There’s an exploitation going on here that the media justifies for self-interested reasons. They recognize that most of the people in the debates are not serious candidates — they’re running to be talk show hosts, or something like that. In any case, the belief is that this stuff is not actually deciding the election.
But this stuff gets talked about, and that’s why they do it. Trump understood that and he’s exploited it masterfully. He recognized the rules of the game and took advantage of it in a way we haven’t seen.
The press is often blamed for the politics we get; what usually happens is the press exaggerates and reinforces the phenomenon that it observes. It doesn’t create the phenomenon – it makes it bigger; it feeds it. And then the phenomenon wouldn’t be able to contain itself without the press being a willing enabler.
—How Trump masterfully exploited the structural weaknesses of the press, Vox, 8 Nov 2016