Ohio editor argues media blowing it on Trump-Russia
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Coverage of the Trump campaign and Russia dominated the news this morning, even as President Trump celebrated Bastille Day in sunny Paris. Still, Main Street America seems to be saying "nyet" when it comes to that unceasing focus on Russian campaign influence.
Even with the Left Vs. Right construct of much coverage, there is the National vs. Local dichotomy that finds many Americans enthusiastic about Trump and tuning out. His approval ratings are low (in the high 30s) but still stronger than one might have suspected.
Gary Abernathy, publisher-editor of the Times-Gazette in Hillsboro, Ohio, penned a Washington Post op-ed that chides "wall-to-wall coverage" of the Russia story, seeing it as the "definition of overkill" and argues that Trump's criticisms of the press itself don't resonate "outside of offended newsrooms."
"Trump doesn’t deserve favorable coverage. All he deserves is fair and honest coverage. But even liberals can’t argue with a straight face that he’s wrong about mainstream media bias." (The Washington Post)
Trump's tweet deriding CNN by showing him wrestling its logo to the ground? Abernathy writes, "Americans were subjected to solemn sermonizing from CNN and other outlets over what were characterized as the president’s attacks on the First Amendment itself and an incitement to violence. Nonsense."
"In Trump country, Russia scandal doesn't resonate" is a USA Today headline.
In Wayne County, Tennessee, which went heavily for Trump, Republican County Chairwoman Stephanie Pearson puts it most vividly after saying how she thinks Donald Trump Jr. should be applauded for releasing those emails (yes, applauded).
An inevitable question – when might she turn against Trump – brings an unequivocal response.
“'I don’t know what he would have to do...I guess maybe kill someone. Just in cold blood,' Pearson said."
I've spoken with a bunch of small-town editors and journalists. And the Trump criticisms do resonate in fundamental and negative ways, especially among Republicans.
This administration has diminished the standing of the press, whether it plies its trade in big cities or, one suspects, Hillsboro, Ohio.
In Paris for the Bastille Day ceremonies this morning, CNN's Jeff Zeleny discerned a "Russian cloud that is still looming, including what he knew and when he knew it." That "he" would be Trump.
"Trump & Friends," which the president sometimes watches on DVR if he's missed it live, spent more time early today bashing Vice President Al Gore for comments on the environment. Oh, that's former Vice President Al Gore. They hammered him as if still in office. It can be the same with Barack Obama.
On MSNBC it was all Russia. "Did Russia Need Help on U.S. Soil to Impact 2016 Election?" For the second day it thus zeroed in on a McClatchy story about possible Russian assistance to the Trump campaign in targeting individual precincts, while "Morning Joe" also mulled stories by Yahoo! News and The New York Times on Jared Kushner amending his foreign contacts disclosure form three times.
"By far the week's best journalism"
The prominent former editor in chief of a major daily asked if I'd read David Wallace-Wells' "The Uninhabitable Earth" in New York Magazine. He said it was one of the best pieces of journalism he'd read of late.
I hadn't. But, indeed, this is a superior analysis of how climate change will create environmental, economic and social disarray way faster than even a lot of folks assume. It's based on many interviews and his examination of serious research will take you 20 minutes and is worth it. Very scary.
The primacy of local news
Here's a terrific fact sheet on local TV news from Pew Research Center. In sum:
"Local television news programming has shed audience over the past decade, including this past year in most time slots studied. Even with these viewership losses, local TV news still garners more viewers on average than cable and network news programs."
Here's a not surprising "but": "However, for election news in particular – a big part of last year’s news agenda – cable news brands were named as the main news source by a greater portion of voters than local TV news programming. Financially, local TV companies have generated increasing revenue, though in a cyclical pattern tied to election years. Explore the patterns and longitudinal data about local TV news below."
Election years are always good ones for TV. Total over-the-air local TV ad revenues were $20.6 billion, an 11 percent hike over 2015.
How to handle Trump
I asked TV executives how increasingly frustrated show hosts should handle the likes of Kellyanne Conway, Sabastian Gorka and Jay Sekulow. (U.S. News & World Report) There have been several vivid instances of late, notably on CNN, where theatrics, ego and pettiness have been on display on both sides.
Here are three of five suggestions by one former big shot broadcast executive:
"'Deep throat them.' By that he means, spend a few bucks to have some very good fact-checkers in your control room so they can whisper into a host's ear and let him or her correct the record in real time."
"'Deconstruct the interview the next night.' There's a good chance that the loyalists in your audience will be back the next day to see you. So perhaps you let Gorka rant a bit more than you're inclined and then, the next night, when you have total control, dissect his performance, untrue statement by untrue statement. A pissing match with Gorka can be good TV, but so can analysis of his misdirections and hyperbole."
"'Don't book 'em.' If someone proves himself or herself to be an aggravating and unadulterated shill, why give them a platform? Feel free to tell viewers why you won't book them. Or maybe make clear you'll give them another chance but not a third if they b.s. the world one more time."
By coincidence, several days after a piece here on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos ducking reporters, USA Today's Gregg Toppo, head of the Education Writers Association, emailed that she was going to take questions.
Good timing. As Toppo would later write for the paper, "One day after her agency’s civil rights chief apologized for joking that most campus rape claims amount to two young people who are 'both drunk,' U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said the department should more equally weigh the claims of assault victims and the due-process rights of the accused."
He also noted, "DeVos, who was sitting down with reporters at the department's headquarters for the first time since she took office last February, also dodged a question about whether working for President Trump, who in 2005 admitted to unwanted sexual advances on women, makes it harder for her to make progress on the topic."
An NPR countdown clock
"As promised, SAG/AFTRA, the union that represents more than 400 on-air and off-air workers at National Public Radio, published a website Thursday complete with a countdown clock timed to Friday midnight when the temporary extension of the current contract expires." (Poynter)
The public offers a piece of its mind
Mic's Celeste Katz discloses that Trump's controversial voter fraud panel won't let the public speak at its first meeting on July 19 but did solicit emails. As of yesterday, there were 112 pages of responses on the White House website.
Descriptions of the controversial panel and its aims included “pea brained,” “undemocratic,” “stupid” and “unpatriotic.” And, she notes, "that was the clean stuff." (Mic)
America's worst columnist?
Boy, this would appear to be a wickedly competitive contest but, writes Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine:
"Ed Rogers is a Washington lobbyist, and, for reasons I have never been able to discern, a regular op-ed columnist for tThe Washington Post. Rogers may indeed be the worst op-ed columnist in America — certainly the worst one writing for a respectable publication."
Thorn in a university's side
Chicago-based journalist Dan Libit started a website that covers the University of New Mexico Athletic Department and has now filed a second lawsuit seeking documents from a reluctant university.
This suit involves Lobo Sports Properties, a subsidiary of Learfield Communications, the university's sports licensing partner. He's seeking contracts Lobo has entered into on behalf of the university.
There's a history here of the university seemingly hiding behind private companies with which it contracts and claiming that what Libit wants are not public records. Here's his site's take on the latest suit. Here's the suit that names Lobo Properties, Learfield and the university's board of regents as defendants.
The elite meet in Sun Valley, Idaho
I called the cell number of a prominent businessman who answered, he said, while walking on a golf course in Sun Valley, Idaho. Ah, yes, it's the annual gathering of the media elite (with the likes of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.)
Recode ran a bunch of photos, including of "a buff-looking Jeff Bezos."
Then, again, he probably can afford decent workout equipment in the basement. The Bloomberg Billionaire's Index had him at $85.7 billion last night.
Big hires by new sports outfit
The subscription-based website The Athletic opened for business in Chicago and has now expanded to Cleveland, Detroit and Toronto. It's now adding Seth Davis, who was laid off by Sports Illustrated, and also Tim Kawakami, a heavy hitter who'll leave The Mercury News in San Jose, California. (The Big Lead)
Ivana Trump reams out her ex
How did we miss this?
"Left aghast and upset after seeing her beloved firstborn son all over the evening news, a distraught Ivana Trump reportedly called her ex-husband at the White House Tuesday night to ask him what he did to her beautiful baby boy."
"'My sweet, sweet perfect boy. He was always such a precious angel, and now look—look what you’ve done to him!' the president’s first wife said in audible anguish," then claiming he'd been dragged into Donald's “sick, twisted world.”
So can The Onion be nominated for a fake news Pulitzer?
OK, that's it for the week. Yes, there's Venus Williams in the Wimbledon final Saturday morning. But then it's Eliot Warren, 8, and the Welles Park Junior Rockies. Practice tonight and tomorrow a first round win-or-go home (after snacks) playoff baseball game at Legion Park on Chicago's Northwest Side. I'm prepared for possible coach-pitch duty. Have a good weekend.