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The Democratic National Convention brings us a new media disorder: Bulimia Nervosa Politica. It’s a journalistic malady characterized by bingeing on a stunning banquet of offerings from the 15,000 credentialed journalists who are producing massive amounts of content — regardless of whether there is actual news.
There is far more great stuff, especially when it comes to data-driven analyses, than one has ever had. A New York Times opus Tuesday on Hillary’s demographic Achilles heel is one example.
Due to the cable news networks, TV coverage is superior to days of yore. The young reporters, like the young pro athletes today, are often just better than most of their predecessors. But there is also more junk, more useless filling of airtime, more cable analysts of dubious professional achievement, more tales rushed onto the internet out of fear of getting “beat,” and more self-obsessed journalists tweeting about everything (as if anybody but a few journalist chums might care). There is just more of everything. It’s a metaphor for America.
For example (a small one), there were 18 convention-related stories on the front of The New York Times website. There were 31 on The Washington Post site, including Bill Clinton biographer David Maraniss’ stellar “Only the Clintons: Why Bill’s speech tonight will be unlike anything we’ve ever seen.” Bloomberg had 19 stories and videos on its politics site, including “Sanders Finds It Easier to Start Than Rein In A Revolution.” On RealClearPolitics, which mostly aggregates stories and polls, I counted 42.
For Politico, this a Super Bowl-like event. The 38 stories on its homepage included “DNC sought to hide details of Clinton funding deal,” “Can Bill Clinton win back the bubba vote?,” “Democrats pull convention back from the brink,” “Life among the Berned,” “Sanders: My delegates should ‘vote for me,‘” “Warren accuses Trump of provoking race war — and Trump fights back” and many, many more besides.
“There is far too much coverage of trivia,” says University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato, who’s in Philadelphia. “Everything matters, absolutely everything — except most things don’t make a whit of difference in deciding the White House.”
When I broached what the conventions suggest about the allocation of media resources — there are media outlets with roughly 100 and more people at both gatherings — he concurred about the overkill. “Count me in as a vote for these resources to be devoted to policy and state capitals. At least Pew and Governing and a few others make an effort in that realm.”
The media’s take on Bill Clinton’s big speech
Sitting in the cheap seats of what’s normally a sports arena, FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver wondered: “What’s the best sports analogy to Bill Clinton’s speech tonight? Kobe Bryant’s last game? Meaning, the guy has lost his jump shot a bit but still loves being the center of attention and can rise to the occasion?” (FiveThirtyEight)
That wasn’t bad. The Washington Post’s David Maraniss recrafted his earlier opus and concluded, “It was an unusual speech from beginning to end, as the husband tried to make the case for his wife through a quiet, rambling, at times touching, at times prosaic love letter, the likes of which no modern convention has ever quite seen or heard.” (The Washington Post)
On “Morning Joe” today, Mark Halperin felt it “never got a lot of momentum” going. On CNN’s “New Day,” Chris Cuomo broached the impact, if any, on Hillary’s significant negatives and the rampant mistrust towards her.
At Fox News, Tucker Carlson was plopped at a rather empty diner where he offered us scrambled eggs and sausage — and derision toward the Democrats’ organization of the convention.
As for TV coverage, Fox showed snippets of competitors Anderson Cooper, Chris Matthews, Tamron Hall and Mika Brzezinski extolling various elements, and by comparison downgrading last week’s Republican show in Cleveland. “Find the American who cares what Chris Matthews thinks and I will buy you breakfast,” said Carlson rather gratuitously. He said his children could offer better analysis than Fox’s rivals. Well, somebody’s job is likely secure in a post-Roger Ailes Fox.
John Dean on WikiLeaks revelations
In Slate, Franklin Foer writes, “What’s galling about the WikiLeaks dump is the way in which the organization has blurred the distinction between leaks and hacks. Leaks are an important tool of journalism and accountability. When an insider uncovers malfeasance, he brings information to the public in order to stop the wrongdoing. That’s not what happened here. The better analogy for these hacks is Watergate. To help win an election, the Russians broke into the virtual headquarters of the Democratic Party.” (Slate)
I took this notion to John Dean, the former White House Counsel for Richard Nixon, who obviously knows a little something about Watergate. “This makes the bungled Watergate break-in appear almost innocent and quaint. That Donald Trump is aiding and abetting…the Russians in their effort to undermine our presidential election reeks treason at worst and un-American at best.”
Keeping reporters at a distance
“Leaked emails show the Democratic National Committee scrambled this spring to conceal the details of a joint fundraising arrangement with Hillary Clinton that funneled money through state Democratic parties.” (Politico)
And while the DNC strove to claim that this money, raised via big-ticket events such as ones at George Clooney’s house and Radio City Music Hall (Katy Perry, Elton John), was helping down-ballot candidates, “Privately, officials at the DNC and on Clinton’s campaign worked to parry questions raised by reporters, as well as Sanders’ since-aborted campaign, about the distribution of the money, according to a cache of hacked emails made public late last week by WikiLeaks.”
Twitter’s growth stalls
“Twitter Inc reported its slowest revenue growth since going public in 2013 and set a disappointing forecast, fanning concerns that faster growing social media services will make it a niche product. The microblogging service operator’s shares fell 11 percent in extended trading to $16.40.” (Reuters)
Meanwhile, at the world’s most profitable company
“Apple’s earnings report for the quarter ended June 30 beat Wall Street’s expectations, sending the stock up about 7% after hours. Apple is still the most valuable company in the world, and earns more profit in a quarter than most other tech companies earn in a year.” (Business Insider) That would seem pretty good. “At the same time, Apple’s revenue has started shrinking. Its most important product, the iPhone, is shrinking. All its other business lines, save one, are shrinking. And the company hasn’t had a new hit product since (Tim) Cook took over” nearly five years ago.
A reporter’s contrition
Tim Kurkjian, a stellar baseball reporter for ESPN, found himself helping announce a recent Cubs game on ESPN. When asked by the play-by-play announcer whether he thought the team was going to make a trade, he disclosed his coincidental confirmation that it had indeed just made a trade with the Seattle Mariners. But he couldn’t answer the obvious question: Who got traded? He didn’t know. On Chicago radio yesterday, he conceded he’d gotten some grief for blurting out the half-news. And, he said, the criticism was correct. He shouldn’t have said anything unless he knew what had actually happened.
Dress like FLOTUS?
From Kate Bennett at The Political Edit: Michelle Obama on Monday night at the convention “wore a custom, blue Christian Siriano, so this is one of those times when you can’t dress like her exactly. (Rent the Runway has some similar.) The shoes were the J.Crew ‘Elsie’ metallic pumps, long ago sold out. Siriano, who won Project Runway in 2008, also designed the dress Obama wore to the Dallas police officers’ memorial two weeks ago. (Similar, again at RTR.)” Now this is news you can use!
A tussle with Rush
Blogging in The Washington Monthly, D.R. Tucker wrote the following: “Think about the sick stain and the loathsome legacy Limbaugh has left behind. Thanks to his poisoning of the Republican Party, America was unable to lead in a bipartisan fashion on such issues as health care reform, gun control and climate change. Considering the international implications of that last issue, it can be argued that Limbaugh largely prevented America from leading the rest of the world in transitioning expeditiously away from fossil fuels — a transition that could have spared countless lives over the past 28 years.” (The Washington Monthly)
Limbaugh’s on-air response: “So you understand that this clown is saying that because I prevented the Republican Party from acting in a bipartisan way to implement the Democrat agenda on climate change, that people have died.” (Rush Limbaugh)
Good morning, class
While I was interested in Michelle Obama’s dress, Poynter writing guru Roy Peter Clark was interested in why her words struck such a chord. He offers eight reasons. (Poynter)
My favorite: “Unlock your diction — your word hoard — to choose language most appropriate to your topic and mission. Michelle Obama’s words seem chosen as an antidote to what some have described as Donald Trump’s dystopian vision of America and the world. When he speaks, bats flap their wings in caves. When she speaks, little birds chirp and alight on her shoulders.”
The convention’s internet war
“The brutal primary competition between Clinton and Sanders exposed fractures in the Democratic Party, but you had to go online to see how deep those divisions went. Anger and antagonism have reverberated through the echo chambers of Twitter and Facebook for the past year. Now in Philadelphia, those divisions echoed across the convention hall for all to hear.” (Wired)
Yes, “political commentator Bill O’Reilly on Tuesday defended the working conditions for the slaves who built the White House, attempting to fact-check Michelle Obama’s speech from the night before. ‘Slaves that worked there were well-fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government, which stopped hiring slave labor in 1802,” he said. (Politico) Hmmmm. “Stonemason Collen Williamson trained enslaved people on the spot at the government’s quarry at Aquia, Virginia. Enslaved people quarried and cut the rough stone that was later dressed and laid by Scottish masons to erect the walls of the President’s House.” (White House Historical Association)