A ho-hum night of political pingpong on cable TV

Good morning.

  1. MSNBC's Trump infomercial
    If you were a politics junkie, you got to play cable pingpong last night by flipping between a CNN town hall with Ben Carson, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, while MSNBC offered one with Donald Trump solo. Spontaneity was at a minimum, the scripted answers rampant and the queries from "real people" not especially incisive. "As we see more and more of what appears to be opposition to Christian conservative values, what will you do to protect those values if elected president?" a minister asked Cruz. Thankfully, the senator kept his response to that room service question to under five hours.

    "Great to see you, Donald," said MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, discarding any artifice of formality as if they were two chums meeting at the clubhouse after a round of golf. His co-hosting with Mika Brzezinski included genuine but failed attempts to pierce Donald's talking points but bordered on infomercial territory. "Hurricane Trump Steamrolls MSNBC Town Hall" was one take. (The Daily Beast) "Disgraceful" was an even harsher analysis, arguing it "highlighted the many ways in which the media’s coverage of Trump has been soft, insufficient, and without substance." (Slate.com)

    Meanwhile, CNN's Anderson Cooper was a congenial mix of the pointed and puffy. "Do you feel 'Marcomentum?'" he asked Rubio. There were also adaptations from the Barbara Walters school of journalism, such as asking Carson what he does to relax (play pool) and what music he listens to (classical). Neither gathering was especially provocative and made one yearn for more combative interrogations. For example, Rubio said it's not the Federal Reserve's job to stimulate economy. That's very arguably incorrect. But, for sure, the now well-rehearsed are challenges for any moderator, especially those not able to quickly challenge outright inaccuracies.

  2. Now you see it, now you don't
    SB Nation’s Longform vertical yesterday posted a 12,000-word opus on Daniel Holtzclaw, the former Oklahoma City police officer convicted of of rapes and various other on-duty offenses. "It was, in many ways, a disaster of a story" and was deleted five hours later. (Deadspin) Its editorial boss said the tale "represents a complete breakdown of a part of the editorial process at SB Nation. There were objections by senior editorial staff that went unheeded. It was tone-deaf, insensitive to the victims of sexual assault and rape, and wrongheaded in approach and execution. There is no qualification: it was a complete failure.”

    For those interested in teaching future reporters what not to do, here is the actual mess. The work of a freelancer sportswriter, it included unjustified sympathy for Holtzclaw and wacky theories as to what might explain his acts, including chagrin over not making the NFL as a linebacker. And it was big on alluding to the "troubled pasts" of his victims.

  3. A reporter dissects her own gender bias
    Adrienne LaFrance of The Atlantic has dissected lack of diversity and gender bias in Silicon Valley and been chagrined. But she's also conscious of similar problems in the media and decided to do some honorable, if deflating, self-analysis. With help, she looked at the 192 articles she did last year. "All in all, I mentioned 736 different people and only 165 of them were women — meaning women accounted for just over 22 percent of the unique individuals I named or quoted in my work last year."

    It's worse, she admits, if you look at total mentions rather than unique mentions. Her priority is to find the best, smartest sources. But "by substantially underrepresenting an entire gender, I’m missing out on all kinds of viewpoints, ideas, and experiences that might otherwise sharpen and enhance my reporting." (The Atlantic)

  4. A cloudy Kristol ball
    Bill Kristol, an old friend, is a veteran TV pundit whose track record for errant predictions verges on the vaguely mythic within an envy-filled chattering class. But he's undaunted, really doesn't care and will keep on keeping on. (The Washington Post) He's a reminder of a culture than can prize provocativeness over accuracy, all the more so if there's an aura of what passes for contemplative on TV. Imagine if there was some fair and empirical way to post pundit batting averages as one does with baseball players.
  5. Woof woof, ruff ruff and arf
    The New York Times offers a "Sound and the Furry" opportunity to match barks with the correct type of dog. (The New York Times) Meanwhile, it assigned three reporters to cover the best in show portion of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden. (The New York Times)
  6. Journalism careers in China
    "Beijing's decision to expel the French journalist Ursula Gauthier in December has thrust the dispiriting situation facing foreign correspondents in China into the headlines. But Chinese journalists are facing far greater challenges — and many reporters are simply turning their back on the profession as a result." (The Guardian) Reporter Without Borders' press freedom ranking now has China at 176 out of 180 nations.
  7. Gannett's latest earnings
    A newspaper company, Gannett, reported that digital revenue growth was "more than offset by weak results in print advertising and circulation." (Poynter) Total revenue dropped nearly 10 percent compared to the same period in 2014. It thus missed earnings expectations. Its shares have dropped 10 percent in the last three months, "compared to the S&P 500's decline of 8 percent." (MarketWatch)
  8. New editor in Chicago
    The Chicago Tribune announced that Bruce Dold, the longtime respected editorial page editor, replaces a departing Gerould Kern as editor, effective immediately. In a world whose executive ranks are increasingly drawn from a younger pool with extensive hands-on digital experience, his is a more traditional choice. He's a newsroom product, winner of a Pulitzer Prize himself for editorial writing and brings to the position considerable professional cachet. But he faces the same challenges as his predecessor: managing a smaller newsroom, encouraging his staff to produce a variety of digital content and getting readers to pay for it. In addition, there's the uncertain new reality of Michael Ferro, a local tech entrepreneur who has run The Chicago Sun-Times and just bought 17 percent of the company. Chicago Tribune Publisher Tony Hunter and Dold, 60, "said they do not have any significant changes planned for the newsroom or the newspaper." (Crain's Chicago Business)

    Meanwhile, the Tribune's larger corporate brethren at the Los Angeles Times are embarking upon what appears to be aggressive, needed transformation against which some traditionalists are pushing back, says industry analyst Ken Doctor in a mini-analysis found behind a paywall. (POLITICO)

  9. Yahoo chops away
    Embattled Yahoo is shutting down a bunch of digital magazines, including Yahoo Food, Yahoo Health, Yahoo Parenting, Yahoo Makers, Yahoo Travel, Yahoo Autos and Yahoo Real Estate. It's apparently saying farewell to its tech vertical, too, and moving some staff to its news vertical, including former New York Times columnist David Pogue. (POLITICO) The pain of layoffs is being played out over several weeks. (Re/code)
  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin
    Bruce Dold is now editor of the Chicago Tribune. Previously, he was editor of its editorial pages. (Poynter) | Choire Sicha will be director of partner platforms at Vox Media. He is co-founder of the Awl Network. (The Wall Street Journal) | Linda Wells is now beauty editor-at-large at New York's The Cut. Previously, she was beauty and food editor at The New York Times Magazine. (Email) | WPDE in South Carolina's Myrtle Beach is looking for an executive producer. Get your resumes in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org.

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

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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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