On Monday, TV Newser reached out to the Huffington Post to see whether it had changed its tune on the much-ballyhooed decision last month to cover Donald Trump's candidacy in its "entertainment" section. It hasn't.
1. Trump is leading the Republican presidential field -- and has been for a month. There's very little evidence to suggest that his support has slipped in any meaningful way despite an uneven performance in the first presidential debate. And, as Philip Bump noted in this space earlier Tuesday, there's some reason to believe Trump still has room to grow.
2. Trump HAS put out a "legitimate" policy proposal -- on immigration. It's right here. Now, you can argue about whether Trump's plan is a good one or at all feasible. But you can't argue about whether he has put out at least one detailed policy proposal -- and that the other candidates in the field are feeling pressure to respond to it.
So, HuffPo is just wrong about their characterization of Trump. I am still not sure he stays in the race all the way until the Iowa caucuses or that, even if he does, he is a relevant factor in the race, but conventional wisdom about Trump has been wrong every step of his candidacy so far. Just because some people in the media and the professional political class don't take Trump seriously doesn't mean he isn't a serious candidate.
Now to HuffPo's castigation of the "collective media frenzy that’s embarrassing to credible media outlets" surrounding Trump.
Look, whether Huffington Post likes it or not, Trump is the frontrunner at the moment in the race for the Republican nomination. Ignoring that fact would be embarrassing for "credible media outlets." Trying to understand what's behind Trump's rise, fact-checking his statements and analyzing polling on the race are exactly the sorts of things that media organizations should be doing.
And then there's this: "Otherwise serious journalists are being seduced by Trump because of his willingness to say and do outrageous things for headlines and ratings."
First of all, journalists take themselves way too seriously as it is. The last thing this profession needs is the term "serious journalist" to be used as some sort of praise. Political journalism deals in the ridiculous and the sublime in equal measure. Good journalists understand that politics isn't all one or the other.
Now, HuffPo is right about one thing: Trump does drive Web traffic and TV ratings. But is that fact responsible for why he is where he is in Republican voters' minds? Last time I checked, conservative Republicans weren't really looking to the mainstream media for cues as to who they should support. The Trump phenomenon is organic, not a media creation. Covering him as the Republican frontrunner is a recognition of the political reality of the moment not some sort of fantastical trip in search of traffic.
Look, I get sticking to your guns when it comes to Trump. But it's not up to the media to decide whether he is worthy of the status he's gained in the race. What we should be doing instead is trying to understand how he did it and whether he can sustain it.