A damning report on Trump and the press
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.
Surpassed poor Obama record on transparency
"Over the first six months of this young presidency, President Donald J. Trump’s approach to the office has been characterized by self-interest, defiance of basic democratic norms, and often incoherent or self-contradictory communications and priorities."
That's merely the cordial opener to a report by the open-government, non-profit Sunlight Foundation, which is not exactly a band of crazed lefties, in a report, "On Trump, transparency and democracy."
What is damning is how this report quickly notes the lousy Obama administration record on transparency but contends the Trump record on open government so far "is inescapable: this is a secretive administration, allergic to transparency, ethically compromised, and hostile to the essential role that journalism plays in a democracy."
It concedes, "Many White House correspondents, however, have reported Trump reaching out to them directly, approaching press on Air Force One, and inviting them into the Oval Office to talk, in a marked departure from President Obama’s practice."
But that's about it. Otherwise, it finds the White House's general approach to the press is a "constant state of uncorrected contradiction," with a penchant to delegitimize journalism daily as "fake news," the limiting of press briefings and the ultimate sacrificing of credibility.
It started with lies about how many folks were on the Mall on Inauguration Day and, it says, has gone downhill since. To that extent, it's in sync with a subsequent CNN "Reliable Sources" newsletter take last night, which does a vaguely similar six-month status report and concludes, "the White House press strategy is confusing, contradictory and arguably self-defeating."
Speaking of liars
O.J. Simpson's parole hearing didn't get positive reviews. The likes of ever-dour Jeffrey Toobin on CNN, who knows the original Simpson case cold and thinks Simpson committed the murders, found him to still be an unapologetic liar ("I thought I had the lost the ability to be appalled" by Simpson).
"OJ Simpson Pretty Much Did Everything Wrong, Passing Blame, Losing His Cool During Parole Hearing" was the thrust of an analysis in Law Newz whose founder, Dan Abrams, had the uninviting task of debating Nancy Grace earlier on "Good Morning America."
"When something feels wrong, it IS wrong!" she declared with characteristic understatement, thinking that Simpson should remain locked up. Abrams, who proved correct as to the outcome, replied (correctly), "That's not how the law works."
Campbell Brown's Facebook update
"More than six months after announcing a project to combat fake news, Facebook released an update" about its attempt to offer "training, products and tools for journalists and news consumers."
The update was co-authored by Campbell Brown, the former journalist who is Facebook's Head of News Partnerships. "We’ve learned so much since we launched the Facebook Journalism Project and this collaboration is already driving innovation that we couldn’t have achieved on our own. It’s going to take a concerted effort on all of our parts to help build a future where quality journalism can thrive."
Here's the problem: Yes, after getting creamed for propagating (even if unintentionally) tons of genuinely fake news (as opposed to the president's definition), Facebook has embarked on a good faith effort. But nothing will fundamentally change the deeply asymmetrical relationship one finds between publishers of real content and the social media giants.
This is largely chicken soup. It's well intentioned. It won't hurt. It may help at the margins (such as a bit more fact-checking). But it offers no meaningful response to the diminution of revenues and readership accelerated by the likes of Facebook or an answer to how to pay for quality journalism.
Amazon goes after Google
"Executives at Amazon Web Services used to pride themselves on ignoring products offered by rivals like Microsoft and Google. Not anymore." (The Information)
"AWS is considering developing a new cloud service based on a Google-created software tool called Kubernetes, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions. Used to run many applications at the same time, Kubernetes is increasingly popular with developers."
New York cops agree to follow the law
"If you need any more proof the NYPD hates transparency, you need look no further than Keegan Stephan's victory in a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) lawsuit." (Techdirt)
This notes, "Stephan has been seeking information on the department's use of a sound cannon for crowd control. The NYPD, of course, had no interest in releasing these records. Central to the settlement is the department agreeing to accept FOI requests by email, something it's supposed to have been doing for more than a decade."
Slanted "must-run" stories, centralized conservative political analysis, cozy relations with advertisers that impact content, small-town production values and rampant cost-cutting are part of the Sinclair Broadcast Group modus operandi, details Bloomberg Businessweek in a cover piece on "“the most powerful person in American media you’ve never heard of."
That would be Sinclair chief David Smith, who's portrayed unflatteringly as lacking in vision but abundant in meddling in news coverage and operating on a shoestring. Why should one care? Sinclair owns 173 (mostly smaller market) TV stations and will add 42 more after it takes over current Tribune Media outlets, including big stations in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
The more things change...
"President Trump’s lawyers and aides are scouring the professional and political backgrounds of investigators hired by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, looking for conflicts of interest they could use to discredit the investigation — or even build a case to fire Mr. Mueller or get some members of his team recused, according to three people with knowledge of the research effort." (The New York Times)
Unmentioned is how it seems like just yesterday that folks at the Clinton White House were looking for dirt on and bad-mouthing Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel whose snooping inspired Clinton's impeachment. And bad-mouthing his minions, whispering lots of nastiness (some true) into the ears of Washington reporters (present company included), while Starr expanded his investigation's scope (to the delight of the same Republicans aghast at possible Mueller overreaching today).
And, you can argue, the bad-mouthing worked in caricaturing Starr as out of control.
"A World in Disarray
There can be a tendency to see things all around us as going to hell in a handbasket. But check out Vice's "A World in Disarray" tonight on HBO and you might well conclude that, yes, things are worse as a vaguely coherent world order is gone.
It's nearly 90 minutes and melds our post-9/11 failures in the Middle East with an array of other factors, such as civil war in Syria, Russia's meddling in Ukraine, China's growing economic and geopolitical clout, and North Korea's screwing around with nuclear weapons.
It talks to some usual foreign policy suspects – it's a de facto plug for establishment figure Richard Haass' new book of the same name – though there are real insights from the likes of Tony Blair, Condoleezza Rice and political scientist Francis Fukuyama. And there's excellent on the ground reporting (very good on China flexing muscle in the South China Sea, Russia steamrolling Ukraine and chilling stuff in Syria, ultimately damning about U.S. inaction). Find it on HBO tonight, DVR it or catch it another time.
New White House communications boss
"President Trump is expected to announce that Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci will be White House communications director, according to two sources familiar with the planning." (Axios)
He's been a favorite Trump pundit, so it's no surprise even if he preferred Scott Walker and Jeb Bush during the Republican primaries before shifting to Trump. And he's a buddy of Sean Hannity, Trump's pro bono cable publicist.
Oh, get this: "Trump's plans to appoint Scaramucci came as a surprise to Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who found out after the plans had already been made."
No surprise that MSNBC beat up on him this morning, with "Morning Joe" panelist Donnie Deutsch bad-mouthing him as a de facto car salesman with "no skills" for the job.
Sports Illustrated's very good Tom Verducci suggests that a quiet revolution in Major League baseball could be underway as the Yankees essentially abandon a fundamental premise of pitching: that the fastball is the central pitch. (S.I)
The morning babble
The Golf Channel's coverage of the blustery British Open was more alluring than cable news. But "Trump & Friends," which loves bashing that evil mainstream media, had no problem using The New York Times story on Trump's investigating Robert Mueller's office. After all, it plays into the Fox-Rush Limbaugh construct of a witchhunt led by Democrats.
MSNBC's "Morning Joe" relied on the same story except, of course, there were no aspersions cast on Mueller and the drift was that Trump is out of control. Asked about the interview with Trump Wednesday, The Times' Michael Schmidt (at a remote studio in Washington) said understatedly, "The President is harder to follow than I thought he would be," prompting raucous and disembodied laughter from the co-hosts and panelists in New York (in case you doubted their consensus on Trump).
Meanwhile, CNN's "New Day" exploited the work of The Washington Post on Trump at least asking his lawyers about his pardon powers when it comes to "aides, family members and even himself." And might Mueller find it necessary to pull Trump's tax returns, which would surely be in his jurisdiction?
Imagine Trump's reaction to such a move!
No speculation here: That's it for this week. The Welles Park Junior Rockies lost two coach-pitch playoff games last week, 3-2 and 16-13. So that's it. But I am not bitter. I'm not. Even about the 8-year-old shortstop for the Reds who briefly turned into Derek Jeter, ranging into the hole and robbing my kid of a hit with two outs and the bases loaded in extra innings of that first game. Not bitter. Have a good weekend.