Trump and the elite press go 'off the record'
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The notion of Donald Trump and "off-the-record" is an oxymoron.
But there was our most slavish publicity hound Monday with several dozen of his campaign's frequent media enablers — network executives and high-profile reporters and teleprompter readers — in an "off-the-record" discussion at Trump Tower.
So what happened at this act of access-driven press self-imprisonment?
"In what two people familiar with the incident described as a tough sit-down between the nation’s major TV-news outlets and the President-elect and his top advisers, Trump dressed down top executives and anchors Monday afternoon, reserving particularly harsh words for CNN and NBC News." (Variety)
On NBC's evening newscast, Lester Holt, who was at the meeting, fronted several Trump stories. They included Trump dealing with "more prospective members of his administration while his team released a video of Trump talking about his legislative priorities. At the same time questions remained about how Trump will separate the work of his businesses from his work on the nation's business." No mention of the Trump-press confab.
On what ABC should rechristen "ABC's World Tabloid News Tonight," Gen X carnival barker David Muir opened with his usual grave and hyperbolic announcement of "breaking news" marked with use of banal adjectives (a "deadly snow" and "horrific and deadly school bus crash"). What was largely a regurgitation of weekend Trump news, including Friday night's "Hamilton" kerfuffle, also brought word of "this just in" (as if a FedEx truck was outside) concerning that Trump video. No mention of the confab.
On CBS Scott Pelley, like his counterparts, gave us a similar early line-up: snow, bus crash and earthquake in Japan (and everybody insisted on a weather person to fill us in on Thanksgiving travel). There was a solid, if repetitive piece on potential Trump business conflicts, with the most interesting tidbit being correspondent Anna Werner noting how the campaign deleted an all-thumbs-up photo of Trump and three Indian business partners taken last week.
But correspondent Chip Reid explicitly referenced how "top network news people came for an off the record. But 13 days after his election Mr. Trump has not yet held a press conference. Obama held one on Day 3."
Hats off to Megyn Kelly for actually leading her show later with the tale. She said "there are reports of some heated moments in that boardroom but in large part the talks were serious and productive." A Fox News reporter offered an overview and cited Politico in characterizing it as an airing of grievances, a bit heated but civil. (Politico) Trump claimed he merely sought fairness and discussed issues of access.
Kelly then had in studio Kellyanne Conway, the top Trump aide, who defined media "fairness" as not having "presumptive negativity." She said the meeting was not about settling scores. Still, she pointedly asserted that Trump "was the one person in that room who got it right," as far as understanding American sentiment leading to his victory (though no reference to his actually losing the popular vote).
It ended, predictability, on a mutually admiring note, but with Kelly also saying to Conway, "We don't get paid to cheerlead for him." We shall see.
But at least it was on the record.
Trump ditches The Times
Well, so Trump awakes today, doesn't like something about The New York Times and decides not to meet with its top officials today. So, very much on the record, he tweets around 3:16 a.m. (yes, 3:16 a.m.):
"I cancelled today's meeting with the failing @nytimes when the terms and conditions of the meeting were changed at the last moment. Not nice." (@realDonaldTrump) Chris Cuomo then put it, "It doesn't take a lot to trigger his disgust." He seems, said Cuomo, so inclined to like anybody who likes him that he'll resist criticizing pro-Nazis. "But if you don't like him, he'll go after you even if you're Mother Teresa."
Amazon mulls big sports investment
It's to be expected — and one of many reason that traditional broadcasters should be nervous about the years ahead when it comes to the cash cow of live sports:
"Amazon.com Inc. is exploring an ambitious offensive aimed at infiltrating the last bastion of traditional pay-television: live sports." (The Wall Street Journal)
It's talked with both major professional and college sports leagues. "With at least some leagues, including the NBA, Amazon has floated creating a premium, exclusive sports package that would accompany a Prime membership, though the details are unclear, the people said. A premium sports package could entice new subscribers to Prime and to Amazon’s potential 'skinny bundle' of live channels online."
Hey, guys, throw in a free digital subscription to The Washington Post while you're at it.
Need a loan?
"Amazon.com Inc.’s Jeff Bezos and Facebook Inc.’s Mark Zuckerberg added a combined $3.3 billion to their fortunes on Monday to reverse the losses they suffered since Donald Trump’s election on Nov. 8. The pair’s net worth fell by $10 billion in the days following the result before rallying a week later, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Today’s rise came as all four major U.S. equity benchmarks climbed to record highs amid optimism Trump’s plans to cut taxes and boost fiscal spending will boost the economy." (Bloomberg)
Oh, here's the rather engrossing Billionaire's Index, which rather famously is too spineless to include a man who'd surely be in the upper echelon: Michael Bloomberg.
"Redoubling" efforts to be fair
My friends at The Los Angeles Times are the latest to offer readers a non mea culpa that sounds like a mea culpa.
"We have just completed a historic presidential election, with major implications for the nation and our state. But for all of us — citizens and journalists alike — the next chapter of our history is now unfolding."
"Throughout the campaign, the Los Angeles Times remained committed to fair and accurate coverage, while keeping our sights on the issues most important to our readers." It says it will "redouble" efforts to report on Trump "with rigor, accuracy and fairness."
The air of press defensiveness is palpable, and nearly as clear as the simultaneous pitch for subscriptions.
Signs of the Trump job interviews
Hail C-SPAN for offering a live feed of the lobby at Trump Tower, as prospective job applicants hit the elevator bank to head upstairs for their pitches.
It is weirdly mesmerizing. Waiting for a stove repairman yesterday — oh, you know, the usual 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. "window" — I spent several hours watching. Hey, there was Wolf Blitzer, Charlie Rose, Chuck Todd, George Stephanopoulos, Lester Holt and many others heading upstairs for their Media Summit Meeting, while lesser-known mortals like the governor of Oklahoma gained rather less attention — and building denizens carried their takeout coffee and lunch to the office. (Vanity Fair)
TMZ on Fox News
A Fox News special on Trump by TMZ boss Harvey Levin "drew 4.03 million viewers Friday night at 10 p.m." It "gave viewers of tour of Trump’s Manhattan penthouse with Trump talking about mementos he’d gathered over the years and the stories behind them." (Adweek) that thus "more than doubled the combined average (1.79M) of CNN and MSNBC in the hour."
The morning babble
"Fox & Friends" opened with the deadly bus crash while CNN's "New Day" and MSNBC's "Morning Joe" went with the transition, the latter initially fixated on a report that Trump won't pursue any Hillary Clinton investigations.
But Joe Scarborough also mentioned a smart piece in Foreign Policy by Pulitzer Prize winner Tom Ricks that extols Retired Gen. James Mattis as a possible Secretary of Defense. (Foreign Policy) Ricks is no Trump fan and last week told me that he thinks Trump will be "a clown car heading down a mountain highway without brakes." (U.S News & World Report)
But he thinks Mattis is the real deal, “a tough-minded realist, someone who’d rather have tea with you than shoot you, but is happy to end the conversation either way.” Or, as he instructed his Marines in Iraq, “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”
Not breaking news
"ST. PAUL, MN — Wondering how anyone could read the articles in such publications and not recognize them as “total establishment propaganda,” local man Mark Furlong, a longtime reader of Lib-Slaves.info, told reporters Monday he was sick and tired of the obvious mainstream biases on news sites like WideAwakePatriot.com." (The Onion)
Trump and BET
Democrat Bob Johnson, founder of BET, says he spoke to Trump Sunday in New Jersey about "business solutions to social problems." He argues that black Americans should give Trump "the benefit of the doubt."
Asked about it on CNBC, "I've known Trump for quite some time...and I believe we can find common ground with the Trump administration. My approach to these guys is I don't look at you as enemies, I don't look at you necessarily as friend...but we have permanent interests." (CNBC)
Here's local news
The Chicago-based Daily Line, one of the digital news operations/newsletters that provides real competition to local journalism, reports:
"Ald. Howard Brookins Jr. (21st Ward) will be 'unable to attend any Ward or neighborhood events for the near future as I was seriously injured in a freak bicycle accident,' sharing a picture he posted last week of a squirrel caught in his bike spokes. 'First, I am okay and I have been recovering in the hospital since the accident. I will, however, require multiple surgeries to recover from damage to my face and upper body.'"
Yes, as the caricature has it, Chicago politics are tough, be the combatants two-legged or four-legged.