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Floaters are shadows cast on your retina — unless you're a White House correspondent. In that case, "floaters" are a discomforting sign of Trump-era media changes right in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room.
As a New Yorker piece underscores, journalist floaters are reporters (or pseudo-reporters) who have White House credentials but are not assigned a permanent seat by the White House Correspondents’ Association. If a seat is free at the start of a briefing, first come, first served.
Writer Andrew Marantz, reporting as if a foreign correspondent in a strange land of befuddling mores, captures how "until recently, the more established White House correspondents have regarded floaters as a harmless distraction — the equivalent of letting a batboy sit in the dugout. Now they are starting to see the floaters as an existential threat. 'It’s becoming a form of court-packing,' one White House correspondent told me."
The premise is that lots of mostly right-wing outlets have surfaced and are clearly being given a forum by the new administration. It's as simple as Press Secretary Sean Spicer or President Trump recognizing them at a briefing or press conference. Old hands are chagrined, as Marantz notes, along the way perfectly capturing a condescension laced with a sense of old guard entitlement.
Major Garrett of CBS News, a fine reporter who sits in the front row given the tradition of seating the big TV networks there, is willing to go very much on the record:
“'Historically, the way the briefing room has been organized is, the closer you are, the farther you’ve come. And the person at the podium has tended to recognize that.' More experienced reporters, he said, 'ask questions that are sharper, more informed. Not, ‘What’s your message today?’ Not, ‘Here’s a paintbrush — would you paint us a pretty picture?’”
An unnamed "TV correspondent" goes further and, in the process, displays the real underlying animus to a changed order.
Beyond the ego of desiring to be called upon, "'It’s also about maintaining a sense of predictability, a sense that eventually the substantive questions will be answered. Throwing that into chaos — ‘Maybe you’ll get a question, if you shout loud enough, who knows?’—makes everyone desperate and competitive and makes us look like a bunch of braying jackals. Which I don’t think is an accident.'”
Another TV reporter ("from a mainstream network"), seemingly without Garrett's cojones, as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright might put it, says, "I don’t mind them bringing in conservative voices that they feel have been underrepresented. Personally, I don’t even mind them fucking with the front-row guys, the Jonathan Karls of the world. Those guys are a smug little cartel, and it’s fun to watch them squirm, at least for a little while."
But, he (or she from "a mainstream network") adds, "At what point does it start to delegitimize the whole idea of what happens in that room? When does it cross the line into pure trolling?”
But a larger, more important reality is captured in a fleeting anecdote apparently corralled by Marantz during his outsider's drop-in. Some reporters were outside Spicer's office when chief of staff Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon surfaced. Some inquired about alleged Trump ties to Russia.
"Priebus walked away without saying a word. As Bannon left, he smiled and said, 'The opposition party, all lined up.'”
That craving, and its blindness to the role of a free press as a countervailing force to power, cuts to the chase of what's up in the briefing room. It goes well beyond any sense of old guard entitlement, ruffled egos of frequently preening TV reporters or the suck-up queries of an emerging and often woefully ignorant new guard.
So far Trump has by and large prevailed. It is, after all, a time when many hate the press.
But hubris could blind the Trump clan. It's a professional hazard of life in the West Wing, only hastened by its own dogmatism. Come to think of it, the tendency may prove to be just like a floater obscuring the retina.
"The Zamboni ride has finally come to an end: Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is set to step down from her role following the closing of the sad Verizon deal. Don’t cry too much for her, however — she’s also in line for a golden parachute worth a sweet, sweet $23 million." (Gizmodo)
The Atlantic ain't alone in pushing its work across lots of platforms and cites its early moves as a catalyst for hikes in audience and revenue.
"Now, it’s doubling down on its efforts to make direct connections with readers. It has made a series of moves to make more regular readers out of people and ultimately, get more people to subscribe. Other news publications are doing the same, hoping that in the wake of the election, people will place more value on quality journalism. The Atlantic gets 15 percent of its revenue from circulation, a figure it would like to grow, though it wouldn’t say by how much." (Digiday)
Very bad move
"Thru, Inc. made a mess of its registered trademark by allowing it to lie dormant. It registered 'Thru Dropbox' but made no attempt to challenge Dropbox's application for the term 'Dropbox' in 2009." (Techdirt)
It did zilch and watched Dropbox grab market share. Then Dropbox got the trademark and prompted Thru to sue for trademark infringement. Pre-trial discovery was embarrassing for Thru, with emails revealing that "company officials actually referred to the 'Thru Dropbox' trademark registration as a 'lottery ticket' that would pay off as soon as Dropbox went public."
Sorry. A judge has now awarded more than $2 million in legal fees to Dropbox.
Reporting in Iran
You do remember the Jason Rezaian debacle, correct? Now, Reporters Without Borders discloses, "In the run-up to the Iranian New Year on March 20, when prisoners might have expected to be released, two journalists — Hengameh Shahidi and Ehsan Mazandarani — have been arrested and others have been threatened with arrest by the courts, the Revolutionary Guards and the ministry of intelligence." (RSF)
Shahidi edits a blog called Paineveste and "was arrested at the home of her sister in the northeastern city of Mashhad on the orders of the office of the Tehran prosecutor for culture and media.”
Mazandarani, editor of the Farhikhtegan newspaper, was arrested by intelligence operatives who claimed that he shouldn't have been released a month ago. He was part of a bunch of likely bogus arrests two years ago on a potpourri of charges.
HLN shifts course (slightly)
"No matter how many changes HLN has seen in recent years, one thing has stood as a constant: Multiple airings of 'Forensic Files,' a documentary series about crime-solving techniques that has, over the years, aired on TLC, CourtTV, CNN and even for a brief time on NBC."
So it will cut back slightly on "Forensic Files" and make a few changes, including giving conservative pundit S.E. Cupp a shot as a host of a show in the early evening. (Variety)
Millennials buying the Snap IPO
There was an interesting interview on Cheddar, the financial news service for a younger set, with Vlad Tenet, co-CEO of Robinhood, a commission-free brokerage app started three years ago by Tenet and colleague who had specialized in building high frequency trading platforms.
On the day of the Snap IPO, significant numbers of younger people came his app's way for the purpose of buying Snap (43 percent of trading on his app that day involved Snap). Had he seen anything akin to the Snap IPO with that demo he's trying to lure?
"No, we haven't. It's the first time a company has gone public that has as its target most of the people who overlap with the people who use Robinhood. It was mobile-first, young consumers who led to this overwhelming response on the IPO day." (Cheddar)
Trumpcare and the CBO
"CBO report: Ryan plan drops number of insured 24 million by 2026."
Slate? Mother Jones? Salon? No, that was atop the pretty straight news story on Breitbart.com.
But Mother Jones was pretty close with "24 Million People Will Lose Insurance Thanks to Trumpcare."
Trying to make lemonade from lemons
"The white smoke rose Monday afternoon from the Congressional Budget Office as the fiscal forecasters published their cost-and-coverage estimates of the GOP health-care reform bill. Awaiting such predictions — and then investing them with supposed clairvoyance — are Beltway rituals. The coverage numbers weren’t great for Republicans, but they shouldn’t allow an outfit that historically underestimates the benefits of market forces to drive policy." (The Wall Street Journal)
Lying right out of the box
Mick Mulvaney, Trump's budget director, surfaced on two Sunday morning shows and made basic criticisms of how supposedly fast President Obama and then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got Obamacare through Congress. The suggestion was that they did it without any real public scrutiny.
Well, that gives Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler some work and an obvious conclusion in his "Pinocchio Test."
"We’re not sure what Mulvaney has been smoking, except his own propaganda. The process that led to the Affordable Care Act was lengthy and complex, but involved numerous hearings and ample time for public comment and input. Any suggestion to the contrary is ridiculous."
Mulvaney gets four Pinocchios. (The Washington Post)
A response to CNN
On Sunday CNN's Brian Stelter hammered Fox's Sean Hannity for beckoning Monica Crowley as a pundit and not noting the damning evidence of her plagiarism. He simply gave her a platform to sound like a victim, while neither really mentioned to what they were alluding.
Hannity's response? On an evening where he began with a harangue about the intellectual dishonesty of the "alt-left" (you know, the likes of Jake Tapper, etc.), he later had an inconsequential faux debate on that disloyal twosome of John McCain and Lindsey Graham, those ACLU lackeys, between Geraldo Rivera, his close personal chum (they both told us), and, yes, Crowley.
Ethics at Fox can seem rather situational to an outsider, be it plagiarism or, say, sexual harassment by its own executives.
The morning babble
"Fox & Friends" had to concede via Ed Henry, “there is no question this CBO report was a blow to the president's efforts in the short term...so what the president is doing what he perhaps does best; fighting back and fighting hard." And, of course, blamed the press for not focusing on the ills of Obamacare.
"Older, lower-income Americans hit hardest" said CNN's "New Day," along the way quoting Lindsey Graham, one of Fox's not-to-be-trusted CNN-leaning senators. "This is a stunning analysis," said sub co-host Poppy Harlow. "A 64-year-old making about $24,000 under this analysis would pay half of their income for health insurance. You can't argue with those numbers." But Trump, of course, will as he marches onward to the holy grail of repeal and replace.
Mika Brzezinski on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" didn't think "the CBO is way off with their data, Jeremy," she asked rhetorically to Jeremy Peters of The New York Times. Unavoidably, they touched upon the Paul Ryan tape, with Peters thinking Trump will throw Ryan under the bus. Prediction here: Nope. They need him too much.
Headline of day
"Exclusive — audio emerges of when Paul Ryan abandoned Donald Trump: ‘I am not going to defend Donald Trump — not now, not in the future'" (Breitbart)
The lead was inspired by the "Access Hollywood" tape, right after the second presidential debate, and had been essentially reported: "On a never-before-released private October conference call with House Republican members, House Speaker Paul Ryan told his members in the U.S. House of Representatives he was abandoning then-GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump forever and would never defend him ever again."
So if his comments were widely reported at the time, why and how does the audio leak surface now? It would not appear to help Ryan get support for the new healthcare bill.
Guns and social media
Zach Fardon in Chicago was one of the 46 other U.S. Attorneys let go by the Trump administration and he offers an open letter on how to combat escalating violence. One of five suggestions involves curbing the now essential use of social media by gangbangers. Shots, retaliation, shots, retaliation, then social media postings, with "the pathway of violence dotted by social media accounts." (Fardon)
"Work with social media providers service providers for options to limit access and to create safeguards against social media as the conduit for the gun virus."
The more things change, the more they remain the same
"Excitedly drafting an email after discovering she had been included in the article, White House deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh reportedly sent her parents a New York Times article Monday that quoted her as an anonymous source. 'Check it out, I made it onto the Times homepage!' read Walsh’s email to her mother and father, including the link to an article in which she is cited only as a 'White House aide' while describing the dysfunction within the West Wing."
It's par for the course, be it Bush, Obama, Trump, it doesn't matter. Except in this case it comes from The Onion. But it's not that far-fetched.