Saturday, June 09, 2018

This one table explains why the media can't help helping Trump

TV Channel B

Cover Trump
Don’t Cover Trump
TV Channel A
Cover Trump
(-2, -2)
(0, -3)
Don’t Cover Trump
(-3, 0)
(-1, -1)

It's the Prisoner's Dilemma, adapted to the world of TV news competition. There are two TV channels, A and B. A's strategy is in the rows, and B's strategy is in the columns. The first number is A's loss, and the second number is B's loss. So (-2, -2) means A loses 2 and B loses 2 when they both cover Trump, etc.

Trump benefits from the endless media coverage, regardless of substance, so the cooperative solution would be to not cover Trump -- the lower right cell. It's still not an ideal world (after all, Trump is still President). But the problem for each TV channel is that if one of them decides not to cover Trump (e.g. A) while the other still does (B) -- the lower left column of the table -- then A loses all the viewers to B, because they still want the spectacle of Trump. The optimal strategy for each TV channel is therefore to cover Trump, even though the better outcome for A and B together is not to cover him!

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