Good morning. Here’s our morning roundup of all the media news you need to know. Want to get this briefing in your inbox every morning? Subscribe here.
When it comes to Russian hacking and other subterfuge, the obvious and unavoidable media and political talk involves either the Clinton presidential campaign or the Trump White House.
As Bloomberg’s Michael Riley discloses, there’s more for the press to obsess with. The Russians are clearly adroit at multitasking, so your local YMCA, Jiffy Lube, Walmart or TV station had best watch out.
“Russian hackers are targeting U.S. progressive groups in a new wave of attacks, scouring…emails for embarrassing details and attempting to extract hush money, according to two people familiar with probes being conducted by the FBI and private security firms,” writes Riley.
When Bloomberg beckoned Riley to justifiably tout his tale on its drowsy TV channel Monday, he said, “It’s like something out of a crime novel.” But, notably, there’s no evidence it’s state-sanctioned — at least not yet.
He disclosed that the hackers have been asking for ransom — that’s right, ransom for emails they could still make public, regardless — for emails that, for one reason or another, a group just doesn’t want out.
The ransom requests? They’re in the area of $30,000 and upwards in bitcoin. In the annals of corporate extortion — or even that practiced by Al Capone and contemporaries — that would seem rather modest.
But, if successful, one can imagine they’re upping the ante — whoever “they” might be. Hackers famously hit Sony. Let’s see what happens if they try one of dozens of other media outlets that just might not want any laundry — clean or dirty — seeing the light of day.
But wait: If not Vladimir Putin and the government, who are these guys?
He writes, “Attribution is notoriously difficult in a computer attack. The hackers have used some of the techniques that security experts consider hallmarks of Cozy Bear, one of the Russian government groups identified as behind last year’s attack on the Democratic National Committee during the presidential election and which is under continuing investigation.”
Sean Spicer, the new Annie Leibovitz
After Trump’s weekend of wild tweets, one didn’t hear much from him Monday. That explains why no reporter or photographer was allowed into the Oval Office when he signed his new immigration executive order.
“Press Secretary Sean Spicer tweeted the below photo of the signing,” New York Times reporter Mark Landler told the press corps as he served as the day’s pool reporter. “Reminder that no press photographers or reporters were allowed to witness the signing.”
So a man who craves to have the media take photos of him didn’t beckon the press since he wanted to make sure nobody forced him to use his words and inside voice.
No wonder Tom Hanks sent a coffee machine
Hanks last week sent a new coffee machine to the White House press room to thank the folks there for what they do. And now:
“Steven Spielberg just said yes to direct Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in “The Post,” the spec script by Liz Hannah bought last fall by Amy Pascal’s Pascal Pictures. The deals are being negotiated. The film is a drama about The Washington Post’s role in exposing the Pentagon Papers in 1971, and how the Post’s editor, Ben Bradlee, and publisher, Kay Graham, challenged the federal government over their right to publish them.” (Deadline)
Problems with access
No surprise: The problems with access to Trump during his campaign and already during his West Wing tenure are going to be replicated elsewhere. Now, Wendy Benjaminson, the acting Washington bureau chief for the Associated Press, is putting together a bureau chiefs conference call Tuesday to discuss access problems with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other officials at the State Department.
One immediate problem: Tillerson’s going on a big trek to Asia, including South Korea, and not taking the press along, making the logistics of covering him labyrinthine, to put it mildly. It looks like he’s bringing the same candor to dealings with the media that he did to the subject of climate change when running ExxonMobil. Not.
Headline of Day
“IS UBER IN A DEATH SPIRAL?”
Writes The Verge, “Uber has been burning through capital, pissing off drivers, alienating riders, and generally wreaking havoc since its inception over six years ago.”
The journalism of grooming
“Axe turned 30 influencer dudes loose on Instagram hoping to get young men to use hair products: ‘Instagroom’ videos walk guys through hairstyling.” (Adweek)
Contorted but revealing
They don’t teach writing like this at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop!
“The destabilization of the live TV model continues to gnaw away at the primetime broadcast ratings like a school of piranha stripping the flesh off the bones of a luckless cow.” (Ad Age)
Piranha and luckless cows. All that’s missing is a Trump tweet on Arnold Schwarzenegger (or Bessie). In sum: “Not only will this be the fifth straight year in which ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox will fail to finish with an average of a 3.0 rating or better in the adults 18-49 demo, but there is a very real chance that all four will slip below a 2.0. So it goes.”
Behind North Korean missiles, our cyber war against them
William Broad and David Sanger did a knockout piece on the North Korean missile program and Obama administration attempts to undermine it via cyber sabotage. Sanger now takes readers behind the tale and how they go to it.
“The launches were failing too often,” writes Sanger.
Free speech and mattresses
“For reasons unknown, a federal judge has said the hell with free speech and steered the court into the First Amendment-troubling waters of prior restraint.” (Techdirt)
This involves a defamation lawsuit brought by “Purple Innovations, maker of a (purple) bed-in-a-box mattress, (which) is suing the Honest Mattress Reviews website, along with Ryan Monahan, former ‘Chief Brand Officer’ for Purple Innovations competitor, Ghostbed, and creator of the site.”
The basic problem? “Purple feels multiple posts at Honest Mattress Reviews have falsely disparaged the company and its products. All of the posts center on the white ‘powder’ Purple uses to coat its mattresses during packaging to prevent it from sticking to itself.”
Bedtime reading for the president
Well, it may be too much to ask him to actually read Susan Glasser’s interview with Dan Fried, the retiring and longest-serving State Department expert on Russia.
But Trump, who’s notorious for not reading, can listen to the related Politico podcast via Glasser, the former top editor both there and at Foreign Policy, who’s back in D.C. after a very brief tour of duty there for Peter Baker, her spouse who was asked by The New York Times to return to Washington after about five minutes in Israel to again cover the White House.
“Fried, known to his colleagues as an indefatigable negotiator and history buff, warned that the Russians are intent upon reconquering more former Soviet territory and won’t stop unless strongly countered by the U.S. ‘They are rapacious, because they want back as much of their empire as they can grab. And we need to resist that.'” (Politico)
Photographers and art
All those journalists with a camera obviously tend to be more art mavens than your run-of-the-mill reporter, correct? Hmmm. Not so, says PetaPixel:
“Instead of being more open to contemporary artwork than non-artists, photographers actually tend to be more dismissive.”
Grasping a word’s meaning
During last night’s very forgettable Chicago Bulls-Detroit Pistons game (man cannot subsist on an all-consuming cable news diet alone), announcers Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill and Will Perdue were discussing a new Bulls player and prompted Gill to reference his “janky” jump shot.
Later, they decided to look up just what that meant. “We thought we better check what the definition is,” said Schanowski, prompting producer Justin O’Neil to find this in the Urban Dictionary: “(adjective) inferior quality; held in low social regard; old and dilapidated; refers almost exclusively to inanimate material objects, not to people.”
Gill, a former player, said he actually got the word from a ball boy in New Jersey when he played with the Nets. “He said I was being janky with him. I didn’t really know the word was a real word.”
Well, as Henry Adams, a legendary and late English teacher at the all-boys Collegiate School in New York City would declare, thrusting a very arthritic hand in the air, “Never let a word go by without grasping its meaning!” Well, we now know janky.
Benjamin Wittes, a terrific legal affairs reporter who’s at The Brookings Institution, remarks on The New York’s Times “striking a note of befuddled agnosticism as to the tonal difference between the rollout of the original executive order on refugees and visas back in January and that of the revised one today.” He then writes in the Lawfare blog he co-founded:
“I suppose it would be wrong for a newspaper to declare in a news story the reason for Trump’s uncharacteristic modesty, which is obvious on even a cursory reading of the order: The new order is an embarrassing admission of error. It is a capitulation on countless points, large and small, to the so-called judges to whose carping the President so vigorously objected.” (Lawfare)
“No evidence from the White House,” says Scott Pelley on CBS. And, in a nice turn of phrase, “Since his inauguration, Mr. Trump has continually stamped rumors with the seal of the president.”
Lester Holt and crew couldn’t quite match that rhetorically, but their substantive thrust was similar: “The president’s spokespeople seemed to be trying to catch up with their boss and the source of his head-scratching allegation.”
And David Muir on ABC: “Tonight, more than 48 hours later, still no evidence from the White House to support the president’s claim.” And, this being ABC, there was “Urgent Manhunt”: “the manhunt at this hour, the man shot outside his home after allegedly being told, ‘Get out of our country'” and, yes, “Severe Storm Threat”: “Severe storms hitting…more than 20 million Americans, winds up to 60 miles per hour.” Once again, the apocalypse was imminent.
It was Obamacare for breakfast on the early shows, with “Fox & Friends” exulting in a Republican alternative finally surfacing and wondering, just as they did on CNN’s “New Day,” how much arm-twisting Trump will do with clearly recalcitrant Republicans.
“The problem here is that it is really complicated and a good example of ‘you broke it, you own it,” said CNN legal analyst Jeff Toobin. Co-host Chris Cuomo, who grew up in the minutiae of legislative politics, noted how it’s not “scored,” or evaluated for costs, by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” went heavy with the redrafted immigration ban — and a Brady Bunch-like screen with, yes, eight pundits and hosts boxed up before you at one point.
Back at Trump’s fave Fox show, there was derision of Ben Rhodes, a former top Obama aide, for defending his old (actually still boss) in the wiretapping-of-Trump controversy as Heat Street writer Joe Simonson underscored Obama’s uninspired free speech and leaks’ prosecution records.
And “Fox & Friends” leavened Obama-bashing with amiability to corporate America, celebrating the charity-driven “National Pancakes Day” at IHOP, with giants stacks arrayed before the three co-hosts. We await the imminent Trump tweet, perhaps taking credit for any drop in maple syrup prices.