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With no cameras, the American public is tuning out coverage of the Trump trial
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With no cameras, the American public is tuning out coverage of the Trump trial

It should have been hookup TV as Stormy Daniels shared salacious details of her alleged tryst with Donald Trump in the sensational first-ever prosecution of a former president.

But with New York state rules keeping the Republican billionaire’s hush-money trial out of the world’s television cameras, what should have been the trial of the century has turned into something of a ratings flop.

“The trial is not getting the attention it should get — given its historical nature and importance — because there are no cameras in the courtroom,” said Karen Conti, a Chicago-based legal analyst and trial attorney who handled the case. final appeal on serial killer John Wayne Gacy’s death row.

Trump, who denies wrongdoing, is accused of falsifying accounts to cover up his attorney’s reimbursement of a hush money payment to Daniels to limit potential damage to his 2016 election campaign.

Live footage and audio are banned, meaning the adult film actress’ vivid account of the encounter Tuesday was heard only by those in the courthouse, forcing television networks to come up with creative approaches to keep viewers interested.

One tactic favored by CNN and the liberal-leaning cable network MSNBC is the scrolls of on-screen text updates from the dozens of journalists who watched from an overflow room, setting the tone and commenting on Trump’s behavior and the judges’ reactions.

– Meeting the moment –

Networks — especially the conservative-leaning Fox News — also rely on Trump to create some of his own drama when he shows up every day and turns to cameras outside the chamber to castigate the judge and portray the case as politically motivated .

Meanwhile, a panel of cable news anchors and experts are typically on hand to litigate every aspect of the case, contextualizing the evidence they receive secondhand and analyzing each side’s tactics.

But the hard truth, according to analysts, is that presenters who read from scrolls and studio debates simply cannot compete with live images of Trump himself and have not met the moment.

“People are much more willing to get involved in a lawsuit if they have footage,” says David Triana, a public relations consultant in Orlando, Florida.

“I think not being able to see the reactions of Donald Trump and other witnesses in real time … has negatively impacted the impact this case should have on the public.”

Chip Stewart, a media professor at Texas Christian University, said reports of Trump falling asleep in court are an illuminating example of how the lack of cameras has deprived the public of the full story.

“Without photo or video evidence, he could rely on his usual claim that reporters were lying about it,” he told AFP.

“Imagine a front page, websites or the nightly news that leads with a photo of Trump sleeping during his own criminal trial.”

– Trump soap opera –

The lack of real-time theater performances has largely turned American audiences off.

Same-day data for the week of April 15, when jury selection began, showed conservative-leaning Fox News averaging 1.98 million primetime viewers — a five percent decline from the previous week.

CNN averaged 596,000, a weekly decline of six percent, according to figures from viewer ratings agency Nielsen, reported by US media.

Of the three major cable networks, only the liberal MSNBC recorded an increase, a 17 percent increase with 1.35 million primetime viewers.

CNN was up slightly in primetime in April as a whole from a year earlier, but in the all-important 25-54 demographic, all three networks saw a primetime decline from 2023. CNN averaged 113,000 primetime viewers in this category .

For context, the acquittal of American football star OJ Simpson was watched live by more than 150 million Americans, while this year’s Super Bowl was watched by 123.7 million Americans.

Katherine Cartwright, director of international media buying agency Criterion Global, says that, cameras or no cameras, America has grown tired of the endless Trump soap opera.

Burned out by years of breathless reporting, the public has become desensitized to the scandal surrounding the former president that has saturated the public conversation for years, she says.

“The lack of audio and video, coupled with the lack of newness of the material, further dampens the story in the current American news cycle, which is at a fever pitch due to the war in the Middle East and its spillover onto college campuses, Cartwright told AFP.

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