A majority of Americans agree that Donald Trump is a bad role model for children. His policies aside, Trump’s comments on women disqualify him from idol status. A year has passed in his presidency, so it’s likely that if you see him as a role model now, your views won’t change, and vice versa. Despite this, the media is convinced that the number one issue to report on is Trump’s personal life. And when I say personal life, I mean sex life. Let’s take a look at CNN’s political op-eds page. Of the 11 linked articles as of 3 p.m. on March 28, four of them center around Stormy Daniels. Four. Somehow, the most relevant piece of news to Americans was a consensual affair the president engaged in over twelve years ago.
Over the past two years, news media organizations have faced assault after assault over their credibility from right-wing pundits and politicians. Some of my conservative friends have also joined this chorus, claiming CNN is fake news or “Fox for the left.” I disagreed with this claim on the basis that CNN, the New York Times, and 60 Minutes report on real issues and adhere to journalistic standards. Fox has a long history of ignoring conventional fact-checking methods and silently recanting stories when they are incorrect. For uninformed voters or young people newly involved in the political system, liberal news media has generally been a more trustworthy source of information. However, the absurd attention given to Stormy Daniels threatens this reputation.
Stormy’s 60 Minutes interview was the program’s most watched episode in 10 years. In an interview that was just as painful to watch as it must have been for Anderson Cooper to conduct, Stormy tells tabloid-esque details of her Trump affair, then provides some soap opera drama with a story about a mysterious threatener. And we are supposed to be buy all this? She profited $130,000 from the last story she told, and perhaps she’s just building a brand. I’m not saying Trump behaved morally, or that I disagree with Stormy’s business model. However, the motivations of the incident between two entertainers should be examined.
Writers in liberal media weighed in the day after. Headlines popped up from the Huffington Post “The Stormy Daniels Story is A Rape Culture Story” and Vox’s “Stormy Daniels makes Donald Trump sounds a lot like Harvey Weinstein.” CNN’s contribution included gems such as “What Melania now has in common with Hillary” and “Stormy, don’t worry about violating your NDA.” These headlines represent irresponsible reporting.
The most important part about the news wasting time on sex scandals is the time they forgo reporting on real issues. As the media focuses on an inconsequential story for the American public, Trump rolls back environmental regulations and rescinds DACA. Focusing on the effects of this is far more likely to educate people on government current events.
Ironically, the second half of that 60 Minutes episode was a feature on Giannis Antetokounmpo. His story detailed a life of poverty as the son of Nigerian immigrants in Greece before he was recognized for his talent. This led to an early round draft pick in the NBA, and he and his family immigrated to the U.S. On the program, he discusses going from selling trinkets on the street for tiny cash to earning a salary of over $22 million per year. If there is any need for a positive news story on immigration to counter the negative attention it has been receiving, this was the opportunity.
I understand that scandal sells. But the coverage and following this one has received reflects poorly on U.S. viewers, who are equally as guilty for the coverage as U.S. news broadcasters. While the coverage is bad, the viewers demand it. In a culture where it seems like more people know the Kardashian sisters than their own senators, we need to change the way we consume news, or else we will be ignoring our duty to be politically astute.
Jack Leger is a member of the class of 2021 and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.