Good morning, Quartz readers!
US presidents used to project dignity and gravitas. They watched what they said. They left their dirty work to their underlings. Despite what we now know about what really happens in the White House—from Kennedy’s mistresses to Nixon’s raging paranoia—Americans could take some comfort in the outward solemnity of the institution.
In the Age of Trump, the protocols are being rewritten. From unhinged early-morning tweets to loopy phone calls with foreign leaders and the reality-TV-style contest for the job of secretary of State, it’s a sprawling mess. Moreover, getting elected hasn’t diminished Trump’s penchant for telling shameless and very big lies, such as his claim that millions of people voted illegally, or that the murder rate is rising sharply (it’s been falling steadily for years).
As destabilizing as this may be for most people, it’s completely unmoored the press. Once, everything a president would say was considered news; anything that hinted at an opinion would be carefully dissected. But what happens when the president is a gushing firehouse of ill-considered polemics and outright falsehoods? For the first time, serious people in the media are suggesting the responsible way to cover Trump is simply to ignore a lot of what he says, and focus more attention instead on what his administration does. Others counter that shrugging off his ravings isletting him off the hook.
This problem will become even more acute as outrage fatigue sets in. Trump will not tire of repeating lies, but people will tire of reading stories pointing them out. Is it just a matter of stamina? When half the nation (or more!) believes that no reporting on Trump can be trusted, and where “post-truth” has entered the lexicon, what’s the role of the media? Maybe the best we can do is turn on the cameras and let them run, so that like spectators at a Nascar race, people will watch, if only to see the inevitable crash.—Oliver Staley
Note: We forgot to name the author of last week’s essay on the economics of populism; it was Eshe Nelson.
FIVE THINGS ON QUARTZ WE ESPECIALLY LIKED
Rodrigo Duterte’s secret weapon: Filipinos abroad. The bloodthirsty, autocratic president has an adoring fan base among the Philippines’ large contingent of overseas workers, who say he is the first president to care about their problems. Therese Reyes and Isabella Steiger talk to a group of workers in Hong Kong about his popularity.
How Shoprite won Africa. The South African supermarket chain has become the continent’s biggest retailer by betting on the growing middle class. Lynsey Chutel examines the strategy that has allowed it to succeed where other chains have struggled.
A company playbook for millennial marketing. Traditional cosmetics companies make the cosmetics, then find slick ways to advertise and market them. Glossier has done it backwards—a beauty blog that morphed into a products company, in which the homespun editorial content and the cosmetics themselves are tightly intertwined. Jenni Avins explains how its fiercely loyal readers, the “Glossier Girls,” became its most powerful sales force.
How Rwanda is weaning itself off secondhand clothes. In her third report in a series on the Rwanda-China relationship, Lily Kuo explains how the African country is importing Chinese textile companies to reduce its reliance on chagua, hand-me-down clothing from the West, and to give its own economy a fillip.
The Quartz advent calendar. We’ve kicked off a countdown to Christmas, with a new story every day on the business of gift-giving. Start with Jason Karaian’s charts on the world’s most avid shoppersand Michael Tabb’s spooky video on the dark and violent history of gingerbread cookies.
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FIVE THINGS ELSEWHERE THAT MADE US SMARTER
The tentacles of Trump, Inc. As the president-elect promises to separate himself from his businesses, the New York Times offers a thorough guide to the potential conflicts of interest and awkward questions about his investments in countries around the world. Less detailed on the conflicts, but easier to navigate is Bloomberg’sinteractive guide to his assets.
Where Colombia’s peace process came unstuck. Many things were blamed for the voters’ surprise rejection of the peace deal with the FARC in October’s referendum. But underlying them all, explains Juan Diego Prieto in n+1, was the power of the land-owning elites, whose desire to keep their influence has contributed to Colombia’s inequality and helped fuel the conflict in the first place.
How we became “consumers.” Just like romantic marriage, consumption as the basis of economic activity is a concept that we take for granted but in fact didn’t really get going until the 19th century. Frank Trentmann in the Atlantic explains how trade, mass production, world war and other innovations created our modern, buying-obsessed society.
Trust the process. Chris Ballard’s profile of fired basketball executive Sam Hinkie in Sports Illustrated is no mere portrait of loss and redemption. It’s a story of how human expectations clash with the data-driven workplaces of the future, and what happens when leaders try to refresh a stagnant corporate culture, with some machine-learning alarmism thrown in.
Meet the friendly AI that loves cat pictures. Sometimes it’s fiction that explains reality best. Naomi Kritzer won the 2016 Hugo Award for best short story with this tale of an AI that learns of its powers to… Well, we’re not going to give the end away. Let’s just say it uncomfortably exposes how much privacy we’ve given up to live in the modern world.
Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, Duterte fan mail, and cat pictures firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.