- The media and the president
Even before President Obama started, the media was in high hyperbolic gear. “BREAKING NEWS: OBAMA CABINET ARRIVES,” declared CNN as a group of folks unknown to most viewers set a low bar for constituting “breaking news.” A few minutes into his address the network was already asking you to vote online about whether you “agreed with President Obama.” Why wait for most of the speech, or at least until House Speaker Paul Ryan, who resembled a dour undertaker, had smirked for the 50th time? No sooner had Obama boasted of adding 900,000 manufacturing jobs in six years than a Washington Post live blog assessed that it was true but that the national total remains “230,000 fewer than when Obama took office in the depths of the recession.” And there was unceasing tweeting by reporters, whether in the House chamber or not. Andrea Mitchell noted how he stuck it to Donald Trump without naming him. (@mitchellreports) Time’s Zeke Miller cited his comment on ISIS not threatening our existence (@ZekeJMiller), CNBC’s John Harwood noted the comment about going after terrorists when they come after us (@JohnJHarwood) and The Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim pointed out how the president’s call to make voting easier was of no apparent interest to Republicans who were seated before him in glum homogeneity. (@ryangrim) And on and on in this world where speed is paramount.
When it was over, analyses came quickly. He appeared “liberated” by not simply reciting a raft of legislative proposals. (The New York Times) But, wait, he “downplayed” the threat of ISIS. (Fox News) And Americans just “aren’t buying” his claims of level-headed foreign policy success. (POLITICO). Fair? No, it was “a wonky and cerebral — though no less heartfelt — plea for civics and a better politics.” (The Atlantic) Wait. It really was “a rare embrace of failure and humility” and admission that “breaking the founding promise of his political career,” namely bringing us all together, “will hurt him in the eyes of history.” (National Journal) And why didn’t he mention Iran’s detention of 10 U.S sailors (Bloomberg), as pundits assured us he most certainly would? Whew. Some of the most interesting post-address commentary came on MSNBC. First, Rachel Maddow noted that the official GOP response in Spanish was more accommodating on immigration in the actual Spanish than it was in the English translation given out. Second, former Republican Party chairman Michael Steele found that Gov. Nikki Haley’s formal GOP response was really the Empire (GOP Establishment) Striking Back at Donald Trump. On Fox you got a mismatch with Megyn Kelly pulverizing Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Florida congressman and lightweight Democratic National Committee head. When it was time to make a few bucks with an ad, Kelly cut her off, smiled and said it was great having her on again. Fox does like its liberal pinatas but likes its revenue just as much.
- You must be seated at a desk to read this one
The Daily Telegraph is removing boxes stuck on desks that monitored whether reporters and editors were there. (BuzzFeed) As an editor, I had generally thought many reporters weren’t doing their jobs if they were plunked down at their desk all day long, rather than being out somewhere getting a story or doing an interview. One unidentified Telegraph journalist said “Never before has taking a s— on company time felt so rebellious.”
- Philadelphia’s big move
So what about the two big Philly papers and Philly.com now being owned by a nonprofit and linked to a new institute all about improving journalism? Good idea? (Poynter) Bad idea? None of the above? David Boardman, head of Temple University’s media and communication school and a member of the new institute’s board, tells me, “It gives me tremendous hope. It really clearly defines this as a public trust in a way it never has been before. It protects (the media properties) from any rapacious forces that might want to take over the news organizations. And this institute, which becomes a grant making group, assuming it raises enough money, can become an important research and development center with (the properties) the laboratory. It gives them a longer runway,” meaning more room to move. Media analyst Ken Doctor underscores a raft of questions tied to the new corporate structure, the tangled recent history of ownership of Philadelphia media and the inherently low-profit essence of most local journalism. “Will the first-of-a-kind structure produce new, expansive and funded vision of community journalism?” Still, “It’s a vote of confidence in the value of local journalism. That is welcome, alongside other local investments by private owners in Boston, Minneapolis and Washington D.C. Consider it one more experiment to watch.”
- Losing an NFL team
The NFL announced the St. Louis Rams are coming to Los Angeles, so no surprise that papers were giving that better play online than the State of the Union late last evening. “What did one city do to deserve so much incompetence?” wondered columnist Jeff Gordon as he assessed the city’s football history. “Is St. Louis cursed as a football town? Is it time to move on from the gridiron and pursue something new, like Major League Soccer? (Post-Dispatch) Things were rather more upbeat in L.A and included word that a new stadium “would be open on the sides, allowing breezes to flow through the building and enhance the outdoor feel.” And given a “relocation fee” of $500 million for the NFL, there already is the smell of money in the air, breezes or not. (Los Angeles Times)
- Turning $80 million into $4 billion
Traditionally you’ve had to be a certifiable idiot not to make money off a local TV station. Now we learn that computer mogul Michael Dell, who is no idiot, has spent about $80 million buying little independent local TV stations. Get this: “He stands to make as much as $4 billion from a government effort to buy back those airwaves.” (The Wall Street Journal) His deals include spending “about $5 million for a Spanish-language broadcaster in Seattle and $7.25 million for a collection of Pittsburgh-area stations that aired a daily noon Mass from a local Catholic church and reruns of “Roseanne.” If Dell pulls this one off, praise the lord.
- Tough act to follow
After a nearly year-long process, The New York Times decided that Jim Ruttenberg, the Sunday magazine’s chief political writer, will succeed David Carr. (Poynter)
- Amazon hawks the State of the Union speech, too
Yup — it streamed the speech. I get Amazon Prime. Can I now get new de facto Cancer Research Czar Joe Biden delivered to a dinner party for free? (CNN)
- Why “Serial” is changing its frequency
Imagine: Editors and reporters agreeing that more, not less, time was necessary to produce quality these days! “In an unexpected development, the second season of ‘Serial,’ which is about Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, is moving to a biweekly broadcasting schedule.” Having heard most of the public radio-produced podcast during long drives with the family (not that my young kids were distracted from their Madden NFL Mobile fixation), I can attest it’s very good. But the fifth episode, which was initially slated for Thursday, will now be out there for the world on Jan. 21, with a biweekly schedule then continuing. Julie Snyder, an executive producer, “said in an interview Tuesday that a 14-day window between episodes was needed to accommodate additional reporting and a longer season than she anticipated.” (The New York Times)
- Charlie Rose’s big “get”
Where does Rose possibly start in an interview he’s snared with Sean Penn, the most recent graduate of the Mick Jagger School of Journalism (Geraldo is its most famous alum) and impassioned chronicler of the Mexican underworld? (Adweek) Oh, that’s obvious. Dumb me! “Sean, do you figure Matt Damon is a lock for Best Actor?”
- Job moves and Ben Mullin are off today and back on Thursday.