The media’s failure

Trump used TV to propel himself to the White House and timid newspaper editors only helped in that effort

When Donald Trump came on the scene as a presidential candidate in the summer of 2015, CN&R didn’t take him too seriously. That August, we called him a trainwreck and attributed his rise in the polls to the reality-TV-obsessed segment of America. But the warning signs were there and we noted his demagoguery.

Month after month, emboldened by a dark side of America that he had tapped into, Trump upped his nativist rhetoric. Cable news stations and networks gave Trump unprecedented coverage over the year, helping to propel him within the Republican Party, and newspapers failed to see him as a viable candidate until it was too late.

Among the biggest failures were those of rural newspapers, whose timid editors feared the backlash of subscription losses if they disavowed Trump. Clinton was endorsed by newspapers conservative and liberal, but not always in the heartland. Right here in Chico, for instance, the editor of the 9,700-circulation Enterprise-Record chose not to endorse either candidate, and 47.8 percent of Butte County voters chose Trump (42.8 percent voted for Hillary Clinton). That mistake is now a part of local history.