Memo to The Media: Ignore Trump

Published: November 29, 2022

By Jim Lichtman
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“As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.”— Lincoln

Too many have become slaves to fear and prejudice losing the best parts of themselves to an ideology of lies and hate.

I was in the process of writing about the media’s continuing obsession with reporting every word and action about Donald Trump and the need to move away from a man whose hunger for attention is ravenous, but Patti Davis beat me to the punch.

Davis, the daughter of former president Ronald Reagan, offers some thoughts about how the media should handle a man who will do anything to remain in the spotlight.

After being relentlessly bullied in school, Davis spoke to her father. “He explained that bullies crave attention and that if they are ignored, they sort of deflate. He then showed me how frustrating it is to feel like you’re invisible, by ignoring me when I tried to speak to him. It worked. I returned to school, I ignored the bully and he gave up his attacks on me. …

“With each news story,” Davis writes, “each segment on television, we are giving him the elixir that keeps him going — attention. There are plenty of things going on in the world that are more important than Donald Trump. We have a planet to save. Russia is still waging war on Ukraine, and still imprisoning American citizens like Brittney Griner. The West is running out of water. There are mass shootings so often it’s hard to keep track of them. Just to name a few really important issues.”

Think of how much quieter the country would become with less media attention to a bully who continues to taunt, disparage and lie? Think about the possibility of changing the conversation to issues of far greater importance.

“Trump’s party underperformed expectations, failing to retake the Senate while only barely taking a majority in the House,” The Washington Post’s Philip Bump observed. So the dominoes of his influence may already be falling.

However, after the midterms, the media continues to hover and cover the former president’s every remark and action: Trump recently had dinner with white supremacist and antisemite Nick Fuentes. After condemning the meeting, Republican governor of Arkansas Asa Hutchinson said, “I hope someday we won’t have to be responding to what former president Trump has said or done.”

Why not start today?

Ethicist Michael Josephson writes: “the mission of journalism is to inform readers of events and facts that are important to them and to their participation in a democracy by insuring the free flow of public information.”

But that information should not flow like a fire hose from one individual through the media.

When it comes to news stories, journalists and editors should make better choices. They should balance the importance of what one individual says or does as opposed to stories that demand our attention.

“Journalistic excellence,” Josephson stresses, “includes the exercise of self-restraint in the public interest.”

Let’s send a message, a brief respectful note to news sources—cable, network, and newsprint—reminding them that responsible journalism requires careful consideration of how much reporting is necessary on every Trump brushfire of the moment.

Let us not be slaves to a master who thrives on attention. Let us, instead, become advocates for responsibility, respect, as well as democracy.

The media and us, should do no less.


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