America is in flames, but you wouldn't know it by looking at your TV
Even before Air Force One landed in Bismarck, North Dakota late yesterday to tout tax reform, the White House press office was touting the wisdom of one of those evil mainstream media outlets.
"The Bismarck Tribune: 'Area business leaders eager to hear Trump's ideas on tax reform.'"
That was the uppercase headline. Translation: The heart of America is with Trump.
If the plane continued another 45 minutes west to Montana, a 20-something communications aide could have bought the Billings Gazette. It reminded a reader of the utter fallacies in the Trump world view, not to mention the occasional limits of press empathy at times of multiple tragedies.
Amid the media's understandable shift from Hurricanes Harvey to Irma, there are awful fires out in the Northern Rockies, especially Montana, bad even by the standards of a region accustomed to them. As of today, more than 1 million acres have burned, with 4,000 firefighters involved and two of them killed doing their job in a state nearly out of money to deal with them. (KRTV)
Glacier National Park is hit hard. Entire towns have been evacuated. Entire towns.The total number of wildfires so far this year is 1,687. Of those, 748 were lightning-sparked, and 939 were caused by people/vehicles. And if media want to personalize the pain, just read how "The wildfire that ran roughshod through West Kootenai west of Eureka on Saturday evening wreaked havoc on Montana’s oldest Amish community."
Yes, the Amish waited too long, then had to scramble as fires encircled the area. Homes were ruined as they got out alive, with school for the kids relocated to a barn in another town. (The Missoulian) Read of their utter fear as fires came straight down a mountain toward them. And fast.
The enormity can't compare with what's wrought by Hurricane Harvey and possibly Irma. But it's bad and not getting much national notice. And, Trump might have noticed (if he read much), a Gazette editorial that notes that the climate change he denies is a factor.
"Forests and money aren't the only things going up in smoke in Montana. So too are the excuses for many who would deny climate change as most of the West, especially Montana, is literally in flames."
Finding apparent rhetorical inspiration in James Taylor, it cites the simultaneity of hurricanes and fires — "we've indeed seen fire and we've seen rain" — and notes the many elements at play but how "We have also been pointing out for years that climate scientists have warned that as part of global warming, weather patterns would intensify, not just warm. In other words, fire season would get longer and hotter."
"We haven't just burned through the money here in Montana as we've fought fires, we have also burned through the question of whether something is happening to our environment. Clearly, the best science — and the best scientists — agree that humankind's impact is contributing to these changes."
It was Irma, Irma, Irma this morning, and liberals scurrying to respond to Trump's deal on the debt ceiling. "NBC shouldn't pay me today because I don't have any idea what this is about," said Mark Halperin about the debt deal on "Morning Joe." But Joe Scarborough figured that they'd attack him on "Trump & Friends."
Well, Steve Doocy, a chief cheerleader there, spun it as smart deal-making and a possible hint of things to come with DACA and a wall. It quickly moved to bashing Democrats on other matters and offering a "history lesson" on our "political divide." It seemed to be swallowing deep on Trump's political dance with Democrats including Chuck Schumer that infuriated the Steve Bannon-run Breitbart News, which ran a photo of Trump with smiling Democrats and the headline, "Meet the Swamp."
"Why did Donald Trump do this?" was the CNN "New Day" query. The thesis was he's now shafted Republicans and complicated legislative realities by doing so. "This idea that somehow he was growing his coalition is hooey. He was making a shotgun deal that sells out...his long-term objectives...It invites Republicans who have been so acquiescent and silent on Trump to really come out and give up on him now, " said A.B. Stoddard of RealClearPolitics.
Facebook and Russia
"Facebook Inc. says it found about $100,000 in ad spending connected to fake accounts likely run from Russia that aimed to stir political controversy in the U.S. ahead of last year’s presidential election." (Bloomberg)
"While the majority of the ads, run between June 2015 and May 2017, didn’t directly reference the election, they amplified 'divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum,' Facebook said in a statement. They were connected to about 470 fake accounts and pages on the social network. The company is sharing its findings with U.S. investigators."
Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Intelligence committee, says, “I have a lot more questions for Facebook, and I’ve got a lot of questions for Twitter.” He said Twitter officials are coming in "soon." (The Washington Post)
As The Wall Street Journal reported, Gannett "said it is cutting 1,000 newspaper jobs, or about 3% of its newspaper division's work force, another sign that the newspaper industry's cost-cutting hasn't kept pace with its falling revenue."
Wait. My apology. That was a 2008 story.
Yesterday it announced it's axing 1,000 jobs, including 600 layoffs, in what amounts to about a 3 percent slash in its newspaper division. Some things just don't change in the industry. Of course, Wall Street liked showing workers the door and its stock went up more than 10 percent. (ABC)
Haberman on the perils of social media
Editors increasingly look the other way as even beat reporters voice opinions on social media, notably Twitter. Clearly, some have bought into the notion of "branding" and figure most publicity is good publicity. New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman is candid in an interview that's mostly about how she works, offering some self-criticism. (The Cut)
"Sometimes I think I go a little bit overboard, in terms of not realizing how something will translate on Twitter. There’s this line from Broadcast News where Albert Brooks is a TV correspondent and says sarcastically, 'Let’s never forget, we’re the real story, not them,' mocking people who try to become the story."
"I really don’t like Twitter. I use it a lot, but I don’t like it. It just feels antithetical to what reporters are supposed to do, which is to take time, take all the time you can, to be as thoughtful as possible. That’s quite difficult in 140 characters. Or not pulling the trigger too fast when you’re still trying to process something. That’s where I’ve made my most mistakes on Twitter: pulling the trigger too fast when the situation is unfolding or electric."
Harvard on Sunday shows, Emory on Fox
There's uplifting news from Harvard for John Dickerson, Chuck Todd and George Stephanopoulos: They can flout the craven conventional wisdom of their industry and show Sunday viewers their inner Brian Lamb.
A Harvard study suggests there's more interest in the three broadcast stalwarts dealing with policy, not just politics, than one might imagine. (Poynter)
"The primary takeaway is that the Sunday morning interview shows potentially could improve their audience ratings by rebalancing their interviews to feature greater proportions of substantive policy content, relative to process-oriented, purely political content, and those types of interview guests who tend to provide more of the former relative to the latter."
But there's also news from Emory University about a new purported factor in presidential politics: Positioning on the cable dial. Yes, it's not demographics, economics or TV advertising. It's whether Fox News is lower down than the Weather Channel, Food Network, Spike or Lamb's C-Span3 and thus luring and persuading more viewers.
"We estimate that Fox News increases Republican vote shares by 0.3 points among viewers induced into watching 2.5 additional minutes per week by variation in position." (Emory)
A dumb prosecution is ditched
"Prosecutors dropped a charge against a journalist who was arrested at the state Capitol when peppering Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price with questions." (Charleston Gazette-Mail)
As Dan Heyman of Public News Service explained later during a teleconference with his attorneys, including from the high-end Washington firm of WilmerHale, he was merely trying to get an answer out of Price on a technical aspect of Obamacare, namely what might revocation mean to victims of domestic violence.
"That's why I wanted to talk to Tom Price, to go to the horse's mouth," he said about what led to his being charged with willful disruption of a governmental process.
"I don't want to pretend this is Woodward and Bernstein...but it is well worth doing that (pursuing Price and others) to get to this information."
A challenge for Trump's tax reform
How 'bout really dealing with loopholes. The morning after his North Dakota speech on taxes comes this nifty Bloomberg tale of how the system really works:
"When the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots take their first road trip later this month, players like quarterback Tom Brady will be setting the standard for comfort and legroom on the team’s new private wide-body jet."
Moreover, by simply changing from a commercial charter to their own private plane, the NFL franchise also will be skirting a significant portion of the taxes and fees that pay for the U.S. aviation system.
It’s not just sports teams. Operators of the gleaming private jets that have become a symbol of wealth and success pay far less in taxes than airline passengers and other commercial flyers, according to a Bloomberg News analysis and government reports.
Making a buck or three off journalism
Mother Jones editor Clara Jeffery puts all her content online for free, which doesn't seem the smartest business model (hello, newspapers, you moved too late to pay models). But she says it's doing just fine.
In a Recode podcast, "Jeffery pointed to her nonprofit site as well as others like the (for-profit) New York Times that successfully appeal to their readers for cash, in exchange for serious and investigative journalism. Currently, 'MoJo' is making between $15 million and $16 million a year in top-line revenue, she said."
So how does a TV reporter respond on-air to a viewer email that says he looks disheveled but "hot" in his faded jeans, or another reporter respond to kudos that he's better looking and younger than the co-host of Chicago's city's most-watched morning show (it clobbers cable and broadcast competitors each day) for which he labors?
Well, you go to a workout room and one of you takes off his shirt on live television. (WGN)
Headline of the Day
The Wall Street Journal editorial: "The Pelosi-Schumer-Trump Congress: The Republican gang that can’t even shoot at each other straight."
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