I ended up with one of those virulent viruses that basically renders you brain-dead for a number of days. On Friday, I decided to stay home and send out my emails while watching coverage of the presidential primaries, flipping from CNN to MSNBC to Fox News. Basically in a fevered daze, I sat staring at the screen for hour upon hour. Because of my near delirium it took me those multiple hours to recognize one very disturbingly interesting fact.
It was all but impossible to discern any true programming difference among the three cable networks.
I figured my fever must have been worse than I thought. That couldn’t be possible.
Because that’s like clicking from ABC to CBS to NBC to Fox and finding that each is playing the exact same show.
Not a comparable show, not a similar show, but the very exact same damn show.
That simply cannot happen.
But among the three cable news stations, it was, it did and unless a huge sea-change has mercifully happened, it still is.
The day began with coverage of Donald Trump, continued by showing extended coverage of Donald Trump and ended by rerunning earlier coverage of Donald Trump. This is not a Trump PR onslaught, as much as it’s a manic media feeding frenzy.
To quote a piece by Lara M. Brown, Ph.D in U.S. news & World Report on how the media is covering the campaign: “Trump earned more than 57 million media mentions (mainstream and social media combined) and accounted for more than 54 percent of the conversation pertaining to the Republican candidates. His closest competitor in the Republican field was Ted Cruz, who garnered less than 13 million media mentions and a mere 12 percent of the conversation over the same time frame. These numbers are even more extraordinary when one considers that Cruz announced his presidential run on March 23, and Trump did not enter the race until mid-June. In short, Cruz had a more than 80-day head start.” That’s quite a lot of coverage, but pales, next to what I had been watching.
But the truly perplexing part is not the unyielding coverage.
The fact the media lavishes coverage on Trump is no surprise. Trump equals ratings. This is a public relations barrage not for the Trump campaign but for the networks themselves. The guy is a billionaire, a reality TV star and the 21st Century Barnum and Bailey all wrapped into one. Show him squinting as he peaks his head out before he exits his private jet and you have guaranteed viewers… or so the media now believes.
The truly confusing part is that while media has been running a 24/7 all-Trump-all-the time telethon, the reporters and newscasters compliment their non-stop, relentless Trump coverage by staring into the camera, or turning to one of the talking heads in studio, and asking, with all feigned sincerity:
“How in the world can an outsider like Trump be actually winning?”
Gosh. Beats me.