Nicholas Kristof is the latest, and perhaps highest-profile media professional to take his own colleagues to task for obsessing about Trump, at the expense of other critically important topics. An opinion writer for the venerable New York Times, he expressed frustration and yes, shame, that the news cycle is at the absolute mercy of the Orange Shitgibbon flinging his feces around the Oval Office.
RUHLE: This piece. Nick, you write that the media should focus on what Trump does instead of what Trump says. I agree with you but here's the issue. He's the President of the United States. Everything he says matters.
KRISTOF: Absolutely. And it's never been a time when it's been more important for the media to hold a president accountable. And so absolutely I'm not arguing that we should avert our eyes, that we should provide less accountability coverage. But there's also I think some real danger that we allow Trump to set THE agenda and that we, you know, I think we did this in the campaign, frankly, in 2016 to our detriment and to the country's detriment, that we were like yapping dogs following the latest thing he said or the latest shiny object. There's so much more happening. We have to figure out a way -- how to cover President Trump but also create some bandwidth for genocide in Myanmar for those opioid deaths, for health care. I'm afraid that we have at this point, Trump is our business model in the media.
RUHLE: What should we do when the "New York Times" writes pieces on this every day? The New York Times knows what exactly what the readers have an appetite for reading.
KRISTOF: And I must say that if I were expectative producer of a show, I would be Trump all the time because you can see that when one does cover the Rohingya, for example, that people will switch the channel. But I do think that so many of us went into the media because we wanted to make a difference and we do think that we play an important role in informing society about important issues. And I think we blew it in 2016, I think we've done much better since then in providing real accountability over Trump. But I think we haven't done as well in providing that same accountability of other places where our society and where the international candidate falls short.
Bingo. I seem to remember Michelle Wolf being skewered for jabbing the media at the White House Correspondents' Dinner way back in April 2018 for pointing out that thing about the business model. Here ya go, Michelle - Nicholas Kristof himself is agreeing with you, and he wants it to change.
RUHLE: I wrestle with this every day and i'm not saying I know the answer ever. Do you think social media is part of the problem? I think to my show every day as it's planned and then somewhere between 8 and 9 a.m. Trump takes to social media, and then my show gets set on fire.
KRISTOF: Trump is the ultimate car wreck, how you can go by without rubberneck something so I think we have to distinguish between what is truly important for the country versus what just is a car wreck. And so even to the extent we're going to have this obsession, let's at least have an obsession not just with his words but with his actions. So I mean if you look at EPA, Scott Pruitt, there are these incredible scandals that are juicy and wonderful. But the biggest scandal in the EPA is the kind of deregulation that they're doing allowing chemicals to taint American kids.
RUHLE: One of the issues, though, deregulation, I agree with you wholeheartedly.
KRISTOF: I realize I'm being incredibly boring.
RUHLE: One of the issues where they were talking about the CFPB or deregulation that's happening in the EPA, none of these things have gone through yet and they take a very, very long time. Isn't it difficult to know how to measure these two things? I mean, the President, all he wants is to be on every tv network all day every day, and he's winning that.
I feel ya, Stephanie. It's hard getting called out by your colleagues - you and Ali got defensive with Sarah Kendzior when she pointed it out. It's painful to admit you're part of the problem. It's hard to know what to cover and what not to cover given the sheer volume of horse manure he spews. He's the damn PRESIDENT, and what he says matters. There is no denying it.
Almost all the time he talks, though, he is lying, and at least half of what he says, he reverses later or doesn't follow through on. So, why not be a little more Rachel Maddow about it, and cover maybe less of his tweeting and talking, in favor of other stuff that matters more, or at least is more likely to have measurable impact on the rest of us? Some ideas:
1. What is happening to the civil rights of students under Betsy DeVos. Or go a little deeper into the myriad ways in which his other appointees have done tangible damage.
2. The federal judges that have already been appointed and approved who will now be serving for life on the bench, and the impact their ideologies will have on the communities they're supposed to be serving.
3. The genocide in Myanmar Kristof was talking about.
4. The fact that Flint still has no drinkable water, or Puerto Rico is still reeling from Hurricane Maria.
If someone from the print media is urging journalists to focus less on the bottom line, maybe his colleagues should listen.