Trump is back – but under a much harsher media glare

IT ALL SEEMS so much the same. The preening self-regard and references to his singular abilities and strength, evoking his 2016 Republican National Convention speech declaring, “I alone can fix” what ails the country. The personal digs at his political adversaries. The reckless disregard for facts

One thing, however, already seems different about Donald Trump’s third run for the presidency, which he officially launched Tuesday night in a speech from his Florida compound: The media coverage. 

Trump long benefited from press coverage governed by traditional norms that generally steer clear of anything that smacks of direct criticism or characterization of candidates in clearly unflattering terms. Trump’s departure from established norms of political behavior, however, seems finally to have prompted a shift away from established norms in how he is covered. 

The press seems to have concluded that when the record is one of unprecedented assaults on democratic principles and institutions, characterizing it in dark terms is simply telling the truth, not slanting it. 

Donald Trump, who tried to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election and inspired a deadly riot at the Capitol in a desperate attempt to keep himself in power, announced he is running again for president in 2024,” reads the lead of the story on NPR’s website

“Donald Trump, the twice-impeached former president who refused to concede defeat and inspired a failed attempt to overturn the 2020 election culminating in a deadly attack on the US Capitol, officially declared on Tuesday night that he is running to retake the White House in 2024,” reads the Washington Post story.

The Globe captured the then-and-now contrast of what we knew of Trump seven years ago and what we know now. 

“When Donald Trump rode down the escalator at Trump Tower in 2015 to announce his first presidential campaign, he was a mystery as a politician, a former reality TV star who was viewed as a fringe candidate and seemingly more interested in building his brand than leading the nation.

“Now after four tumultuous years in office, three straight disappointing Republican elections, two impeachments, and one deadly insurrection, Trump is a known political entity — and one who seems to be rapidly losing popularity among Republicans just as he announced another White House run Tuesday night,” read the lead to the paper’s story today

The New York Times seemed, by comparison, to go a bit softer by avoiding the check-list of Trump deeds and characterizing his impact in broader terms. 

“Donald J. Trump, whose historically divisive presidency shook the pillars of the country’s democratic institutions, on Tuesday night declared his intention to seek the White House again in 2024, ignoring the appeals of Republicans who warn that his continued influence on the party is largely to blame for its weaker-than-expected showing in the midterm elections,” read the lead to its story

Dan Kennedy, a journalism professor at Northeastern University, said he was particularly struck by NPR’s blunt description. 

“For the most part, I think NPR has been the most reluctant, bordering on timid, to depart from the old way of doing things, and that is simply reporting what public figures are saying and doing,” he said. “So this was a really notable exception to that, and I thought it was a very good sign.” 

Even the Associated Press, long the model of rigorously objective coverage, broke with its usually very restrained style and sent out a dispatch last night that was among the more jarring. 

“Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday launched his third campaign for the White House just one week after a disappointing midterm showing for Republicans, forcing the party to again decide whether to embrace a candidate whose refusal to accept defeat in 2020 sparked an insurrection and pushed American democracy to the brink,” it read

Kennedy said news executives “have heard over and over the criticism of how they enabled Trump in 2015 and 2016.” 

Kennedy did offer one caution about the changing media landscape, noting that because of the internet’s complete disruption of their business model, the country’s leading newspapers are now “totally dependent” on revenue from readers via digital (and dwindling print) subscriptions rather than advertisers. Subscribers to the Times, Post – like the donors who sustain NPR – are overwhelmingly liberal, he said. 

“So there is a danger in giving their paying customers too much of what they want,” Kennedy said. “I would caution against going overboard because of who’s paying the bills.” 

While there may be a risk of overcorrecting, Kennedy called the shift in how the press is covering Trump a welcome sign. “I’m certainly glad to see truth-telling in the media, and I hope we see more of it,” he said.  

MICHAEL JONAS

NEW STORIES FROM COMMONWEALTH MAGAZINE

 

Fare evasion: A “legal vacuum” created by the failure to approve a new set of regulations has left the MBTA with no fines to address fare evasion for nearly two years. The MBTA’s board is expected to take a new stab at the regulations this week. Read more.

Still too close to call: More than a week after the election, the outcome of two House races is still unclear and recounts will probably be necessary since the vote totals are so close. One is an open seat with Republican Andrew Shepherd of Townsend facing Democrat Margaret Scarsdale of Pepperell. The other race has incumbent Republican Rep. Leonard Mirra of Georgetown facing a challenge from Democrat Kristin Kassner of Hamilton. Read more.

 

STORIES FROM ELSEWHERE AROUND THE WEB

 

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

Boston police say there has been an “uptick” in people at the troubled Mass. and Cass area. (Boston Herald

Roxbury district City Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson says her neighborhood has too much affordable housing development. (Boston Globe

Westminster Police Chief Ralph LeBlanc is fired for sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment. (Telegram & Gazette)

The Worcester City Council votes to make Eric Batista the city’s new, permanent city manager. He has been acting city manager since April. (Telegram & Gazette)

The town of Rockland agrees to pay $337,500 to settle a racial discrimination lawsuit brought by a man who was the town’s only Black firefighter for 39 years. (Patriot Ledger)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Using a cell tower dispute in Pittsfield as a jumping off point, ProPublica reports on the growing evidence of dangerous health effects from cell phone radiation and the Federal Communications Commission’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge any problem at all. 

UMass Memorial Medical Center gets state permission to add 91 inpatient beds to help reduce emergency department congestion. (Telegram & Gazette)

National Guard Col. Michael Lazo ascends from interim superintendent to the permanent leader of the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke. (MassLive)

ELECTIONS

Donald Trump announces another run for the presidency. (NPR)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Encore Boston Harbor agrees to give one of its mobile betting licenses to Caesars Interactive Entertainment, which would let Caesars bypass the competitive process for obtaining a standalone mobile betting license. (MassLive)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A study published in a peer-reviewed journal touting the potential of “green hydrogen” was funded by natural gas industry interests, with a lobbyist tied to the industry even allowed to review and suggest changes to the report. (Boston Globe)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Boston Herald columnist Rasheed Walters says Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox is “in over his head” when it comes to confronting gun violence in the city. 

Former Mashpee Wampanoag chairman Cedric Cromwell was sentenced to three years in prison for extorting a contractor. (Cape Cod Times)

The US Justice Department announces an investigation into the conduct of the Worcester Police Department to determine whether a pattern exists of discriminatory behavior or excessive use of force. US Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael Rollins speaks to Worcester community leaders about the probe. (Telegram & Gazette)

Attorney General Maura Healey announces two large settlements coming to Massachusetts: $61 million from Walmart related to improper dispensing of opioid drugs and $9 million from Google related to its location tracking practices. (Gloucester Daily Times)