Imagine you are a newspaper editor or a television news producer. So journalists offer you stories and pictures and you decide which story will be published or broadcast. They are currently working on the side or sequence on international politics. They have the choice between two stories: the first story revolves around the question of whether the US pays reparations to African Americans for slavery and thus compensates for systemic racism in society. The second story is about how Donald Trump is beaten free with tear gas by police officers on his way from the White House to a small church, so that he can pose for photos in front of this church with a Bible in his hand. What story Do you bring?
It is an example of a typical decision as they have cases, dial-makers and producers every day. The story about systemic racism in the United States is relevant: it explains the connection between slavery and today’s systematic discrimination against blacks in the United States. She thus explains the background of the unrest as we experience it today. But the fabric is complicated. The second story is a classic excitement. There is also a symbolic image: Donald Trump with the Bible in his hand in front of St. John’s Church. This story promises everything a Story needs to have: it’s about people, something happens, it’s emotional, even sensational. If you were responsible for a newspaper or a show and thus also for the ratings you achieve with your content, the case would be clear: you bet on Trump.
Trump almost as important as the weather
The fact that the media pounce on Trump like flies is not new. Since Donald Trump announced his candidacy on the escalator in Trump Tower in 2015, he has dominated the headlines. During the primary campaign, when the Republican Party chose its candidate in an internal election campaign, Donald Trump made it on television to more air time than all 16 other Republican candidates combined! In the actual election campaign, it went the same way: Trump dominated the headlines.
Today, the election of Donald Trump is closely linked to the scandal surrounding Camebridge Analytica, the company that allegedly manipulated millions of people with data analysis of Facebook profiles and thus caused the election of Donald Trump. Today, there is evidence of what the company has done. But whether it worked is open. The debate completely forgets that Donald Trump also dominated the media during the election campaign. Hillary Clinton has done much more TV advertising than Trump. Studies assume that your advertising budget was up to seven Times higher. But Trump has dominated the editorial part of the media. According to a study by Tyndall Reports, Donald Trump was in second place in 2015 (!) of the 20 topics that were the most reported on television – more than Trump, the television networks only reported on the hideous winter weather. Trump has three times more editorial minutes on his account than Hillary Clinton. And only because he was sensational.
How Donald Trump hacks the media
Today, Donald Trump is also important as US President. Accordingly, the media pounce on each of his statements and thus make themselves his assistants. Take the story with the picture in front of the church. Shortly before, Trump had given a press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in front of a series of American flags. Outside, in front of the White House, in Lafayette Park, hundreds of people demonstrated peacefully. While Trump was speaking, Mounted Police officers attacked the protesters and drove them away with batons and tear gas. When the police cleared the Park, the president walked the 150 meters through the Park to St. John’s Church at the corner of 16th and H Streets. He positioned himself in front of the church and silently stretched out a Bible in the air. This image went around the world.
This is a classic “media Hack”: Trump got the media to spread his message. The message was: “I, Donald Trump, am more powerful than all the demonstrations. I can get the road back anytime. Look, I am on the side of good with the Bible in my hand. This also means: whoever opposes me or is against me, takes the side of evil.“Donald Trump didn’t even have to say anything about that. All he had to do was sit in silence with the Bible in his hand in front of the church and wait for the photographers to press the shutter release of their cameras. He could rely on the media to spread this image and thus his message afterwards. Even media that were critical of his appearance spread his message by showing the picture and thus put themselves at his service.
Addicted to Trump
It’s like the election campaign: Donald Trump provides quotas in both political camps. His Fans watch his Stunts because they love him, his opponents watch it because they are angry about it. Trump reliably mobilizes emotions. This is rare in politics and therefore also welcome on newsrooms. The media is addicted to Trump. It gives them the attention. Media therefore circle Trump like moths in the light. And like moths, they burn themselves more often. But most media need the attention that Trump gives them, because they live off it. The media is caught in the Trump trap.
It is slowly becoming apparent that this could have consequences. It may well be that the Americans will vote for Donald Trump again in the fall, simply because hardly anyone else is mentioned in the media. In Switzerland, too, the USA coverage has largely narrowed to Donald Trump. A report about him meets all the tabloid criteria: personalized, emotionalized, sensationalized – and thus also good for the quota in this country. But bad for the head. The narrow focus on Donald Trump disguises the view of the economic and social problems facing the country, of thoughtful art, music and literature, and of politicians who do not behave like Rumpelstiltskin himself. And to Joe Biden. So remember, the next time you get upset about a Tweet from @realdonaldtrump or, attracted by one of these horrible photos, you shake your head over an article about Donald Trump: even if you get angry with him, you get on his nerves. And stuck in the Trump trap.