September 6, 2016

Good morning.

Editorial sparks backlash

History teachers at Penn State can detail how dogma has spurred unrest, even bloody catastrophe. And now they can study their own university’s alumni.

A cadre of Penn State grads targeted the Daily Collegian after the student newspaper ran an editorial about the university’s decision to honor Joe Paterno, the late football coaching legend who looked the other way for years as an assistant coach sexually abused young boys.

The university announced last week via a press release that it will recognize the 50th anniversary of Paterno’s first game with the Nittany Lions as head coach on Sept. 17 when it plays at home against Temple. (Poynter)

It was a child sex abuse scandal involving Paterno’s assistant Jerry Sandusky that emerged in 2011 and prompted Paterno being canned. He died in early 2012. The subsequent, including recent disclosures in the case are not pretty when it comes to what Paterno apparently knew. (The New York Times)

On Friday, The Daily Collegian’s opinion editor, Lauren Davis, wrote an editorial that underscored, “Penn State needs a reality check. This is not 2011. We need to move on….Currently, the only associations these classes of students have with Paterno is reading and hearing his name tied with Jerry Sandusky’s and lawsuits or coming from the mouths of Penn State alumni who can’t accept that their time here is no longer.” (Daily Collegian)

The Paterno true believers were outraged and the vitriol was instant, as Davis, a junior, and Garrett Ross, a senior who is editor in chief, confirmed in a phone chat Monday. “The response has been overwhelming,” Davis said. “These very vocal alumni who have commented on Facebook, Twitter, and The Collegian website…a lot have not been very kind. It’s coming from fact that I have upset their love of the university.”

Ross conceded he had some very initial misgivings when he saw the torrent of criticism. Upon further reflection, he realized his qualms were unfounded. “I stand totally behind what Lauren wrote,” said Ross.

The students are on the mark. It’s remarkable that the university, which did enlist very smart folks to help it with crisis management five years ago, would so screw up again. This is strategic miscommunications.

Will an unbowed Roger Ailes sue New York magazine?

NPR’s David Folkenflik tweeted last evening, “NYMag confirms to NPR reports that atty Charles Harder, who won big case agst Gawker, has warned of defamation suit on behalf of Roger Ailes.” Reports were out about a Harder letter to the magazine concerning its reporting on a pattern of alleged sexual harassment by Ailes while king of the hill at Fox News. (The New York Times)

New York’s reporting has been very strong so far but, of course, anybody can file a lawsuit and hope they overcome a motion to dismiss and find a receptive judge and a jury of nincompoops. I broached the notion of how calls from two Ailes’ lawyers to a Daily Beast columnist last week might have at least tipped a potential courtroom strategy — if this ever gets that far. (Poynter)

Back to the morning chatter

“Fox & Friends” started out post-Labor Day with video of Hillary Clinton’s two-minute coughing fit in Cleveland yesterday. “It’s the top Twitter thing,” informed Steve Doocy, just back from vacation, who was followed by Ainsley Earhardt’s rank speculation that Clinton later talked to the press on her plane precisely to divert attention from the coughing fit.

Elsewhere, CNN ran excerpts of Jeff Zeleny’s interview with Joe Biden and Tim Kaine, with the vice president wondering if either president candidates can break through a “pox on both their houses” among voters.

MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” raised doubts about FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the Clinton email mess, with The Washington Post’s David Ignatius coming off as a Clinton apologist and colleague Eugene Robinson haltingly voicing sympathy with co-host Joe Scarborough’s derision of the FBI’s “extraordinarily sloppy investigation.”

Steven Rattner tried to have it both ways, conceding that Clinton was sloppy but that nothing just disclosed was damaging of her State tenure. Unmentioned, as usual, is that Rattner’s wife worked for Clinton at State and the couple has given more than $50,000 to the Clinton Foundation. (The Washington Post) Amid the cable networks’ proud new thrust toward on-screen fact-checking, wouldn’t it be the nice if they made such on-screen disclosures about their own pundits?

The press on Phyllis Schlafly

No surprise, there were some different takes on the prominent conservative’s passing. “She spent her life fighting not only the Left but also the Republican establishment, rejecting its accommodation of the Soviets, the UN, the feminists, the judicial supremacists, or the anti-borders crowd.” (National Review) Elsewhere, she was deemed a foe of abortion rights and “some might argue that her advocacy of traditional gender roles, which she herself seems to have eschewed, kept millions of women from being able to say the same for themselves.” (Slate)

But many might agree that she was “credited with almost single-handedly stopping the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s.” (The Washington Post) Just before recently turning 92, she was a Trump delegate to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. And her latest book, “The Conservative Case for Trump,” which is co-authored with Ed Martin and Brett Decker, is out today, as noted by her hometown St. Louis paper. (Post-Dispatch)

In China, Obama is a tough quarry for the press

As soon as President Obama arrived for an economic summit in Hangzhou, China, “On the tarmac, a quarrel broke out between a presidential aide and a Chinese official who demanded the journalists traveling with Obama be prohibited from getting anywhere near him.” (The Associated Press)

Well, if you read a new effort by Annie Karni in Politico, it’s sort of like covering, ah, Hillary Clinton. Check out her “Hillary Clinton, rarely seen, rarely heard.” (Politico) “There are full days when the rotating pool of traveling press does not even set eyes on Clinton.” In what surely is no coincidence amid such rebukes, Clinton rolled out not just a new plane yesterday but a new, outwardly convivial attitude to the press whom she can now allow on board. (The New York Times)

And then it was Laos this morning

Awaiting President Obama at the presidential palace in Laos, pool reporter William Wan of The Washington Post left us with little envy. “Rainy morning in Laos as presidential palace prepares to welcome Obama. At 8:30 a.m., chefs in white toques are handwalking dishes into the presidential palace. Red carpet literally being rolled out in front of Vietiane’s presidential palace entrance plaza for Obama. But quickly drenched by the drizzling rain. Dozen workers furiously use squeegees to squeeze as much rain out of carpet as possible, but losing battle as drizzle turns to earnest rain.”

A fashion observer gets bigger

Chiara Ferragni’s stream of selfies has drawn more than 6.5 million followers to her personal Instagram account. But the super-influencer has transformed her digital property The Blonde Salad, which she launched as a personal blog back in 2009 that now attracts an average of 500,000 unique visitors each month, into a full-fledged magazine that relies on plenty more than her outfit photos. (Business of Fashion)

Maine’s press-averse governor

Republican Maine Gov. Paul LePage, who’s been a frequent target of late-night comics and deemed the nation’s “craziest governor,” now huffs and puffs and says that’s it, forget about it, he’s not talking to the press ever again. Ever. (Politico)

Bangor Daily News executive editor Anthony Ronzio tells me, “Gov. LePage hasn’t really talked to the media for years. He leans to favorable outlets — such as conservative talk radio and blogs — and on the rare occasions he interacts with political reporters, it’s a one-way conversation when he’s either excoriating a political opponent or lecturing about what he really meant after his latest verbal gaffe about race, culture, gender, etc. His newest proclamation is just a stunt to shift the blame for his abhorrent behavior. “

“We’ll continue to do our job, peppering his communications staff, and covering what he says and does and how it reflects on his governing and our state. But the fact is, he doesn’t talk to us, and won’t let us talk to him. We’re past wagers on whether he’ll maintain this promise because any reputable newsroom bookie knows taking that bet is a surefire loser.”

Lingering power

The New Yorker offers a terrific Ian Parker profile of talented and at times seemingly tortured New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells, who carries on the tradition (and burden) of predecessors in being able to make or break a restaurant. (New Yorker) He dines out five times a week but is not likely to suffer from exhaustion, apparently writing just one review a week.

This captures the complexity of his influence, especially when it comes to how many stars to give high-end establishments, and how he can agonize amid the growth of a more high-stakes food industry in which taking shots at one joint may be inadvertently harming an entrepreneurial empire.

It’s also (inadvertently) a reminder of the newspaper’s giant investment in an important beat (he’ll routinely eat multiple times even at the priciest places before writing) and editorial care in the words he uses (even how the paper handles its social media about his takes), especially when he downgrades the rating of a famous place, as he did with renewed, crazily expensive Per Se.

The price of politics in North Dakota

The Bismarck, North Dakota Tribune reveals, “The Tribune will charge a $50 advertising fee for endorsement letters for candidates and measures. Political letters can be sent to the same addresses as above, but writers will be contacted to provide $50 by credit card. The same rules of length apply to political letters.” (Tribune)

Much ado about quite little

BuzzFeed is reorganizing into separate news and entertainment divisions. It’s not novel. “Still,” The New York Times divines, “BuzzFeed’s reorganization seemed a transformative moment for a company staking a big bet on the future of video and entertainment.” (The New York Times) The implication is that it’s quite possible BuzzFeed will de-emphasize news, though there is no evidence to support the suggestion, at least not in this opus.

Bloomberg’s Bigfoot

“Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday sat down for a rare interview with Bloomberg Editor in Chief John Micklethwait. The almost two-hour conversation in the Russian Pacific port city of Vladivostok delved into subjects ranging from the U.S. presidential election to the Syrian civil war, oil prices and state asset sales.” (Bloomberg)

So the editor interviewed President Obama in June and now makes his way to Vladivostok for a sit-down with Putin. Perhaps he’ll have time for a session with the H.R department on how to not piss off his own reporters who cover the White House or foreign affairs. Want to exhibit clout and win points among your army of subordinates? Procure the interview with the famous person, then let a rank-and-filer who knows their stuff actually conduct the session. If you want to tag along to ask a question, fine.

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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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