[COMMENTARY] How to Cover Joe Biden: An Open Letter to the Media
Dear Media (really looking at you right now though, Andrea Mitchell),
I’m old enough to remember how you used to cover politics and politicians. A child of the 70s and 80s, I grew up watching Walter Cronkite, Peter Jennings, Sam Donaldson, and Diane Sawyer. Used to be, news anchors simply told their viewers what happened that day, presenting the facts of the stories without imparting their own opinions or agendas. That may sound nutty by today’s standards, but that’s the way it was, as Cronkite always said when he closed his nightly broadcasts. People chose where they got their news based on their like of the presenter, not the political slant of the story itself. The news was just the news; it contained no quantifiers such as ‘fake’, ‘liberal’, or ‘conservative’.
Even as recently as 2012, people were getting their news without a whole lot of built-in bias, despite the existence of Fox News. Back in those quaint days when people still were capable of respectful political discourse, Fox wasn’t simply a mouthpiece for verbal sewage, because that’s not what Mitt Romney was spewing. And even though social media was also in effect, I’m here to tell you that at no time during the 2012 election cycle did one single Romney supporter rise from the murky depths of Twitter to troll me with a meme of a frog dressed like Hitler to call me a “libturd”, which is the mildest of the MAGAt insults that I can share here. And the media didn’t salivate every time Barack Obama did anything, because everything he did was in the best interest of the country and he did his job so well that the media was often like, “Oh right, Barack Obama is still the President and he still does stuff.”
But everything that made politics exciting and interesting was thrown out the window when Donald and Melania Trump descended that tacky gold escalator and he made the most racist campaign announcement in history. From that moment on, traditional media coverage disappeared and it was all Trump, all the time, because oh, the outrage! What’s he going to say or do next? Can you believe this guy? What a ratings gold mine, let’s keep pumping this until he’s gone! Oh wait, he’s not going? Great, give us more outrage to fuel the news cycle!
It became Pavlovian. He tweeted, they swarmed to amplify it, and for four straight years, every single talking head on every single news channel became addicted to the highs and lows of covering Donald Trump. Everyone started living at Threat Level Midnight 24/7/365, grabbing for their phones before their eyes were fully open in the morning because they had to know what awful thing had occurred in the few hours they’d managed to sleep. Like drug addicts, the media scraped the bottom to get to the very last bits of dirt, putting the worst Trump sycophants on the air under the guise of “presenting both sides” but knowing it was also a ratings boon. Giving the Trump camp a free platform to amplify their gaslighting propaganda only fed the never ending cycle of outrage culture that had developed over the last four years. We’ve all seen what it’s become and we’re all disgusted by it.
And now Joe Biden is the President-Elect, which gives us all renewed hope for a return to something that resembles normality, and what does the media do? Y’all still cover Trump whining about not accepting the election results. Biden appoints a historic all-female Comms Team but the ridiculous hearing in Arizona led by Rudy Giuliani gets more coverage. Trump creates smokescreens to cushion and conceal his lies, and while a few in the media have been able to coax some real moments out of their interviews with him, he has yet to be held fully accountable by most and, given a pass so many times because of his behavior, because everyone is so afraid of a mean tweet.
Joe Biden was playing with one of his dogs over the weekend, tripped, and ended up with a small stress fracture in his foot. There is a video of him leaving his doctor’s office. He’ll need a boot for a while, he’ll be fine. End of story, right? A simple tale told honestly with the facts we needed. Come on media, you can do that easily, right?
Of course not.
There must be more to it, suggested Andrea Mitchell on Monday. She said the Biden team wasn’t being transparent enough, after four years of an endless revolving door of Press Secretaries lying to us on the daily. Because it couldn’t just be what his team said it was, there has to be more behind it, right?
Are you fucking serious with this Andrea Mitchell? Biden not transparent enough about his ankle? THEY VIDEOTAPED HIM AT THE DOCTOR'S OFFICE! pic.twitter.com/0RFmvZnSnT
— Tommy X-TrumpIsARacist-opher (@tommyxtopher) November 30, 2020
Sometimes a sprain is just a sprain, media. Sometimes, a president can go a whole day or more without doing something outrageously terrible. Joe Biden is going to be really busy undoing a lot of awful, which will be interesting, but it won’t be terrifying to the point of adrenalization. You’ve become addicted to the cycle of outrage, and a lot of us got a huge contact high as a result. It’s hard to break the habit once you’re hooked through the bag, but I’m here to stage an intervention for you all right now.
It’s time for a collective Trump detox, my friends. You have seven lame duck weeks left to purge the urge to cover him just because scaring people gets a better Nielsen share than calming them down. Get it out of your system and get it out for good. You need to re-learn how to cover a nice, normal presidency where competent people are doing their jobs taking care of the country. Besides, the inevitable Trump Crimes Commission is going to give you some juicy af stuff, as is Tish James. It won’t be boring, but it also won’t be OH MY EFFING JESUS CHRIST ON A POGO STICK LOOK WHAT HE DID NOW.
Try this: “Joe Biden tripped and fell while playing with his rescue dog, Major, and sustained a slight ankle sprain. After a visit to his doctor, Biden was fitted with a boot and will now continue working with the transition team until he’s healed.”
And then go on to the next story. Not everything Biden does is going to need a panel discussion of legal experts to determine just what he really did. Put down the outrage pipe and get healthy, media. We need you to get right with yourselves and just report the news again. It’s a major step in moving forward and healing as a nation, but we’ll never get better if you keep trying to make us stay sick with you.
Remember, it only works if you work it. Be best!