The next morning, the site covered Donald Trump under the “Politics” banner:
In a chat with the Erik Wemple Blog, Grim took responsibility for mis-classifying the story — “Republicans Finally Come Down on Donald Trump” — which hit the site on Saturday. “That was my fault. I said that if it’s a battle of Republicans going after him, we can consider that ‘Politics.'” The matter was then re-thought. Since Trump had caused the negative reaction from Republicans, it was, at bottom, a story about Trump and should move to the “Entertainment” vertical, where it belongs. It now resides there.
Who the heck cares?
Jay Rosen does. “‘We will cover his campaign as part of our Entertainment section …’ is the work of fed-up and free-thinking adults,” wrote Rosen, a New York University professor and journo-Twitter mainstay, in an endorsement of the move. If media organizations decide that a candidate’s not serious, what’s wrong with telling the public?
After taking some heat from the gray beards for his high-profile vertical announcement last week, Grim indulged in the scene that played out yesterday. “The same reporters who spent the weekend griping at us for our decision then had to spend Tuesday writing in politics section how [Trump had] revealed Lindsey Graham’s phone number,” says Grim.
Trump’s reassignment came from on high at Huffington Post, as sources at the news site have indicated to this blog. “We didn’t get the … general assembly together,” says Grim of the call. So reporters ended up a bit blind-sided, and a Monday politics meeting channeled considerable attention to the circumstances under which the site would put a Trump-oriented story in “Entertainment.” Does the mere mention of The Donald require such treatment? “This is uncharted territory,” says Grim (a former colleague of the Erik Wemple Blog). A story about how a press conference of Senate Democrats proves that Trump is an entertainment story — that’s an easy candidate for the “Entertainment” vertical. From there, things can get tricky. “If it’s a story about Scott Walker and at some point in it there’s a poll that has Trump embedded, does that wind up in the entertainment section and we decided not if the focus is something other than Trump; then it goes in ‘Politics,'” he says. “We decided, contrary to our original thinking, that even stuff about Jeb Bush attacking Trump, that’s going to go in ‘Entertainment,’ too.” Media stories about Trump needn’t make the jump to “Entertainment.” “The way the media is covering the Kardashians is a media story,” says Grim.
Sounds as if the Huffington Post needs to hire an expert in library sciences just to direct Trump traffic.
Really — doesn’t this initiative trigger extra work for a news outlet that already has to cover a massive crowd of Republican presidential contenders? Doesn’t the Huffington Post have something better to do than micromanage its verticals, especially in a world where folks increasingly access stories from vertical-agnostic social media platforms to begin with? “Look,” responds Grim, “here’s why it’s worth the time: If we hadn’t done this, we would have been continuing to participate in misleading the public. The media are broadly suggesting to the public with coverage of Trump that he’s a serious candidate and might win the GOP primary and the media know that that’s not the case and so whenever we recognize that we’re knowingly misleading the public, we have to correct that.”
Time to dissent. Even though media organizations have slathered Trump with coverage, many have inserted caveats about his medium-term viability, without having to change the banner under which said coverage lives. Plus — doesn’t everyone know he’s a buffoon without having to look at the banner at the top of the page?