Why Meryl Streep's defense of the media could backfire

Good morning. Here's our morning roundup of all the media news you need to know. Want to get this briefing in your inbox every morning? Subscribe here.

John Oliver and Meryl Streep bashed Donald Trump and praised journalism. Donations soared for two nonprofits praised by them: ProPublica and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Hip, hip, hoorah. Truth and justice win out over the forces of darkness. Or did they?

You couldn't try harder, or be more articulate, than Streep. "It was simply stunning: eloquent and urgent, the words of someone who has had to grapple, like many of us, with a sudden abandonment of national decency but who knows that art has a place in restoring it." (The New Yorker)

And yet...

For starters, there's no convincing evidence that the nonprofit route is a sustainable business model for the journalism industry writ large. And the occasional spasm of publicity, even justifiable journalism awards, are not salvation.

Then come the confounding realities of the Age of (Donald) Trump.

"Funny you should mention this," said John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary magazine. "We just recorded a Commentary podcast in which (not about journalism) we talk about how the Streep thing certainly will harden Republican support for Trump, which has been lukewarm even despite his victory."

"If pop culture makes it clear anyone who might have voted for Trump is disgusting to them, it will only benefit him," Podhoretz said. "Similarly, any mass assault on Trump from the MSM (as we call it) can only benefit him in the sense that it may take the people who voted for him with deep misgivings and turn them into passionate supporters of his on the grounds that his enemies are their enemies and his destruction by them will be their destruction culturally and politically."

John Feehery, a GOP consultant in Washington, D.C. who was a top aide to high-ranking Republicans in Congress, says, "Any time a Hollywood elitist takes a shot at Trump, it makes him a hero in the heartland."

Ditto Rich Lowry, editor of The National Review. "Trump supporters, and conservatives generally, hate the hectoring from Hollywood and celebrities. It's high-handed, self-satisfied, annoying and unoriginal. Every time it happens, it energizes the cultural right."

And then there's the ever-candid and crusty Joe McQuaid, publisher of The New Hampshire Union Leader in Manchester, New Hampshire. You may remember his primary endorsement of that understated guy from New Jersey? Oh, you recall. The big guy. Governor. Had that Bridgegate thing. Chris Something or Other?

"It may surprise you, but I have taken little notice of Ms. Streep’s remarks," McQuaid said. "Didn’t see the show; heard a reference to her on NPR this morning; then a local conservative radio host yapping about her."

"I think this feeds both sides — the Trump haters and the Trump supporters. Although my conservative credentials are being questioned (we endorsed Gary Johnson), I remain one and, no, I don’t really care about Hollywood being Hollywood."

So you probably could read, "At Golden Globes afterparties, stars applaud Meryl Streep" and still be unmoved that our greatest actress will have any impact on inspiring folks with real dough to empower a weaker but critical player in the democracy: the press.

"Panic and incredulity"

Christiane Amanpour, CNN's chief international correspondent, gave the international community's take this morning on Trump's playing long-distance kiss-face with Vladimir Putin: "It sort of veers between panic and incredulity. Much of the U.S. allies abroad are completely dumbfounded as to why the president-elect has not satisfactorily answered the question of why he believes Russia, why is he persistent in favoring the Russian analysis, the Julian Assange analysis, over his own intelligence organization."

Marissa Mayer, goner

So Yahoo boss Mayer "is among six directors who plan to leave the board of the investment company that will be left after the closing of the proposed sale of Yahoo’s main internet properties to Verizon Communications Inc."

"Mayer was an accomplished woman in business, but she wasn’t asking all women to 'lean in.' Neither she nor her company seemed eager to embrace being a symbol of anything other than plain fiscal competence." (The Ringer)

"On that front, unfortunately, she failed. (In her defense, many have tried and failed to save Yahoo for a decade.) Yahoo isn’t quite dead as we watch its reanimated corpse being sold for parts. But one thing seems certain: Mayer’s dream of restoring the company to its former glory has been extinguished."

Editing in a digital age

If you missed (as I did) this New York Times chat with Dean Baquet, the executive editor, check it out. It speaks to the unease some have with the qualitative challenges brought by demands for speed. In particular, there's the admission of differing standards even at the world's greatest daily:

"Trying to edit The Times the way we edited it in a purely print era is unreasonable," Baquet said. "The layers of editing, the number of people who touch a story. The fact is that we now write so much more." (The New York Times)

Rather's new gambit

Dan Rather, 85, has a new news feed and site. (Newsandguts) You've got to hand it to the guy.

Gresham on Sessions

Here's longtime Mississippian John Gresham on Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, nominated by Trump to be Attorney General. His advice to Sessions, asks former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller?

"I would never advise Mr. Sessions on how to handle his job, but I hope he understands that there are thousands of innocent people in prison serving long sentences for crimes committed by others; that their convictions could have been avoided and the real perpetrators brought to justice; that many segments of our criminal justice system are broken and must be fixed; that untold millions of dollars could be saved by criminal justice reforms, not to mention the avoidance of human suffering; that mass incarceration is not working at any level; that the death penalty is unfairly used; that the use and possession of most drugs should be decriminalized, not legalized; and that most prisons for women should be closed." (The Marshall Project)

Jobs

The Washington Post has a bunch more investigative reporting and editing openings. But what else is new as the gilded Bezos Era proceeds apace?

More reassuring might be the long embattled New Orleans Times-Picayune planning to hire two new reporters for a “Louisiana Coastal Reporting Team.” It's underwritten by money from The Society of Environmental Journalists' Fund for Environmental Journalism, which is supported by the Walton Family Foundation. (NOLA.com)

Committee to Protect Journalists

For those who heard its name for the first time while watching Meryl Streep, here's its website.

Check the numbers off to the right of the main page: 48 journalists killed in 2016, 259 imprisoned.

Beck opines on fame

Tucker Carlson is now ensconced in Megyn Kelly's old slot at Fox and last night, in a dramatic show of diversity, had conservative White male Glenn Beck as a guest. “Do you think being in this business makes you happy?” Carlson asked.

He said no. “Thinking that my voice was bigger than it is or should be, in the end, it made me very unhappy...I wouldn’t wish the fame on my worst enemy. I think fame is more corrosive than anything else. It is a horrible, horrible thing if you don’t have perspective.”

Don't watch for any mass exodus of newly introspective cable TV news hosts, all heading to run nonprofit neighborhood food pantries for $58,000 annual salaries.

Graphic of the day

"It was just 10 years ago yesterday that Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone. In the following years, it's become "a symbol of the tech industry, of the modern era as a whole, and has made Apple the largest company in the world in terms of market capitalization, with some even speculating it’s the most profitable product ever." (The Verge)

The Verge then offers a nice visual on how the phone's look has changed over the decade. In case you forgot, the iPhone 4 in 2010 brought the first major redesign, with stainless steel and glass, "as well as a new, squarer look with rounded corners. It was unveiled as the thinnest smartphone in the world and was the first Apple device to use a 'Retina display.' It was also the first iPhone with a front-facing camera for making FaceTime video calls."

Monica Crowley, plagiarist

I used to surface occasionally with Monica Crowley on "The McLaughlin Group." If its ringleader were still alive, he'd proclaim that "on a scale of 1 to 5, with five being metaphysical certitude," she's been cribbing a lot of others' work for a long time.

First it was CNN that exposed theft in a book she authored. Now Politico discloses that Crowley, tapped by Trump for a big national security position, cribbed portions of her doctoral dissertation (presumably making her the first Ph.D student to ever do same). The Trump hierarchy seems unfazed and won't do the obvious: cut her loose. (Politico)

Given its leader's reputation for dogmatic moral and ethical rectitude, quelle surprise, as the French would say. Ditto with Crowley, who as a student was an aide de camp to none other than Richard Nixon during the dark days of his disgraced post-presidency (she'd exploit that opportunity to write "Nixon in Winter" after he died).

But, heck, footnotes and quotation marks are so overrated.

Nastiness returns (you thought it was gone?!)

In the event you were suffering the pangs of separation anxiety, the aforementioned Tucker Carlson tweeted last night, "We plan on bringing #MeanTweets back tomorrow! Make sure to tweet your cruelest to @TuckerCarlson or email TuckerCarlsonTonight@foxnews.com. (@TuckerCarlson)

The morning babble

On MSNBC's "Morning Joe,' Trump Whisperer Joe Scarborough briefly morphed into sweater-clad Kirk Herbstreit, the ESPN college football analyst, as he informed that last night's thrilling Clemson upset of Alabama was all a function of Alabama offensive coordinator being absent (new gig). Characteristically unequivocal — and probably errant. Alabama's defense spent too much time on the field than surely planned as Clemson out-rushed, out-passed and out-quarterbacked them in the dramatic final minutes.

"Fox & Friends" offered a breakfast primer on how Trump can use executive action to undermine Obama actions, including the Iranian nuclear deal (though key Republicans want to strengthen, not ditch it), the Paris climate deal, immigration reform, Obamacare and the desire to close the Guantanamo facility.

It's a big day with two Cabinet confirmation hearings, notably that of Sen. Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, and President Obama's farewell speech this evening. It partly explained CNN "New Day" dissecting whether Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner can pass muster with anti-nepotism laws and become a top Trump aide as announced. It was all a bit pedantic. The group uncertainty aside, he'll get through.

As one former Democratic Justice Department official tells me, Congress can't upend Trump's pick for West Wing advisors anymore than it could have told George Washington he couldn't have Alexander Hamilton (you know, the Lin-Manuel Miranda guy) because of his West Indian birth, active sex life or various other conflicts.

Note, too, how liberal Democrat Jamie Gorelick, deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton, is Kushner's legal troubleshooter. "The swamp," indeed, where $1,000 an-hour-guns for hire are plentiful, ideological stripes aside, is as big and welcoming as ever.

Layoffs everywhere

Print layoffs still get the most publicity, especially in print publications. But they're everywhere. For example, a longtime prominent TV anchor in Portland, Oregon, just got the boot at Sinclair-owned KATU. Natali Marmion had been with the station for 20 years. (The Oregonian)

Charlie Leroux

As someone who goes into Springsteen-like funks over the passing of friends, I can't imagine pulling off what the Chicago Tribune's Ron Grossman just did within a few days: obituary-profiles of both his "kid brother," who died at 77, and now a dear pal and our former longtime colleague, Charles Leroux, who just passed at 75. (The Chicago Tribune)

Writes Grossman: Leroux "saw newspapering as an adult education course. 'For me, the city has been an open university with a press card as paid tuition,’ he wrote in 2008, a year before retiring.”

More than that, he had the soul of a poet, the instincts of a breaking news reporter and the eye of a novelist. He could have been a top editor at The New Yorker or Vanity Fair. He wrote classic newspaper tales, including a profile of a guy who simply strung together a giant ball of string. That was it. A ball of friggin string.

He ate lunch with chums at an awful place around the corner from the paper. It served fish with half a canned peach. Upon its closing, he wrote, "We knew the waitresses, knew about their struggles with their families, sometimes could help. Four days after kidney transplant surgery, I showed up for lunch. 'I came for the perch and peach,' I said, but it was a lot more than that."

Thanks to a Facebook posting by The Tribune's Heidi Stevens, I was reminded of a moment while I was nominally his boss, overseeing all the features sections. He was back to being just a writer, but it was just natural that I had him in my office for my morning meeting of direct reports.

"Jim told us he had an idea to run by us, but we were out of time so it would have to wait for tomorrow," writes Stevens. "Without missing a beat, Charles deadpanned, 'Something to live for.'"

He was wise and tough as both a writer and editor. But he was a lot more than that. Most of all, he was profoundly light of heart. Charlie, my thanks.

Corrections? Tips? Please email me: jwarren@poynter.org. Would you like to get this roundup emailed to you every morning? Sign up here.

  • Profile picture for user jwarren

    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.

Comments

Related News

Email IconGroup 3Facebook IconLinkedIn IconsearchGroupTwitter IconGroup 2YouTube Icon