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Concluding a New England vacation, I fell off the non-work wagon just outside Boston Sunday with a tweet from Kellyanne Conway, this week's Donald Trump campaign chief: "Day 267: No press conference. And no press outrage."
An hour later an airport TV displayed CNN's Brian Stelter flicking at the Hillary Clinton topic with Stuart Stevens, the GOP strategist and author. It fell well short of outrage and likely did not assuage Conway. So do the accusations have merit?
NPR's David Folkenflik just weighed in on Clinton interviews. He found that, as advertised, she's done about 350 in the first seven months of the year. Many were one-on-ones with television, most were quite short (three to eight minutes) and about 20 percent with people who aren't really journalists, like the mayor of Miami Beach. (NPR) No surprise, she targets traditional Democratic constituencies, such as African-Americans and Latinos, and has done little with print publications, notably big-shot dailies, which may be viewed by the campaign as a bit too rigorous.
Press conferences? Clearly, they aren't much liked by a media-wary Clinton. That's probably due in part to the Clintons' nearly genetic predisposition to believing they've often been screwed, dating back to their Arkansas days. There's truth to the belief, but it doesn't justify the preternatural wariness and notorious parsing reflexively associated with the Clintons (and now, perhaps, also the painfully obtuse Ryan Lochte).
So amid the late-August languor, what do journalists think of all this?
Rich Lowry, editor of The National Review: "She's running as close to a front-porch campaign as possible in the modern era. She hopes to win on the back of the organizational strength of her campaign and the weakness of Trump. She can't avoid the press entirely but is limiting access as much as possible and trying not to create any high-stakes events. Given that she has a tin ear politically, why create more opportunities for a slip-up than are necessary?"
Roland Martin, host and managing editor, NewsOneNow: "As a journalist, [I believe] Clinton should do more press availability. If not a news conference, far more interviews with national outlets. Clearly the networks have said phoning in is OK, so she should be doing 10-minute pops. Politically, this is smarter than holding freewheeling news conferences.
Ron Fournier, National Journal: "This is not merely a question of news conferences versus interviews. It's about the broader, modern-era demand for accessibility, authenticity, transparency and accountability. Hillary Clinton and her communications team are stuck in the opaque, pre-internet '90s, which doesn't bode well for her presidency."
Jill Lawrence, commentary editor, USA Today: "There are a lot of downsides for Clinton having a press conference. She's not good at them, she'd be asked about one controversy after another, and it would be political malpractice to distract from Trump's unraveling. That said, she should practice up and do a few starting very soon. She needs to demonstrate she can get through a press conference with poise and without self-inflicted damage. The longer she waits, the harder it gets."
Finally, there's Mike Barnicle, the MSNBC analyst and longtime columnist who likely isn't the first political journalist to invoke the legacy of the most hallowed college basketball coach, UCLA's late John Wooden — and also a now forgotten hard court rules reality back in the day.
"John Wooden is her campaign manager. It's 1966 and there is no shot clock, so she's going to just run it out. Why would she expose herself to us when she is aware, totally aware, that she is incapable of speaking in a straight line about CGI (Clinton Global Initiative) or the home server? Plus she's paranoid."
The media and EpiPen
The press is exhibiting its own version of anaphylactic shock over price hikes for the drug maker Mylan's epinephrine injector, the EpiPen. The latest passion-infused opus suggesting chagrin was found in The New York Times over the weekend. (The New York Times) The price more than quintupled in eight years, to over $600 for a two-pack. So my thanks to STAT, the terrific health sciences site, for both noting and explaining why this has all gone so viral when, in fact, the device's price increases (and those of many other devices and drugs) have been known for years. The ingredients are A) "A mind-boggling price hike" B) "A compelling patient story" C) "The Bernie Sanders factor" (he weighed in early in his campaign on pharmaceutical outrages) and D) "A controversial CEO with a hefty paycheck."
Oh, I forgot one: E) "We, the media." The press, and STAT itself, "are complicit" for fueling the outrage in what STAT has come to call "EpiPendimonium." There are many examples of such hikes but occasionally one "catches fire and fuels a predictable cycle of media coverage, Twitter storms, online petitions, and congressional statements." (STAT)
Why a surgeon goes to Aleppo
Samer Attar, a surgeon with the wonderful Northwestern Medicine and the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, is volunteering with the Syrian American Medical Society and the Aleppo City Medical Council. It's a rather hellish place and he crafted a nifty piece yesterday on why he goes there.
"One night, we treated a child caught in an explosion who had the bone shards of obliterated bystanders embedded in his skin. An airstrike hit his school during a charity event to donate clothes to the poor. The last thing he remembered was seeing his best friend disintegrate in front of him."
"The boy’s father saw me and asked who I was, and why I was speaking in a strange language. A nurse explained to him that I was an American doctor. He told me that he had never met an American. He never thought he would. He never believed the day would come when an American doctor — one with Syrian blood but born and raised with the freedoms and luxuries of the United States — would come to Aleppo to help in a time of war." (The New York Times)
Yes, humans are overrated
"Quartz confirmed from multiple sources that Facebook has laid off the entire editorial staff on the Trending team — 15-18 workers contracted through a third party. The Trending team will now be staffed entirely by engineers, who will work to check that topics and articles surfaced by the algorithms are newsworthy." (Quartz)
But some were not happy with the latest development in a saga that began with Gizmodo suggesting that the humans had an anti-conservative bias. "While this may be a minor cause for celebration for the blogs that went into full Outrage Mode after that story, it is terrible news for my Twitter feed. As someone at a media company who follows a lot of journalists, snarkily commented-upon screenshots of Facebook Trending headlines were a periodic source of delight." (Recode)
Finding new revenue streams
The Business of Fashion is unveiling "our first paid online courses — The Art & Science of Buying and Merchandising with Susanne Tide-Frater and Fashion History for Today with Colin McDowell — as well as the 2016 edition of our Global Fashion Schools Ranking, which now includes 54 schools from 17 countries around the world." (BOF) The buying-merchandising course, for example, costs $195.
Very visual webinar
In case you somehow missed it, NPPA, "the voice of visual journalists," is offering a video replay of a free webinar on "proposed legislation to create a simplified alternative to the federal court system for copyright infringements under $30,000. Presented by the Graphics Artists Guild, experts outline the benefits and how every photographer, artist and designer and can join the grassroots effort to support this legislation." (Free webinar)
Back to the morning cable mish-mash
There was lots of blabbing this morning about Trump's typically inelegant tweet following the shooting of basketball star Dwyane Wade's cousin in Chicago while pushing a stroller with her baby. Trump wrote,"Just what I have been saying. African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP!" Even Fox's Brian Kilmeade, part of the generally solicitous Trump crew on "Fox & Friends," conceded, "Maybe it wasn't the most politically correct tweet." That constitutes condemnation there.
MSNBC's Joe Scarborough was rather less equivocal after showing Trump running mate Mike Pence's untidy answer to Jake Tapper questions on the tweet yesterday during a Pence-Tapper CNN interview where Pence largely blamed the media. Addressing an absent Pence, Scarborough said, "If any of your children did something remotely that insensitive and heinous, you would take them and sit them down and give them a long, stern lecture about how un-Christ-like that was."
On CNN's "New Day," there was inevitable discussion of the four-paragraph letter on Trump's health whipped off in December but now revived — apparently written in five minutes as a Trump limo awaited — by his doctor, Dr. Harold Bornstein. (NBC) It prompted Chris Cuomo to justifiably guffaw at his own suggestion that the guy will be Surgeon General in a Trump administration.
Visually surveilling the surveillance
New York photographer Clay Benskin wondered to The New York Times' photo blog why, with all the security cameras to be found around the city, people are still so unabashed in committing crimes in public. "Mr. Benskin, who has no formal training and has taken photographs only for the past five or six years, turned this fascination into images of a city in which surveillance is so pervasive that the people under its eye no longer notice it. He, too, was not aware of how many eyes watched his every move until he started photographing a few, then looked through his archives for others. Sure enough, the eyes were everywhere — not cruel or sinister, just there." (The New York Times)
A rather firm grasp of the obvious
"Two presidential campaigns that have been busy slinging mud at each other for much of the last week agree on one thing: Republican Donald Trump will continue to shoot from the hip when the candidates meet on a debate stage." (Bloomberg)
The media and philanthropy
Mainstream media coverage of the nonprofit and philanthropic worlds is generally pathetic. Most reporters and editors in most newsrooms know precious little, if anything, about even the identities of people who run the biggest nonprofits in their towns, much less what those institutions actually do (their incestuous ways, their interlocking boards, their frequently mediocre essence). So it's good to learn of a "John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Doctoral Fellowship on Philanthropy, Media and Democracy" being offered by the the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.
It correctly notes, "There has long been a dearth of research and writing on the media’s coverage of foundations, nonprofits, and individual donors — and in particular their impact on society, policy, and democracy." (Duke) Now, journalists, name one thing the nearly $7 billion MacArthur Foundation does beyond giving out its "genius" grants? Or what the $10 billion Robert Wood Johnson Foundation does? Or the name of the CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation? Perhaps you should apply for the Duke fellowship.
A painful passing of a terrific reporter
W. Zachary "Bill" Malinowski, a longtime great investigative reporter at the Providence, Rhode Island, Journal recently passed away due to ALS. He'd also been a very good athlete, including running marathons, and swam most mornings at a local YMCA. Dan Barry, now long of The New York Times, who was a close friend and a Red Sox cap-wearing pallbearer, wrote about him last year in a wonderful piece. (The New York Times) It recounted his immigrant heritage (his dad was in the Polish resistance and spent four years in Nazi prison and labor camps), their two families vacationing together and the two reporters going to a Sox game last summer at a time when Malinowski's body was so clearly betraying him due to what's also known as "Lou Gehrig's disease."
"It will be a long night. We will not return to Bill’s house until after midnight, and he will be wiped out," wrote Barry. "Then, in the early morning, he will rise before I do, drive to the Y and lift more weights to forestall what seems inevitable. For now, though, there is baseball. Meaningless, late-season baseball, the innings blending one into the next in a game without a clock. The Red Sox are losing, and the scoreboard in left says the Yankees are winning.
That’s all right. Bill finds hope in the young Red Sox ballplayers out there. Brock Holt, Mookie Betts, Blake Swihart. And this kid, Jackie Bradley Jr., who just hit a meaningless single in the bottom of the eighth."
"The hell with the Yankees. Next year, he says. Next year."