I read several of the leading stories on The New York Times website each day. Lately, it’s become apparent to me that many, if not most, of these stories revolve around President Donald Trump and his administration.
Trump’s campaign for the 2016 election changed the election media game forever. This phenomenon is chronicled well throughout the media and its affiliates in scholarship.
Because of the sheer volume of Trump-related news I’ve recently noticed in my favorite news media outlets and on my social media feeds, I decided to observe a strict routine of avoiding any and all Trump-related news for two days.
Yes, that included any story about his administration, too.
It’s difficult to come across news that has nothing to do with our president or his administration, especially given the plethora of variety this administration has given us—the Tweets, the scandals, the investigations, the protests, the attempts to mend relations with other countries while destroying others … The list goes on.
That said, I tried my hardest to avoid any mention of him. I was inspired by Farhad Manjoo of The New York Times. Admittedly, it was tempting. Our country, myself included, seems to have a morbid fascination with Trump. We follow his every move because we’re afraid to miss the most recent attraction. Our strange infatuation with this president has changed our media game forever.
The way I decided to go about this experiment seemed simple … until it wasn’t. I muted the words “Trump,” “President,” “POTUS,” “Mueller,” “Manafort” and “Administration” on my Twitter account, and I made the conscious decision to avoid Facebook for two days, as it is inevitably riddled with Trump media coverage, no matter who you’re friends with.
Then I decided I would be strategic with my online news selections. I intentionally avoided all Trump-related articles, and I searched for news that didn’t pertain to the president and his administration.
What I didn’t account for, though, is how much the media infiltrates my everyday life without my conscious recognition. Conducting this experiment meant tuning professors out as they asked the class if anyone had seen the most recent news about Trump, because though I usually could say yes, this time the answer was no. The experiment meant that friends who texted me asking me to explain the recent news to them had to be put on the backburner in most cases. The experiment meant that I had to intentionally turn my focus away from any Trump-related headlines and sound bites for two solid days.
Day One, Part One
I woke up on a Tuesday morning with the intention of beginning my experiment that day. Here’s the thing, though. I failed. Hard.
I turned to my usual morning news outlets to catch up on national and world events, and inevitably I was faced with news about the president’s latest course of economic action.
Remember that morbid fascination I talked about earlier? I caved to it.
I wanted to do this the right way, so instead of ignoring the fact that I’d failed almost immediately and trying to pursue the experiment on Tuesday, I let myself look into any sort of news coverage I wanted to.
That day, I discovered the latest accusations against the president.
That day, I read an in-depth article about the issues Trump was purportedly facing and tackling.
That day, I read and watched Trump news on my Twitter timeline.
Day One … For Real This Time.
By Wednesday, I’d wised up. On Tuesday night before going to bed, I muted any further words I thought might encourage Trump news on my timeline; I signed out of my Facebook account, and I promised myself that my morning news briefing would exclude any and all Trump administration coverage.
This time I succeeded, though admittedly, the news junkie inside me was internally screaming because I’d heard the unavoidable chatter about Michael Cohen’s testimony.
Nonetheless, I persevered, unwilling to falter for the second time.
What I noticed, on Wednesday in particular, was that it proved to be extraordinarily difficult to find non-Trump media coverage at the forefront of American news organizations among the media firestorm Cohen raised with his testimony.
One of my major goals with this project was to find out events, issues, and happenings that were overshadowed by the constant Trump coverage.
On my first day, I did just that.
Instead, I read about nuclear tensions in Pakistan.
I read about the possibility of delaying Brexit’s impending fate.
I read about sexual abuse in the United States military.
I quickly found a world beyond the self-important political sphere of the United States; this world featured struggles of people worldwide, rational leaders, anger, frustration, and joy.
As my desire to know what exactly Cohen had said grew, and as rumblings of Trump’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un penetrated my media blackout bubble, I knew that it would take focus and precision to avoid the Trump media tsunami that would ensue.
On day two, I decided to look at the environment and the United States stock market.
I thought, naively so, that focusing on issues like these might prove easier on my quest to avoid Trump.
Instead, my search engine queries brought up his administration’s controversial viewpoints on the topics. I found myself sifting through news sites, using the search tools to quickly check articles for “the T-word.”
What I did find though, was information about the potential to clean up the oceans using floating trash bins, as well as news that a species of tortoise thought to be extinct still had one remaining member.
I picked a poor day to take an in-depth look at the stock market. The news was inundated with mentions of how Trump and Kim Jong Un’s Vietnam summit would affect the market.
However, I was able to look at some particular stocks’ successes and failures. Since Valentine’s Day week is a crucial week for traders annually, there were plenty of recaps and tidbits to ponder.
What I realized almost immediately is that if I did not have an active interest in news, this undertaking would never have been so difficult. Many of my friends and peers do not follow many, if any, major news sites or journalists on their Twitter feeds. It simply, “is not of interest” to them. If that were my own lifestyle, it’s entirely possible that living a more “Trump-free” lifestyle would be a non-issue for me. That said, I think many Americans are lacking a basic understanding of daily governmental news. Even though Trump and his administration seemed like large parts of my daily media intake, that is not the case for many who depend on social media to learn about the world.
However, even a simple Google search about a topic of controversy in the United States brings up mention of the president and his administration, which means that I had a difficult time maneuvering around certain coverage.
I expected that removing Trump’s constant presence from my life would relieve some of my frustrations about this administration. However, I found that ignoring it completely only exacerbated my anxieties. Finding myself out of the loop was both annoying and stress-inducing. Nonetheless, I know this experiment was valuable.
This experiment taught me that although it’s not easy, it’s worth it to expand my news consumption to issues outside the borders of the United States and outside the borders of the District of Columbia.