If you happen to be one of those wonks who watches the media closely—not that there’s anything wrong with that—Axios has a rather interesting story out today noting a somewhat paradoxical trend in the Era of Trump—one that, thank the maker, has zero to do with Stormy This or Russia That.
Typically when one political party is in power, you tend to see an uptick in the number—not to mention the ratings—of opinion outlets on the opposite end of the political spectrum. As an example, Axios notes the increasing popularity of conservative talk radio when Bill Clinton was in office, which mobilized conservatives who wanted to hear their opinions validated by radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh.
Cursiouly enough, however, Donald Trump seems taken things a step further. Not only has he inspired a vigorous Resistance Media, he has also created a cottage industry of media with a pronounced MAGA bent:
The big picture, from Rodney Benson, chair of NYU's Department of Media, Culture, and Communication: "Many of the media moving toward subscriptions have disproportionately left-liberal audiences. ... While liberal media draw their circles ever tighter around themselves (via paywalls, high-level content, etc.), conservatives are fighting to extend their mass reach."
The latest: "Bill O’Reilly is in talks to head back to cable news in his old 8 p.m. slot, but this time at Newsmax TV," according to N.Y. Post's “Page Six.”
Newsmax owner Chris Ruddy is close friends with President Trump, and O'Reilly's return to the spotlight would give the President another media ally to disseminate his talking points.
We see this trend in every medium:
Radio: Executives at Salem Radio, the parent company of some of the most popular conservative talk shows, pressured radio hosts to cover Trump more positively, according to emails obtained by CNNMoney.
Broadcast: Sinclair Broadcasting, the largest owner of local TV stations, has drawn criticism for its "must-run" editorials and scripts — peppering local newscasts with pro-Trump talking points — but continues the practice.
Cable: Very few people were surprised by this week's New York mag story about Fox's Sean Hannity speaking regularly at night with Trump. The network's pro-Trump, prime time coverage in focuses heavily on stories that highlight the supposed dishonesty of mainstream media.
Digital: A handful of local news sites, like “Tennessee Star” and the “Arizona Monitor,” are popping up, with headlines supporting GOP candidates that are then sometimes featured for GOP election ads, Politico reports. These sites are intentionally framed to look like real news websites, as outwardly conservative sites, like The Daily Caller and Breitbart, see traffic dips.
Meanwhile, the article points out, the former Obamaniks who run Pod Save America are making money hand over fist pumping out their anti-Trump shtick. Couple that with the 24-hour #Resistance on MSNBCNNABCCBSNBC, and you got yourself a cash bonanza clash that makes Avengers: Infinity War look like a low-budget indie flick.
I have a few problems with the Axios theorem—for one thing, it doesn’t explain why Air America bombed out so badly when George W. Bush was the left’s designated boogeyman, not does it take into account how the entertainment value of right-wing media tends to be better than the outrageously dull stuff the left marinades in—but it is kind of fascinating that Trump really seems to be helping both sides out.
But is that a good thing?
Since I write opinion on this site, part of me wants to say, “Hells to the yeah!” Anything that gooses clicks to the Resurgent is good for the writers here and good for the boss—and, as Nick Kammer discovered when he insulted Erick’s taste in bourbon and was forced to live in a steamer trunk for a week answering to the name “Gimp,” we like to keep the boss happy.
However, the idea that people are increasingly retreating behind the paywalls of their own Private Idahos is a bit dismaying. Real, hard news doesn’t always agree with our respective worldviews—so when we get our information only from sources that don’t conflict with our prejudices, it’s a lot like eating pork rinds to get your recommended daily allowance of riboflavin. Sure, it might be in there, but it’s nowhere near what you need for a balanced diet.
Sadly, I don’t see this trend changing anytime soon.