Here's the blurb for my forthcoming book, "Media Meltdown in the Age of Trump," due out June 1. Pictured above is the full cover:
Some politicians use the media to their advantage. Others reshape it in their image.
Had the political force that is Donald J. Trump met the immovable object that was the American news media in the 20th century, the result would have been predictable. Trump would have vanished without a trace, along with such wannabes and also-rans as Edmund Muskie, Howard Dean, Gary Hart and John Edwards.
Today, however, the once-powerful Fourth Estate might as well be in foreclosure, shattered into a million pieces by cable television, talk radio and the internet. Newspapers, their stranglehold on information broken, are on life support. Gutted by cost-cutting and consolidation, they see the very same digital platforms that crippled them as their last, best hope for salvation. Television news, meanwhile, has descended from Cronkite and Brinkley into a three-ring circus of breaking news and talking (or shouting) heads.
Trump, a carnival barker of a president, has taken for himself the role of ringmaster, using his chaotic style and the power of his office to dominate the spotlight. At once condemning and exploiting the media, he's transformed the presidency into a reality show, complete with multiple scandals and cliffhangers to keep everyone tuned in.
He didn’t arrive out of nowhere. The way for his ascent was paved by the media themselves, hungry for drama to stoke ratings and boost subscriptions. When cable and the internet began siphoning off readers/viewers by targeting their built-in biases, the nation became polarized and the gloves came off. Civility was sidelined, spin became the MVP, and the referees – the mainstream media – were benched.
This is the story of how carnival journalism has supplanted and, in some cases, co-opted what’s left of the mainstream media, and how politicians like Trump have both fueled and profited from the change. Is any of this good for the nation? A game without a referee might be more fun to watch, but is it fair? Media Meltdown provides some of the answers.