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The Existential Anxiety of Cable News After Trump

Wolf Blitzer and Jake Tapper on CNN
Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images
Julia Ioffe
July 30, 2021

In the weeks since I wrote about what the transition from the Trump presidency to the Biden administration has entailed for White House reporters, I’ve gotten some questions about what the change has been like for the people on our television screens. After all, the Trump era was so painfully perfect for television, especially the 24-hour cable news industry. While some of us may have been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of outrage sludge gushing from the White House, it was ideal for cable news, as if there were custom-made sluices channeling all that bile right to the studios across town, up by Capitol Hill. The giant maw of cable must be fed at all times, and it requires a very specific kind of diet: eyeballs, of the loyal and addicted variety. And what feeds the addiction? Drama. Fear. High stakes. There’s a reason for the cliché that networks like CNN love covering plane crashes: it’s true.