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.
There is dumb provocative, which we can associate with talk radio and President Trump's tweets, and there is smart provocative. Nieman Lab offers the latter as it wonders if the media and American banking are soulmates when it comes to scaring off consumers.
"From the unbanked to the unnewsed: Just doing good journalism won’t be enough to bring back reader trust," by Joshua Benton, basically argues that deep mistrust toward the banking system and the press have similar roots. He also suggests that journalists shouldn't be so taken aback that quality is not as alluring to many as they would crave.
Increasing millions are "unbanked" or "underbanked," terms that basically refer to folks without checking or savings accounts and reliant on "check-cashing centers, payday lenders, neighborhood loan sharks, prepaid debit cards, pawnshops" to do the same services that the majority trust their local bank or credit union to do.
In what Benton finds is analogous to why people don't trust mainstream media, he notes how many Americans don't think they need traditional banks, or can't afford them, or don't think that giant institutions based far away care about them or deal with their needs, such as for nearby check cashing, in an efficient way.
"Does any of that sound familiar to those of us in the media?" he writes. "The decline of print newspapers has replaced a set of trusted local businesses with distant giants in places like New York and D.C."
The decisions of consumers "aren’t driven solely by perceptions of 'quality; they’re also derived from more prosaic factors like customer service, cost, feelings of community and personal connection, and a sense that both sides of the transaction have similar interests at heart."
"In an environment where trust is no longer the default — where reading your local daily in the morning and watching a news broadcast at night have moved from standard to niche behavior — doing great journalistic work isn’t enough."
This leaves a fair bit to think about, though differences between banks and media might be more sharply differentiated.
History shows how banks actively screwed the "unbanked," especially people of color, via redlining, higher fees based on race and ethnicity, predatory credit in the years before the housing debacle, overdraft capabilities with giant penalties and a general top-down, cultural insensitivity.
In ways that might seem counterintuitive, when it comes to the money world, it almost seems as if the less you have, the more you want personal relationships. But the banking world removed personal relationships for those same people and replaced them with machines, while those with means may not care so much about face-to-face chatter since, well, they just want their money ASAP.
But the decline of trust in banking was distinctly self-inflicted. It's more complicated with media, even as it's lost once personal connections to readers and viewers, at times dumbed down products amid cost-cutting and largely blown the significance of the internet's democratizing revolution in the spread of information.
For sure, the media has its daily ethical challenges, and the race to be first each hour has probably not lessened corner-cutting. But it's also different than banks in two ways.
First, it's simply not as predatory as many have been. Nothing comes close to, say, Wells Fargo apparently setting up two million accounts without customers' approval.
Second, the media's predicament combines lack of trust with a lack of money. At least banks have a lot of dough as they screw customers. The media should be envious.
Illegal texting on Wall Street
Ah, the joys of social media.
"Dirty jokes and NSFW GIFs. Snaps of unsuspecting colleagues on the trading floor. Screenshots of confidential client positions. All that — and, on occasion, even legally dubious information — is increasingly being trafficked over the new private lines of Wall Street: encrypted messaging services like WhatsApp and Signal." (Bloomberg)
Underlying motive? "A big reason more and more Wall Street types have turned to messaging apps is because they are tired of having every written word — work-related or not — ingested into vast, Big Brother-like databases and scrutinized for tone and taste in ways that strike many as overbearing. They’ve learned even the slightest misinterpretation can land them in hot water — not only with compliance, but with prosecutors on the lookout for financial crimes."
Sean Spicer's latest truth-bending
"While chastising Democrats for threatening to filibuster Neil Gorsuch's Supreme Court nomination, White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday delivered one of his most egregious falsehoods yet. Republicans, he insisted, have historically been cooperative when it comes to giving up-or-down votes to Democratic presidents' court appointments. Spicer specifically mentioned former President Barack Obama in making this assertion." (Mother Jones)
"There's one glaring problem with Spicer's remarks: Merrick Garland."
In search of balance
It may be a fool's errand but former comedy writer and marketing executive Daniel Ravner, 41, is taking $500,000 in initial financing and trying to pull of The Perspective, "a media and opinion site that is predicated on the now-quaint notion of the fairness doctrine, where equal time is given to opposing viewpoints." (TechCrunch)
Sticking his nose into media
Imagine an Irish-American combo of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, but with more influence and the ability to get rich on the side in private law practice, and you have Alderman Ed Burke of Chicago. He's now grandstanding on a very big media matter.
The Chicago White Sox fan is warning the rival Chicago Cubs to watch out if they ultimately create their own regional sports TV network and not mandate inordinately high fees. If they can somehow get close to repeating the success of the YES network, which broadcasts Yankees games, they'd be printing money.
As The Chicago Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman notes, "Burke is a South Sider who seldom, if ever, sets foot in Wrigley Field. Now, Burke is positioning himself as the champion for Cubs fans by sticking his nose into the private business of the billionaire Ricketts family that owns the Cubs." (Sun-Times)
The NCAA and North Carolina
Nancy Armour writes in USA Today:
"Now is not the time for the NCAA to surrender its moral high ground. The Board of Governors will meet in the next few days to decide if North Carolina has amended its bigoted ways enough to again be allowed to host NCAA tournament games. But it’s a privilege North Carolina still does not deserve."
"Thursday’s repeal of HB2, the state’s 'bathroom bill' that was little more than a thinly veiled effort to shame transgender people, is a repeal in name only. The legislation that takes its place specifically prohibits local governing bodies from passing laws that would protect the LGBTQ communities from discrimination until 2020."
"In other words, small-minded municipalities that want to legalize intolerance, you’re on the clock! You have three years to impose all the hate and ugliness you can before state leaders hopefully find their consciences and their backbones."
All three broadcast networks led last evening with The New York Times story that two White House staffers fed a key Republican House committee chairman with reports on incidental surveillance of the Trump campaign.
None seemed able to independently confirm the report, again proving how at sea they are some days without quality papers to serve as their editorial roadmaps.
For ABC's David Muir, who now makes most hyperbolic local TV anchors resemble laconic Brian Lamb of C-SPAN, the story "is unleashing a firestorm tonight." But, as usual, it wasn't the only storm on his radar screen since "Nearly 40 million in the path of storms tonight. And now snow coming to the east."
Then came a deadly church bus crash, a police officer shot and a midair emergency on a commercial aircraft. Much of it was substantively akin to what you found from a rather less theatrical Lester Holt on NBC, who nevertheless spoke of "shock waves across Washington."
On this night, the strongest effort came from CBS and Scott Pelley, who didn't talk of shock waves or firestorms and actually did a nice job understatedly summarizing a bunch of Trump, Russia-related tales. There were efforts, too, on U.S.-Turkey relations, famine in South Sudan and SpaceX using a recycled rocket to put a satellite in space.
It was just more well-rounded, even if inexplicably not mentioning the meteorological havoc that seems a staple of the cataclysmic Muir.
Vice News Tonight
Famine in South Sudan insufficient for you? "Vice News Tonight," a younger-skewing wannabe on HBO, looked at famine in Somalia, with the UN seeing $863 million in emergency aid amid awful drought "and no rain in sight." The story was titled, "Hell on Earth."
It also profiled the new boss of the ACLU, Faiz Shakir, hired to shake up the institution and planning to ape some Bernie Sanders grassroots campaign tactics. That political orientation is confusing some. Meanwhile, it's also aligned with some anti-government libertarians, like the Koch brothers, on some matters even as the new boss feels that "every day Donald Trump is trolling the ACLU."
And there was a solid piece on a radical new proposed approach toward homelessness in Hawaii (a very big problem given the lure of the great weather) by treating it like a medical condition and thus procuring federal Medicaid funds.
A weird media streak
The Chicago Bulls, a lousy team, last night defeated the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers and extended a baffling streak: They've now won 20 straight home games aired on TNT and 19 straight TNT games aired on a Thursday.
The Chicago Tribune called it "The Bulls' crazy-long home winning streak on TNT." When it ended, announcer Marv Albert noted that its last home loss on TNT was on Feb. 21, 2013. It makes no sense.
Speaking of sports...
One of the better sports stories out Thursday was found in The Ringer from writer Thomas Golianopoulos: "The Wrestling Machine at Rest: Kurt Angle — gold-medal winner, wrestling icon, relentless ring general — is finally being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. But not before enduring five broken necks, family tragedy and a devastating addiction to painkillers."
Critiquing Trump from the right
Trump flack Sean Hannity last night saw his boy creamed by conservatives Lou Dobbs (apparently using the same hair colorist as the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, given the burnt-orange tinge) and Laura Ingraham on his show for scapegoating the conservative Freedom Caucus for his Obamacare defeat.
"This was botched," said Ingraham. "It's ridiculous to be pointing fingers at the Freedom Caucus. I don't understand Donald Trump's tweets about that (the Freedom Caucus) at all today."
"I'd be very careful if I were President Trump in alienating kind of the only people who were with you in October in the Republican hierarchy" when, as she noted, House Speaker Paul Ryan was disinviting Trump from a big Wisconsin bash because Ryan and others felt he was radioactive and doomed.
"Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey, the man behind the Rift concept and its first prototypes, is leaving the company three years after selling to Facebook." (Upload)
Voluntary? It's unclear. But he's taking at least his own headset elsewhere.
"This revelation comes around one year after Luckey himself hand-delivered the first consumer Oculus Rift to a pre-order customer in Alaska. In just over 12 months, the 24-year-old transformed from the face of one of the tech world’s most well-known teams into a bit of a recluse, disappearing from public view during the 2016 U.S. presidential election and emerging only for an appearance in court."
Last fall the Daily Beast disclosed that "the Facebook near-billionaire" was funding a pro-Trump group circulating dirty anti-Hillary Clinton memes.
The morning babble
Russian leaks dominated the morning shows. "Fox & Friends" twinned a trek to see "real people" having breakfast at the Freeway Cafe in Tulsa, Oklahoma with the conservative line that the lefty press is spending too much time on how House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes got those documents, not enough on with what's in them.
CNN was hot on the case of the previously sacked Michael Flynn, who now offers to testify in exchange for immunity. But immunity for what? That remains unclear but presumably involves some hanky panky with Russians, as analyst Jeff Toobin speculated, and may also touch upon his relations with RT, the Russian TV outlet, conjectured David Gregory.
"Morning Joe" on MSNBC noted how The Washington Post revealed a third person involved in getting materials to Nunes. But while Mika Brzezinski underscored that NBC could not independently verify either the Post or Times stories it was heralding, her co-host was in vivid "I-told-you-so" mode with characteristic modesty and understatement.
Joe Scarborough reprised his own tweet from the day Nunes was at the White House. "Chances are very good he got his 'information' from a panicked White House. He played PR rep for Trump," he wrote. Friday he said the bottom line is simple: the White House is very dumb.
The New York Times' Michael Schmidt also went over his own previous reporting on so-called "incidental collection" of intelligence by the Obama administration related to the Trump campaign. That was not illegal, even as the Trump White House crafts a narrative about its deviousness and importance.
Scarborough, however, was in a self-appointed pre-breakfast ombudsman role, telling us all that while that matter represented perhaps just "five percent" of the whole Russian-Trump saga, compared to the influence Russia sought to exert on the election, it should not be ignored. His sense of needed context and pedagogy is always appreciated.
No Mar-a-Lago this weekend for Trump?
With scant notice this surfaced Thursday as the Washington press dealt with that "firestorm" over documents being given to Devin Nunes.
"ST. THOMAS, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Speaking Wednesday from the grounds of the lavish tropical estate where he plans to spend much of his downtime while in office, Donald Trump unveiled a new presidential retreat he hopes will allow him to escape from the grueling pace of life at Mar-a-Lago."
Is her serious? Well, yes, at least according to The Onion.
How 'bout this: He uses St. Thomas, while I exit our home renovation (where's the stove?) and use Mar-a-Lago this weekend, thus having an excuse for also not driving kids to a Bar Mitzvah, a birthday party, a golf lesson, a basketball practice and probably a soccer practice? Cheers. See you Monday.