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.
Edward Bennett Williams, a legendary Washington trial attorney and pro sports owner, said the capital regularly needs to burn a witch.
It reflected his sense that ravenous spectacle was part of the culture. And he said it long before the coming of the internet and wickedly competitive cable news networks.
The press is now on the precipice of a TV-driven extravaganza with two witches, depending on your ideological bent: former FBI Director James Comey and President Trump.
It’s all Comey all the time among much of the press on the eve of the latest capital spectacle. It’s all imbued with what James Bowman, writing in the cerebral journal New Criterion, calls “the media’s self-serving presuppositions of scandal.”
Thursday’s Comey hearing will be prefaced by a warm-up act today with testimony by key intelligence chiefs to be broadcast by the major broadcast networks, not just cable. It’s also a reminder of an entertainment reality for major, national media:
“Every business needs a summer blockbuster and now Politics, Inc has theirs,” says Mike Murphy, the Republican consultant, droll TV analyst and Hollywood writer.
“Big business for the media biz across the operating segments: regular journos, talk radio and especially the lucrative chat for dollars racket on cable television.”
It’s big, too, for the political arms merchants, namely those “raising money on each side of the Trump trenches.”
But, says, Murphy “You cannot have art without commerce, I guess.”
But that doesn’t ensure the spectacle will be justified. Perhaps Comey doesn’t claim an obstruction of justice by Trump, while saying he never told Trump he wasn’t under investigation. It doesn’t mean that this will definitely “transcend theater,” as Daily Beast editor John Avlon asserted to an unusually animated co-host Chris Cuomo (playing hyper-caffeinated lawyer-devil’s advocate) on CNN’s “New Day” this morning.
There’s a long tradition of overhyped congressional hearings. And, as Hollywood knows, some planned blockbusters don’t quite pan out — perhaps even in the radically provocative early days of a Trump presidency.
Google shafts The Wall Street Journal
“After blocking Google users from reading free articles in February, the Wall Street Journal’s subscription business soared, with a fourfold increase in the rate of visitors converting into paying customers. But there was a trade-off: Traffic from Google plummeted 44 percent.” (Bloomberg)
“The reason: Google search results are based on an algorithm that scans the internet for free content. After the Journal’s free articles went behind a paywall, Google’s bot only saw the first few paragraphs and started ranking them lower, limiting the Journal’s viewership.”
Headline of day
As parents of technology-obsessed children might attest, it seems like a logical extension of their parenting anxieties:
“Harvard withdraws 10 acceptances for ‘offensive’ memes in private group chat.” (Washington Post)
According to the Harvard Crimson, “Students sent each other memes and other images mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children, according to screenshots of the chat obtained by The Crimson. Some of the messages joked that abusing children was sexually arousing, while others had punchlines directed at specific ethnic or racial groups. One called the hypothetical hanging of a Mexican child ‘piñata time.’”
Michael Jordan vs. Golden State
It was a perfect sports radio topic yesterday. B.J Armstrong, a member of the first three of six Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls championship team, suggesting that the Bulls couldn’t handle the Warriors if a time machine matched them up. (CBS)
What does David Axelrod, CNN analyst and Bulls season ticket-holder, think?
“It would be interesting. Jordan, (Scottie) Pippen and (Dennis) Rodman were three of the greatest defenders in history. And Michael’s unyielding will was an X-factor six finals rivals couldn’t overcome. Bulls in six.”
The morning babble
“Fox & Friends” prepared for “Comey Thursday” by conceding there might be some challenges to President Trump and wondering if he’s going to live tweet during the testimony. “His legal team doesn’t want him to live tweet,” said Brian Kilmeade.
On CNN’s “New Day,” Maggie Haberman of The New York Times previewed both intelligence chiefs’ testimony today and Comey’s tomorrow. “I don’t know if anything of this will impact the investigation” on Russia but probably Trump’s own (rather low) credibility, she said.
On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Mike Barnicle suggested the “underlying theme is where is the courage on the part of the Republicans?” Will they see to get to the truth with Comey or defend him via White House talking points?
First Amendment right to avoid tweets being blocked?
Writes The New York Times’ Charlie Savage: “Lawyers for Twitter users blocked by President Trump after they criticized or mocked him are asking him to reverse the moves, arguing that the Constitution bars him from blocking people on the social media service.”
“The request raises novel legal issues stemming from Mr. Trump’s use of his Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, to make statements about public policy. In a letter sent to Mr. Trump on Tuesday, lawyers for several users he has blocked argued that his account was a ‘public forum’ from which the government may not constitutionally exclude people because it disagrees with views they have expressed.” (New York Times)
First Amendment right to record a school day?
The Portland, Maine Press Herald reports on the trial of a couple suing a school district to let their 17-year-old disabled son carry a recording device (he’s got autism and a rare neurological disorder that leaves him largely unable to process language).
The district says carrying a device would threaten the confidentiality of teachers and other students since their voices would be picked up.
“The national American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Maine, both of which are supporting the claim, say they don’t know of any other case that has asserted a First Amendment right to record a school day.” The trial in federal court in Portland began Tuesday. (Press Herald)
Getting down and glossy in Kabul
“KABUL, Afghanistan — Abortion, birth control, breast-cancer checkups and Tinder dating aren’t topics one typically finds in Afghan media. But a small group of Kabul University students have changed that with the launch of a monthly women’s magazine, Gellara.” (Fox News)
A very challenging podcast
Check out the preview for Ear Hustle, a podcast via Raditopia about life at San Quentin State Prison outside San Francisco. It premieres June 14 and faces “some challenges most journalists don’t often encounter.” (Poynter)
“Jailhouse rules can turn even the simplest tasks into weeks-long ordeals.” After Nigel Poor, a visual artist who volunteers at the prison, bought recording equipment for the show, “installing it in the prison media lab took four months. Every episode is reviewed by Lt. Sam Robinson, San Quentin’s public information officer, who has to sign off before they air.”
And, “The unpredictability of prison life also make for difficult reporting circumstances. Midway through an episode about cellmates, for example, a subject’s cellmate was released from prison. Another episode about a prison party planner was interrupted when the subject was paroled. Solitary confinement could present another challenge.”
As lots of media struggle…
Consider this: Pinterest, the internet photo sharing service, just “raised $150 million in venture funding from a group of existing investors at the same share price as two years ago as growth at the closely held company fails to keep pace with internet rivals.” (Bloomberg)
Nevertheless, its new valuation is $12.3 billion.
Useless internet sites
“Fidgetspin is a one-trick site, designed around a fad likely to fade into obscurity before the year’s end. It lets visitors spin a virtual fidget spinner. No more, no less. Similar to sites like chihuahuaspin, tacospin or leekspin, its enjoyment is brief, dependent on your discovery, and likely to disappear from your brain the second you click away.” (The Verge)
The Fahrenthold modus operandi
The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold, whose use of social media was one of many reasons he won a Pulitzer Prize for 2016 campaign reporting, is at it again, now with Eric Trump.
Last night he tweeted, “Here’s the last question I sent @EricTrump. Will let you know when I hear back.” The question:
“Were there instances when the Eric Trump Foundation ‘did’ pay the Trump Organization for services rendered — the use of a Trump golf course, etc. — but only paid the cost of those services, but no extra profit added on top?”
His query was prompted by a new Forbes investigation into Eric Trump’s annual golf invitational, which revealed the fundraiser isn’t as pure as previously believed. (Forbes)
The unseemly, yet apparently alluring world of Uber
“Uber has fired more than 20 people over harassment probe.” (TechCrunch)
Meanwhile, “last week, there was a ripple of news when Axios discovered that Bozoma Saint John — one of the more noticeable execs at the company for being a woman of color, who led an Apple Music demo at the previous year’s WWDC to some acclaim — was leaving Apple. Now TechCrunch has learned where she’s landing: she’s going to Uber.” (TechCrunch)
Beware of what you wish for
A world with a President Trump and, instead, Hoosier Mike Pence?
“INDIANAPOLIS — Following the lead of Missouri, Oklahoma, and Georgia, the Indiana legislature Tuesday passed ‘HB 1679: Prohibiting sexual intercourse of an excessively pleasurable nature,’ officially becoming the fourth state in the country to outlaw great sex.”
The decline in national bureaus must explain why this was left to The Onion.