How TV fails to deal with Trump’s lies
- A primer on how to improve
Media self-analyses on campaign coverage are verging on self-flagellation. On Sunday, CNN's Brian Stelter broached the need for journalists to get tougher on Donald Trump's fabrications and reiteration of utter falsehoods. (CNN) For sure, TV reporters and hosts have been especially awful during interviews with Trump. But the belated sensitivity about screwing up, even if it omits the extent to which many Trump supporters just don't care, is notable.
My colleague, Alexios Mantzarlis, is a two-legged encyclopedia on this whole topic, including the state of media fact-checking worldwide (there are actually a fair number of hopeful signs). Instead of falling prey to a false born-again self-confidence about dealing with Trump — "We've messed-up, learned our lesson, so just watch us now, America!" — you might fully digest Mantzarlis' cautionary notes. (Poynter) Listen up:
"First of all, the fact check should frame a claim as being false clearly and succinctly." Second, "fact-checking on TV should use images and graphs. If it boils down to the host's word against the candidate's, viewers may choose to believe whomever they trusted more to start with. Instead, a TV fact-checker should be presenting sources prominently and visually. Fox News illustrated this in March, when it countered Trump's flawed budget proposal with graphics that broke down federal spending figures."
His final point is the need to offer alternative explanations. Stelter brought up the B.S. National Enquirer tale of some link between Ted Cruz' father and Lee Harvey Oswald. Remember how Trump just parroted the tales, including to the likes of Fox News' very solid Bret Baier? "...The most effective way to keep (viewers) from remembering that explanation is if they have a different one than the misinformation being peddled."
American TV news folks are imitated around the world and generally for good reason. But there are also other folks doing a good job, in some cases a better job, in fact-checking. What tends to play out in the U.S. "has yet to be expressed in formats as those attempted in, say, Australia or Spain. Until that happens, TV fact checks will not be as effective as truth sleuths would like them to be." Yes, Spain and Australia. Back to you in the studio.
- New photos of Bush on 9/11
They were released by George W. Bush's presidential library. They include one showing Lt. Col. Cindy Wright of the White House Military Office consoling him, a hand about his neck. (NBC News)
- Comcast's latest deal
"Comcast has acquired StickyAds.tv, a startup that specializes in TV ads that run on digital properties. People familiar with the transaction say the Paris-based startup will be rolled up into Comcast's FreeWheel unit, which helps TV-centric publishers like Comcast, Viacom and Fox deliver digital video ads. Comcast bought that company two years ago for at least $360 million; no word on a purchase price for this deal." (Recode)
- Early C.W. about Clinton dealing with Trump
It's perfectly distilled in The New Yorker by Benjamin Wallace-Wells: "The business of opposition research is politics at its most unleashed and gleeful. In this campaign it may also be politics at its most effective. Poking holes in Trump’s persona and his politics shouldn’t be hard." The press has been so consistently wrong about the guy, let's see if a new conventional wisdom, about his being a Clinton piñata sure to implode, proves correct.
- Washington Post boss on listening
Speaking at the commencement of Temple University's School of Media and Communication, Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron urged this: “Too often we look for affirmation of our own ideas rather than opening ourselves to the ideas of others. Too often we are inclined only to talk. Too rarely are we inclined to listen–when listening is the superior route to learning and understanding. Listening has become a lost art.” (Temple University)
- Jon Stewart saving us from ourselves
"No matter when he returns (via HBO), Stewart’s TV presence likely won’t do anything to affect the outcome of the presidential race." (Vanity Fair) OK, agreed. "It’s early, but polls have Clinton easily outstripping Trump and most outlets concede that Trump is not really a credible threat to her." OK, that's what they're saying. "But Stewart could save the nation from some of the divisive rancor that has sprouted up around this election." Ah, that might be a stretch, namely Stewart as our vehicle to national harmony.
- A new livestreaming gambit
"Former BuzzFeed executive Jon Steinberg’s effort to create a web-based 'CNBC for millennials' is going behind a paywall." (The Wall Street Journal) His startup, Cheddar, has been streaming video for free via the floor of The New York Stock Exchange. Monday it's $6.99 a month. "That’s on par with streaming services rolled out by major media companies and $1 more expensive than CBS Corp.’s CBS All Access, which streams CBS broadcast feeds and on-demand seasons of shows like 'Star Trek' and 'The Good Wife.'"
- Keith Olbermann on A-Rod
After reading a prodigiously puffy blog on ESPN about Boston Red Sox David Ortz, who has been linked to performance enhancing drugs but was likened by Alex Rodriguez to Magic Johnson, Olbermann tweeted yesterday that "A-Rod will retire with a perfect 1.000 Tone Deaf Average." (@KeithOlbermann)
- Tribune Publishing rebuffs Gannett (cont.)
It's perhaps a reflection of the plummeting fortunes of the newspaper industry that there was little interest from financial analysts at Tribune's recent earnings call after it told Gannett to take a hike regarding its $815 million acquisition bid. Meanwhile, a frustrated major shareholder (the second biggest) is warning that it's best to talk to Gannett. (Poynter)
It's a meaty hostile takeover tale in which questions are raised about the true motives of the new boss of Tribune. Once again, it rejected a $12.25-a-share proposal from Gannett as unseeingly and low only three months after its new boss got his 16 percent share at 50 percent less. This will likely wind up in court and could provide an interesting window onto the state of corporate governance at some companies.
- L.A. Times, Purdue Pharma pissing match
"Purdue Pharma issued a statement Friday defending its best-selling painkiller, OxyContin, and criticizing a Los Angeles Times report that the medication wears off early in many patients, exposing them to increased risk of addiction." (L.A. Times) The paper raised doubts about OxyContin's effectiveness and underscored its potential for awful narcotic withdrawal. The firm called the investigation "long and anecdotes and short on facts," with the paper then reiterating what it deems the total validity of its report.
- A Bloomberg terminal notice for a TV show?
"Michael Bloomberg told members of his company’s Washington bureau Thursday that he doesn’t expect Bloomberg Politics managing editors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann to remain with the news organization after the 2016 election, according to sources familiar with the meeting." (The Huffington Post) It's no surprise, especially with the return of Bloomberg himself and his focus on the essential financial terminal essence of his money-making machine. As a former editor there tells me, "This was inevitable. This show is so far afield of the basic Bloomberg News mission, and since Bloomberg's return to the company, it has gone back to basics. H and H have nothing to complain about: They have gotten hugely paid with freewheeling positions and access to pols to cover an election campaign in which they were basically gathering string for their (next) book." Meanwhile, have you watched Bloomberg TV? Boring, very boring.
- Hannity and Newt
Friday night Sean Hannity took time off from his nightly Trump infomercial to interview former Speaker Newt Gingrich. In the process, he praised him for the courage — yes — of precipitating a government shutdown during the Clinton years. Having reported on same during the winter of 1995-1996, I can assure Fox viewers that the shutdown was not just one nail in the Gingrich coffin as far as his remaining speaker but also a reason Clinton won reelection. So much for a courage Hannity seems to finding lacking among Republicans these days.