President-elect Donald Trump has said he will continue to tweet after assuming the loftiest seat of power in the U.S., and the mainstream media have gone into panic mode. NPR has coined a phrase — presidential media avoidance — for Trump’s plan to use social media as a direct pipeline to the American people.
Press secretary-to-be Sean Spicer was asked about Trump’s reliance on social media on ABC’s “This Week” on New Years Day. He said:
You know, with all due respect, I think it freaks the mainstream media out that he has this following of over 45 plus million people that follow him on social media, that he can have a direct conversation. He doesn’t have to have it funneled through the media.
So desperate are members of the fourth estate to remain relevant in the Trump era that the Washington Post created a Google Chrome extension that promises to automatically fact-check Trump’s tweets.
But it wasn’t that long ago that the same paper saw some upsides to a president using social media. From an article published May 25, 2015:
[H]e has leveraged the opportunities of the digital age to maximum political advantage. But often, this now means speaking narrowly to his base voters or to groups disconnected from the mainstream political process.
The new strategy offers benefits as well as risks. The White House can reach more people without the filter of the traditional media, target its audience with precision and receive almost immediate feedback. But the approach raises the prospect of fostering further political polarization if the president opts to communicate mostly with parts of the electorate that identify with him ideologically or can be helpful politically.
The president was, of course, Barack Obama, whom the article hails in its headline as “the first president of the social media age.” True, the article, by Juliet Eilperin, identifies pros and cons to the commander-in-chief taking his case directly to the people and presenting it in his own terms. What I’m eager to know is why the Post and other mainstream outlets see no positives whatsoever in the next president using the same strategy.