“The calm after the storm,” a phrase that perfectly captures the sentiment after four years of the Trump frenzy that put us and the media in a never-ending trance. No more sitting at the edge of our seats and holding our phones desperately for his tweets, no more debunking his disinformed claims, and no more vehemently questioning when this chaos would end. Peaceful, at last. However, are the media and audiences ready for this new historical page of politics, after the tumultuous yet enticing reign of the former President and media personality?
“No news is good news”
They can finally focus on informing and educating the public about real political and social issues instead of despairingly unpacking and subverting his non-existent fake news claims and conspiracy theories.
As the news media had been under constant attacks for the past four years, some sense of sanity and trust was restored when the Trump presidency came to an end. Although the news media (predominantly left-leaning) have always closely followed Trump, they were caught in the whirlwind of his clamors, chasing Trump around to correct his baseless and conspiratory statements. Now, the media got to properly perform their designated functions: as the watchdog, the informer, and the educator of the public. They can finally focus on informing and educating the public about real political and social issues instead of despairingly unpacking and subverting his non-existent fake news claims and conspiracy theories. It is a fact that the news media will never fully gain public trust, as we need to keep them accountable. However, to the very least extent, they are slowly redeeming their position as the established and credible Fourth Estate without bearing the burden that is the former President’s social media floodgates.
Nonetheless, the lack of Trump’s random outbursts can mean a lot to journalists, whose jobs demand them getting on top of buzz-worthy events and figures. The newsroom will undoubtedly get a bit quieter and more tedious thanks to the absence of his trollish actions, but journalists themselves might really need this boredom. As Joe Biden is framed as the opposite of Donald Trump – reserved, (a bit) plain and unstimulating, Terry Smith, a political science professor at Columbia University, asserted: “I look forward to boring.” Politicians are not entertainers (while many of us perceived Trump as one), and their job is to “cool public passions, not inflame them.” Biden might not be your dream President, but he is not inciting further troubles for the media to deal with, and by diverting media attention away from him, our focus can turn to actual issues.
The boredom might have also spread of the media’s view of Donald Trump himself, now a former President, as “it’s not as interesting when a former politician tweets crazy stuff.” An Atlantic writer proclaimed: “To a remarkable degree, people have already stopped paying attention to the 45th president.”
Did we move on? And can we?
However, we ought to agree with one another, regardless of political beliefs, with this universal fact: Trump changed the game of political news coverage, making it frustrating yet thrilling to follow. Trump knows his role in the media and made a prophecy himself before the election results were unfolded: “Politics will be boring without me.”
They allowed chaos to unfold while failing to address what was at stake, blinded by the dangerous allure of Trump.
For journalism, the coverage of Trump ticks all the news values boxes. He is an attention-craving cultural figure that casts negativity and anger, where his moves had never failed to surprise the public, even when being surprised was no longer probable. He unapologetically embodies “clickbait,” only in the form of a President: loud, misleading, and unpredictable. And yet, the media fell into this pit of obsession, where their “basic practices and rhythms have conspired to downplay demagoguery and drain resources and attention from crucial longer-term storylines.” They allowed chaos to unfold while failing to address what was at stake, blinded by the dangerous allure of Trump.
This unholy obsession also stems from the media logic as they prioritize winning the audience’s attention, linking to a concept known as the ‘attention economy’. As much as I hate to admit, Trump’s shenanigans are perfect for news reading: he was the extra unpleasant flavor that spiced up your day-to-day routine. Evidently, after the 2016 election, the news industry witnessed a “Trump bump,” where the surge in traffic and new subscribers breathed new life into volatile news businesses.
What about the memes!?
As ordinary audiences, we are not entirely faultless in this formula, acting as inactive and indirectly complices to the fervent of Trump in news media. Readers were drawn to, sucked into, and absorbed by the drama or in other words, his White House reality TV show that uniquely characterizes the Trump presidency. We were entertained by him and how annoying and infuriating he was. All of a sudden, we have no excuse left to get collectively angry over this guy, to rejoice over his batshit crazy tweets, or to ridicule him anymore. In a world so ever divided (largely attributed to Trump himself), Trump “united” us, acting as a “common reference point” and “a source of commonality in a world where there wasn’t much.” The memes will be remembered, but Trump might not.
Will we miss him?
Probably not. The world has decided to leave Trump’s disastrous legacy behind and move forward into a dull but stable future. However, it will take more than just passively accepting our new reality. It requires both the news media and audiences’ continued struggle not to fall prey to the menacing politicians and keep them accountable. Journalists can do with “fewer hot takes and more suppleness in our public debates.” Audiences have to play their part in the fight as we own the power to stop ourselves from being carried away by the insanity. We need to recognize that “the president’s job is not necessarily defined by whatever we just read, or even whatever is pelting us in the news cycle.” As impeccably summed up by Politico, “normal is underrated in politics, and norms are underappreciated until they’re gone.” It is about time we embrace boringness and boredom, whether it is the political sphere or daily news consumption. Boring is our new interesting.