Fact Checks, Combative Questions, and Other Journalism Quirks You’ll Miss When Trump’s Gone

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• December 5, 2020 5:00 am


As we prepare to enter the Joe Biden era of American politics, it's worth reflecting on some of the things we're going to miss about life under the Trump administration.

One industry in particular that was utterly transformed under Trump's leadership—and will be similarly disrupted by a return to "normalcy"—is the professional journalism industry.

Political reporters and opinion columnists (to the extent there is a difference) developed a number of charming quirks over the course of Trump's presidency that, for whatever reason, are unlikely to carry over into the Biden administration.

Here are a few of the Trump-era journalism quirks you're going to miss when he's gone:

1. Combative questioning

CNN correspondent Jim Acosta rarely breaks news, but he frequently shouts questions at the president and other administration officials and once tussled with a White House intern who tried to take away his microphone. Biden doesn't really like or respect journalists, but he doesn't hurt their feelings the way Trump does.

2. Fact checks!

CNN will presumably keep Daniel Dale on staff as a full-time Donald Trump fact checker. What else is he going to do? As for all the other journalists hell bent on speaking truth to power, when it comes to fact-checking the Biden administration, their hearts just won't be in it, and it'll show.

3. Exposing billionaire pedophiles

See: "Investigative Reporting." If you asked journalists who deserves credit for Jeffrey Epstein's long-overdue demise, they'd say it was journalists. As usual, they'd be wrong. If anyone deserves credit for taking Epstein down, it is Donald Trump, whose nominee for labor secretary, Alex Acosta, was previously involved in prosecuting Epstein in Florida. Finding a Trump-related angle is what finally convinced (a handful of local) journalists to start investigating the Epstein case after more than a decade of indifference.

4. Writing a bestselling book

To name a few:

  • The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America by Jim Acosta (CNN)
  • Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth by Brian Stelter (CNN)
  • Donald Trump v. The United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President by Michael Schmidt (New York Times)
  • Front Row at The Trump Show by Jonathan Karl (ABC News)
  • A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America by Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post)
  • True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump by Jeffrey Toobin (fired from the New Yorker for masturbating on Zoom call, still employed by CNN)

5. Writing the same opinion column over and over again

"Trump isn't just bad, he's historically bad (and racist), which is bad for America." This single sentence summarizes more than 90 percent of the opinion columns published in major newspapers over the past four years. If you thought Jennifer Rubin and Max Boot were irrelevant now, you won't believe how irrelevant they're going to seem in six months.

6. Writing fawning profiles of other journalists

In the past month alone, Esquire published an "Oral History of CNN's Election Week," and the following articles were published about CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip:

  • "CNN’s Abby Phillip Has Her Research Binder Ready" (Bustle)
  • "Abby Phillip is Next-Gen CNN" (New York Times)
  • "CNN's Abby Phillip Is Finally Getting Some Rest" (InStyle)
  • "Why CNN's Abby Phillip's Election Coverage Cut Through the Noise" (Harper's Bazaar)
  • "BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Abby Phillip, CNN political correspondent" (Politico)
  • "CNN Correspondent Abby Phillip On Her Skincare Routine And Surviving Election Week" (Elle)
  • "How Hair & Makeup Helped Abby Phillip Feel Powerful On Election Night" (Refinery29)
  • "Everyone on Twitter Is Horny for Newscasters and Pollsters Like Steve Kornacki and Abby D. Phillip" (Glamour)

7. Referring to journalists as "heroes"

See: the title of Acosta's book. It's easier to envision yourself as a hero when you're shouting at a "dangerous" president, less so when the president is a nice old man and your job consists of retweeting memes about Kamala's dangerously trendy footwear.

8. Treating politicians like politicians (not celebs)

See: "Combative Questioning." Thanks to Trump, journalists started treating presidents the way they deserve to be treated. That's unlikely to continue with a Democrat in the White House. The political media, for example, will persist in covering Kamala Harris like a celebrity fashion icon.

April Ryan, a radio reporter and CNN analyst, recently offered a glimpse into the future (and pre-Trump past) of political journalism. While interviewing former president Barack Obama about his latest memoir, Ryan praised his "brilliance" and called him "one of my fondest memories."

The media's transition from combative truth seekers to obsequious stargazers began immediately after Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 election. For example:

9. Snarky chyrons

See: Below.

10. CNN

See: All of the above.

Published under: Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Journalists, Media