The West Wing totally predicted the great media rollup
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Sean Spicer, meet C.J. Cregg.
Like others suffering from both Trump and cable news melancholia, my spouse is bingeing on "The West Wing" via Netflix. Yesterday we were into Season Five and White House Press Secretary Cregg (Allison Janney) being so pissed with a Federal Communications ruling accelerating TV station consolidation that she made her anger known to one and all.
She yanked most of the seats out of the White House Briefing Room. She then told one rather startled newbie that she would hereby allow only one representative of a media corporation, including Fox and Tribune (she was most miffed at the FCC ruling's impact on a fictional giant, MertMedia).
Now consider the actual hoopla these days over all the alleged upstarts jamming the real-life briefing room and actually being acknowledged by the Trump White House. Given the Cregg precedent, perhaps we could winnow down the current assemblage by virtue of not just corporate ownership but ideology — Breitbart or The Daily Caller, not both, or Slate or Mother Jones, not both — years of jobs experience, academic degrees or number of Twitter followers.
"If America's choices are going to be restricted, so are yours," Cregg says to that first reporter she runs into in newly chair-deprived briefing room, making clear there will be just the one seat apiece to each corporate biggie with multiple outlets under its financial purview.
Fortunately, fictional Chief of Staff Leo McGarry (the late John Spencer) had already told C.J. he thought this was foolish. Who are "the little guys" these days in media, anyway, he wonders. And this was just after the turn of the new century!
Well, responded the furious Cregg, the "people need to know" about big changes underway in the ownership and regulatory landscape. It prompted McGarry to tartly say, "That doesn't mean we can stop them."
Again, this was 13 years (Season 5, Episode 19) before the pending Time Warner-AT&T merger.
As for that $85 billion deal, don't expect much Trump administration regulatory resistance, regardless of the anti-corporate declarations of then-candidate Trump. (The Hill)
Perhaps those comments had some basis in fact. But, as Leo warned C.J., it doesn't mean you can stop them.
A-Rod and Jennifer Lopez
So is this the definition of "New York tabloid heaven?" Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez now a couple and spotted strolling about New York City on a spring day? Here's a Daily News photo gallery.
The White House Correspondents Association' Dinner
No Trump, no White House aides, probably few other (if any) administration officials and a sharply lower celebrity contingent with Vanity Fair and Bloomberg pulling out of their joint party. That said, some facts, according to a very-well placed source in the organization:
It remains unclear (at least publicly) who'll be the primo entertainment as the association board looks around at this late date for the April 29 affair. James Corden was invited but 'politely said no thanks' to the WHCA Board.
The Vanity Fair-Bloomberg party is one of a good number of events canceled, but MSNBC will still have its big (very big) after-party. The aging process is empirically gauged by how long you can stay at that one before returning to your home, hotel or other quarters since it's a rather lively affair.
The association has sold 2,700 tickets. That means it's sold out, even if there probably are more loose tickets available through individual organizations than in the past, given a decline in A-list guests who are coming.
The association will honorably underscore how it will "showcase" First Amendment matters and its student scholarships. But this will all unavoidably raise questions about the prospects of future dinners if the Trump administration continues to boycott an affair that is also subject of droll musings by President Bartlett (Martin Sheen) and executive assistant Debbie Fiderer (Lily Tomlin) on Season 5 of "The West Wing."
Bartlett: They laughed till they cried. They're still crying.
Debbie: Honestly, sir, in my case, it's the pollen count. But for an Anglo-Saxon, you were darn funny.
Flynn and the media speaking circuit
"Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn reported payments of at least $5,000 for a speaking engagement with the Kremlin-funded English language network RT, new documents released Saturday by the White House show, though Flynn didn’t originally include the payment when he first filed his ethics forms in January." (Politico)
Take me out to the ball game
The start of baseball season brings tons of serious journalism, including Sunday's New York Times piece on how priorities (pitching and hitting) have perhaps made today's youth players lesser all-around players. There was also a big piece from The Associated Press on how "Oriole Park at Camden Yards became the model for a period of groundbreaking transformation in the way baseball venues were built."
By coincidence, when I ran the Chicago Tribune's daily features section back then, Pulitzer Prize architecture critic Blair Kamin explored how it was that the same firm that designed Camden Yards created at the same time the very uninspired then-new stadium for the Chicago White Sox. (The Baltimore Sun)
When I asked him Sunday about the topic, he said, "Camden spawned lots of retro ballparks, some better than others (Cleveland and Pittsburgh good, St. Louis and Arlington, Texas not so much). It even led to a counter-retro trend, exemplified by San Diego's Petco (or whatever they call it) Park."
"Not all the retro 'ballparks' have the intimacy of a Wrigley or a Fenway. They're stuffed with huge concourses, shops, restaurants, skyboxes, kids play areas, etc.; the game often seems secondary to these tangential features. Many of these "ballparks" are really stadia with nostalgic architectural window dressing — hybrids of old and new, not the real thing. Nevertheless, they're better than the antiseptic multi-purpose doughnuts of the 60s and 70s or the godawful Hump Dome in Minneapolis."
"At least we now have local flavor and a recognition that baseball is often at its best when it connects to the city around it."
Outrage over new Johansson flick
"This weekend’s arrival of 'Ghost in the Shell,' the live-action adaptation of the landmark Japanese anime film, is being met with criticism from the Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA), which is condemning what it calls the whitewashed' casting of Scarlett Johansson in the lead role." (Los Angeles Times)
"The organization’s complaint joins the backlash that erupted following the announcement in early 2015 that Johansson had signed on to star in Paramount and DreamWorks’ version of Masamune Shirow’s manga series that spawned the classic animated film."
Dylan finally accepts
Bob Dylan was in Stockholm for a concert so finally accepted his Nobel for Literature at a private gathering. But, as The Associated Press noted, "in order to receive the award worth 8 million kronor ($894,800), Dylan must give a lecture within six months from Dec. 10. He has said he will not give his Nobel lecture this weekend but a recorded version of it will be sent later."
"Taped Nobel lectures have been occasionally presented, most recently in 2013 by Canadian Nobel literature laureate Alice Munro."
Why Bob Silvers was great
The art of editing seems to often be forgotten in an age where writer self-promotion is ascendant. It's why you should check out some of the dozens of homages to the craft and art of Robert Silvers, a founder of The New York Review of Books, who was central to its evolution as a premier intellectual journal of eclectic subject matters. He recently died at age 87 and was working hard until right near the end.
Writes Edward Mendelson: "In his messages and phone calls Bob tended to be formally expansive or cheerfully abrupt. His editorial attention felt nothing like love, but it had the same effect. It made his writers braver and more generous, more sure-footed, more confident in looking forward to a goal rather than downward to their feet. The one genius he never wanted to read about was himself."
Says Michael Massing: "I’m surprised at how little has been said about the part that The New York Review played after September 11. At a time when the country was traumatized, its intellectual class paralyzed and independent thinking suppressed, Bob turned the Review into an essential place for debate and analysis, reporting and exposing. On the war in Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq; the war on terror and U.S. policy in the Mideast; the infringement of civil liberties and the cowering of the press, Bob pushed his writers to question the ruling axioms of the day in a way few other publications dared."
And historian-journalist Garry Wills recalls being on vacation in Italy when Silvers tracked him down to compare Barack Obama’s March 29, 2008 speech at the National Constitution Center, where he sought to exit the messy Rev. Jeremiah Wright matter, to Lincoln’s Cooper Union address.
"I was complimented by a number of people for thinking of the comparison, but I had to admit the whole concept was Bob’s, and he had blown away the obstacles that stood in its path. No one else would or could have done that. He wanted it into existence."
All eyes not on Rex Tillerson
The Washington Post's Anne Gearan and diplomatic correspondent Carol Morello offered an unflattering Tillerson update that included this:
"Most of his interactions are with an insular circle of political aides who are new to the State Department. Many career diplomats say they still have not met him, and some have been instructed not to speak to him directly — or even make eye contact."
Ah, really? (Poynter)
Matt Lee, The Associated Press diplomatic reporter, didn't buy that and tweeted out his distinct difference of opinion.
"This is not true and people repeating it are making it more difficult to address very real issues," he tweeted.
"Not disputing the entire story. There are issues. But 'no eye contact' is not one of them..." he added.
Art Media Holdings, the parent company of ARTNews, announced that Vincent Fremont will be exiting as CEO after finishing his term but remain in "a senior advisory role" for the firm that also publishes The Magazine Antiques, MODERN, and Art in America.
Standing by O'Reilly
There's loyalty, then there's what may be situational ethics:
"The parent company of Fox News is standing by star on-air talent Bill O’Reilly in the wake of a news report detailing multiple settlements of claims of sexual harassment against him." (MarketWatch)
"According to The New York Times, 21st Century Fox or O’Reilly have made payments totaling roughly $13 million to settle complaints made by women who worked as on-air contributors or producers during his time at the channel, which dates back to 1996, the year Fox News launched. O’Reilly is the host of 'The O’Reilly Factor,' the news channel’s most popular show."
In a statement, 21st Century Fox said it takes these matters of 'workplace behavior very seriously.'" Hmmmm. Here's the original Times story.
Leaving it all on the field
So where did that banal sports metaphor come from? Wall Street Journal weekend columnist Ben Zimmer, who is executive producer of Vocabulary.com and Visual Thesaurus, says it can be traced to the NFL and 1961 with a syndicated columnist, Murray Olderman, saying, "It was evident the Giants had left it all on the field."
Well, as the years went on, it got conflated into "left nothing in the locker room or on the bench (the late Will McDonough of the Boston Globe on the Patriots' defense) and a former Eagles coach who was given to his team "left nothing in the locker room."
Trump apparently jumbled it all for good during a Wisconsin rally after his election. "You know, like they say in football and in sports, he left nothing on the table, nothing on the field." (The Wall Street Journal)
On the ground in Mosul
As Robin Wright reports, the civilian casualties are awful as a result of perhaps the worst urban fighting since World War II. She checks out one area of the city, where ISIS ran a bomb factory, and finds a leaflet on the ground instructing ISIS fighters on how to surrender.
“'Save your life,' it says in big red letters, illustrated with four pictures. ISIS is getting weaker daily and has no chance of winning this battle. You are fighting for leaders who do not care what happens to you — you are only a shield that allows them to escape. You don’t owe your lives to those cowards.” (The New Yorker)
The morning babble
"Fox & Friends" unveiled a "bombshell," or at least regurgitated claims that some unidentified "top Obama administration official" was involved in overseeing surveillance of Trump campaign officials. So it's Fox arguing that this was all politics, not incidental surveillance of Trump due to Obama folks looking into Russian campaign hanky panky. It's a tale of Obama misdeeds and leaks, not Trump-Russia collusion that co-host Steve Doocy of Fox says is bunk.
CNN's "New Day" dove into heavy-duty pre-breakfast U.S.-China policy, in particular how this week's big meeting between Trump and China's leader might impact the North Korean threat. It was not quite as intriguing as a New York Times report on the pre-meeting machinations involving China's ambassador to the U.S. and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner — nor as the same ad for NBC's "Nightly News" with Lester Holt shown back-to-back during the CNN show. Huh?
"Morning Joe" circled back to Michael Flynn’s dubious immunity request, as did CNN via legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, while giving the new digital news operation Axios a nice bump via reporter Jonathan Swan, co-author with Mike Allen on how Trump "has continued tweeting just as before, and the result has been a dilution of the impact — a bit of a 'boy who cried wolf' effect." (Axios)
Joe Scarborough suggested that any "sane, rational man" would know that tweeting in order to draw attention to crazy stuff is counterproductive.
Ad executive Donny Deutsch turned unlicensed shrink and alluded to Trump being afflicted with some "disorder," an "inability physiologically" to move off certain obsessions. Scarborough then claimed that any corporate CEO who acted like Trump "would have been fired...60 days ago," in the process displaying near-invisible understanding of the weak-kneed nature of many corporate boards.
A tale of dads and kids
Ron Fournier left a big perch in Washington to return home to Detroit, where he's editor and publisher of Crain's Detroit Business. The author of a book about his own relationship with his son and the son's Asperger's syndrome, Fournier profiles Quicken Loans mogul Dan Gilbert, also owner of the world champ Cleveland Cavaliers, whose personal past and present is revealing of complexities of father-son relations. (Crain's)
His dad was a military vet and Detroit bar owner. "My dad is 12 years old, and his brother is 10. (He) was born and raised in Detroit, a very poor neighborhood. He is delivering newspapers with his brother, and it's a foggy day, and his 10-year-old brother gets run over, and it's a priest who runs him over and kills him. It wasn't the priest's fault, and the priest is doing last rites over the body …" To put it mildly, it caused familial complexities.
Now, Gilbert's own oldest child is 20 years old. Nick was born with neurofibromatosis, "a nerve disorder that causes tumors to grow anywhere in the body. Nick's tumors grow in his head. Diagnosed at 15 months, Nick has been on and off chemotherapy for 15 years or so. He had life-saving brain surgery at age 10. He is nearly blind."
And, as you'll see, the relationship between son and dad — as is the case with Fournier and the son he chronicled — is nothing short of inspiring.
Where to eat at ballparks
Eater offers tips and news about the food at a bunch of ballparks, including San Francisco's AT&T Park, where "the Organic Coup will be serving its signature fried chicken sandwiches and tenders alongside tater tots and chocolate-drizzled caramel corn. They're also adding ballpark-friendly beverages like organic IPA, Pilsner and Blonde beers, plus an organic lemonade and vodka. The startup is the first fast food chain to be 100 percent organic certified."
Meanwhile, you can go to the inelegantly renamed Guaranteed Rate Field to both watch a lousy Chicago White Sox team and get tanked. Forget fancy sushi or organic anything.
"Last year, the team switched from Pepsi products to Coca-Cola. This year, the focus in again on beverages with the close to 100 craft beers featured in various parts of the ballpark. MillerCoors products are gone after 30 years as the team has inked a deal with Modelo Especial and local brewers."
Yes, there's "the Chicago Way," according to Fox News Channel, alluding to corruption and crime. Then there's the real "Chicago way," namely sitting in the summer sun and assessing how many of 100 beers you can down before making a mess, stumbling onto a train, grousing about sporting misfortune and heading home blissfully unaware of any geopolitics.