Why President Trump still plays nice with elite media
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So when President Trump raised the white flag on Obamacare Friday, did he pick up the phone and gave the exclusive to Breitbart, The Daily Caller or LifeZette?
Nope. He called reporters at The Washington Post and The New York Times.
But you'd have thought that reaching out to ideological sympathizers was inevitable, given the journalistic sturm und drang about the incursions of right-leaning media in these early days of a new Washington era.
The mainstream, especially in the White House press corps, is unsettled by the rise of inexperienced, unworthy newbies. The Washington Post has even announced an "Access Watch" feature to detail who gets the inside track on certain matters, such as the little-known conservative newsroom that was the sole outlet on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's government plane to Asia recently.
Well, any chronicle of access will need to include the capital's longtime home teams, with Friday's carefully served bulletins from the Trump News Service suggesting how a mix of old media clout, old-fashioned journalistic quality and Trump's own Queens-bred craving to be accepted by various establishments may be more enduring than many assume.
Lots of access will continue to be possessed by the very same people who've always had it and whose professional values very much include access, even if at times it may mean merely access to get lied to by politicians and their emissaries.
So it was worth it Sunday to ask Mark Knoller, the CBS News White House reporter who keeps detailed records on everything White House-related. When it comes to interviews through March 23, here's whom Trump has accommodated so far. It's a total of 18 interviews, which include Friday's telephonic reaching out:
The New York Times (two interviews), ABC (one), Fox News (five),
Christian Broadcasting Network (one), Westwood One (one), Israel Hayom (one), NBC (one), Reuters (one), Breitbart (one), Local TV (two), Time magazine (one) and The Washington Post (one).
President Obama sat for far more interviews at the same point in his presidency:
ABC (four), Al Arabiya (one), NBC (two), CBS (one), CNN (one), Fox (one), Black Enterprise (one), Telemundo (one), a national print roundtable (one), a regional press roundtable (one), radio (four), a columnists roundtable (one), Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (one), USA Today (one), Army Times (one), off-the-record roundtables (three), New York Times (one), ESPN (one), "Tonight Show" (one) and "60 Minutes" (one).
While giving fewer interviews, Trump has given one more to The New York Times than Obama so far, one more to Time magazine and one more to The Washington Post. We might include that predilection, if it endures, when chronicling access to him and his minions.
As self-appointed Washington cultural historian Joe Scarborough opined this morning on "Morning Joe," "The press always wins." (With characteristic modesty he also informed, "I said it to Obama's people, I said it to Bush's people, I said it to Trump's people," in case we forgot.)
And don't expect the dynamic to change dramatically, even as Sean Spicer's daily briefings, or Trump press conferences, include recognizing outlets deemed outliers by the media club accustomed to a de facto monopoly derived from self-perceived professional virtue.
As Bill Kristol, founder of The Weekly Standard, put it Sunday about Trump: "He's always understood the power of and craved acceptance by the mainstream media."
Adds Rich Lowry, editor of National Review: "He hates the mainstream media — and loves the mainstream media. No president has ever followed his news coverage so closely or cared about it so much."
Netflix, the new content monster
The weekend's best media story was the Wall Street Journal profile of how Netflix is gobbling up executive and artistic talent, spending a stunning $6 billion on original and acquired programming in 2017 and inspiring awe, even dread among competitors. (Journal)
What does $6 billion mean? It's "more than double what Time Warner Inc.'s HBO spends and five times as much s 21st century Fox's FX or CBS Corp.'s Showtime. It spent close to $10 million an episode on 'The Crown,' a lavish period drama about Queen Elizabeth II."
How does it pull this off? It's partly ongoing increases in subscribers worldwide (now 94 million, up 5.1 million abroad alone in just the last quarter). But it's also done a lot of borrowing, "increasing its debt burden more than 17-fold since 2012 from $195.8 million to $3.4 billion."
Still, it's walking a tightrope, needing to maintain good relations with firms whose movies and reruns for which it cuts deals. And it's some of those firms who aren't happy campers, all the more so as it dramatically hikes pay for talent and starts producing original cooking, lifestyle and children's programming.
Mike Bloomberg's take
In case you miss it the first time, Bloomberg's home page this morning promoted an op-ed by the boss on the health care debacle twice. "Stop Blaming. Start Governing." Again, in case you miss it at the top of the page before you email him kudos. (Bloomberg)
An Apple legal win
"Apple has bigger fish frying in the world of intellectual property. But it must be a relief that an IP court in Beijing has handed the smartphone pioneers a win. On Friday, the courts overturned a May 2016 ruling that said Apple had violated design patents of a small, and now defunct, Chinese company called Shenzhen Baili." (TechCrunch)
The disputes were over the exterior design of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models, which Baili claimed were a copy of their 100C smartphones, curved corners and all. The company “barely existed” at the time it filed the suit. And its 100C smartphones were impossible to find.
The Pulitzer Center?
Big winners in the Overseas Press Club awards competition? Try the Washington-based nonprofit Pulitzer Center, which is 10 years old and funds exactly the sort of international reporting that mainstream organizations have cut back on and need help supporting. It offers help, such as British freelancer Iona Craig's recent Intercept disclosure about the botched Navy SEAL raid in Yemen.
Four winners in the competition are the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists ("The Panama Papers" offshore tax fraud), The New Yorker ("War Crimes in Syria"), The Virginia Quarterly Review (the ungoverned wilds of the Central African Republic) and the Huffington Post ("The 21st Century Gold Rush," on exploring the migration crisis). They all won for major pieces in some fashion subsidized by the Pulitzer Center.
Want to know about an impressive, 10-year-legacy in which the Washington-based nonprofit has supported 715 separate projects, a total of 6,168 stories in various outlets and dealt with 571 publication partners? Check out this Poynter article of mine. "The Pulitzer Center has become a cornerstone of American journalism," says Nick Schifrin, special correspondent with "PBS NewsHour" who's benefited from its support of his own labors in Kenya, Eastern Europe, Mexico and Cuba.
Iona Craig is a prototypical freelancer, based outside London, who is a Pulitzer beneficiary and used their help in doing her danger-filled Yemen expose for The Intercept. She made clear her gratitude in an interview.
Shenkman's new home
Journalist-historian Rick Shenkman has found a new home for the History News Network, namely George Washington University, meaning "its future is now assured" after departing George Mason University.
It's a lively site that mostly consists of op ed by historians on current events and, I can attest, can be help to daily newsies looking for context. Shenkman says it draws about 700,000 pageviews per month. George Washington won't provide funding but he strongly suspects the affiliation will help him find dough.
Want to get a take on the divergent views of Trump and John F. Kennedy on the arts and humanities? It's all part of the current fare on HNN.
The right to be forgotten
A proposed bill in the New York state legislature would require "search engines, indexers, publishers and any other persons or entities which make available, on or through the internet or other widely used computer-based network, program or service, information about an individual to remove such information, upon the request of the individual, within thirty days of such request."
Or it would have required that since the Media Law Resource Center tweets, "Sponsor of NY right-to-be-forgotten bill strikes enacting clause. Even if it passes, it won't become law." (MLRC)
Jimmy and Dan
The New York Times' digital "Times Insider" feature can sometimes be very good, sometimes more self-aggrandizing, but a good one was penned by Dan Barry in the wake of the passing (and his obituary of) Jimmy Breslin.
They were largely remarks he'd penned at a Breslin tribute long ago and involved the famous columnist calling the reporter out of the blue. He knew that Barry was undergoing cancer treatment and simply offered to go with him. Out of the blue.
They weren't friends, even if Barry was a huge fan dating to his childhood. And Breslin accompanied him. (Barry).
"The next day, I’m walking around Manhattan, feeling sorry for myself. Jimmy Breslin calls me: Whatta ya got for tomorrow? I got nothing, I say. What with the procedure and all..."
"Screw that! he says. Look around you! Stories everywhere! Write it!"
Headline of day (sorry, Jake Gyllenhaal)
"The fictional NASA in Life is run by a bunch of psychopaths and idiots." (The Verge)
Twitter, spandex and United Airlines
Peter Kafka of Recode does a nice job in "Twitter, United Airlines and girls in spandex leggings: How your Sunday #content gets made."
It details the modestly sourced stories that appeared everywhere over the weekend when United supposedly barred women from boarding a flight because of their attire. It also noted how it all proved a wee bit more complicated and involved United rules about the attire of those using employee passes (which are different than for normal travelers).
Koppel v. Hannity
It was a mini-epic tussle, infused with the combatants' respective sense of ample self-importance, as Ted Koppel interviewed and skewered Sean Hannity on CBS' "Sunday Morning." (CBS)
“Do you think we’re bad for America? You think I’m bad for America?” said Hannity.
“Yeah,” said Koppel
“You do? Really?”
“In the long haul I think you and all these opinion shows —”
“That’s sad, Ted. That’s sad.”
“No, you know why? Because you’re very good at what you do, and because you have attracted a significantly more influential —”
“You are selling the American people short.”
Koppel finished his interrupted sentence, "You have attracted people who are determined that ideology is more important than facts.”
And, with that, a righteous Koppel won the face-off with the arrogant ideologue and Trump shill.
Tronc boardroom follies
Newspaper industry analyst Ken Doctor has reported extensively on boardroom melodrama at Tronc, which used to be Tribune Publishing, including a Gannett deal imploding, a failed bid for US Weekly and now boss Michael Ferro undermining his key partner, Los Angeles billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong in a "rat's nest of corporate intrigue" that might intimate a Ferro desire to go private.
Regardless, what's largely lost is the editorial languor at most of the properties. While The New York Times, Washington Post and others try to raise their games, especially given the Trump-driven historic politics of the moment, there is no sign that Ferro is moving to do anything vaguely similar.
As Doctor noted, the Los Angeles Times, which clearly remains the best in the group (having read it last week rather closely), "does good, steady professional work" but like the others has not been given the resources or a corporate signal to raise its game. To read the L.A Times, Tribune and Sun is to see the widening of a gaping gulf with papers they once felt were peers in New York and Washington. It's unclear whether the key Tronc leaders, who don't have journalism backgrounds, have the visceral understanding of same, or seemingly care like a Jeff Bezos.
The price of economic "revival"
Check out "Inside Alabama’s Auto Jobs Boom: Cheap Wages, Little Training, Crushed Limbs: The South’s manufacturing renaissance comes with a heavy price."
And it's not found in Mother Jones or The Nation. It's in Businessweek and a nice job by reporter Peter Waldman. (Bloomberg)
Where exactly does Steve Bannon live and pay taxes? It's an ongoing curiosity, with the latest exploration by USA Today raising doubts about his letting Breitbart use a Washington townhouse zoned for residential. (USA Today)
Reporter Paul Singer checked local property records and find the building "is owned by Moustafa El-Gindy, a former Egyptian member of Parliament who has occasionally been quoted in Breitbart news stories. El-Gindy is receiving a homestead deduction on the property, a $72,000 tax credit that requires the owner to maintain residence in the building. He could not be located for comment on this story."
Breitbart CEO Larry Solov has indicated to the Senate press gallery, which oversees requests for Hill press credentials, that Breitbart possesses an expiring lease in the building "for corporate housing, offices and entertainment." But, again, the area is zoned only for residential. The lease isn't public.
Van Gogh, Monet and Wolf Blitzer
On vacation last week, I ambled about the wonderful Getty Museum in Los Angeles with my family and segued from a one-hour tour on Impressionism to a temporary exhibition, "Breaking News: Turning the Lens on the Mass Media," an engrossing (really) look at modern artists whose works have been inspired by the press, in particular newspapers, TV news and magazines starting in the 1960s. (Poynter)
For example, there's "CNN Concatenated" (2002), the handiwork of Israeli Omer Fast, who edited video so that many then-CNN hosts and correspondents (such as Blitzer, Christiane Amanpour, Judy Woodruff and Kelly Wallace) speak only one word apiece but suggest actual personal conversations playing out among themselves.
There's way more, including "The Dictator," a 1978 video parody of a "60 Minutes" type news magazine show in which a fictional overthrown Latin American tyrant (whose five wives all mysteriously died) is interviewed by a Lesley Stahl-type correspondent. Bottom line: "Colonel Riccardo Garcia Perez" still comes off as a rather appealing character — a bit like Alec Baldwin's Donald Trump on "Saturday Night Live," whose Trump parody makes a similar point about mass media partly shaping perceptions of public figures.
"60 Minutes" on Garland, Texas attack
The opening segment on "60 Minutes" was the unsettling tale of a terrorist attack outside a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in suburban Dallas in 2015. Fronted by Anderson Cooper, it made much of the fact that an undercover FBI agent was apparently tailing the two terrorists and kept driving by as they shot it out with cops.
It left the impression that this was all very new. It wasn't. The thrust of the entire piece broken last month by Associated Press reporter Jacques Billeaud. Here it is. Scott Pelley was stronger on the roots of fake news, while a feature on the impact of chess on a dinky Mississippi county was endearing.
The morning babble
The Monday-after quarterbacking on the health care bill was in overdrive this morning and included this sweeping gem from "Fox & Friends" sub co-host Pete Hegseth: "The swamp is deep, it's not going to change instantly...the special interests, the pettiness, the messiness of Washington is never going to change, so you better have the votes and the people behind you to get it done or you will get caught up in the muck."
CNN's "New Day" included co-host Chris Cuomo pre-breakfast literary analogy to Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," somehow likening an unnamed narrator claiming sanity while detailing a murder as akin to Republicans who brought down the ill. Got it? Anyway, both it and "Morning Joe" also welcomed Rep. Ted Poe of Texas in from a GOP storm as a guest since he quit the House Freedom Caucus after the vote.
And Joe Scarborough of "Morning Joe" chucked aside his reflexive modesty and inhibition to tell Trump what he has to do next: Flatten the tax code and lower corporate tax rates for many. "This is easy. If you start with 'Chuck (Schumer), what do you need. Mitch (McConnell), what do you need?' Yo don't start with Heritage Action," he said, the conservative group with which he personally sympathizes. And this:
"The stupidity of Steve Bannon knows no ends. If they had somebody at the White House who actually knew how Washington works then this wouldn't have ever happened. See Bannon needs to run a Super PAC. He's an idiot when it comes to how Washington works....He blew this."
The failed GOP health bill
It's moot now. But buried in the Republican attempt to gut Obamacare, and previously unpublicized, is how "Anxiety Disorders Induced By Trump Presidency Not Covered Under GOP Health Bill."
So, be relieved, it's now disclosed by The Onion.