September 14, 2017

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.

A story right up its alley is not yet covered

There are stories that a media outlet doesn't mind getting beat on, especially if they're sleazy.

Then there are the ones whose omission verges on the squalid.

The Undefeated is a terrific ESPN-created site on sports, race, culture and politics. If you've missed it, start checking it out. But don't spend too much time looking for a story on ESPN show host Jemele Hill calling President Trump a racist and being reprimanded. And Sarah Huckabee Sanders attacking the network two days in a row.

And, this morning, Sanders' boss tweeting not long after sunrise: "ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers. Apologize for untruth!" 

None of that is apparently news, at least not yet.

There were reports, denied by ESPN, that it backtracked on an initial desire to take Hill off the air for at least one night after the reprimand. That's less notable than its virtual on-air silence, or that of its Undefeated offshoot, about the Hill hoopla.

I recall being labor and legal affairs reporter at the Chicago Tribune when production workers went on strike. A few years later the then-Tribune Co.-owned New York Daily News went on strike. In each instance, Tribune Editor James Squires told me to cover the stories like I would any other.

His corporate superiors weren't excited that we comprehensively chronicled each dispute, and even wrote that the company was taking a more strident negotiating position than one had seen in an industry then dealing with dramatic technological change.

There were many potential rationalizations for looking the other way, given the corporate ties. There always are. It's the same in government, namely lots of reasons for not doing something. Plus, we knew that a fair number of readers wouldn't believe what we wrote, regardless, assuming a conflict of interest would unavoidably tar our neutrality.

It's the same now with the Hill story, especially given previous attacks by conservatives on ESPN for ideologically driven coverage. (It continued this morning on "Fox & Friends" with Johnny Damon, a former baseball star of conservative bent, beckoned to affirm the show's thumbs-down take on Hill.)

Just as it would have been shameful not to have covered the tumult of the Tribune's labor relations tumult back in the 1980s, it's a mistake to not aggressively cover the Hill story.

The Undefeated characteristically boasts a variety of fine efforts this morning, including the significance of Marlin Briscoe, the first black quarterback to start an NFL game in the modern era, and 30-year-old battered and bruised former NFL offensive lineman Eugene Monroe calling for the use of medical marijuana. Really, check it out.

In the meantime, I haven't heard back from the site on its seeming silence, and perhaps something is in the works. Suffice it to say that ESPN, and its own corporate parent at Disney, are not yet covering themselves in glory on this matter.

But maybe ESPN will do one of its terrific "30 for 30" sports documentaries on the Hill-Trump saga, albeit in a year or two. The right-wing push-back on a variety of sports coverage the past year would seem fodder for something.

Morning Babel

"Terror attack in London," declared "Trump & Friends" as a construction bucket seemed to explode. "London Police Treating Train Explosion as 'Terrorist Incident' " was the MSNBC chyron. "Police Investigating Terror Incident on London Tube Train" was how CNN's "New Day" put it. All hazy, no deaths, mostly a lot of speculation as the cops said it was  (fatality-free) terrorism.

With no serious injuries, how long before somebody returned to Donald Trump? Well, it was "Morning Joe" after a few minutes, with discussion of whether his base cares about his trying to cut a DACA deal with Democrats. Reporter Kasie Hunt said simply, and correctly, DACA is a different topic than The Wall.

CNN's "New Day" beckoned regular Maggie Haberman of The New York Times to explain why Trump is again blaming both sides for the Charlottesville, Virginia, violence. His default position on everything, she said, is some form of "what about-ism" whenever he's challenged. She also discussed her latest opus with Michael Schmidt on Trump nastily dressing down Attorney General Jeff Sessions after the Robert Mueller appointment.

"Trump & Friends" featured a guy who wrote a book on enhanced interrogation (huh?) to speculate galore about the subway attack. Was this a dry run for a chemical attack later on? Was it a ruse to distract police? James Mitchell then marshaled absolutely no evidence to bring it all around to immigration, deriding England for allowing "these hotbeds of radical Islamic ideology" to flourish. It was now "paying the price."  Sheesh. Just wait until this guy gets a few facts!

As it wrapped up, co-host Brian Kilmeade thankfully, if parenthetically, noted, "By the way we don't know that it was a Muslim who did this. We just now the past ones were."

Layoffs at RealClearPolitics

The drip, drip, drip of media downsizing hits RealClearPolitics, a site liked by politics junkies that's heavy on aggregation and polling information. About 20 of 70 full-time staff, including respected White House correspondent Alexis Simendinger, were let go, as well as five or six part-timers. (Poynter)

The scoop on Sqoop

Search veterans Bill Hankes and David Kellum founded Sqoop, a site free to journalists and aimed at making finding government records a whole lot easier. Take a look

It compiles records of SEC filings, patents and federal courts, among others. It sends alerts when individual cases are updated with new filings. (Poynter)

Inside looks at North Korea

CNN has a look at "Secret State: Inside North Korea" via correspondent Will Ripley at 10 p.m. that follows a terrific New Yorker story of similar thrust. The New Yorker's Evan Osnos has now done a nice behind-the-story video for the magazine. It further amplifies the secrecy and paranoia of the nation, including citizens' firm belief the U.S. is provoking a war, while also delving into the oddity of Dennis Rodman's relationship with the goofy dictator and officials' true confusions over Trump.

Annals of modern communications

"Montana's U.S. senators have chastised Verizon after the company sent out letters in the past few weeks to hundreds of eastern Montana customers essentially telling them they were getting kicked off Verizon’s cellphone service." (Billings Gazette)

"After Oct. 17, Verizon told the rural customers, they would no longer be able to use their phone number on a Verizon network. The list of towns affected by the contract termination is in the dozens, from Alzada to Homestead to Zortman."

Trump now 'happy' with the press?

Axios' Mike Allen this morning portrays Trump as feeling "liberated" these days, with a primary reason being "For the first time in his presidency, he's enjoying positive media coverage and coherent reinforcement from his top aides." 

What's the Vegas over-under on how long this purported condition lasts? Figure 72 hours, or the next waking moment he evenly fleetingly mulls Jeff Sessions and Robert Mueller.

Facebook heads to Montreal

Facebook is opening an Artificial Intelligence research office in Montreal, following lots of other tech companies. It will be led by McGill University’s Joelle Pineau, whose "research focus tends to lean heavily on robotics and dialog systems, particularly applications of reinforcement learning." (TechCrunch)

"With uncertainty in the American immigration system, Canada is emerging as a center for research work."

A Hong Kong-based expert on the new iPhone

Ben Thompson, a Wisconsin Badger who runs a great tech site called Stratechery from Taiwan, writes, "The fact the iPhone X is not launching until November suggests it is well behind in production, which further suggests supply will be limited for some time to come. It is quite possible that Apple’s fiscal Q12018 results will be depressed by limited supply."

"Of course this is a short-term problem; I do expect the iPhone X to be a massive hit in China in particular. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the early iPhone X supply is earmarked for the country."

A new Facebook?

Islands is a new messaging app on five college campuses, mostly Southeastern Conference schools including  Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. It's got a wait list and just approved 400 Florida freshmen for "membership." It's goal is 25 percent penetration at each, seeing itself as where Mark Zuckerberg was in Facebook's infancy. (Cheddar)

As Business Insider put it upon Islands' launch two weeks ago, "It's designed to allow people in a particular geographic area — they have to be within five miles of one another — to chat with each other. Users communicate through topic-specific groups called islands that they can create on an ad-hoc basis."

A caveat amid the pursuit of Amazon

The groveling has started by cities seeking Amazon's second headquarters. The Financial Times outlines the backlash in Amazon's home, Seatte, toward the giant, as well as civic unease elsewhere when it comes to other growing tech companies. In sum: too many tax breaks and the creation of independent cultures within cities.

"The dispute between cities and the tech corporations boils down to the question of what it means for companies to be good corporate citizens. The inefficiencies of government mean that cities are often unable to cope with rapid change, even while an increased tax base may help fill city coffers. Companies must then try to fill in infrastructure gaps themselves, but often these efforts draw the ire of the public, which perceives them as only benefiting the corporations and their staff."

Ok, that's it for the week. The weekend line-up includes choir rehearsal, two fall baseball games for Eliot Warren's Iron Pigs and one travel soccer game for him and one for brother Blair. Pretty light duty. A half tank of gas should suffice.

Corrections? Tips? Please email me: Would you like to get this roundup emailed to you every morning? Sign up here.


Correction: It is former NFL lineman Eugene Monroe, not a Eugene Morris, who is a supporter of medical marijuana. And the original version omitted that Marlin Briscoe was the first black NFL quarterback of the modern era.

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New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S.…
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