Hack Check: The Prides, Perils and Pitfalls of the Mainstream Media

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By Heat Street Staff | 4:05 pm, June 29, 2016
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We avidly (and begrudgingly) consume our favorite media sources so you don’t have to! Here, in a regularly updated feature column, we present to you the hottest takes, the pearliest pearls of wisdom that catch our eye:

NEW YORK TIMES WHITEWASHES COLIN POWELL’S DISDAIN FOR HILLARY CLINTON, OMITS HEALTH CONCERNS

This week, former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s email were hacked and leaked online. They contained some devastating and colorful criticism of presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and even included a shot at philandering former President Bill Clinton, who was described by Powell as “still dicking bimbos at home.”

MORE: 5 Most Savage Hillary Clinton Burns from Colin Powell’s Emails

In its write up of the leaked emails, the New York Times seemed far more interested in highlighting Powell’s criticisms of Donald Trump and other Republican than in discussing the damning accusation leveled against Hillary Clinton’s character, and completely ignores the concerns Powell raised about her health.

The headline reads: “Colin Powell, in Hacked Emails, Shows Scorn for Trump and Irritation at Clinton.”

The article goes on to describe Powell’s “unvarnished disdain” for Trump, whom he referred to as an “international pariah” and “national disgrace,” as well as the former secretary of state’s “lingering, but still very raw anger” towards his former GOP colleagues.

The Times, somewhat reluctantly it would seem, also discussed Powell’s “personal peeves” with Hillary, and the way he “lamented” his reluctance to endorse the Democratic nominee.

In one email exchange, Powell wrote that he “would rather not vote for” a candidate with “a long track record, unbridled ambition, greedy, not transformational.” This lines are quoted in the Times, but Powell’s reference to Hillary’s advanced age in that same email exchange, in which Powell describes her as “A 70-year-old person with a long track record…” has been omitted.

There is also no mention in the Times of an email exchange between Powell and his business partner, Jeffrey Leeds, in which the two men express concern for Hillary’s health. One might think the “Paper of Record” would find this particularly relevant in light of the Hillary’s pneumonia diagnosis and near collapse over the weekend. Apparently not.

Powell wrote that “there is something to” the concerns about Hillary’s health, telling Leeds, “On HD tv she doesn’t look good. She is working herself to death.” Leeds responded by relaying a conversation he had with a Democratic Senator about how Hillary could “barely climb the podium step” at a recent speaking engagement.

The Times story also papered over Powell’s contention that Hillary “so overcharged” a university for a speaking gig that the resulting backlash forced the same university to rescind an invitation to Powell to come speak. The Times replaced the “overcharged” quote with its own words, writing that the institution in question “could no longer afford his speaking fees after paying Mrs. Clinton.”

Powell’s allusion that Bill Clinton was “still dicking bimbos” was not fit to print, apparently. Instead, here’s how the Times euphemized the exchange:

In the 2014 email, Mr. Powell, though offering no independent knowledge, alluded in graphic language to coverage in The New York Post suggesting that Bill Clinton had continued to cheat on his wife.

‘OBJECTIVE’ JOURNALISTS SHOW TRUE COLORS BY MOCKING TRUMP

The 2016 election has been, in many respects, a media circus. Donald Trump has, not surprisingly, garnered most the attention and scrutiny from the press, especially after locking up the Republican nomination. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has been able to coast by without holding a press conference for almost an entire year.

The 2016 campaign has also provided an outlet for allegedly “objective” journalists from supposedly respectable outlets to let their true colors show. A number of them, for example, have found themselves unable to refrain from making mocking or otherwise disparaging remarks about the GOP nominee.

Joshua Green, Bloomberg

Michael Barbaro, New York Times

John Harwood, CNBC/New York Times

Michael Grunwald, Politico Magazine

David Remnick, The New Yorker

remnick1

remnick2

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Jim Rutenberg, New York Times

He wrote a column about how Trump is “testing the norms of objectivity in journalism” by, among other things, “playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalistic tendencies,” behaving like “an abnormal and potentially dangerous candidate” who must be called out by objective journalists “in a way that will stand up to history’s judgment.”

He’s also done some tweeting:

James Fallows, The Atlantic

Matthew Katz, TIME 

Donald Trump has been an outspoken critic of the mainstream media, and many journalists have whined about it. Some, on the other hand, have been more than happy to expose themselves as less “objective” than they’d have you believe.

TAKE THE POLL

NEW YORK TIMES SCRUBS MILWAUKEE RIOTS FROM FRONT PAGE

Milwaukee burned over the weekend, as rioters set fire to local businesses to express their anger at the fatal shooting of an armed black man, Sylville K. Smith, by a black police officer. Several cars were set on fire, and protesters clashed with police for several hours on Saturday night.

The violent unrest continued on Sunday, as officers in riot gear confronted protestors hurling rocks and other objects. One officer was injured after a rock broke through the windshield of his squad car. The National Guard was activated after Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency in Milwaukee County.

The racial dimension of the riots was impossible to ignore. Protestors were caught on video yelling “black power!” and observing, “they’re beating up every white person.” The sister of the man whose death prompted the riots urged protestors to stop “burning down shit we need in our community,” and “take that shit to the suburbs. Burn that shit down.”

Sound like a national news story worthy of front-page coverage? Not according to the New York Times, apparently. There was not a single front-page mention of Milwaukee riots in the paper of record’s issues for Sunday and Monday. Articles that did make the cut for front-page placement in these issues include a story about Alec Baldwin buying a painting, and another about how Twitter plans to live-stream an NFL game.

Other media outlets seemed eager to downplay or at least to euphemize the rioting by referring to the violent unrest as an “uprising” or “destructive protests.”

Vox, meanwhile, doing what comes naturally, authored a defense of rioting.

SIGN OF THE TIMES

A reliable source has informed Hack Check that New York Times columnists Nick Kristof and Frank Bruni flew first class today on a Delta flight to Cleveland, where Republicans are holding their national convention this week.

It’s good to know that Kristof and Bruni are getting first class treatment while other, lesser Times staffers are wondering if they will be among the hundreds of employees expected to lose their jobs later this year.

The storied paper, which is funded by shady Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, a friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, is very concerned with billionaires trying to influence the media. But the Times does not appear too concerned with the expense accounts of their fancy columnists. Kristof and Bruni’s colleague Thomas Friedman admitted as much to the New Yorker in a 2009 profile of Slim, the Times benefactor.

Nick Kristof has a Davos briefcase, by the way.

CHECKING THE “FACTS”, WITH AN AX

One of the more annoying phenomena in this political journalism cycle – in the age of Vox, Mic and “explanatory journalism” – is the “fact check”. Such fact checks these days are often little more than thinly veiled attacks on Donald Trump, a chance for reporters to cloak themselves in a veil of self-styled objectivity, and proclaim Trump to be a liar.

We expected as much from the likes of the New York Times, but we thought better of the Associated Press, supposedly a bastion of sturdy, no-frills journalism. Apparently, however, these AP writers are auditioning for that big job at the Times. Take a look at how the “news collective” writes their “AP FACT CHECKS” about Trump and how, by contrast, they write about Hillary Clinton.

On Trump:

• His comments are “rife with distortion.”

• “These statements make only passing acquaintance with reality.”

• “For a businessman, Trump is shaky on his numbers.”

• “Donald Trump laid out an economic future Tuesday that improbably resembles the past.”

In this one they just went on and on:

• Trump’s words are “part of a pattern of exaggeration that strains the credibility of his argument … Trump’s rhetoric has been slashing, polarizing, passionate and at times illogical … And his numbers are off … It’s a given that hyperbole comes with Trump territory. He’s acknowledged that exaggeration for dramatic effect is part of how he rolls. It’s how he connects at a gut level with supporters who look past mangled facts to what they see as a larger truth, while opponents stand back aghast.”

This, ladies and gentlemen, is today’s Associated Press.

When it comes to Clinton, however, the AP puts on its sober hat:

• “Hillary Clinton and liberal stalwart Elizabeth Warren campaigned together Monday in Ohio, symbolizing the coming together of the Democratic Party for Clinton’s presidential campaign. A sampling of their statements and how they compare with the facts … ”

• “Over the months, Hillary Clinton misstated key facts about her use of private email and her own server for her work as secretary of state, the department’s inspector general reported this week.”

“Misstated”? What about lied?

The AP is a “news collective” and despite the word “collective”, that isn’t supposed to mean Communist journalism. News organizations around the country and the world pay the AP enormous fees to publish their journalism. Is this highly opinionated political commentary really how AP newsmen are supposed to be spending their time?

They’d be better off working in communications for the DNC. And as their dream job at the Times is increasingly elusive — with the Times mulling lay-offs rather than staffing increases — perhaps the DNC is actually where they’ll end up, after all.

JEFF ZUCKER IS RUINING TV AGAIN

Leave it to Jeff Zucker to shamelessly reach into CNN’s treat drawer and throw Donald Trump another bone.

Mr. Zucker, who as an NBC executive was Mr. Trump’s biggest champion – and upped the ante (if that was possible) with CNN’s slavishly adoring coverage – has really done it this time by hiring Corey Lewandowski as a contributor.

Mr. Trump has got to be feeling guilty for throwing Mr. Lewandowski under the bus. After all, “I stick up for people and I don’t want to ruin somebody’s life”, he said in March when Mr. Lewandowski was under siege. Mr. Lewandowski was indefatigably loyal and has four kids to feed. So good thing that when Mr. Trump finally was compelled to put Mr. Lewandowski on the bread line that his dear friend Mr. Zucker could be there with a soft landing.

As Jeff himself could attest by his own career trajectory, CNN has long been a catchment for the displaced and the fired. Just ask Chris Cuomo. But how cynical do you have to get before you hire someone like Mr. Lewandowski, an avowed enemy of (and alleged assailant of) reporters? A keeper of blacklists who bullied women journalists when he wasn’t (allegedly) drunk-dialing them? After Mr. Lewandowski’s shameful behavior towards the press, should he now be rewarded with a media job?

We can just imagine Mr. Trump getting on the phone with Mr. Zucker (after all, Mr. Trump claims that Mr. Zucker personally calls and books him for all his CNN appearances) and dialing in a favor. “Jeff, could you please hire my guy? He’s AMAZING. I had to let him go. He was rude to Ivanka.”

And Mr. Zucker, of course, obliges. Quid pro quo.

He already pulled a “hire a friend” move when he gave an unemployed, useless rich person, David Gregory, a CNN contributor role. And we thought that was Mr. Zucker’s worst contribution to the American discourse since “Fear Factor”. Apparently not.

Couldn’t Mr. Trump have instead called his friend Jeffrey Epstein and asked him to hire Mr. Lewandowski to help maintain the grounds at “Orgy Island”? Or perhaps he could have commanded Chris Christie to hire him as a sort of Golan Cipel-type head of security?

So now Mr. Lewandowski will add to CNN’s collection of whack jobs, sitting there on set as Don Lemon speculates whether the Malaysian jet flew into a black hole. God bless Jeff Zucker – cynicism survives and thrives.

DONALD TRUMP AND HIS CONTRACTOR

Everybody has complaints about their contractor – including, apparently, Donald Trump.

On Thursday both USA Today and the Wall Street Journal weighed in with exhaustive investigations into pay disputes between Trump’s businesses and their contractors over the last 40 years. Two days later the New York Times weighed in with its own account of Trumpian financial malfeasance with this inflammatory headline: “How Trump Bankrupted His Atlantic City Casinos, But Still Earned Millions.”

The Trump Taj Mahal casino resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey. AFP/Getty Images
The Trump Taj Mahal casino resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey. AFP/Getty Images

One can only assume that these three investigative teams were onto each others’ progress as they raced to the finish line – in the end, USA Today and the WSJ published nearly identical articles within a few hours of each other. Both articles tried to make the case that the Trump organization was unusually parsimonious about paying contractors agreed upon amounts for woodwork, fabrics, chandeliers and the like. For its part, USA Today had to reach back 32 years for its lead anecdote—about a cabinet builder who didn’t get paid for some work and blames Trump, in part, for going out of business.

Similarly, the WSJ had to step into its TARDIS to find the most egregious examples of non- or partial payment. The photo leading the online article was from 1987 (the same year Gov. Bill Clinton was signing a proclamation honoring the Confederacy). The WSJ then launched into an eight year old anecdote about drapes. It went on to quote an ex-Trump executive from the 1980s about tightfisted payment practices before getting into “Mr. Trump’s best-known payment dispute … in Atlantic City in the early 1990s.”

Both investigations felt forced, grasping at the distant past as they lurched towards their simultaneous publication. The lumpy results left us with some questions:

  • If Trump is such a stingy businessman over the last 30-plus years, why did both investigations have to reach so far into the past to find good examples of his parsimony?
  • Is the Trump Organization’s behavior with contractors significantly different than that of other major New York City developers? Both articles asserted that it was, but offered no substantiation.
  • If both news organizations spent weeks if not months poring over thousands of legal documents spanning thirty years, is the best they found really some arguing over curtains and slot machine woodwork?

USA Today (“McPaper”) was proud to attribute its investigation to “the USA TODAY NETWORK”. The capital letters are USA Today’s and are repeated throughout the article. We wondered what the USA TODAY NETWORK was, and so we Googled it. According to USA Today’s owner Gannett, “USA TODAY Network will serve as the ‘endorser sub-brand’” of Gannett’s various newspapers and journalists, and “the local news properties will no longer identify themselves as Gannett properties but rather as USA TODAY Network properties”.

USA Today Neetwork

But we’re still going to call it Gannett, and Gannett should look in the mirror. Gannett, like its vision of Trump, isn’t exactly loving to the American worker. It has been accused for decades of ruthless union busting. In recent years, Gannett has been sued for unilaterally slashing wages 18 percent in the middle of a five-year contract. Let’s not spend too much time getting into Gannett’s fondness for lay-offs, except to say that over the last decade (before and after Gannett spun off its soggy print operation from its broadcast business) the company has laid off more than 20,000 people by some estimates.

And the New York Times? It also likes to lay off people by the way. Its weekend Trump expose felt like a bit of an afterthought after we had already forced ourselves to read the contractor exegeses from the Wall Street Journal and THE USA TODAY NETWORK. Beyond that overwrought headline (“How Donald Trump Bankrupted His Atlantic City Casinos, But Still Earned Millions”) the story is a retread of tired ground. We wish reporter Charles Bagli would stick to his entertaining stories on Robert Durst.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Donald Trump is an aggressive and ruthless businessman (or is he a clown – which narrative does the Times want to pursue this time?). Donald Trump has gotten into disputes with his contractors over three plus decades in business. Did these two great newspapers and THE USA TODAY NETWORK need to spill so much ink and pixels to tell us what we already know?

Perhaps next time these papers can spend weeks investigating Donald Trump’s alleged conduct on “The Apprentice”: how he cruelly fired egotistical reality star wannabes while taking home astronomical paychecks; how he didn’t really employ the winner of each season; how the producers secretly stage managed events. That would probably be just as shocking as these limp blanket book reports on real estate.

THE NEW YORK TIMES WANTS TO SELL YOU A COFFEE TABLE

Are you in the market for a coffee table?

Amid its bracing coverage of poverty last week – be it of homelessness in Honolulu or shoot-outs on Chicago’s South Side, the New York Times also offered us a 700 word “shopping guide” to coffee tables, “one of the most noticeable pieces of furniture.”

Clearly the Times wasn’t writing this for the “residentially challenged people” (as they called Hawaii’s homeless) it champions in the A section. The least expensive coffee table mentioned cost $899 at Design Within Reach. More expensive models that made the Times’ cut included a $6,000 coffee table “with a hand-gouged surface of tiny craters” and “the object of the moment”, a $16,300 metal-accented Nenuphar Coffee Table which is “just so chic”.

The $16,300 Nenuphar coffee table
The $16,300 Nenuphar coffee table

 

The $6,000 Luna Coffee Table at John Eric Byers
The $6,000 Luna Coffee Table at John Eric Byers

The Times’ tasteless schizophrenia between social activism in its news pages and venal sycophancy to the uber-rich in its feature sections has been well-documented. But still we wondered: why do they keep doing this? Presumably it’s all about advertising, but didn’t the Times recently close its Home section amid the collapse of shelter magazines, post-housing boom? If there’s not a compelling financial incentive to publish a disgusting article shilling for a $16,300 coffee table, is this just an act of vanity? Of arrogance? Or is it a favor to someone’s Hamptons friend?

On the one hand, we have this article suggesting we spend the entire take home salary of a fast food employee on a coffee table; and then we have the Times’ investigative reporters trying to bust who’s buying condos in the Time Warner Center using shell corporations.

Can the Times really have it both ways? Going after the super-rich, yet still trying to snarf up the crumbs from their $16,300 coffee tables?

Guess so. Perhaps Carlos Slim is in the market for a coffee table.

NBC’s GENDER TRANSITION

“America’s News Leader”, NBC, isn’t exactly known for the cutting edge, but it’s just become the first major news organization to launch an entire new offering devoted to transgender advocacy. This groundbreaking new “vertical”, called “NBC OUT”, is so full of trendy terms and gender neutral phrases that our heads are still spinning.

nbcnews

“NBC OUT” is officially all manner of LGBT news, but there’s a lot more “T” than “LGB”. It’s a hodgepodge of glowing, gender-bending stories about transgendered people, sex changes, bathrooms, “intersex” (Wikipedia says that is a term for hermaphrodite), “gender transitions”, and the like. Memo to NBC’s storied Standards and Practices Department (which famously wouldn’t let Barbara Eden show her belly button during “I Dream of Jeannie”): your new vertical has gone all-in on the new nomenclature.

Here we go, in the introductory “Letter from the Editor”, a Huffington Post veteran:

“The NBC OUT team is committed to highlighting content that spans the spectrum – from a profile piece about an intersex millennial to an article about cisgender black gay men in history, and a multimedia report about a Thai immigrant who started a transgender model agency.”

Some of the stories now featured on NBC OUT:

“Chinese Transgender Man Fights for Job Equality”

“Trans Models Have an Agency to Call Their Own”

“The Sims Removes Game’s Gender Barriers”

“Massachusetts is Poised to Ban Transgender Discrimination”

“What it’s like to undergo gender transition in college”

“India’s Osha State First to Give Welfare to Trans Community”

“Caitlyn Jenner to Mark Olympic Anniversary on SI Cover”

“Activist Brings Intersex Rights to the Forefront”

“No Secrets: Sex-Change Israeli Army Officer Speaks Out”

“Comedian, Actor D’Lo Is ‘Unapologetically’ Challenging Hollywood to Tell Trans Stories”

“Opinion: A History of ‘Bathroom Bigotry’”

“Transgender Pageant Unites Christians, Muslims, Jews”

“Transgender Veteran Sues Barber for Refusing to Cut Hair”

“Transgender Kids Can Escape Anguish, Study Finds”

NBC OUT is the latest race/ gender vertical to emerge from 30 Rockefeller Plaza, following “The Grio” (African-American news) and NBC Latino. NBC News once had high hopes for The Grio as a potential online business, but ended up retreating and selling the Grio to its founders. As for NBC OUT, the future thrills with possibility.

GAYLE KING’S FOLLIES

God bless Gayle King. Oprah’s “best friend”, who is also, absurdly, the co-host of CBS News’ flagship morning show, was on her program this morning talking with Charlie Rose and John Dickerson about the Hillary Clinton e-mail scandal.

Galye King CBS

“So John, put it in perspective,” Ms. King said. “How big a deal is this really? I was at an event last night and both Democrats and Republicans were quoting Bernie Sanders saying, ‘I’m sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails.”

Charlie Rose interjected: “But that was a long time ago and he’s since changed some of that.”

Ms. King: “Yeah, he has, but the people at this party last night haven’t, so how big a deal is it?”

Where do we begin? Anyone who’s had the misfortune of working with cossetted, wealthy TV “journalists” has long had to suffer through what is called “cocktail party journalism”. This is where wealthy, but insecure TV journalists attend a party with the superrich, New York aging A-list that they’re anxious to impress. The next morning, back at the office, they are brimming with opinions about news stories – opinions to which they give undue weight because of how much they aspire for validation from these financial elites. It’s absolutely toxic. From Steven Rattner’s lips to your ears.

We don’t know if Gayle King was socializing last night with male socialite Steven Rattner. We don’t know where she was at all – she hasn’t tweeted in two days. But we can only assume it was your typical Manhattan cocktail party – about the last place you’d ever want to go for reasoned and thoughtful discourse on politics and the law. Ms. King should stick to just bringing home a goody bag, and if she insists on bringing home some opinions as well, we’d hope she’d keep them to herself.

MORE CUTBACKS AT THE “TRULY GLOBAL” NEW YORK TIMES

The New York Times announced another round of employee buyouts on Wednesday, just days after issuing a mission statement that suggested the newspaper’s future lay in employing significantly fewer reporters.

It can’t have made Times writers feel any better that the Times’ “Executive Committee”, in its memo, wrapped the bad news in triumphal declarations that “ … in 193 countries, we’ve built the largest and most successful digital news consumer business in the world”.

So will they now be cutting jobs in those 193 countries?

New York Times building
New York Times building

The Times already this year announced that it’s shutting down its Paris operation (a hard fought triumph for Times bean counters, considering how hard French law makes it to fire people).

And now it looks like that Times is abandoning its longtime identity as the paper of record. Or, as Times editor Dean Baquet put it on Friday, “The digital news marketplace nudges us away from covering incremental developments” i.e. less news of day coverage, more “only-in-The New York Times’ coverage”.

Baquet also suggested scaling back New York metro coverage even further, saying the Times needed to “produce a report that makes sense given that fewer than half of our readers live in New York.” Bye, bye Metro Desk. Also likely to be saying goodbye: what’s left of the Sports Desk.

What more can we expect from the buyouts? Timesmen who work in the (horrible) video department won’t be eligible for buyouts, as the Times is putting more emphasis on “visual journalism” and, even more absurdly, virtual reality. Does anyone outside the NYT sales department really want to have a VR experience courtesy of the Times? When is the last time you actually watched an original NYT video? Since when have sales prerogatives so totally dominated where the Times invests its resources?

Inevitably, buyout proposals lead to lay-offs, especially at old line, prestigious institutions where employees have few better options. So it was rather disingenuous for Baquet to say recently that he wasn’t planning lay-offs. Of course he is; it’s just a question of how many.

And what can we expect from this new, slimmed down NYT? Fewer news articles and more “only in the Times” type content. We can only assume what that means: more exegeses on inequality, more shrill Op-Eds, more column inches for “racial justice correspondent” Nikole Hannah Jones (if she’d ever publish anything). And fewer real news stories through which the Times writers publish “the first draft of history” as they say in journalism school.

The buyouts (= lay offs) announcement comes on the same day the Times published a tearjerker profile of a vaping parlor in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina (hometown of Zach Galifianakis) where low wage, semi-employed young people fretted about their sorry lot in the global economy. Even as the Times weeps crocodile tears for North Wilkesboro, it’s contributing to similar miseries in Montclair and Hastings on the Hudson. All while paying $8 million a year to its CEO Mark Thompson, who lied about his role in the BBC Jimmy Savile molestation scandal. Go figure.

MUTTON DRESSED AS LAMB

Showing its true ideological stripes, the Washington Post has announced an editorial partnership with Mic, the earnestly liberal web destination that bills itself as news for “college educated millennials” (what about less educated millennials?). Newsletters from both the WP and Mic will feature each other’s content. As the WP’s politics editor says in a press release, “Incorporating Mic’s fresh, unique perspective is a great way to provide even more value” to the Post.

Mic founders Chris Altchek and Jake Horowitz
Mic founders Chris Altchek and Jake Horowitz

An infantilized version of Vox, Mic has done a shrewd job over the last few years convincing credulous investors that it holds the key to millennial users. Of course, if you look at Mic’s real sources of traffic, they’re facile stories on the Kardashians. But instead we’re supposed to focus on the panting reports from Mic co-founder Jake Horowitz as he reverently tags along on President Obama’s trip to Cuba, or writes with slavish adoration about Cory Booker.

Some recent headlines from the twenty-something Mr. Horowitz:

Leonardo DiCaprio Eviscerates the Oil and Gas Industry in Powerful Climate Speech at Davos

How Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Won Over Millennials at Davos

Meet the Woman Who Thinks She’s Found the Solution to Ending Homelessness (dateline, Davos)

(Do you think Mr. Horowitz was really excited to get to visit Davos? We hope he brought back some muesli for the Mic break room.)

Now the Washington Post and its vaunted political desk is actually getting into business with these supercilious youngsters and is going to share their political content on WP platforms – “to cross pollinate coverage and perspectives” as the WP puts it. This would be akin to the New York Times doing a content partnership with Mother Jones, were she to have dipped herself in the fountain of youth.

Is this how far the Post has fallen? The onetime king of politics content, now debasing itself with Mic in a craven effort to show the big boss in Seattle that it’s hip with the youngsters? Does the Post really think Mic’s content meets its editorial standards? Does the Post really believe Mic’s political coverage is what young people want to read?

We have a cost-saving idea for the Post: why not make Jake Horowitz your Davos reporter?

THE INMATE POLICES THE ASYLUM

Hillary Clinton has Loretta Lynch overseeing the e-mail investigation; Mark Zuckerberg is doing a vigorous “internal investigation” of bias against conservatives; and now, to complete the virtuous circle, the New York Times has appointed an Upper West Side apparatchik as its new ombudswoman.

Elizabeth Spayd, editor of Columbia Journalism review and a former longtime editor at the Washington Post, is the Times’ new “public editor” (they long ago eschewed the title “ombudsman”, likely due to the –man participle).

Elizabeth Spayd
Elizabeth Spayd

Columbia Journalism Review is, of course, the dowager enforcer of the old guard – now largely toothless but still peering down at the dying newspaper world through her spectacles, drooling into a spittoon. It’s not possible to be less connected to the realities of 2016 media than this retread to 1972.

Let’s take a look at CJR’s current, online edition (they can only afford two print issues a year now, despite Columbia charging its J-school student an obscene tuition bill for a useless “degree”). It’s pretty clear what the editors’ priorities are. A lead headline: “Pro Publica Finds a Side Effect of Transparency – and is Transparent About What it Found”. Who cares?

(Of course, Pro Publica is the Second Coming as far as CJR is concerned – rich people subsidizing “serious journalism” about mine safety by high-salaried editors.)

Some other top CJR headlines?

“Why the Undercover Planned Parenthood Videos Aren’t Journalism”

“Snowden Interview: Why the Media Isn’t Doing Its Job”

“The Newspaper That Said NO to Murdoch” (their capitalization, not ours)

And what of Ms. Spayd herself? Her writings for the magazine are a collection of painfully obvious observations that make Jim Rutenberg seem positively perspicacious. Here are three of her most insightful quotes:

“A meta question has hovered over us: Will the power of journalism diminish as people start reading everything on their phones, tablets, and laptops?”

“The strength of most journalism lies in its potential not only to inform but to drive people to action, hopefully to serve the public interest.”

“Sometimes, a brick is just a brick.”

The ombudsman role is supposed to be that of a watchdog, an in-house policeman who calls out the newspaper and its sacred cows for bias, bad reporting and sloppy editing. The Times created the position after the Jayson Blair plagiarism / fabrication scandals, when a culture of fear over workplace diversity had let a serpent into the garden. The idea is that an ombudsman would keep someone like Jayson Blair from ever infesting the institution again.

Ms. Spayd’s predecessor, Margaret Sullivan, was also shackled to the values of the Northeastern newspaper establishment, but her columns sometimes showed surprising independence and thought. We imagine the Times is thrilled to see her go. By contrast, it’s hard to imagine that anyone from CJR, Columbia Journalism School and the Washington Post could ever stand as a bulwark against the Jayson Blairs of the world. The Post, for example, has long had similarly noxious hiring practices to those of the Times. And Columbia J-School teaches the very conformity, groupthink and sneering elitism that Mr. Blair rebelled against when he, to borrow the title of his memoir, “burned down his master’s house” in a coke-fueled haze.

Also regarding Ms. Spayd’s appointment, the incestuous back and forth between the Times and the Washington Post is also unseemly. Ms Sullivan is leaving the Times for a columnist role at the Post. Ms Spayd cut her editorial teeth there (for a quarter century). Based on her LinkedIn profile, she still lives in Washington. It seems that if the Times doesn’t want to appoint one of their own as ombudsman, that the Washington Post is a safe alternative – comfortably establishment and immured in the same biases and worldview.

Really – if the Times is going to appoint a fig leaf like Ms. Spayd as its ombudsman, why not just abolish the office altogether? They clearly don’t want a real referee. Perhaps they could use the money to hire another “racial injustice reporter”.

DR. T AND THE WOMEN

It was a volley reminiscent of the 18th century Jacobin pamphleteers attacking Marie Antoinette as a sex crazed, Austrian child molester. The New York Times flexed its investigative muscle over the weekend with a massive expose entitled, titillatingly, “Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved with Women in Private”. The online presentation was so elaborate, which huge images, fonts, et cetera, that we had trouble scrolling through it on our desktop and at times, the browser crashed.

When we first saw the headline and its multiple bylines (BY MICHAEL BARBARO AND MEGAN TWOHEY … they get their names in big capital letters, unlike poor Deborah Acosta, Nicholas Casey and Kitty Bennett whose names are confined, in little letters, to the article’s tagline) we thought we were in for a real demonstration of sleaze, a peepshow journey behind the gilded curtains of Mar a Lago and Trump Tower to learn of decidedly unseemly behavior.

What we found instead was a sorry attempt at a hit job that sought to make up for substance with tenuous adjectives, drawn conclusions and exaggerations. Beyond the outraged tone, there was nothing there in terms of Donald Trump and women “in private” that he hasn’t fully exhibited in public.

The first line of the article:

Donald J. Trump had barely met Rowanne Brewer Lane when he asked her to change out of her clothes.

Here we thought we were about to read a Howard Stern-esque moment in which a powerful man degradingly orders a woman to strip in front of him, and perhaps then coerces her into a casting couch-style sexual encounter. However, as the woman Rowanne Brewer Lane then told it:

“I went into the bathroom and tried one on”

According to the Times, Mr. Trump later declared to his guests, “That is a stunning Trump girl, isn’t it?”

Rowanne Brewer Lane
Rowanne Brewer Lane

The Times doesn’t note until much later in its “expose” that Ms. Brewer Lane was a model at a modeling event of which Mr. Trump was the patron. Which begs the questions:

  • What’s wrong with the head of a modeling operation asking a model to try on a swimsuit (and to put it on privately, in a bathroom?)
  • What’s wrong with saying “wow” to one of your models that you see in a bikini? Isn’t that the point of being a model?
  • What’s wrong with Mr. Trump then complimenting this model to people at the pool (where, presumably wearing a bathing suit is de rigeur)?

Apparently not that much was outwardly wrong with all this, because the Times felt the need to lard on its own descriptive adjectives such as “debasing”, “unwelcome”, “unending”, “unsettling” and “shrewd” in order to heighten its readers’ outrage.

Turns out the only person Ms. Brewer Lane was outraged at, however, was the Times. She spoke to Fox & Friends on Monday, saying the Times had “put a negative connotation” on what she told them:

“Actually, it was very upsetting. I was not happy to read it at all … because The New York Times told us several times that they would make sure that my story that I was telling came across. They promised several times that they would do it accurately. They told me several times and my manager several times that it would not be a hit piece and that my story would come across the way that I was telling it and honestly, and it absolutely was not.”

Throughout the course of its epic “investigation”, the Times didn’t come up with much more than Ms. Brewer Lane’s “debasing” encounter, despite claiming to conduct “more than 50 interviews … over the course of six weeks.” OK, so Mr. Trump criticized the weight of a female executive he also promoted and championed (we know Donald Trump calls women fat. Just ask Rosie O’Donnell). What else did he allegedly do? You won’t find much in the Times piece.

Still, the Times wrote up Mr. Trump’s “unsettling workplace conduct” as one would write the back of a tawdry sex novel:

The interactions occurred in his offices at Trump Tower, at his homes, at construction sites and backstage at beauty pageants. They appeared to be fleeting, unimportant moments to him, but they left lasting impressions on the women who experienced them.

Which begs more questions:

  • What was the substance of these interactions, beyond telling a model to change into a bathing suit (alone in a bathroom) at a poolside event? Or telling a woman she needed to lose weight? Apparently not much.
  • Did Mr. Trump ever demand sexual services from these women in exchange for advancement or employment? Apparently not.
  • Did Mr. Trump grope or even touch these women? Apparently not.

Someone who was accused of groping, sexually assaulting and making sexual demands of women – someone whose conduct was not the subject of a massive NYT expose back in the 1990s – was Bill Clinton. Mr. Clinton, by contrast, the present day candidate for first gentleman, may actually be worthy of investigation. Here’s what he’s been accused of, on the record:

  • Allegedly exposing himself to a woman “in private” and requesting oral sex.
  • Allegedly groping a woman desperate for a job at the White House
  • Allegedly sexually assaulting a woman in Arkansas in the 1970s.
  • Doing something vile with a cigar to a White House intern (confirmed)
  • Fraternization with a future registered sex offender (confirmed).

By contrast, all the Times could come up with after six weeks and more than 50 interviews were a few comments about appearance and a request of a model to put on a swimsuit.

Hat tip, then to The Times and its crack team of MICHAEL BARBARO AND MEGAN TWOHEY … Deborah Acosta, Nicolas Caey and Kitty Bennett. Your commitment to pamphleteering is duly noted.

ETHNOLOGY FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST

They’re ready to dispatch a new reporter deep into the Heart of Darkness. Sam Stein, HuffPo’s “senior politics editor”, and a committed liberal despite having gone to Dartmouth, just posted this job:

HuffPost, of course, distinguished itself for prescience and foresight when it announced last year that it would be tagging all its Donald Trump coverage as “entertainment”. Presumably they’ll be trying to poach someone from John Oliver’s writing staff (actually, that’s not possible since the position probably pays about a fifth of what HBO pays).

THE FACEBOOK BOGEYMAN

Facebook World Headquarters
Facebook World Headquarters

 

Believe it or not, there’s actually been some thought-provoking media reporting in the last few days. Gizmodo of all places has published two must-read accounts about how Facebook curates its news offerings.

On Monday, Gizmodo reported that:

“Facebook workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential ‘trending’ news section, according to a former journalist who worked on the project. This individual says that workers prevented stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics from appearing in the highly-influential section, even though they were organically trending among the site’s users.”

This is wildly significant as a media story —for Facebook overwhelmingly screens, sifts and controls how younger consumers get their news. We’ve long thought that how this was done wasn’t just the result of some clinical algorithm. Now we know that the goose is really cooked.

Mr. Nunez quotes the former curator saying that:

“Depending on who was on shift, things would be blacklisted or trending … I’d come on shift and I’d discover that CPAC or Mitt Romney or Glenn Beck or popular conservative topics wouldn’t be trending because either the curator didn’t recognize the news topic or it was like they had a bias against Ted Cruz.”

According to this former curator, Mr. Nunez writes:

“the deep-sixed or suppressed topics on the list: former IRS official Lois Lerner, who was accused by Republicans of inappropriately scrutinizing conservative groups; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; popular conservative news aggregator the Drudge Report; Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL who was murdered in 2013; and former Fox News contributor Steven Crowder. ‘I believe it had a chilling effect on conservative news,’ the former curator said.”

“Another former curator agreed that the operation had an aversion to right-wing news sources. ‘It was absolutely bias. We were doing it subjectively. It just depends on who the curator is and what time of day it is,” said the former curator. “Every once in awhile a Red State or conservative news source would have a story. But we would have to go and find the same story from a more neutral outlet that wasn’t as biased.’”

This report follows a comprehensive Gizmodo report the previous week that took what is probably the first look inside Facebook’s miserable news sweatshop. Mr. Nunez portrays a wretched existence in which freelance workers feel like they’re doing little more than “training an algorithm”. They are instructed to favor bland, left-leaning sources such as the New York Times and Time, and avoid conservative news outlets like Breitbart.

Some (if not enough) attention is lavished on the biases of mainstream media outlets who portray themselves as objective yet push their agenda, largely unchecked, on the populace. By contrast there is little to no scrutiny of how vastly influential Silicon Valley companies like Facebook and Google distort the national discourse. Facebook, in particular, commands vast and untrammeled influence over what news people consume. And it hides behind claims that it’s merely a distributor, a modern-day version of the corner newsstand, rather than an active editor who is screening, sorting, and censoring.

What Gizmodo’s reporting lays bare is that this isn’t just the result of an algorithm that’s been tweaked towards avoiding controversy. There are active, human hands involved, not only “training” the algorithm but deliberately altering its output.

Increasingly, it’s not groupthink liberals sipping Pinot Grigio in Montclair and Park Slope deciding what news people read – it’s point-01 percenters in Napa Valley sipping Pinot Noir, deciding the news, even as they urge harried working moms just to “lean in” and block the FBI from doing its job.

ASSOCIATED SHAME

The ever classy Associated Press ran this headline on Wednesday:

Navy SEAL Killed in Iraq Was Close to Disgraced Grandfather

An AP headline has vast reach. A Google search reveals that this headline (and article) ran in dozens if not hundreds of publications around the world.

The slain Navy SEAL is Charles Keating IV, from Arizona. His senator, John McCain, issued a statement saying “Like so many brave Americans who came before him, Charlie sacrificed his life in honorable service to our nation …”

Charles Keating IV with his grandfather (left)
Charles Keating IV with his grandfather (left)

Keating died in Iraq on Tuesday while saving a team of U.S. military advisers from more than 100 ISIS fighters. You wouldn’t know any of this, however, if you read the AP article which chose instead to focus on Keating’s late grandfather.

Charles Keating, Jr. was, the AP writes, “the notorious financier who served prison time for his role in the costliest savings and loan failure of the 1980s.”

“The scandal shook the political world,” the article continues, noting that Senator McCain “was accused of impropriety for appealing to regulators on Keating’s behalf in 1987.”

When he died in 20014 at the age of 90, Charles Keating Jr’s left a complex legacy. We should note that his conviction in the S&L scandal was eventually overturned (even though he served more than four years in prison) and that he always blamed regulators, not his own actions, for the failure of the S&Ls in question. Keating Jr. was also a prominent opponent of pornography (he was negatively portrayed in a Milos Forman movie) and his reputation as a social conservative may have contributed to the media lynching he experienced when the S&L affair rolled around.

But whatever you think of Charles Keating Jr, or John MCain, dredging up their past in this context is tasteless.

When asked about his grandfather, Keating IV told the Arizona Republic a few years ago that, “What happened in the past, I really don’t care. I’m really close to him.”

We don’t care about the past, either.  And neither, when eulogizing a fallen war hero, should the Associated Press.

UPDATE: God bless the NYT, who repeat the same calumny in their Friday piece:

“Petty Officer Keating, a decorated member of the SEALs who served both in Iraq and in Afghanistan, was a track star from Arizona and the grandson of a disgraced banker jailed in the 1990s for his role in the savings and loan scandal.”

Is this epithet “disgraced” really how the Times should characterize someone who was very close to his grandson and clearly contributed to raising a war hero? Does NYT CEO Mark Thompson, upon his death, want merely to be eulogized as “disgraced executive Thompson who dissembled about his role in the Jimmy Savile scandal?” Or what about “disgraced publisher Arthur Sulzberger who used a toy stuffed moose as a prop during a staff town hall about a plagiarism scandal”?

Of all the places to behave respectfully, Britain’s Daily Mail simply refers to Keating as “grandson of the late Arizona financier”.

CALLING THE KETTLE BLACK

Speaking of the NYT, our friends across the floor at MarketWatch noticed that Mr. Thompson and his fellow Times executives employ the exact same accounting techniques that their newspaper so vociferously criticizes. It’s just the latest example of venal NYT executives pursuing exactly the kind of policies their “news” and editorial pages decry. Other examples:

  1. Shuttering most of their Paris operation because it’s hard to fire people in France.
  2. Buying out or forcing out scores of older workers in favor of younger, lower compensated employees.
  3. Hiring “princelings”, like John F Kennedy’s granddaughter and David Remnick’s son, for entry level reporting jobs (for which white kids right out of college are otherwise never considered) while criticizing major banks for hiring politically connected children of Chinese oligarchs.
  4. Allegedly encouraging an environment of age and sex discrimination in the workplace.
  5. Hiring a CEO under a giant ethical cloud for making misleading and possibly false comments about his role in a massive child sex abuse scandal, while at the same time railing against the Catholic church for similar behavior.

We could go on, but we need to go denounce Jim Rutenberg again.

WHERE IS SUPERMAN?

Thank god for Jim Rutenberg. His nascent appointment as the Times’ media columnist has allowed him to reveal the personal worldview he was forced to thinly veil in his many years as a NYT “straight news” reporter.

Stephen Colbert. Photo Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS
Stephen Colbert. Photo Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS

 

On Monday, Mr. Rutenberg bewails the departure of liberal pontificator Stephen Colbert from his longtime perch at Comedy Central. It’s clear that the absence of Mr. Colbert and his friend Jon Stewart from the cable comedy lineup has left a searing gap in the Rutenberg household. Here are Mr. Rutenberg’s opinions (with bullet points, for your reference):

  • Colbert “used his longtime perch at Comedy Central to show how integrity, grace and wicked intelligence could inject something politically powerful — and powerfully funny — into the late-night lineup of stupid pet tricks and vapid celebrity interviews.”
  • In the absence of Messrs. Colbert and Stewart “there has been a “Where is Superman?” aspect to this year’s presidential campaign, especially in Left America, Centrist-Left America and, yes, Media America.”
  • “If ever there was an election cycle that called for the sharp satirical analysis that Mr. Stewart and Mr. Colbert once provided on a nightly basis, it is this one.”
  • “Mr. Colbert and Mr. Stewart are badly missed in the face of all the Trumpmania.”

As is typical with Mr. Rutenberg, these encomia (without the specific reference to Donald Trump) could have been written ten years ago, verbatim. No thought. Nothing new. Montclair conventional wisdom.

Could the New York Times please reconsider its appointment of Mr. Rutenberg as heir to David Carr? Could we suggest that the Tommen Baratheon of the New York Times transfer to “Thursday Styles?”

Beyond the palaver of Monday’s column, Mr. Rutenberg’s analysis (about the rough adjustment Mr. Colbert is making to his new late night show on CBS) misses the mark. He seems to believe that Mr. Colbert’s problems stem from CBS’s efforts to shoehorn this erudite, important figure into a broadcast format that involves Victoria’s Secret models eating chicken wings.

What he fails to note is that CBS’ hubristic appointment of Mr. Colbert to succeed David Letterman failed fundamentally to understand the CBS audience. Les Moonves, CBS’ longtime boss, has spent years shrewdly programming just the right mix of dramas and comedies to CBS’s middle American, largely mainstream audience. David Letterman’s edgy darkness was never quite the fit, and he usually lost in the ratings to Jay Leno, but Dave was Dave – an institution. Colbert, by contrast, is a hard-left polemicist whose brand of “comedy” is fundamentally jarring to the core CBS viewer. Broadcast audiences are like molasses, glued to their habits, and it will take some time before ratings drop off the cliff. But a reckoning is coming for Stephen Colbert, and a new executive producer isn’t going to make a difference.

THE WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS’ DINNER 2016.

If there’s a good barometer for how much things have changed since those heady days of “Hope and Change” in 2009, look no further than Saturday evening’s White House Correspondent’s dinner. Seven years ago, the crème de la crème of Hollywood was decamping en masse to D.C. to join their fawning acolytes in the media and celebrate the majesty of the Obama Administration. Everyone from Steven Spielberg to Robert DeNiro was there.

Fast forward to 2016, with the gas largely out of the balloon and the Obama White House in its twilight, and the guest list is depressingly D-list. The only major celebrity attending appears to be Will Smith. The majority of “celebrity” guests this year are reality show performers and cast members of TV shows corralled into attendance by their networks’ “news” divisions.

Then again, D-listers at the dinner table or no, the Washington press corps likes to think of themselves as celebrities, and the WHCD remains their night in the stars.

https://twitter.com/TechNewsTrend/status/726571455463432192

ARIANNA AT REST

The Washington Post notes Thursday that the Huffington Post killed an unflattering story on Uber by its “sleep reporter” because Uber was a major advertiser.

Before discussing the conflict of interest here, let’s reflect briefly on the novel office of “sleep reporter” for the Huffington Post. We believe that Sarah DiGiulio, a former associate editor of Oncology Times, according to LinkedIn, is the only “sleep reporter” in the nation.

When the job was posted in February, HuffPost wrote that it aspired to “establish HuffPost as the pre-eminent voice on all things sleep,” giving its readers “an appreciation of the way sleep unlocks new possibilities for us — as individuals and as a society — when we embrace it and give it the respect it deserves.” Further, the beat was part of the HuffPost’s mission of “reimagining journalism as part of our What’s Working editorial initiative … What’s Working is all about solutions, which will be central to the sleep beat.”

The more pedestrian reason for hiring a sleep reporter (a freelance position without health benefits, according to the posting) is that HuffPost has an advertising partnership with Sleep Number, who sell expensive mattresses.

We know that for some time, HuffPost founder Arianna Huffington has cast herself as public defender of the work-life balance, with sleep as its central totem. This position is a cynical one, as Ms. Huffington is known for driving her sleep-deprived workers into the ground, cycling through staff like Spinal Tap cycled through drummers. We don’t know any HuffPost employees, current or former, who would attest when under oath that Ms. Huffington gives sleep “the respect it deserves” for anyone but herself.

Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post. Photo Getty Images
Arianna Huffington. Photo Getty

 

 

 

Equally cynical is the HuffPost’s “What’s Working” initiative, a play to advertisers who want to see their wares peddled alongside forced cheer. Woe to the wretched, sleep-deprived HuffPost reporter, churning out cheery “What’s Working” content, unable to retreat to the HuffPost’s storied “nap rooms” as he’s chained to the oar.

And woe to the nation’s sole “sleep reporter”, Ms. DiGiulio, whose article on Uber was killed because it might offend a major sponsor. We should note that Ms. Huffington was just named to the board of Uber, which has shown particular savvy in recruiting influencers as diverse as former Obama operative David Plouffe and Dave Clark, the longtime companion of Princess Beatrice of York. Now it’s folded the Huffington Post into its corral, a shrewd strategy by which it brings a liberal mouthpiece to heel as it crushes unions worldwide.

The Washington Post notes that the Huffington Post denies that Ms. Huffington was involved in killing the story (we believe that. Why would she need to be directly involved when the tone is indirectly imposed?) and that the editor of the story, a top lieutenant of Ms. Huffington, has apologized.

The Huffington Post hopes this puts the matter to rest. We’ll sleep on it.

A VERY PARTIAL OBSERVER

Where do we begin with the increasingly twisted tale of the New York Observer’s  support for Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, the father-in-law of its boyish owner and publisher Jared Kushner?

New York Observer Front Page

  • Do we begin with Editor Ken Kurson, feeling so awkward about the Observer’s  editorial earlier this month supporting Trump- in contrast to his memo last summer outlawing Observer opinion pieces on the Donald- that he called a meeting with staff to justify his decision? The meeting went awkwardly, according to a source, with former Rudy Giuliani flak Kurson ending up declaring, “My politics are different to everyone in this room.”
  • Or do we begin with two Observer writers- political reporter Ross Barkan and restaurant critic Joshua David Stein- leaving in protest at the paper’s support for Trump? Stein’s departure particularly stung high-ups at the Observer when in a parting shot piece for The Guardian he erroneously described Kushner as “Trump’s prospective son-in-law”. There’s nothing “prospective” about their relationship; Jared and Ivanka married in 2009 and have three children.
  • How about Observer Chairman and C.E.O. Joseph Meyer- Kushner’s brother-in-law- maxing out his donation to the Republican Presidential front-runner? Meyer gave Trump the legal maximum: $2,700, a development which has only heightened unease among Observer rank-and-file.
  • Then there’s freelance Observer 8 Day a Week writer Jennifer Ashley Wright penning an impassioned article bemoaning the state of the Observer for the Observer in which she complained “lately, I find I do not like the articles the Observer is putting into the world. To paraphrase Nora Ephron, management seems to realize that would be good to produce articles that people want to read but feels no obligation to ensure that those articles are any good.”

Wright objected to both the Observer cheerleading for Trump and the weekly publishing the rage-fueled musings of politically incorrect French flamethrower Jacques Hyzagi.

As a result of staff unrest at Hyzagi’s unhinged gender and race rants, we can reveal Kurson has now decided that he will no longer write for the Observer. But the uncomfortable truth is that Hyzagi’s recent feature ELLE on Earth, in which he burnt bridges with a range of celebrity fashionistas in New York, was the only recent occurrence of an Observer piece ever going viral.

Where will it all end?

 

BEND IT LIKE BLOOMBERG

Hack Check’s Third Correction for Editor-in-Chief’s View

Dirty Dozen or “Harvard Case Study”? — We guess the former

Bloomberg’s editor in chief, John Micklethwait, oversees one of the world’s largest news organizations and is known for a fastidious adherence to the facts.

But he has scored a huge “own goal” with a silly soccer essay, published under his own byline, that appears to be riddled with errors.

John Micklethwait

Mickelthwait’s “Bloomberg View” piece, published Tuesday, claimed he’d bet for twenty years that the Leicester City team would win the Premier League, Britain’s top soccer tournament.
Not a chance. For many years, Leicester City wasn’t even competing in the Premier League, as it was playing in the league below.
Bloomberg has since corrected this error, acknowledging that Leicester was not always in the Premier League. It’s corrected another mistake in Micklethwait’s essay, acknowledging that the Chelsea team does not, after all, boast one of the four biggest stadiums in Britain.
Now Hack Check would like to offer the Editor in Chief a third correction (for free).
Mickelthwait claims in his essay that he always lost his alleged bet on Leicester City — nicknamed the Foxes — and that he’s a fool for not making said bet this year, as the team looks poised to win the league.
Sadly for him, however, Leicester DID win their League – in 2014 (they won the Championship, which won them a berth to compete in the Premier League).
All this makes us wonder if Mr. Micklethwait ever made these bets at all.  We’re trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. The self-styled “Chronicler of Capitalism” recently ended sports coverage at Bloomberg as part of a round of lay-offs, so he didn’t have any sportswriters around to help him keep his facts straight.
Regardless, the soccer boot is now the other foot!

NO AMERICANS IN PARIS

The New York Times, both in its opinion and its “news” pages, makes no secret of its affection for the “egalite” of French labor law.  But New York Times executives themselves don’t appear to be reading. The Times announced today that it’s cutting about 70 positions in its Paris office when it moves production to London and Hong Kong.

Times execs said Tuesday that the moves will “simplify our production process and enable us to produce the paper far more efficiently than we do today, a step that is critical to its financial viability.”

Labor Protest in Paris. Photo Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images
Labor Protest in Paris. Photo Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images

Those of us who’ve witnessed years of media cutbacks know what’s really going on. The same French labor laws so beloved by the Times’ editors are notoriously strong. Basically, it’s hard to fire people in Paris. Far better to gear up the labor lawyers and orchestrate a move elsewhere where there’s more “flexibility” to cull as you please.

The New York Post reported earlier that the NYT lay-offs overall are expected to number in the hundreds.

DANCING ON THE HEAD OF A PIN (AT HARVARD)

If there’s a rival temple of the journalistic establishment to the Pulitzer Committee, it’s the Nieman Foundation, whose free year at Harvard gives “mid career” journalists an imprimatur and often a major career boost.

Nieman Foundation logo

The new batch of Nieman Fellows has now been announced, and their planned courses of study reveal the journalism elite’s myopic focus on race, social justice and redistribution of wealth. Among the Nieman winners (and this is a large portion of them):

Jeneé Osterheldt of The Kansas City Star “will study theories of discrimination and their application to storytelling on diverse subjects. Her research will include black and women’s studies, as well as the history of feminism.”

Lolly Bowean from the Chicago Tribune “will study the cultural differences between the African-American descendants of American slavery and the children of black immigrants.”

Mary Louise Schumacher of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “will study emerging strategies within the fields of architecture and urban design for addressing issues of racial and economic inequity.”

Tyler Dukes of WRAL in Durham will study “newsrooms looking to democratize data-driven reporting for underserved communities.”

Felicia Fonseca of the AP “will study the plight of American Indian tribes and their efforts to build sustainable economies that don’t rely heavily on the federal system.”

Katherine Goldstein, formerly of Slate, “will examine digital journalism strategies for hiring and retaining a diverse workforce …”

Subina Shrestha  of Al Jazeera “will study international human rights issues, including human trafficking and labor migration, as a lens into how Nepali women and minorities may achieve social and political rights.”

So we beat on, boats with the current, off to Harvard for a year of marination in a certain set of values. Then back to our newsrooms to spread the good word (and get promoted).

SCHIZOPHRENIA AT THE NEW YORK TIMES

On Saturday, the New York Times began its latest series throwing shade on the ultra-wealthy. The focus of its ire: a special, secluded section of a Norwegian Cruise Line ship that the Times feels represents a new gilded age.

Royal caribbean wealth NY Times

But even as it trolls the rich in its A Section, the Times obsequiously caters to them elsewhere. On Sunday, we skipped over to the Real Estate section which featured a one bedroom apartment in Manhattan (in Trump Palace!) listed for $1.5 million. According to the item, “the bedroom has an en suite bath with a steam shower with 10 body and overhead sprays and a separate deep soaking tub.” Thank goodness.

Who can afford a first class ticket for one Norwegian cruise? Presumably a lot more people (perhaps splurging for a honeymoon, an anniversary, or the like) than can afford a one bedroom apartment in “Trump Palace” that costs more than a giant mansion in most parts of the country.

(n.b. the Times Real Estate section exclusively features high end real estate in New York City and its more exclusive suburbs. Occasionally it will divert to similarly exclusive locations, such as Palm Springs. The homes featured are universally out of reach to middle class buyers).

The featured $1.5 million dollar apartment, contrasted with the denunciation of luxury cabins on Norwegian Cruise Lines, is symptomatic of the Times’ schizophrenic attitude towards the uber-wealthy.

$1.5M 1 bedroom Trump Tower

The contrast in tone between the “A Section” and the Times’ nether regions (the real estate section, the travel section, et cetera) could not be starker. These lesser sections are the Gray Lady’s dirty secret — where ad dollars are earned by catering to the wealthy in the same way that Norwegian Cruise Lines earn revenue by creating a small, exclusive section for higher paying passengers.

(We should note that Sunday’s travel section featured 36 hours on the impossibly expensive Amalfi Coast, and a “very quick” trip to Japan with a socialite designer Gabriela Hearst, who is married to the brother of William Randolph Hearst III).

One person who can afford a $1.5 million dollar one bedroom apartment? NYT CEO Mark Thompson whose compensation is nearing ten figures annually, even as the New York Post reports the Times is planning to lay off hundreds of employees. Presumably these workers will be in steerage should they venture to sea on a Norwegian Cruise Line any time soon.

DUMBEST. MEDIA. COLUMN. EVER.

Note to Mark Thompson as he plans his cost-cutting:  why pay for “The Mediator” column?  Here are Monday’s bromides from Jim Rutenberg:

  • “Every modern presidential election is at least in part defined by the cool new media breakthrough of its moment. In 2000, there was email, and by golly was that a big change from the fax.”
  • “The 2004 campaign was the year of the ‘Web log,’ or blog …”
  • “Then 2008: Facebook made it that much easier for campaigns to reach millions of people directly …”
  • “In 2012, Twitter shrank the political news cycle to minutes if not seconds.”
  • “It’s not too early, however, to say that Snapchat is a fitting symbol for 2016 …”

A DENUNCIATION OF THE ‘TIME 100’

April is the cruelest month not only because we are subjected to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, but (even worse) we must endure the “Time 100″, an orgy of sycophancy, bias and self-congratulation. Henry Luce and Briton Hadden must certainly be shedding a tear down in Hades each spring.

635967748812048987-MirandaT100

Dowager magazine Time, which itself has lost nearly all the influence it commanded for decades, claims each year to name the 100 most influential people in the world. These “influentials” are cataloged in a special issue of the magazine, then feted at a star-clogged dinner. In fact, much of the “casting” of the “lnfluentials” is about booking the dinner – figuring out which stars will walk the red carpet one April evening in exchange for being tapped (absurdly) as one of the world’s most influential individuals.

Here is a selection of people that Time’s editors consider among the 100 “most influential” in the world. We defy you to justify why any of these individuals could remotely be accorded this distinction:

Caitlyn Jenner

Pew de Pie

Kathleen Kennedy

Taraji P Henson

Nicki Minaj

Karlie Kloss

Ronda Rousey

Charlize Theron

Aziz Ansari

Dwayne Johnson

n.b. Kanye West performed at last year’s “gala” (likely for a large fee) which meant that, crucially, Kim Kardashian West would attend. Here Time’s celebrity wranglers showed a clever sleight of hand: they needed to avoid the ridicule that would come with naming Mrs. West to their list of influence. But by (presumably) paying her husband to sing, they could procure her anyway. Then they made sure that Mrs West’s attendance got noticed when they staged a red carpet incident in which comedienne Amy Schumer faked a clumsy fall in front of them.

As for this year, at the same time as they groveled at the altar of celebrity, Time’s editors couldn’t help but showcase their own worldview. Also honored as an “influential”: Ta-Nehisi Coates, “America’s essential author” (really?). His tribute in the magazine was written by an activist from something called the “Equal Justice Initiative”. Coates himself also penned a tribute to someone else. And another influential, the entertainer Kendrick Lamar, was profiled by an activist from Black Lives Matter. We scanned the “Influentials” subcategories of “pioneers” and “artists” for anyone who represented some intellectual diversity, who might disagree with people like Mr. Coates. We couldn’t find one person.

Still, we shouldn’t begrudge Time’s editors for giving themselves one night a year to rub shoulders with carefully booked celebrities – especially when the rest of the year is spent in lucubration at their new, diminished offices in the financial district. But perhaps for editorial accuracy they should change the term “most influential” to what their sister title People calls “most beautiful”. Or, perhaps, in the case of honorees like Mr. Coates and Kathleen Kennedy, “most insufferable”.

RIDING HARD …

What is going on at the New York Daily News?

Tuesday we watched unfold (mostly on Twitter) the spectacle of the News’ “senior justice writer” / Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King vehemently defending himself against allegations of serial plagiarism. By the end of the day, the Daily News had fired King’s editor (but not King) for deleting attributions from King’s copy. As for King himself, he said he was framed and blamed Chelsea Clinton, saying she was “riding HARD for Hillary”.

Writer Shaun King, Atlanta, Ga
Writer Shaun King, Atlanta, Ga

 

It’s all too complicated to relate with any brevity so read all about it here.

We have some questions about this whole episode:

  • Has an editor ever been fired for repeatedly removing attributions from a story? And the writer left unscathed?
  • Does Shaun King really, as he says, not read his articles after they are published? What “senior justice writer” doesn’t read his own work?
  • So the multiple times King appeared to plagiarize in multiple articles were all the editor’s fault? Is this (experienced, longtime) editor some sort of compulsive, “attribution-remover”?
  • Why does it even matter if a political activist like King engages in a little plagiarizing? He’s a polemicist, not a journalist.

So here we have a “senior justice writer” who does not read his own columns. Shaun King tweets that he’s just too busy (presumably overwhelmed with his dual roles and being framed by Chelsea Clinton). It’s not the first time an overtasked celebrity has gotten in trouble for allegedly representing other people’s writing as his own. Just ask Fareed Zakaria, Katie Couric, Jonah Lehrer and Doris Kearns Goodwin, all of whom appear to be still thriving.

Nobody should expect these people to play by the rules. They’ve got more important things to do.

AWARDS PART TWO: HERE WE GO AGAIN

The Peabody Awards (widely considered to be the most prestigious honor in broadcast news) started rolling out on Tuesday, and like their counterparts at the Pulitzers they rewarded journalists whose reporting was hostile to law enforcement. In this case, the recipients in question are at WMAQ, a major Chicago station. The Peabody announcement strongly suggested that WMAQ was responsible for a Chicago police officer being charged with first degree murder in the shooting of 17-year-old LaQuan McDonald: “WMAQ’s relentless, unrivaled reporting brought to light a host of police procedural infractions, official disinformation and outright lies and contributed to a police department shake-up.”

WITHER HILLARY’S GEORGE?

Disney / ABC Television announced Tuesday that gap-toothed football hunk Michael Strahan will be joining “Good Morning America” full-time starting in September as a “co-anchor”. Strahan joins an already crowded “cast” on the news program, raising questions about the future of its other male host, former Clinton political operative George Stephanopoulos.

Getty Images
Getty Images

There isn’t really room for both men (and their reported seven or eight figure paychecks) on the broadcast. GMA has been in a ratings free-fall for months, down double digits year over year in the key demographic, and the icy, aloof Mr. Stephanopoulos has long been considered poorly cast for a morning role. He’s painfully uncomfortable with lighter fare, and his co-host Robin Roberts stands a full head taller. As GMA has devolved in recent years to a circus-like mish-mash of different promotions for Disney shows, Disney movies and Disney attractions (segments that are hard to distinguish from commercial breaks), Mr. Stephanopoulos’ continued presence on the set (crowded out by his far taller, more boisterous co-hosts) is increasingly incongruous if not absurd.

Does the Strahan appointment mean ABC plans to move Mr. Stephanopoulos aside in the fall, saving Disney millions of dollars? Does it expect him to join the third Clinton Administration should Hillary Clinton win the presidency? Are Disney’s executives sending him a signal that it’s time to pack up his coffee mug and return to what he actually does well – Democratic politics?

THE THIN BLUE LINE

Monday was the annual day of self-congratulation for traditional journalists – the announcement of the Pulitzer Prize winners. 2016’s awards (and finalists) recognized a parade of journalists whose work was overtly hostile to law enforcement.

Pulitzer Prize Medal

The award for national reporting went to the Washington Post for (to quote the Pulitzer committee) “its revelatory initiative in creating and using a national database to illustrate how often and why the police shoot to kill and who the victims are most likely to be.”

The award for “explanatory reporting” went to ProPublica for a “startling examination and exposé of law enforcement’s enduring failures to investigate reports of rape properly and to comprehend the traumatic effects on its victims”.

The award for editorial writing went to Sun Newspapers in Charlotte, Florida “for fierce, indignant editorials that demanded truth and change after the deadly assault of an inmate by corrections officers.”

One of two finalists in editorial writing was the Baltimore Sun “for editorials that demanded accountability in the aftermath of the death of Freddie Gray”. The Sun was also a finalist for breaking news reporting on the Freddie Gray story, “for fast moving coverage of the rioting.”

The Post & Courier in South Carolina was a finalist “for its tenacious effort in obtaining video of a police officer shooting an unarmed Walter Scott …”

A finalist in local reporting was the Miami Herald “for the impressive reporting … on a local drug sting that cost tens of millions of dollars but yielded no significant arrests”.

What Monday’s awards reinforce is the premium that the journalistic establishment places on activist journalism that sides reflexively with prison inmates, victims of police shootings and the like (i.e. in many cases criminals), and that seeks to undermine law enforcement. In the view of the Pulitzer Committee, and the newspaper editors clamoring for awards, cops and prison guards are not hard working, underpaid custodians of law and order. Rather they are corrupt, racist objects for “investigations” and exposes. And a way for journalists to win awards, engage in self-congratulation and, inevitably, enjoy remuneration.

We did not see awards for the kind of hard-nosed, fact-based reporting that calls establishment sacred cows into question, especially sacred cows who graze in Silicon Valley. For instance, where was an award for the Wall Street Journal’s revelatory reporting on blood-testing start-up Theranos? (Yes, our parent company owns the WSJ). Said coverage didn’t appear to even have been a finalist. Perhaps that was because instead of attacking law enforcement, the Theranos reporting punctured the balloon of a favorite of the fawning press, “the first self-made woman billionaire” Elizabeth Holmes.

It’s a lot easier to go after some low-paid cops and prison guards.

TRUMPETING TRAGEDY

Two of our leading newspapers want us to marinate in the deaths the led to their Pulitzer wins — broadcasting these triumphal messages:

NYTimes Pulitzer

And from the Washington Post:

Washington Post

REALITY BITES

Monday brings with it another predictable “Mediator” column from the New York Times. Newly installed columnist Jim Rutenberg rewrites the same article we’ve been reading for the past twenty years – about how the Internet is forcing change from traditional media organizations. Among the “revelations”:

  • “These days … news articles – be they about war, voting rights, the arts or immigration policy – increasingly inhabit social media feeds like the frighteningly dominant one that Facebook runs.”
  • “ … big changes are coming fast in the way major news institutions present their journalism, what the journalism includes, and how decisions are made about what to include.”
  • “A lot of it is being done in the rushed panic that comes with the demands of quarterly earnings.”
  • There is “a trigger warning for the proudly ink-stained set.” Journalists are “stubbornly clinging to the old ways”.

All of these observations could have been written verbatim in 1995, sans two references to social media. What were new, or should we say circa 2012, were Rutenberg’s giggly references to Kim Kardashian. He also can’t help but repeat the Timesian trope that “given the highest calling of the news industry – hold politicians to account, unearth corruption – the importance to our political and civic life could not be greater.”

(Really? What about the role of journalism to inform a community? To nurture discourse and debate? Or is what matters bringing down politicians and sending people to jail? Clearly the Times views its core mission as that of some sort of regressive prosecutor, but please don’t speak for all journalists.)

Why was this column published in the Times when it says nothing new? What editor(s) read and approved it for publication? To a larger point, who made the decision to appoint Jim Rutenberg to write this column? Clearly it was not someone who remembers his credulous coverage a decade ago of the TV news business.

The late David Carr (L) and Jim Rutenberg
The late David Carr (L) and Jim Rutenberg

 

“The Mediator” column succeeds “The Media Equation,” which was written by the late David Carr. Despite the fact that their author worked for the Times, Carr’s columns had a real edge to them – the kind you’d expect from a former heroin addict who hailed from a Minnesota alternative newspaper. He sat in the citadel of the establishment yet never really belonged there, and that worked for him. With Rutenberg, though, there’s just nothing there. He’s like Daisy Flowers of the “Rainbow Magic” books. You always know what you’re going to read before you even start reading. And at least Scholastic admits that “Daisy Flowers” doesn’t exist.

THE HORROR!

Also regarding the Times (for the last time for a bit, we promise) … On Sunday the Times’ Arts section said this to Twitter:

We agree with Jack Schafer that the offending Tweet was likely this:

“Jungle fever” has long been defined as a severe form of malaria, most commonly found in jungle regions of the world. In recent decades it’s also been used in American slang (often offensively) as meaning a sexual attraction to black people. Spike Lee directed a well-regarded film called “Jungle Fever” in 1991 about an interracial romance.

It makes sense that the Times viewed its Tweet as ill-considered, especially since it was a reference to an adaptation of Kipling, the noted imperialist who coined the phrase “the White Man’s Burden”. But it’s a bit much for the Times to slam decisively its poor social media assistant by marking his or her Tweet as “offensive” when there are numerous meanings and interpretations of the phrase “jungle fever”. A better way to characterize the deletion would be to say that the tweet “used language that many now consider offensive”.

Also, why bother to delete a Tweet when everyone can just dredge it up anyway, as Jack Schafer just did? Best just to leave it online, then clarify, rather than erase and expurgate.

SUNDAYS WITH GEORGE

Sunday morning Hillary Clinton returned to her #safespace with former aide, George Stephanopoulos, who was forced to withdraw from moderating debates after being exposed for giving money to the Clinton Foundation. ABC pantingly teased the interview as “exclusive”, a stretch (as usual for them).

Mr. Stephanopoulos was briefly estranged from the Clintons when he left the White House in the 1990s, published a tell-all book, and was one of the first mainstream pundits to say the word “impeachment” on national television. But he now appears back in the fold. Students of Mrs. Clinton’s presidential runs will remember her awkward town hall meeting with Mr. Stephanopoulos in May 2008, when her campaign was cratering. At one point in the event, Mrs. Clinton stood over the petite Mr. Stephanopoulos, who was seated, forcing him to awkwardly ask her questions as she towered over him.

HILLARY’S OTHER GEORGE

The actor George Clooney admitted on “Meet the Press” Sunday that it was “obscene” of him to charge $354,000 to sit next to him and his wife Amal (and Mrs. Clinton) at a fundraiser for the candidate:

George Clooney Meet The Press

“Yes, I think it’s an obscene amount of money,” he said. “You know we had some protesters last night when we pulled up in San Francisco – and they’re right to protest, they’re absolutely right, it’s an obscene amount of money. The Sanders campaign, when they talk about it, is absolutely right, it’s ridiculous that we should have this kind of money in politics, I agree.”

AGED CHEESE

It might have escaped your attention that Cheddar, a new digital video channel focused on money, has just launched. It’s the brainchild of Jon Steinberg, the ubiquitous CNBC pundit and former president of Buzzfeed, who’s now serving as Cheddar’s host. Steinberg, who’s almost 40, told the Hollywood Reporter last March that he wouldn’t put anyone on his air over the age of 40 (he’s also put that in promotional materials aimed at potential investors and clients). Yet the very first show featured analysis from veteran Wall Street trader Peter Tuchman:

Jon Steinberg Peter Tuchman

We’re not sure how old Tuchman is but given he was running a music store on Manhattan’s Bleecker Street in the early 1980s, he’s not in his thirties.

Lesson to aspiring financial TV producers: it’s really, really hard finding young people to talk about stocks.

THE “SURROGATE SPOUSE”

A strange NYT tweet Sunday morning:

How utterly and completely can you discount Mr. Trump’s own wife?

EVEN THE LIBERAL MEDIA CAN’T STAND HILLARY’S SHOUTING

Mr. Hertzerg, in a comment appropriate to his standing as “the urbane voice of liberalism” (Harvard Magazine) later refers in a tweet to Mrs. Clinton’s supporters as “the howling mob”. We hope he’s feeling safe from the hoi polloi in his Upper West Side apartment with “a bohemian feel … and warm but quite genuine Oriental rugs” (also Harvard Magazine).

KIND OF A RIDICULOUS TWEET ON A NUMBER OF LEVELS

URBAN SOCIOLOGY 101

We hate to dwell on the New York Times but they were back at it Thursday with an article titled “Segregation Issue Complicates de Blasio’s Housing Push”.

Longtime Times scribe Mireya Navarro is quick out the gate with a social studies lecture, writing in her lede that “a deeper problem has largely gone unmentioned by municipal officials: the persistence of residential segregation in one of the world’s most diverse cities”.

These phrases alone raise questions:

  • Why do we characterize “residential segregation” as “a deeper problem”?
  • Could NYC residents perchance just be choosing to live with and around people of their own race?
  • Why has this “deeper problem gone unmentioned”? Why is it a problem? If so, who is determining it is a problem? And who is “mentioning” it beyond the New York Times itself?

It appears that Ms. Navarro has chosen to use the megaphone of the Times to broadcast what she and her editors perceive as a “hidden problem”. However, instead of using a declarative sentence such as, “I want to write about what I think is a deeper problem”, she instead employs the present perfect tense, cloaking her own opinions in the Voice of God by saying this “deeper problem has largely gone unmentioned”.

New York Chelsea

Wending our way one paragraph further into Ms. Navarro’s reporting, there is more interpretation disguised as fact: “segregated neighborhoods remain entrenched around the country, a result of decades of discrimination and a byproduct of powerful, present-day forces …”

Really. So “decades of discrimination” is the primary cause that people of certain races tend to cluster in certain NYC neighborhoods? Where is the data that bears up this assumption? Ms. Navarro does not provide it. Nevertheless, she proceeds to write about the “unfinished business of eliminating such segregation”.

Ms. Navarro also characterizes “mostly white districts” in NYC as “better neighborhoods”. How does she quantify what makes a “better” neighborhood beyond the race of its residents? She does not say.

Afternoon light on Central Park's treetops and NYC buildings. Upper West Side building facades and tree colors lit by the autumn sun. iStock

It’s a tricky “unfinished” business, forcing people of different races to live together in some Disneyfied, “It’s a Small World” utopia. “Housing advocates”, Ms. Navarro points out “fear that the higher rents that often follow development will lead to a so-called whitening of a neighborhood that is mostly black and Latino.” Even more troublesome, it will “dilute the political clout of ethnic or racial groups”.

Again, this phraseology raises questions:

  • What is a “housing advocate”?
  • If segregation is “a deeper problem”, why do housing advocates “fear” a “whitening” of a predominantly black or Latino neighborhood? Isn’t increasing diversity the goal here?
  • If we are to avoid the frightening prospect of “whitening”, is the only good outcome of housing policy to inject persons of color into a “white” neighborhood, not the other way around?
  • Should urban policy take care to maintain the “political clout of ethnic or racial groups”? Is it a moral imperative that these groups maintain their power at the same time as they get access to “better neighborhoods” i.e. “mostly white districts”?

This article therefore makes the following assumptions:

  • “Better neighborhoods” are racist and “a deeper problem”.
  • We should be using government policy to add more people of color to “white” or “better” neighborhoods.
  • However, we should “fear” the “whitening” of black and Latino neighborhoods that could result from building new housing stock in said neighborhoods. It is important to keep these neighborhoods from “whitening” so the ethnic groups can maintain their “political clout”.

Our idea of a “deeper problem”? A newspaper that keeps publishing opinion essays in its news sections.

CARLOS DANGER VS TED CRUZ

MSNBC interviews Anthony Weiner on “New York values”. Enough said.Anthony Weiner Chris Mattews NY Values

PANIC SETS IN AS THE POPULARITY OF “HAMILTON” MUSICAL ENDANGERS PLAN FOR A WOMAN ON THE $10 BILL

Hamilton $10 Bill

Bloomberg News reports that “women’s groups” are outraged at Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s comments that plans to dethrone Alexander Hamilton from the ten dollar bill may be tabled:

  • “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” said Lisa Maatz, American Association of University Women’s vice president of government relations. “A promise was made and it should be fulfilled. I don’t know any particular reason why they would back away from it.”

THE KINGDOM AND THE POWER (OF DEAN BAQUET)

Dean Baquet (center) at a party
Dean Baquet (center) at a party

More developments in the unseemly back-and-forth developing inside the New York Times over 84-year-old Gay Talese. We don’t want to write up the whole controversy, so you can read Eric Wemple’s columns here.

(NYT chief editor Dean Baquet is now going to meet with aggrieved Style Section writers about his public takedown of freelance writer Sridhar Pappu. This as the Style editor went public — to Mr. Wemple — against the big boss, defending Mr. Pappu in a rare breach of intra-Times protocol. )

Mr. Baquet should reconsider his editor’s note, which revealed a whole slew of preoccupations better suited for a polemicist academic rather than a powerful editor. To sum it up, Mr. Baquet slams Mr. Pappu for not giving writer Nikole Hannah-Jones an opportunity to respond to Mr. Talese’s complaints that she took friendly selfies with him and then “disingenuously” criticized him on Twitter (in fact, Mr. Pappu gave Ms. Hannah-Jones plenty of opportunity to respond, and she declined). Mr. Baquet then goes into a prolix defense of Ms. Hannah-Jones as if her honor needed defending from the sloppy work of Mr. Pappu.

A few things we wondered:

  • The offending Style article referred to Ms. Hannah-Jones (the one who was offended by Gay Talese) as the Times’ “racial injustice” reporter. On her own website, Ms. Hannah-Jones says she covers “civil rights and racial injustice” for the NYT Magazine.
Nikole Hannah-Jones
Nikole Hannah-Jones
  • Does the NYT really have a “racial injustice” reporter? If so, what are the parameters of this beat? Is Ms. Hannah-Jones expected to be reporting objectively about racial issues, or is she actually supposed to be crusading against “racial injustice”? What does “racial injustice” mean? Why is a publicly traded company like the Times, which has been laying off and buying out scores of reporters, employing a “racial injustice” reporter?
  • Based on Mr. Baquet’s public memo, it does seems like Ms. Hannah-Jones’ mission is to be a crusader. Mr. Baquet writes that Ms. Hannah-Jones “has made it her mission to write about some of the most pressing, intractable issues in American life, particularly racial inequality in education and the re-segregation of American schools.”
  • What is “the re-segregation of American schools”? Are schools now being segregated again, like they were in the 1950s and 60s? Who is segregating them? Likewise, what does Mr. Baquet mean by “racial inequality in education?” Is it a given that in the United States, people of different races are educated unequally?
  • Ms. Hannah-Jones, according to her personal website, started her career covering the Durham, NC schools for the Raleigh News & Observer. The Durham schools have been majority-black for decades. Are they now being “re-segregated”? Are white students now being bussed about Durham? (We believe this was happening for a while somewhat recently in neighboring Raleigh, to much controversy, but not in Durham). Perhaps Mr. Baquet could explicate on what he means by “re-segregation”.
  • Is Ms. Hannah-Jones really, as Mr. Baquet writes in his memo, “one of the most accomplished and prominent journalists of her generation”? We had never heard of her. She seems to be accomplished by many measures, but she is not particularly prominent (certainly not as prominent as Mr. Talese).
  • What compelled Mr. Baquet to issue this cloying defense of a semi-prominent journalist who had refused to comment for an article in which she received glancing criticism? Is he highly motivated to jump on a hair trigger to the defense of a favored writer whose beat and body of work reflect his personal opinions about race and education?
Gay Talese
Gay Talese
  • Mr. Baquet says that hiring Ms. Hannah-Jones was “one of my proudest moments as editor”. Surely in a position as august as executive editor of the New York Times, there would be prouder moments than hiring a semi-prominent journalist from Pro-Publica to be a “racial injustice” reporter. Many reporters at Pro-Publica and the Portland Oregonian (from which Ms. Hannah-Jones hails) would presumably leap at the chance to work for the Times – so the recruitment of Ms. Hannah-Jones can’t have been as challenging as, say, overseeing a Pulitzer Prize winning project or any number of other achievements which the Times has notched during Mr. Baquet’s tenure.

One further note:

Nikole Hannah-Jones may have declined to comment to Mr. Pappu, but she did comment about the incident to a website called Rewire, which covers “issues of sexual and reproductive health, rights and justice”, according to its website. In her comments to Rewire, Ms. Hannah-Jones accused Mr. Talese of disrespectfully asking her if she was going to get her nails done. Rewire did note that Ms. Hannah-Jones has “turquoise, baby blue and glitter nails” which may have tantalized Mr. Talese into (allegedly) asking the offending question, and Ms. Hannah-Jones herself did Tweet out a picture of Mr. Talese’s “baddest” shoes.

So it’s plucky for a woman to comment on a man’s exotic footwear, but it’s offensive for a man to comment on a woman’s exotic nails ?

MORE INSUFFERABLE LECTURES FROM VOX

Vox Media has decided to instruct us on how “I’m an American Living in Sweden and Here’s Why I came to embrace Higher taxes”. Enough said.

Vox author, Tom Heberlein and his wife hiking in Sweden.
Vox author, Tom Heberlein and his wife hiking in Sweden.

 

“BIGOTS” AND BATHROOMS

The old line television news operations have long dropped any pretense of objectivity when it comes to transgender issues and ABC News was no exception on Monday evening. Correspondent Steve Osunsami was in North Carolina to cover the so-called “bathroom law”.

  • Osunsami: “Christians” were in town “to cheer the new law that keeps transgender residents from using the bathrooms they need and overturns discrimination protections for gay families statewide.”

How do Osunsami and his editors define what bathrooms transgender people “need”? The “bathroom law” doesn’t bar them from using the bathroom in North Carolina. It only bars them from entering public restrooms designated for the opposite gender. North Carolina legislators tried to get to the (murky) bottom of defining gender by saying it should be determined based on an individual’s “birth gender”. This was aimed at preventing, say, someone with male genitalia who “identifies as a woman” from entering a woman’s bathroom or locker room and undressing, to the discomfort of others. It is not barring that person from the bathroom he or she “needs”.

Osunsami also noted how protesters of the law called its supporters “bigots”. And then remarked that those “bigots” had “unkind” words for Bruce Springsteen, who canceled a North Carolina concert because of the bathroom law.

North Carolina Bathroom Law

Flashback now to ABC News’ fawning coverage of Bruce Jenner’s “transformation” into Caitlyn, when interviewer Diane Sawyer repeatedly described his gender change as courageous, and failed to ask the millionaire reality star any tough questions about how he was recently involved in the death of an elderly woman on the Pacific Coast Highway.

AND SPEAKING OF THE KARDASHIANS

Kris Jenner, a “lover of Christ” (according to her Twitter bio) who has 6.5m Twitter followers and an audience of millions on television, has Tweeted out that that her daughter Khloe is “the strongest woman I know, body, mind and soul” and congratulated her on her Shape magazine cover spread. In it, Khloe strikes a seductive pose in a fishnet-style halter bra:

Khloe Kardashian Shape may 2016 cover

But merely a day earlier, Kris Jenner tweeted out, praising another of her daughters, Kylie, for her “beautiful” new cover of Marie Claire (in which Kylie doesn’t appear to be in lingerie).

Kylie Jenner Marie Claire

Why, we ask, is Khloe “the strongest woman” Ms. Jenner knows while Kylie is merely “beautiful”? We can only imagine how poorly this display of preference could impact on Kylie, who already must contend with the runaway modeling success of her stunning sister Kendall. Does Ms. Jenner favor a daughter who poses more seductively (salaciously?) on a magazine cover, rather than demurely? What kind of message is she sending to the Kardashian clan’s millions of tween girl fans about what it takes to earn a momager’s stamp of approval?

HAIL AND FAREWELL

Al Jazeera America has ended its brief run to multiple plaudits from the journalistic establishment. The primary chronicler of that establishment, CNN’s Brian Stelter, interviews the AJAM CEO who says “We will leave a legacy behind that says real journalism matters.”

While we genuinely feel for the hundreds of good people losing their jobs as a result of Doha’s poor management and shortsighted decisions, we would remind our gentle readers that Al Jazeera America was a mean-spirited, anti-Semitic mouthpiece inside and out (as chronicled in multiple lawsuits by ex-employees) . When the short-lived network wasn’t doing its Qatari owners’ bidding by attacking Israel with grossly biased attacks, it was preoccupied with activist coverage characterizing the U.S. as a giant slum of the poor and dispossessed.

We should note that Al Jazeera is NOT shutting down its digital arm, “AJ Plus”, which releases anti-American videos touting us as a bunch of primitive, gun-toting racists:

God Bless America Death Lawnmower
AJ+

DOWN WITH “DODGY DAVE”!

JFK's grandaughter, Tatiana Schlossberg, in Dunkin' Donuts regalia
JFK’s granddaughter, Tatiana Schlossberg, enjoys Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in her Twitter bio shot.

NYT cub reporter Tatiana Schlossberg, the granddaughter of President Kennedy, knows something about inherited privilege. Indeed, we’re not aware of anyone else getting hired as a staff reporter by the Times right out of college, other than the son of New Yorker editor David Remnick. Tatiana, however, couldn’t help but celebrate British Prime Minister David Cameron getting attacked for HIS family money when she tweeted out a link to video of Cameron being denounced repeatedly by an elderly MP as “dodgy Dave”:

“Is there anything more perfect in the world than British parliamentary proceeding? (No.)” she asks and answers.

Perhaps it was fortunate for Tatiana that the “Panama Papers” didn’t reveal how American political dynasties pay (or don’t pay) their taxes.

THE NEW YORKER ON TRUMP’S “MENACE” AND “DARK POWER”

New Yorker staff writer Evan Osnos (whose father Peter runs the liberal book imprint Public Affairs) writes about “Trump’s ability to introduce menace into the convention … you can’t have a riot without a mob. Even before he was a candidate, Trump displayed a rare gift for cultivating the dark power of a crowd.”

If you’re reading the piece online, at the end of the article you’re directed to a video of New Yorker editor David Remnick taking a break from assigning boring articles on jazz to discuss “the problem of Trumpism” in a groupthink coffee klatch with ESPN employee Nate Silver among others.

 

New Yorker boss David Remnick discusses "the problem of Trump".
New Yorker boss David Remnick discusses “the problem of Trump”.

 

GAME OF THRONES SHOWRUNNER: TRUMP IS “HODOR”

HBO
HBO

Dan Weiss, who runs the HBO mega-hit with his highborn friend from Wesleyan, David Benioff, tells Maureen Down that Donald Trump reminds him of Hodor, the series’ gigantic, mentally challenged oaf: Just as Hodor answers every question by blurting out his name, so does Trump.

Weiss’ pronouncement comes as several key GOT stars are being needled for releasing a politicized video in which they express support for immigrants:

Game of Thrones stars in refugee video
Lena Headey, Sophie Turner and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau appear in an IRC promo video

 

“OP-DOCS”: WHERE THE GRAY LADY REALLY LETS HER HAIR DOWN

Captive audiences in at least one New York City movie theatre are being subjected during the previews to a full length New York Times “Op-Doc” (whatever that means) denouncing the rail industry. The cheaply made video features unchallenged pronouncements by two white male environmental activists sitting on a boat, with strange shots tracking up to the boat’s antennae. There were at least 10 credits at the end.

We tried to find this “Op-Doc” on the NYT “Op-Doc” channel (so we could count the credits) and could not—but we did see other “Op-Docs” featured, such as:

  • “A Conversation with Asian-Americans on Race”
    “A Conversation with Latinos on Race”
    “A Conversation with White People on Race”
    “Transgender: At War, In Love”
    “Elder: A Mormon Love Story”
"Elder: A Mormon Love Story". An "Op-Doc" by The New York Times
“Elder: A Mormon Love Story”. An “Op-Doc” by The New York Times about a gay romance in Italy.

 

ALSO IN THE NYT: FACT-CHECKING THE “LESS ATTRACTIVE” ASPECT OF ‘HAMILTON.’ WAS HE PROGRESSIVE ENOUGH?

The Times, which lets its biases show more overtly in its arts sections, notes that “scholars have debated whether ‘Hamilton’ over-glorifies the man, inflating his opposition to slavery while glossing over less attractive aspects of his politics, which were not necessarily as in tune with contemporary progressive values as audiences leaving the theater might assume.”

RELATED: MERYL STREEP SINGS HAMILTON WITH FEMINIST LYRICS

The actress stepped onstage at Tina Brown’s right-bashing “Women in the World” conference (in which the NYT is an investor) and re-wrote the lyrics to one of the musical’s songs to show that women have become key decision makers in “The Room Where It Happens.”

“This is the place I’ve come to to have my righteous anchor ignited,” said the multimillionaire Oscar winner.

Anger at what?

THE CANONIZATION OF ANITA HILL

HBO
HBO

HBO’s drama “Confirmation” is upon us, and Elle magazine serves up adulatory treatment of Anita Hill by sitting her down with Melissa Harris-Perry, a sympathetic interviewer (who recently quit her job on MSNBC, saying she was not “a little brown bobblehead”) :

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY: What difference did it make in the hearings that those stories were lost and that the nation does not have a context for understanding black women’s experiences?

The Today show’s Savannah Guthrie (married to a top Democratic strategist) also just conducted an “exclusive” softball interview with Hill in which she didn’t ask one question challenging Hill’s accusations against Clarence Thomas. She wraps up the conversation by asking “Are you at peace with him being on the Supreme Court and your role in history?”

Meanwhile, as part of its new revenue strategy, the New York Times held a sold-out, decidedly one-sided “Times Talks” session with Professor Hill and Kerry Washington, the actress who portrays her in “Confirmation.”

SHE’S BACK

Remember Carole Simpson? She’s the ABC host whose timing errors as moderator of a 1992 Presidential debate led to George H.W. Bush being pilloried for looking at his watch. For years, ABC gave Simpson a prime platform as anchor of its Sunday evening news program.

Now she’s back, on CNN’s Smerconish show, berating young women for Feeling the Bern. “I don’t know what’s going on with women,” she said. “I don’t know why women don’t think Hillary Clinton ought to be the first female president.”

Carole Simpson ABC

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