By Holland Cooke
BLOCK ISLAND, RI — To quote acclaimed media strategist George Costanza, Rush Limbaugh affiliates should “do the opposite” of what New York Times opinion columnist Frank Bruni recommends in a thoughtful recent piece entitled, “Will the Media Be Trump’s Accomplice Again in 2020?”
He observes that “readers and viewers, no matter how much they complain about the media’s shallowness, reward it.” Ditto radio listeners, if we offer them an unambiguous proposition. Knowing that you are busy, I don’t ask casually. But reading his piece will be worth your time:
Bruni surmises: “Democracies don’t just get the leaders they deserve. They get the leaders who make it through whatever obstacle course – and thrive in whatever atmosphere – their media has created.” And he quotes Dan Rather: “When you cover this as spectacle, what’s lost is context, perspective and depth. And when you cover this as spectacle, he is the star.” “He,” of course, is President Donald Trump, spectacle personified.
“He doesn’t hate the media, not at all. He uses us.”
And we take the bait. “Since Trump declared his candidacy for the presidency in 2015…the number of stories about Trump in the country’s most influential newspapers and on its principal newscasts significantly exceeded what his support in polls at the time justified.” And even those numbers were juiced, as we learned from Mr. Trumps ex-lawyer/fixer this past month.
The Times columnist urges that – should Trump be a candidate in 2020 – “we need to do something else, which is to recognize that Trump now has an actual record in office and to discuss that with as much energy as we do his damned Twitter feed.”
Certainly, and objectively, what he’s suggesting would be good for the USA. As for talk radio…
America will survive. Meantime Rush Limbaugh affiliates can prosper.
For our purposes, the facts are these:
- Facts don’t matter to the 35% that drinks Trump’s Kool-Aid through a fire hose. Anything which challenges their predisposition or their president is fake news.
- The other 65% don’t matter to a Limbaugh affiliate, because heaps of audience measurement data tell us that the quickest way to grow ratings Share is to get people who listen to your station most (so called “First Preference,” or “P1” listeners), to listen more times per week. Rush himself tells the story: “I used to sell baseball tickets. And I learned that enough people want to buy baseball tickets that you don’t need to bother trying to sell tickets to people who don’t want ‘em.”
- Thus my counsel to stations that program Rush and Sean Hannity and local righty talkers: Offer the station as safe space for the like-minded. Be to radio what Fox News Channel is to TV.
- If you take Fox News Radio’s on-hour newscast, encourage repeat tune-ins “throughout your busy day,” by ripping-off this line we use in the on-hour ID at client stations: “You can get FAKE news anywhere else. Hear FOX news HERE…every hour.”
Question I’m asked most often: “Will Trump be impeached?”
Selfishly I hope not, because this is THE – repeat, THE – best thing that’s ever happened to talk radio and cable news, and I work in both arenas.
If I had to guess, now-daily bombshells suggest that he might resign, possibly citing health or some other face-saving excuse. But, however long this bonanza lasts, shame on us if we don’t milk it for every quarter hour possible.
Holland Cooke (hollandcooke.com) is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet; and he hosts “The Big Picture” TV show on RT America. Read HC’s Monday Memo each week at Talkers.com, and follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke