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The White House press corps should find inspiration from Clint Eastwood. In dealing with Donald Trump, just repeat the mantra of grizzled detective “Dirty Harry” Callahan: “Go ahead, make my day.”
Jeff Mason, a Reuters reporter who’s president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, informed colleagues that he’d met Sunday with Sean Spicer, the soon-to-be Trump press secretary.
This comes amid fear and loathing about rumored changes for the press that encamps at the White House. It’s a home away from home and, for many, central to their professional self-esteem of “covering” a president.
Could they now be moved elsewhere? It’s possible. The administration would probably prefer Trump-friendly media to surface daily for light-as-meringue questions at some larger venue.
Mason wrote members that he “emphasized the importance of the White House press briefing room” and told Spicer the group would deem it “unacceptable if the incoming administration sought to move White House reporters out of the press work space behind the press briefing room.”
But then there was this: “The WHCA looks forward to having a constructive relationship with the president-elect’s press team and to standing up for the rights of a free press to report vigorously on the new administration.”
Why so pleasant?
Instead of righteousness verging on groveling, why not make Trump and courtesans like Spicer resemble the bullies they are, especially if they pick dumb fights on the media’s lodging? If they want to play white-collar repo men, just simply and quietly agree to new circumstances. Don’t come off as a whining and privileged elite saving democracy from an emboldened president-elect.
So what if they curtail the daily press briefings? Those have become less forthcoming as the years have gone on, anyway. Mike McCurry, spokesman for Bill Clinton, has always regretted allowing cameras into the session and letting TV go live. The posturing is regular. The amounts of news, or real policy understanding, that result are minimal.
And so what if Trump moved them elsewhere and ended the ritual of a daily press briefing that seldom makes news (team Obama doesn’t win awards for full disclosure)? After all, playing nicey-nice won’t get you much — especially if the Trump folks are determined to play hardball.
“This past election year has left the press’ standing with the American public at its lowest point, caused many of us to question ourselves and each other over mission and methods, and now finds us facing a new president who expresses not only disregard but disdain for many of the rights and freedoms journalists have long taken for granted,” said David Boardman, chairman of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, in a Monday statement after his group co-sponsored a weekend gathering of journalists and other media rights advocates.
Complaining about accommodations or a decline in spoon-feeding plays into the hands of Trump, who can paint the media as a bunch of effete whiners and dole out exclusive interviews to Breitbart and Sean Hannity.
When it comes to the correspondents and Trump, “It’s not physical changes at the White House. It’s the attitude,” McCurry told me Monday.
Correct. The media’s ultimate weapon has nothing to do with physical proximity. To cover Trump vigorously, their primary weapons will include the very objectivity, decency and sense of fairness that seem to elude him.
Forget about the specter of not being in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room and missing the disembodied voice declaring a two-minute warning until the next act of disinformation (press briefing). Don’t act like some privileged elite.
For the truly committed, the stories will be bountiful, no matter how limited the access or expansive Trump’s disdain.
Rupert, are you watching?
The Murdoch empire has bet big (billions) on live sports and generally been prescient. Now, ratings for the British Premier League continue to head south (for all the top teams except Chelsea).
“The declines are more than a blip. The direction of travel is clear and persistent across time slots and teams going back five years.” (Bloomberg)
Trump livestreamed in virtual reality
Ah, the wonders never cease!
USA Today Network will livestream the inauguration in virtual reality, which it believes is a first for a news organization. (USA Today)
Livestreaming and flak jackets?
The Emergencies Response Team (ERT) at the Committee to Protect Journalists has issued a safety advisory for journalists covering or planning to cover the events Friday. They include:
“Filming/recording equipment will obviously identify you as a journalist. There are times when looking like a journalist is important to signal to others, including police, that you are there to observe. However, in some instances, it is a good idea not to wear identifying logos, clothing or badges related to a media organization, or to be able to conceal them when necessary. Keep press credentials out of sight unless it is necessary to show them.”
What explains all those Chicago murders?
The press has produced tons on a sharp rise in homicides in Chicago. Many have cited particular theories, including pieces in The New York Times, FiveThirtyEight and NPR. They’ve suggested an increase in gang wars, poverty-driven desperation, insufficient sentencing and furor over release of a police videotape of the police shooting an innocent Laquan McDonald, among others.
Now, actual experts at the University of Chicago Crime Lab suggest that even those big-time, serious-minded media organizations have been too facile. “Unfortunately, the available data cannot at this time point definitively to what caused the increase in gun violence in Chicago in 2016. Many common hypotheses for the gun violence problem in Chicago — such as proximity to states with less restrictive gun laws, or social conditions — evolve slowly over time and did not change abruptly at the end of 2015.” (Crime Lab)
The most intriguing (to me) topic broached here involves a very sharp decline in stops by cops. It’s seemingly triggered by events in late 2015 and early 2016 that included or prompted the following: a just-concluded (pretty mediocre, despite ample media coverage) Justice Department civil rights investigation of Chicago’s cops; release of video showing a notorious police shooting of a teen; and both a city agreement with the ACLU involving street stops and a new state law involving stops.
Cheddar’s new deal
Cheddar, a business news service for a younger crowd than CNBC possesses, is unveiling a partnership with Pluto TV, “the leading OTT destination for free television in America.” It will include Cheddar’s existing “Opening Bell” and “Between Bells” shows broadcast from the New York Stock Exchange and the Sprint Flatiron Building Store in Manhattan.
This means that Cheddar will be available to “more than 5 million Pluto TV monthly active users across web, mobile and connected-TV devices including Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox.”
Insurance for one and all
Sarah Kliff of Vox notes, “President-elect Donald Trump gave an interview to the Washington Post Sunday, where he described an alternative to Obamacare that sounds pretty terrific. That — or it’s a huge con that Trump isn’t going to be able to keep covered up for much longer.” (Vox)
You can read The Post story, for sure. (The Washington Post) But, be warned, Kliff finds “The only thing missing from Trump’s amazing health proposal was his actual health care plan.”
Bob Beckel returns
Bob Beckel, professional liberal piñata, returned to “The Five” on Fox News amid gushing about how much he’d missed the audience. He exited following after a leave of absence and amid both addiction to pain medication and no homages from Fox.
“We tried to work with Bob for months, but we couldn’t hold ‘The Five’ hostage to one man’s personal issues,” Bill Shine, who is now a co-president of Fox and was then senior executive vice president of programming at the network, said at the time. “He took tremendous advantage of our generosity, empathy and goodwill and we simply came to the end of the road with him.”
But he’s back and his old pundit buddies had fun at his expense yesterday, with video of his many wrong-headed on-air declarations about a Trump presidential candidacy. He informed them, “When you come from my side of the aisle, you can’t imagine how much people can’t stand this guy.”
Nvidia is unveiling a new version of its Shield TV media streaming best, The Verge’s Dan Seifert writes, “I’ve spent a couple of days using the $199.99 Shield TV and have found it to be a great media streaming box and a fun gaming machine — if you’re willing to invest in Nvidia’s GeForce Now or have a gaming PC with a lot of games that you want to play on your 4K TV.” (The Verge)
The consumer appetite for online video
Mention of a recent report that online video isn’t nearly as popular with consumers as advertisers still is prompting response. Here’s a senior digital producer at a major online news operation, who asked not to be fully identified.
“My first reaction to any research that demonstrates that online video isn’t popular with viewers is: ‘Tell me about it.'”
One conclusion when looking at what does work: “It’s a little depressing from a journalist’s standpoint. Viewers like online video to be short, silent with text on-screen, and primarily to involve goofy funny stuff or feel-good stories. Stories detailing outrages sometimes do well, but feel-good stories are way more successful.”
Headline of the day
“‘Fitbit’ for cows to debut at National Western Stock Show.” (Wyoming Tribune Eagle)
OK, can’t leave you hanging about a product from the start-up HerdDogg:
“Now, using HerdDogg, a cow with one of the young company’s tags implanted in its ear can walk up to a watering trough in a far-flung pasture and take a drink of water. While the animal drinks, the data from the HerdDogg tag is being gathered by a device attached to the trough, which the young company calls a dog bone. The data stays at the trough in the rugged, plastic, bone-shaped device, ready for a rancher to collect it via an app on a cellphone.”
The morning babble
“Fox & Friends” brought on mentalist Lior Suchard, though the guy wasn’t focusing on “How many Democrats will boycott the Trump inaugural?” as was the case with the chat on CNN’s “New Day.” No, Suchard was good on revealing names of the cast’s childhood pets.
Over at MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” they were back on a two-legged adults frictions with the intelligence community, declining poll numbers amid his unceasing bashing of folks via tweets and a somewhat screechy Richard Cohen column that Trump’s presidency is already “doomed.” He divines wisdom from rather long ago to find similarities to Lyndon Johnson’s travail in the White House (The Washington Post)
“The ancient Greeks knew why: A man’s character is his fate. In that case, Trump’s presidency is doomed.
Booze as clickbait
Monday morning’s Washington Post “First Reads” newsletter demonstrated the usefulness of melding substance and a clickbait headline: “First Reads: Women are drinking themselves to death.”
Alas, open the newsletter and the first story was a less sexy one about Trump’s theoretical desire to pressure drug companies into less costly deals with the government. The second involved his relationship with African-Americans.
Then came the (solid) story on drinking. But the tabloid headline got me to open it up and at least read the top of the tale. (The Washington Post) Meanwhile, The New Yorker offers “My Father’s Cellar,” John Seabrook’s vivid account go being introduced to alcohol by his when where a mere tyke and subsequently grappling with it his whole life. (The New Yorker)
And ESPN’s Hall of Fame vote
The baseball writers announce election results for the Hall of Fame Wednesday. While some media organizations bar reporters from partaking in such voting (lest they report on news they are making), ESPN disclosed the results of the 17 folks at its shop who submitted formal ballots. (ESPN)
If they had their way, seven players would make it: Tim Raines, Edgar Martinez, Vladimir Guerrero, Jeff Bagwell, Trevor Hoffman, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. If this plays out in such fashion, Bonds and Clemens would be the big news, given their images being tainted badly in the steroids era.
It’s a pretty conservative electorate generally, so I’d wager they’re wrong about either Bonds and Clemens making it.