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Kurtz concedes a 'significant setback'
Howard Kurtz, the chief media reporter for Fox News Channel, could have dispensed with the Nathan Detroit "Guys and Dolls" striped suit on his Sunday morning "Media Buzz" show. Given the unavoidable need to mention his employer's latest embarrassment, he might have worn a bright yellow hazmat suit.
In an age of media concentration, reporters can easily fumble in covering their own companies. So much to chronicle, so much to avoid. They may do it at times, and with candor, but it's easy to take a pass on stories. You learn how far you can go, and what tone to take, and not endanger that next contract.
Still, pass plaudits to Kurtz, who had the same job at CNN and is better cast as a media observer than the political pundit he so yearns to be. On Sunday his second segment involved The New York Times expose of disgraced Bill O'Reilly's $32 million sexual harassment settlement with a longtime Fox contributor — and what we also learn is the arrogance of a knowing Fox having then signed O'Reilly to a new $25-million-a-year contract.
His conduit for underscoring the obvious about an awful Fox development was Matt Belloni, editor of The Hollywood Reporter. Kurtz noted The Times story (which O'Reilly badmouthed as part of some plot to undermine his professional prospects) and, with a mournful look that suggested a death in the family, the host said to guest, "It does not look good, does it?" Ah, well, um, eh, no, it didn't.
The provocative, arguably ignominious thrust of The Times piece was repeated: that Fox was engaged in astonishing wishful thinking in believing it could re-sign and still rely on its cable superstar despite the private O'Reilly settlement.
And after bidding Belloni farewell, Kurtz concluded the segment:
"21st Century Fox has been trying to move on from this mess, hiring a bunch of new female executives and on-air hosts, among other steps. But this is a significant setback for Fox, there is no question about it. It's embarrassing, it's disappointing that O'Reilly was given a new contract under these circumstances."
"I hope it doesn't impede the progress the company has been trying to make, which in the end the company did fire its biggest moneymakers," he said, using the plural to presumably allude to both O'Reilly and his longtime boss, Roger Ailes.
Any jumbled syntax aside, it was a needed and solid, if nowhere near assured, riff on an unseemly reality in a veteran reporter's own workplace.
Meanwhile, here's Ailes biographer Gabriel Sherman discussing Ailes' influence on media and politics during a Slate podcast.
Trump and the JFK Assassination
President Donald Trump tweeted that he'll release a final batch of thousands of classified government documents related to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It's legally mandated that they go public by Oct. 26, as LawNewz lays out, unless some new case can be made to still keep some under wraps.
It seems absurd to not reveal everything. But, wait, could there be justification?
Well, I talked to some very level-headed folks in the government over the weekend. They noted that there are documents they feel were justifiably not released in the late 1990s, when this all last arose, and agreed that relevant agencies can still make a solid case that certain sensitivities outweigh public interest.
Some appeals are being made to Trump, partly turning on assertions that release of some of the outstanding records could compromise current intelligence methods and still-living sources (the notion that everybody relevant is dead is hogwash). Some of the disputed information is fairly recent (1990s), they say, while some is from a 1970s congressional investigation. Another category involves current foreign relations concerns.
Yes, yes, one source underscored, most of what's at play here is more than 50 years old. But, in case one thinks this is inherently wayward, he notes, be informed that the FBI routinely redacts its confidential informant names for 100 years and the government doesn't release personal information of living citizens.
And, even if Trump does say "release it all," the government will not release all. For example, Lee Harvey Oswald tax records, grand jury information and some other stuff (autopsy photos, for example) won't go public on the 26th.
Roots of the opioid epidemic
You've got to read this in The New Yorker:
"The Brooklyn-born brothers Arthur, Mortimer, and Raymond Sackler, all physicians, donated lavishly during their lifetimes to an astounding range of institutions, many of which today bear the family name: the Sackler Gallery, in Washington; the Sackler Museum, at Harvard; the Sackler Center for Arts Education, at the Guggenheim; the Sackler Wing at the Louvre; and Sackler institutes and facilities at Columbia, Oxford, and a dozen other universities. The Sacklers have endowed professorships and underwritten medical research. The art scholar Thomas Lawton once likened the eldest brother, Arthur, to 'a modern Medici.' Before Arthur’s death, in 1987, he advised his children, 'Leave the world a better place than when you entered it.'"
They always loved discussing art, not so much the source of their riches, namely privately held Purdue Pharma, which developed OxyContin. One opioid expert argues that the current crisis nationwide has everything to do with a shift in the culture of prescribing — one that was essentially stage-managed by Purdue. "'If you look at the prescribing trends for all the different opioids, it’s in 1996 that prescribing really takes off," says Andrew Kolodny of Brandeis University. "It’s not a coincidence. That was the year Purdue launched a multifaceted campaign that misinformed the medical community about the risks."
The Washington Post website and the company's Arc Publishing were big winners at the North American Digital Media Awards. Other winners included The New York Times, Toronto's Globe and Mail, NBC Universal, the Alabama Media Group, and Splinter.
Google's CEO killing 'em with charm
A Bloomberg Businessweek profile of Google CEO Sundar Pichai notes how "In Pichai’s office, conversation turns to the tech industry’s role in the proliferation of fake news. For example, on the day of the mass murder in Las Vegas, as reports came in that 58 people were killed and hundreds injured, prominent news headlines on Google and Facebook falsely pegged the killer as a Democratic opponent of Donald Trump. Discussing the issue, Pichai deploys the vocabulary of an apologetic CEO that’s become de rigueur in Silicon Valley since last November. He says the word 'thoughtful' 13 times and 'deeply' (feeling, listening, engaging … ) six times, and proclaims the need to 'do better' five times."
"Page and Brin, Google’s founders, could often come off as Vulcans — cold-hearted calculators who used an engineering mindset to approach the world’s problems. Pichai, though, has the empathy and introspection of Captain Picard (and the beard of Commander Riker). In fact, his likability may be Google’s best weapon in its mounting political and business fights."
And now the five-day forecast …
Oops. WCJB-TV in Gainesville, Florida, was apparently hacked and was tweeting out porn on its website.
The Tide rolls at the Birmingham News
Well, they do like their college football in Birmingham, Ala. So it was perhaps no giant surprise that even by late yesterday, the News' AL.com website had at least 13 stories about Saturday's University of Alabama football win over Tennessee, including (for good chunks of Sunday) actually leading with photos of fans lighting up cigars in celebration. And there was a second story on players lighting up and happily "paying no mind to the tobacco-free campus rules …"
Andy Borowitz on Sarah Huckabee Sanders/John Kelly
"White House Says It Is Unpatriotic to Offer Irrefutable Video Evidence That a General Lied"
How a mayoral race changed Boston
A series on Boston's summer of 1967 concludes in early fall with a good Globe look at the mayoral race that pitted Kevin White against Louise Day Hicks, a popular but polarizing School Committee member who "caught fire as a populist phenomenon, a symbol of white backlash against a changing world."
The Amazon Boys Club
As cities nationwide grovel to be home of Amazon's second headquarters, be apprised by Recode:
"Even in a technology industry rife with gender disparity, Amazon’s leadership group stands out among the most powerful companies for being almost exclusively an all-boys club."
"Of the company’s 18 most powerful executives, 17 are men. At the top sits Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his two deputies: Jeff Wilke, the CEO of its consumer business, and Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services."
Wall Street Journal demurs on CBS-Washington Post expose
CBS News (via "60 Minutes") and The Post combined on that piece last week that showed congressional influence in undermining the DEA and led to a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania forsaking Trump's nomination of him to head the agency.
Now Journal op-ed columnist Holman W. Jenkins Jr. offers his doubts about the Post opus, accusing it of misleading and not substantiating (to his own satisfaction) "the central pinion of its story — its claim that the DEA has been deprived of a vital tool, known as 'immediate suspension orders' against drug distributors."
Rahm Emanuel and Tim Cook
There are now 1,438 Americans who do not host podcasts. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is not one of them, humbly doing the honors on the city of Chicago's "Chicago Stories," whose latest episode is him chatting with Apple boss Tim Cook. Cook was in town to open the dazzling new generation of Apple's retail outlet, detailed here in this CNBC piece and also reviewed by Chicago Tribune Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Blair Kamin, who calls it "thrillingly transparent, elegantly understated and a boon to the city's waterfront."
Emanuel noted that by next year a course in coding will be mandatory to graduate from the city's public high schools (which, he doesn't mention, have big problems, including the system's overall declining enrollment, notably among African-Americans). "It's the most important second language," says Cook.
Emanuel also broaches the topic of technology as potentially being its own form of segregation, mentioning it in the context of our need to be open to multiple points of view. But, along the way, he does note, "I find myself not listening to Fox."
Not only the Cubs were caught flat-footed
The Chicago Cubs season ended Thursday with a defeat to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The manager talked about what a great group of coaches he had and, then, about a day later, canned the most important one, his pitching coach. But the local Chicago sports media was totally scooped on the story by Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
Does every cable morning co-host have a book? Brian Kilmeade is the second "Trump & Friends" co-host to have one about to surface (Ainsley Earhardt beat him), with Fox prime time host-to-be Laura Ingraham already on a book tour (so that's three at Fox). The sunrise trio of Kilmeade, Earhardt and Steve Doocy was back on the Niger story this morning, and referring to the "sickening debate" involving John Kelly's comments. But there was no specific reference to how Kelly's badmouthing of Florida congresswoman Frederica Wilson is factually false, according to a tape of the disputed appearance divulged by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. But it did play up Jimmy Carter's comments on the media being tougher on Trump than his predecessors, which were made to The New York Times' Maureen Dowd.
The Niger ambush (or whatever it was) comprised a rather substantial constitutional debate on CNN's "New Day," where Trump's war powers were mulled (as were the past related acts of the Obama administration). And, as David Drucker of the Washington Examiner noted, there seems to be no popular pressure at all on the matter.
Kelly was the topic of MSNBC's "Morning Joe's" start to the week (along with digs taken at Trump's draft avoidance by John McCain during a C-Span3 interview on the Vietnam War). Are we signed up to an open-ended war waged across several continents, asked foreign policy maven Richard Haass? And while CNN's Drucker opined on lack of understanding among citizens, Haass brought up the ignorance of many in Congress about what's going on in Niger and how it relates to other countries. Yup. Could anyone in Congress win a $100 wager by finding Niger on a map, even now?