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.
Imagine the reporters who must cover daily a bombastic New Yorker who has inherited a fortune, exudes a sense of entitlement, disdains much of the press, trafficks in half-truths, has overseen properties in huge disrepair, routinely overrules underlings, disdains public norms and infuriated huge numbers of women.
Yes, imagine covering James Dolan and the New York Knicks.
If you want to exit the James S. Brady Briefing Room at the White House and trade government craziness for sports craziness, Madison Square Garden and Dolan are the place, as the likes of Michael Powell and Sam Smith can attest.
Powell is a New York Times sports columnist and Smith is a onetime Washington reporter-turned-NBA writer, author of a great book on Michael Jordan (“The Jordan Rules”) and now with the Chicago Bulls website.
The Knicks, who are my team as a native New Yorker, are a disaster symbolized by a crazy scene last week in which revered former player Charles Oakley vented at Dolan and was handcuffed and escorted out of the Garden.
Dolan has some Vladimir Putin and Trump in him and tried to spin his way out of the public relations debacle. That included producing statements by unidentified Garden employees who came to his defense but whom he would not make available to the press for independent corroboration.
As Powell put things in a subsequent piece: “The team of my youth lets go of seasons like a lobsterman tossing underweight crustaceans back into the Gulf of Maine. I mean the entire Kremlin by Seventh Avenue apparatus run by the glowering James L. Dolan.”
The team is totally dysfunctional, an amalgam of overpaid, over-the-hill players, a team president who feuds with his star player on Twitter and the ever-publicly reviled owner, Dolan.
The handling of the press after the Oakley incident was typical and revealing. Statements and video of unidentified employees who shill for you? At least we know it’s Kellyanne Conway when she’s on our TV screens, whatever mess she’s cleaning up or herself making.
Powell has been around the block, including writing a metro column and covering a presidential campaign. He believes that the best way to deal with a bully is to say no, especially when reporting on that person.
“If you tell people no, they will go away and that will be the end of it. Or they will come back and try to figure how to get you a person on the phone.”
He also notes, as do others, that being spurned by Dolan and minions doesn’t stop some reporters, including Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, who’s lauded by friends and competitors for tough coverage not predicated on official access. (New York Daily News)
It’s a lesson that a few Washington reporters, who crave official access, might heed: Punch a guy fair and square in the nose and you will earn more respect ultimately than by sucking up.
Of course, almost whatever your write about Trump these days is front-page news. Covering a terrible NBA team whose misfit makeup shows every night? In most cities, that’s a drag but, come to think of it, not New York.
“The team is not good,” says Smith, who covered Oakley and Knicks presidentPhil Jackson, when he was the admired Bulls coach during the Jordan era.
But, “When something like this comes along, they (the New York press) are practically celebrating. This is feeding the beast. Oakley, a physical confrontation, the police involved, an owner they hate, an organization they are antagonistic toward. ‘We have witnesses but can’t talk to you!'”
And it’s got its own casting possibilities. Maybe James Cromwell or F. Murray Abraham as Jackson and Rosie O’Donnell as Dolan. She can do Dolan and Steve Bannon.
Politics, culture and sports are now one big stew.
How Verizon may save $250 million in a Yahoo deal
“Verizon Communications Inc. is close to a renegotiated deal for Yahoo! Inc.’s internet properties that would reduce the price of the $4.8 billion agreement by about $250 million after the revelation of security breaches at the web company, according to people familiar with the matter.” (Bloomberg)
“U.S. intelligence officials have withheld sensitive intelligence from President Donald Trump because they are concerned it could be leaked or compromised, according to current and former officials familiar with the matter.” (The Wall Street Journal)
This was by reporters Shane Harris and Carole Lee. The latter covers the White House, the former is a national security expert whom the Journal hired after a few stops elsewhere, including The Daily Beast. He’s the author of “The Watchers: The Rise of America’s Surveillance State” and “@War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex.”
Another union gain
There’s a drip, drip, drip element on ongoing union organizing in the digital sector after decades in which inroads among a younger (especially white-collar) generation seemed close to impossible.
On the heels of a victory the day before at MTV News, the Writers Guild of America, East has an early victory about an editorial staff of 70 at Thrillist, a digital publication on entertainment, food and culture.
That group has decided to be represented by the union. So the next step would be sitting down with management to bargain a first contract.
The morning babble
“Fox & Friends” is aghast over not actions by the Trump behavior but by the leaks. “The intel community is supposed to tell him everything…He is so sick of this,” said Ainsley Earhardt, who’s been in especially (and predictable) high dudgeon of late. As far as the failed nomination of Trump’s Labor Department pick, it was less about how Trump totally botched it than all the great choices he’s now got.
CNN “New Day” co-host Chris Cuomo and the Washington Examiner’s David Drucker wondered why Trump doesn’t go harder on Russian saber rattling. Still, notice how knowledge of the substance of Michael Flynn-Russia contacts remains preciously thin. Meanwhile, CNN also had Nic Robertson in Bonn, Germany for the first Rex Tillerson talks with his Russian counterpart.
“I spoke to quite a few senators the other day,” said “Morning Joe’s” Joe Scarborough, who has a very hard time avoiding the autobiographical. Per Scarborough, they said “we’re here, shoulder to shoulder, our duty is to the constitution of the United States.” And he finds some House Republicans “shameful” after cheering leaks about Hillary Clinton but now wanting a “witch hunt” and “McCarthy-like purge.”
From Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald
The former New York Times staffer writes, “As part of intelligence operations being conducted against the United States for the last seven months, at least one Western European ally intercepted a series of communications before the inauguration between advisers associated with President Donald Trump and Russian government officials, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.” (Newsweek)
An opinion editor’s unequivocal opinion
James Downie, The Washington Post’s digital opinions editor, weighs in with one of his own, blistering FBI Director James Comey for his actions in both the Hillary Clinton emails case and in apparently justifying not telling Mike Pence that Michael Flynn had lied to him about Russian contacts. He supposed said the FBI wasn’t a “truth police.”
“This is, to put it politely, utter garbage. Comey believed that the entire country needed to know that a presidential candidate might be connected to information on a laptop that she didn’t own, but the vice president did not need to be told privately that a key presidential adviser was definitely lying about his relationship with a foreign government. The inconsistency leaves one speechless.” (The Washington Post)
On the set of “Veep”
“On the Los Angeles set of ‘Veep,’ the HBO parody series with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, writers and cast members rush to learn the latest news between takes. ‘Everyone’s on their phone,’ said Frank Rich, the liberal columnist, who is an executive producer of the series.'” (The New York Times)
Quote of day
“‘There is this sense of urgency and energy that I feel now that reminds me of being 29 and in a very different situation: In the middle of a revolutionary situation in Russia,’ said David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, who was a correspondent for The Washington Post in Moscow during the collapse of the Soviet Union. ‘I’m not saying it’s a revolution now. But there is this uncertainty about what is happening minute to minute, day to day.'” (The New York Times)
For sure, that applies to coverage of the White House (can you imagine the torpor that Hillary Clinton and her aides-de-camp might have inspired other than at Fox News Channel?) Were only that same urgency and energy found in coverage of government at other levels, where increasingly one finds doubt, languor and a lack of resources.
Check the urgency at the San Diego Union-Tribune, which was hit by layoffs yesterday. (Poynter) If alacrity exists, it may involve the writing of resumes.
Annals of social media
“London Dungeon has apologized after a series of social media posts promoting the attraction on Valentine’s Day were branded as sexist and misogynistic.”
Huh? “The tourist attraction’s official Twitter and Facebook accounts posted a series of images as part of a ‘Dark Valentine’ campaign. On Wednesday, it deleted all the posts after a backlash on social media.”
And the problem was exactly what? “One post, which was deleted before the others came down, read: ‘What’s the difference between your job and a dead prostitute? Your job still sucks!’” (The Guardian)
Local news you can use
“United Airlines says it is not responsible for death of Oregon woman’s dog” (The Oregonian)
A consortium of student groups wanted the University of Chicago to rescind a speaking invitation to former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. “Around 150 people gathered near the center of the University of Chicago’s Hyde Park campus to protest” the appearance before a students-only private gathering. (NBC Chicago) That was it. Free speech won.
Trump and Russia (cont.)
I met K.B. Forbes long ago when he was spokesman for Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaign. Fast forward and he’s now executive director of the Consejo de Latinos Unidos (CDLU), a consumer advocacy group based in Birmingham, Alabama, and doing a little bit of journalism of his own.
In particular, he informed that his group wants Attorney General Jeff Sessions, until recently an Alabama senator, to recuse himself from any investigations of the Trump Administration and collusion with the Russians.
It notes that when Sessions endorsed then-candidate Trump at a Madison, Alabama rally, the initial venue was Black Hall Aerospace, a Russian-backed subsidiary of a company that produces “Russian-made helicopter operations, training, and maintenance services.” The locale was changed due to a big turnout. Ah, OK. What more you got?
Yes. Says Forbes: “Jeff Sessions’ number two donor as U.S. Senator was the law firm Balch & Bingham, whose top Washington, D.C. lobbyist represented Black Hall Aerospace, the Russian-backed company and who in the lobbyist’s own words said he worked to ‘change specific provisions to sanctions imposed by the U.S. Government against certain Russian companies.'”
Sporting tradition spurned
Trump will not sit down with ESPN’s Andy Katz, as Barack Obama often did, to fill out a “March Madness” bracket. (The Washington Post) Must be scared of leaks.
Behind the big story
Knock on wood for handy and substantive Vox stories about key questions behind the news:
Q: What are Trump’s advisors accused of doing?
A: Violating the Logan Act, which states that American civilians must wait until after they take political office to commit treason.
Q: Are Trump and Putin friends?
A: Psychologists believe that while sociopaths can seem friendly with one another, they’re unable to form the type of bond required for meaningful relationships.
Vox is changing journalism. Except, hold it, this is from The Onion.