There are several noteworthy—even historic—elements to US President Donald Trump’s trip to Israel. Here are some of the ‘firsts’ of this trip:
-First time a US president chose the Middle East for his first overseas trip;
-First visit ever to the Western Wall (the Kotel) by a sitting US President;
-First visit to Bethlehem for official US-Palestinian Authority talks by a newly-elected US president;
-First time in history (perhaps) an airliner has flow from Saudi Arabia to Israel (Air Force One with Trump aboard);
-First major Middle East foreign policy speeches by President Trump.
In Israel, Trump’s visit has been big news. Our media has watched his every word. Here’s a list of how many times Israel’s English-language outlets ran a Trump-Israel story as his second and final day here began. This survey was completed on the morning of May 23, 2017:
Jerusalem Post—7 of its top 10 stories were about Trump in Israel; an 8th story was about how Mrs Trump (Melania) seemed to slap away Trump’s hand as they walked together along a red carpet during the official ‘airport welcome’ ceremony yesterday;
Haaretz—7 of its top 10 stories were about Trump in Israel—plus an additional story about the Melania ‘hand-slap’;
Arutz Sheva—5 of its top 10 stories were about Trump in Israel—no Melania ‘hand-slap’ story in the top 10;
YNET news—5 of its top 10 stories were about Trump in Israel—with a 6th story about the Melania ‘hand-slap’;
Times of Israel—5 of its top 10 stories were about Trump in Israel—no Melania ‘hand-slap story’;
Israel Hayom—7 of its top 10 stories were about Trump in Israel—no ‘Melania’ story.
The American coverage of this trip was markedly different. Take a look at the US survey I took of American news the same morning, Tuesday, May 23, 2017, at the same time:
New York Times—two of its top 10 stories were about Trump in Israel;
Chicago Tribune—No Trump in Israel stories appeared in its top 10;
LA Times—only 1 of its 10 top stories was about Trump in Israel;
New York Post—1 of 10;
Wall Street Journal—1 of 10;
USA Today—nothing about Trump in Israel in its top 10 stories;
Washington Post—nothing about Trump in Israel in its top 10 stories.
Online news outlets were just as bad—or worse:
Yahoo—4 of its top ten stories were about Trump in Israel—but of those 4, one was the Melania ‘hand-slap’ story (not exactly a substantial news report) and a second was a story about an alleged Trump gaffe—again, not a substantial news report. That left only 2 authentic news reports within Yahoo’s top 10 stories the morning of May 23, 2017.
Mediate—this is a news site I visit. In my opinion, it’s a left-leaning, anti-Trump outlet. On the morning of May 23, 2017, at the same time I was checking out the other news sites above, this news site has no Trump-in-Israel news stories in its top 10 stories. In fact, it had no Trump-in-Israel stories among its top 30 stories. The first appearance of a Trump-in-Israel story was story number 34. It was about the Melanie ‘hand slap’: “'She Can't Stand Him' The View Deconstructs Melania Trump Refusing to Hold the President's Hand” (by Jon Levine, May 22, 2017).
This doesn’t mean that Trump had disappeared from the American news cycle once he left America. Quite the contrary was true. America’s news was busy even in Trump’s absence. News headlines on Tuesday morning, May 23rd focussed on Trump’s new budget proposal--and his supposed ‘scandals’.
Of course, none of the supposed ‘scandal-news’ was new. But it was obviously more important than Trump in Israel—where, in fact, some real news was unfolding (see the ‘firsts’ above’).
While Trump made at least two major foreign policy speeches in the Middle East, America’s news outlets focussed on pursuing dirt about Trump and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and former FBI Director James Comey. The stories seemed to push conspiracy theories that, directly or indirectly, involved Trump and Russia.
As MSNBC personality Mika Brzezinski put it, the Trump trip was a distraction (Mark Finkelstein, “Mika: we won’t be distracted by Trump trip, will focus on Russia investigations”, legalinsurrection, May 23, 2017).
Apparently, here's what’s important to America’s leading news sites: conspiracy theories about how incompetent, self-serving, duplicitous –and, therefore, scandalous—Trump is.
Trump in the Middle East? Forget it.
Of course, my survey is based solely on a single snapshot taken at one moment on one day. Other snapshots taken on other occasions could yield a different result.
Still, a question arises. Has journalism in America died?
It might have. The news certainly looks more like propaganda than news.
Where do you think that’s going to lead?