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Is There a Donald Trump Fatigue in the News/Talk Radio Audience?

Donald Trump has been at the forefront of the news/talk world for the better part of a decade. Some of the format’s prominent hosts disagree on whether or not there’s fatigue from their listeners.

Garrett Searight

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A photo of Donald Trump
(Photo: Gage Skidmore)

It is undeniable that Donald Trump has dominated the news/talk radio world since 2016. Some could argue even going back as far as 2015 during the Presidential primaries. But the effect the 45th President has had on the business and the industry cannot be overstated.

What can be questioned, however, is whether or not there is a “Trump Fatigue” from news/talk listeners. Has constant talk about one person for the better part of a decade worn listeners out? Are they still yearning for more content about the divisive political figure?

A recent report claimed news/talk had lost roughly 3% of its audience in the past three years. Could “Trump Fatigue” be a contributing factor to that loss? We asked that question to some of news/talk radio’s most prominent figures in recent weeks.

“People who say that there’s a Trump fatigue really don’t get it,” said Salem Radio Network host Mike Gallagher. “You could say there’s a political talk fatigue. You can say there’s a talk radio fatigue. That just debating issues, there’s a fatigue to that.

“This guy is a gift from the talk radio gods…Very, very few individuals come along in our lifetime that can command the kind of attention that he has. It’s what they say about great talk show hosts — you love them or hate them. He’s the perennial love him or hate him. You can’t get enough of it. I haven’t witnessed any kind of Trump fatigue from my audience,” stated Gallagher. “I haven’t witnessed any kind of pushback. I don’t really know if my audience is different from others. I’ve had a great deal of success in the last few years. And frankly, all of my revenue and ratings numbers increased exponentially over the last seven or eight years.”

Gallagher did admit that — regardless of the outcome of the 2024 Presidential Election — talk radio will need to create an “Act Two” that doesn’t include Donald Trump.

Nationally syndicated host Mark Kaye is in a similar camp to Gallagher, but went a step further to claim perception isn’t necessarily reality on how often the former President is a topic of conversation on conservative radio.

“The only Trump fatigue I hear is coming from the consultants,” Kaye said with a chuckle. “I think people may think we talk about Trump more than we do. Because Trump is everywhere, not just on talk radio, but he’s also on the news, he’s on social media, and comedians are making jokes about him.

“We do talk a lot about Joe Biden. If Joe Biden makes gaffes — which is more often than not — we will point those out. We would do hours on John Fetterman…I think that’s a misconception that it’s just Trump 24/7,” continued Kaye. “We may have only mentioned Trump once during today’s show. So I think that fatigue is more of a general concept of Trump being omnipresent, but because we’re conservative talk radio, they just blame us.”

Not everyone in the format agrees with Kaye and Gallagher, however.

When asked about whether or not their audience had grown weary of hearing about the former President, Jack Armstrong and Joe Getty said the topic has certainly come up.

“There absolutely is a fatigue,” Joe Getty admitted. “We try to be aware of that. We’ll have a Trump-free Tuesday or whatever, where we deliberately don’t get sucked into the controversy du jour around Trump. He’s just such a magnet for all the media because it’s easy. And you’ve either got his fans or detractors who get fired up and will probably not tune out. But I think it leads to kind of a laziness.”

“I think we should expand that to just the election. We had an Election-free Thursday last week,” added Jack Armstrong. “I think there’s going to be a lot of that people just can’t hear another word about the longest presidential election in our nation’s history.”

Brandon Tatum is a relative newcomer to the news/talk radio world. He launched The Officer Tatum Show with Salem Radio Network in 2022. But even in his short time in the industry, he shared he’s felt a fatigue both in discussing and hearing from listeners about Donald Trump.

“There’s a fatigue across the country, and even in social media representation and talking about Trump. People get sick of it. Earlier this year, I was tired of it,” Tatum told Barrett News Media. “Even on radio now, I don’t just talk about politics. I changed it up a little bit because it does get redundant. There’s only so much you can say about Donald Trump, if you’re not just kissing his butt.

“In talk radio, people probably feel the pressure of saying, ‘I need to either always be supportive of Donald Trump or I can’t say anything.’ And, therefore, if you want to say anything about Trump, it always has to be this positive messaging. And that’s not that’s not how I operate,” Tatum continued. “So there is a level of fatigue because you kind of get sick of arguing with people about things when they just want you to only say positive things about Donald Trump.”

77 WABC host Bo Snerdley admitted that a portion of the audience likely has reached a sour point in hearing about Donald Trump, but added there is certainly a subset of conservative talk radio listeners who can’t get enough content about the former President.

However, Snerdley believed the slight drop in news/talk listenership since 2021 could be attributed to a different reason rather than Trump fatigue.

“I think that might be that Rush (Limbaugh) is gone,” Snerdley, who worked with Limbaugh for 30 years, posited. “To be totally frank with you, that’s what I think. And the fact that’s only one percent is a good thing. It tells you how strong this industry is. I’ve talked to people that say, ‘You know, since Rush (died), I can’t listen to radio anymore.’

“He was more than a broadcaster. To them, he was their friend. He was part of their lives. And people on the outside don’t really understand that. But that was the case. He was part of their lives. He was more than a guy on the radio,” Snerdley concluded. “He was a source of comfort. And he was a source of wisdom. He was a source of trust. And there are people that just say, ‘You know what? Rush isn’t on the radio, so I’m going to do something else with my time.'”

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BNM Writers

What to Do When Your Fear Your Media Career is Headed to the Graveyard

If you think about career death so much that it detracts from being in the moment, maybe it really is time to move on.

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A photo of a graveyard

“Do you guys ever think about dying?”

If you saw the Barbie movie, you know the line. Barbie is living the perfect and perfectly plastic life, perfectly choreographed and full of perfect smiles.

But the movie turns on that one line, basically shattering Barbie’s world with a concept no one there would ever have considered.

Death.

Why would you consider it when everything seemed in perfect order?

Well, when it comes to broadcasting and media, a lot of you think about dying … a lot. I do, too.

Of course, it’s not the stop breathing and get buried type of death but rather, the death of a career in media.

The truth is, when it comes to our business, very few people get to choose when it ends. Take a minute and consider a major media personality who truly “retired” after a multi-decade career.

It happens, but percentage-wise, it’s rare.

Take a minute and think. Name some. Name one. It’s not easy.

More often than not, you will get laid off or fired before you want to leave, and after a certain age, getting that next opportunity may be a bridge too far.

Then, you are done done.

That’s as much a music stopper as Barbie admitting she has considered her own mortality in the middle of the dance floor. Here on planet Earth, at least from the people in my orbit, the death of a media career often leads to even better professional options and more balanced lifestyle choices.

I have friends doing a million different things: Public relations, crisis management, content creation for large companies, political communications, fundraising, and teaching. Almost all of them tell me that it was such a stress relief to have a “normal” life, to not be worried about every pending contract or new boss.

Their work is appreciated. Their job is stable. And their schedule? Normal. Never has “normal” sounded so lovely than when they talk about watching shows with spouses, going out for a drink on a Tuesday, or having a regular pickleball game (or insert any middle-aged recreational sport).

I believe them.

Sort of.

The “sort of” comes from me not being able to actually envision that for myself. As enticing as it would be to see people on a more accessible schedule or play a weekly game with buddies, nothing beats talking and writing for a living. Nothing. And I am going to hang on until the lights are out, and we can’t pay to get them turned back on.

For me, I’m in too deep. I’m an indoor cat, incapable of survival outside.

Meetings. Deadlines. Reliant on other people. Meetings.

I’d be dead in a week. It’s beyond no, thank you. It’s, “I can’t”.

Sure, I have three teenagers and three college tuitions to pay. And two dogs. Two cars. And a mortgage.

Here’s where I am supposed to tell you that you should not only have thoughts about (career) death but also have a survival plan – a professional media-career living will if you would.

I should tell you that because you should.

But I don’t have one. And I don’t want one.

Why?

Because I don’t want to think about death anymore. I mean, I’ve already died twice. It wasn’t fun, and the third time most likely would be the charm in terms of getting me out of the business for good.

Why so stubborn? I don’t know.

Several times, I’ve said to myself, I need to make sure I have a backup plan … just in case. Each time, I find a reason not to get one.

Ultimately, what’s my point? Get a backup plan. Think about death. But it can’t take away from the essential joy of having the privilege of talking for a living. In that vein, don’t take it for granted. Ever. Even if the pay stinks and the schedule stinks. If you think about career death so much that it detracts from being in the moment, maybe it really is time to move on.

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BNM Writers

Is the Fairness Doctrine Even Possible in Today’s Media Landscape?

Is it right for media consumers to judge what is “fair” and what is “unfair” news?

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A photo of an equal scale

As many media outlets shutter their doors, some have clamored for the return of the Fairness Doctrine. Newsweek released the results of their new way to connect with readers, by asking if its reporting is “fair.” Since September 2023, readers were asked to judge stories on the site, 78% said the outlet is “fair.” Another 22% found at least one story they read to be “unfair.”

AllSides Media has judged Newsweek to be center. However, let’s not forget they are the same outlet that wrongly claimed President Donald Trump was golfing on Thanksgiving in 2019. As Sheryl Attkisson noted on Full Measure this week, on Thanksgiving in 2019 President Trump was visiting troops in Iraq and the Newsweek story was fabricated.

While the reader assessment of Newsweek’s content is on par with AllSides Media, is it right for readers to judge what is “fair” and what is “unfair” news? If outlets like The Daily Caller (Right) or Vox (Left) would ask the same of their readers, would their echo chamber subscribers find them “fair?” While historically print (and later digital) outlets could (and still can) embrace the political leanings of their owner(s), from 1949 till 1987 TV news had guidelines they must adhere to: The Fairness Doctrine.

Long before Americans argued about bias in news, every TV outlet (there were only three major ones at the time) would follow “The Fairness Doctrine.” The Reagan Library notes the doctrine was “enforced by the Federal Communications Council, [and] was rooted in the media world of 1949. Lawmakers became concerned that the monopoly audience control of the three main networks, NBC, ABC, and CBS, could misuse their broadcast licenses to set a biased public agenda.”

To put it simply, the Fairness Doctrine made it so all sides of any story were presented. In 1985, under the Reagan Administration, the FCC found “the doctrine hurt the public interest and violated free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.” Two years later, a panel under FCC Chairman Dennis Patrick repealed the Fairness Doctrine unanimously.

Keep in mind, at this point in time, CNN was the first and only 24-hour news network in the United States (it launched on June 1, 1980). Fox News wouldn’t be launched until almost 10 years after the Fairness Doctrine was repealed, on October 7, 1996.

Also happening at this time, large corporations (with lobbying power) were buying media outlets. General Electric purchased NBC in 1986. Westinghouse acquired CBS in 1995. One year later, ABC was bought by Disney. These purchases did not go unnoticed. Saturday Night Live even mocked the acquisitions in a now-banned short called “Conspiracy Theory Rock!: Media-opoly.”

The unwillingness of news organizations to cover both sides of a story has led to the creation of biased outlets including: CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, OAN, Newsmax, and others. None of these would be able to exist in their current form if the Fairness Doctrine wasn’t repealed.

News outlets that aren’t overtly biased use another trick to manipulate their viewers/readers, using emotionally charged verbiage. AllSides Media defines sensationalist words as presenting information in a way that gives a shock or makes a deep impression. This includes words like “shocking”, “heart-breaking”, “explosive”, “scathing”, “chaotic”, “desperate”, and “remarkable”… this list goes on but you’ve seen and heard these words from the news outlets daily. This is the media telling you how to react to a story instead of letting you determine how you actually feel after they present the facts of the story.

Today, what’s most concerning are outlets saying ‘fair and balanced’ news is a disservice to the public. An August 2023 NPR article explored just this, saying “Objectivity actually comes from an accurate examination of facts (actions, documentation, and even educated opinions) presented in transparent reports. Often, that coverage should also encourage audiences to examine supporting evidence for themselves.”

The problem with this is three-fold:

  • Selective fact presentation develops a one-sided narrative
  • An “educated opinion” is not a fact. It’s an opinion that is neither right nor wrong.
  • It is impossible for human beings to be completely unbiased (see January 31st column)

While it’s great Newsweek is asking readers if their reporting is ‘fair’ is the reader’s judgment neutral, or just as biased as the outlet they prefer to read? Sometimes when we are clicking to satisfy our own confirmation bias it’s hard to tell.

What the media and all Americans need to start recognizing is their own echo chamber. Knowing we all have some sort of bias is not a flaw but what makes us human. Our flaw is the inability to recognize our bias yet call out others for being biased just because they are on the other side of an issue.

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CNN Sees Biggest Viewership Jump During Super Bowl Parade Shooting Coverage

All news outlets spiked upon live breaking news coverage with Fox News — already the weekday afternoon leader in cable news — leading in total viewers.

Doug Pucci

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A photo of the CNN logo
(Photo: Getty Images)

The cable news outlets got increased viewership from two different news events during the week of Feb. 12, namely the shooting at the Super Bowl parade in Kansas City.

On Wednesday, Feb. 14, of the mass shooting at the Super Bowl celebration parade in Kansas City for the Chiefs football team. One person died and roughly two dozen others were injured.

All news outlets spiked upon live breaking news coverage with Fox News — already the weekday afternoon leader in cable news — leading in total viewers.

The following are what each network drew as the story unfolded on that Feb. 14 afternoon from Kansas City and how it grew from the same Wednesday time slots from Jan. 3 thru Feb. 7:

Fox News Channel

  • 3-4 p.m.: 1.656 million viewers (+18 percent)
  • 4-5 p.m.: 1.873 million viewers (+34 percent)
  • 5-6 p.m.: 3.175 million viewers (+7 percent)
  • 6-7 p.m.: 2.441 million viewers (+12 percent)
  • 7-8 p.m.: 2.250 million viewers (+4 percent)

MSNBC

  • 3-4 p.m.: 1.008 million viewers (+10 percent)
  • 4-6 p.m.: 1.504 million viewers (+7 percent)
  • 6-7 p.m.: 1.763 million viewers (+17 percent)
  • 7-8 p.m.: 1.474 million viewers (+13 percent)

CNN

  • 3-4 p.m.: 0.762 million viewers (+27 percent)
  • 4-5 p.m.: 0.913 million viewers (+35 percent)
  • 5-6 p.m.: 1.007 million viewers (+28 percent)
  • 6-7 p.m.: 0.985 million viewers (+43 percent)
  • 7-8 p.m.: 0.960 million viewers (+29 percent)

Newsmax

  • 4-5 p.m.: 0.343 million viewers (+23 percent)
  • 5-6 p.m.: 0.354 million viewers (+16 percent)
  • 7-8 p.m.: 0.547 million viewers (+13 percent)

Earlier in the week, on Tuesday, Feb. 13, the results were announced for the special election race for New York’s third congressional district between its former representative Democrat Tom Suozzi and Republican challenger Mazi Pilip. Suozzi left office in 2022 to run in the New York gubernatorial election but lost out to incumbent Kathy Hochul. Suozzi’s successor in Congress was the infamous George Santos who was officially expelled from office on Dec. 1, 2023 over charges of federal criminal laws including campaign finance fraud.

MSNBC and CNN were the only major national news outlets that provided live coverage of the special election results, stressing the significance of Suozzi’s eight-point win over Pilip as it reduced the GOP’s advantage in the House of Representatives by one.

From when the voting polls closed in New York at 9 p.m. ET, MSNBC easily topped CNN in total viewers at 9 p.m. (1.616 million viewers vs. CNN’s 0.847 million), 10 p.m. (1.903 million vs. CNN’s 0.879 million), 11 p.m. (1.112 million vs. CNN’s 0.541 million), and at midnight (774,000 viewers vs. CNN’s 299,000).

From 9-11 p.m. ET, though, both MSNBC and CNN scored the same performance among the key 25-54 demographic: a 0.15 rating at 9 p.m. and a 0.18 rating at 10 p.m. (Note: a 1.0 rating in 25-54 equates to 1.21 million viewers within the aforementioned age range.) 

For the 10-11 p.m. hour, when the New York candidate speeches had aired, CNN grew by 68 percent (in viewers) and by 80 percent (in 25-54) from its Tuesday 10-11 p.m. hour output from Jan. 2 thru Feb. 6 — a time period that included a Ron DeSantis town hall and New Hampshire primary results.

MSNBC was up as well at 10 p.m. hour — +16 percent in viewers, +33 percent in the 25-54 demo — using the same reference parameters.

Even though Fox News did not offer live coverage of New York’s special election results, Hannity at 9 p.m. (2.528 million viewers; 0.21 A25-54 demo rating) and Gutfeld! at 10 p. m. (2.357 million viewers; 0.31 A25-54 demo rating) still held the top spots in their respective hours on all of cable news.

Source: Nielsen Media Research

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