Comey mania? Not for readers in Springfield, Illinois
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.
Shortly after former FBI Director James Comey finished his much-hyped Senate testimony Thursday, the annual awards luncheon of the Illinois Associated Press Media Editors began in Springfield, the home of Honest Abe Lincoln.
There was some interest in Comey who, as one friend put it aptly, came off as the earnest lead actor in a minor-league summer production of "Private Lives."
But it was short of intense. No talk of blockbuster revelations, calling President Trump a liar, affirming significant Trump assertions or this as a historic "J'accuse moment" akin to Emil Zola's 1898 open letter to the French president. Or Iran-Contra or John Dean testifying about Watergate.
It was a hint of a national vs. local media divide that can be as notable — perhaps more so — as the right vs. left lens through which the hubbub of Donald Trump is generally inspected. It's interesting, since Springfield is the state capital, home of the Lincoln Museum, one of the most popular presidential museums, and where novice U.S. Senator Barack Obama announced his long-shot candidacy for the White House.
People are pretty sophisticated when it comes to government in this solidly Republican county where Donald Trump lured 11,000 people to a rally a year before the election. Back then, the elite press was viewing his poll numbers as an anomaly, evidence of mere celebrity in a crowded field, not any potentially enduring popular support.
Angie Muhs, executive editor of the GateHouse Media-owned State-Journal Register, recalls checking it out with her son and suspecting something was up. But the populist unrest that carried Trump doesn't necessarily morph into daily fascination, including with Comey's testimony.
Metrics can be illusory, but when she checked back at the office in late afternoon, interest in her site's Comey story was modest. In fact, a Comey wire service story was not even among the top five or six stories for Muhs' readers. No. 1 was a feature about the 200th production ("Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory") at a beloved local summer theater.
Muhs was a bit reluctant to draw any hard and fast conclusions. People see her paper as a place to come for local news, state news and state politics. They'll likely go elsewhere for Comey, "particularly national outlets that align with where they stand on the issue."
A story on the responses by the state's two U.S. senators and one of two area congressmen was "doing OK," she said as I sat in her office, not far from the Old State Capitol where Lincoln plied his trade and the train station where his body arrived on May 3, 1865.
It was doing better than the Comey news story. But, "that's something they won't get from The New York Times since we don't have anybody on the (Intelligence) Committee."
And she took a look at reader data for sister papers in Rockford and Peoria. Same deal.
At a dank downtown tavern near the one-track Amtrak station, $9 later brought me a draft Coors, breaded string beans, a Coke and lots of chatter about the two sports passions in the area, the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs.
No Trump or Comey. No sense of apocalypse, constitutional crisis or the status of healthcare or tax legislation. The TV was turned to "Pardon the Interruption" on ESPN and, as I left, a guy checked his phone and announced the Cards had lost.
The McCain weirdness
"What was behind those befuddling McCain questions?" (New York Times)
"Senator John McCain's bizarre questioning of Comey." (The Washington Post)
"McCain's awkward, befuddled Comey performance." (Arizona Republic)
"What the f — was McCain talking about?" (The Onion)
Dueling journalism critiques
You need a scorecard. Trump calls the press liars in general. James Comey called Trump a liar. He also said The New York Times was peddling an untruth in a major story. The Times responded and said baloney. (Poynter) And Fox News Channel blames everything, including global warming, on the Clintons.
He tweeted, finally, this morning just after 6 a.m.: "Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication...and WOW, Comey is a leaker!" (@realDonaldTrump)
A Washington scam
Consider how Comey had a chum at Columbia Law School leak the contents of a memo on his Oval Office meeting to The New York Times.
It was a nifty example of the mores of the capital, especially among real bureaucratic players. (Poynter) Forget whether it was technically legal or not, whether it was a classified government document or not. It was classic butt-covering and image-shaping.
In mulling my own response, I realized that I had, like others, become inured to this very sort of manipulation during two stints in the capital.
It's business as usual, with press-happy conduits like Comey bathing in their sense of rectitude. Why didn't Comey show some actual spine and go public with his response to Trump and call for a special counsel? Why not quit, as The Wall Street Journal argues?
Nope. He did the D.C. thing. And the outrage tends to be that there's no outrage.
Outing baseball's best college pitcher
Folks in Oregon, college baseball and Major League Baseball have known Luke Heimlich as the star pitcher on the best college team, the Oregon State Beavers. Now they know him as a registered sex offender amid a disclosure by the Oregonian that he abused a 6-year-old relative when he was a teen.
Shortly after posting a news story, Oregonian Editor Mark Katches separately told readers, "After we didn't hear back from Heimlich, we asked if he wanted to have a family member or representative respond on his behalf. Text messages sent to his phone this week were marked "read" but never returned."
"This is a tragic story on so many levels. But we believed the crime against a young, innocent and defenseless child had to be disclosed and that we had an obligation as journalists to disclose it."
Heimlich is from the state of Washington, which does not seal the records of the sort of juvenile offenses that forced the teen to register as a sex offender. A reporter, doing a routine profile and related database search, stumbled across the history due to a citation he'd received for failing to update his sex offender registration.
As Brits went to the polls...
Bloomberg was reporting — in case you inexplicably didn't know it — "The pound is currently still well down more than 1 percent, but it is on its own as a significant mover across the major FX pairs. The Bloomberg Dollar Index is up 0.2 percent, fueled by that pound weakness but also by declines in the kiwi, Aussie and Norway's krone."
The Verizon-AOL-Yahoo chopping block
After an initial report of 1,000 endangered jobs, the Mercury News reported, "About 2,100 jobs are on the chopping block as Verizon prepares to combine Yahoo and AOL for a digital advertising offensive." That's a hefty 15 percent.
Jim Comey, the journalist
The tale was first broached by The New Yorker, but The Chronicle of Higher Education expands on how Comey, as a student journalist at the College of William & Mary, "found himself at the center of a fight between a brash antagonist and a group of rank-and-file professionals desperate to protect themselves and their institution."
It was 1980 and his three-part student newspaper series inspected "recruiting and retaining Black students and faculty members." Black student enrollment has receded after years of increases, and there were merely three black faculty members. (Chronicle)
Unrelated bonus question: Who was the first journalist-in-residence at William & Mary? First correct answer gets a drink next time you're in Chicago.
A small programming suggestion for CNN
What about a respite for Jeffrey Toobin, the legal analyst, whose air of certitude on virtually any Trump-related topic (Thursday it was his flat-out assertion of Trump's obstruction of justice, among others) can meld with a dour air that suggests unease, at times exasperation, with being in the presence of any intellectual inferiors.
An Amazon price hike
"Another cloud storage party is over, guys: Amazon has sunsetted its unlimited cloud storage plan for Amazon Drive — although members of its Prime subscription club will still get unlimited cloud storage for photos." (TechCrunch)
"From today, people signing up for Amazon Drive will not be able to select an unlimited cloud storage option. Instead, they can choose either 100 GB for $11.99 per year, or 1 TB for $59.99, with up to 30 TB available for an additional $59.99 per TB. (The prior pricing was $11.99pa for unlimited photos or unlimited everything for $59.99.)"
Traders turn bearish on Snap
"Traders haven't been this bearish on Snap since the period immediately following its initial public offering." (Business Insider)
The morning babble
"Fox & Friends" was babbling about "deep state leaks" that have harmed Trump, including those from James Comey. And they loved Comey dumping on former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, then beckoning right-wing goofball Rep. Louie Gohmert.
MSNBC's "Morning Joe" wondered if we really know more about actual illegal actions. Trump won't be indicted for anything related to the Flynn probe was the guess of Mark Halperin. Michael Schmidt of The New York Times also stood by the Russian-Trump campaign collision story that Comey dumped on, as he and colleagues do in the paper this morning.
On CNN's "New Day," there was no smoking gun if you're a Trump supporter and today's not such a bad day, said Washington Post alumnus Chris Cillizza. Legal analyst Laura Coates said this all widened the Mueller investigation ("a big dog with a very big bone") even as some of Comey's leaks corroborated Trump's own statements.
"Those were lies, plain and simple," said Comey.
A fact-check from The Washington Post's estimable Glenn Kessler: "FALSE: The statement assumes the now debunked notion of objective facts."
Huh? Oh, wait, my bad. That's from The Onion.
With that, have a good weekend. We've got a baseball practice, three baseball games, a play date, a sleepover and one birthday party. I'll take it over being a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.