President Trump might have a tough time dealing with nuanced policy or pieces of legislation, but if there's anything he has mastered, it's the media.
On Thursday, the New York Times sat down with the president for an impromptu interview in which he shared his thoughts about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia as well as what he plans to do about China with respect to allegedly shipping oil to North Korea.
But if there's one key takeaway that might put some speculation (on behalf of Steve Bannon) to rest is that Trump wants to run for re-election in 2020, and the media is going to help him win it. Why? He's good for the news business.
“Another reason that I’m going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes,” Trump said to the Times. “Without me, the New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times.”
He continued. “So they basically have to let me win. And eventually, probably six months before the election, they’ll be loving me because they’re saying, ‘Please, please, don’t lose Donald Trump.’ O.K.”
While his latter remark sounds like an exaggeration, if not trolling, Trump has a point here.
Most folks in the mainstream media absolutely abhor Trump, his policies, and everything he stands for. However, journalists and news personalities have admitted that he's pretty great for journalism.
Even MSNBC anchor Joy Reid, who's been a vocal Trump critic, has seen a bump in ratings since the 2016 election and beyond, and she's not shy about admitting the truth.
"I’ve said to people that this is probably the greatest time to be a journalist, and the worst time to be a human," Reid said in an interview with Vulture.
In November, MSNBC was the only network to deliver audience growth. Over the year, Rachel Maddow, a Trump critic and leading progressive voice on the network, was destroying her competitors in her prime-time cable slot before Sean Hannity reclaimed his old 9 p.m. slot.
Maddow and Hannity represent two sides of the same coin. What makes their respective programs unique is that they're the go-to programs to watch pure, unadulterated outrage from either the progressive and conservative points of view channeled over the airwaves. They're basically shouting at you for a full hour. Their goal is to make you mad about what's going on in the world. And the angrier they get, the more intriguing their shows become.
Hannity, however, has a major advantage over Maddow: He can be mad at just about anything. Despite the fact that Trump has been president for almost a year, Hannity has directed most of his rage at former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her private email server, former FBI Director James Comey, special counsel Robert Mueller, and, most importantly in the eyes of the host, the "deep state."
So, no matter if Trump wins re-election in 2020 or is impeached, Hannity along with many personalities in conservative media are set. It's left-leaning and progressive personalities who still haven't found their niche when their party is in power.
When former President Barack Obama was in office for 8 years, Fox News dominated in the ratings over MSNBC and CNN. For one, it helped Fox to be the only right-leaning cable news network on television and let MSNBC and CNN split the left-leaning audience (which they also shared with the broadcast networks ABC and CBS). Secondly, they were one of the only outlets that provided coverage that was critical of the Obama administration. They set themselves apart from other outlets and, as a result, continued to attract viewers.
News and media companies shouldn't have to rely on outrage to attract viewers and readers, but Trump knows very well that that's the case. In polarizing times like these, Trump is great for objective, opinion, and even activist journalists. Trump might not win re-election should he choose to run in 2020 (if he even makes it that far), but there will be plenty of left-leaning media companies as well as journalists and personalities who will miss covering his presidency once he leaves office.