Media

Blanket Trump rally coverage shows he still owns the media

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If there’s one thing that is indisputable since Donald Trump announced his candidacy nearly 550 days ago, it’s that to him, the press bows even as most of the Fourth Estate wishes he ditched his current job and got back into real estate.
 
{mosads}Speaking of ditching, Trump has decided to ditch his first press conference, scheduled for Thursday. Spokeswoman Hope Hicks says it’s going to happen next month.
 
And on cue, those who were mostly muted on Hillary Clinton once not holding a press conference from before the first vote was cast in the primaries until after she secured the nomination — 287 days to be exact — are now suddenly apocalyptic about Trump approaching half that number: 138 days. 

It’s just the way selective outrage and selective amnesia works in our polarized media of 2016, a time where two figures can engage in the same exact activity — or in this case, non-activity — and generate opposite reactions from the same people in the press based solely on last name and party affiliation.  

But instead of whining about Trump not meeting the press in this setting, let’s ask a basic question:

Does anyone outside the media care that the president-elect hasn’t held a press conference yet? 

The average time for president-elects to hold a presser after winning election is about 3 1/2 days. It’s been about five weeks since Trump stunned the country and world by winning an election that almost all reporting insisted he wouldn’t. 

 
So is declining to take questions from press members not of his choosing going to hurt his public image?

In this space, I slammed Hillary Clinton for going the equivalent of two football seasons without holding a press conference. Research showed a person could walk across Mother Russia in the time between when met the press in this setting and have 37 days left over. 

 
But the responses I got from the public varied based on party. Democrats simply didn’t care and pointed to interviews she was doing directly with journalists and talk show hosts as a sign of her transparency. 

 
And then there’s was this poll from Morning Consult in August showing a majority of voters believed Clinton’s decision not to hold a press conference for nine months would not impact their vote, with nearly 6 in 10 saying they haven’t even heard much about the controversy.
 
In other words, the hysteria you’ll be seeing and reading today about Trump swatting the press away like an annoying fly is largely a bubble story that doesn’t concern the general public very much, only highly partisan political junkies who hate-watch cable news or all things Trump for sport.
 
Because here’s the thing: Trump knows he has traditional establishment media wrapped around his finger. He got a fresh reminder of his control during the past two weeks, when much of cable news would run coverage of every Trump Tweet and analyze and speculate about every person entering Trump Tower. The coverage in most places would — as it always has been — was overwhelmingly negative and hilariously hyperbolic.
 
But then at night, everyone would drop all regular programming to cover Trump rallies wall-to-wall. The president-elect would oftentimes speak for more than an hour. The ratings he would bring in — as always — would dwarf said regular programming. Every journalist or those pretending to play the role would stop everything they’re doing to Tweet every quote from Trump they could from these speeches, pouring even more gas on the fire. 
 
No president-elect before him — even the current president — was bowed down to in this regard. Not because the media loves Trump, of course, but it loves the ad revenue he generates via boffo ratings. 
 
And that’s why Trump treats the press like he owns them.
 
He knows this. 
 
Many of them scream, practically cry about him, his policies, his cabinet picks, his victory. Some even cartoonishly called his victory a national emergency, the new catchphrase suddenly emerging this week across the left-leaning landscape almost as if a media memo was privately distributed. 
 
And when he postpones a press conference, it has zero effect on his ability to communicate with the public in any form he chooses: Twitter, one-on-one interview, campaign rally. The media has learned nothing from all of the phony soul-searching it said it performed after the election. 
 
In fact, new outlets are only embarrassing themselves even more. 
 
Welcome to the post-election media world. 
 
If you haven’t noticed any difference in the way the media goes about its business, it’s because it hasn’t changed a bit.
 
Concha is a media reporter for The Hill.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

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