The following generic column template can be used by political journalists and thought leaders at any time leading up to Donald Trump’s inauguration and, with slight modifications, during his presidency. For maximum Facebook shares, pair this column with a photo of Trump making a wacky, unflattering face.
With Donald Trump’s Tweets, [Keep Your Eye on the Ball/Don’t Get Distracted/We Are the ‘Twits’]
On [day of the week], President-elect Donald J. Trump fired off an incendiary tweet about [a CNN reporter/his magnificent collection of snakeskin belts/chemtrails].
The tweet was retweeted over [#] thousand times and received quick condemnations from [the mainstream media/action movie superstar Wesley Snipes/the CEO of Slim-Fast].
But the real story isn’t the tweets. The real story, as usual, is [graft/incompetence/Anthony Michael Hall being named Surgeon General].
If Donald Trump proved one thing during the campaign, it’s that he is a master manipulator of [the evening news/social media/Joe Scarborough]. When a Washington Post investigation found that Trump’s charity had used money to [buy a solid gold Elf on the Shelf/build an escalator to Heaven/make Tila Tequila a best-selling author], what was Trump tweeting about?
You guessed it: [His long-running feud with Tom Selleck/the season finale of “NCIS: New Orleans”/the Lindbergh baby].
Folks, Trump is playing [chess/baseball/Pokémon Go] while the rest of us are playing [electric guitar/dead/Tevye in a regional production of “Fiddler on the Roof”]. It’s like watching a magic show: You’ve gotta keep focused on [the other hand/the exit signs/David Copperfield’s magnificent bone structure].
[At this point you can insert any/all of the following sentences to prove that you are serious:
- “The great American experiment is in grave danger.”
- “I am afraid that even Trump himself does not realize the damage he is doing.”
- “The media has a responsibility to cover Donald Trump truthfully.”
- “I, for one, refuse to be hoodwinked.”
- “It can happen here. It is happening here.”
These sentences can also be strewn at random throughout your piece, or used as your headline.]
So: What is to be done?
First, journalists must keep things in proportion. During the campaign, too many resources were focused on Hillary Clinton’s [email shenanigans/charity rap battles against Lena Dunham/allegiance to drone warfare] and not enough on Donald Trump’s [business failures/clear disdain for two of his children/promise to microwave the polar ice caps so that he can build a floating golf course co-financed by Bashar al-Assad].
Second, while it’s fun to rack up the ‘Likes’ on Twitter, the media must resist the urge to crack jokes about Trump’s tweets. There are plenty of other fun things to tweet about, like [Nicolas Cage movies/the bad haircuts of white basketball players/Sonic the Hedgehog].
And finally, let us all remember why we became journalists in the first place: [rebellion against steel-working father/inspired by Anne Hathaway in “The Devil Wears Prada”/untalented at literally everything else].
Remember the maxims of journalism: Afflict the comfortable. Follow the money. Consider the lobster. Show me the Carfax.
We are all in this together. Everyone in the newsroom — from the [overpaid columnist who tends to file from corporate speaking engagements in Dubai] to the [son of a Hollywood film director who was given a Contributing Editor role as a personal favor from the publisher] — must fight for the lofty ideals enshrined in [the Constitution/that episode of Schoolhouse Rock/Facebook’s Guidelines for Publishers].
Journalists have a duty to serve [the American people/the Algorithm Gods/our benevolent ruler George Soros/the Great Wicked Snake].
Don’t write what Donald Trump wants you to write. Write [the truth/the “truth”/sponsored content for Capital One/whatever you want, it obviously doesn’t matter.]
The future of Democracy depends on it.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.