A reporter's odyssey: 70 countries and, now, the Trump Tower lobby
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The best window onto the schizoid state of America is Elevatorcam, C-SPAN's live feed of the Trump transition — or at least of those job candidates entering the Trump Tower lobby elevators.
And watching it online is a whole lot better than being Mark Landler.
Landler, a fine New York Times reporter, had lobby duty Tuesday as part of the pool rotation of media organizations. It was The Times' turn. Unlike me, he couldn't run to the dry cleaners, Walgreens, the post office, the shoe repair guy or physical therapy for a balky back while Trump is auditioning aspirants with the understatement of P.T. Barnum.
Oh Tuesday, he recalled for me how an editor once told him that "a newspaper career is nothing more than standing in increasingly important hallways, waiting for increasingly important people. By that standard, my day in Trump Tower was just another step up (or down) the ink-stained ladder."
"Of course, I've never stood in a hallway where the important people were Kanye West, Bill Gates, Jim Brown, Rick Santorum, the Naked Cowboy and the guy who paces back and forth, reading out loud from Elie Wiesel's 'Night.'"
He's been to about 70 countries as a foreign correspondent based in Hong Kong and Frankfurt, then a White House correspondent. But what's playing out in the lobby is not quite like any previous assignment. Covering Trump "requires an ability to roll with the punches. It also help to have a sense of the absurd."
Did Tuesday's coupling of Trump and West quickly bring to his lips a favorite West song?
"No, I cannot claim a favorite Kanye West song. I do know, thanks to my daughter, that he and Taylor Swift have had their moments. I also know he is married to Kim Kardashian."
What, I asked, might his lessons-to-the-wise be for aspiring journalists, perhaps those whose parents are shelling out $60,000 a year for them to procure graduate degrees?
"Keep an open mind about any assignment and remember that the cool stuff often happens when you least expect it — like when you're sitting on a cold, metal bench in an office lobby, dreading a boring day of pool duty. "
"And then Kanye walks in...."
Well, there's at least one winner, if not the body politic. "#elevatorcam was trending on Twitter," a C-SPAN official informs.
John Dean on Putin-Watergate analogy: Bunk
So we've got some folks finding Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee to be a digital age counterpart to the 1972 screwed-up break-in of D.N.C. headquarters at the Watergate. (The New York Times)
Says John Dean, who knows a little something Watergate, "The only similarity I see between the Russian 2016 hacking of the D.N.C. and Gordon Liddy's 1972 bungled break-in and bugging of the D.N.C. is that Trump, like Nixon, is publicly pretending it didn't happen. It's too early to know if the president-elect is a co-conspirator."
ABC's World Tabloid News Tonight
ABC and David Muir are making many small-market local newscasts resemble a combo of "Frontline" and "CBS News Sunday Morning" all rolled into one. So thanks to CBS White House stalwart Mark Knoller for filling me in via tweet on what I didn't miss last night while chaperoning kids at a church food pantry.
"Leading the network evening newscasts: CBS/NBC: Trump names CEO Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State. ABC: Trump meets with @kanyewest." (@markknoller)
Well, at least the show's Facebook page offers this opportunity: "Send us video of you with your made-in-America gift idea." I will quickly send video of ABC affiliate newscasts in Bowling Green, Kentucky and Bozeman, Montana. Or from 20 other stations.
From the Drone Journalism Lab
"The people running the media are the problem" is the stinging, humbling, not-so-subtle headline on a brief missive in Nieman Lab by Matt Waite, founder of the Drone Journalism Lab and a journalism professor at the University of Nebraska.
"You won’t fix the thinking that makes you believe you’re not a technology company because...You won’t fix the belief that trust and fake news is Google and Facebook’s problems and not yours because...You still don’t believe you’re the problem...Wake me when you do." (Nieman Lab)
Since he’s in Nebraska, one hopes he can convince Warren Buffett to fund his demolition-driven solution.
If you don't think Trump has some folks spooked
A footnote on our new era of pre-presidential inaugural communications:
"If you’re looking for drama surrounding this week’s meeting of Federal Reserve officials, don’t look for it in their post-meeting statement. Policy makers are almost universally expected to raise their benchmark lending rate. Keep an eye, instead, on President-elect Donald Trump’s Twitter feed." (Bloomberg)
"He was a harsh critic of Fed Chair Janet Yellen during the election campaign, and how the nation’s incoming chief executive reacts to the expected hike on Wednesday may reveal much about whether and to what extent Trump will try to pressure the central bank through the remainder of her current term, which expires in February 2018."
Skullduggery in the radio booth
"Former Wake Forest Demon Deacons assistant coach Tommy Elrod was fired from his post as one of the team's radio broadcasters on Tuesday after a school-led investigation revealed that he attempted to provide information regarding the team's game plan to opponents." (Bleacher Report)
A media tweet of the day
Everybody's a critic:
"Hey, CNN," wrote New York Times reporter Richard Perez-Pena. "The fact that Trump met with former football players and a rapper is NOT NEWS. Sheesh." (@perezpena)
Looking for a better paying media job?
"Oculus VR, the troubled virtual-reality company owned by Facebook Inc., is looking for a new head after revamping its structure. In a blog post Tuesday, Oculus said it is creating two divisions — one focused on mobile, the other on PCs — and that CEO Brendan Iribe is stepping down to run the PC group." (The Wall Street Journal)
Back to Trump and Kanye
Enough of the politics of it all. I sought counsel from Greg Kot, music critic extraordinaire (he used to work for me) at the Chicago Tribune:
"I'm just surprised both those egos could fit in the lobby of Trump Tower."
Slate's "debunking tool"
"Slate has created a new tool for internet users to identify, debunk, and — most importantly — combat the proliferation of bogus stories. Conceived and built by Slate developers, with input and oversight from Slate editors, it’s a Chrome browser extension called This Is Fake, and you can download and install it for free either on its home page or in the Chrome web store." (Slate)
"The point isn’t just to flag fake news; you probably already know it when you see it. It’s to remind you that, anytime you see fake news in your feed, you have an opportunity to interrupt its viral transmission, both within your network and beyond."
Fine, fine. But can it make also "ABC World Tabloid News Tonight" disappear?
Snowden and Dorsey chat (sort of)
Edward Snowden did a Q-and-A from somewhere in Russia with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey via Twitter-owned Periscope.
"It wasn’t really a conversation. Dorsey essentially gave Snowden a massive platform — over 150,000 people watched — to broadcast his opinions about why government surveillance is wrong and why technology companies should not participate." (Recode)
It could have apparently gone on another 24 hours without marring Twitter's schedule. According to Recode's Kara Swisher, as improbable as it sounds, the Twitter boss has not been invited to the tech seance with the Tweeter-in-Chief at Trump Tower on Wednesday.
Trump, the producer
Kathleen Parker writes, "As the transition unfolds, new stars cascading into a constellation of superpower, the moviegoer willingly suspends disbelief in passive acceptance of whatever’s to come. Trump instinctively understands that he must feed the suspense, both to hold his audience’s attention and to keep them distracted while he’s busy masterminding his biggest deal ever — to Russia with love." (The Washington Post)
The morning babble
"Fox & Friends" was so very happy that Trump uttered "Merry Christmas" during his "victory tour" stop in West Allis, Wisconsin last night. No political correctness with him! And how 'bout his sucking up to House Speaker Paul Ryan! Wasn't that so droll, likening him to a fine bottle of wine that gets better every day.
On MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Mark Halperin noted how he so clearly "is not beholden" to Ryan, which elicited doubts from co-host Joe Scarborough. "There's the rub. He thinks he doesn't depend on the Speaker of the House. I'll tell you now, Donald Trump and Paul Ryan can go into a full-fledged war, and Paul Ryan would get re-elected. Donald Trump might not be able to get much through the House of Representatives."
Thankfully, Mika Brzezinski abruptly steered the conversation to the disaster in Aleppo, where a cease-fire collapsed. "We are witnessing a holocaust," she said correctly, just a bit after they showed yesterday's rebuke of Syria, Russia and Iran by UN Ambassador Samantha Power (a former journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize for a book on genocides and ethnic cleansing).
There was old-fashioned UN bashing, too, by Scarborough & Co. that exhibited ignorance of what the UN does successfully each day worldwide (It's more than just having "parties," Joe). A special commission has been cranking out stunning reports, unread by morning show hosts, on Syria's civil war for years. Invite this American woman, whom you've never heard of, to find out what it does, and don't be quite so facile and righteous. (U.S. News & World Report)
CNN's "New Day," which has regularly checked in on Syria, did so again before a return to morning cruise control with the transition, Russian hacking, Trump meeting today with tech CEOs, a gentle homage to departing U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a check with NFL icon Jim Brown on his Trump session and an obit on TV celebrity Alan Thicke.
"One of the few people in that business where unanimously people say, 'He was a decent person,'" said Chris Cuomo.
Here's one USA Today missed
From the Standard Journal in Rexburg, Idaho: "Dead squirrel left on Rexburg doorstep."
Yes, the animal was left, dismembered, at a residence. Alas, "'There are no leads in this case,' stated the police."(Standard Journal)
Something — just my gut — tells me this is not further evidence of the Ferguson Effect resulting in more passive law enforcement. Maybe, as they say on TV, more to come.