- Maybe evil Ugandan Joseph Kony?
Andy Borowitz jested that the head of ISIS canceled a planned meeting with Penn since it would no longer be “prudent.” (The New Yorker) Well, at least most people realized he was joking; some didn’t. (Gawker) After the technology-ignorant Penn’s (Vanity Fair) Rolling Stone session with the subsequently-captured Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, one was left wondering what it all meant. “Is this journalism?” Harvard public policy expert and ethicist Jeff Seglin wondered to me rhetorically. “I don’t think so. Penn is not a journalist and there’s no evidence of hidden talents as one. That he brags about not getting paid for the story strikes me as worse than if he had.” Guzman strains to sound like a run-of-the-mill successful free market entrepreneur craving to be on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” He comes up short. His essence is unavoidable. You might thus recall Penn’s own pithy declaration in “Fast Times At Ridgemont High,” namely, “You dick!”
Still what would you have done as an editor in chief if the rather credulous Penn came your way? Even if this felt more like a stunt intended to promote a film project (The Wall Street Journal), and underscores the perils of an Internet world in which everybody and his mother may deem themselves a “Real Journalist,” would you have said no to Penn? Yes, yes, you would have urged him to take one of your prize-winning reporters along for the ride and come away with a Columbia Graduate School of Journalism-approved memorialization of the spectacle. But, really, how many would say no to most any freelancer’s exclusive with an Al Capone or Josef Stalin? And if Penn’s unusual trek with a Mexican actress, who seemed quite sympathetic to the lowlife bigwig, did in some way even inadvertently lead to Guzman’s capture, perhaps it provided both a certain socio-cultural and law enforcement utility. If you haven’t taken a look, including at the crook’s self-produced video he passed along to Penn, do take a gander. It’s clickbait drenched in blood. And oh, could somebody then please show the 55-year-old actor how to use a laptop? He confesses in his expose that he’s clueless. “What do you get for the man who has everything?” Penn asked in “The Game.” Maybe at least a used MacBook Air.
- ABC splits with Union Leader
The adamantly conservative Union Leader in Manchester, New Hampshire doesn’t have the potency of old, but it’s still a forced to be reckoned with. Now ABC “is cutting off their partnership” with it for the GOP debate on Feb. 6.
“Ever since the paper’s participation in the December Democratic debate, the relationship with ABC had become strained, at best, a source at ABC with knowledge of the situation said. Adding to the strained relationship, the source said, was the paper’s singling out of one particular candidate, Donald Trump, with front page editorials.” (POLITICO) The Union Leader’s droll publisher Joe McQuaid, who has endorsed Chris Christie, emailed me this last night: “Hi, Jim. We are devastated over the ABC loss. It may take minutes to recover. Ok, now we are better. Our role would have included input on questions. I don’t know how many or few candidates they intend to include but we would have walked if they made it too limiting. Our editorials and endorsements have never been a problem for partners before. I think ABC has no spine.”
- Obama’s State of the Union
The White House communications machine is straining even more than normal to gin up interest in his final State of the Union on Tuesday night; no easy task given his lame duck status and media preference for the ongoing campaign to succeed him. They’re throwing out lots of little tidbits, including names of a few folks who will be in attendance and will reiterate in coming days that this won’t be a traditional “laundry list” of promises (been there, heard that, folks). It also announced that Amazon will carry it, the day after, on its video site, though not live-streaming it the evening before. So a few clicks here and there and you can order more coffee and Windex and get the president.(CNN/Money)
- Maxim’s Monte Carlo shoot breeds lawsuit
The magazine has amended a defamation suit against two employees involving the alleged leak to The New York Post of bogus claims inspired by a Monte Carlo photo shoot. The defendants are its former fashion director and a deputy editor. The underlying allegations are that the owner and then-editor-to-be acted creepy toward the fashion model who was doing her thing in his suite as he smoked a cigar nearby. (Capital New York)
- Sean Penn? Who’s Sean Penn
Rolling Stone’s Web gurus de-emphasized the magazine’s big weekend story amid the death of David Bowie and the coming of Sunday night’s cultural gapers’ block known as the Golden Globe awards. “Beginning life as a dissident folk-rock spaceman, he would become an androgynous, orange-haired, glam-rock alien (Ziggy Stardust), a well-dressed, blue-eyed funk maestro (the Thin White Duke), a drug-loving art rocker (the Berlin albums), a new-wave hit-maker, a hard rocker, a techno enthusiast and a jazz impressionist. His flair for theatricality won him a legion of fans.” (Rolling Stone) His multimedia ways captured the Guardian’s fascination: “He remained creatively restless and constantly innovative across a variety of media. His capacity for mixing brilliant changes of sound and image underpinned by a genuine intellectual curiosity is rivalled by few in pop history. Blackstar (his latest album) was proof that this curiosity had not diminished in his later career.” (The Guardian)
- Politics and booming TV ad revenues
We’re about the only country in which commercial networks see a presidential campaign as a gold mine. More than ever, that seems to be the case, with revenues at a Cedar Rapids, Iowa stations up 150 percent from last year. Along the way, stations are making virtue out of necessity as they confront seemingly greater demand than they have supply. Their digital offerings are saviors for them and, thus, individual campaigns look to get out the word — and enrich the media. (The Wall Street Journal)
- Art and politics
There’s been no shortage of opining about the political mess currently faced by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in part given the city’s handling of a cop killing a 17-year-old. You would not have thought that the matter could be assisted by a theater critic. But the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones argues that it’s tired and limited thinking that only the Justice Department and politics will inspire the truth and reconciliation now needed amid deep police-community suspicions. Artists, too, must play a part in the process. The governmental bodies “can impose accountability, perhaps, but they cannot build relationships. Truth and reconciliation are not the strengths of these entities — being as they lack the avenues, the forums and usually the temperament, for their expression. Neither is the lifting of the mood of your everyday, hunched-over Chicagoan. For that, we will have to rely on those who tend to the human spirit, and they don’t all sport clerical collars. We have to rely on those who teach us how to understand each other better.” It’s a smart addition to a somewhat screechy media debate. (Chicago Tribune)
- Trump and fact-checking
We’re going to hell in a hand-basket since all the checking of Donald Trump’s exaggerations or lies don’t seem to have much of an impact, right? And, yet, fact-checking services are growing worldwide. “Dismissing the entire effort as futile because facts keep getting mangled by politicians (and voters keep believing them) makes for powerful headlines but imperfect analysis.” There are indeed positives to the trends. There’s utility to having more cops on the street even if crime still obviously persists. (Poynter)
- Twitter and the NBA The NBA isn’t nearly as popular as the NFL offline, so why is it seemingly more potent online? Its Twitter feed has 3.6 million more followers than the NFL’s official feed, with the Los Angeles Lakers having 3 million more followers than the Dallas Cowboys. “Twitter has become the epicenter of basketball fandom, a beating heart and a central nervous system, a place where serious statistical analysis flows alongside highlights, jokes, exclamations, and inane trash talk from every conceivable corner of the world.” (New Republic) Its essence is just more in tandem with social media. “NBA Twitter overlaps with music Twitter, media Twitter, black Twitter, fashion Twitter, literary Twitter — they all are here. NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala tweeting at Ta-Nehisi Coates. Poet Sherman Alexie picking his greatest players of all time.” Yes, yes. But this postscript: Neither the NBA or NFL is in the same universe, online or offline, as soccer.
- The lousy lot of a dying species
The pay is poor, the hours very long, vacation usually nonexistent and overtime pay and workers’ compensation a figment of the imagination. That’s the lot of newspaper delivery drivers. Amid The Boston Globe’s well-chronicled recent problems with delivery, the paper focused on the folks who labor in the dark bringing the world a grand if endangered product. It’s a welcome if rare look at working stiffs; the sort of folks that the new booming online-only media need not mull for a nanosecond. (The Boston Globe)
- “The Good Wife” in Billings
The owners of CBS outlets in Montana announced a deal with the Dish Network after a three-day blackout due to the two sides’ inability to cut a new deal. It involved the amount of money Dish must pay networks for so-called retransmission fees. This is now a frequent occurrence. So CBS viewers in Billings missed the epic Steelers-Bengals game Saturday but last night got “60 Minutes,” “The “Good Wife” and, lest we forget since world war was averted, “Madam Secretary.” (TV News Check) Yes, we were all saved while the Golden Globes were going on.
- Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin
Gillian Wong is now the Associated Press’ news director for greater China. Previously, she was a technology correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. (The Associated Press) | Job of the day: The Las Vegas Review-Journal is looking for an entertainment reporter. Get your resumes in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: firstname.lastname@example.org.