nearvideo-Howard Kurtz: Why prime-time extravaganzas are past their prime
‘MediaBuzz’ host Howard Kurtz weighs in on the media-winners and losers after President Trump’s first Oval Office address and the answer to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.
To provide perhaps the most revealing bit of the coverage of President Trump, the Oval Office speech was his admission to a room full of journalists, no less— that he didn’t really want.
On an off-the-record lunch with the anchors and executives — which, of course, leaked — The New York Times, these comments reported:
“‘It is not going to change a damn thing, but I’m still doing it,” Mr. Trump said of the border to visit, according to one of the people in the room. The trip was just a photo shoot, he said. ‘But,’ he added, by he say on his communication tools, Bill Shine, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kelly Anne Conway, ‘these people behind you, it’s worth it.'”
You have to be convincing, for this President, what he does not want to does rarely matter what his employees say to him.
Or it could mean very little. I am, the President said the tone was light-hearted, and he likes to optimize his staff in front of reporters.
Peter Baker, the author of the Times story, said he wrote the stories during the Obama administration (and I also). He was not bound by any off-the-record agreement.
Baker told me that “our job is to convince you to try, people in closed meetings in the White house, to tell us what is happening inside and this is true whether these people are White house officials, members of Congress, or other journalists. Far be it from me, someone not to say that you speak with us. And these stories, in the end, it is revealed, because in the past, talking points, and provide more insight for the reader.”
The speech was panned by the media on almost every level, from substance to political theatre. Trump is not a good prompter reader, was mocked as a “low energy.” Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer seemed stiff and awkward in their reply, but you moved, of course, far less attention.
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Trump could have spoken with Reaganesque eloquence, and it wouldn’t have mattered. He has to say these arguments hundreds of times, especially since the midterm campaign, and while he softened his tone about the “humanitarian crisis”, he had little new to. The Democrats, even the repetition of the same talking points.
Everyone is busy with the matter. The only thing that changes is the number of days that the government was partially still is.
The fact-checkers universally, the President is pivoted, because you do not agree with the basic premise. He says what is happening at the border a crisis, and they believe it is a manufactured crisis. You believe that his arguments about drugs and killers and terrorists from Mexico are overhyped, and the President believes that they are in denial about, and the growing humanitarian disaster with migrants.
This Washington Post front-pager was typical: “a trump card-the colors are Misleading, Gloomy picture with Old arguments.”
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Some critics say, the networks got snookered, because Trump offered nothing new in a speech, had hit its share of partisan happiness. I think that is the wrong standard. Not everyone is tight-the cable-news debates, or Twitter following feuds.
A President is entitled to make his case, explain that on a question of national importance, in particular, of 800,000 Federal employees out of work for almost three weeks. The Democratic leader got to do the same, and then can the media offer their criticism.
But maybe that’s the wrong way of looking at the question.
To be sure, more than 20 million people listened to the talks covering the four broadcast networks (with the Dems drawing slightly higher numbers in the night’s Nielsens).
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But the days when that was the only way to reach a mass audience are long gone. Anyone can watch a presidential speech, not only on cable but on live streams or on their phones, and at any moment can go viral. And if people are not interesting, you can play watch Netflix or Amazon Prime, or video games, regardless of what ABC, CBS and NBC.
It is a ritual that we all adore — for the President, to the prime time! but each time prime-time in the YouTube era.