Michael Meeropol: Hey News Media - How About Giving Us Some Trump Free Television?

Jun 1, 2018

My wife Annie and I are no doubt like many listeners to WAMC.   We find ourselves watching a lot of television –  especially the cable network MSNBC that feature exposes of the latest atrocities committed by Trump, his cabinet and the Republicans in Congress.  This, unfortunately, requires us to constantly watch Trump himself.   This is true even on the more “balanced” network CNN.   (We don’t think we could stomach watching FOX, but we occasionally enjoy the late night comedians and the biting critics such as Trevor Noah of Comedy Central, Samantha Bee on TBS and John Oliver.)

What all these journalists and commentators have in common is they seem drawn to Trump like moths to flames.   And Annie and I respect many of these individuals and thus we find ourselves forced to endure lots of “Trump time”.

So how about trying something completely different?  How about a TRUMP FREE NEWS CYCLE?

The proposal is simple in concept though it might be difficult to persuade ANY cable news network or individual anchor-person to actually try it.

Here are some details:   Let’s take MSNBC as an example.   The network would announce that for one day (or some individual shows --- such as the Hayes-Maddow-O’Donnell shows between 8:00 PM and 11:00) that viewers who tune in will be promised TOTALLY TRUMP FREE TELEVISION.

(The same would work for an episode of the Trevor Noah show, the Samantha Bee show or the John Oliver show.)

[Please note:  It’s important to give advance notice so people can be prepared – and even tell their friends!]


FIRST --- no images of Trump during the period promised.

THIRD -- NO MENTION OF TRUMP BY NAME by any of the anchors or interviewees. 

[this would require briefing the interviewees in advance – anything pre-taped can have Trump references bleeped out]

FOURTH – no cheating by referring to “The President”

What do we gain?  

The viewers will gain much more substantive coverage.  The network or the specific show would be free to focus on the SUBSTANCE of policies.  Much of the policies carried out by the Trump Administration are executed by cabinet members. 

For example, the vicious practice of separating refugee children from their parents is the province of the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and – on the ground – ICE.   A recent clip showed Attorney General Sessions promising to separate parents from children if the parent brought the child to the country illegally.   An in depth treatment can do what Lawrence O’Donnell actually did on his show the night of May 31 --- he had New York Times reporter Nick Kristof on.   Kristof had interviewed a number of people whose children had been taken away.  They were here as REFUGEES legally following all the rules in requesting asylum.   Kristof and O’Donnell revealed Sessions as a lying evil man --- and neither of them needed to mention Trump to make that story work.  (Unfortunately, the story BEGAN with clips from Trump!)

We need MORE focus on the families that have been torn asunder as well as on the efforts (legal and otherwise) to beat back this evil policy.  [Anyone interested can check out Kristoff’s column in the New York Times, “Trump Immigration Policy Veers From Abhorrent to Evil”  May 30, 2018.]

Or consider EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.  His actions are literally increasing the likelihood that the planet will become uninhabitable within 100 years.  They require in depth exposure.  No need to bring in Trump.

When covering the November Congressional elections, there are many unique issues worth exploring.  Some of the races involve important national issues --- issues that can be explored by focusing on the two candidates, their arguments, the activities of the constituents working of both sides of the campaign – all without making it all about Trump.

When we turn to the people involved in resisting the Trump Agenda, there are hundreds of indivisible groups and other activists.   An anchor can focus on what they are doing and why they are doing it without being drawn to the bright shiny object of Trump the individual.

Or how about cable news covering issues that show up in states and localities?   How about going back to Puerto Rico and showing the slowness of the recovery as well as the spirit of the people engaged in cooperative efforts to rebuild?  A recent report from Harvard proposed that the death toll from hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico has exceeded the death toll from Katrina.  Discussing this did NOT have to include clips of Trump proclaiming that his administration deserved an A+ for how they handled Puerto Rico.  The Governor of Puerto Rico deserves careful scrutiny for his actions --- both downplaying the loss of life and permitting the virtual privatization of the electric grid.

How about reminding us (as the comedian did at the White House Correspondents Dinner) that Flint still doesn’t have clean water – and what that means for the people of Flint?   In fact, there are many communities with similar problems to Flint in terms of guaranteeing their citizens clean drinking water.

I could go on and on.   I bet that every one listening to me has a wish list that they would love to see covered by MSNBC, and other news and opinion outlets (Noah, Bee or Oliver for example) if those outlets could only kick the habit of covering the bright shiny object  --- TRUMP.

SO how about it news media?   Can you give us some TRUMP FREE TELEVISION?

[NOTE TO READERS:   If you agree with this idea, please call up your favorite cable news network or your favorite anchor – individuals like Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, Smantha Bee, Trevor Noah, John Oliver, Bill Maher, etc. –and DEMAND that they try this experiment.   There actually is an ECONOMIC aspect to all of this.   Cable news – MSNBC, CNN, FOX are competing for the same demographic viewers.  The same is true for individuals like Noah, Bee, Oliver, Maher, etc.  They all compete by DIFFERENTIATING their products from each other.  Nothing would make MSNBC (or one of the individuals just mentioned) more unique than a promise of some TRUMP FREE television.  If the experiment fails they can drop it – BUT IF IT SUCCEEDS, the station./network/program will be inundated with new viewers and will be setting a standard for others to emulate.   By the way, there is another positive aspect to this idea.  If it works it will drive Trump crazy.   He cannot live without 24-7 publicity!]

Michael Meeropol is professor emeritus of Economics at Western New England University. He is the author (with Howard Sherman) of Principles of Macroeconomics: Activist vs. Austerity Policies.

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