Donald Trump "calling in"- what's the deal here?
June 20, 2016 6:38 PM   Subscribe

Please explain like I'm 5: why is it bad or unfair that Donald Trump has been allowed to "call in" to TV shows?

This is not intended to start a political debate!

I'm not very political, but I have been interested in the "horse race" aspect of this election and have been listening to lots of political podcasts, as well as reading articles. However, I don't have a television set, so I just hear about what goes on on TV secondhand.

One thing that keeps coming up is the idea that the media has given Donald Trump too much "free media." I understand this idea/criticism.

Here is what I don't understand: Lots of different people are specifically saying it is specifically unfair that he gets to "call in" to various news shows. They say this is somehow an unfair or bad thing, that they should make him appear in person instead of getting to call in. This seems to be separate from the criticism of too much free media.

The last time I watched TV, which admittedly is many years ago, I remember there being lots of times where the person being interviewed would "call in" or appear from a remote location. But the criticism seems to insinuate that this is somehow an unfair advantage when I remember it being fairly common.

Do they not let Hilary do it? Can someone explain why it is specifically bad for him to be allowed to "call in"?
posted by skjønn to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The complaint is that they allow him to call in on the telephone rather than appear live on video in person or by satellite (or by fiber).

The reason they let him do that is because he's good for ratings. Typically TV producers vastly prefer to have people on video (it's a visual medium), but letting Donald Trump join by telephone (even from within the same city) is a concession because he doesn't have to get dressed, do his hair, drive, do makeup etc.
posted by Jahaza at 6:50 PM on June 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

My understanding is that he now insists on calling in because he had several on-camera interviews on cable "news" shows where his physical gesticulations and expressions caused the interviews to be unflattering and damaging to his campaign, as well as providing usable video that could be used by his opponents to demonstrate clearly that Trump says awful, stupid, offensive, and obviously wrong things - which doesn't work as well with just audio. The perception is that, by allowing him to do "call in" interviews on a daily basis, media outlets are allowing him to create favorable conditions for his own interviews and avoid that specific set of negative circumstances that accompany his appearances.
posted by The World Famous at 6:53 PM on June 20, 2016 [14 favorites]

I think having people interviewed who are not present is different from having a candidate spontaneously decide to call in. In the call-in situation the candidate gets to choose when to call in or not (in a way they don't get to do with an interview... I mean yes, they can decide to be interviewed or not, but can't decide that after seeing how the first half of the show went). In the call-in situation they also get to set the agenda to a greater extent ("I called to say this or to respond to that") and can comment-and-dash. Since there wasn't a segment set aside for them, they have only a little time so they just say what they want to say and that's it, with little opportunity to really be challenged. Which is related to the third difference which is that in the remote interview situation, the reporter is prepared to interview them and has researched the interview and prepared questions. The candidate gets to avoid prepared questions, fact-checking etc. if they just call in.

Finally, regardless of whether Clinton could call in, having impromptu interviews with one candidate makes it difficult to ensure you're providing equal/proportionate time to all candidates.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:55 PM on June 20, 2016

Ah, I misunderstood the question and didn't realize these were pre-scheduled interviews that he was doing by phone. Nevermind then.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:56 PM on June 20, 2016

Once upon a time there was something called the equal time rule, to prevent stations from fixing races by presenting only a single point of view and excluding other candidates.

Trump has received anywhere from $55 million to $3 billion dollars (depending on how you want to count it) in free advertising since he calls into all these shows, as everybody treats the venom coming out of his mouth like he shits ice cream from a platinum asshole. But since it's entertaining venom it doesn't count, I guess.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 6:56 PM on June 20, 2016 [8 favorites]

My understanding was that it simply makes it much easier for him to get publicity, as calling a show doesn't require him to be in any particular place at any particular time, or have to worry about wardrobe, etc.

This article also points out that someone on the phone can have an aide slipping them notes or otherwise helping them without it being apparent.
posted by lazuli at 7:35 PM on June 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

Donald Trump Still Phoning It In To The Media: Networks have typically allowed reporters to call in with breaking news, but not guests doing scheduled interviews.
Though Trump is an experienced television performer, he can better control the conversation when he’s not facing his interviewer on camera. It’s easier for him to speak over the host to change the subject, or to refer to notes. And he can efficiently knock out several interviews in a row from the comfort of his home or office, dominating the news cycle without even having to get out of his pajamas.
posted by lazuli at 7:40 PM on June 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

When he's interviewed face-to-face, it gives us a relatively unfiltered version of him. It's just him and the interviewer sitting down and talking. When we don't get to look at him because he's just calling on the phone, we can't see what kind of outside support he's using. As mentioned, he could be referring to notes. Also, he could be looking things up on the internet, or reading things his assistants are handing to him, or taking cues from his assistants to stop talking at a certain point, etc.

Trump has received anywhere from $55 million to $3 billion dollars (depending on how you want to count it) in free advertising

I don't believe that. The vast majority of the media coverage I've seen (on various networks) has been negative. Negative coverage of Trump is like an attack ad on behalf of the other candidates. If anyone's going to complain about how Trump has been covered by the media, it should be Trump himself. (And I'm no fan of Trump — it's not in my political interest to say this.)
posted by John Cohen at 8:34 PM on June 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

It's symptomatic of the fact that cable new in the U.S. is to journalism as professional wrestling is to athletics.

Prior to the advent of cable TV, the three broadcast networks in the U.S. typically did not require their news departments to turn a profit. Cable outlets, however, attract a much smaller slice of the demographic pie. That reduced audience size incentives them to milk every opportunity for profit. Hence, we've seen almost everything that labels itself as "news" is really an agenda-driven propaganda outlet deliberately targeting a very specific demographic.

Trump's "call-ins" exemplify this. They are, of course, not spontaneous. They are planned, scheduled, interviews. For Trump, they provide *free* air time that he would otherwise need to buy. For the networks, they generate ratings and profit. For both Trump and the networks, they are, then, a charade masquerading as news for their own overlapping interests.
posted by justcorbly at 3:39 AM on June 21, 2016

Being in studio means fewer campaign activities on that day. If a candidate believed they were equally effective on phone and in studio, why would someone not do a phone in if offered? Is it unfair that phone ins were not offered to other candidates? The First Amendment means the question is irrelevant.

'Free advertising' is an oxymoron. Having a discussion with, or being discussed by a news source is publicity. Advertising has a price because the advertiser is 100% in control. The only control one has over publicity is saying no if your participation is voluntary. Journalistic ethics means one cannot buy publicity from a news source. The only value of publicity that can be calculated is the news source ad revenue if their ratings go up.
posted by Homer42 at 9:53 AM on June 21, 2016

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