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The punditry on the cable channel was all about President Trump canning Anthony Scaramucci, and there was even a countdown clock.
Yes, if you wanted another example of Trump dominating news coverage, all you had to do was turn on ESPN2 yesterday. It underscored a Trump-driven melding of sports and political journalism, as the one-man news machine was an unavoidable topic of conversation during the unrelated dissection of the Major League Baseball trade deadline.
ESPN2 was a feast of smart analysis and speculation Tuesday afternoon with a group led by Karl Ravech, Buster Olney, Tim Kurkjian, Keith Law and former star player Mark Teixeira (who is a TV novice but a very articulate and insightful natural).
But amid the talk of my beloved Yankees corralling a stud of a pitcher from Oakland, Ravech interjected, “The biggest news of the day is out of the White House,” namely the Scaramucci beheading. “This is out of the Steinbrenner School,” he said.
It sure was. Indeed, if you’re old enough, you might recall the brilliant 1978 Miller Lite commercial with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and manager Billy Martin, whom Steinbrenner famously hired and fired multiple times.
They banter back and forth at a tavern, about whether Miller Lite “tastes great” or is “less filling,” until Steinbrenner declares, “Billy, you’re fired” several decades before anybody had conceived of an NBC hit to be called “The Apprentice.”
Steinbrenner and Martin are long gone. If miraculously brought back to life, they could have easily explained events at the White House. They were too profane guys with mean streaks who were fated to clash.
Says Peter Golenbock, a St. Petersburg, Florida-based journalist-author of many sports books, including one on the Yankee dynasty and one written with Billy Martin:
“Trump and Steinbrenner were very close friends, and Trump, one can argue, watched Steinbrenner treat his employees terribly, making alcoholics out of many of them. Trump so enjoyed watching the horrible treatment of Steinbrenner’s employees that surely he adopted the same behavior himself.”
“Surely two of the most vile individuals ever to become public figures. And what was so interesting, Steinbrenner, like Trump, was terrible at his job. In thirty years Steinbrenner only won after twice he was suspended” by the baseball commissioner for clearly unethical behavior.
“Two losers who had and have very high opinions of themselves. Two narcissists who cared most of all about seeing their names in headlines in the newspapers. They could have been twins.”
The morning babble
“Trump & Friends” on Fox went after the “so-called mainstream media” for its coverage of Scaramucci being canned, heralding the arrival of John Kelly (“brilliant move,” said co-host Ainsley Earhardt) while simultaneously citing the New York Times as its primary source for the behind the scenes machinations.
CNN’s “New Day” went heavy with The Washington Post disclosure of Trump sitting on Air Force One and dictating Donald Trump Jr.’s seemingly misleading statement about meeting with a Russian lawyer, supposedly about adoptions.
It was same on “Morning Joe,” though at first blush it seems we’re talking about a distinctly unforthcoming (and perhaps false) press release. But is that obstruction of justice? That’s unlikely. And, yet, as CNBC’s “Squawk Box” co-host Andrew Ross Sorkin asked, is the new chief of staff going to be able to stop that sort of stuff, whether legal or not?
Sam Shepard and Bob Dylan
The obituaries of the poet-playwright-actor includes a Pitchfork piece that details Shepard’s assistance in the writing of Dylan’s obscure but heralded, 11-minute “Brownsville Girl.”
The New York Times smartly uses its archives for a potpourri of its own critics’ reviews of polymath Shepard’s plays, books and movies.
Why HGTV is being sold?
As Bloomberg notes, “Discovery Communications Inc. considered buying Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. in 2014, but the deal fell apart because the Scripps family wasn’t ready to sell.” Now a family media colossus is doing a 180-degree turn.
“The Scripps clan, whose legacy stretches from the Peanuts comic strip to the National Spelling Bee, has agreed to sell HGTV and its other cable channels to Discovery for $11.9 billion.”
Why, behind the obvious desire to make a ton of drought? “It’s a sign of how much bleaker the television industry has become in a few short years, as more consumers are dropping their cable subscriptions in favor of new online alternatives.”
Philanthropy and news
It’s difficult to get a complete handle on the growing role of philanthropy in funding journalism but here’s a good overview from the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy, a product of several organizations whose funded is traced to the late Andrew Carnegie.
Though gifts like Craig Newmark’s $1 million to both Poynter and ProPublica have received some attention, “Rodney Benson of New York University estimated early last year that foundations only gave about $150 million directly to news organizations. Inside Philanthropy lists more than 30 foundations that fund various journalism projects.
What might happen to the deal that would make Scaramucci very wealthy?
So he sold his 45 percent stake in SkyBridge Capital, a $11.4 billion so-called “fund of funds” for about $180 million. He said that Chinese were buying despite, not as a result of, his heading to work for Trump.
“What happens next to that deal will be closely watched — if Chinese buyers bought SkyBridge in order to pick up a relationship with a White House insider, they’re likely to drop the deal. So far, there have been no signs of cold feet.” (Quartz)
Hacking into HBO
“Hackers have broken into the networks of HBO and reportedly leaked unreleased episodes of a number of shows, as well as the script for next week’s “Game of Thrones” episode. Altogether, they have reportedly obtained a total of 1.5 terabyte of data.” (Variety)
A great colleague passes
Mark Silva was as smart, decent and collegial a reporter-editor as you’ll ever find. He was an A-class political reporter at the Miami Herald, Orlando Sentinel before moving to the Chicago Tribune’s Washington bureau, Bloomberg (where he was an early politics blogger) and recently to U.S. News & World Report where, as assistant managing editor, he just oversaw a terrific project to rank the 50 states via a slew of metrics.
Out of the blue, he was diagnosed recently with several bad brain tumors, fought valiantly and passed away at 3:30 a.m. at home in Virginia with his family. They don’t come any better.
Cooper atop the Twitter roost
A ranking of journalists’ Twitter follows gives us Anderson Cooper, 9.26 million followers, and Rachel Maddow, 7.08 million. The top 10 includes three current or former ESPN personalities, namely Michael Wilbon, Stephen A. Smith and Erin Andrews. (Poynter)
The real test of a marriage’s strength
David Friend, an editor at Vanity Fair and a friend (no pun intended), is author of the upcoming, “The Naughty Nineties,” about the sexual history of the decade. It raised some potentially sensitive questions about the melding of home life with professional research, as he recounts in Publishers Weekly.
“There was one opportunity, however, that seemed so over the line — and so potentially beneficial on the home front — that I invited Nancy along. While I was interviewing Nicole Daedone, America’s leading proponent of ‘orgasmic meditation’ for the book (she had learned the practice, which is solely devoted to a woman’s sexual fulfillment, in the ’90s), she urged Nancy and me to come to Sausalito to witness a ‘demo’ in which an OMer, as part of her training to become an instructor, would be clitorally stimulated for 40 minutes in front of an audience.”
“In a dark-paneled library on a remote woodland estate, Nancy and I sat with 40 others amid flickering candles and New Age music. Thunder crashed outside the heavy drapes. We watched, patiently, as a naked woman was ‘stroked’ by a man in a flannel shirt (the ‘lumberjack,’ Nancy called him). The woman seemed to swell and crash through a countless series of orgasms. And Nancy, though she rolled her eyes, went with the flow.”
They’re still married and the book comes out in September.
Why the Trump mess goes well beyond communications
Ryan Lizza, recipient of the dumbest phone call in recent communications history (at least in English), writes in The New Yorker:
“The idea that all of Trump’s problems are communications failures that can be easily fixed, or the result of the West Wing’s warring factions, is absurd. The problems of this White House run far deeper and start with Trump himself.”
“But surely he could have communications professionals who don’t make things even worse. On Wednesday night, Scaramucci told me, ‘What I’m going to do is I’m going to eliminate everyone on the comms team and we’ll start over.’ He did not know how prescient he was.”
Nate Silver and Adrian Beltre
You forget, given Nate Silver’s association with the political process, that FiveThirtyEight is by and large about sports. And analyses like that of Adrian Beltre, the Dominican Republic native who got his 3,000 hit over the weekend, a landmark.
“Adrian Beltre is one of our favorite players here at FiveThirtyEight, and he happens to have just recorded his 3,000th career hit. In my mind, that’s as good an excuse as any to dig into what makes the Texas Rangers’ third baseman so much fun to watch.” It runs down in a chart and a video four reasons he’s so alluring.
A North Dakotan chagrined with the press
“Months after U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., sent three broadcast news giants a questionnaire on media bias, he’s heard nothing back — and he said that, for now, he’s moving on.”
“I’ve had a response in that I haven’t heard back from any of the network executives,” he said, blasting the “unconscionable’ decision of executives at NBCUniversal, CBS Corp. and ABC Television Group to ignore his March 31 letter. “I consider their arrogance or indifference to be a message, and I take it as much. No response is a response to me.” (Bismarck Tribune)
Apple earnings today
“Analysts are awaiting the company’s guidance for the September quarter as a clue for the status of the 10th anniversary iPhone” (The Wall Street Journal)
And the headline of the day
‘’So Fuckin’ Sorry To Hear About This Shit,’ Reads Outpouring Of Sympathetic Texts From Scaramucci’s Friends, Family” (The Onion)