Editorial: Is the News Media Anti-Social? Hardly

Media outlets have no desire to stop Trump’s social media habits

President Donald Trump appears to think that the media wants to discourage him from tweeting his on-the-fly, off-the-presidential-seal linked cuff, reactions to their stories about him and his administration, stories that in some cases have been reactions to earlier presidential tweets — bringing new meaning to the term “news cycle.”

We very much doubt those outlets have any desire to put a crimp in the president’s social media habits.

Those Twitter posts have been a veritable gold mine of revelations about the man, and have provided endless fodder for filling a 24/7 news hole. Yes, his incessant, often-petulant reactions to negative press with endless cries of “fake news” and theories of conspiracies are deeply troubling. But, under siege, the media has fought back with a determination to fact-check and truth-check him at every turn. And, arguably, his tweeted attacks on the national security apparatus has prompted a host of leaks, and a host of stories, that have helped generate strong ratings virtually across the board.

According to Pivotal Research ad analyst Brian Wieser: “During yet another week [ending June 4] with increasingly intense consumer interest in national politics, overall national news viewing rose by 20% on a live-plus-same-day [basis] among persons 2-99 basis for the 23rd week of 2017, with +43% growth for the big three cable networks [Fox News Channel, CNN and MSNBC].”

That news cycle is now driven, at least in part, by the president’s itchy Twitter finger, with White House press secretary Sean Spicer saying this week when asked by reporters, that those tweets are official presidential statements.

The president tweeted this official statement last week: “The FAKE MSM [mainstream media] is working so hard trying to get me not to use Social Media. They hate that I can get the honest and unfiltered message out.”

Unfiltered? Definitely. Honest? That is more of a stretch. But hate? Hardly. The media are having a field day, a point CNN editor at large Chris Cillizza made in a think piece last week.

“Let’s be clear: There is NO ONE in the media who wants Trump to stop tweeting,” he wrote. “Not one person. Never before have we had a direct line into how a president thinks like we do for Trump. And that’s all thanks to Twitter … The media, whatever you think of us, is dependent on access — of being given glimpses into who this president (or any president) really is and how they go about making their minds up on a given issue.”

Now, the fact that Trump’s tweets are a godsend for news ratings or fact-checkers is a different issue from whether it is wise for someone with seemingly little impulse control and a lot of power to be spraying those thoughts around the globe when each of them could have consequences far beyond their 140 characters. But if that pattern continues, and there is currently no reason to think that impulse will be controlled, the media should, and will, continue to follow that electronic trail wherever it leads.