The post-Trump administration era ratings freefalls that have taken place at news outlets like CNN and MSNBC are something even the most diehard anti-Trump news organizations can’t avoid covering, and the Washington Post proved today that they were no exception to the rule.
But it’s in how the paper framed the story that caused many of us to come close to experiencing an overdose of schadenfreude.
The headline of media reporter Paul Farhi’s piece set the stage: Trump predicted news ratings would ‘tank if I’m not there.’ He wasn’t wrong.
In his report, Farhi noted that his own paper had not been immune to declining ratings since Trump’s exit from the White House:
“Newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there,” he augured in 2017, “because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes.”
After a record-setting January, traffic to the nation’s most popular mainstream news sites, including The Washington Post, plummeted in February, according to the audience tracking firm ComScore. The top sites were also generally doing worse than in February of last year, when the pandemic became a major international news story.
The Post, for example, saw the number of unique visitors fall 26 percent from January to February, and 7 percent from a year ago. The New York Times lost 17 percent compared with January and 16 percent over last February.
Cable news outlets, he noted, were also hard-hit, but CNN was hit worse than all major media news outlets with a staggering 45% drop:
The most deeply affected network is CNN. After surpassing rivals Fox News and MSNBC in January, the network has lost 45 percent of its prime-time audience in the past five weeks, according to Nielsen Media Research. MSNBC’s audience has dropped 26 percent in the same period.
Oh how the mighty have fallen. Bless their hearts:
Media outlets turning themselves into non-stop Trump #Resistance outlets gave them a temporary sugar high at the expense of their long-term credibility & profit.
And how much did this headline hurt to write?https://t.co/k0FyTBznuL
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 22, 2021
Considering CNN’s Brian Stelter is the network’s resident chief media hall monitor, it’s kinda odd that neither he nor his faithful and obedient sidekick Oliver Darcy have given the story of their ratings woes any meaningful coverage:
📉 @CNN has lost 45% of their primetime audience
— Cable News Watch (@CableNewsWatch) March 22, 2021
Perhaps the most painful part of the WaPo piece to its author, Stelter, and other critics of Trump and Fox News was the following information:
Fox News — the most Trump-friendly of the three networks in its prime-time opinion shows — has essentially regained its leading position by standing still; its ratings have fallen just 6 percent since the first weeks of the year.
Not only are news outlets like MSNBC and CNN struggling to survive after Trump’s departure, but there are also internal battles at some of these places on what matters more: giving provocative Republican politicians they don’t like tons of air time every time they tweet or doing Real Reporting™. Strangely enough, it hasn’t occurred to them that they can do both at the same time:
From my book HOAX: “News ratings rise and fall based on the news cycle, the time of year, the weather, and what else is on TV, kind of like a giant glacier melting and refreezing…” https://t.co/aCIV8t2wlT
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) March 22, 2021
That’s an interesting stance to take considering Stelter’s previous contradictory positions on covering Trump:
Hmm. That’s a far cry from “CNN must give Trump all the attention because he’s a danger to democracy” and then claiming five minutes later “Fox News shouldn’t give him so much attention because he’s a danger to democracy”, Brian. https://t.co/oABVk5cTMk
— Sister Toldjah Le Pew 😁 (@sistertoldjah) March 22, 2021
The moral of the story here is that “news” outlets like CNN would be continuing to give Trump all the free air time he wanted if he was still on social media, regardless of the fact that he’s no longer president. We’ve seen that in their cheesy “reports” on his golfing excursions and the like. What CNN and their ilk never liked about Fox’s coverage was that it wasn’t liberal media-approved coverage. In other words, Fox’s coverage wasn’t all negative and oftentimes took deep dives into the media/Dem-driven conspiracy theories to determine whether or not they had any validity.
When and if Trump does return to social media – and he’s hinting he’ll start his own platform to do just that – look for The Usual Suspects to jump onboard obsessively covering him again so they can get their fix. Because when it comes to Trump, they just can’t quit him – a statement which makes sense once one understands that their livelihoods quite literally depend on him.