I had a moment of what you might call Trump Time Madness during an otherwise pleasant conversation with an otherwise congenial and interesting stranger, and it speaks to what I consider one of the nation’s biggest problems — not enough people following the news of the day in a daily newspaper. I know that sounds self-serving as hell because of my position with The Baltimore Sun. Once upon a time we had so many readers, if someone told me they did not subscribe to the Sun — or any newspaper, for that matter — it only bothered me a little, and I made no judgement about it. Now, in Trump Time, it bothers me a lot. I’ve never understood how anyone, liberal or conservative, could consider themselves an informed citizen without reading a newspaper. And it was doubly true for local news: There is usually only one reliable source for that, and it is your local newspaper. Throughout most of the country, the journalists at television and radio news operations, both the newscasters and commentators, still draw most of their daily content from a local newspaper. Certainly, they enterprise their own stories; I do not mean to denigrate the unique and hard work of reporters and producers. But a lot of what you see and hear in brief on radio or television still emanates from the daily paper.
Back to the congenial stranger. . . . Here’s what I determined from our conversation: He is 60-something. He is tech-savvy. He cares about the environment and considers himself a conservationist. He does not read The Baltimore Sun or any newspaper. And he supports President Donald Trump.
“I stopped getting the newspaper because it’s so thin,” he said, referring to the diminished size of the print edition of the paper.
“You should get a digital subscription then,” I said. “There’s a lot more content online.”
“I’m a hands-on kind of person,” he said. “I need to hold the paper in my hand.”
That confused me. He’s tech-savvy but can’t handle a digital read of his daily newspaper? When he told me he was a conservationist and that he supported Trump, I got even more confused. The Trump administration is in the midst of reversing numerous decisions made by previous administrations to protect the environment and human health and to slow the effects of climate change. It’s outrageous, it’s egregious. It’s on the border of criminal. And a conservationist thinks this is a presidency worthy of his support?
Such is Trump Time, and my consternation — perhaps you’ve suffered from it, too — is Trump Time Madness. I’m not sure what’s at work here, intellectual laziness or blind support of Trump. But if a person who calls himself a conservationist is OK with Trump, we are in even bigger trouble than I thought. The low-information voter is easy pickings for Trump; his appeal to that voter class explains, in large part, his election, and his consistent battering of the press as “fake news” could have even more people thinking that reading a daily newspaper is not necessary.
On the other hand, I must offer that some people of late have reported that they started subscribing to newspapers again, and have adjusted to reading digital editions. I hear from these folks because they want to express their support of our journalism. It is greatly and profoundly appreciated by all of us working in the profession. Still, I meet so many more people who give a blank stare when I mention a news story about something happening in Baltimore or one of the Maryland counties. They often don’t know what I’m talking about because they don’t read The Sun or one of the county papers — and sadly these are people like the congenial, tech-savvy conservationist: I expected them to know better. Not being informed is a dereliction of citizenship. There, I said it. Thanks for reading this, and allowing me to blow off some of my Trump Time Madness.