Trump: Oxygen or Oxygen Suck?

Frank Rich defends the overwhelming mountain of Trump coverage.

Stitch together Brian Stelter‘s interview with Jay Rosen last week and his interview this week with Frank Rich, and it’s a perfect pairing, as if Rosen projected Rich into the week’s conversation.

Rosen, last Sunday, on the Donald Trump news vs. entertainment problem for media orgs:

Well, these are companies that they have news as an important part of their portfolio, but they’re also media companies. They’re entertainment companies. And because Trump is so good at the media part of television, the journalism part is almost working against the rest of the company. So his force as a ratings… magnet, yes, is a huge part of these interviews.

Rich, New York mag’s writer at large, this Sunday:

I think [Donald Trump] is making news. He is making more news for the most part than his opponents in the Republican race who are bland, by and large, who…unlike him don’t fly off with ad hominem attacks and positions.

So it follows then, making news = delivering ad hominem attacks and being the opposite of bland. In other words:

“Sucking up all the oxygen” is how Stelter described Trump’s media dominance as he measured its magnitude. Based on the show’s analysis of ABC’s, NBC’s and CBS’ evening newscasts from Aug. 7 to Aug. 21, Trump had almost double the air time as the other 16 candidates put together. According to Stelter, Trump also dominated the New York Times, garnering 318 mentions from Aug 7. to Aug 22. The number two spot went to Jeb Bush, who received 180 mentions.

Not a problem for Rich, who said Trump “is the oxygen. He is the one who made this race interesting.”

That brings us to the question of the day, week, election cycle, the entire span of political coverage since the dawn of the TV/social/digital age. What is the greatest imperative of political journalism? Is it to be entertaining, serve as a watchdog, keep voters informed? Is it any and all of the above, as long as it garners ratings and clicks?

The easy answer is that it changes depending on where you’re standing.