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CLEVELAND — CNN’s Jake Tapper was live from the Quicken Loans Arena, site of the Republican National Convention, with lots of red, white and blue bunting visible behind him Sunday. It was a fitting, if inadvertent, backdrop as he oversaw coverage of another American rite: gun violence. For the media, the Baton Rouge cop killings brought its well-practiced murder autopilot and provided tragic if brief diversion from Trump Mania among the press.
It was, again, earnest, riveting, banal and hyperbolic, all in one, just like after Dallas, Charleston, Sandy Hook and the rest. There was the initial unadulterated speculation. The admonition of anchors about how little we knew, followed by the rank conjecture of pundits. The replaying of at-times confusing video. The impromptu press conference of a by-the-book-local police official. The initial White House statement, followed by President Obama’s briefing room appearance. Lots of loose talk of a “war on police” and, conversely, of police overreaching. Not much talk about the ignominy of all those guns out there.
One can’t really avert one’s attention but how much can one take? George Kateb, a Brooklyn-bred philosopher emeritus at Princeton, reminds us about all the pain out there in a very “damaged world.” For one’s sanity, one must be oblivious to some of it. We might add to his formulation how modern media makes us far more aware of the famished child, the brutal dictator, the mass terrorist, the cop killers. It makes it tough to keep a clean conscience.
By late afternoon, I was in a faux Irish tavern near the convention hall, finishing a burger and staring at televisions showing a somber Obama live but also the Cleveland Indians, a soccer game and a rerun of the British Open from that morning. After Obama had finished, there came the clanging of a cowbell signaling the last out in an Indians victory. For a few assembled at the four-day Trump Family Fest that begins Monday, which will likely remind us of how conventions long ago morphed into de facto infomercials, it was one way to exhibit satisfaction amid the bloody chaos elsewhere.
By Monday evening, the press should return to Trump and the star of the first night, wife Melania. “The plan for the Trump campaign for this convention is to help the American people understand more about Donald Trump the man, not just the candidate they see on the campaign trail,” his campaign chief declared at a news conference Sunday.
When I walked the gauntlet of massive security to get to the primary press filing center later to say hi to some friends, there was ample manure out front from police on horseback. It felt like a metaphor.
Postmortem on a media divorce
What happened at Politico to prompt co-founder Jim VandeHei and some colleagues to bid farewell to owner Robert Allbritton? “Late last summer, VandeHei began pushing Allbritton to consider selling a chunk of the company. If VandeHei’s vision had been realized, Politico would have joined forces with a European media giant. …But the owner — who would have had to relinquish full ownership of his juggernaut — refused to pursue it.” (Washingtonian)
Pitching a fit on the pitch
“A note to our readers: We have reduced our coverage of Saturday’s Real Salt Lake-New England Revolution game at Rio Tinto Stadium following a decision by RSL officials to pull the press credential of Salt Lake Tribune sports columnist Gordon Monson and bar him from covering the match.” (Salt Lake Tribune)
Reporters in your pocket
Well, yes, there are surely lots of journalists at the convention who are shills for certain politicians. But BuzzFeed will bring reporters potentially into all pockets for another reason. “On Sunday, BuzzFeed launched BuzzBot, an automated chatbot for Facebook’s Messenger app. The bot, developed by BuzzFeed’s Open Lab (an R&D skunkworks based in San Francisco), is capable of having a limited back-and-forth with users to gather news about the convention throughout the week.” (Poynter)
In sum, if you’re here, whatever your role (shill, protester, whatever) the bot asks you to send photos or video of what’s happening around you. “Back in the newsroom, BuzzFeed will have a team dedicated to BuzzBot, communicating with reporters on the ground and people sending messages to create a feedback loop.”
The Murdoch boys and Fox News
“They have shaken up 21st Century Fox’s profile in Washington, replacing their father’s Republican lobbying chief with a Democratic one. They have jettisoned film executives, overhauled foreign TV operations and dug into the evolution of cable channels like National Geographic.” (The New York Times) But, as this notes, James and Lachlan Murdoch’s apparent craving to make their imprint at Fox News is complicated by the network’s status as a cash machine and the Gretchen Carlson sex harassment lawsuit. Both factors argue for showing a bit of patience as the mess plays out.
Is Michael Ferro getting weary?
While Carlson’s suit has taken up ample media energy, potentially fateful litigation is percolating in Delaware as a result of the company now called Tronc (formerly Tribune Publishing) rejecting a Gannett takeover and thus watching its stock head south. By one account, a looming lawsuit from the company’s onetime leading shareholder conceivably “could force an unraveling” of the changes new boss Michael Ferro has imposed. (Politico)
Turkey leader’s hypocritical use of media
“The embattled president, after a confusing absence in the early hours of the coup, appeared to speak to the nation early Saturday. He exhorted his followers with the FaceTime app from his cellphone, resorting to the kind of medium he has long sought to suppress.” (The New York Times)
The timing just wasn’t right
The Baton Rouge newspaper includes this parenthetical on a famous football coach: “Les Miles canceled his yearly visit to ESPN in light of the killing of three police officers Sunday morning in Baton Rouge, and the LSU football coach called the shootings ‘senseless’ in a statement.” (The Advocate) He was set to drop by its studio in Bristol, Connecticut, on Monday for a seven-hour marathon of interviews.
An unhappy photographer
Time’s latest cover on Trump shows the unmistakable back of his head peering out from the back of the chair in the Oval Office. Late last evening White House chief photographer Pete Souza noted on Facebook, “For the record, this is a Photoshopped (i.e. fake) rendition of my photograph of President Obama.”
Trump the manager
Much will get lost in the convention week maw. This effort on his managerial style was very solid: “Rather than magisterial and decisive, Trump the actual boss swings wildly between micromanaging meddler and can’t-be-bothered, broad-brush, big-picture thinker. He is both impulsive and intuitive, for better and for worse.” (Politico)
You got that right. Now check Jane Mayer’s new New Yorker profile of Tony Schwartz, who goes public with regret over being ghostwriter for 1987’s hugely successful “The Art of the Deal.” He helped create a character more winning than he is and won’t vote for him. Trump then told Mayer, “It’s great disloyalty. I guess he thinks it’s good for him — but he’ll find out it’s not good for him.” He then called Schwartz and said, “I hear you’re not voting for me…That’s your right, but then you should have just remained silent. I just want to tell you that I think you’re very disloyal.” “Schwartz replied, ‘Donald, you’re running for President. The stakes here are high.’ ‘Yeah, they are,’ Trump said, ‘Have a nice life,’ and hung up.” (The New Yorker)
An awkward unveiling
“Donald Trump and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, don’t have much in common — politically, philosophically or personally. And their awkward marriage was on full display in the first interview the two gave together on Sunday on ’60 Minutes.'” (Fortune) Yup. Rich Lowry of National Review probably got it right: “It wasn’t a high point for Mike Pence. Despite all his efforts to ingratiate himself, Trump interrupted him and established his dominance in every possible way.” (National Review)
ESPN’s analytics chief says…
In pro sports, use of analytics does not necessarily break down generationally. Fabled basketball executive and former coach Phil Jackson doesn’t like them at all, and too many people misconstrue them as facts.
But they’ve had the biggest impact in baseball because it’s “the easiest game to do analytics for. It’s a static game. It’s a game defined by very discrete moments. Most of what goes on in a baseball game happens between two people.” (Parse.ly)
Blaming our own lack of self-constraint
With what seems half the nation’s media in Cleveland (imagine if they spent these resources covering state capitals), “Morning Joe’s” Joe Scarborough got a wee bit righteous this morning about “how much attention do we give these deranged people who commit acts of terror?”
And there is Trump, of course, who portrays a world “spinning out of control” and pledges how he “can bring order” amid the chaos, noted Willie Geist. No surprise, over on “Fox & Friends,” the group and Fox colleague Tucker Carlson groused about Obama being part of the problem by not taking the side of police to their satisfaction. They seemed very excited,too, about Melania Trump’s convention speech tonight. For them, the area’s morning storms presaged a better day and night ahead as the media massed for the premiere.