked like gaffes, but they played an important role in helping him win, especially during the primaries. Was this deliberate or inadvertent? Either way, it worked. Since becoming president, Trump has continued to do the same kind of stuff–he’s gone after Morning Joe and CNN. This has resulted in a lot of pieces criticizing Trump for acting unpresidential, but relatively little consideration of how this kind of thing plays with Trump’s people. So let’s think about that.

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A Judge Judy Think Piece

The internet is often full of aesthetic think pieces. It’s easy to write them–you identify some show or artist that’s captured the attention and the artistic sensibility of your readers, and you make some vague connection between the themes of that art and some current issue. On prestige websites, you can often find writers pumping out think pieces about prestige programs. Often it’s some big critical hit on HBO like Game of Thrones, or an edgy Netflix original series like House of Cards. These are thought to be the important shows, because they’re the shows our social, cultural, and political elite enjoy. Think pieces get lots of clicks, because they make us feel that the stuff we’re watching, reading, or listening to really matters. But do they matter? The most popular Game of Thrones episode was watched by about 8.9 million people. A new season of House of Cards gets seen by about 5 million. Meanwhile, every week, like clockwork, 10 million people watch Judge Judy.

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Fake News is a Symptom of a Larger Problem–We are Destroying Our Own Media

Many people now believe that fake news contributed to Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election. I’ve seen this issue debated a number of times around the web, and whenever it’s discussed there tends to be a great deal of conceptual imprecision. Different people have widely divergent understandings of what constitutes “fake” news. This has led many people to misunderstand what fake news is, why it exists, and what its significance is.

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The Election is Distracting Us From the Issues

If you look at any major American news website right now, the lead story (and in some cases nearly all the stories) will be about the 2016 election. This has been true for about a year, and we still have another 6 months or so until November. Initially it feels as if this election coverage is going somewhere useful–candidates choose to run on different issues, and that gets us talking about those issues and about the various policy proposals to deal with them. But as time goes on and the field narrows, the candidates stop throwing out new ideas and start going after each other in a prolonged trench war that is more about character attacks than it is about the issues. But this doesn’t bother readers–readers remain far happier to click on election-related content than on any other sort of content. Even reduced purely to soap opera, election politics beats nearly every other kind of politics. Media outlets have caught on to this–because you get more hits and clicks covering the election than you do covering anything else, the media is forced to supply you with an unending stream of political stories, many of which are repetitive and don’t contribute much of value to any sort of public debate, lest they lose market share to competitors.

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