The Corner

Politics & Policy

Stop Studying Trump’s Tweets Like They’re the Zapruder Film!

Emily Bell of the Columbia Journalism School offers the intriguing but not entirely convincing argument that President-elect Trump is best “framed” as a media organization.

Yes, Trump’s rise to fame since the early 1980s has been symbiotic with the larger press. He is indeed obsessed with ratings and audience size, and is driven to “put on a show,” perhaps more than anyone else in American politics.

But Trump-as-a-media-organization vision also implies that his more outrageous moments are the political equivalent of “ratings ploys” or sweeps week plot-twists, and that feels like shoehorning a deliberate strategy onto impulsive decisions.

For starters, Trump just likes to write Tweets. Does he write about, say, flag-burning because he wants to distract from some other major issue? Maybe. But it also seems pretty likely that Trump just got irked about the Fox News morning segment he saw about a flag-burning and felt like venting about it. This is not a man who is shy and reticent about sharing what he thinks.

It feels like there’s a lot of Kremlinology – no pun intended – going in in the media’s dissection and interpretation of Trump’s tweets. And if some members of the media feels like Trump is using Tweet A in distract media attention from Topic B… well, fellas, it’s your choice as to what you cover.

Take, for example, Trump’s tweets from last night about the ratings being down for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first time hosting The Apprentice. This is probably the least important and consequential thing the president-elect will do all day.

Nobody’s forcing the media to write items and do segments on Trump’s tweets about his old television show. But this morning, a lot of news organizations felt the need to write about them, and not just the television or media beat writers: The Daily Beast, CBS News, U.S. News and World Report, New York Daily News, Vanity Fair

Let me toss out this crazy thought: maybe not every Trump tweet needs to dominate the news cycle for a day.

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