The media’s perplexing, short-lived outrage about Joseph Kony
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We live in a deeply injured world with ever more people, tragedy and decisions about whom to help.
Your grief and outrage must be targeted, if only to maintain sanity. But that doesn't excuse the media's short attention span toward atrocities. Some are "hot" for a period, then disappear from our radar screen — such as the horrors of Joseph Kony.
As Quartz asks, "Western governments and NGOs have spent billions chasing Africa’s most wanted warlord. Joseph Kony has slipped away, and now the West is packing up its six-shooters. Were they just playing cowboys and Indians?"
The piece is funded partly by the Washington-based Pulitzer Center, which supports lots of overseas work. This partnership allows reporter David Gauvey Herbert to try to track down the the man whose Lord's Resistance Army kidnapped an estimated 30,000 children and killed about 100,000 people.
The press was once obsessed with the Lord's Resistance Army. Matthew Green, a former Reuters correspondent wrote about his own search in a 2008 book, "The Wizard of the Nile." He briefly met Kony amid failed peace talks in 2006. He was blinded by the whole matter, he conceded.
"There was something irresistible about the idea of Kony as darkness personified in the heart of Africa, enslaving women, summoning spirits, in the smoke. Voodoo, harems, barbarism and magic — he was every primitive cliché rolled into one."
But that media and world interest is gone, writes Herbert, and all that's left seems to be one (dubious and expensive) prosecution of a former child soldier and Kony aide at the International Criminal Court.
"Now, that effort is spent. After the election, the Trump administration signaled its disinterest in the LRA issue, and this week, U.S. Africa Command began pulling out the 250 Special Forces troops and airmen involved in the chase. Ugandan troops are withdrawing too, and most LRA-focused nonprofits have run out of money. The U.S. military spent roughly $1 billion chasing Kony, and other Western armies, institutions, and NGOs each spent hundreds of millions more. The result? The warlord remains at large."
The intense interest is gone, in part explained by the claim that the guy is not longer that potent. (NPR)
But, when it comes to the press, it's also a reflection of an inherently short attention span in a world with so many bad guys and tragedy.
Tom Hundley, a former longtime foreign correspondent now with the Pulitzer Center, doesn't fault the media for its frequently short attention span, especially on difficult to nail down stories, "though we could do a little better than total amnesia."
"But I do wonder how U.S. special forces burned through a billion bucks and came up with what — nothing? Wonder, too, about the lavish spending by the ICC for small fry prosecutions. That's where I think stories like this come in handy."
Bottom line: Many billions of dollars and millions of words later, no one seems to give a damn about Kony.
Trump's first 100 days for media stocks
"TV station owners have led the way in Trump's first 100 days, with Tribune Media (TRCO), the subject of takeover speculation, at the very top with a 27 percent gain. Next in line was Sinclair Broadcasting (SGBI), known as much for its conservative, pro-Republican politics as for owning more local TV stations than any other U.S. company, having added 25 percent, according to Bloomberg data. Completing a trifecta for TV-station groups was Tegna (TGNA) at 19 percent." (The Street)
NFL Draft scorecard
The weekend affair is over and SB Nation's scorecard includes an A to the Minnesota Vikings and an A-minus to the Washington Redskins but a C-plus or C to The Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
There were more lenient graders, like Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, who gave out A's to the Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns.
And ESPN's Mel Kiper's own predictions were the source of much eyebrow-raising, but his post-mortem gives A's to the Los Angeles Chargers and, notably, the Super Bowl champ New England Patriots even though the latter didn't pick until No. 83 in the third round. (USA Today)
Sportswriter on a roll
ESPN's Wright Thompson's latest fine effort is a long profile of Miami Heat boss Pat Riley — a jock-hipster in his personal winter — capturing the professional highs and lows, and a steep personal challenge, facing the NBA legend.
He could easily retire tomorrow with icon status, but his drive and inner demons won't let him, as underscored in a piece that would be instructional for aspiring feature writers. (ESPN)
The Times-Picayune and The New York Times have begun a partnership that will explore the causes and potentially catastrophic effects of coastal erosion and sea level rise along the Louisiana coast.
The reporting collaboration will combine the resources of two environmental reporting initiatives announced earlier this year: The Times-Picayune's Louisiana coastal reporting team, made possible in part by the Fund for Environmental Journalism, a grant-making program of the Society of Environmental Journalists; and The New York Times' climate team, which focuses visual, explanatory and investigative journalism on the calamities caused by climate change around the world. (Times-Picayune)
Joe Nocera on ESPN
Joe Nocera, the former longtime New York Times stalwart who is now with Bloomberg View, writes, "ESPN, which laid off 100 people this week, has a multitude of problems, but the basic one is this: It pays too much for content and costs too much for consumers."
"That didn’t used to matter because, thanks to the way the cable industry 'bundled' channels, cable customers were forced to pay for it even if they never watched it. Now, however, as the cable bundle slowly disintegrates, it matters a lot." (Bloomberg)
His conclusion: the just-announced cuts are "chump change," and "it’s a pipe dream to think that ESPN will ever make the kind of profits ($6.4 billion in 2014) that it once did."
Taking issue with the Times
The New York Times' Peter Baker writes: "In his first 100 days in power, President Trump has transformed the nation’s highest office in ways both profound and mundane, pushing traditional boundaries, ignoring longstanding protocol and discarding historical precedents as he reshapes the White House in his own image." (The New York Times)
University of Chicago Law Professor Eric Posner responds: "Has Trump increased the power of the presidency? A New York Times article claims that he has but does not provide any evidence or even an example that the author cites as illustration of the claim. The claim seems more like a journalistic tick than anything else." (Eric Posner)
Posner is teaching an eight-session course on "Trumpism" and the separation of powers. It was inspired by hearing a lot of fervent post-election talk around the university on whether Trump was indeed a threat. It's already touched upon the Latin American populist legacy and its possible relevance, if any, to Trump. (U.S. News & World Report)
Zucker and Remnick
Jeff Zucker came to CNN in 2013 and has overseen ratings success, even if some, such as The New Yorker's David Remnick, discern the real ratings savior as Donald Trump. They discuss how Zucker helped to make Donald Trump by green lighting NBC's "The Apprentice" while at the broadcast networks (paying Trump $60,000 an episode, not the $1 million he sought).
There's a lot more on The New Yorker Radio Hour, the magazine's flagship radio show.
"No," Zucker responds as Remnick begins a question as to whether he finds it weird that the star of that same show has "destroyers off the Korean peninsula, is lobbing cruise missiles into Syria" and more. When Remnick actually asks the whole question, Zucker amends that anticipatory response to say there's no question it's an incredible story but there's "no way I or anybody else" would have predicted a presidential run.
Asked to differentiate the cable news channels, a very bright and competitive fellow turns too self-serving by half. He calls Fox "state-run TV" in the morning and in primetime, MSNBC "the opposition" and CNN the one "seeking the truth." Remnick presses him on that notion of his rivals not being focused on "the truth" and he doesn't directly respond.
Suggesting that CNN has some monopoly on virtue is one he might amend next time asked, if only to at least feign modesty and, more relevant, reflect reality. If you made a list of cable news all-stars based on journalistic quality, there'd be folks from MSNBC and Fox on it. And, come to think of it, imagine an NFL-like draft for the finest 100-person newsroom from anywhere, be it print, TV or digital.
He bashed and briefly barred The Washington Post from his campaign. And Saturday night, as he was deriding the media in Pennsylvania, the paper ran Trump's op-ed extolling his first 100 days. He so craves its legitimacy.
Bleacher Report as the new MTV?
"It’s been just over a year since Turner, which bought Bleacher Report for a reported $175 million back in 2012, laid out a plan to inject $100 million into turning the sports property into a video juggernaut."
So what's up? Its boss craves to build a new MTV, rather than a new ESPN, albeit without all of the TV stuff. It's why CEO David Finocchio has launched a number of original online series, a feature-length documentary, and is publishing daily on Snapchat as one of the company’s exclusive Discover partners." (Recode)
Trump v. Obama
With a CBS News interview ("love your show, I call it 'Deface the Nation,'" the interviewee said, in a rather dumb premeditated remark) that aired Sunday, that makes the Trump v. Obama interview numbers 34 v. 46 at the same point in their presidencies, says Mark Knoller, the CBS White House veteran.
The morning babble
"Fox & Friends" strove to find a glass half-filled with the short-term budget deal, especially with no money for a wall and no big cuts to Planned Parenthood, saying the package as "not entirely a cave to Democrats."
CNN's "New Day" turned "to the president's next 100 days." And you thought those arbitrary demarcations could be put to rest! "The whole world is now watching to see how the president will handle everything from the crisis on the Korean Peninsula to the Paris climate accords," said reporter Joe Johns, as if relying on sources in each of the 193 members states of the United Nations.
Salena Zito of the Washington Examiner said she didn't ask Trump about healthcare as co-host Alisyn Camerota questioned her and the chyron noted this from Trump's session with CBS's John Dickerson: "Trump falsely claims pre-existing conditions covered in bill."
But Zito, deemed a prescient Trump chronicler of Trump voters during the campaign, said he did whine about the difficulty of the job, or what David Gregory then tagged "willful disregard for history, precedent actual facts." Zito said that's not what voters wanted, anyway, while The New York Times' Maggie Haberman said his supporters wanted somebody who was "raw and real."
MSNBC's "Morning Joe" noted how Trump opened a Pennsylvania speech, overtly competing with the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, bashing the press. Mark Halperin said Trump spent 12 minutes talking about the press. "This is personal for him," he said, while substitute host Willie Geist noted his "obsession" with the press and John Heilemann said Trump's doing an "amazing job" locking down his core supporters.
And Geist cited a Los Angeles Times story, which looked at those who voted for Trump in Pueblo County, Colorado, a Democratic bastion that went Trump in November. It finds no diminishment in support. It's a "giant middle finger to the system in this country," said Geist, reprising a slender-jointed campaign analysis.