In the weeks before the 2020 election, when it was becoming pretty clear even to the most superstitious and traumatized Democrat that Joe Biden was headed for victory, the journalists of #thistown began to worry. People you’ve likely read or heard of or watched were concerned about what a Trump loss would mean for their career. That was the talk of the town. Sure, Donald Trump had been a disaster for the country, but what would they do after he left the White House?
Even while Trump claimed journalists were enemies of the people, he was a gravy train for news outlets, which have seen ratings and clicks decline 30-45% since Trump left office.
Trump wasn’t just “a gravy train,” says one industry insider. “It’s also juxtaposed to the most boring administration in modern history. You go from a circus with flaming chainsaws to … what? An old man watching his dog?”
The Biden administration is “opaque.” It sticks on-message and PR people argue with reporters over slight differences in wording. That’s business as usual in Washington (my $0.02: also in tech journalism), but it’s jarring for young journalists who came of age covering Trump. Like Olivia Nuzzi, who was 21 when she landed her first 1:1 interview with Trump, is now 28 — she says she has spent most of her adult life covering him.
Says one journalist, “There’s a sense that Biden’s position is fragile and that he has to be protected, that any unkind gaze might knock him over—which plays into every right-wing stereotype,”
Says another: “I don’t know that there’s been a president who’s been so protected and wrapped in so many layers of wool to keep him away from anything remotely approaching an adversarial interview…. Why expose him to any risk? He’s old, he’s lost a few steps. It’s worked for them so far.”