Media strains to analyze Dems' Iowa town hall

Good morning.

  1. A tame night in Des Moines
    TV is a hot medium and last night was cool. There were no bombshells, new declarations or woefully muffed responses as Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley spoke separately to voters in Des Moines in a well-managed CNN production. Host Chris Cuomo sought to expose contradictions and arguable hypocrisies, but it was tough sledding given their well-practiced responses. If there was any notable moment, it was when one young man in the audience questioned Clinton's honesty and she tensed up a bit, blaming it all on her having "been around a long time." The press was seemingly relegated to noting how she accentuated her greater experience (The Washington Post), Sanders seeking to underscore his differences with her (POLITICO), Sanders defending his call for higher taxes (The Los Angeles Times) and Clinton conceding mushily that criticisms of her email fumbling is "fair." (AP) All in all, one was reminded why the cable folks so much prefer the feuding Republicans this season.
  2. Bloomberg's self-censorship
    Presumably because they were first to get to work, given time zone differences, Bloomberg editorial employees outside the U.S. on Monday got a memo from the company "asking them to refrain from writing about the former New York mayor's possible candidacy without first consulting with them." (POLITICO). Non-coverage of one of the world's wealthiest men, who also happened to be mayor of the nation's largest city for 12 years, has always been a journalistic embarrassment for a company that is a high-quality pacesetter in financial journalism. But now it's spent enormously, including what's said to be seven-figure deals for reporters Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, on upping the ante with political coverage. So how does any self-respecting political reporter handle this? Do they protest? Nice paychecks can, of course, dilute moral outrage.
  3. Rachel Maddow's 'unnatural obsession'
    The act of blowing off reporters has now taken a Freudian turn. Maddow has wanted to know whether Maine Gov. Paul LePage was going to give his State of the State Address after threatening not to amid possible impeachment rumblings. Why should he give a speech to a bunch of jerks who wanted to impeach him, he said essentially. Well, the impeachment talk has dissipated, so will he go back and follow tradition, a Maddow staffer asked a LePage spokesman in an email. The response? "Why does Rachel Maddow have such an unnatural obsession with Governor LePage? Her neurotic fixation on him is kind of bizarre." So her staffer tried again. Response: "It is a serious question. Does Rachel have ties to Maine? If not, what's her weird fascination with him?" The staffer tried one more time. Response: "Of course I can answer it. But you first. What's with Maddow's obsession with the Governor?" The Maddow staffer tried a fourth time. Response: a blank email, an apparent screw-you weirdos in New York City. Well, seeking resolution, I turned to the Portland Press-Herald but couldn't find an answer there, either. But I did learn that Ringo Starr will perform in Bangor on June 8. (Press-Herald) I urge LePage and Maddow to go together. Maybe Ringo will do "It Don't Come Easy."
  4. Rove on a paper's endorsement
    As CNN was airing a Democratic town hall meeting in Des Moines, Megyn Kelly was asking Karl Rove about the impact of the Des Moines Register's endorsements of Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton. He said that, yes, it will have impact, at least assuring that Rubio winds up in third there behind Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
  5. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this paywall!
    OK, we know we're dating ourselves with that mangled reference to President Reagan's exhortation at the Berlin Wall in 1987. But some newspapers briefly brought down their paywalls to offer freebie coverage of the awful blizzard over the weekend. Smart idea? Mere expedience (being unable to deliver most papers)? A combo? None of the above? But it seems like a smart idea in a time of crisis, whether it ultimately lures anybody into the fold. (Poynter) There remains the tension in cutting newsrooms and then wanting people to pay for what can seem like diminished quality.
  6. Tearing down (somewhat) a two-legged icon
    Eric Lander is "one of the most powerful men in American science," in his role as a genome-sequencing pioneer. But he's been under a bit of siege in the past week due to an article he wrote on technology partly pioneered by colleagues at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. STAT, the new life sciences site bankrolled by The Boston Globe, summarized the latest spat and explained how Lander has "morphed from science god to punching bag." (STAT)
  7. A deathly fall
    Texas-based Nexstar Broadcasting Group Inc. and Iowa's Meredith Corp. are dueling to get their hands on Virginia's Media General. And, now, to slightly complicate matters, Media General chairman John Bryan III has died after a fall at his home on Jan. 15. He was a former publisher of the Richmond, Virginia, Times-Dispatch. (Daily Progress) Bryan, 77, was a reporter and publisher at four different papers during his career. What happens now with the company?
  8. Fact-checking the virtuous
    The United Nations put out a 2014 press release declaring that 5,000 people were fleeing Eritrea each month. That figure was picked up by a slew of mainstream news organizations, as is often the case with data dispensed by reputable nonprofits and governmental organizations even when they have a self-interest in boosting a sense of urgency. In this case, the number seems to have been a crock and suggests the lack of media skepticism that can greet the claims of advocacy groups. (Poynter)
  9. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin
    John Marcom is now senior vice president of strategy and business development for Time Inc. Previously, he was co-founder of Media BBQ. (Email) | Laurie Orlando is now senior vice president of talent strategy for CBS News. Previously, she was an executive at ESPN. (Email) | Alejandro Nieto Molina is now senior vice president and general manager for radio at Univision. Previously, he was CEO of Cadena SER. (Email) | Job of the day: Poynter is looking for a managing editor. Get your resumes in! (Poynter) | Send Ben your job moves:

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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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