Donald Trump, Megyn Kelly and the art of the con
Why might a cynic have wondered if Megyn Kelly's primetime Fox network interview with Donald Trump would fall short of David Frost's evisceration of former President Richard Nixon? Might it have been the afternoon tweet and photo from a beaming Trump himself, his arm around a grinning Kelly, her arm around his back, and the declaration, "I will be live tweeting my interview with @megynkelly on the Fox Network tonight at 8! Enjoy!" (@realDonaldTrump) Or was it the night before, on the Bravo cable channel, when she conceded that she'd once not just touched his hair but "run my fingers through it” to see if he wore a wig. (Decider)
At minimum, the soft-as-a-grape session on the Fox broadcast network climaxed one of the more impressive acts of self-and corporate promotion in recent times. You remember the tumultuous Fox News debate, her seemingly steely questions about his misogyny, the nasty Trump responses, his faux boycott of Fox News, and the Trump back-and-forth with Fox guru Roger Ailes? It seems so very long ago. Then came the Kelly crosstown Manhattan pilgrimage to Trump Tower, the wink-wink hint of a detente and, then, bingo, announcement that he'd surface for her first big Barbara Walters-like celebrity special.
Last night brought the no-news interview and an unabashed promotion for what she disclosed (lucky viewers) would be an upcoming autobiography, including her year of "torment" with Trump! Yup, saving the critical stuff for the book — and after the election — despite weeks of hawking what proved "a convivial, easygoing interview." (The New York Times) It was ultimately "bankrupt." (The Washington Post) "Republicans (go) like, 'Woo, we got a pass, we're having a good night,'" said CNN's Chris Cuomo this morning. The whole thing brought back memories of how the then-New York Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner, and his frequently hired and fired manager, Billy Martin, lampooned their own 1970s front-page frictions in a fabled Miller-Lite commercial where they debated whether the beer tasted great or was less filling before Steinbrenner smiled and declared, "Billy, you're fired!"
Once Trump's heralded inquisitional nemesis, the new Kelly-Lite could cash in now as a crisis communications or branding consultant for Fortune 500 companies, reclusive ne'er do wells or entire sovereign nations. Consumer fraud hurting sales? Wanted for mass murder by the International Criminal Court in The Hague? Tourism down due to the Zika virus? She's got the entrepreneurial thrust, and her income would make her current and future Fox take resemble that of a Walmart sales associate. And that doesn't include book royalties. It's been quite a transformation.
No sooner had polls closed in Kentucky than CNN pundit David Axelrod correctly deflated subsequent analyses by noting it was a mere "annoyance" if Hillary Clinton lost there, which she ultimately did not.
Some, notably Clinton herself, claimed she won there, but it was still too close to call this morning. But there was still all that air time to fill and no desire by any cable news network to seriously cover any other event on the entire planet. For politics junkies, it was another feast in the form of live autopsies of two essentially insignificant primaries there and in Oregon.
But it had its moments, including pundit Paul Begala providing actual insight about future Clinton strategy gained via his role running a huge PAC backing her. It was all perhaps topped by droll, wickedly bright Republican consultant-Hollywood writer Mike Murphy, who backed the wrong horse (Jeb Bush) this year and detests Trump. During sharp MSNBC coverage shepherded adroitly by Rachel Maddow, Murphy called Trump an "ignoramus" with a "chimpanzee level of understanding" of national security issues. "The man's a chimp, the man said!" laughed Chris Matthews, who himself had a good night getting down deep in the weeds of speculating about the prospective tactics of both Trump and Clinton.
This morning, though, brought colleague Joe Scarborough on "Morning Joe" making the case for Bernie Sanders running a third-party campaign. "Bernie Sanders is the revolution of 2016. We've all been distracted by the reality show" of Trump. They didn't concur at "Fox and Friends," beckoning a dour Hungarian-born counterinsurgency expert to look right into the camera and portentously proclaim, "Human beings who promise you paradise will end up enslaving you...You are enabling dictatorship."
"Netflix got into the streaming video business by running shows that had already appeared on TV. Now it is flipping the script: A show that originally ran on Netflix will appear on TV." (Recode) "Narcos," the Netflix series on drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, will air on Univision right before its second second returns on Netflix. Ditto a Netflix Spanish-language series, "Club de Cuervos."
It will be Elizabeth Spayd, the current editor and publisher of Columbia Journalism Review. (Poynter) She starts this summer and will be charged with the at times impolitic task of critiquing the paper's prolific reporting corps.
"Conservatives are meeting with Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg Wednesday to voice their concerns about potential liberal bias." (Bloomberg) This results from an anonymously sourced report that editors favored "liberal" sources for its feature on trending news topics. Among those showing up are "talk-show host Glenn Beck, conservative think-tank leader Arthur Brooks and political commentator S.E. Cupp." Let's hope Cupp, another conservative who dislikes Trump, is as successful with Mr. Facebook as she was at a special "Jeopardy!" Washington edition in which she just earned $50,000 for her charity, the No Kid Hungry campaign from Share Our Strength. (Adweek)
It's behind a paywall, but The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin includes former Playboy Enterprises general counsel E. Leonard Rubin wondering if Paramount can claim a copyright to the language spoken by "Star Trek's" Klingons. The motion picture company is claiming just that in court though Rubin is dubious. "If Paramount is right, it could conceivably open the door to the extension of copyright protection not just to new supposed languages, but perhaps even to newly created words, such as agender, bigender, completionist, smartwatch, smartphone, meme, emoji and twerk." Or what about ham and cheese sandwich or Popemobile?
"Columbia University and The Knight Foundation are teaming up to create the First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, a $60 million initiative dedicated to thinking through the thorny questions of First Amendment case law in the digital age — and going to court if necessary to preserve the right to free speech." (Poynter)
"Time magazine may have its iconic red border and proud journalistic history, but as a newsweekly magazine, it’s swimming against the tide of history (see: Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report). For much of its recent history, revenue has been declining at the Time Inc. namesake title." (Digiday) The company CEO cited print revenue growing 4 percent and digital 36 percent. Of course, it's probably still swimming upstream.
From an obituary in the Richmond, Virginia Times-Dispatch: "Faced with the prospect of voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, Mary Anne Noland of Richmond chose, instead, to pass into the eternal love of God on Sunday, May 15, 2016, at the age of 68." (Times-Dispatch) I sure hope John Kasich, Bernie Sanders, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina don't feel guilty about not faring better and thus apparently disappointing Ms. Noland.
The impact of Fox taking over The National Geographic's cable channel, and going distinctly upscale, is subject of a Bloomberg BusinessWeek cover. "While some observers are still concerned that the Murdochs will drag the National Geographic brand down-market, the TV network is undergoing a radical makeover in the opposite direction. Fox is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to reinvent it as a more highbrow destination — a kind of HBO for science and adventure programming." (BusinessWeek)
There are in the vicinity of 300,000 podcasts, a Slate executive was saying the other day. And "While many print publications are ramping up their podcast output, Monocle magazine went beyond and launched its own 24-hour digital radio station in 2011. It now has 1 million monthly listeners, double what it had last year, according to internal figures." (Digiday) But "a full 80 percent of Monocle’s listeners listen from downloads (20 percent live). Counting downloads is easy enough, but there’s no way of knowing whether people actually listen."
Liz Spayd will be the public editor of The New York Times. She is the editor and publisher of Columbia Journalism Review. (Poynter) | Dana Banker is now managing editor of the Sun-Sentinel. Previously, she was metro editor there. (Email) | Job of the day: amNewYork is seeking a features editor. Get your resumes in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: firstname.lastname@example.org.