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Imagine if Chris Wallace of Fox News couldn't moderate tonight's final debate. Say he's kidnapped by a jealous Sean Hannity or beckoned for an emergency deposition in a Roger Ailes sexual harassment case.
What's one question you'd ask if you were chosen to replace him?
Here are the ideas of journalists, listed in alphabetical order of their first names (appropriate for a campaign that's made no sense).
Celeste Katz, senior political correspondent for Mic and co-host of "Special Relationship," a podcast from Mic and The Economist: "I'd like to ask both of them how they expect to unify and govern the country effectively after such a vicious election. There's usually fence-mending to do after a primary, but this general is different. This is war."
Christi Parsons, White House correspondent, Los Angeles Times-Chicago Tribune: "Here's a globe. Walk us through your foreign policy approach. What's that country right there? Who's its leader? Ally, partner, rival, enemy? Point to the problem areas. What are you going to do about that spot right there? How about this one?
David Shribman, Pulitzer Prize winner and editor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "For both: Is there anything you said in this campaign that you wish you hadn't said?"
Evan Osnos, staff writer, The New Yorker: "For both: For whichever of you is not fortunate to win in November, this debate right now is the single largest television audience that you will have for the foreseeable future. Neither of you plans to lose, but you know of course that it's possible, so who from our great history do you think has handled defeat in the best way?"
Jennifer Napier-Pearce, editor of the Salt Lake Tribune: "What evidence can you provide that would substantiate your claims that the election is 'rigged' and there is 'large-scale voter fraud?'"
Jonathan Martin, The New York Times: "Name one member of the opposite party currently serving in office who you would hire as president and for what post."
Kathy Kiely, commissioning editor, BillMoyers.com: "1. Who, in your opinion, are the most underpaid workers in America? Who are the most overpaid? What would you try to do as president to diminish the difference between them?"
"2. What do you say to Americans who have lost their jobs because of globalization or who fear they will lose their jobs to automation? How do you make a reasonable income possible in a world where people have to compete with slave labor, child labor and robots?"
Keith Olbermann: "Mr. Trump, why are you walking away from me?"
"(Seriously) In the last five days you have tweeted your displeasure with a "Saturday Night Live" sketch and said it was time for the show to be "retired," and your wife has said that your vulgar comments on the "Access Hollywood" tape were the result of being 'egged on' by the host. If you can't stand up to Billy Bush and Alec Baldwin how are the American people supposed to take you seriously and not consider you merely a paper-thin-skinned egomaniac?"
"Secretary Clinton: Why are you walking away from me?"
"(Seriously) do you think the Russians' actions leaning against a peaceful solution in Syria and their evident attempts to influence our elections through hacking and disinformation are connected or coincidental?"
Melanie Sill, Pulitzer Prize winner, vice president of content at KPCC, Southern California Public Radio: "Name your top three priorities as president if the other party controlled Congress and how you would carry them out. Outline your first five weeks in office."
Michael Shure, political correspondent, The Young Turks: "For Clinton: "What specifically will a Clinton administration do that will cause progressives in her own party, many of whom are voting for her grudgingly, and with great suspicion, to eagerly support her re-election in four years?"
"For Trump: On Inauguration Day, The President-Elect traditionally rides from the White House to the Capitol with The President. If elected what would you ask of, and what would you say to, President Obama during that ride?
Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief, The Huffington Post: "Trump: You said for a decade straight that Japan's economic policy was vastly superior to ours and they'd soon be lapping us. You really blew that one, huh?"
"Clinton: How many ground troops and support personnel would be required to implement the no-fly zone you want in Syria? Would you seek congressional authorization?"
Heir apparent to his family's throne
The New York Times announced on Wednesday that Arthur Gregg Sulzberger will become the deputy publisher at The New York Times, positioning him to succeed his father at the head of the family business when he retires. (Poynter)
The word on Sulzberger is that he believes in the values and traditions of the Times but is also seen as pragmatic, not pollyanish, about the future. Sulzberger led the 2014 "Innovation Report" that noted how far the Times was behind on its digital efforts. That was viewed as catalyst for a lot of rapid change that has ensued.
He's also said to have very humble manner and, in a suspicion-laden environment of a monarchical sort, does not give off any sense of entitlement. Further, he's been a reporter on the metro and national staff in Kansas City, where he was viewed as having done well.
New boss at the Daily News
Longtime New York Daily News stalwart, editorial page boss Arthur Browne, will be the third editor in 13 months after the apparently unceremonious exit of Jim Rich. (Poynter)
Multiple sources indicate that things simply didn’t work out much beyond Rich attracting some fleeting attention for grabby page-one layouts. In addition, owner Mort Zuckerman, who’s failed to find a buyer for the tabloid, installed Eric Gertler, his nephew as co-chairman and co-publisher.” The tabloid, for which I worked as Washington bureau chief, has endured a series of sharp downsizing over two decades.
Yahoo's brief reprieve
"Yahoo Inc. on Tuesday posted an increase in third-quarter profit and said usage of its email product has increased slightly since disclosing a massive data breach that was announced last month, rare bits of good news as it clings to a deal to sell itself to Verizon Communications Inc." (The Wall Street Journal)
The morning babble
Roll opening credits and, yes, there were the Nevada Desert Mermaids, synchronized swimmers plopping into a swimming pool on "Fox & Friends" at 3 in the morning local (Las Vegas) time. It was an unintentionally apt metaphor for the Trump campaign's ills — was he plopping into their dressing room, too? — as Trump reporter John Roberts said the candidate needs a "Babe Ruth-sized home run" tonight. He needs to "really articulate the differences between his policies and hers." Ah, yes.
But Fox provided an important public service with questions Vegas bookies are taking money on: "Will Trump say 'Crooked Hillary?'" "How many times will Trump say 'rig' or 'rigged?'" "Will Clinton say 'Billy Bush?' And "will Trump say 'Bill Clinton?'" The over-under on that one is "Yes: -565" and "No: +375." Nah, he won't say it.
CNN's "New Day" was briefly chagrined about changes in stagecraft, including Bill Clinton and Melania Trump not having to shake hands before the action, and maybe the primary combatants won't, either. "The new arrangement calls for the candidates’ spouses to enter the hall closer to their seats, rather than crossing the room, and each other’s paths." (The New York Times)
On MSNBC's "Morning Joe" the chyron stayed faithful to the pugilistic theme marketed incessantly by everybody (mostly CNN): "Final bout between Trump and Clinton." Said Mika Brzezinski,"I think it could be a tough night for Donald Trump since they will hone in on policy....he is the strongest when he's attacking her...and talking to his people about how they've been left behind. I think if you double or triple down on policy, it could be a very rough night."
If you're not near a TV tonight
There are many ways to watch it online, including SlingTV, Fox News Go, YouTube, ABC News on Facebook, Bloomberg TV on Twitter, CBS, CNNgo, Fox News Go and AltspaceVR. Wait, what? AltspaceVR?
It's "teamed up with NBC News to present a streaming virtual-reality experience that's the next best thing. To use it, you'll need the AltspaceVR app, which works with the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Samsung Gear. But if you have the right equipment, you can watch the debate through the NBC News Virtual Democracy Plaza with other political junkies who own pricey VR headgear." (Techwalla)
What we need: a queen
Tom Fenton, a former longtime AP and Gannett reporter and executive who is now publisher of the weekly El Paso Inc., says forget Clinton, Trump or Johnson. Here's the gist of his endorsement:
"After much thought, then, I have concluded we should approach Queen Elizabeth about the possibility of restoring the monarchy to the former colonies. In doing a little research I discovered that George III, the king of England and parts of Germany, was well thought of in the American colonies, right until just before the revolution." (El Paso Inc.)
Calling Bob Dylan, calling Mr. Dylan
So the Swedish Academy is apparently having trouble getting in touch with the new Nobel laureate for literature. This inspires "Bob Dylan's 126th Dream" in The London Review of Books:
"The line was crackly. ‘Mr Zimmerman we take the greatest pleasure in saying that in the opinion of the Nobel committee you have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction. May I congratulate you on your success?’"
"Bob reflected. ‘The most outstanding work in an ideal direction’? The words were a meaningless ring. Guess it sounds better in Swedish. Where was he going to keep another damn certificate? He said: ‘There’s no success like failure and failure’s no success at all. I ain’t looking for nothing.’ The Swedish cat sounded kinda put out.'" (London Review)
Well, maybe just try knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's, ah, his door in Malibu.
He should have thrown in an iPhone 7 and Red Sox tickets
"After months of trying to bring in enough entries for a contest to give away his newspaper, Ross Connelly is calling it quits." (Poynter) Yes, the guy who owns The Gazette in Hardwick, Vermont threw up the white flag after saying he'd give his paper to the winner of a contest where you wrote a 400-word essay on why you wanted to own a rural paper.
There was a $175 entry fee and a Kickstarter campaign. But there weren't enough entries and he's ending his search, at least for now, and will continue to run the paper.
If you can't make it to Amsterdam
Yes, it's time again for the Association for Computing Machinery's Multimedia conference in Amsterdam and "the theme this year beyond a doubt is machine learning." (TechCrunch) The topics will including how to predict the "interestingness" of GIFs.
Imagine a debate where..
Here's a proposal for a debate format change from David Kellogg, former longtime publisher of Foreign Affairs. "The fact that no campaign worth its salt would agree to it is no reason not to consider the possibility."
"The format? Turn one of the 90-minute debates into three 30-minute real-time scenario-based simulations concerning real problems that might be brought to the President. The candidates would not be given any details in advance. They would sit in separate soundproof rooms and receive a summary of the same problem at the start of each 30-minute session."
"Here’s the fun part. Joining each candidate would be two trusted advisers. The three of them would discuss the problem and its causes, review possible solutions, and then prepare a presidential decision (which might be to do nothing). A video would be made of each candidate’ sessions, and the six unedited recordings would be aired in their entirety after the fact." (Medium)
Chatting on Cheddar
Cheddar, a subscription digital CNBC (sort of) for millennials, is smart and fun and goes live from the New York Stock Exchange at 9:30 a.m. Eastern. Yesterday brought Jeremy Wacksman, CEO of Zillow, with word that our notion of millennials staying at home with their parents may well be off.
They are now "driving" the housing market, according to a new Zillow survey, he told co-hosts Jon Steinberg (Cheddar's boss) and co-host Kristen Scholer, along the way "bypassing starter homes" and buying homes only 20 percent to 30 percent less expensive than the average home price. More than half aren't getting the first house they make an offer on and simultaneously looking to rent if need be.
Along the way Steinberg opined on detached or so-called "mother-in-law" homes. He said they obviously symbolized not wanting to live with your mother-in-law. Scholar and Wacksman said, ah, no, it's to make life simpler than trekking from New York to Boston to check in on her.
Is there any digital life saver for newspapers?
Writes Bloomberg's Megan McArdle in response to Jack Shafer in Politico: "Most of the newspapers currently in operation will ultimately die, because the internet rewards scale rather than deep local knowledge. They will die whether they stick to their knitting or go all-in on 'digital first.' And their deaths will, as deaths tend to be, rather unpleasant. I’m not going to tell them to waste the time they have left on a long-shot chance at life. But I’m not quite willing to tell them they shouldn’t, either." (Bloomberg)
Back at The White House
The Washington Post beckoned Pulitzer winning fashion reporter Robin Givhan and prominently displays, "First lady shimmers in Versace at the Obamas’ final state dinner." (The Washington Post) "Michelle Obama wore a custom rose-gold, slinky chain-mail gown from Atelier Versace that oozed pure Hollywood glamour." Now prepare for everybody dressing down tonight in Vegas.
So Donald Trump invited President Obama's half brother, a Trump partisan, to the debate. Campaign reporters must now download "The Godfather."
Does Trump think this will reprise the scene in where turncoat Corleone consigliere Frank 'Frankie Five Angels' Pentangeli recants his planned U.S. Senate testimony against Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) when his brother suddenly surfaces in the hearing room at Michael's behest? Yes, one quick, silent glance from the Sicilian brother reminded Frankie that he'll disgrace the family by rating.
Does Trump figure that Hillary Clinton will now be moved to stark fear and deny all past support of Obama after a quick, silence glance from the pro-Trump Kenyan half-brother? The drama is stark. As those local TV news anchors say, stay tuned!
Correction: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story incorrectly called Arthur Gregg Sulzberger the new deputy editor of The New York Times. He is deputy publisher.