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The consensus of elite media opinion is overwhelming. "Donald Trump lost badly," suffered a "beat-down," lost "a battle of preparation versus instincts" and was part of a confrontation in which "Hillary (Clinton) turns Trump into Mitt Romney."

Chris Jones, stellar theater critic for the Chicago Tribune, demurs.

Three nights earlier he sat on the stage at Chicago's grand Civic Opera House and interviewed "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda before a packed house. It included stunning freestyling by Miranda after Jones presented him (with no forewarning) placards featuring local icons, including Oprah, Michael Jordan, Rahm Emanuel and deep-dish pizza. (U.S. News and World Report)

I've seen great comics doing improvisation, including Robin Williams, Amy Poehler, Jerry Seinfeld and Seth Meyers. This topped all of them, especially given his instantaneous creation of droll, metered lyrics. Recently, Jones and I discussed Miranda, Trump and the debate. Jones finds it striking that people are relying on the usual analysis for the contest.

"It was not," he said. "You have a guy who is so strikingly personal in how he approaches everything and is an improviser. Like a boxer in the ring." By comparison, Clinton offers "a fairly conventional performance and retreated into boilerplate rhetoric."

He finds Trump a strange, complex and comical figure and says that pundits have erred in their debate analyses. The political class will scoff. The past is prologue. Engrained assumptions rule. How could Trump's peevish, sexist stumbling positively impact insiders' targets of dissection, such as White suburban independent females?! No way, right?

"I started tonight believing she needed a game-changer to alter the trajectory of this race," wrote Andrew Sullivan when it was over. "I may, of course, be wrong, trapped in my own confirmation bias and bubble — but I thought she did just that."(New York)

Once again, let's just see if the media proves trapped in a confirmation bias bubble and are utterly wrong about Trump.

Debate audience topped 80 million

It was a record but far short of the pre-debate Super Bowl-like speculations of 100 million. NBC led the pack with about 18 million, followed by ABC, CBS, Fox News Channel, CNN, Fox, MSNBC and Telemundo.

CNN's Brian Stelter noted "upticks" in viewership among younger (notably 18-34) Americans. But it's unclear why or if there'll be any link to their actually voting in, yes, six weeks.

"Frontline" on Clinton and Trump

The PBS series did a fine job with side-by-side biographies of the two presidential candidates and was especially good on their early years. (Frontline)

Shooting the debate

Veteran photographers Damon Winter and Doug Mills take you to the days before the debate and the pressures of their lives. "We’re dead without a high-speed connection, so we spend tons of time on the front end to make sure that we get photos to our readers as quickly as possible — as these moments happen on stage. That often means establishing backup plan after backup plan. (The New York Times)

Lester Holt as potted plant

"In honor of political fact-checkers' whimsical rating scales, we will grade Holt with the newly minted Potted-Plant-O-Meter...ignoring an easy fact check will get three potted plants, while vigorously intervening will get a fallen leaf. Find the full context of the exchanges mentioned below in the transcript annotated by NPR here." (Poynter) Spoiler alert: He got at least one trifecta of potted plants.

A stunning fall

England's national soccer team has been a total mess for a bunch of years. As of today, it's the joke of the world's most popular sport. It thought it had the answer in a new coach, veteran Sam Allardyce. But after just one game, he's gone due to an undercover investigation by The Daily Telegraph. It's quite remarkable. (Daily Telegraph)

He got on a plane to Singapore and Hong Kong and negotiated a big money deal for himself as he gave counsel to businessmen on getting around British Premier League rules on the purchase and sale of players.

"Unbeknown to Allardyce, the businessmen were undercover reporters and he was being filmed as part of a 10-month Telegraph investigation that separately unearthed widespread evidence of bribery and corruption in British football."

Delayed justice

"Before they came to kill him, Lasantha Wickrematunge wrote a 2,500-word story about how he was glad to be labeled a traitor, and happy to join the ranks of Sri Lanka’s dead journalists." (The Atlantic) He was killed after criticizing the government and starting an anti-establishment newspaper.

Studs Terkel is back

Kudos to NPR for running tapes of interviews Terkel, the wonderful actor-radio host-activist who died in 2008, did for his 1974 book, "Working." On Tuesday, "All Things Considered" offered his tale of a teen phone switchboard operator in Waukegan, Illinois. (NPR)

Meanwhile, if you didn't know, the Chicago History Museum has 45 years worth of his WFMT-FM interviews, which totaled more than 5,000. Want to learn how to conduct a great interview? Go here.

Morning chatter: The zodiac and cocaine

"Fox & Friends" co-hosts this morning were atwitter over changes in the Western zodiac calendar. So when they went live to Trump reporter John Roberts, who was born on Nov. 15, they underscored that he is now supposedly a Libra, not a Scorpio. He only seemed slightly rattled and was able to continue his campaign coverage. (Meanwhile, Slate says this is all bunk)

But the team found no solace in the new calendar or Monday's debate. Steve Doocy said the initial post-debate response merely shows the mainstream media "in the tank" for those on the political left.

MSNBC's "Morning Joe" opened with the saga of Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe who was badmouthed by Trump for a weight change and her ethnicity and is now, surprise, in the Clinton camp. Then it was "Former Gov. Dean stands by Trump cocaine tweet."

Yes, Howard Dean, a doctor and former presidential candidate, tweeted during the debate, "Notice Trump sniffing all the time. Coke user?"

He leavened that, somewhat, by later saying, "70 years old and a cocaine habit? Probably not." But Joe Scarborough wondered, "What is going on?" Scarborough then hit home with me as he envisioned, for some reason, "Kids doing lines on the way to tee-ball games?"

Thank god I had snack duty last weekend for my 7-year-old's coach pitch game. I got them multicolored Goldfish and Capri Suns (fruit punch).

Suburbs, yes? Suburbs, no?

Page one of The New York Times: "Trump is given thumbs-down in the suburbs — undecided women see little to like" (The New York Times)

But wait: Page one of the Chicago Sun-Times: “Not his kind of town: Trump visits suburbs today to raise money, bypassing Chicago, the city he criticized in presidential debate.” (Sun-Times) Well, there must be no undecided females in those 'burbs to worry about.

Bad pitch

Andrew Marchand covers the New York Yankees for ESPN, and it's been another lousy year for my favorite team. Last night, as they played the arch-rival Red Sox, Marchand was able to briefly take his mind off their ignominious play.

"During the Yankees-Red Sox game, the biggest error of the game nearly occurred in the middle of the fifth inning in the left field stands. Andrew Fox of New Castle, PA tried to propose to his girlfriend, Heather Terwilliger of Fredonia, New York, but he dropped the ring. with the whole crowd watching, it took five minutes to locate it, but it felt like an hour to the couple. She said yes." (ESPN) The video was a TV mainstay this morning.

Media and artificial intelligence

While journalists at Tronc (formerly Tribune Publishing) make their much-touted artificial intelligence changes, the big boys and girls of Silicon Valley are proceeding apace.

When it comes to AI-aided language translation, Google "now says a new technique for doing so is vastly improving the results. The company’s AI team calls it the Google Neural Machine Translation system, or GNMT, and it initially provided a less resource-intensive way to ingest a sentence in one language and produce that same sentence in another language." (The Verge)

A "lyricist with a camera"

"When Louis Faurer encountered memorable silhouettes and faces on New York’s sidewalks, he highlighted the liveliness and sorrow of metropolitan life. He rarely looked up at the skyline: New York’s essence was on its teeming streets, especially in Times Square, which he prowled at night." (The New York Times)

If you're in Paris between now and Dec. 18, there's a show honoring Faurer's work, notably his best stuff from the 1940s-1950s, at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson.

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