The causes of the “big media crash” are obvious. Last year was a campaign year that kept increasing news consumption. It was also the final year of – apart from his re-election in 2024 president Donald Trump. Trump was a constant one-man news machine, feeding reporters high-calorie, low-nutrient treats forever and serving dumpsters with coverable riot, some of which were forgotten the day after the coverage. Remember when the White House promoted Melania Trump’s jewelry line or when Kellyanne Conway hyped Ivanka Trump’s clothing line? Sometimes he would uncork two or three mini scandals a day. The press corps sometimes couldn’t see which of his threats were empty (would he set North Korea on fire, inject bleach into the sick person, or stop the election count?) Because so many of the threats turned out to be fully (He did Ban reporters from the White House, he did the murderous Saudis back to the stop, he did impose a Muslim travel ban, lock up children and declare the 2020 elections fixed).
The filling Trump coverage was journalistically justified – a renegade and unpredictable CEO is a very dangerous thing to do, and if he uses the Constitution as a kitchen towel, he has to be addressed. It was important to keep a record of Trump’s transgressions so let’s not argue with the amount of coverage. But in hindsight, after Trump stereotyped himself as a liar, cheater, villain, and crybaby, few of us had to read past the headline and first paragraph to get the message. We’re turning the Trump Show into delicious breakaway entertainment served in installments around the clock, like a bunch of your favorite Netflix series. The more we read about Trump, the more we wanted to read about him, and the more we looked forward to the assembly line of books about Trump that got in our way. We have crushed so much Trump news that it is a wonder the livers of readers and viewers have not grown large enough to be humanized Foie gras of them.
We have been indoctrinated since elementary school to believe that attending the news is essential to citizenship, democracy, and our American way of life: study the subjects! Discuss the problems! But no one has ever told us that something that is a nutrient at one dosage can become a poison when it is five fold. During Trumpmania, billions of man hours were unnecessarily burned reading and seeing Trump stories that could have been better for gardening, parenting, reading, hobbies, drinking, sexting, and even sitting on the porch. Each of us could have learned a foreign language or learned to play the guitar instead of reading about it day and night for four years. We really should have known better. Guy DeBord (Society of the Spectacle) and Daniel Boorstin (The picture) warned us in the 1960s that our appetite for mass spectacles would make us the target of political extremism if someone showed up who knew how to use and exploit the media. Trump appeared, he made an excellent copy, and we were all addicted.
After being dragged down by the news frenzy, we have only now emerged to rearrange our priorities. First, we must never forget how we Trumpmania are turning our media diet on its head and turning ourselves into fattening pigs. When Trump returns – or the next Trump uses his attention-grabbing methods – we should be ready to resist his yelling. Someone should create a browser add-in to remind us when we have participated in the news too much. CNN could add a product disclaimer to its programs stating that excessive viewing of the television news can mess up your mind and that television is only safe if recorded as directed. I’m joking, but just a little. Like Facebook and YouTube, TV news narrows its customers. Knowing that the media can’t – and shouldn’t – hold back when it comes to non-normative politicians, it’s up to us to know when to turn away.
If Trump deserves the major blame for increasing audience numbers, Joe Biden should get some credit for relieving us of our 24/7 news coverage. You don’t have to be a Biden fan – I’m not – to appreciate the way his behavior has reduced national political news from the entirety of existence to something more like a companion. If anything, Biden has downplayed his role in national drama to levels that are just under perception. If we hadn’t fled Afghanistan, how much would we read about him? Sometimes I google “the name of the President of the United States” to remember who occupies the White House.
Ask anyone who has successfully lost weight and they will tell you the first task is portion control. To take the metaphor forward, fill your plate with whatever messages you like, but use a 9-inch plate from the 1950s instead of a modern 13-inch plate. As you read, pay attention to your satiety and act accordingly.
One reason for the decline in New York Times uniques is the newspaper that ended its distribution agreement with Apple News in June 2020. But their decline is still in line with other outlets. Juice my email numbers with messages [email protected]. my Email notifications have a weight problem. my Twitter feed never turns off the TV. My RSS feed cannot be read.