Columns

Friedman ’19: 10 things I wish newspapers covered over Trump

By
Staff Columnist
Thursday, October 20, 2016

One of my favorite pastimes at Brown is scrolling through and reading the most-viewed articles on the New York Times app on my phone while eating lunch. With my phone in one hand and fork in the other, I smugly and contentedly read articles ranging from “A Single Mom Escapes the Friend Zone, One Non-Date at a Time” in the Modern Love series to an op-ed written by a black San Francisco 49ers fan about Colin Kaepernick to the United States’ escalation of a shadow war in Somalia. This brief half-hour respite from the constant chaos of classes, midterms and problem sets that I use to inform myself about current events and social trends has become (and remains) a highly anticipated part of my day.

But this year’s election cycle is making this process noticeably less enjoyable by introducing a level of disorder to the news cycle that I find intolerable. Scrolling through the Times’ general news coverage now amounts to scrolling through accounts of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s debacles, the corresponding outraged responses in the opinions section, corresponding pieces that commend Democratic nominee for president Hillary Clinton for not being an insufferable buffoon and more interpretative pieces that claim ties between Trump’s moral degeneracy and the degrading American conscience. The articles are almost too predictable; as much as I appreciate Charles Blow, I don’t really care to read another of his recycled pieces about how Trump “is the logical extension” of misogyny, racism, privilege and anti-intellectualism and the matching claim that all Trump supporters are complicit in the xenophobia he perpetuates — even though it’s true. Most, if not all, news sources are shamelessly devoting their opinions sections to deriving new angles on the candidates (The Herald at least partially included). Trump is degrading the American conscience not only by inspiring hateful sentiments in his supporters but also by forcing all news networks to devote their resources to Trump coverage rather than other relevant current events. Brown students are also guilty of crowding their consciousness with their opinions of Trump’s personality instead of the policy issues he addresses, the fine details of which remain unknown to many Brown students and much of the American public.

In a journalistic era dominated by bite-sized Buzzfeed articles titled “10 Things that (insert topic here)” that get just as many, if not more, clicks than a hard-hitting news piece published by the Times, traditional print newspapers are going extinct. Many news sources have had to branch out to online markets or lower the quality of their coverage in favor of quantity. Because of this, the journalistic world is not as insulated from the chaos of the election as it was in previous years, and we as American citizens are worse off because of it.

The fact that coverage of this ridiculous election cycle continues to crowd out other newsworthy topics despite the fact that most voters have, more or less, already decided on their presidential candidate of choice is astounding. The United States and China — which account for 40 percent of global carbon emissions — both ratified the Paris global climate agreement Sept. 3 in a landmark decision; the National Aeronautic and Space Administration launched OSIRIS-REx, its first asteroid sample return mission Sept. 8; an unarmed black man, Terence Crutcher, was fatally shot by police in Tulsa, Oklahoma Sept. 16; on Sept. 28, investigators concluded that pro-Russian rebels shot down a Malaysian airlines flight with a missile. I have discussed none of these events with my friends and have seen very few pieces written about them on social media or in the most-viewed section of the Times app. Hurricane Matthew’s devastation of Haiti and the deaths of at least 1,000 Haitian people were all but overlooked by most opinions sections during late September and early October. But Trump’s genital groping scandal was discussed to no end.

Surely, there are current events more worthy of airtime on the public conscience than Trump’s routine lewd statements. Coverage of Trump by the wider journalistic world, to me, seems eerily similar to Buzzfeed’s coverage of Chad Johnson’s violent behavior on the latest season of The Bachelorette; stories about Trump and Johnson are both based on cheap personality analysis via tweets. And to my chagrin, my peers have also succumbed to a Chad Johnson-level analysis of the world around them.

Andrew Friedman ’19 can be reached at andrew_friedman@brown.edu.

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