How The National Enquirer drove mainstream media on its Ted Cruz 'exclusive'
Good morning after a brief vacation with my family at the Grand Canyon.
- Running a tale nobody seemed able to verify
In a year where outright lying and deceit are so prevalent, why not have a National Enquirer story about Ted Cruz's alleged dalliances drive mainstream media? It was a big item as Donald Trump and Cruz traded Easter Sunday insults yesterday on ABC's "This Week" and "Fox News Sunday." (The New York Times) It didn't quite top the CNN debate the other day between a former Cruz flack, Amanda Carpenter, and Boston Herald columnist Adriana Cohen (she's actually a part-time right wing radio host and part-time Herald pundit) in which Cohen declared flatly that Carpenter was named in the report as a former Cruz mistress. That was rather outrageous and CNN host Kate Bolduan displayed chagrin. (Mediaite)
When Cruz himself brought up the story at a press conference, the gates flew open for establishment media to cite the Enquirer claims even as they feigned dyspepsia with the report from such a supposedly unseemly source and conceded their inability (or was it unwillingness?) to confirm its allegations. "While the Enquirer is not considered a reputable news organization...the magazine does have a track record of exposing affairs by presidential candidate, such as of Gary Hart and John Edwards." (Vanity Fair) The New York Times did a story on the Cruz press conference and left it at that, its opening line suggesting disdain for a "supermarket tabloid" that was catalyst for its very story. (The New York Times)
The journalistic gymnastics were best viewed in POLITICO. The estimable media critic Jack Shafer took a professed high road while others around him seemed to be taking every expressway and frontage road they could find to get to the smarm. He noted the tons of cable and Web "speculation about a story that many of us (including me) have not yet read." (POLITICO)
Well, somebody there had read it. There were stories adjacent to Shafer's on Cruz taking the offensive over the Enquirer opus, a Trump supporter and conservative radio host being chagrined by The Enquirer, Trump denying any role in the Enquirer matter and Cruz accusing him of planting the tale. Elsewhere, The Daily Beast claimed that Cruz opponents had been pushing such claims for months. The Washington Post said it couldn't independently verify the underlying matter but gave us the gist. For its part, "This Week" kept matters alive Sunday during one of those unceasing phone chats with Trump.(Bloomberg) All in all, the Enquirer need not spend money on an outside communications firm amid the free marketing it finds elsewhere.
- Perhaps a bit of hope for Gawker after its Hulk shellacking
For sure, it was a jury that awarded Hulk Hogan $140 million in his sex tape dispute with Gawker Media. "But this fact may give the former professional wrestler pause: Over the last four years, the judge who oversaw his trial has been reversed on appeal more times than any of her colleagues in Pinellas County." (Tampa Bay Times) Well, perhaps. At minimum, you can figure that an appeals court will find some reason to at least sharply chop that stratospheric amount, despite the fashionable anti-media animus of the day.
- ISIS attacks may not be a sign of any weakness
Is a desperate ISIS trying to make up for military setbacks in Iraq and Syria by going with attacks in Europe and elsewhere? That was a theme among media (and the Obama administration) after the Brussels outrage. But maybe reporters are missing a totally different reality that's suggested in a story tweeted out Sunday by Liz Sly, a great foreign correspondent (and former colleague) now plying her fearless trade as The Washington Post's Beirut bureau chief.
In sum, the analysis that caught Sly's eye: What's happened in Paris and Belgium is all part of the terrorist group's evolution and not linked to how it's doing back in Syria and Iraq. It's not a symbol of weakness but an indicator of the growing divide between what it's doing militarily and and its quest for influence elsewhere. As an international organization, this theory goes, ISIS "has come of age." (The National)
- Olbermann returning?
The sun rises in the east, sets in the west, Keith Olbermann exits one employer, Keith Olbermann is hired by another. Some things in life just aren't that complicated. In case you missed "The View" on Friday, co-host Joy Behar declared, "I hope you get another show where you can spew your stuff." Olbermann responded, "I'm coming out of retirement, so anybody who wants to, just call me." (CNN/Money) Of course, the Vegas over-under on how long Olbermann will stay put in any particular gig is always shifting.
- Did Coach K lie?
Sports reporters seem to have morphed into National Security Agency operatives scrutinizing enemy declarations caught on camera, at least when it came to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. "On Thursday night, Duke lost to Oregon, 82-68, in the Sweet 16. The final margin was 14 rather than 11 because the Ducks' Dillon Brooks made a long three-pointer with less than 10 seconds to go. After the game, Brooks and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski had an exchange in the handshake line. The content of that exchange has been in dispute. Now that we have the audio of their brief conversation, it's clear that one person hasn't been honest: Krzyzewski." (Slate) In the annals of deceit, this was rather minuscule, with the coach apologizing for not fessing up initially to his actual remarks. (ESPN) Now on to North Carolina, Syracuse, Oklahoma and Villanova (my 6-year-old's bracket pick) in the Final Four.
- Lauding the Charlotte Observer
North Carolina legislators approved and the Republican governor last week signed legislation that ditched a Charlotte ordinance that would have provided wide protections for the LGBT community against discrimination in public accommodations. "It was thus encouraging to see the Charlotte Observer — the Carolinas’ largest newspaper — publish a brutal, fervent editorial lambasting Republican Gov. Pat McCrory for signing the bill into law. The legislation, the paper’s editorial board wrote, 'was about a governor who decided his state will sanction discrimination against not only transgender people, but all homosexuals.'" (Slate)
- Clickbait's supposed declining allure
By coincidence, amid the Ted Cruz tabloid hoopla, Paris-based media observer and digital strategist Frédéric Filloux surfaces with his latest assessment on broken media business models via his newsletter: "Collecting eyeballs is a diversion of publisher resources. As the ad model loses steam, focusing on page views generates less and less value and leads to commoditized, lowest common denominator news content. It’s time to look for alternate models." (Monday Note)
- Maury Povich, newspaper magnate
When not disclosing the outcome of paternity tests to angry former soulmates on his syndicated TV show, Povich found time to start with wife Connie Chung a free tab weekly based in Kalispell, Montana. The staff has grown to 20 employees and the 25,000-circulation papers averages 64 pages and gets good marks editorially. Povich is the son of the late, great Washington Post sports columnist Shirley Povich, so this sort of thing is in the blood. Where logging ad manufacturing once dominated his circulation area, now there's a lot of tourism and recreation "and both gun makers and tech companies dot the landscape." (CJR)
- Scoop on a top cop in Chicago
The Chicago Sun-Times broke a big, important local story late Saturday about beleaguered Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel deciding to bypass three finalists for police chief presented by his board. Instead, he's going for "Eddie Johnson, the Chicago Police Department’s African-American chief of patrol, to become the city’s next top cop in an unprecedented end-run around the Chicago Police Board aimed at boosting cops’ morale and restoring the community’s trust." It was a big scoop. Oh, it included this comment from an unidentified source: "'He’s not a drinker, a gambler, a womanizer. He's a straight guy,' the source said." (Sun-Times) Well, maybe the bar of expectations is so low for us in Chicago that we might as well add anonymously that Johnson isn't a serial murderer, bank robber, member of ISIS or arsonist — and break out a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. Or, at least, lukewarm Korbel, given the more modest tastes of the patrol officers I've encountered.
- A high-stakes pre-Opening Day slugfest
Major League Baseball season begins Sunday. But if you want to watch the Yankees on Comcast, you might have to cool your heels. "Since November, YES, the channel that airs New York Yankees games, has been blacked out on Comcast Corp. as the cable giant and the network’s parent, 21st Century Fox, battle over terms of payment." (The Wall Street Journal) Why might this be important? "The fight is the latest and most high-profile example of how pay-TV providers are digging in their heels over rising sports-TV costs. The standoffs, which have hit cities including Los Angeles and Houston, are testing the limits of the sports-rights boom of recent decades and are threatening a money stream that has powered industry profits, filled the coffers of teams and financed huge salaries for star players."
- Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin
Thomas Hjelm will be chief digital officer at NPR. Previously, he was executive vice president and chief digital officer of New York Public Radio. (Poynter) | Nathaniel Landau will be senior vice president and chief digital officer at New York Public Radio. Previously, he was vice president of product at Univision Communications. (Email) | Eric Ratchman is now executive vice president of content distribution at Univision. Previously, he was senior vice president of global distribution strategy and business development for Disney Media Networks. (Email) | Job of the day: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is looking for a statehouse reporter. Get your resumes in! (Poynter Media Jobs Connection) | Send Ben your job moves: firstname.lastname@example.org.