The overhyped coverage of the Trump White House does media's credibility no favors, and it threatens to inoculate the president from legitimate criticism and much-needed scrutiny.
Since last week's inauguration, there have been several reports alleging supposedly disturbing developments in the new administration. Many of these stories have turned out to be a lot less shocking than advertised, including a Washington Post article that claimed Thursday that the State Department's "entire senior administrative team just resigned."
As noted earlier by the Washington Examiner, that report was oversold, and the real story ended up being not nearly as disturbing as the paper suggested.
But the truth of the matter came out only after several journalists had created a sort of media feeding frenzy in response to the story's publication. Sadly, many in the press didn't learn from the experience, and some went on to do the exact same thing all over again later that evening when the Post published another story alleging nefarious behavior on the part of the new president.
"Trump pressured Park Service to find proof for his claims about inauguration crowd," read the headline.
Trump "personally ordered" National Park Service Director Michael T. Reynolds to produce the photos. Pretty intimidating stuff, right? Some journalists thought so.
"Further proof that this administration will be a test for American institutions," said the New York Times' Damien Cave.
Quartz' Dave Gershgorn added, "It never ends."
MSNBC's Joy Reid said, "Running out of analogies. Stalin? Putin? Ergodan? Saddam? Mubarak? Mubutu? Is Godwin's Law even applicable anymore?"
The problem with the article is that it's not that shocking once you make it past the headline. When you get right down to it, it's a story about how the president called a federal official asking for photos of the inauguration.
That's it. That's the entire story.
Though one can certainly argue it's petty for Trump to continue to focus on his inauguration numbers, there's nothing chilling about the president calling and requesting photos of his inauguration from the one agency that would have them.
As mentioned in part one of this media hysteria mini-series, reporters and their editors need to take greater care not to overstate what the Trump White House is doing.
If reporting on the new administration becomes a never-ending parade of hysterical, overhyped silliness, those who aren't already firmly in the anti-Trump camp will stop paying attention, which will give the new president more cover to cut loose with things far worse than requesting photos of his inauguration.