Good morning. Here’s our daily summary of all the media news you need to know. Want to get this briefing in your inbox every morning? Subscribe here.
If a picture’s worth a thousand words, we could have saved ourselves millions on Fidel Castro by checking out a few great cartoons.
The images of Castro fashioned by cartoonists were vivid and a reminder of an often incisive, if forgotten combination mode of social criticism, artistry and political analysis. So be thankful partly to Fusion for even broaching the topic via “Here’s how the world’s cartoonists are remembering Fidel Castro.” (Fusion)
In Venezuela, a political ally of Castro, “cartoonist EDO seems to suggest that neither God nor the devil wanted Castro — a joke some used to tell to explain his longevity. Others in Latin America see Castro as a hero who defied U.S. imperialism.”
A Mexican paper, La Jornada, “focused on how Castro outlived eight U.S. presidents and dozens of CIA assassination attempts. ‘Mission Accomplished,’ the CIA agent tells the dead U.S. presidents.”
Bonnie, a Ecuadoran cartoonist, portrayed Cuba as ultimately unable to shake Fidel’s authoritarian legacy. That seemed fitting since “for many people in Latin America, Fidel was also another dictator with blood on his hands, in a region that has had more than its fair share of strongmen on the right and left.” One cartoon, by EDO, shows Castro arguing in Hell with the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. “Your problem was marketing,” he tells Pinochet. “Being leftist was more cool.”
Castro was obviously a Cold War icon. So I was lucky to contact Jack Ohman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist with the Sacramento, California Bee. Get this: He was born in 1960 to parents named John and Jackie who proceeded to name him Jack — and voted for Richard Nixon in the Kennedy-Nixon face-off that year.
“Having spent virtually my entire adult life with Castro running Cuba, my reaction when he died was more along the lines of how I would feel if I hadn’t realized Grover Cleveland was alive and then suddenly died.”
He’s not a Castro fan. He’s got too many Cuban friends who suffered. But he notes that Castro’s heyday was with not even during the previous generation of superstar cartoonists (Jeff MacNelly and Pat Oliphant, among others) but the one before that: Bill Mauldin, Herbert Block, Paul Conrad and others who drew in a similarly “heavier, stylized” fashion.
When he looks through some of the weekend’s creations, they “made me feel like, ugh, how many Pearly Gates/Cloud/Satan-hemming-and-hawing metaphors are left, anyway?”
“Doing obit cartoons is always a challenge, just because of the triteness of the usual bag o’ metaphors. Not saying I don’t do them (I do), but I try to minimize them. Maybe a few per year.”
Having said that, he loved Canadian Michael de Adder’s cartoon, which shows Che Guevara pushing an ailing Castro in a wheelchair and saying, “Congratulations, Fidel, you outlived American democracy.” (deAdder) And Lebanese-Swiss cartoonist’s Pat Chappatte, who’s effort for Geneva-based Le Temps has a haggard Fidel showing up at the Pearly Gates and being informed, “Sorry, the communist paradise doesn’t exist.” (Chappatte)
But Ohman isn’t looking at many U.S. efforts, keeping his mind “clear for my own metaphor.” Hint: the core of his may have something to do with Castro surviving more than 600 assassination attempts.
Bronfman spurned by Time
Edgar Bronfman Jr., who was born on third base as an heir to a giant booze fortune, tried to buy Time Inc. for $18 a share, or a 30 percent hike over Friday’s closing price. That valued the company at $1.8 billion (how the giants have fallen). He partnered with a Russian born billionaire and an Israeli fellow of means. But the board said no, reported The New York Post. (The Washington Post)
Facebook and fake news
“Facebook is an important source of traffic for virtually all news outlets in the United States. New data, however, indicates that the social network is a far more important channel for some of the largest hyperpartisan and fake news sites in the country.” (Poynter)
An analytics company tracked Facebook referrals to 20-plus websites and then figured out the Facebook-driven share of unique visitors. For example, “Almost 80 percent of unique visitors to hyperpartisan news pages Occupy Democrats and American News came from Facebook, according to Jumpshot. Both of these websites have Facebook followings in the seven figures, and both have had several run-ins with the fact-checkers. American News, for one, peddled a Megyn Kelly hoax that fooled Facebook’s Trending section — even several weeks after it was exposed as a fake.”
$25 million for a “never-quite” enterprise
Notes on the mainstream’s pursuit of millennials:
“Last week, we told you that Casey Neistat was saying goodbye to his hugely popular daily vlog. Today, we found out what he’s planning to do next. Neistat’s new home will be the cable news network CNN, which just acquired the 11-person team behind Neistat’s never-quite-took-off mobile video sharing app Beme for a reported $25 million.” (PetaPixel)
“Beme itself will be going away, but the team behind it, led by Neistat, will be launching a new video brand under the CNN umbrella. CNN is banking on Neistat’s street cred to entice millennials to tune in, and is reportedly giving the YouTube star and his team free creative rein to achieve just that.”
A serial killer picked by the Packers
Sports Illustrated’s new “True Crime” longform feature may well entice Hollywood agents with “Interstate Killer.” It’s a terrific effort by L. Jon Wertheim on Randall Woodfield, a player picked in the 1974 draft by the Green Bay Packers who wound up as a serial killer in the Pacific Northwest, perhaps responsible for several dozen grisly murders. (S.I.)
A previous Packers hierarchy comes off poorly, essentially as uncaring, uninterested and (like many peers at the time) not utilizing now pro forma background checks that would have smelled something bad. But was football to blame?
“If anything, football was a temporary source of salvation, delaying Woodfield’s horrific behavior. Survey the timeline and it’s easy to make the case that football, beyond being a driving motivation for him, was also a distraction from a primal instinct that had, perhaps always, churned within. Only when football was no longer part of his life did he take a truly dark turn.”
A Turkey of a question
Here’s one you’ve missed on cable TV political shows: “Why does President Erdogan admire Belarus?” (Al-Monitor) In sum, he’s said to sympathize with Belarus since he feels its boss has also been unjustly attacked by the West and the press as a dictator.
Lede of the day
“The Oxford English Dictionary is a two-sided Kandinsky, a rare double image of grinding scholarship and popular acclaim. Unavoidably, perhaps, it is more widely esteemed than used. But somehow it has enough cachet that Mel Gibson is producing and starring in a movie about its first chief editor, James Murray, and one of its more eccentric early contributors, an American Civil War veteran named W. C. Minor, who mailed in citations from where he lived, an asylum for the criminally insane.” (The Weekly Standard)
The morning babble
“Fox & Friends” says the Ohio State attacker “may have been motivated by terror” but, well, we didn’t know the motive yet. But some alleged expert urges that students sit near aisles and know where exits are (thanks). CNN’s “New Day” beckoned its fave usual suspect counterterrorism experts.
“Morning Joe” on MSNBC was fixated on Kellyanne Conway’s “role in the Trump transition,” using a Politico report that she spurned a communications job. (Politico) Mika Brzezinski was less sanguine over assertions of Conway’s “strained relations” with other Trumpies than was Joe Scarborough. A similarly dubious “Fox & Friends” displayed forensic acuity, showing a new photo of Conway looking over Trump’s shoulder and, yes, smiling!
Oh, CNN did check in on the Aleppo mess but also welcomed Salena Zito, a new contributor via The Washington Times and The New York Post. It heralded her past declaration that Trump supporters take him seriously but not literally, the press takes him literally but not seriously.”He does not use words the ways we’re used to,” she said in an apparent new role as searing political anthropologist. So much for fact-checking.
In case you missed it last night
“Attack at Ohio State” was the opening on the CBS Evening News with a “CAMPUS ATTACK” chyron. There was a report from Havana; a “Warning On Cyber Monday,” namely apps fooling holiday shoppers; and “CRASH SURVIVOR,” namely a child “tossed 30 feet into a drainage ditch…How did this eight-month old survive?” The story was three-days old, as noted in passing. (WALB-TV)
But Norah O’Donnell was Brian Lamb-like compared to teleprompter reader David Muir at “”World Tabloid News Tonight” on ABC. “Breaking news: We’re on the scene right now. The horrific attack at a major American university. The suspect plowing into pedestrians, then going on the attack with a butcher’s knife. Multiple victims. And what we just learned about the suspect.” Plus, we had Muir’s version of a “Dante’s Peak” sequel: “Severe storms at this hour. A tornado watch right now. Heavy storms, rain and ice. That system marching East tonight.” Head to the basement!
Lester Holt was characteristically sober while big-footing it down to Havana, where he opened with, yes, “CAMPUS ATTACK HORROR” in Columbus. There was a non-story of “Palace Intrigue: Are there warring factions inside Trump Tower?” and a profile of a former NFL player-turned-philanthropic farmer that was nice, but also done by CBS nearly two years ago. (Jason Brown)
After an entire week off, “Vice News Tonight” returned to HBO with similar tales (if not hype) about Ohio State, Cuba after Castro and a presidential recount. As many have in the past, it interviewed fake news practitioner Paul Horner. Its early strength remains overseas reporting, and even just brief highlights of news overseas, unlike the broadcast giants convinced that such forays can mean trigger fingers on TV remotes and lower ad rates for Taltz, Aleve and Linzess (for chronic constipation).
Sex, lawyers and reporters
“The nation’s largest state bar association is overhauling ethics rules for attorneys for the first time in 30 years, and some lawyers are unhappy about a proposal that would open them up to discipline for having sex with clients.” (Los Angeles Times)
Journalists can obviously take the high road on this story, since the whole notion of bedding sources is so clearly beyond our imagination and universally accepted ethical norms. I do recall Jay McMullen, a wonderfully engaging late colleague, who made his name with the defunct Chicago Daily News and the still-surviving Chicago Sun-Times, in part due to romantic impulses that included targeting Jane Byrne, a city official who was elected the city’s first female mayor shortly after they strode up to the altar.
As a 1979 McMullen profile in People put it:
“Without question, McMullen is a salty, boisterous fellow. As a young Northwestern graduate, he made his mark in journalism in 1952 by persuading the former Mrs. Adlai Stevenson to talk about her troubled marriage, and he has never been noted for tasteful reticence. ‘No woman could walk by without Jay saying, ‘How’d you like to screw that babe?’ a colleague recalls. McMullen’s extended lunch hours were the source of epic rumors in the City Hall press room. ‘There was a day when I could roll over in bed and scoop the Tribune,’ he told Esquire the month before he married Byrne.” (People)
Presumably the same can happen to California lawyers seeking to beat rivals to a deposition.