July 8, 2016

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The perils and allure of live television was evident as Fox’s Megyn Kelly moderated a discussion last night on the Minnesota and Louisiana police shootings. As they were chatting, live video from a Dallas protest raised the initial possibility that a police officer was shot and lying on the ground. “It’s not clear to me what we’re seeing,” Kelly said. “That officer is not moving. Ah, I mean, look, we’re not going to show dead cops or dead bodies or hurt cops or hurt bodies or hurt protesters. We don’t know what we’re seeing…this is the state of America today.” It’s also the state of American media.

Her discretion didn’t last too long during a long night in which one would learn much later that five officers were killed. Fox quickly returned to the same protest, with Kelly briefly stepping aside as the network took the live feed from its affiliate, KDFW, in Dallas. She confirmed the affiliate was reporting that two officers had been shot. It came amid cable news coverage of the earlier shootings by officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, in no small measure because of all that video. CNN offered a potent compilation of video of multiple incidents in recent years. It was all awful, even if leaving a slew of unanswered questions about the totality of some of those events.

For example, there was scant discussion about why such incidents as those in Louisiana and Minnesota just don’t happen with such frequency in other developed nations. After all, there are other nations with both tricky issues of race and deep frictions between law enforcement and individual communities. Somewhere in the mix must be the quantity and access to firearms across the United States. (Poynter)

As for the media regurgitating video of these incidents — or, as is often the case, the video of just parts of these events — they surely offer the possibility of learning more about the tricky interactions of police and citizens. “But they can have perverse impacts since the videos that go viral are not about officers doing good things,” a prominent law enforcement researcher told me. “They are the explosive ones of police-involved shootings.” At some point, Dallas police asked that people stop using their live-streaming capabilities, as if technology could be suppressed.

Lost in the haze is how such shootings have by some measures been in decline. But, if true, said the researcher, the average citizen surely doesn’t realize that amid the instant dissemination of the videos. Are Louisiana and Minnesota both outrageous and outlier incidents? The search for context amid feverish, if unavoidable, coverage can be a Sisyphean quest. “This is a nation on edge,” Joe Scarborough said this morning, invoking all this auguring a possible reprise of the chaos and violence of the 1960s that was inspired by a war, political assassinations and the civil rights movement.

But one could at least agree with Kelly at one point last night, as her network inundated us with live and confusing images from Dallas: One really didn’t understand what the hell was going on. But that didn’t stop control rooms at CNN and MSNBC following the Fox lead and giving us similar live video. “We don’t have control of these pictures,” said CNN’s Don Lemon, as his network deferred to its affiliate, KTVT, for its live video. So much for editing.

“Let’s listen in for a moment,” Lemon then said. One soon heard a disembodied voice, declaring, “They’re rushing like motherfuckers.” A few minutes later, Lemon said, “We apologize if there’s any language that might offend because this is a live picture and this is all unfolding now.” It sure was. “Look at it,” said Kelly over at Fox, with a hard-to-decipher overhead picture of what looked to be some avenue with lots of red lights. “Look at that. It’s very clear that terror was unleashed on that city in one way, shape or form. It may have been a single shooter with a motivation that had to do with these officer involved shootings that we have seen. It may have been something else. We just don’t know tonight.” We sure didn’t, at least hours before a deadly fog was lifted and a few facts surfaced amid the unceasing live images.

The origins of that Baton Rouge video

It wasn’t happenstance. “That video, which caused nationwide outrage after it went viral on social media, was actually filmed by a member of an organized group that specifically seeks out violent crimes using police scanners with the intention of filming them, not for the purpose of exposing police but to deter young people from crime.” (The Washington Post)

Want to buy Gawker?

“A judge approved Gawker’s plans for a bankruptcy sale. The auction will be held on Aug. 16, and the hearing confirming the winning bid will be held on Aug. 18. It’s a small victory for Gawker, which might have otherwise had to pay out a substantial sum of money” to Hulk Hogan. “By successfully filing for bankruptcy protection, Gawker Media is protected from handing over any money to Hogan, whose legal efforts against Gawker (among myriad others) are reportedly being financed by Peter Thiel, who wants to sue the company out of existence.” (Recode)

Journalism dirt

“Reporters take pride in their ability to uncover dirt when writing news stories,” reports the Mankato, Minnesota Free Press. “For the past several weeks, however, the dirt being dug has been inside The Free Press, and it’s not just the reporters.” If you really want to know more, there’s this: “Free Press employees have been ordered to tidy up in preparation for new carpet. It’s not just garbage we’ve been finding. File folders have resurfaced from dark spaces inside desks. Some are filled with submitted photographs dropped off by funeral homes and the general public during the days before the newsroom converted to electronic images.” (Mankato Free Press)

New owner is the old owner

“Two weeks after the Dolan family completed the $17.7 billion sale of Cablevision to European telecom giant Altice, the family is buying back one of Cablevision’s flagship news properties,” namely Newsday. It will have a 75 percent share. (Politico) “During negotiations with Altice, the Dolan family had fought to keep Newsday and News 12 Networks, a local news station, but Altice wanted them included in the deal. Altice executives insisted at the time that they would not sell the money-losing properties. (The New York Times) “They are a core part of the local community that we will continue to invest in,” Altice’s boss said at the time. Blah, blah, blah.

Ailes under siege

Well, he’s getting his comeuppance, at least from anonymous sources, in the wake of Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit. Gabriel Sherman, who literally wrote the book on Ailes, writes, “Executives I spoke with over the past 24 hours said the hiring of an outside lawyer is also an indication that Murdoch’s sons may be capitalizing on the Carlson scandal to achieve a long-held goal: forcing Ailes out. ‘It’s a coup,’ one person close to the company told me. If the investigation into Ailes’ management confirms Carlson’s account, or turns up additional episodes of harassment with other Fox women, it stands to reason the Murdoch children would have the leverage they need to push Ailes aside and install a less-right-wing chief.” (New York Magazine) Interesting. But is the designation of individuals “close to the company” a number smaller or greater than 325,000?

Does social media explain being pissed at Kevin Durant?

It seems somewhat of an exception to a rule of many fans realizing that athletes are often in it for the money and will bid adieu to them in a heartbeat for riches elsewhere. Inspecting Oklahoma City fans (and others) even burning uniforms as basketball star Kevin Durant left for the Golden State Warriors, Evan Grossman of The New York Daily News wonders if “the social media age we live in gives people a license to be mean and nasty and blast hate around just because they can. Before there was Twitter, there were no web trolls. Before the digital age, there was no Yelp or Facebook or Snapchat and fans were forced to actually make signs and hold them up and literally stand accountable behind their disgust, unlike today when the internet bubbles over with anonymous haters.” (Daily News)

A big sucking(-up) sound

Tony Podesta is one of Washington’s most successful influence-peddling smoke-and-mirrors practitioners, also known as lobbyists and strategic consultants. And if you’re a lucky journalist attending the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia (there are probably hundreds on this elite list), his fat-fees firm invites you to a freebie “Podesta/Politics/Pasta brunch (brilliant alliteration, eh?) — wait, it’s two brunches — on July 25 and 26 at Barbuzzo, 110 S. 13th Street. It’s so big, you’ve got to contact cweiler@podestragroup.com to RSVP for Monday and npeled@podestagroup.com for Tuesday.

In these times of newsroom budget restraints, I hope people will avail themselves of pro bono meals on Podesta, brother of John, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and a tidy example of the revolving door between government work and private riches, with long and dutiful service to Presidents Clinton and Obama. (Podesta Group)

Nice start for digital newsletter

There are, we must concede, lots and lots of newsletters. They include ones on, yes, the media. Would you believe?! Well, here’s a really good new one on good ways to tell stories via digital journalism by Sasha Lekach, who just graduated from the University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and is working on the San Francisco Chronicle’s website. The latest edition brings a de facto guns issue with looks at The Tampa Bay Times (owned by Poynter) showing “the demise or fortunate escape of some of the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting”; a Southern California radio station inspecting officer-involved shootings; a visual analysis by The Washington Post of 965 people fatally shot by police last year; a Vox interactive calendar of all last year’s mass shootings; a Guardian tracker of police shootings deaths; and an interactive map from The Trace to help you “find out how many people have been shot near where you live.” (Keeping Tabs)

A depressing scoop

“Roughly 20 veterans a day commit suicide nationwide, according to new data from the Department of Veterans Affairs — a figure that dispels the often quoted, but problematic, ’22 a day’ estimate yet solidifies the disturbing mental health crisis the number implied.” (Military Times)

Obama in Poland

It’s political Groundhog Day as President Obama, in Warsaw, made his second remarks on shootings in 24 hours this morning while most folks back home were asleep. There was CNN’s Michelle Kosinski in downtown Warsaw discussing not problems with the European Union but the Dallas tragedy. Back home, the morning shows were predictably rife with speculation about motives, backgrounds and modus operandi of the apparent multiple shooters and whether there’s a link between anti-police protests and shootings as the ones in Dallas. On CNN, Marc Lamont Hill, a Morehouse College professor and network commentator, struck needed cautionary notes. “I would appeal to evidence,” he told “New Day’s” Chris Cuomo, who suggested a tie between rhetoric and criminality. “Over the last few years we have seen perhaps the strongest critiques of police,” said Hill. “And police deaths in the line of duty have gone down. There is no one-to-one correlation, and there is evidence it’s gone down.” The movement critiquing police and calling for fewer guns, he said, is largely non-violent.

We’ll now see where the professor’s “appeal to evidence” leads press coverage. In Warsaw, Obama reiterated, “We still don’t know all the facts” but did again invoke our proliferation of guns. That displeased the folks at “Fox & Friends,” who quickly beckoned former presidential candidate Ben Carson to say this wasn’t about guns and violating our Second Amendment rights. He and his sympathizers had their set of facts, and thus a tiresome policy argument was revived.

A headline you probably won’t get in the New York Review of Books

“The best parts of Donald Trump’s books are when he admits he’s bullshitting you” (Vox). Have a wonderful weekend. I really hope you do. Truly. I love you. You’re the best.

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

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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.…
James Warren

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