Capital punishment: the media mania over Trump

Good morning.

  1. Donald goes to Washington
    The coverage of Donald Trump's day in Washington yesterday quickly devolved into this: Wolf Blitzer, a self-respecting journalist and good fellow, transformed into Tattoo, the comical aide de camp to Ricardo Montalban's Mr. Roarke on "Fantasy Island," who greeted arriving guests to the mysterious locale by shouting, "Da Plane! Da Plane!" There was Blitzer hosting early afternoon coverage and presumably forced to repeatedly inform us that, look, there was a live shot of Trump's private jet at Reagan National Airport. And, a few minutes later, another live shot. It was as if this were Beaconsfield, Iowa (population 15) and the circus had just showed.

    TRUMP MEETS WITH HOUSE GOP LEADERS," declared the crawl on Fox News. "We're on standby for that," anchor Bill Hemmer had assured us earlier. Oh, yes, they were. It was about all one could get on the cable news networks yesterday, as if the planet's sole human event was Trump and all those chagrined Republicans starting to fold and back him. (The Wall Street Journal)

    "You may be wondering why we're showing you that alley," said CNN anchor Carol Costello at one point, as a camera was trained on the back of a building where Trump was meeting. Yup. But it was in sync with the everlasting conundrum of Washington, D.C.: a sophisticated but utterly small town. "The P.T. Barnum scene seemed oddly fitting for a campaign that, at times, has felt like a passing parade, the surreal blending viscerally with the passions Mr. Trump elicits. And even while unseen, Mr. Trump demonstrated that he is still fully capable of setting off a Category 5 fuss just by being in the vicinity." (The New York Times)

    Thank goodness Fox at one point briefly took us to Brasilia for actual news about the impeachment of Brazil's president amid all-encompassing corruption there that makes the Chicago City Council resemble a Jesuit retreat (nearly three dozen council members have been convicted since 1973).

  2. Facebook's trending topic: itself
    Mark Zuckerberg took to Facebook on Thursday evening to say he plans to talk with leading conservatives in coming weeks. "I want to have a direct conversation about what Facebook stands for and how we can be sure our platform stays as open as possible." (ABC News) Facebook put out a statement earlier to rebut allegations of rigging its "Trending Topics" feature. (Poynter)

    Meanwhile, "leaked documents show how Facebook, now the biggest news distributor on the planet, relies on old-fashioned news values on top of its algorithms to determine what the hottest stories will be for the 1 billion people who visit the social network every day. (The Guardian) And this: "One notable change between The Guardian's documents and the one Facebook just posted: Yahoo News is no longer considered among the most trustworthy news sites; Buzzfeed News has replaced it." (Motherboard)

  3. Ex-Guardian editor won't chair its ownership board
    Alan Rusbridger, the former top editor of the London-based daily newspaper, has been forced from his chairmanship of The Scott Trust months before he was set to take the post. Rusbridger, who was lauded by staff for positioning the newspaper to succeed digitally at the time of his departure, has since faced critiques of financial mismanagement. (BuzzFeed UK)
  4. 383 million pageviews
    The Daily Mail offered "eyebrow-raising numbers" at an industry function: "The U.K.-based publisher is now posting 650 videos a day, which has resulted in a 516 percent jump in views in the past year. It's getting 383 million monthly video views, 12 million video views per day, and claims an 80 percent completion and viewability rate." (Adweek) It's the most popular English-language destination.
  5. Edward Snowden on the press
    The former National Security Agency contractor was piped in from Moscow to talk to the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics. Imagine, the students there got Jon Stewart and Snowden within four days! (Poynter) "How does the media sell attention? How do they buy attention? How do they get you to watch them? People care about characters, for whatever reason. So they simply would not let me go." He was thus part of what he deems a Traitor or Hero construct that was symbolized by an NBC interview in Moscow conducted by Brian Williams that asked viewers to vote online as to which of the two was Snowden. (Institute of Politics)
  6. Journalism stunts
    Recode notes how filmmaker Les Blank made a movie about German director Werner Herzog eating a shoe after losing a bet. "Facebook Live is forcing journalists to act similarly. For instance, on The Washington Post's Facebook page, right now, this very second, you can watch columnist Dana Milbank follow up on an earlier promise to eat a newspaper. In October, Milbank said that he would literally eat his words if Donald Trump became the Republican nominee. Trump won, and Milbank is being a good sport about making such an abrasively wrong prediction." (Recode) If you want to see this updated version of Milbank paying off a bet, here it is.
  7. Trump's Bezos conspiracy theory
    Donald Trump has apparently contracted out much of his public relations work to Sean Hannity of Fox News. Last night came another squishy Hannity-Trump session in which the candidate told us how great the Paul Ryan meeting went and, not long after, went after The Washington Post and owner Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder. He said Bezos uses the paper "as a toy" and is somehow having an army of reporters go after him because Bezos wants to avoid taxes and prosecution for antitrust reasons ("he's got a huge antitrust problem") during a Trump administration. He's using the paper "as a political make sure I don't get in." The Washington Post called B.S. this morning. (Poynter)
  8. Annals of self-appreciation
    A tweet from New York Times reporter Farhad Manjoo: "Read my column on FB and bias, it's good: Facebook’s Bias Is Built-In, and Bears Watching." (@fmanjoo) You would tell us if it wasn't, correct? The age of journalist puffery fanned by social media proceeds apace, with ample encouragement from employers.
  9. Tribune-Gannett pissing match (cont.)
    Tribune Publishing has rejected a takeover offer from Gannett. The latter's Securities and Exchange Commission filing this morning makes the case for withholding votes from the company's slate of directors at next month's shareholder meeting. (Gannett) Tribune responds with a presentation that bashes Gannett's opportunistic raid and praise new boss Michael Ferro's vision for running things. (Tribune) Tribune recently adopted a "poison pill" to make any takeover tough. (Poynter)
  10. George Clooney's take
    One of this morning's more debatable cable declarations might have been CNN's "New Day" contributor Mark Preston declaring how Donald Trump has "for the last 72 hours looked presidential." He must have missed the Hannity session. Over at "Fox and Friends" they were in George Clooney-bashing mode. They ran tape of the famous son of a former Ohio local TV news anchor and host sitting next to Julia Roberts at the Cannes Film Festival and saying, "There's not going to be a President Trump. Fear is not going to be something that drives our country. We're not going to be scared of Muslims or immigrants or women." He then blamed "much of the news programs" for not following up during interviews with Trump to "ask tough questions. The ratings go up because they can show an empty podium that says Donald Trump is about to speak." This didn't sit well with the resolute Fox morning crew. "The media has been very aggressive," said Ainsley Earhardt, who magnanimously qualified that with, "I still like his movies." "George Clooney and his wife have thrown fundraisers for Hillary Clinton at their house, so he has a horse in this race and it's Hillary," said Steve Doocy. Brian Kilmeade exhibited further uncharacteristic rhetorical largesse with, "He was really good on 'E.R.'"
  11. Dining update
    Does The Washington Post take us for culinary dunces? Do they really, honestly believe we all don't know that "New Nordic cuisine, with its emphasis on locally foraged ingredients and fermented foods, has redefined Scandinavian cooking in recent years, giving it an identity beyond pickled herring and that frequently scorned dried cod known as lutefisk." (The Washington Post) I did, after all, have lunch with a public TV friend at the Tre Kronor, a Swedish bistro on Chicago's Northwest Side, seven (maybe it was eight) years ago. "Of course, the trouble with New Nordic cuisine is that, by definition, it’s rooted in place, non-transferrable to, say, the District, where the White House will host its 12th state dinner on Friday to honor the heads of state of five Nordic countries." Of course. "But that didn’t stop White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford from saluting the work of chefs like Noma’s Rene Redzepi with baby radishes impaled on pieces of foraged wood.'This wood came from our backyard,' says Comerford, who didn’t know what kind of tree it was." Well, get somebody in the West Wing to ask somebody at the National Park Service.
  12. What is the last great sports story?
    Charles P. Pierce writes in Sports Illustrated, "A Chicago Cubs World Series championship is the Last Great American Sports Story. The Red Sox have had their moment; in fact, they’ve had three of them. The ongoing futility that is the city of Cleveland is an interesting historical glitch — and LeBron James may yet correct it this year — but there are still people alive and prospering who remember Jim Brown and 1964. There have been Triple Crown winners, one as recently as last June. The Cubs are what’s left." (Sports Illustrated) Meanwhile, The New York Daily News offers, "Alex Ovechkin and the 25 greatest athletes never to win a title." (Daily News)
  13. A "Special Relationship"
    The proliferating podcast universe does raise the question as to how many folks can actually turn a buck on podcasts. A newcomer is "Special Relationship," a partnership of The Economist and Mic, the millennial-focused media company that's going to experiment with paid subscriptions. (Ad Age) Its latest offering is hosted by Economist U.S. editor John Prideaux and Mic senior political correspondent Celeste Katz, focusing on how Hillary Clinton may be impacted by her gender. It features Joanne Bamberger, author of "Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox," and Economist senior editor Anne McElvoy, who compares Clinton's campaign with the rise to power of Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel and others. (Mic)
  14. Twitter and surveillance
    "The tension between Silicon Valley and the federal government over digital privacy has taken a bizarre twist: Twitter has reportedly barred the analytics firm Dataminr, which scans the Twitterverse for breaking news and trends, from selling its services to U.S. intelligence agencies." (Bloomberg) It would not appear to have much reason to stand in the way of national security, "beyond advancing its own public relations strategy."
  15. Journalists getting rich
    Start your weekend with a dose of rank envy. "General Atlantic has emerged as the frontrunner in an auction to buy a controlling stake in Argus Media," a London-based energy reporting company that provides specialized industry data. The sale of a 50-percent-plus stake to the U.S. private equity firm "would see members of the founding Nasmyth family pocket hundreds of millions of pounds. It would also make dozens of Argus employees — including some of its senior journalists — paper multimillionaires. These include chairman Adrian Binks and Ian Bourne, the editor-in-chief." Consider your finances, have a good drink and enjoy the weekend. (Financial Times)
  16. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin
    Julia Ioffe is now a contributor to HuffPost Highline. She is a contributor to POLITICO Magazine. (Poynter) | Jason Abbruzzese is now the business editor of Mashable. Previously, he was a media reporter there. (@benmullin) | Tina Exarhos is now the chief marketing officer of NowThisMedia. Previously, she was chief marketing officer of MTV. (Email) | Job of the day: ProPublica is looking for a senior editor for audience and engagement. Get your resumes in! (ProPublica) | Send Ben your job moves:

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    James Warren

    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. News & World Report. Former managing editor and Washington Bureau Chief, Chicago Tribune.


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