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Sean Hannity is right.
There, I said it.
It's like congratulating the Red Sox after spending my youth at Yankee Stadium as part of my German immigrant dad's American assimilation.
Well, not quite. There are bridges too far.
Hannity was taken to the cleaners in a CBS "Sunday Morning" interview by Ted Koppel in a battle royale of the righteous. Now he claims, like perhaps many who have been his own targets, that he's a victim.
He says that a 45-minute interview was edited unfairly and wants the whole shebang made public. And I agree as far as making the whole thing public, even if his counterattack last night on his own show strained any vague notions of credulity.
He fulminated about the "edited fake news" of CBS News and Koppel, whom he referred to with thinly veiled derision as a "veteran journalist." He turned back the clock to the first Obama presidential campaign to claim CBS News was an Obama handmaiden in not waxing outraged over some of Fox News' greatest hits: the mere existence of former 1960s radical William Ayers and Chicago Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
In his most confounding comments last evening, he first declared, "I am willing to look at my body of work and compare it with CBS News any day of the week." He then said, "I don't pretend that I'm fair and balanced and objective." Or logical.
It underscored his showboating in his challenge to CBS News, and probably how he has zilch to gain by any thorough vetting of the fencing over whether opinion shows like his don't really care that much about facts.
But if CBS News is confident, as it probably should be, that disclosure will only embarrass Hannity (if that's genetically possible), why not go public with a transcript at least?
Yes, there are valid reasons the lawyers will cite to not go beyond the 70 seconds it aired. They meld with the valid journalist belief that subjects like Hannity know full well going in they will be edited.
You enter such taped endeavors — whether it's a dumb man-on-the-street interview on a local inanity or a "60 Minutes" profile — with the understanding you will be edited. You know the ground rules, just as I did when interviewed recently for a Fox News piece on gun crime in Chicago (I was edited dramatically, too, but the quote used was perfectly fair and accurate).
For lawyers, there is also the primary issue of a piece's accuracy. If the edited material didn't screw up the meaning or misrepresent an interviewee's intent, one need not go further, at least from the legal perspective.
As a First Amendment lawyer-friend notes, posting full and unedited interviews is admirably transparent, for sure. But it's also both a ton of work and can itself necessitate editing, regardless, since there's the possibility that the interviewee said something defamatory or otherwise in conflict with an outlet's norms of ethics and fairness.
People do get quoted out of context. Often, if not always, it's unintentional and a function of reporter-editor clumsiness. And sometimes news outlets do run transcripts of interviews, especially if they're with "newsmakers."
But their overriding obligations remain to edit and impose their sense of news hierarchy. It's a reason Hannity's employer would rebut any demand that it run routinely the raw interviews upon which it bases taped segments.
It doesn't mean you're dogmatic. You do release the whole video, or a transcript, sometimes. Now seems a decent opportunity. Hannity, as a Trump courtesan with a giant cable and radio audience, is a newsmaker.
"Hannity could be full of (expletive hereby edited but available if pressed)," says Steve Brill, the journalist-media entrepreneur who also teaches journalism at Yale University. "You call his bluff."
"I don't know who is right or wrong," Brill said. "But if CBS News thinks he's wrong, call his bluff and publish the whole interview."
Brill's latest investigative effort was published yesterday in Fortune, titled, "Donald Trump, Palantir and the crazy battle to clean up a multibillion-dollar Military procurement swamp," and represents more actual reporting than Hannity has done since Trump bought Mar-a-Lago in 1985. (Fortune)
In 1984, Brill was doing a story for The American Lawyer, which he created, on a corrupt Wall Street Journal reporter. He sat down to interview then-managing editor Norman Pearlstine, who proceeded to put a tape recorder on his office coffee table and ask if Brill minded that he record the interview.
It was a first for Brill. "I thought it was brilliant." It explains why he always tells his Yale students to imagine that somebody secretly recorded an interview they did when writing stories based on them.
It's partly why Hannity should stop preaching to his own choir about the supposed indignity foisted upon him by CBS News.
Instead, he should go to the Best Buy at 529 5th Ave., a short hop from his office, and spend a few bucks on a tape recorder.
Rex Tillerson's silence
The State Department has a tradition of nearly daily on-camera press briefings. Now comes a new press-shy boss, who apparently believes he's still at ExxonMobil, and "briefings will be on hold for at least two weeks." (Business Insider)
"In the meantime, the State Department said it would conduct background briefings in which officials will periodically brief the press on specific topics."
Aftermath of an exposé
Remember the Panama Papers, the awarding-winning worldwide effort of journalists that exposed the offshore banking activities of the clients of a Panamanian law firm?
Well, as a Thursday Brookings Institution symposium will underscore, "it is still legal and permissible for corporations in America to be anonymously owned. This practice continues to draw criticism in the face of mounting requirements for financial institutions to ‘know their customers,’ and among foreign policy experts who fear a growing kleptocracy."
If interested, you can sign-up for their webcast here.
"Latin History for Morons"
The initial reviews were in late last evening for John Leguizamo's one-man off-Broadway show, "Latin History for Morons." And whether in Variety, The New York Times, The Washington Post or Entertainment Weekly, they were pretty darn good.
Perhaps good news for Time Warner, AT&T
"President Donald Trump has nominated a former corporate lawyer — who previously said that AT&T’s bid for Time Warner doesn’t pose a 'major antitrust problem' — as the U.S. Justice Department’s next competition chief." (Recode)
Money, money, money, money
It's a reality of life that we face every day but at times screw up: What can we really, truly afford?
It's the premise of a strong New York Times effort that ran online last week and in print over the weekend. It profiles regular folks making around the median household income in their areas and dissects the tradeoffs they face.
It also happened to use some freelancers who themselves had been downsized from media outlets in those same areas, including Arkansas, California, Michigan and Kentucky. It brought the sort of local knowledge into play that is too often lost when national bureaus get shut and papers and TV drop somebody into a town for a quickie bit of reporting.
Those profiled include Avalon Manly, "a feminist, bisexual, social activist, writer, artist and teacher living in the famously conservative stronghold of Colorado Springs." She teaches at a middle school and hustles other work to "bridge the gap between her $44,000 teaching salary, in an area with a median income of about $54,000, and her bills."
Elite journalists can often reveal a gaping ignorance of what's going on beyond their urban enclaves. It was revealed again during the presidential campaign, where a few too many understood the candidates, not the country. This is a very fine window onto the latter and the tough, complicating, frustrating lives people lead.
Fake news (cont.)
Writes Russian-American journalist-activist Masha Gessen:
"The bad news is that Mr. Trump is succeeding. Fraudulent news stories, which used to be largely a right-wing phenomenon, are becoming increasingly popular among those who oppose the president. (I prefer not to add to the appeal of such stories by citing them, but an example is the string of widely shared items that purported to link every death of a more-or-less prominent Russian man to Russian interference in the election.) Each story dangles the promise of a secret that can explain the unimaginable. Each story comes with the ready justification that desperate times call for outrageous claims. But each story deals yet another blow to our fact-based reality, destroying the very fabric of politics that Mr. Trump so clearly disdains." (The New York Times)
A half century of pettiness
Georgetown University fired its basketball coach, who is the son of a storied Georgetown basketball coach. In the best sports saga of the day, Deadspin's Dave McKenna tells why the search for a successor may turn partly on a 50-year-old grudge between two then-local high school coaches, one of them the storied Georgetown coach. (Deadspin)
Sean Spicer has signed a seven-figure deal to do two TV ads for Oral-B dental floss, sources say.
Well, not really. But Twitter displayed its craving for policy Monday (not) when lots of folks fascinated by the White House press secretary appeared with what appeared to be luncheon lettuce stuck between his teeth.
The New York Post took time off from its comprehensive daily coverage of tax reform to tout, "Sean Spicer's lunch appears at press briefing." (Post) The New York Daily News story's opening was not one of its more creative: "Press Secretary Sean Spicer can’t get a break — or some floss." We expect better out of our tabs. (Daily News)
Crowdfunding, then hiring
The Young Turks, the digital news operation luring millennials, just made several hires in no small measure due to a crowdfunding effort that, it says, has raised $1.5 million since December.
Those coming about are Jonathan Larsen, formerly a senior executive producer at the shuttered Al Jazeera America, who'll be managing editor; Dylan Ratigan, a onetime show host at MSNBC and CNBC, as a commentator; and David Sirota, who remains as a senior editor for investigations at the International Business Times, as a commentator.
The morning babble
"Fox & Friends" was in high dudgeon, facetiously declaring House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes "Public enemy #1," portraying him as a victim of Democratic Party nastiness just like Mike Flynn, Monica Crowley, Kellyanne Conway and Fox pundit-turned-national security adviser Sebastian Gorka. It segued seamlessly to an ad for injections to treat double chin, with numbness a side effect, though one can come away with the same watching the show.
CNN's "New Day" targeted Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner's upcoming questioning by Senate investigators into his contacts with a Russian banker during the transition. The New York Times' Maggie Haberman wonders if the White House has come clean about the meeting, while The Washington Examiner's David Drucker said it might be a tale of disorganization, misunderstanding or actually hiding deals with a regime Trump himself coddles in ways he won't American allies.
On "Morning Joe," Joe Scarborough and clan didn't buy Nunes story about just waltzing into the White House and saw some disturbing evidence of Obama-era politically driven intelligence collection via some mysterious source. So who signed him in and with whom did he speak actually, wondered Mike Barnicle and an equally dubious Bill Kristol.
"Fox & Friends" had this world exclusive: Eric and Lara Trump are expecting the were first child. Yes, "A Bundle of Joy" was the chyron as co-host Ainsley Earhardt sat with, and seemed more ebullient than the prospective parents. They showed her a sonogram photo. Earnhardt seems destined to be at least the kid's Fox News godmother. And Eric defended Sean Hannity as "a great, great man" in the wake of the Ted Koppel fracas.
Should the Trump administration do infrastructure or tax reform next? Lots of folks on the Hill say they should do infrastructure first. Axios says the White House has made a "strategic shift" and will try to both simultaneously in a mini-scoop during these early days of its existence. (Axios) Scarborough, a chum of the founders, blew them a rhetorical smooch this morning, suggesting they are "cutting through" the daily information maw.
Change in Philly
"The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com have a new editor, the latest step in an ongoing reorganization of their parent company." (Poynter)
Gabriel Escobar will be editor of the Philadelphia Media Network, which puts him in editorial charge of the papers and Philly.com. He'd been managing editor at the Inquirer and succeeds the estimable William Marimow as the top editor. The whole corporate reorganization is an intriguing ongoing project in which they've been donated to newly formed nonprofit journalism institute.
The perils of multi-tasking
This is what happens when Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are juggling Nordstrom, tensions in the Middle East, preparing to meet Angela Merkel, covertly contacting Russian agents, conducting job interviews for Interior Department night watchmen and giving geography quizzes to Rex Tillerson.
"Mar-A-Lago Assistant Manager Wondering If Anyone Coming To Collect Nuclear Briefcase From Lost And Found."
Knock on wood somebody's on the case, if only The Onion.
Correction: Due to an editing error, CNN analyst David Drucker was identified as the Examiner's Salena Zito in the original "Morning babble" item.