Donald Trump plays the media to twisted perfection
Down and dirty in New York City
Donald Trump's anti-media cruise control now far exceeds the posted speed limit even in a political campaign. "He whips the media to its face!" said Pete Hegseth on "Fox and Friends" this morning. What's it mean? Trump vented again on Tuesday, largely related to coverage of his dubious declarations about funding veterans groups. (C-SPAN)
A sampling of his remarks: The press "should be ashamed of themselves." It includes practitioners "who are not good people." Some are "really disgusting." It's "dishonest and unfair." One ABC News reporter, Tom Llamas, is "a sleaze." CNN's Jim Acosta is "a real beauty." Bill Kristol "looks like such a fool" as he beats the drum for a third-party candidacy. (The Hill) And will Trump be such a contentious jerk toward the press if elected president? "Yes, it's going to be like this," he said with a certain disarming candor. He reiterated similar lines last night on Fox News' "Hannity," which may soon be renamed "Trump" given the now-routine softball inquiries from his unpaid cable courtesan.
A challenge in covering him was underscored unwittingly: the more one makes all this about The Donald and The Media, and less about the empirical assessment of his fitness to be president, the more it benefits him. "It's worked," Chris Cuomo said this morning on CNN's "New Day." He plays the press like he's an insecure beauty pageant queen or a body-building contestant who realizes those steroid-fueled pecs are grotesque. He spent more time smashing Kristol as a loser than on any policy issue. One is better off investigating his lawsuits, taxes, real estate holdings and history of boorish behavior. And there is some fine work being done, even if it's being undermined by a gap between abundant information and the willful ignorance of some citizens. But who would have believed you could lose a popularity contest with somebody praised by Vladimir Putin and the nut job dictator in North Korea?
Richard Parker, a policy expert at Harvard's Kennedy School, had this to say: "A free press that serves as a demagogue’s megaphone has ceased serving a free people — and that a press that bows in a season like this is such a press, unfree and unworthy of a democratic people’s respect or patience. Go look up 'Murrow, Edward' and get back to me. It’s time for one of you to stand in Ed Murrow’s shoes." Maybe there is a way to puncture what Joe Scarborough this morning called very intentional "performance art" by a man whose "real party," media analyst Michael Wolff then told Scarborough, is the media.
Amazon's got 1,000 working on A.I.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is so big on his artificial intelligence endeavor that, he disclosed at a Vox Media conference, he's hired more than 1,000 employees for Alexa, the voice-assistant software, and Echo, its flagship device. It's apparently the first time he's publicly stated such numbers. "We've been working behind the scenes for the last four years," he said about Echo and Alexa. "It's just the tip of the iceberg." (Re/code) Oh, when it comes to billionaire Peter Thiel bankrolling Hulk Hogan against Gawker, he said he wouldn't comment specifically on the matter but offered the admonition, "Seek revenge and you will dig two graves — one for yourself." (Business Insider)
Report: The New York Times plans to lay off hundreds
Vanity Fair's Sarah Ellison goes long on the ongoing plan to transform The New York Times newsroom, which includes "at least 200 newsroom layoffs" sometime early next year. "'Every time this happens,' one former editor told me, 'it’s a dark cloud that hangs over the newsroom for months.'" (Vanity Fair) The feature is among several on a new, mobile-friendly site called The Hive that aims to provide extensive coverage of New York, D.C. and Silicon Valley powerbrokers. (Digiday)
"Caveat emptor, Gawker gawkers"
"Any company considering buying the controversial digital publisher should know that its namesake site has hit some serious traffic lows. Gawker.com’s traffic in April dropped a whopping 37% from the previous month, to 7.6 million visitors — the site’s lowest mark in at least three years, per comScore. That was enough to take Nick Denton’s entire empire down to a 29-month traffic low, even though most of his other brands, including Gizmodo to Deadspin, have held up." (Variety)
Happy birthday, C-SPAN and the U.S. Senate
Thursday brings the 30th anniversary of U.S. Senate live coverage on C-SPAN 2, part of the easily-spoofed national treasure that's C-SPAN. The House beat the Senate to the C-SPAN punch in letting in cameras (Newt Gingrich was a key advocate), but the relationship with the Senate will be marked on-air and via video highlights already online of that neat first day. (C-SPAN)
Look, there's Sen. Al Gore looking like he just got back from prom. Sen. Pete Wilson of California intones, "This has rightly been termed an historic day. Not, Mr. President (the presiding officer), that I delude myself that the primitive art form that we practice on the Senate floor is likely to constitute a great threat to the ratings of 'Dynasty' or 'Dallas' or 'Falcon Crest.'" Remember those cultural touchstones? Sen. John Glenn of Ohio, the legendary former astronaut, jested about private meetings which included counsel on how to hold a microphone or to not lower one's head if possessing a thinning hairline. He theatrically took out makeup "to cut that shine" on his own head. (Glenn)
There's great stuff from the early years, such as Sen. Edward Kennedy opposing the Robert Bork Supreme Court nomination, Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois making closing arguments in Bill Clinton's impeachment trial and Sen. Carole Moseley-Braun of Illinois (ah, how quickly we forget) rocketing to national attention with remarks on race and the Confederate insignia as she blasted Sen. Jesse Helms. It's a feast.
The secret dance contest of Serena and Venus
Vogue magazine takes us inside a private competition among Serena Williams, Venus Williams and former NFL star Bryant McKinnie "in the third annual Williams Invitational dance competition. This year’s theme? Animation. What began as a casual friends-and-family tennis weekend transformed when dance was added to kick off the events. Three teams, five judges, months of rehearsals, one gold medal." Serena informs, “It got serious, then it got overboard serious, and then it got Broadway.” (Vogue) Check it out. The only thing missing is some stuff-shirted Brit royals decorously applauding as if at Centre Court at Wimbledon.
Hillary and the press
Writes Rebecca Traister in a very strong Hillary Clinton profile: "To her critics, she is Lady Macbeth, to her adherents, Joan of Arc. As a young Hillary hater, I often compared her to Darth Vader — more machine than woman, her humanity ever more shrouded by Dark Side gadgetry. These days, I think of her as General Leia: No longer a rebel princess, she has made a wry peace with her rakish mate and her controversial hair and is hard at work, mounting a campaign against the fascistic First Order." (New York)
As for the press, she hates it. "A band of young reporters follows her, thanklessly, from event to event, and she gives them almost nothing. Unlike other candidates, she does not ride on the same plane with them (though this may change once the general election starts and the traveling group gets bigger). Every once in a while she has an off-the-record drink with them, but without the frequency or fluidity of her husband, whose off-the-record conversations with the press were legendarily candid. These young reporters are so starved for what they call 'fresh sound' that they thrill to the addition of a new line — about Trump being 'a loose cannon' — or even a word ('Basta!') to Clinton’s stump speech."
Margaret Sullivan on tasty treats
Yes, the former New York Times Public Editor, now at The Washington Post, concedes the imperative of growing digital traffic "doesn't always translate into the most serious type of journalism." (The Open Mind) But her PBS interview on Alexander Heffner's show including her saying, "You have to make what is nutritious also tasty. It can be done in a way attractive to readers and viewers without losing your integrity. I see a lot of hope in that realm."
Did Snapchat surpass Twitter?
"Snapchat didn’t just file SEC documents for a massive new $1.8 billion round of funding this week, the company also had its pitch deck leaked, revealing some interesting insights into the company’s usage and revenue." This could grab your attention: "Snapchat may already have more daily active users than Twitter. The pitch deck, which was obtained by Techcrunch this week, shows that Snapchat had 110 million daily active users in December of 2015. Unfortunately, Twitter stopped releasing metrics for daily active users some time ago, instead focusing on monthly active users." (Variety)
Jon Alter on Trump
Steve Brill got the inquisitorial ball rolling last week when he offered questions to ask Trump. Now Jon Alter, The Daily Beast columnist, steps up to the plate.
- "You have said, 'What the hell is wrong with a trade war?' Do you believe the Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930 had nothing to do with the Great Depression? If not, why do you think retaliatory tariffs that would harm the thousands of American companies that depend on exports would not greatly harm the American economy? (Economists put the job losses in the millions).
"You told Megyn Kelly that he you're a counter-puncher — hitting back at those who have insulted you 'times ten.' If you become president, would this approach apply to nations that insult the United States? If so, why would this refusal to back down or ignore insults not lead inevitably to war?"
"Can you think of any precedent in American history for barring people at the borders based on their religious faith? Why is your idea not blatantly unconstitutional?"
"Early in the campaign, you said, 'Wages are too high.' If you no longer believe this, please explain why you have changed your mind."
Death in Chicago
The New York Times combined old-fashioned reporting and social media to chronicle all the murder and mayhem in Chicago over the holiday weekend. (The New York Times) The most notable aspect was the use of video on Facebook Live. (Facebook) It was a solid job, produced with the approval of embattled Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and followed a very good, if not flawless opus last week that compared heightened violence in Chicago versus what one finds in New York City. (The New York Times)
Kristol's search for a Trump alternative
Amid Trump bashing The Weekly Standard as a "failing" publication, "Morning Joe" was giving ample publicity to Kristol boosting little-known David French to run as an independent candidate — and rolling its eyes at the same time. Co-host Mika Brzezinski was short of enthused. Kristol, a regular guest, "should take a long vacation." Hey, he could visit the Cincinnati Zoo and, like the rest of the press, take a fleeting campaign break by opining passionately about gorillas.
Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin
Mitra Kalita is now vice president of programming at CNN Digital. Previously, she was managing editor at the Los Angeles Times. (CNN) | Elizabeth Alexander will sit on the Pulitzer Prize board. She is director of creativity and free expression at the Ford Foundation. (Email) | Kabir Chibber is now business editor at Quartz. Previously, Chibber was deputy news editor there. Matt Quinn is now technology editor at Quartz. Previously, he was deputy editor of finance and technology there. (Email) | Zoe Sagalow is a reporter for Tax Analysts. Previously, she was a student at the University of Maryland. (Email) | Job of the day: WJLA is looking for an engineer. Get your resumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: firstname.lastname@example.org.