January 9, 2017

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The New York Times reported, “Facebook is turning to a former television news journalist to help smooth over its strained ties to the news media, which views it as both a vital partner and a potentially devastating opponent.”

It mentioned, almost in passing, “In recent years, Ms. Brown has emerged as a major player in the pitched political battles over charter schools, prominently clashing with teachers’ unions while coming out against teachers’ tenure.” (The New York Times)

To put it mildly.

But, at least, it mentioned something, as opposed to Recode, a vibrant bastion of the digital world. “Facebook has hired Campbell Brown, a former anchor for both CNN and NBC, to a newly created Head of News Partnerships position in the hope that Brown can serve as a liaison between the social giant and the myriad of publishers that use it for distribution.” (Recode)

And as opposed to Adweek, whose TVNewser noted merely, “Brown will step aside from her editorial role on The 74, a digital news organization focused on education, which she co-founded in 2014. She will remain on the board.” (Adweek) That was it.

Well, The Times’ reference to the “pitched battles over charter schools” might have been rephrased “pitched battles over teacher job protections,” assuming somebody knew their stuff about the education field. There might have been mention of her working with aggressive philanthropists, like activist investor Dan Loeb, to spearhead a lawsuit aimed at rewriting New York’s teacher tenure laws (copycat to a similar one in California that was recently overturned).

The nonprofit she helped start was supported by the same cohort of activist philanthropists who supported Brown’s crusade against teacher job protections. Like ThinkProgress on the left or The Weekly Standard on the right, it promoted a specific advocacy agenda. But unlike those news organizations, her news startup promoted its agenda under the banner of nonpartisan and unbiased journalism.

For many in the education field, that was quite hard to square with what the new group was delivering; all the more so when she hosted a Republican presidential primary debate sponsored solely by the country’s foremost group promoting vouchers, the American Federation for Children, and hosted by her then-new website, the Seventy Four. (Slate) Theirs was a divisive policy position (on charters) with arguably no really strong evidence of success.

It was akin to Exxon or the National Resources Defense Council acting as sole sponsor of a debate on the environment.

Then, of late, she said she’d recuse herself from coverage of Betsy DeVos, the moneybags Michigan pro-charter nominee for Education Secretary. (Politico) But she also produced a flattering endorsement of DeVos. (74)

Might she be a great choice by Facebook? Perhaps. We’ll see. There might just be a credibility challenge in her dealing with media organizations.

At minimum, a lack of context in reporting the announcement surely left most Times readers in the lurch as to why the choice of the former CNN and NBC reporter really is notable. A few more paragraphs of background were called for.

But how many newsrooms are willing to routinely resist the impulse to do something quick, perhaps for the sake of, well, doing something quick and eliciting a few quick clicks. Rewriting runs amok in the digital universe.

As for the tech and TV press, they were worse. The tale was simply about Facebook hiring a former TV star. As far as what Facebook might really be thinking, the best try, if deeply imbued with speculation, was in Slate.

Meryl Streep on the press

Hollywood lives and dies by the press even as it generally disdains it, which is akin to the millions of regular Americans who deride the lefty politics of Hollywood and then consume supermarket tabloids about those craven lefties.

So it was welcome if ironic to hear Meryl Streep bring the audience at the Golden Globes to its feet with a homage to the media after a shot at Donald Trump for making fun of a disabled New York Times reporter. “This instinct to humiliate…filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

The press? “We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call them on the carpet for every outrage. That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in our Constitution.” She ended with a call of support for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Axios’ opening day

Jim VandeHei’s new “political and business news-focused outlet — which kicks off Monday with a slate of newsletter offerings and will launch in full Jan. 18 — is beginning with the premise that banner ads and long-form native advertising don’t work.” (The Wall Street Journal)

“In its place, Axios will only offer advertisers a type of short-form branded content. It will fit all on one screen and will lie more naturally within its editorial concept of providing readers bite-size bits of hard news and information.”

And here’s partner Mike Allen’s first column.

New Gallup survey

I plan to formally request Gallup, Inc. to poll American journalists to learn how many did not feel compelled to exhibit their abiding link to popular culture by tweeting throughout the Golden Globes last night.

The threefold premise again appeared to be that: Their followers don’t have televisions; the journalists need to remind one and all that they watch “Game of Thrones”; that they sit at desks in New York, Washington and Los Angeles but are affixed surgically to the pulse of America (excluding how the country may vote for Trump in a presidential election).

Championship warmup

With the big Alabama-Clemson game tonight, check Bloomberg’s tale, “College football’s top teams are built on crippling debt: Football’s critics often point to multimillion-dollar coaching salaries. They should be more worried about debt, which costs more and lasts longer.” (Bloomberg)

Video of day

Israeli filmmaker Ynon Lan once toured New York City and produced a stop-motion film out of 330 photographs, “Still NYC.” He returned to produce a film composed of over 600 photos, as well as videos from all around the Big Apple. Lan’s newest installment is winding and fast-paced, and perfectly represents the city.” (The Atlantic)

“The next phase of the internet”

Olaf Carlson-Wee, who started a huge fund that invests only in blockchain-based assets, writes, “Blockchain technology is quickly expanding beyond bitcoin. While many proponents of bitcoin see the blockchain as no more than competition for existing payment methods or gold, I believe blockchain technology is the harbinger of things the world has never before seen.” (TechCrunch)

Cleveland.com blog’s instant impact

Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Daniel Neides made a mark with a Friday blog post that included anti-vaccine rhetoric. (Cleveland.com) There’s responsibly provocative, then there’s stupidly provocative.

“A Cleveland Clinic doctor who wrote a column laced with anti-vaccine rhetoric appeared to retract his commentary Sunday but will face disciplinary action for publishing it without authorization, the health system said.” (STAT)

Cartoonists post-Charlie Hebdo

“It is hard to say whether cartoonists are more exposed since the attack that killed 12 people at Charlie Hebdo in Paris on 7 January 2015. But they continue to be subjected to political, religious and economic pressure, to censorship, dismissal, death threats, judicial harassment, violence and, in the worst cases, even murder. As a profession, they are clearly threatened.” (Reporters Without Borders)

As Sears and Macy’s go kaput, so does newspaper advertising

There was lot of bad news last week as online purchasing creamed traditional brick-and-mortar outlets. But the media ramifications seem to go unmentioned.

Jan Rogers Kniffen, a top retail analyst tells me, “When I was (senior vice president of) finance and treasurer of the May Department Stores Company (I was the guy who bought Marshall Field’s from Target), we were the largest newspaper advertiser in the U.S.”

“When we (I did the deal) sold out to Macy’s in October of 2005, and Macy’s began moving to one uniform name so that they could do national advertising instead of local advertising, I think it was described as the single biggest hit to local newspaper advertising revenues ever.”

“So, the trend away from local newspapers to national advertising has been going on for a long time. And, the trend away from print to digital has been going on for quite a while now as well, and it is just accelerating. So, as more Sears, Kmarts, and Macys close, it will not be the ’cause’ of the decline, but it could well be the death knell.”

For example, Macy’s plans to yank a ton of its so-called R.O.P. (run of paper) advertising from newspapers this year, according to a source who knows the impact at Tronc, formerly Tribune Publishing.

Twitter account suspended

“Entrepreneur-pharmaceutical executive ‘Martin Shkreli’s Twitter account was suspended sometime early Sunday afternoon following a period of targeted harassment against freelance reporter Lauren Duca.'”

“Duca has been in the news a lot lately after penning the essay ‘Trump is Gaslighting America’ for Teen Vogue. In light of the piece’s popularity, she was invited to make several television appearances, including a face-off with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. That clip went viral due to Carlson’s statement that Duca should stop talking about politics and ‘stick to thigh-high boots.’ Following her media appearances, Shkreli, a professed Trump supporter, has decided to troll her.”

Criticizing the press for criticizing the press

A CNN story last week provided the mea culpa campaign post-mortems of more than 20 political reporters and pundits for missing the boat on Donald Trump. (CNN) Now the conservative site Lifezette argues, “The story is yet more evidence the media is putting on a show of introspection to cover their rear, because the mainstream media should have done a better job of covering the presidential horse race. It was close from the beginning of the general election, and Trump’s sweeping victories in most primary states should have signaled that information to reporters and pundits.”

“Yet despite the thin veneer of self-awareness, the media continues, in many ways increasingly, to ignore the lessons of 2016 and peg Trump’s victory entirely to the notion of Russian interference.” (LifeZette)

“Entirely?” No, not the case. There have been many analyses by many bright journalists that very quickly pointed to a multiplicity factors without even alluding to Vladimir Putin. They included The New York Times’ erudite weekly columnist Tom Edsall, who quickly focused on the many-layered and deep disillusion with the Democrats of white-working class voters. (The New York Times)

Tweet of the day

Conservative pundit John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary magazine: “One major purpose of ethics vetting on noms is to spare the White House embarrassment. But if you have a WH that can’t be embarrassed…” (@jpodhoretz)

Oldies but goodies

The Los Angeles Times’ “Top sports news for Jan. 7” email newsletter heralded work by columnists Bill Plaschke, Sam Farmer, Helene Elliott and Chris Erskine, with the most recent of those promoted having been written on May 23. My personal favorite of those highlighted was Erskine’s, “Two fans beat Dodgers traffic by walking to the game — 22 miles from Sherman Oaks — May 18, 2016.”

They could have walked to Miami by the time Saturday’s newsletter was out.

The new media world

TMZ disclosed video of Friday’s Ft. Lauderdale Airport shooter casually pulling his gun and killing people. “We are only showing the seconds leading up to the first shots fired and the panic that ensued.” (TMZ) It didn’t appear to be the security video but local officials are investigating how they got it. (Sun-Sentinel)

Deval Patrick on Sessions

It got precious little attention outside Boston. But former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is no ideologue, sent a very understated but troubling letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the actions of Sen. Jeff Sessions, the nominee to be Attorney General, when he brought voter fraud charges against three Black civil rights leaders. At the time Patrick was a 28-year-old Harvard-trained attorney (from a very poor Chicago background) with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Some stories travel. This didn’t but is worth a look. (Boston Globe)

Knock on wood for C-SPAN

The Washington Post’s Dan Balz, writing about the Republicans’ intentional scheduling of simultaneous Trump Cabinet confirmation hearings Tuesday and Friday, fretted that there “won’t be enough television screens to accommodate them all.”

“Not to worry, @danbalz — C-SPAN has you covered…” tweeted Howard Mortman of C-SPAN. A combo of C-SPAN’s channels and website will have them all covered, including the five set by the GOP bosses for Wednesday.

The morning bubble

“Fox & Friends” dumped on Sen. Elizabeth Warren for trying to hold off on Cabinet nomination hearings. “There’s no scandal here, it’s all procedural,” said a co-host, channeling the Sunday talk show views of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. And, for tavern wagers, be informed that nominated has “answered 2,604 questions during practice sessions.”

MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” went right to Russian hacking and the “few details in intel report,” though clearly buying the notion that an anti-Clinton thrust by Vladimir Putin was central.

CNN’s “New Day” went on a similar Russian jag, with Errol Louis arguing that Trump won’t fully acknowledge any real Russian impact precisely because it diminishes his election victory. And they brought up Meryl Streep’s shot at Trump during the Golden Globes, which elicited a defense in a brief phone interview with The New York Times in which he reiterated one of his big campaign whoppers, namely that he didn’t mock disabled Times reporter, Serge F. Kovaleski.

And this programming note: CNN’s Chris Cuomo does a town hall tonight with Bernie Sanders less than a week after brother Andrew, New York’s governor, did same with Sanders in touting a free college tuition plan. (Daily News)

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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