He zigs. He zags. He dodges.
No, I’m not describing a running back for the New York Giants—this is Sean Spicer. Spicer’s midday press conferences have made for must-see television: The New York Times described the conferences as “daytime television’s new big hit.”
While network executives cautioned reporters that ratings after the election would most likely drop precipitously, leading cable news networks—Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC—had their best quarters in recent history.
The programming strategy is simple, and analogous to that of a sports network: Spicer’s press conferences are the games and everything else is just filler content.
In the same way fans root for sports teams, Spicer is either beloved or despised. To some, he’s informative. To others, his conferences are disheartening. These emotions fuel cable news networks’ programming decisions to not only air the press conferences, but also dissect them. Similar to the way sports networks cover athletes’ performances, Spicer provides ample fodder for hosts and analysts to discuss topics beyond President Trump’s unabating tweets.
Unlike sports networks, every cable news network airs the same game: Spicer’s press conferences. However, it’s not enough of a commodity to just air the briefings—it’s up to individual networks to differentiate themselves through their own unique analysis of the briefings. Cable news networks are forced to find loud voices, which in turn drives partisanship.
Ultimately, politics shouldn’t be treated like sports. Citizens shouldn’t be rooting for sides during a press conference. After all, Spicer is the spokesperson the United States—a country united by its citizens’ patriotism. Unfortunately, cable news networks’ coverage pits two sides against one another in their coverage, pushing citizens to polar opposite sides of the political spectrum.
When the regular season ends or the games become less interesting, sports networks’ commentators are forced to find other news. This game, however, isn’t ending until at least January 20, 2021. Until the game stops becoming interesting, the attention will remain on Spicer.
Image Credit: Flickr/Gage Skidmore