Media grapples with Clinton's medical scare
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Eight years ago, Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who was 71 and had a history of skin cancer, divulged nearly 1,200 pages of his medical records for reporters. That was recalled in a Friday Washington Post op-ed by David Scheiner, a Chicago doctor who was President Obama's personal physician for 22 years, in what proved an understated warm-up act for Sunday's Media Medicalpalooza. (The Washington Post)
The press morphed into amateur Marcus Welbys — only our inflated self-image would suggest likening ourselves to Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd of "Grey's Anatomy" — amid renewed questions about Hillary Clinton's health. And there were unavoidable questions as to why they only disclosed Sunday, amid her fainting episode, that she'd been diagnosed Friday with pneumonia, and proceeded to duck the media at key junctures during the day.
Rick Leventhal of Fox News disclosed that she'd left the 9/11 ceremony due to an unspecified "medical episode," citing an unidentified law enforcement source. (New York) NBC beckoned Lester Holt for duty as it broke into regular coverage. And, no surprise, The Drudge Report was soon on Hillary-Going-to-Hell-In-A-Handbasket Auto-Pilot, with, count 'em, 11 separate tales (all links to the stories of others) greeting one by late afternoon.
Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham's Lifezette site took it a step further: "The escalating uncertainty surrounding Clinton's fitness to handle the grueling final stretch of the campaign and the rigors of office may have Democratic Party officials seriously considering how to pull off an unprecedented presidential tap-out." (Lifezette) Joe Biden, 73, to the rescue? Whatever, it got at the inescapable speculation about political consequences for Clinton.
The Post's Chris Cillizza caught the media zeitgeist in a blog post titled, "Hillary Clinton’s health just became a real issue in the presidential campaign." He noted what he thought was her over-analyzed coughing fit on Labor Day wasn't in and of itself evidence of any major ill. Nor would being "overheated," Cillizza said, as she was described Sunday amid simultaneous (belated) disclosure that she's got pneumonia. "But those two things happening within six days of each other to a candidate who is 68 years old makes talk of Clinton's health no longer just the stuff of conspiracy theorists." (The Washington Post)
Fortunately, the press did beckon some actual medical experts to get at the larger issue of the two candidates' failings (Trump more than Clinton) when it comes to being honest about their health records. Dr. Jacob Appel of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, who's analyzed presidential medical histories, made the case for disclosure of medical records to STAT. (STAT)
Then there was that Friday op-ed by Scheiner, which seems so much more on the mark two days later: "Throughout this country’s history, from Woodrow Wilson’s stroke to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s polio to John F. Kennedy’s Addison’s disease, Americans have repeatedly not been given important medical information about their leaders."
The debates' rules of engagement
We know the identities of the presidential debates' moderators, but what about the rules of engagement? And what might the hoopla over Matt Lauer's performance last week suggest about the debate commission's desires for how its moderators conduct themselves? While watching a son endure a terrible called strike three during a baseball game yesterday, I had an exchange with Mike McCurry, the former Clinton White House spokesman who teaches at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington and is co-chairman of the presidential debate commission.
"We have announced a format that includes dividing each debate into six 15-minute segments… our expectation is that the moderators for the 1st and 3rd presidential debates and the VP debate will announce their topics for those “chunks” in advance. The 2nd presidential debate is town hall format with questions from a live audience and online… so harder to predict. We have not designated one debate or the other “foreign” or “domestic” because so many issues cross lines now between national and international… trade, immigration, global warming, etc."
As for any Lauer legacy, "Bottom line is that the moderators have to do a great job, and it is an exceedingly difficult one, as Matt Lauer just proved."
Behind Verizon's $4.8 billion purchase of Yahoo
A proxy statement notes that Yahoo will owe Verizon a termination fee of nearly $145 million if the deal doesn't go through. It disclosed, "On January 31, 2016, the Board met telephonically, with members of management and representatives of Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Skadden, and Wilson Sonsini participating. At the meeting, the Board, members of management and the advisors present at the meeting discussed the strategic alternatives of the reverse spin-off and a sale of Yahoo’s operating business.” A total of 32 parties signed non-disclosure agreements, including, as rumored, Yahoo Japan, of which Yahoo owns 33 percent. (Recode)
Speaking of Lauer
NBC's "Sunday Night Football" promoted an "exclusive" Lauer interview with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, to air on "Today." It even gave us what the French call a soupçon, just a tiny little bit (on concussions), to supposedly arouse our craving for more. Well, first, it's reassuring to know that if you pay about $45 million per game for broadcast rights, you can get an interview with the guy who's getting the $45 million. Second, one awaits to learn if he asked Goodell about Hillary Clinton's emails.
The economics of Sunday Night Football
The NFL is obviously back and "For the sixth year running, the most valuable unit in primetime is a 30-second spot in NBC's 'Sunday Night Football.'" (Ad Age) Marketers are paying more than 700,000 per unit "to take advantage of the reach afforded by NBC's pro pigskin showcase."
Fact-checking Shane Smith
In a Wall Street Journal magazine profile of the Vice founder, he alludes to both the start of an evening Vice newscast on HBO and his own wild early days. "I get a lot of shit because I used to like cocaine and supermodels and f — in', and now we're gonna try to do news." Later in the piece, he says he learned all his business savvy from being a drug dealer, prompting the magazine to note, parenthetically, "As with a prior claim that he was once a freelance war correspondent for Reuters in Bosnia, fact-checking many of Smith's early exploits can prove confounding." (The Wall Street Journal)
Does Michael Ferro have his price?
Gannett is apparently back in pursuit of what was Tribune Publishing, owner of the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, among other big papers, and is now called Tronc. When the bidding got into the mid-teens per share, that raised to me the question of how much cutting it would have to do to make such a deal ultimately work. Now it's up into $19, and the answer seems fairly clear, as industry analyst Ken Doctor agreed in a chat yesterday. "Certainly, the price that Gannett would pay for Tronc is significantly more than it had originally penciled out as it weighed price and consolidation-driven savings. As it tries to finalize the buy, it has seen trouble on two fronts."
"First, its share price is down about 36 percent from its highest, this as the market overall hits an all-time high. Second, the Tronc acquisition, unlike others it's made recently, requires it to take on a significantly heavier debt load. While the company still believes the added earnings from the deal justifies even the (roughly) $19 price point, there's no doubt it knows it will have to work harder to make the purchase payout. That means even more focus on cost-cutting in every way possible, from all the national consolidation to the news staffing levels at the Tribune papers."
How much cutting would result? That obviously depends on the final price of any deal. But it might be smart for some in both newsroom and business operations to update resumes if a deal actually happens.
Real-time election projections
"For decades, news organizations have refrained from releasing early results in presidential battleground states on Election Day, adhering to a strict, time-honored embargo until a majority of polls there have closed." The whole notion, of course, is not to impact voter turnout, especially possibly suppressing it via projections that might lead some prospective voters to decide not to waste their time. "Now, a group of data scientists, journalists and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs is seeking to upend that reporting tradition, providing detailed projections of who is winning at any given time on Election Day in key swing states, and updating the information in real time from dawn to dusk." (The New York Times)
The Best Meteorologists (on social media)
TheSocReports is a Chicago startup that aims to provide weekly "social media intelligence" to people in charge of marketing themselves on social media. Run by Carol Fowler, a former bigtime Chicago TV news director, it crunches data to analyze how they're doing. Now it's looked at how often meteorologists post, who's looking and how often they link to deeper content in original ways. It's meant to basically assess who's worth following "whether or not you're a weather geek."
This list is headed by Ginger Zee of ABC News; Jennifer Broome of KPRC-TV in Houston; Brad Panovich, chief meteorologist at WCNC, Charlotte, North Carolina; Stephanie Abrams of The Weather Channel; and Greg Dee of WKYC-TV in Cleveland. As for Zee: "She’s a bona fide household name in the U.S., so it’s no shock that her social media following is in the stratosphere...but it’s not just Ginger’s celebrity that earned her the #1 spot on our list. Ginger generates a tremendous amount of original content (less than 3% retweets) – and clearly enjoys the social conversation (66% of her content is interaction). She’s very active (80K+ lifetime tweets) and also a new mom, so our only question is, 'When does Ginger sleep?'" (TheSocReports)
The early morning Medicalpalooza
Perhaps it was apt that the lead reporter on "Fox & Friends'" morning dissection of Clinton's health and veracity was the returning Ed Henry, back after a four-month absence (mandated by Roger Ailes, remember him?) for his affair with a Las Vegas hostess. Co-host Steve Doocy held aloft the morning's The New York Times and derided it as a "newsletter for the DNC" but said (with what it deemed grand irony) that even the paper was underscoring new questions raised about her health.
On CNN's "New Day," Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who was one of the reporters invited to inspect McCain's records in 2008, surfaced to detail her past health problems. Yes, the time is well past for the candidates to divulge more about their health, he said, perhaps via an independent group of doctors. Co-host Chris Cuomo is taken by the way the information was disclosed — or not disclosed — over the weekend. New York TV reporter Errol Louis demurred, arguing that having pneumonia per se wasn't that important but only if it actually impacted her campaigning in a substantive way.
MSNBC's "Morning Joe" also beckoned medical help via Dr. Emily Senay of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai in New York City. "To make a prognosis basis on such a dearth of information is almost impossible," she said, noting how it's "a run of the mill thing that practitioners see all the time." And, then, there was pundit John Heilemann of Bloomberg who noted that "lots of candidates get pneumonia." Yeah but, having had it a few years ago, it can be a bitch. And I was running the New York Daily News' Washington news bureau, not running around the country in the inherently crazy act of campaigning for president.
Past Lives Matter
"What began at the University of Missouri last fall has now become a public relations nightmare at Gonzaga University, and it doesn't appear to be going away. The university is facing harsh backlash after hiring Melissa Click, a professor who lost her job at Mizzou when a YouTube video surfaced showing her trying to have a student journalist forcefully removed from a public area on campus. She's now hoping for a fresh start as a new Communications professor at Gonzaga University." (KXLY-TV News)