September 2, 2016

Good morning.

Looking everywhere but in the mirror

The media initially covered the tale of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand for the national anthem, from an array of angles except perhaps one: what it says about diversity in the press itself.

In The Undefeated, ESPN’s new site on sports, race and culture, Lonnae O’Neal argues that NFL Network reporter Steve Wyche, an African-American, “was the only journalist to ask Kaepernick why he was sitting out the anthem, and one of the few reporters in the country with the experience to contextualize the story as part of one of the nation’s most important conversations (as opposed to a bratty, ungrateful publicity stunt).” (The Undefeated)

But why are so few individuals of color in a position to have asked the same question after the game to Kaepernick, as did Wyche? It’s among the queries, she argues, “about why the country is more brown than ever but mainstream journalism is so White, and all the stories we might be missing because of it.”

Wyche’s skills as a reporter largely explain pulling aside the player after the game and asking the big question. But, he says, being Black helped him understand nuances of the tale when it came to Kaepernick, who’s been involved with the Black Lives Matter movement and active in broaching race in tweets.

A 2014 Associated Press Sports Editors Racial and Gender Report Card indicated that “Black men make up 6.8 percent of the sports reporters at more than 100 newspapers and websites surveyed, while Black women totaled about 1 percent. By contrast, a Harvard analysis finds that between 70 and 75 percent of players in the NFL, the NBA, and the WNBA are Black.”

Get this: According to Jesse Washington, an Undefeated reporter, there were about 100 reporters and 30 cameramen in the room to question Simone Manuel after she became the first Black swimmer to win a gold medal at the Olympics in Rio. He says he was the only Black among that media throng.

Concludes O’Neal, “That may be the most under-reported part of the Kaepernick story.” (The Undefeated)

How Ailes spied on employees

New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman just unveiled his latest expose on the seemingly tawdry management practices of former Fox News boss Roger Ailes, despite Ailes’ lawyers publicly badmouthing him and warning of legal consequences. (New York)

Along with underscoring already-reported sexual harassment allegations, he shows how “Ailes ruled Fox News like a surveillance state.” He ordered the engineering chief to install a CCTV setup that allowed monitoring of “Fox offices, studios, greenrooms, the back entrance and his homes.” He leaked negative tales about employees he deemed errant. And, get this, “Fox News also obtained the phone records of journalists, by legally questionable means,” including hiring a private detective to obtain records of a reporter for the liberal Media Matters group.

And, perhaps, as telling as the specifics is this more overall, cultural Sherman take: “It is unfathomable to think, given Ailes’ reputation, given the number of women he propositioned and harassed and assaulted over decades, that senior management at Fox News was unaware of what was happening. What is more likely is that their very jobs included enabling, abetting, protecting, and covering up for their boss. ‘No one said no to Roger,’ a Fox executive said.”

A cautionary note about reporting and opinion

Dave Weigel is a terrific Washington Post political reporter who’s done fine work during the presidential campaign. But he’s also been rather opinionated in tweets, arguably not unlike other reporters in an age when editors can be enamored of pushing the brand and reporter “engagement” with the audience.

Among Weigel tweets which are over the top was a Tuesday night one on an election result in Florida. “Early vote is in and @dbongino has already been defeated in #FL19. Congrats to voters there for rejecting this lying, pathetic loser.” (@daveweigel)

When I saw this and others, I wondered if he’d been hacked. I asked The Post. Managing Editor Cameron Barr responded, “Dave Weigel’s tweet concerning Dan Bongino was inappropriate and unacceptable. We have discussed this misstep with Dave and reminded him and others on the staff of the need to refrain from partisan, inappropriate or ad hominem statements on social media.”

Good for The Post. Ultimately, this is an editor problem. Just start looking at the tweets from beat reporters, be they from newspapers or TV, especially on the campaign trail. If you have problem, blame non-managing managers.

The Post has now also distributed a memo on the general topic of social media. In part, Deputy Managing Editor Tracy Grant writes, “Post journalists are free to continue using personal [social media] accounts but should remember that they remain, at all times, Washington Post journalists.”

And then this: “Even as we express ourselves in more personal and informal ways to forge better connections with readers, we must be ever mindful of preserving the reputation of The Washington Post for journalistic excellence, fairness and independence.”

An instant Paterno backlash

Edelman Worldwide, a giant and A-list communications firm which has done lots of good work for Penn State University, might need to help with some damage control in light of yesterday’s head-turning announcement that the university will honor then-late football coach Joe Paterno before a Sept. 17 game. Court testimony make crystal clear that Paterno knew about the odious assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s child sex abuse. (The Guardian)

Dan Bernstein, a brainy Chicago sports radio host on WSCR, was nonplussed when word trickled out as he was doing an interview about a meaningless Bears-Browns preseason game. “A knowing facilitator of child rape will be honored…that place is sick…Their sainted hero was a knowing facilitator of serial child rape. This is so much worse than a guy not wanting to get up for a piece of cloth and a song (referring to the NFL quarterback who protested racial inequity by not standing for the national anthem last week).”

He kept going but I had to get out of the car and pick up two kids at day camp.

A movie trailer made by AI

There’s lots of talk of the impact of artificial intelligence on journalism, including by Michael Ferro, new boss of what was Tribune Publishing and is now Tronc. Now comes a movie trailer created by AI in, fittingly, a movie about AI, namely “Morgan” starring Kate Mara. (Polygon)

It’s about a corporate risk management consult who mulls if she should kill an artificially intelligent being. “To make the best trailer, IBM’s Watson computer was consulted and tasked with making the scariest promotional video possible. The question that IBM’s team ran into is how do you teach a machine driven by logic, algorithms and math to incorporate concepts like fear.”

Jim Cramer, documentarian

Jim Cramer, the bright, opinionated show host-investor of “Mad Money” fame on CNBC hosted a documentary on Wall Street post-9/11 last night. “Ground Zero Rising” was a solid job on the nexus of tragedy and commerce and how a 16-acre Wall Street area has proudly, fitfully and very expensively returned to action with a giant new building and more on the grounds where the twin towers fell.

Immigration with your Wheaties

Cable news cheerily blabbed us into the holiday weekend with loads of Donald Trump immigration talk this morning. It was led by “Fox & Friends” sub co-host Tucker Carlson (nicely supplanting Steve Doocy). “The press is mad that the middle class is standing up and saying this isn’t working for us. Their message to the middle class? ‘Shut up.'” But, obviously, not from him, a member of the press.

Changing the channel, there’s “Morning Joe’s” Joe Scarborough on anti-Trump auto-pilot. “They’re trying to do two things at once but he doesn’t have the discipline to stick to one message.” He’s softening one on day, back to the tone of tough guy the next.” Ron Fournier, who’s gained his get-out-of-press-prison pass and leaves Washington to return to Detroit for Crain’s, said Trump is joining one thing only:”using bigoted racist language to incite us and turn us one each other.” It was his swan song in D.C. and he also today offers his “Farewell Guide to Political Journalism.” (The Atlantic)

CNN was ticking off wins and losses for both Trump and Hillary Clinton this week, the trek to Mexico City and his later speech in Phoenix deemed wins for “exciting Trump’s base.” Led by analyst Jackie Kucinich, the drift was that he is “muddying the waters,” as she put it with clashing immigration views. Speaking of waters, it was then back to a tropical storm Hermine update and how she could “upend our weekend plans, especially along the East Coast.” It could also limit cable coverage of the campaign since cable just loves those reporters in loosely-fitting nylon windbreakers covering storms, a fashion mode made famous by Jeff Flock (now at Fox Business) during his estimable, workhorse CNN days when he was the go-to guy on natural disasters.

Earlier on CNBC

A panel was chattering about Campbell Soup’s weak quarterly performance and one analyst was blaming things partly on millennials. He said the only way to get them to eat soup from cans is to make sure the cans were produced by an “artisanal barrel maker in Brooklyn.”

Imagine the price of going to the circus if…

Now here’s food journalism at its finest! From the “Eater” section of GQ: “When is a single kernel of popcorn worth $5? Well, never, but that hasn’t stopped a Chicago-based company called Berco’s Popcorn from selling it anyway. In the latest installment of his GQ video series ‘Most Expensivest Shit,’ rapper 2 Chainz — along with pro skateboarder Nyjah Huston — boldly goes where few have gone before, sampling some very pricey popcorn that’s coated in 23-karat gold.” (Eater)

As my kids lobbied me all night for junk food at Wrigley Field (Cubs v. Giants) last night, I knocked on wood. The financial pain could be far greater.

A pre-Labor Day union victory

The National Labor Relations Board ruled that producers at the reality-nonfiction TV production subsidiary of Comcast-NBCUniversal have the right to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East. (NLRB) They create one-hour episodes for clients such as MSNBC and The Weather Channel. Generally, there’s one permanent producer and one associate producer assigned to a show, though there’s a “fluid work force of freelance producers and APs,” says the ruling which turned on whether the producers were supervisory personnel and thus union-exempt.

The board doesn’t buy that, in part noting that producers and APs don’t follow any uniform procedure in hiring personnel (notably actors) and producers have no authority to negotiate pay or other terms with crew members. The company said the “producers’ role in setting schedules in the field supports a finding that producers exercise supervisory authority.” The majority disagrees, with one board member dissenting.One member dissented. A 2013 vote to go union should now be certified, unless there’s another appeal by the company, and future bargaining on a contract to begin.

Labor Day ritual, now gone

“For 45 years, many Americans identified the Muscular Dystrophy Association with one man and one event — comedian Jerry Lewis and his annual Labor Day telethon.” (STAT) It was indeed a media spectacular even as it was caricatured as the years went on and Lewis got older. The association dropped him as host in 2011 and then ditched the telethon a year ago. “So how is the charity faring in this new era, as a no-telethon Labor Day approaches? The report card is mixed.”

Well, other rituals persist. And maybe you can check out a parade and actually celebrate the achievements of working men and women, as well as the union movement that spawned the holiday. Enjoy the weekend.

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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.…
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