'A natural outgrowth of America electing a reality show president': Entertainment news outlets wade into politics coverage

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As an entertainer, Donald Trump couldn’t always keep the media’s attention. As president, entertainment sites can’t stop writing about him.

Once relegated to the entertainment section of The Huffington Post as a statement, Trump has increasingly garnered prime real estate on the front pages and splashes of entertainment sites, which have been consumed by the new administration’s drama unfolding on television and social media.

Though Trump’s reality television pedigree brought media scrutiny from entertainment outlets when he launched his campaign, some entertainment sites have found themselves increasingly covering the machinations of politics and policy in the Trump era.

Late on Thursday, Trump was the subject of all four top stories on the AV Club, a leading entertainment website, which over the past few weeks has posted about everything from new education secretary Betsy DeVos to Trump’s continued tweets about Sen. Elizabeth Warren. If readers didn’t click the top story “So, uh, anyone else just watch Trump’s bats — t press conference?” they likely clicked the other top stories of the day including “Take Trump’s new, totally unbiased survey on how the press are all dirty liars,” or “Seth Rogen is trying to reason with Donald Trump Jr. on Twitter.”

Sean O’Neal, a senior editor at AV Club, acknowledged that the site was increasingly dominated by Trump-centric news, which he attributed partially to the president’s penchant for conducting administration business on social media, putting it “squarely in the realm of the Internet cultural ephemera that we’ve always covered.”

“I think it’s just a natural outgrowth of America electing a reality show president, and the blurring of the line between politics and entertainment that he himself has encouraged — and benefited from — by doing things like hiring other celebrities to solve inner city crime, or starting wars with CNN and SNL,” O’Neal said in an email.

He added: “Overall, I guess you could say Donald Trump has finally, officially dragged politics down to our bread-and-circuses-and-tweets level, and we’re meeting him there.”

Other entertainment sites have found themselves increasingly drawn towards the sparring matches between anchors and Trump officials on cable news, which are often the most dramatic events on television in a day, and have helped boost cable news show ratings across the board.

Entertainment Weekly has focused increasingly on Trump officials’ contentious television appearances, often finding itself inadvertently dipping its toes in policy, writing posts about Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway’s comments on Trump’s proposed southern border wall and her exchange over “alternative facts.”

Chris Rosen, an editor for Entertainment Weekly, told Business Insider that early on in his campaign, the site covered Trump because of his celebrity background, but kept its distance from political hot takes or policy related content.

But since coverage of the new White House on television “exploded” after the election, the site expanded its editorial scope to include more viral television news clips from interviews with Trump surrogates.

“News media is where we maybe expanded a little, and have gone to the CNN’s, MSNBC’s, Fox News sometimes, the ‘Today’ show, ‘Good Morning America,'” Rosen said. “When these news-makers are on television and they are making news, we feel like we should be in that space as well.”

Rosen told Business Insider that he first noticed more intense reader interest in interviews with Trump surrogates when a clip of then campaign manager Kellyanne Conway’s interview on Real Time with Bill Maher in September went viral in September.

“When we do a Kellyanne Conway story, it will immediately jump to the top of our Chartbeat. People are very engaged in those stories,” he said. “We started doing those more and more, and started looking at it from a media perspective, instead of just a television perspective, and I think that ended up paying off for us.”

The site has also seen a boost on late-night television posts, an area that’s always been a boon to digital news sites, but that’s increased in importance as hosts like Seth Meyers and Samantha Bee have found their footing, and Stephen Colbert has emerged from his ratings slump. Instead of waiting until Sunday morning, Entertainment Weekly is covering “Saturday Night Live” and similar programs “almost in real time,” as the shows satirize the new administration.

Indeed, many sites that have focused on television are finding it increasingly difficult to avoid politics coverage, and some entertainment-focused sites are adding staff to address the administration’s obsession with news media.

Earlier this month, Hollywood trade site The Wrap posted a job listing for a First Amendment reporter specifically to cover Trump and the spread of misinformation and half-truths on social media.

“The decision follows multiple attacks by the White House on the media, including President Donald Trump referring to the press as ‘the opposition party’ and top presidential adviser Steve Bannon enjoining the press to ‘shut up and listen,'” the application said. “It also follows the rise of fake news sites and a debate over the role of social media networks like Facebook in disseminating falsified reporting.”

And while readers may be turning to politics-heavy outlets like CNN and the New York Times in droves, readers are also flocking to entertainment sites for coverage of Trump and his administration.

Both Entertainment Weekly and the AV Club reported traffic boosts following the election.

“We’ve seen an uptick, and our Trump articles all perform well,” O’Neal said. “The man is right about one thing: People love to talk about him.”

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