Years before Twitter, Fox News, or reality TV, Donald Trump became a public figure through his presence across a range of tabloid media. Although much of that focused on sex and spectacle, early tabloid coverage of Trump was surprisingly political, with speculation about a possible presidential campaign beginning as early as 1987. Through the theoretical lens of the political imaginary, this talk tracks the early articulation of Trump as political brand, the boundary-crossing media logics that shaped his public persona, and the political work the tabloids performed in building the foundations upon which the actual Trump presidency now stands.
Geoffrey Baym is professor of Media Studies and Production at Temple University. He is the author of From Cronkite to Colbert: The Evolution of Broadcast News (Oxford, 2010) and numerous articles and chapters exploring ongoing transformations in public affairs media, popular discourse, and political culture.