CNN reporter survives a far deadlier campaign

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Election Day will be a long one for armies of reporters. But it will be a pampered cakewalk compared to what CNN foreign correspondent Arwa Damon just endured.

Whether it's Clinton or Trump, the winner should call Damon about two things: the foreign policy mess they'll inherit in Iraq and a basic misperception when it comes to the competence and bravery of Iraq's soldiers.

If you missed it, Damon and photojournalist colleague Bruce Laine were riding with anti-ISIL Iraq government forces trying to extricate ISIS from Mosul. They wound up fired upon, then trapped by ISIS, along the way just missing bombs but winding up bloody. (CNN)

It's a harrowing, 10-minute video about a place the candidates largely forgot during the campaign. It's a window onto chaos, replete with car bombs, Humvees getting perilously entangled and a very frightening night in hiding. It the polar opposite of those well-mannered lines of voters all over live TV this morning.

In all, the CNN duo was in peril for 28 hours, with no idea the same ISIS fighters who'd have surely killed them were simultaneously down the block and filming the booty they were pirating from innocent locals.

The CNN duo just missed a grenade. Iraqi soldiers and civilians around them were wounded. Children and women were in shock and tears. An Iraqi air strike knocked down one wall of the house in which they were hiding. They captured it all. No Hollywood war concoction could top this.

Liz Sly, Beirut bureau chief of The Washington Post, had read a story written by Damon and Laine. Then I sent her the video, which she had not seen.

"To me this is a reminder that this 'war against ISIS' that the candidates have each been boasting they will do better than the other is actually already a real war that is being fought on the ground right now by some incredibly brave Iraqis."

"It’s not just Mosul, and it’s not just now. Scenes like this have been going on somewhere in Iraq for most of the past two years. If you read Arwa Damon’s written account, these guys were laughing that what they were going through in those scenes was nowhere near as bad as what they experienced in Baiji. These guys have been fighting in town after town, month after month, and they only stop when they are wounded. Often they go straight back to the front as soon as they are healed."

"It’s also a reminder that Arwa Damon and her cameraman Brice Laine are incredibly brave reporters." But, of course, to Donald Trump they are likely members of a group ("the media") he's so premeditatedly demeaned.

The morning polling consensus

Wherever you turn, those in the data-driven know say it will be a Clinton victory, be it RealClearPolitics, Nate Silver or The Washington Post.

Silver does note, "It’s worth raising an eyebrow, though, when the polls (other than the L.A. Times) show a range this tight at the end of an election, especially given that they’d diverged so much earlier in the campaign.""

"The tight range of polls shouldn’t be taken to mean that everyone’s figured exactly how to poll this challenging election just in the nick of time. Still, the polls clearly agree that Clinton is the favorite, and perhaps has a slight wind at her back for Election Day."


"CNN is staging more than a dozen rehearsals with a 25-person on-air team. George Stephanopoulos of ABC News spent his weekend running drills in a studio, practicing swing-state calls with a former intern standing in for the pollster Nate Silver." (The New York Times)

Amid press bashing, votes for great work

The press has done 1,001 things wrong during the campaign, including cable TV being often undiscriminating for too long with Trump, giving him giants chunks of free time anytime he speed-dialed into studios. But if the digital age brings more junk, it also brings more quality.

When Poynter ran an online poll on its candidates for best political journalism, 25,000 responded with their votes — and their own candidates. It's a largely mainstream and elite group — lots of Washington Post, NBC, CBS, The New York Times, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, CNN, NPR, Politico — but it's a reminder of the vast quantities of virtuous labor amid the vast quantities of crap. (Poynter)

A wrenching photo

"Photographer and father Andy Whelan is receiving an outpouring of support from across the globe after sharing a heartbreaking photo of his 4-year-old daughter’s fight against cancer." (Petapixel)

His daughter has neuroblastoma and the father has documented the ordeal via Facebook. He was just informed that she only has a few weeks to live.

"As a photographer it is important to capture the truth and the reality of a situation, too easy it becomes to capture the joy of life whilst discarding the torture that we see. This is the hardest photograph I have ever made."

How the 2016 campaign changed political journalism

Amy Hollyfield of The Tampa Bay Times, who's overseen its political coverage, gives the press an "A." CNN's Brian Stelter is a tougher grader, meting out a "B." Jeff Jarvis, journalist-turned-academic, shakes his head and says, no, it's a "D."

Those are among the assessments of an elite group of journalists that tries to step back and help Poynter assess the lessons for political journalism arising out of the frenetic last 18 months.

It's the stuff of many future seminars, papers and books. But an early draft of history is provided in a smartly designed package, which runs a gamut from the upbeat to the decidedly harsh.

Jarvis, director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at CUNY's Graduate School of Journalism, asserts, “The job of journalism is to inform the public. The candidacy of Donald Trump and the quality of political discourse is evidence of our failure. That should be no surprise given that we devote most (of our) journalistic resources to predicting races, not to informing voters.” (Poynter)

The endorsement tally

It appears to be 57 of the 100-largest circulation papers backing Clinton, two backing Trump and four for Libertarian Gary Johnson.

Magic Johnson, AIDS and a writer's mom

Justin Tinsley, a culture and sports writer at The Undefeated, uses the 25th anniversary yesterday of Magic Johnson going public about his AIDS to craft a tale about his mom and her good friend, Debra, including this anecdote from long ago.

"Debra’s marriage was failing. According to my mother, when Debra finally mustered the strength to leave, her husband delivered a remark so vicious, so evil, so grotesque: I don’t know where you think you’re going, Debra’s husband allegedly said. I gave you AIDS. We’re both going to die."

So when the anniversary came up, or Johnson's name ever surfaces, Tinsley's mom reflexively think of "Debbie." (The Undefeated)

Bloomberg's cheat sheet

A giant wall on the border with Mexico? That's one issue relevant to Tuesday's outcome. But, hey, what about the impact on T-bills, emerging markets, stocks and the environmental sectors?

Bloomberg offers "Your cheat sheet for how markets will react to the election." So, for example, if the Democrats win the White House and take over Congress, here's the deal with U.S. Treasuries: "prospects for more spending would drive prices down, yields up." (Bloomberg)

All politics and news are local

Right next to the Paul Ryan re-election ad in his hometown GazetteXtra in Janesville, Wisconsin, is another very relevant local matter: "No perfect solution to schedule collection of loose leaves." (GazetteXtra)

The morning babble

"Fox & Friends" went first, no surprise, to its Donald Trump reporter, John Roberts, and derided Bill Clinton with its first in-studio analyst being Republican Mike Huckabee, his fellow-former Arkansas governor (who likes Bill, not Hillary). Fittingly, a fatigued but glass-half-full Trump was on live, too, via phone, perhaps from a prone position in his bedroom.

On CNN's "New Day," there were actually two references to "Hamilton" lyrics as somehow revealing (like he wasn't going to throw away "his shot"). Whatever. Sharp Ron Brownstein noted historic divergence between college-educated whites (Clinton) and non-educated whites (Trump). Trump's best chance on last day remains what it was on his first, namely need more blue-collar, non-urban voters, he said.

Amid the live shots of polling places and the pundits on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," meteorology seemed no less relevant. Bill Karins' weather forecast was sparkling: Beautiful in Northeast, above average temperatures in Midwest, a few heavy rains in parts of Texas and record highs in Pacific Northwest. After such a long and dispiriting campaign, you might have thought biblical hail and lightning were in order.

Janet Reno R.I.P.

Mark Silva, who just joined U.S. News & World report after meritorious stints at The Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune and Bloomberg News, crafts a lovely remembrance of former Attorney General Janet Reno. In particular, there was her subsequent, failed campaign for Florida governor, which included her fainting early on.

He recalls climbing into a red Ford Ranger pickup truck that Reno was driving around Florida and telling her he had to bring up the health issue. He asked if she'd ever fainted at home. She said no. (U.S. News and World Report)

"I paused and said, 'You know, that's pretty funny, a public official who only faints in public?'"

"Yes, she agreed, that's pretty funny."

Why Kara Swisher is relieved

Kara Swisher, the ace tech reporter, has feel has been feeling "like I am in a digital fever dream from which I never wake." She's been addicted to the screen on her iPhone 7 Plus.

"As soon as I wake, I start on the apps of the main news sites, quickly flicking and tapping and scrolling from the New York Times to the Washington Post to Politico to Real Clear Politics to FiveThirtyEight, digesting all the news in minutes. Like it’s popcorn consumed watching a Saturday afternoon thriller." (Recode)

But, she wonders, did she need to read about former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani lecturing on adultery, "a topic he knows a lot about," or all the pieces on "steel-cold Megyn Kelly’s bizarre cage match with the increasingly creepy, used-to-be-someone Newt Gingrich (speaking of hobgoblins)?"

Finally what about all those photos of longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, whose sad, wide eyes make me so uncomfortable that I want to look away, as if I am passing in front of something that is none of my business? Except here it is, making it my business."

Well, no, I guess. Unless Clinton wins. Then, Swisher may well get four more years of Abedin photos. But, for many in the press, it might be a small price to pay, given the seeming alternative presented on a drama-filled day.

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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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