Media reaps dividends from Trump attacks – The Hill
Cable news outlets are pulling huge ratings and reporters are becoming overnight celebrities as the attacks between President Trump and the media enter strange new territory.
The White House has agitated for the fight, believing thatÂ everyÂ day it spends feuding with the media exposes further press bias and energizes the conservative base.
But Trumpâs claim thatÂ MSNBC host Mika BrzezinskiÂ was âbleeding badly from a face-lift”Â unified the media, with anchors from Fox News to CNN expressing outrageÂ at the presidentâs tweetsÂ and pointing toÂ them as evidence that the press should not treat Trump like a normal president.Trump again sent the media into a fury over the weekend when he tweeted a doctored video showing him at a fake wrestling match body-slamming someone with the CNN logo superimposed overÂ their face. Reporters accused Trump of encouraging violence against the press.
The relationship between the White House and the media is in shambles, with the daily press briefings devolving into shouting matches and airing of grievances. Both sidesÂ engageÂ in stunts, grandstanding and political theater meant to undermine or embarrass the other.
TheÂ White House has long viewed attacking the media, dubbed âthe opposition partyâ by chief strategist Stephen Bannon, as a winning strategy. But theÂ nasty turn has also been a boon to the media and the individual reportersÂ who registerÂ acts of protest against the administration.
âRatings are part of it, but the mediaâs open contempt for this administration is part of it too,â said Tim Graham, the director of media analysis at the conservative Media Research Center. âI imagine it will continue as long as the ratings keep going up.â
Left-leaningÂ MSNBCÂ pulledÂ big numbers as the only network in open opposition to the president, even before the spat between Trump and âMorning Joeâ hostsÂ Joe Scarborough and BrzezinskiÂ engulfed Washington.
According to Nielsenâs second quarter ratings, MSNBCâs total viewers are up 73 percent year-over-year, with prime-time viewership up 86 percent, easily making it the fastest growing cable news outlet.
Anchor Rachel Maddow has become a cultural icon on the left while also attracting a younger audience of viewers. MSNBCâs share of the coveted 25- to 54-year-old demographic grew 78 percent in prime time over last year. Their prime-time audience has nearly tripled since second quarter of 2014.
Scarborough said over Twitter that his show had a record month for ratings.
Congrats to the entire Morning Joe team for another record setting ratings month. You are amazing. Your hard work makes the difference!! pic.twitter.com/OFH8inG5td
â Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) July 2, 2017
CNN, meanwhile, is running third in the cable wars. Journalistically, the network has had a rough stretch, with retraction-related dismissals, sting videos showing producers expressing frustration with the networkâs editorial decisions and allegations of bias coming from the right.
ButÂ CNN hasÂ stillÂ grown 25 percent in total viewers and 10 percent in prime time year-over-year. The networkâs deep well of contributors and political punditsÂ ensures that the Trump show is always rolling.
Itâs a stark departure from the pre-Trump era, when sagging ratings provoked a move away from breaking news and political programming. As recently as 2014, CNN was airing âDirty Jobs,â âAmericaâs Most Wantedâ or âOur America with Lisa Lingâ in theÂ prime-timeÂ 9Â p.m. hour.
Some media watchers are growing alarmed by the increasingly antagonistic approach some in the press are taking. But most expect it will continue as long as the feuding with Trump attracts new viewers.
âThe news world is reaping some short-term benefits from the running battle with Trump, but this is really a short-sighted and ultimately losing strategy,â said Jeffrey McCall, a media critic and professor at DePauw University. âSure, it’s sensational and somewhat entertaining, but it makes the media look small and petty. Media credibility is quite low and most news consumers aren’t going to sympathize with the news industry, even when Trump makes boorish attacks.â
Fox News is still the front-runner in the cable wars,Â despite shake-ups that roiled both its prime-time line-up and executive suites.Â
Foxâs audience grew 19 percent betweenÂ 8 p.m. and 11 p.m., as viewersÂ tune in to watch Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity rail against the news media on a nightly basis.Feuding with Trump has also become a profitable endeavor for many individual reporters, with viral video clips andÂ tweetsÂ opening new doors for previously little-known journalists.
Taking on the White House worked forÂ Brian Karem, an editor for a regional newspaper in the Washington suburbs.
Karem was little-known beforeÂ Tuesday,Â when a video of him lecturing White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders over press access went viral.
Less than a week later,Â he has nearly 80,000 followers on Twitter.
After his exchange, Karem made the cable news rounds to call Sanders a bully. He sat for scores of interviews with print and online outlets, where he claimed the nickname âhoney badgerâ â a supposedly fearless animal âÂ and said members of the press corps had likened him to legendary reporters Sam Donaldson and Helen Thomas.
Left-leaning outlets have held Karem up as a hero, although the episode cemented in the minds of many conservatives that reportersÂ want to use the briefings to make their namesÂ by grandstanding against the administration.
Thatâs a point White House press secretary Sean Spicer made in explaining whyÂ fewer press briefingÂ would be televised.
Other reporters have had similar experiences.
Veteran reporter April Ryan, who has been covering the White House for 20 years and has long been one of the most respected journalists in the press corps,Â scoredÂ a contributorÂ positionÂ on CNN this year after several high-profile dust-ups with Trump and Spicer.
CNN White House reporter Jim Acosta has becomeÂ theÂ face of the resistance inside the briefing room, ranting against the administration on the air and on social media.Â
Acostaâs antagonistic tweets have gone viral amid the furor over the White House decision to take the briefingsÂ off-camera.Â Frustrated with the lack of camera access, Acosta began to tweet pictures of his socks âÂ the only things in the briefing, he wrote, that he was allowed to show on camera. Â Â
But AcostaÂ has drawn scorn from many conservatives, who say he is grandstanding and making himself the story.
âIn honor of the Fourth of July, let’s save all our fireworks forÂ Tuesday,â Sanders said at the start ofÂ FridayâsÂ press briefing.
The frenzy and eagerness to capitalize on what some in media have dubbed the âTrump Effectâ has led to some sloppy journalism.
CNN admitted that it did not follow protocol in pushing out a story alleging that a Trump associate had improper ties with a Russian bank. The network had to retract theÂ story, while theÂ three journalists responsible for it resigned.
That latest CNN embarrassmentÂ came after a story authored by some of the networkâs top talent, including anchor Jake Tapper and political analyst Gloria Borger, was retracted after it was directly contradicted by public testimony from former FBI Director James Comey.
InÂ his testimony, ComeyÂ alsoÂ saidÂ thatÂ a New York Times bombshell story alleging Trump officials had colluded with Moscow was totally false and that most reports on the matter should not be trusted.
Those incidents have emboldened the WhiteÂ House, with TrumpâsÂ allies in conservative mediaÂ sayingÂ the mainstream media is nothing but âfake news.â
Now, some on the left, like Rolling Stone journalistÂ Matt Taibbi and Intercept founder Glenn Greenwald, are sounding the alarm. Both argued this week that media outlets are behaving recklessly in covering the RussiaÂ investigation, which has driven much of the coverage on CNN and MSNBC.
âOver and over, major U.S. media outlets have published claims about the Russia Threat that turned out to be completely false â always in the direction of exaggerating the threat and/or inventing incriminating links between Moscow and the Trump circle,â Greenwald wrote. âIn virtually all cases, those stories involved evidence-free assertions from anonymous sources thatÂ these media outlets uncritically treated as fact, only for it to be revealed that they were entirely false.âÂ