Good morning Austin:
On October 14, the headline on First Reading was, Why every self-interested reporter should vote for Donald Trump for president
At the time, Trump’s ignominious defeat was a given, an inevitability, that, as a political reporter, left me in a very cross mood.
Already we are reading stories that would more appropriately appear a week or two weeks after the election.
But I suspect I am also experiencing the letdown that any political reporter is going to feel if, indeed, this is the end of Trump.
Because, for all that Trump has said about how the mainstream media has rigged the game against him, the plain fact is that no group of people has more to lose from Trump’s demise than the mainstream media.
The self-interest of the media – most especially the mainstream media – could not be more clear.
I mean seriously.
Every political reporter should conduct a thought experiment.
Imagine your heart-rate if Trump wins. Imagine the sheer exhilaration you will feel on Wednesday, Nov. 9, if the story unfolding before your eyes is of a Donald Trump presidency.
Think of all those hits.
Think of all those headlines.
Fast forward to Ken Doctor a few days ago at Newsonomics: Trump Bump Grows Into Subscription Surge — and Not Just for the New York Times
Publishers are witnessing a baby digital subscription boom, and its parents are that odd couple of our times, Donald J. Trump and John W. Oliver. Their offspring pop not just from the womb of the New York Times (NYT) building at Eighth Avenue and West 40th Street in Manhattan but now from hyperkinetic newsrooms from coast to coast.
Trump, of course, has become the greatest source of lead generation the American press has ever seen, his campaign and then election inspiring hundreds of thousands of Americans to rush to buy digital news subscriptions and memberships. Oliver provided some seed, name-checking The New York Times, The Washington Post and ProPublica in a legendary journalism-affirming appeal in August, which so far has generated 7.4 million views on YouTube.
A month ago, the big number that generated the big headlines was that of the Times, as it passed the 3 million subscription threshold. It is now the numbers generated by dozens of media companies that certify the Trump bump as a major trend in the news publishing business.
In the magazine world, January was the biggest subscription month ever for Conde Nast’s The New Yorker. Between the Nov. 8 election day and the end of January, the 92-year-old title sold 250,000 subscriptions. That’s up 230% compared with the same three-month period a year ago. January alone produced 100,000 subscriptions, a 300% increase over January 2016. The magazine now has its largest circulation ever, at more than a million..
Wow. Is it possible that on his way to destroying the free press in America, Donald Trump might actually save it, restoring it to profitability?
Sure, he calls out the pillars of mainstream journalism as the enemy of the American people.
But, when it comes to the bottom line, he is he best friend that enemy has had in my lifetime.
What’s Driving the Surge?
What’s powering subscription growth, and will it have legs?
No one knows.
“I hope it’s energized more by a desire for truth than it is by some sense that there’s imminent disaster,” Remnick said.
It’s not just idealism — or raw anti-Trump fear — behind the numbers. As Weisberg pointed out, “People do recognize that independent media is part of the thing that keeps us from authoritarianism, but it’s partly that people are just consuming a lot of media and news content.”
Remnick agreed. “My guess is that as much as I love cartoons that the bump in subscriptions is not because of that. … Nobody’s polled everybody to say the ‘Why?’ But I think we’re also at a moment where the values of truth and the values of what the press should be at its best are not only in question, but being questioned by the president of the United States in the most uncertain and aggressive terms. And I think people, and this is part of what gives me a lot of optimism … I don’t think people want to put up with it. I think people want to know. They’re not easily cowed or deceived. And I think tens of millions people think that way.”
Remnick runs a “liberal-minded magazine” long known for allowing its writers to express strong points of view. He attributes The New Yorker‘s own surge to much more than that, though.
“The rigor has to be there. The facts have to be facts, and no bullshit allowed. …I think readers are intelligent. They know the difference between shit and Shinola,” he said. “I think people are hungry for exactly what all the cynical outlets tell them they’re not hungry for.
Timothy Egan, in Saturday’s New York Times, placed the press revival in the context of A Great New Accidental Renaissance, thanks to Trump.
It’s early, but we may be experiencing a great awakening for the humane values that are under siege by a dark-side presidency. People are going inward, to find something bigger than Trump, and outward, to limit the damage he inflicts on the country.
Trump has been good — indirectly — for a free press, an independent judiciary, high school civics, grass-roots political activity, cautionary tales in literature and theater, and spirituality. You don’t know what you’ve got, as the song says, till it’s gone — or nearly so.
Face it: We have become a lazy, aging, fairly ignorant democracy. Even in the most turbulent election in modern history, about 90 million eligible voters didn’t bother to cast a ballot — the basic task of citizenship. Trump took his 46 percent of those who did vote, many of whom believe fake-moon-landing-level lies, and has tried to act like the earth moved, as he said on Tuesday. It did, but not in the ways that he meant it.
It would be immodest, even overtly Trumpian, to boast about the huge circulation gains at the not-failing New York Times, or the robust support for our competitors, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Buto let’s just say having a man who told an average of four false or misleading statements a day for the first month of his presidency has been good for those the president calls enemies of the people.
Which brings us to civics. One of the great failures of late has been the diminishment of this vital owner’s manual for citizenship. Only 23 percent of eighth graders scored at or above proficiency in civics in a survey last year. Almost two-thirds of adults cannot name all three branches of government.
But now students are clamoring to talk about government and politics. The kids are demanding that their teachers do something to prevent another generation of politically illiterate citizens from coming of age. They are also marching in the street, along with their parents, who have already pulled off one of the largest political demonstrations in American history.
The Indivisible movement, launched to resist Trump, has unleashed a feverish civic activism and, well self-conscious, you-don’t-know-what-you’ve-got-till-it’s gone patriotism, as evidenced by Sunday’s citywide Indivisible gathering, which packed the gym at Huston-Tillotson University for an event that included a town hall with U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett.
This is what America looks like, they chanted.
This is what democracy looks like.
But just as impressive, were the 300 people who turned out on a miserable rainy Saturday to March for Trump in Austin.
It was there that I met Angela Williams of Leander.
Before Trump, Williams told me, she had ‘never voted.”
“Forty years old. Six kids. My husband and I, we were both first-time voters. I got my two daughters who were old enough, it was the first time they could vote. They voted. My mother-in-law is 75 and never voted before. I had cousins who never voted before. We all voted.
“I went to the inauguration and went to his rally when he was in Austin at the Expo Center,” Williams aid.
She got a ticket for the inauguration from her congressman, Roger Williams, who is no relation.
“I loved it. it was the best time of my life. Went with my husband. We left on Thursday, January the 19th. We came home January the 21st.”
So it was quick?
“Well I have six kids. I had to get home for the kids. My oldest daughter watched the little ones. It was an amazing time.
Had Williams been to D.C. before?
“My first time. I want to take my kids back to see it. It’s amazing. Washington, D.C., is like one big art city, the buildings, the monuments and all the stuff is unbelievable. I want to take my kids. They say, `I want to go to Disneyland.’ I say, `No, we’re going to go to Washington, D.C.”
Of Trump, Wiliams said:
I thought the global elites were not going to let him have it.
I always felt it was like a rigged system. You’ve got Democrats, you’ve got Republicans but they’re both part of the New World Order, so you’ve voting for the same thing, just a little bit different.
So with Trump, he was not owned by anybody. Nobody owned him. He paid for his own campaign. He didn’t owe favors to anybody. So I felt the was an anti-globablist. That’s why I voted.
He talked out about the vaccines, said he vaccines could cause injury. It was like an awakening moment to me, because I think they cause injury and I think they are a big money deal.
First three oldest (children) all had vaccines, then I started researching and learning about it. Next two partially vaccinated, and then my last has no vaccines. He’s five, and I will not vaccinate him.
If they end up passing a law, which Hillary was going to demand, forced vaccines against parents’ wills, and I was not good with that. It should be a parent’s choice to choose whether to vaccinate your child or not.
So when he spoke out about the vaccines, nobody talks out about the vaccines that’s going to be running for president, I knew that was something big there.
I asked Williams, “Do you listen to Alex Jones?”
“Yes,” she said.
It had been rumored that Jones might be at Saturday’s March for Trump, but Williams knew he wouldn’t, that it would have created too much commotion.
“He’s become too famous,” she said.
Doctor and Egan don’t mention Alex Jones, but Trump has just as surely ushered in the Infowars Renaissance (and vice versa) as well.
“Whatever he says, people think he’s crazy, but it will always come out the way he says,” Williams said.
Jones is perpetually predicting civil war between Trump and the global elites – George Soros, Barack Obama, etc. – that would seek to undo him.
I don’t know where we’re headed.
At his town hall, Doggett said it is essential not to insult or demean Trump voters.
But, he said, resistance to Trump is required.
But how far should this go?
From Charles Blow writing yesterday for the New York Times.
The American people must immediately demand a cessation of all consequential actions by this “president” until we can be assured that Russian efforts to hack our election, in a way that was clearly meant to help him and damage his opponent, did not also include collusion with or coverup by anyone involved in the Trump campaign and now administration.
This may sound extreme, but if the gathering fog of suspicion should yield an actual connection, it would be one of the most egregious assaults on our democracy ever. It would not only be unprecedented, it would be a profound wound to faith in our sovereignty.
Viewed through the serious lens of those epic implications, no action to put this presidency on pause is extreme. Rather, it is exceedingly prudent.
No, says Angela Williams.
Ir’s not like he’s running for the presidency. He is the president. We need to put all differences aside and come together as Americans and as America to make us better, not to tear us down.
“We need to unite, not fight,” said Paula Pompa, Williams’ mother.