Donald Trump Is Breaking News

This spring and summer, millions of Americans will go to the polls and vote. For most of us, our political participation begins and ends at the ballot box. The rest is mediated: through a mix of respectable newspapers and radio firebrands, punditry, hearsay, and Tweets.

The play of politics came with a set of old-saw formulas. The respectable candidates ended up winning. Ad spending buys votes. Gaffes are costly. And the party decides.

None of that has proven true this unconventional year. So maybe it’s no surprise that the big papers and networks seem to have first missed, then dismissed, then discouraged the popular movements behind Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

This exciting, profane, profound election has served as chum on the water for a media industry that was already agitated by the Internet, “disintermediation,” and vanishing income. 

But has the frenzy diverted American journalism from its fourth-estate duty: of holding candidates accountable? Giving voice to the voiceless? Referring readers to history and policy? Staying straight and honest with the citizenry? Or is that all 20th-century nostalgia?

Some of our guests, and most of our Twitter followers, feel that the big story this year was of a confrontation between a dissatisfied people and an establishment — that goes for the media, too. The big papers and networks seemed to have first missed, then dismissed, then discouraged the popular movements behind  Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. But that’s just the beginning — there were lots of weird media stories on the trail this year.

Let us know your favorite subplot in the grand electoral soap opera in the comments below, on Facebook or on Twitter.

Guest List
Jay Rosen
Professor of journalism at NYU, board member of The New Republic, blogger of PressThink.
Sarah Sobieraj
Professor of sociology at Tufts, co-author of The Outrage Industry.
Alex Pareene
Editor of Gawker.
Margaret Sullivan
Public editor of the New York Times, soon to be media columnist at the Washington Post.
David Bromwich
Professor of English at Yale and writer at London Review of Books and other publications.

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  • A. David Wunsch

    a small point :Father Charles Coughlin pronounced his name with a hard g as in “cog -lin”.

  • What an excellent program tonight! Thank you for pulling this together! I learned a lot about the internal ‘forces’ that have hampered reporters working in big established news companies. If anything, it goes to show how tired and out of date large hierarchical organizations have become, across the board.
    But I also gained a new perspective as to how those traditional news companies have been in the business of ‘taking care of us’ like parents, with a message of “don’t worry, dear, we [your parents, your superiors] are in charge and everything is going to be ok and will return to ‘normal’] Well, we’re working toward a new ‘normal’ and they don’t have a clue, alas.

  • Thank you for a really great program (Donald Trump is breaking news, March 17)! I learned a lot and found the perspectives of Chris and his guests quite enlightening. I recommend this to everyone who is mystified about what’s going on. There is definitely some clarity here!

  • Whitesauce

    Your analysis of the PresidentIal campaign has been brilliant. It’s clear the media either doesn’t have an understanding of the current climate and/or they’re willingly manipulating the process.

    Keep up the great work!

  • Potter

    Excellent everybody Rosen, Bromwich..

    The Trump quote mocks the media. The media mocks us all, while making money off of him. From the first Trump said he was a ratings machine, remember? Nasty sentiments that most of us try to subdue, if we have them, to be politically correct, have been liberated, encouraged, supported by this guy. And those kind of angry unthinking people out there that have outed ugly sentiments under the guise of making America great again. I do not respect this. On the other hand Sanders is trying to make us think, to reason, to awaken. In this election cycle Sanders voice was hardly heard MSM. Also his age is always near his name. Trump just goes ding ding ding,tweets and it’s news… as you remind.

    NYTimes has been disappointing. There must be new crop of people there… different sensibility. I thought they wanted more young readership. Maybe their idea of what that means if off. But I am not young.. maybe finally grumpy or just shocked. I used to think of that paper as a national treasure. Now of course there is much more out there as was said, but diffuse. It’s more work, time spent, to get what I should and want to know and maybe that is a good thing, I am navigating.

    Margaret Sullivan was as good a public editor as the NYT has had I feel. She’s fielded a lot of complaints, mostly well, but no change from all that reader input, not that I could see. We are allowed to complain. Great. And maybe it’s enough to print so many articulate and informed commenters. (It’s not really).

    The Matt Taibbi article from Rolling Stone that Bromwich mentioned was excellent and maybe unusual: That’s two good articles by Taibbi for me so far this season

    Frank Bruni (NYTimes) has been consistently good lately on the Repubican candidates- very strong.

    News is a business; but it always has been. As was said, it’s so much more competitive now for our limited attention. It sank to the “outrage industry” as Sarah Sobieraj says. With some exceptions,(NPR,PRI, on the radio for instance) it’s less about the mission to inform with fairness and with a certain sensibility that I thought we all shared. This season revealed to me at least that we are even more deeply divided, if that is possible.

    Tony Judt would be a good person to weigh in if he was still with us.

  • Ario Barzan

    Great program. Thank you.

  • Michael Beaton

    I want to add my voice to those who applaud the quality and relevance of your shows, including this one. And I want to add to that , that I wish there were some way that you could / would allow them to run to their natural conclusion. I appreciate the produced versions that you make for the radio. And they are great. But, as in this one with Bromwich and Rosen in particular, I felt every time there was a cut, and wished to hear what happened next.
    You do a great job. I hope that much is clear in my comment!
    But I do wish you could find a way to release the unedited, or perhaps slightly edited versions of the conversations as well.

    A model might be the OnBeing podcast. They do just this thing, release both.

    Ok. Enough of that!

  • Michael Beaton

    Looking fwd to more of Rosen, Bromwich, Nader, and etc… and hopefully soon. It is a great discussion. There is not enough of it in our public square which is so obsessed with polls and insignificant trivia…

    It is my opinion that the only way to defeat Trump is to recognize at least these 2 factors:
    1. That Trump as the man is only a small part of the syndrome, that he is both the embodiment, catalyst and also mirror of a syndrome become symptom in a large part of our body politic…our citizenry.
    As such taking Trump down is only a wack at the weeds… it will take something more than that to address the reality underneath the façade.

    2. I think this is why there is such puzzlement and consternation at the inability of past effective tools, processes, systems and uses of power to unseat Trump. The diagnosis of the problem was not made deeply, and thus they deduced and/or assumed they were dealing with a movement that was like any other movement, subject to the same sort of solutions.
    This was seen in full color display the sputtering inability of Jeb to land a punch…And then again w Rubio.
    Further, each of these attempted to deal with Trump at his level. They are not that sallow and they are not that man, so they utterly failed. Worse they became sullied in the attempt. (Not that I minded the outcome. It was interesting watching them fight the blitzkrieg that is Trump with horses and swords drawn…)

    In this report, and in many others I have heard the question posed how to defeat Trump.

    It seems to me that the only way to defeat a Trump is to engage the fight on a completely different level, upon which Trump is out of his element, and becomes exposed and unable to defend. By which I mean to clearly, without a lot of political hurumphing and mealy mouthed expressions of faux astonishment along the lines of “Can you believe he said THAT!!!” — I think this is one of the weakest positions from which to engage Trump….

    The press is constantly failing on this point, encouraging the “reality” show nature of the campaign, alternating between this fake umbrage to train-wreck-rubbernecking at the latest thing coming out of Trumps mouth/campaign.

    Rather that, just take the ever increasing number of lethal facts that are coming out, and in a firm, clear, un-astonished language begin to demand he account for himself.
    This goes for the facts of his ever larger lies he is propagating.. Don’t just point them out, but demand with a resolute, unwilling to continue the conversation until this question is answered stand. Unmerciful in not letting up, and exposing the dark places to the light of facts.

    Eventually, I think, many of his supporters will figure out that they have been taken in by this year’s version of The Wizard of OZ.

    The problem with this line of thinking is there are few reporters, like the ones on the show, that understand this, and are both willing and capable of doing this. And, I fear, much less any politician ,who seem to thrive in the safety of the passive voice and assumed ethics.
    (As manifest in sentences that take the form : “He should x” and “He should not x” as if “everyone” agrees with the underlying ethics and moralities being assumed in the statement. Or call him a liar, as he is, and think that those who support Trump will be moved by a simple declaration.
    How about a clear statement of “This is what he did/said. This is why and how it is wrong. Here are the consequences of X.
    How do you explain yourself Mr. Trump”. And not stop until he answers the question. )

    And then, assuming Trump is dispatched, we may have to contend with a Cruz. But that is another kettle of fish altogether…

    Too long. Sorry. Am interested to find out if any of this holds up in other peoples thinking.

    • Potter

      Trump has shown us this: that there is a lot of hidden bad sentiment and ideas out there that were suppressed by “political correctness”. So he has give a lot of folks permission to get it out and in so doing see how much company they have. So it is a movement, and a bad one. On top of that he is totally obnoxious to many of us ( as well scary). But I don’t think you can reason away those supporters; not by questioning his facts or exposing his lies. Yes for the rest of us that will not vote for him, or that will vote against him. But it is a shame that important choices that were to be made in this election have been hijacked by this”emergency” and once again we will most likely be faced with the least worst to vote for. I feel that way anyway. No question the corporate media has failed us and what else is new? I have turned to Democracy Now for my news and I am amazed at all the other news there is.

      Also this piece by Glen Greenwald

      The Rise of Trump Shows the Danger and Sham of Compelled Journalistic Neutrality

      That’s different from bias and gets to a shared sensibility about who we are. Responsible media should be able to express it when things get so out of whack.

  • Potter

    Hillary Clinton mentioned something about Sanders not doing his homework. I have to post this link below about how we all have to do our homework these days. So much that we read and take in as truth or fact is filtered and maybe of necessity, but we have to be as careful about what we ingest mentally as we do about the food we put in out bodies.

    How did media get it so wrong on Sanders and banking?

    As well thank you for recommending Naomi Klein’s latest in The Nation on Hillary Clinton and climate change.