Trump’s Campaign Is Launching a Nightly News Show on Facebook

Slide: 1 / of 1 . Caption: Donald Trump speaking at a campaign rally on October 24, 2016, in St. Augustine, FL.Evan Vucci/AP

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  • Author: Issie Lapowsky. Issie Lapowsky Culture
  • Date of Publication: 10.24.16. 10.24.16
  • Time of Publication: 5:35 pm. 5:35 pm

Trump’s Campaign Is Launching a Nightly News Show on Facebook

Donald Trump speaking at a campaign rally on October 24, 2016, in St. Augustine, FL.Evan Vucci/AP

Welcome to the Donald Trump show!

Tonight, the Trump campaign is kicking off a show that will air on the candidate’s Facebook page every night at 6:30 pm ET via Facebook Live from the campaign war room at Trump Tower. The show will be hosted by Boris Epshteyn, a senior adviser to the campaign, Tomi Lahren, a conservative commentator for Glen Beck’s TheBlaze, and Cliff Sims, another Trump adviser. In tonight’s inaugural episode they will interview Trump campaign manager KellyAnne Conway and adviser Jason Miller.

The series, which will stream Trump’s rallies directly each night and feature pre-and post-event commentary, comes on the heels of the campaign’s debate night Facebook Live last week, which brought in more than 9 million views.

Members of the media quickly seized on the event, calling it a test drive for Trump TV, the post-election television network that Trump is rumored to be considering in the event he loses in November. Despite reports that his son-in-law has been talking to media dealmakers about Trump TV, Trump himself has denied he has any interest in such a thing.

Epshteyn says this nightly Facebook Live stream is simply a way for the campaign to circumvent the mainstream media Trump so publicly loathes. “We all know how strong the left wing media bias is. This is us delivering our message to voters,” he says. “It has nothing to do with Trump TV. It’s about using 21st century technology and communication in a way that’s effective.”

Trump has certainly not been shy about his disdain for the media, particularly recently, as he’s argued that a confluence of media bias and voter fraud could rig the election in Clinton’s favor. And he’s turned his supporters against the press, too. Just today, at a rally in St. Augustine, Florida, he said, “The media isn’t just against me, they’re against all of you.” He told the attendees that he is their voice, adding, “I will never let you be the forgotten people again.”

If this is the beginning of a media franchise, there is precedence for a major news outlet to sprout out of a single national event, notes Rick Edmonds, a media analyst at the Poynter Institute. Nightline began as a temporary show about the Iran hostage crisis in 1979. “Having the last days of the election as [Trump TV’s] calling card makes perfect sense,” he says. But whether Trump’s Live broadcasts will be an audience building exercise for a future television network or not, the fact is, Trump hardly needs TV to disseminate his message anymore. His Twitter feed is already the equivalent of must-see-TV. A Facebook Live stream is just an extension of that.

“I have always thought that starting a network—getting set up, cable deals, all that kind of thing—even for Mr Trump, is a pretty formidable undertaking,” says Edmonds. “Some kind of streaming service would make a lot more sense.”

The campaign’s decision to take its message straight to the Facebook masses says as much about Trump’s future in media as it does about Facebook’s. Facebook Live has dominated this election cycle, with 365 days’ worth of Live content going out during the Republican and Democratic conventions alone.

And yet, Facebook has tried to fight its reputation as a media company, insisting it is purely a platform on which other publishing companies can grow their brands. But when Facebook’s algorithms are deciding what we see in our News Feeds and what stories surface in Trending Topics, Edmonds says, “implicitly these are publishing decisions, whether they call them those or not.”

As it makes these decisions, Facebook’s algorithms are grappling with understanding an increasingly fragmented and distrusted media environment, in which niche, partisan publications are able to promote their own versions of the truth. It’s hard enough for human beings to figure out which media outlets to trust anymore, let alone algorithms.

Trump’s experiment in Facebook Live adds another wrinkle to this phenomenon, showcasing how, with very little infrastructure at all, politicians can bypass the very media institutions that might challenge or keep them accountable. But this approach isn’t unique to Trump. During the Democratic convention this summer, the DNC and the Clinton campaign created a star-studded live stream of their own, called Studio 2016, where it was all Clinton, all the time. And Clinton has a podcast produced by the campaign in which she talks to voters directly without the mediation of the media.

Of course, it’s not the Trump campaign or the Clinton campaign’s jobs to be objective purveyors of the news, and Trump’s digital director Brad Parscale acknowledges as much. “It’s an extension of our ad programs and our social media posts,” Parscale says. “The only difference is we’re going to broadcast it live.”

Just don’t call it Trump TV.

Emily Dreyfuss contributed reporting.

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