Critical Thinking: How Can the Media Regain Control From President Trump’s Diversions?


President Trump has been called “a master of distraction” for his ability to change the narrative and divert the news media’s attention. Do you think Trump has effectively diverted the news media’s attention away from more important political issues? If so, how can the media regain control?


Tyler Anderson, 23, senior, Murray State University (Murray, Ky.)

Anderson is the opinion editor for the student-run newspaper, The Murray State News. His columns focus on self-care and environmental issues.

To say that President Donald Trump is a “master” of anything is misleading; often, he stumbles into each of his grand schemes, which his administration will then build upon. But from his crusade against “fake news,” to his infatuation with duking it out via Twitter with various celebrities, it has become apparent he has honed the art of sleight of hand to protect his ego from criticism.

However, these tendencies towards spectacle, though distracting, aren’t as effective as most might think. This tactic hinges on riling up those who vehemently defend Trump against criticism, and who rely on limited sources for their news and information. While the attention of some major media outlets has been drawn from the real issues at hand, the situation isn’t as dire as some think.

Fortunately, now more than ever, we have access to numerous reliable and multi-faceted news sources. The more you are exposed to multiple points-of-view, the less likely you are to fall for Trump’s cheap parlor trick disguised as outrage.

Perhaps the president’s worst folly to date is his administration’s response to the devastation Puerto Rico, or lack thereof. In the early hours of the territory’s destruction, Trump was still focused on berating the NFL for not taking action against players who took a knee to show solidarity for those still oppressed. Then, our president would go on to criticize Puerto Rican officials and shame them for supposedly throwing a wrench in our country’s budget.

So, while the president tweeted safely from his country club of choice, Mexico, as well as other countries and aid groups, were rallying to assist Puerto Rican citizens. But this was never addressed by the president, and why would it? He has remained largely faithful to his voter base and its disdain for Latin America, so to validate those countries would be to go against those who put him in office.

We must hold our elected officials responsible for their actions, or in the case of President Trump, inaction. The art of misdirection isn’t difficult to see through, though one must have a willingness to do so. News and media stations listen to their viewers (and ratings), so we must demand that the narrative be focused on reality, or seek the truth elsewhere.

Ken SainKen Sain, 56, news editor, The Daily Courier (Prescott, Ariz.)

Sain started his career in 1986, serving in numerous roles at 10 different newspapers from Alaska to Maryland, Ohio to Texas.

Visit the Washington Post’s or New York Times’ webpage and search the page for “Trump.” On Oct. 12, there were 23 mentions for the Times and 32 for the Post.

Everything about President Trump has been transitional. He changed how campaigns are waged and has changed how business is conducted in the Oval Office.

Journalism adapted as well. We do fewer “he said, he said” stories and are much more willing to tell readers when someone is lying. Yes, Trump tries to distract us.

President Trump is great at controlling the narrative. Part of that is on our readers, who would rather read about all the president’s antics on Twitter than what EPA chief Scott Pruitt is doing to the environment. Part of that is on us. Trump has been so different it was easy to get caught up in it, and covering it has led to increased subscriptions and ratings. It has also generated some terrific journalism.

We need to do more. It makes no sense to have beat reporters cover the White House in the traditional manner when they are mostly fed untruths. It defies logic to allow this president to change our focus with a tweet.

You’re likely saying, “But Ken, he’s the president. We can’t ignore him?”

We need to be more selective. When Trump tells a lie, call it for what it is, don’t dwell on it, and move on to something real. Instead of talking about what the president tweeted about Puerto Rico, we should be comparing how the federal responses to the hurricanes in Houston and Puerto Rico differ. Instead of covering his feud with NFL players, examine if there have been improvements in racial inequality since Colin Kaepernick first took a knee.

And we should be willing to ignore some distractions and devote our resources elsewhere.

Second, when we have a good story, we need to do a better job of marketing it. Readers have endless options of stories demanding their attention. We are competing for that attention, so we need to step up our marketing game to get them to focus on the important issues and less on distractions.

Our focus should be on Trump’s policies and proposals and their impact on our readers. We won’t be able to avoid distractions altogether, but by being more selective we can try to get readers to focus on issues, not insults.

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3 thoughts on “Critical Thinking: How Can the Media Regain Control From President Trump’s Diversions?

  • December 14, 2017 at 5:45 am

    We need to never, ever publish fake news. We need to stop saying and believing that the newspaper industry is dying. Some corporate groups (in Canada, at least) are doing their best to kill newspapers but good local newspapers will be here forever and in print (as well as digital) for a long time.

  • December 14, 2017 at 8:06 am

    I agree with Ken. While the the free press and “WE the People” find Trump and his outrageous antics disgusting and abhorrent, they provide such great comic material around the water cooler, cocktail parties and late night TV shows that it’s hard to notice what is happening to our country and the American society. Clearly Trump has caused a decline in respect and confidence in our legal systems and the press. He has diminished international respect and trust in America. He is purposefully dismantling the State Department, Environmental Protection Agency, Health Care, Ethics, National Parks and Net Neutrality, (to name a few). His tax bill will exacerbate the existing divide between the rich and the lower middle class. These actions and their ramifications of have gone largely unnoticed amid squabbles with the NFL and personal attacks on US citizens that don’t heal-to. But perhaps most concerning; We the People are overlooking the decline in Common Decency and respect for other Americas and confidence in our democratic systems. I say Enough – We the People of America are better than that. The press should keep more focus on the things that matter, get it right, and pay less attention to Trump’s “American Reality Show”.

  • December 14, 2017 at 9:04 am

    this is PRECISELY what’s wrong with today’s mainstream media, and i am happy to be safely shot of you by retirement: you are here only to report on events, NOT to control anything … you are doing a perfectly awful job of reporting, and i know why: not so much because of ideology, that is secondary, but because reporting is a terribly difficult job if you want to do it right … and it is never-ending, too … how tedious it must be for people who, while putting themselves on the pedestal, view themselves as some kind of elite free thinkers … frightful, and the only thing that pleases me is that the people whom you view as the masses of the unwashed have begun seeing though you and through all of those lofty opinions you have created of yourselves, ignoring basic reality: you are NOT doing your job …


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