June 24, 2016

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CNN is fortunate that Megyn Kelly isn’t its vice president of human resources. She was chagrined last night over its hiring of Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump’s fired campaign manager, as an analyst. He’s “the same guy who has threatened more than one journalist in the course of this campaign, has had some very ugly language attributed to him when it comes to women.” She’s right about that.

Fox colleague Howard Kurtz, a frequent two-legged Greek chorus who often comments admiringly on Kelly theses, was there again as echo chamber. “For CNN to hire him 12 minutes after he was fired was, to use one of Trump’s favorite words, is sad, it’s really sad,” Kurtz said.

Lewandowski made clear before, and again last evening during his inaugural CNN appearance, that he “doesn’t intend to utter a negative syllable about Donald Trump,” said Kurtz. “And even if he wanted to he signed a confidentiality agreement with Trump, so he is limited in what he can say.” Well, that seems to put him in the same boat as Fox host Sean Hannity, Trump’s very own cable news caddy.

“So it’s not honest analysis…It’s really remarkable,” concluded Kelly about the hire. That verged on the remarkable itself. For any cable host, especially on Fox, to be rolling his or her eyes about the lack of purity and intellectual candor of pundits is a stretch. The train’s long been out of the station on the use of self-censoring rank partisans with scant inclination to criticize chums and former employers.

As unseemly as it might seem (“shameless,” says one Republican consultant to me), Lewandowski has functioned as a sort of id for Trump. One can hope that he’ll be a vast improvement over CNN’s current Trump shills, Jeffrey Lord and Kayleigh McEnany, given the fact he’s actually been involved with the campaign at the highest level.

But let’s not get huffy about many of those folks who pop up on the cable news networks, whether they’re carrying water for Trump, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, gun control or bombing Syria. Even a public often uninterested in facts might gag if the chyrons at the bottom of a cable news screen detailed the conflicts of interest and real track records of all those consultants, political “strategists” and former White House aides. Corey, join the crowd. Megyn, let’s not get too righteous.

The big British vote — and Trump

Understatement was not in order. “BRITAIN STUNS WORLD WITH VOTE TO LEAVE E.U.; CAMERON PLANS TO RESIGN AND MARKETS PLUNGE.” (The New York Times) “As Britain absorbed the earth-shaking news, the political fallout reached to the highest level with Prime Minister David Cameron saying he would step down after championing the campaign to remain in the European Union.” (The Washington Post) “We have woken up in a different country. The Britain that existed until 23 June 2016 will not exist any more.” (The Guardian) “Brexit will strike terror into the hearts of European governments and force a dramatic rethink of the organisation which aimed to bind nation states tightly together in the name of peace and prosperity.” (Times of London)

On morning TV, this was all interspersed with live coverage of Donald Trump ambling about a golf course he owns in Scotland. So there he was, walking by, as Fox News blared, “‘BREXIT’ BOMBSHELL” and “Fox & Friends” co-host Ainsley Earhardt asked, “Is Hillary Clinton waking up terrified?” The notion, of course, is that a populist contagion is spreading and Trump is an American exemplar of same. “Hillary lost and Trump won” said blowhard Fox stalwart Stuart Varney, who predicted that the European Union “will collapse.” Over at CNN, David Gregory said, “Hillary must understand what are the parallels to America” even as “New Day” co-host Chris Cuomo offered up all the appropriate caveats about painting with too broad a brush.

On MSNBC, Katy Tur was among the assemblage awaiting Trump on a golf course and was a bit prescient. She noted that this was the ninth Trump property that reporters had been beckoned to during the campaign, leaving some with the notion that this is all as much a “big branding tour” as it is a presidential run. His eventual address did indeed sound like a promotional vote for his golf complex at Turnberry. He spoke of specific changes to the course, the new sprinkler system and the lengthening and repositioning of certain holes.

He spoke of the 1977 British Open on this course featuring a dramatic finale between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus. “We have had amazing winners at Turnberry.” It sounded like a Golf Channel preview of the British Open. Hole No. 11 “was moved 200 yards to the left,” in case American voters didn’t realize it. Even Fox pulled away from this golf resort infomercial and interviewed a gray-haired former British Prime Minister Tony Blair before Trump finally got around to Brexit. So Blair was dumped so we could hear that, yes, Trump sees “parallels” in the vote and “what’s happening in the United States.”

Mother Jones’ billionaire stalker

“The most troubling thing about Peter Thiel’s efforts to destroy Gawker Media is that he has, as Felix Salmon put it, created a ‘blueprint’ for how rich people can kill publications they don’t like. Mother Jones, the liberal magazine famous for breaking the Mitt Romney ’47 percent’ recordings in 2012, has already found itself on the receiving end of such an effort.” (Recode)

Editor Clara Jeffery disclosed how the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America sought to kill a big exposé on private prisons. The firm is “repped by the same firm used by someone — conservative megadonor and Idaho businessman Frank VanderSloot — who had previously tried (and failed) to sue MoJo over stories he didn’t like. It’s a strategy that sounds awfully similar to what Thiel is doing to kill Gawker.”

Ben Affleck, frustrated sports analyst

Appearing on Bill Simmons’ first HBO show, the fellow Massachusetts native defended Tom Brady in the Deflategate kerfuffle as if the quarterback is a civil rights victim. “What they did was suspend Tom Brady for four days for not giving them his [expletive] cellphone,” he said. “I would never give an organization as leak-prone as the NFL my [expletive] cellphone — so you can just look through my emails and listen to my voicemails?” (Boston Globe)

Simmons himself was suspended by his former employer, ESPN, for calling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a liar. So Affleck was preaching to the choir as avoided the King’s English in his penetrating analysis. “So the first thing they’re going to do is leak this [expletive]. And I don’t know, maybe it’s funny, lovely sex messages from his wife, maybe it’s just friendly messages from his wife, maybe Tom Brady is so [expletive] classy and such a [expletive] gentleman that he doesn’t want people to know that he may have reflected on his real opinion on some of his co-workers.” Affleck thinks Deflategate is one big conspiracy organized by the NFL against Brady.

Pox on both their houses

Congress is all quiet now and everybody is back home for the July 4 recess (these people really do not work a ton). House Republicans had cut the C-SPAN cameras off to shaft Democrats staging their sit-in over gun legislation. What’s not understood well is how this is part of a pattern that dates to the initial debates over cameras in the House in 1977 (cameras came to the House in 1979, the Senate in 1986, with a young Al Gore giving the first speech on the issue). Whenever there’s a new Speaker of the House, C-SPAN makes the case to run the cameras itself — they’re controlled by congressional employees — but keeps getting spurned. It’s absurd. (Poynter)

Harvard meets Tronc Inc.

As The Harvard Business Review notes, Tribune Publishing, “a storied icon of American journalism,” is now calling itself Tronc and heralding a “content optimization platform” that will dramatically change its fortunes. It has generated close to universal scorn, all the more so given the abundance of cliches and buzzwords. But “even more disturbing than the style is the substance. The notion that you can transform a failing media company — or any company in any industry for that matter — by infusing it with data and algorithms is terribly misguided. While technology can certainly improve operational performance, the idea that it can replace a sound strategy is a dangerous delusion.” (Harvard Business Review)

Trolling the Chicago Bulls

“Shortly after the New York Knicks traded for former Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose, New York’s Twitter account posted a now-deleted video montage of Rose that appeared to troll the Bulls. (ESPN) “Prominently featured in the video were former Knicks Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant, all of whom were traded for Rose, and all of whom are getting beaten off the dribble by Rose in the video, which was just over a minute.” The Knicks deleted both that and an additional tweet. Too cute by half, guys.

Bloomberg’s bigfooting

Here’s one thing reporters hate: bigfooting by their bosses. Bloomberg got an interview with President Obama but it was conducted by “John Micklethwait, editor-in-chief for Bloomberg; Megan Murphy, Bloomberg News Washington bureau chief; and Bloomberg Businessweek Editor-in-Chief Ellen Pollock.” (Bloomberg) It’s bad management when you’ve got very good beat reporters and don’t include a single rank-and-filer. They informed readers that the Oval Office “is exactly the range of yellow, taupe, and beige we all know from television but smaller than expected,” as if, well, they’d never covered the joint. Maybe they also found the press briefing room to look sort of like it does on “Scandal.” Golly, gee.

Tweet of the day

From comic-musician Eli Braden, an at times raunchy Howard Stern regular: “Are we sure ‘Brexit’ isn’t one of Gwyneth Paltrow’s kids?” (@EliBraden)

Ellen Soeteber

She worked hard, played hard and was a stickler for accuracy. Soeteber was a longtime Chicago Tribune editor and reporter who later became the editor of the St. Louis Post Dispatch after serving as managing editor of the South Florida Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. “When I started at the Trib, Ellen ran the copy desk and could not have been kinder or more supportive to a wet-behind-the-ears kid trying to learn the craft,” says David Axelrod, the former political strategist who now runs the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago and is a CNN analyst. “She was a thoroughgoing journalist, who took a real interest in raising others to do the job right.”

I remember her having a smoke, downing a Manhattan or two and using a phone behind the bar to call the office to check on stories. There was always a story. She was old-school in the best of ways: street smart, really fast and, as Axelrod notes, a terrific mentor. She apparently caught a freak intestinal bug while on a South American cruise and was being treated at a hospital near her Florida home when she passed away at age 66. Since I long ago made the marathon socializing rounds with her and her author husband on occasional Friday nights, I’ll toast her this evening. She was really good.

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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