Monday, August 29, 2016

NPR Politics Podcast: The Talk Begins With Trump

Sarah Lorenzo

Ron Elving was the first to mention Trump in the Aug. 25 NPR Politics Podcast. His joke came before the team finished their opening credits. As usual, they transitioned to their Trump talk right away. 

As Trump notoriously continues to dominate the news cycle with what critics term reality TV techniques, he has gained a regular spot near the top of many NPR Politics podcasts. The NPR team makes it clear they are aware. Their analysts frequently mention a popular theory: Trump tries to grab the spotlight, and Hillary Clinton is happy to let him have it.

Although the NPR Politics team took some hard hitting looks at deeper campaign issues in their podcast this past week, that analysis came, after the media focus that, if the theory above stands true, both candidates crave.

On Trump's website, the focus was on Trump.
(Source:, Aug. 29, 2016)
After fifteen minutes of Trump talk, the podcast seemed to turn to the Clinton campaign. But the small shift in focus was not enough to take Trump off the table. The Clinton topic? Tying Trump to the alt. right. Journalists noted that seemed to be one of Clinton's recent strategies. Soon, they were immersed in analysis of Trump's campaign team turnover.

On Clinton's website, the focus was also on Trump.
 (Source:, Aug. 29, 2016)
The NPR team seemed to be right about Clinton's Trump-heavy focus. An August 29 visit to her website was immediately interrupted by a pop up on her landing page: "The divisive language we're hearing from Donald Trump is wrong and dangerous," it read. There was only one optional response: a red button below marked, "I agree."

Key articles on Clinton's site that day highlighted campaign articles and videos that confirmed her strategic emphasis on her Republican opponent. 

 Although a focus on Trump may have been Clinton's chosen strategy, the NPR team was careful to unpack the topics she tried to avoid.

The rumored misuse of the Clinton Foundation during her tenure as secretary of state was a key topic for the team, and they thoroughly examined both the questionable nature of the possible connection new leaked emails revealed as well as Clinton's conduct pertaining to the foundation. The team noted that the evidence did not make Clinton look good, but also noted that due to her prior status as secretary of state, we do have more information about the Clinton foundation (and particularly about its donors) than foundations are regularly required to release.

Following a deep dive into the Trump psyche, the critical focus on Clinton was refreshing. Yet, it didn't take listeners far beyond prior headlines.

Although the podcast began with Trump talk, the NPR team ultimately took a broader focus, rounding out their podcast with listener questions and journalist mentions of interesting topics stuck in their minds. They mentioned aliens and heavy discussions about prejudice. For a moment, it seemed as if Trump wouldn't make their lists. And then: a story about Mike Pence in a barbershop. Seconds before the end of the podcast, Trump popped up again.

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