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Bruce Sanford, an A-list media attorney with an actual sense of humor, imagines what he'd do if Donald Trump came to him about suing those 11 women who accused him of nonconsensual groping and kissing: Tell him why he's doomed to failure.
"Trump might imagine that he could prove the women made calculated falsehoods by ferreting out evidence that they were induced by Clinton supporters to lie," he wrote late Wednesday for The Washington Post, one of many blue-chip clients. (The Washington Post) "But my experience in libel litigation suggests that locating proof of such rank speculation in nearly a dozen different cases is far-fetched at best, delusional at worst."
So what are the risks for a guy with a pile of dough, an even bigger sense of grievance and undoubted knowledge that folks these days blame the media for everything, including being a conduit for the women's allegations?
"There are the risks any plaintiff puts on the line during libel litigation: his reputation. For a man who has gleefully discussed his sex life with Howard Stern and promoted himself as a latter-day Donald Juan, civil discovery, under oath, could be painful and ugly," writes Sanford, general counsel to the Society of Professional Journalists whose clients have also included The New York Times and ABC.
"All the gritty details of the alleged encounters with his 11 accusers would be sifted through endlessly. His emails, conversations, interviews through the years about women and relationships would be examined with the ardor previously reserved for the State Department emails of another candidate."
I subsequently tracked down Sanford and asked about the perils for any defamation defendant in this Age of Hogan, where a self-promotional pro wrestler can make a boatload if he gets the right jury and badmouths the press (i.e. Gawker Media).
He agreed to a certain extent, certainly that "The Hulk never missed a promotional opportunity," just like the presidential candidate who was marketing his new Washington, D.C. hotel yesterday.
"But the reality is that libel cases typically have a high emotional quotient, much more gut than brain at work. My strategy often is to take the drama and energy out of the case — easier to resolve or win in court that way."
And if Trump were to sue and lose, the laws in many states — at least 28 which have so-called anti-SLAPP statutes (aimed partly at the rich who gratuitously seek to silence critics) — raise the prospect of being forced to pay costs and legal fees of the women.
It's another reason that the next time he's at his new Washington hotel, Trump should drop by Sanford's office at Baker & Hostetler. The attorney would advise the legend in his own mind "to leave the women alone and stop groping for libel claims that don’t exist."
Not all would be lost. Trump could then speed dial a gullible cable news network with the exclusive of "giving the women a break" and not suing.
Megyn Kelly seeks $20 million a year
Well, The Wall Street Journal sure has a reliable source on Fox negotiations to keep Megyn Kelly. According to its Don Corleone, namely Rupert Murdoch, he hopes to get a new deal figured out "very soon," follows the status of things "every minute of the day" and says money isn't an issue.
It then quotes "people familiar with the matter" as saying Kelly wants more than $20 million a year. There's no mention as if she seeks a provision ensuring that she and Newt Gingrich can spar once a week and reach the holy grail, namely going viral.
Imagine: "Snapchat will seek to raise as much as $4 billion in its planned initial public offering, according to people familiar with the matter." (Bloomberg)
"The IPO could value Snapchat at about $25 billion to $35 billion, the people said, asking not to be identified as the details aren’t public. No final decision has been made and the size of the IPO may change, they said. The valuation could reach as much as $40 billion, one of the people said."
Good news, bad news
Good: "Verizon said Wednesday it is buying the technology behind Vessel, the short-form video firm started by former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar." (Recode)
Bad: "The telecom giant is acquiring Vessel’s product and technology, but plans to shut down the Vessel service."
Big picture: "It’s the latest in a string of deals for Verizon and AT&T, both of which are upping their content game significantly."
Death in Buenos Aires
"It is with unspeakable sadness that we print our last edition today as the only English-language daily newspaper in Latin America, ending the Buenos Aires Herald’s 140-year run." (Buenos Aires Herald)
Argentina is no different from many nations these days, with proliferation of ideologically based media and the decline of print. But a farewell to readers yesterday noted it's all "especially true of the Argentine media landscape this year, where modifications to government-paid advertising, its distribution and the recession are exacerbating the changes at a rapid pace." The Herald was solid and courageous during years of military dictatorship.
Fourteen lost their jobs yesterday, which proves a trickle in a flood. "Unions estimate as many as 2,000 journalists may lose their jobs in the country in 2016, a staggering number which will damage the profession greatly."
The case for spurning a third-party candidate
Joe Walljasper, the sports editor of the Columbia (MO) Daily Tribune, grew up in Missouri as a Chicago Cubs fan and watched games with his late dad, Frank, who drank Old Style beer. The Cubs run to the World Series prompted him to search for some in his town. But he couldn't find any at the Blue Springs Hy-Vee, so he texted his stepson, who found some in Kansas City.
He writes, "Circle of life: He will be bringing me the Old Style in time for the World Series...Frank was a man of mathematics, not religion, and I never really subscribed to the whole 'he must be up there smiling' stuff anyway. But what is faith? Belief without evidence. Is that not a trait of someone who kept following the Cubs year after year?"
"So if we witness a sports miracle — the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series — I’ll raise a cold Old Style ... and let him skim a little off the top." (Columbia Tribune)
Vice vs. the big boys
"Vice News Tonight" seeks to chart a different path via its new 30-minute HBO evening newscast. It not a Sisyphean task, given the sameness of the broadcast kingpins.
Last night NBC opened with politics and Trump's "questionable investment in time" by showing at his hotel opening. CBS opened with the campaign horse race via polling and, yes, Trump's hotel opening. ABC did its tabloid thing, opening with "The Scare on the Subway," namely video of some passengers panicking aboard a Boston subway after a motor overheated (ABC thus gave the story far greater play than The Boston Globe even did online).
No-anchor Vice started with a marshmallow soft piece on female Clinton supporters. Fortunately, it segued to stronger efforts on the grinding battle for Mosul; social and political disarray in Venezuela; and a counterintuitive Temple University study that will assess if gunshot victims are better off with basic measures than with advanced life support before arriving at a hospital.
Want to be an NPR star?
"Pitch Your Program" is the listing. "We’re looking for ideas that present new voices, explore innovative approaches, and bring attention to stories that preserve our histories, shape our futures and give us a better understanding of our communities and ourselves." (NPR)
So do you really think any of yours are safe? Don't bet on it. Take a look at a handy "decision tree" graphic from Techwalla and decide how easy it is you can get screwed. This might be especially timely for journalists writing stories about individuals and companies getting hacked. (Techwalla)
"Viewership through the first seven weeks of the N.F.L. season is down by 12 percent in the United States while the audiences for Premier League soccer matches this season, which began in August, are down by nearly 20 percent in Britain." (The New York Times)
Fashion journalism scoop
"Sonia Rykiel, the Paris fashion house whose iconic founder died in August, may be fighting for its future after its Chinese owners warned they may shut it down if it fails to return to profit, sources in the struggling company said." (The Irish Times)
The morning babble
"Fox & Friends" chided the evil mainstream media for chiding Trump for doing his hotel thing yesterday, while making much of incremental polling changes well within margins of error. Meanwhile, the media's "the race is tightening" refrain is far from clear to data whiz Nate Silver. (FiveThirtyEight)
MSNBC's "Morning Joe" depended (again) heavily on a newspaper's actual reporting, in this case New York Times analysis of the latest batch of stolen Clinton campaign emails. They're a window onto the dealings of the Clinton Foundation and a self-dealing former top official who was helping to strong-arm corporations to steer giant sums to Bill Clinton. (The Times) "BILL CLINTON INC." was the appropriate chyron.
On "New Day" David Gregory conceded a "sense of entitlement" the Clintons display throughout their buckraking but also found it "unseemly and shameful that we're scrutinizing these emails based on apparently the Russian government stealing them and having them leak." Well, then, perhaps don't comment. At minimum, C-SPAN will have Republican-led congressional hearings galore to air, based on the emails, if Clinton wins and the GOP at least keeps a House majority.
And about those Cubs...
It's a 2016 version of Bernard Malamud's "The Natural" (remember the Robert Redford flick?). Writes USA Today this morning after Chicago Cubs phenom Kyle Schwarber's six-month absence and so-far stunning return for the World Series. (USA Today)
"How in the world could a baseball player spend six months just learning to walk again after a devastating knee injury, not playing in a single game, and lead the Chicago Cubs to their first World Series victory since 1945, with a 5-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians, evening the Series at 1-game apiece?"
It does seem like a 2016 update of Malamud's 1952 novel about Roy Hobbs (Redford), a prodigy whose career is sidetracked (after being shot) but returns with legendary aplomb. Fox Sports analyst John Smoltz, himself a Hall of Fame pitcher, seemed incredulous last night at the phenom's return from an awful injury.