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Should the Media Stop Covering Donald Trump?

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Donald Trump continues to dominate the news cycle whether he is in office or not. But if he continues to make headlines with the same outlandish statements, when does it stop being news?

On the heels of Trump’s announcement that he will run for president again in 2024, David Greenberg, a professor of history and journalism and media studies and an expert on American political and cultural history, including the presidency, weighs in on the news coverage and whether giving Trump less airtime would make a difference.

Donald Trump makes eyebrow-raising statements all the time – so, is it even news anymore? If not, should the media stop covering him with such frequency?  

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Trump’s shocking style has lost some of its power to shock. It propelled him to the presidency, and as long as he was president, what he said was inherently newsworthy. But he is going to have a harder time now getting the kind of coverage he used to get.

Do you think there needs to be a different approach to covering Donald Trump and politics in general as we head into the next presidential election cycle?  

As far as the traditional, objective, mainstream news reporting is concerned, the main flaw I saw was that there was far too much editorializing and opinion being shoehorned into the news reports. Many reporters – by no means all – saw it as their job to be part of the “resistance.” This was a terrible mistake. They ended up squandering a lot of their credibility. There are signs that they are trying to pivot back to a more honest, even-handed journalism. CNN is trying to return to the older model and the New York Times has called on its reporters to stop tweeting so much. Those are promising signs.

Objectivity is not Donald Trump’s friend.

Trump still receives the coverage of a sitting president but what do you think of the coverage of the actual sitting president? Do you think Joe Biden is being treated fairly in the news?  

It is very hard to generalize about the “media.” A lot of the coverage of Biden is pretty fair. There are of course perennial problems with news coverage. There’s the superficiality, the pack journalism, the emphasis on trying to predict what will happen instead of telling what has happened. But I don’t think these are peculiar to coverage of Biden or Trump.

There are plenty of movements that have amassed fervent followings, yet we don’t hear about them all the time. Would the Make American Great Again (MAGA) movement really have that much sway to quietly take over American politics if the media stops treating it like news, especially after the underwhelming midterm outcomes for MAGA candidates?   

The media do not have the power to make or break movements. There is a lot of magical thinking out there regarding what the media are capable of. The truth is, the media are full of conflicting facts, messages, opinions and storylines, and audiences encounter these messages in a variety of forms and with a range of preexisting attitudes. So, nobody is making us believe things we don’t want to believe. We are not in Castro’s Cuba or Hitler’s Germany where opposition voices are silenced.

The MAGA message existed long before Trump. Pat Buchanan was its standard-bearer in the 1980s and 1990s but it remained on the fringes of the Republican Party. Then certain things changed: The Iraq War, the 2008 crash, mass immigration, the racial turmoil of the Obama presidency.  These created a bigger grassroots constituency for someone like Trump when he came along to run for president in 2015. So, it was entirely appropriate that these people and their political ideas were widely covered by the mainstream media, especially because reporters for many years had not noticed or appreciated their growing strength.

Now, whether the kind of coverage that the MAGA movement gets is the most enlightening coverage is another matter. But it represents – even after the midterm losses – a sizable portion of the electorate and definitely needs to be covered, ideally by on-the-ground reporters, not only by columnists and TV talking heads.

Do you think toning down coverage of Donald Trump’s bombastic displays would ultimately make them fizzle out in the same way the Tea Party and Occupy movements faded from public view?  

No. Trump is going to do his thing. It is true that there is a kind of natural lifespan to grassroots movements. Then they either gain mainstream acceptance or fizzle out. The Tea Party was, in fact, a progenitor of the Trump movement. It showed a lot of the same hallmarks of right-wing populism. Occupy morphed into the Bernie Sanders movement and then into the so-called Justice Democrats. These movements do not command the allegiance of a majority of Americans, but they do represent important minority currents in our political culture.

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Vancouver woman wins identity fraud fight with Bell Mobility after posting on social media

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It’s been four blissfully quiet days since Erica Phillips last heard from the collection agencies ringing her two or three times daily for months, demanding payment of hundreds of dollars owed on a Bell Mobility account with her name on it that she never opened.

“It’s a huge sense of relief,” she said. “It’s so nice knowing that this won’t continue being a daily reminder of something that shouldn’t have been my problem to begin with.”

The Vancouver woman says she has been fighting the company for more than two years with little response, submitting documents supporting that the account was fraudulently opened using her name while at the same time filing reports with police, credit agencies and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

She says relief from the collection calls only came after she contacted news outlets and posted about her frustrations on social media.

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“I took all of the correct avenues,” she said. “I didn’t want to make myself public but I felt like I was forced to,” she said.

Phillips’ ordeal started in 2020 when she received notices mailed to an old address from both Rogers and Bell Mobility that said she owed money. She says she had never been a client of either company, so she thought they were a phishing scam. Further investigation found that identity fraudsters had used her personal information to open the accounts in her name.

She says Rogers took quick action to cancel the account when she contacted them, but Bell Mobility did not.

“That’s what seemed so insane to me at the beginning, that it was so easily taken care of with one of the companies and then not at all with the other,” said Phillips.

In an emailed statement, Bell Mobility told CBC:

“We have conducted an investigation and have determined that this account was fraudulent. We are attempting to contact the client and have advised our affiliated credit agencies of the billing error.”

The Consumer Protection B.C. website has information on how to prevent identity theft. It also has forms and advice for individuals who are being pursued by a company or collection agency for a debt that is not theirs.

Identity fraud and identity theft are criminal offences, but have become lucrative thanks to the growth of technology, according to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

In 2021, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre issued an alert after a spike in identity fraud reporting.

“Fraudsters are using personal information about Canadians to apply for government benefits, credit cards, bank accounts, cellphone accounts or even take over social media and email accounts,” it said.

Phillips says in just one night her social media post received more than 100,000 views. She’s been surprised by the number of people who have reached out to her to say they too have been victims of identity fraud.

“It’s unbelievable the comments that I’m getting on all of the various stories now of people in similar situations,” she said. “It’s crazy.”

She says Bell Mobility has not apologized.

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Lawler pays tribute to Edmonton on social media, says goodbye to Elks ahead of CFL free agency

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He was the Edmonton Elks’ superstar free agent signing last year, but with one week to go until the next CFL free agency period begins, receiver Kenny Lawler announced on social media that he plans to leave Alberta’s capital.

“Thank you so much for allowing me to represent this city and this amazing organization,” the 28-year-old football player said in an Instagram post on Tuesday. He said his family was grateful for their brief time in the city.

“Everyone we crossed paths with helped make this transition easy as possible for us.”

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Ottawa Redblacks Patrick Levels (3) tackles Edmonton Elks Kenny Lawler (89) during first half CFL action in Edmonton, Alta., on Saturday August 27, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson.

Last off-season, the Elks signed Lawler to a one-year contract worth a reported $300,000, making him the highest paid player in the CFL who was not a quarterback.

Citing an anonymous source, The Canadian Press reported Tuesday that the receiver who hails from California has agreed to a deal in principle with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

CFL contracts cannot officially be agreed to until Feb. 14, when free agency officially begins. However, once the reported two-year deal is officially announced, it would mark Lawler’s return to Manitoba where he began his electrifying CFL career in 2019.

While playing for Winnipeg, Lawler helped the Bombers win Grey Cups in 2019 and 2021. In his only season with the Elks, Lawler managed to tally 58 catches for 894 yards and five touchdowns before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery.

The 2022 season for the Elks was a difficult one. The club went 4-14 as it continues to rebuild since losing key players like quarterback Mike Reilly in 2019. Lawler said despite the challenging season with the Green and Gold, he was grateful for the competitive spirit the coaching staff maintained.

“Though we fell short, you all were never compromised in getting us to settle for nothing less than the goal we set out to achieve,” Lawler said, adding he will miss the teammates he played with and that he has “gained relationships this year that I know will last a lifetime.”

–With files from Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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Media braces for the robot era

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The rapid rise of generative AI tools like ChatGPT could displace dozens of media companies if they don’t move quickly to adapt to a new internet reality.

Why it matters: Facebook’s many pivots pushed media outlets to move their focus away from social media and toward search — but now experts predict another major disruption for publishers relying on search traffic.

“It’s an undoing of the robotic behavior with which we were already committing journalism, because it’s questionable whether writing about National Donut Day really served anybody,” said S. Mitra Kalita, a former CNN executive who has co-founded two new local media companies, Epicenter NYC and URL Media.

  • “In some ways, the work we were doing towards optimizing for SEO and trending content was robotic. Arguably, we were using what was trending on Twitter and Google to create the news agenda. What happened was a sameness across the internet.”

Driving the news: BuzzFeed last week said it is using OpenAI’s publicly available software, which is similar to the popular generative text site ChatGPT, to automatically publish quizzes, beginning this month.

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  • “To be clear, we see the breakthroughs in AI opening up a new era of creativity that will allow humans to harness creativity in new ways with endless opportunities and applications for good,” the company’s CEO, Jonah Peretti, said in a memo to staffers.

BuzzFeed doesn’t plan to use AI to write journalistic articles, which seems to be a line that most publishers aren’t eager to cross.

  • But figuring out the right balance when using AI won’t be easy, as was made obvious by CNET’s AI mea culpa last month.
  • The CEO of Dotdash Meredith, a rival to CNET’s parent Red Ventures, told Axios last month that the firm “will never have an article written by a machine,” but it has already begun to bake AI into many of its workflows, like sourcing images.

Be smart: The past few years gave rise to a slew of successful digital media companies that focused on monetizing search traffic, while social media-reliant publishers struggled to adapt.

  • But the content that has done well on search, such as evergreen articles that help people answer questions or provide recommendations, is poised to be challenged by artificial intelligence.
  • “The most immediate impact of AI is probably that it becomes an efficiency tool,” said Brian Morrissey, former president and editor-in-chief of Digiday and author of a Substack newsletter on media called The Rebooting.

The big picture: Decades of constant pivots at the hands of Big Tech firms had media executives losing sight of which audiences they aimed to serve to begin with, Kalita noted.

  • ABC chief legal correspondent and media entrepreneur Dan Abrams said his media industry news site Mediaite began seeing record engagement once it started to push away from social media and search distribution.
  • The thinking has changed from “find the SEO angle” or “find the Facebook angle” to “find the Mediaite angle, and a large, loyal audience has followed,” Abrams said.
  • Around 16% of the site’s pageviews in 2022 came from homepage traffic, Abrams said.

What’s next: As search-based content becomes more commoditized, media brands will need to pivot towards serving specific audiences, rather than the masses.

  • “You’re going to have to get even more specialized as a publisher,” Morrissey said.

Bottom line: “Trying to compete on efficiency with robots never works, they always win,” Morrissey said.

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