Trump, propaganda and the loss of media authority
Good morning. Here's our morning roundup of all the media news you need to know. Want to get this briefing in your inbox every morning? Subscribe here.
Fact-checkers grow, the media's authority declines
Fact-checkers worldwide gathered in Buenos Aires last week for their third annual conclave and guess what was a favorite topic? Yup, Donald Trump. U.S. attendees from The Washington Post, FactCheck.org and PolitiFact, among many others, said (as one put it) "Trump responds differently to their work compared to other politicians — more specifically, he doesn’t respond at all." (Poynter) It's the combination of his deceits and his repetitive refusal to back down even when proven wrong. Counterparts from around the globe conceded that they, too, are looking closely at his campaign, even if they suggest he's both unique and not a total outlier on the world stage.
But is it merely falsehoods he's offering as he calls a judge a "Mexican," smears Muslims and President Obama and denies shafting single working moms at his sham university? Or as he lies about how many people were waiting to get into his rally last night in Dallas? (The Dallas Morning News) Does it go deeper and morph into the sort of propaganda synonymous with George Orwell's "1984?"
He does, after all, seem to be intentionally mangling truth to advance his political agenda. It's quite like Orwell's world where war is deemed peace and work is considered play. Bankruptcy is a sign of responsibility. Women are debased as an adoration for them is professed. The great populist is sued for cheating lots of small contractors. It calls to mind the late Vanity Fair columnist Christopher Hitchens, who underscored how Orwell discerned that words were starting to mean anything but what they appeared to mean. We thus had, as Hitchens put it, "the outline of a discourse in which, for example, 'freedom is slavery' was slowly taking shape in his mind." (The Guardian)
Now, consider a thought from Mary McNamara, TV critic for The Los Angeles Times, who was taken with Bill O'Reilly Monday appearance on Stephen Colbert's show and how they improbably had a polite chat over major ideological differences. It was a "bridge between ideologies" too often given to posturing rather than dialogue.
We don't see very much of that and it underscored for her how we've witnessed the decline of the truly trusted news anchor. "Increasingly, anchors are no longer personalities defined by their ability to do their job, their job is defined by their ability to cultivate their personalities, which includes, at times, their politics." (The Los Angeles Times) Provocation and strong opinions are ascendant even for de facto Teleprompter readers.
"So when Americans say they don’t trust 'the media,' it’s difficult to gauge what they’re talking about, but less difficult to realize it’s a huge problem. The real dangers of the news anchor vacuum threaten the audience more than any network. As the political rhetoric of the presidential campaign became more heated and bizarre, as Donald Trump makes statements and suggestions that increasingly seem at odds with democracy, the lack of a national news figure whom a majority of Americans like and trust has become painfully obvious."
Your 'trusted" news sources, as so many market themselves, seem anything but in a world where war is peace and bankruptcy is gilded affluence. The Cavaliers throttled the Warriors last night. Unless you claim the Warriors won. Maybe Trump will.
So much for gun control
On Wednesday, The Washington Post informed, "Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and some vulnerable GOP lawmakers signaled Wednesday that they are open to changing the nation’s gun laws, raising the possibility that the political tide might be shifting on an issue that has sharply divided Americans for years." (The Washington Post) Last night it informed, "An effort to pass new gun-control legislation in the wake of a deadly mass shooting in Orlando is poised to end in a familiar impasse in the coming days — and potentially pit Republican lawmakers against their presumed presidential nominee, Donald Trump, who called for congressional action." (The Washington Post)
On CNN's "New Day" this morning, the professionally revived David Gregory segued from pundit to co-host as he subbed for Chris Cuomo. Remember his fleeting "Meet the Press" tenure and rather public fall? More relevant on the show was the chyron, "CAN DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS FIND MIDDLE GROUND ON GUN CONTROL?" Succinct answer: No. "Nobody believes the other party's motivations are genuine," said reporter Phil Mattingly.
Tragic unintended consequence
There are many unintended consequences for products (and government policies). NBC News offers a basic one about the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, "the most talked about gun in America." According to the family of its late creator, "Our father, Eugene Stoner, designed the AR-15 and subsequent M-16 as a military weapon to give our soldiers an advantage over the AK-47. He died long before any mass shootings occurred. But, we do think he would have been horrified and sickened as anyone, if not more by these events." (NBC)
Quiz question: "What medium delivers the biggest bang for the buck?" (Ad Age) Well, when it comes to packaged goods the answer is "probably not the one anyone expected." The answer: "Magazines deliver by far the best return on ad spending when compared to TV, digital display and video, mobile and cross-media campaigns."
Why Ebony matters
Ebony and Jet were sold to a Texas investment firm. But the magazine remains important to some people post-sale. "In a universe where the Kate Hudsons and the Anne Hathaways command the Allure and In Style magazines of the world, we still need a place in the magazine world where we can see the 2009 Taraji P. Hensons of the world — someone Black folks have been rocking with since her 2001 Baby Boy debut, not someone we only recently discovered via the powerful explosion of a hot network show that everyone (White people) pays attention to. That magazine is still important." (The Undefeated)
Another family paper sold
During better times for the newspaper industry, The Record, which was then better known as The Bergen Record, was a superior mid-sized paper in New Jersey. It was also family owned by the Borgs since 1930. Now it appears it will be bought by Gannett. "The Borgs are of that disappearing breed of newspaper families that have managed to retain their independence amid a wave of sales and consolidation throughout the industry." (Politico) Meanwhile, there are more layoffs at The New York Daily News. (New York Post) Drip, drip, drip.
Terrorists are everywhere (for Fox)
After the Orlando massacre, Fox News declared the gunman "was a follower of a controversial gang leader-turned-bank robber who was released from prison last year despite warnings from prosecutors that he would recruit people to carry out violent acts, sources told FoxNews.com." (Fox) It cited anonymous sources and the claim went viral. "The problem is the story wasn’t true." (The Intercept)
An aging mogul cleans house
You can't make this up. "Sumner Redstone’s National Amusements removed five members of the Viacom Inc. board Thursday — including Chairman Philippe Dauman — as the billionaire continues to reassert control of the media giant and take steps to replace Dauman as chief executive officer." (Bloomberg) Replacements include chums of his daughter, Shari, who has made a remarkable, phoenix-like rise from the ashes of being estranged to regain the trust of her aging dad. (The Wall Street Journal) Viacom's current board calls the removals "invalid." At minimum, "It’s a series of stupefying volleys between an owner and a board, spotlighting one of the most contentious regime changes in corporate history." (Recode)
Last night "a 147-square-foot chunk of American journalism history — a piece of art that is at once global, quintessentially New York City and oh-so-Omaha — began its second life" inside the lobby of the Omaha Public Library. (Omaha.com) The daughters and grandson of Nebraska artist Eugene Kingman were among the crowd at the W. Dale Clark Library lobby who watched the unveiling of a mural he began painting nearly 70 years ago and that hung in The New York Times lobby for four decades before being stuck into storage — and making its way to Omaha, presumably for many more decades. Oh, the mural "is an insight into a different time in American journalism. It’s a globe, a view of the Earth from space, an image meant to show the Times’ worldwide influence and signify postwar optimism. It is hopeful. It’s muscular. It’s a tad cocky."
Great way to start the morning
"Fox & Friends" found that there was not much bigger news this morning than to tell us about "a terrifying explosion that sent a man flying after his car ignited in a gas station parking lot" in Rochester, New York. Yes, a gas can in his trunk exploded, perhaps from static electricity. There was video. The guy flung the passenger side door open and jumped out, rolling onto the ground in flames. He's got third-degree burns. They showed it once. They showed it twice. They showed it a third time. And, perhaps just to motivate viewers for the rush-hour drive ahead, they showed it a fourth, then a fifth time. And if that wasn't a sufficiently inspiring early morning conflagration, it followed that story with video of a Good Samaritan pulling an apparently drunk driver, in another parking lot, out of his car as it was on fire. Perhaps it's the generally anti-government network's plea for better mass transit.
As Vanity Fair reported, he's considering building a media empire, replete with a cable channel. "Trump...has become irked by his ability to create revenue for other media organizations without being able to take a cut himself." (Vanity Fair) It was a subject for "Morning Joe" this morning, with born-again Trump basher Joe Scarborough continuing an abrupt about-face that surpasses even the now-you-see-it-now-you-don't decline of the champion Golden State Warriors' defense against the Cavaliers. "I'm glad he has a plan to get rich off this campaign since he sure doesn't seem to have a plan to win it." Well, if you can at least get through this weekend without a cable Trump TV network, presumably run day-to-day by Fox's Sean Hannity, have a good one. And perhaps don't leave a gas can in the trunk. I probably won't as I drive a kid to chess camp in Hillary Clinton's hometown of Park Ridge, Illinois. Cheers.