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Trump is always going to be a big story. But in 2018, he can’t be the only story.

New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg and Washington Post media reporter Sarah Ellison talk about what journalists are doing right — and what they’re still getting wrong.

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President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and their son Barron NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

The media trend of 2017 was the “Trump bump,” a spike in both high-quality reporting and consumer interest in reading about the new president.

“In my 25 years in this business, there’s never been a year like it in terms of journalistic highs,” New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg said on the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka. “It’s not to say everyone was perfect. There were some big mistakes that fed this anti-press movement that he’s forwarding. But just think about it: Every time the Washington Post, the Times, the AP, CNN, Vox — everyone came up with these big, great stories this year, he said ‘fake news,’ and they were repeatedly vindicated.”

Rutenberg was joined on the podcast by Washington Post media reporter Sarah Ellison, who just joined the Post from Vanity Fair. She said that as Donald Trump enters his second year in the White House, the media should be careful not to assume that reader interest will always be there.

“The reckoning in the media is happening,” Ellison said. “The economic repercussions of the ‘Trump bump’ ending are really clear.”

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On the new podcast, Ellison argued that the breakneck pace of news about the Trump administration, and the particular talents of Trump himself, have undermined journalists’ ability to focus on the stuff that matters.

“If you don’t take a minute to think about, ‘What are the big themes?’ — if the media doesn’t do that, we’re still going to be chasing our own tails,” she said. “Donald Trump might be bad at a lot of things; he’s very, very good at media — whether you want to call it manipulation, or — he’s very good at that. He’s very good at staying in the headlines, or leading it.”

Rutenberg said the president is “governing in narratives,” meaning the storylines that journalists love to weave from the news. But other huge media stories, such as the effects of Facebook’s secretive algorithms on society, haven’t been given the same level of attention as who Trump is picking a fight with this week.

“I think the Trump phenomenon and the Trump presidency has been a detriment because there’s so much more to report out,” he said. “Facebook has talked a good game and they’ve taken some actions, but it’s not enough and the transparency isn’t there.”

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

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