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.
So what have you heard more often: “Fox & Friends” shilling for President Trump or sophisticated people confiding their real reason for reading The New Yorker is the cartoons?
Ah, if only Bob Mankoff had long ago negotiated some piece of the action in a monetizable marketplace of knowing guffaws. He could have turned the reactions of so many readers each week into a fancy estate in the Hamptons.
As displayed in an HBO documentary, “Very Semi-Serious: A Partially Thorough Portrait of New Yorker Cartoonists,” Mankoff has long been the magazine’s cartoon editor. He’s been an eclectic and free spirit who’s helped a very distinct mix of fun and sophistication into an iconic journalism staple.
Now, he’s moving on to other challenges, as editor David Remnick disclosed to the staff:
“We are going to have a change. After more than two decades as cartoon editor, the incomparable Bob Mankoff is stepping aside from that post and assuming what is arguably a higher post, that of a regularly contributing artist. In addition to going back to the drawing board with greater frequency, Bob will edit an ambitious new anthology, ‘The New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons,’ and will continue to work with Condé Nast on redeveloping the Cartoon Bank, which he founded and ran for many successful years.”
“Bob has been a remarkable and innovative partner to me, as he was to Tina Brown. He brought a real sense of originality to this work, but, even more important, a sense of the artists and their interests. He has brought everyone’s best work to the table and managed a complicated balancing act with grace, sustaining the work of people who have been publishing in The New Yorker for many years while bringing new artists into the mix, including more diverse voices and views of the world.”
“A huge antic talent and wonderful wry observer,” Brown said last evening. “I saw how special he was immediately and will always be proud I made him the cartoon editor of The New Yorker.”
He’ll be succeeded by Emma Allen, who served as a Talk of the Town editor, a writer and “the driving force behind Daily Shouts, which is one of the best features of newyorker.com,” Remnick wrote.
Chicago-based New Yorker cartoonist Pat Byrnes says, “Bob Mankoff sees thousands of individual cartoons each week, but what he looks for are individual voices. And then he cultivates them, as he did mine. Mankoff gave me my big break, not simply by buying a cartoon, but by buying into me as a cartoonist.”
“And it’s amazing he can do that for me and so many other cartoonists he has brought into the magazine. The number of cartoons he sees each week would numb anyone else’s sense of humor. But Bob has a sense for humor. He not only sees what is funny, but why it’s funny.”
And, yet, says Byrnes, he seems to take it all quite seriously. “Some of it’s an act. He loves to wear the persona of the crusty New York cynic, but inside he’s still a gangly, insecure, smart aleck kid. That’s evident in his most famous cartoon, ‘No, Thursday’s out. How about never? Is never good for you?’ No surprise, the cartoon was autobiographical. He can be deadly serious and outrageously silly in the same breath.”
Oh, a final thing noted by Byrnes that involved not Mankoff but Remnick and the art of leadership. It’s a little thing, but one that editors everywhere should note, especially those who increasingly rely on (and, in many cases, shaft) freelancers and other needy journalists.
“The important detail to cartoonists is the ‘2:32 p.m.’ part,” Byrnes noted, referencing the time on the email Remnick sent to the magazine’s editorial staff.
“Remnick’s email to the cartoonists arrived one minute earlier,” Byrnes said. “I know that’s not much, but it speaks well for Remnick that he informed the cartoonists first.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ self-inflicted wounds were the obsession of much of the national press. But a similar professional mania was presented by the Snap IPO, a combo Super Bowl/World Series/State of the Union Address for the financial press. (Poynter)
Yes, there were CNBC and Fox Business Channel, along with Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal (live-blogging) and specialty tech publications. There was also Cheddar, the millennial-focused business news operation, that covered it like a blanket, replete with live coverage on its site and via other outlets it partners with, including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Jon Steinberg, Cheddar’s founder and primary co-host, thought the initial pricing of Snap was “nuts.” “Does Wall Street understand what they’re investing in?” asked Kristen Scholer, his co-host. A fair number of analysts suggested not and that Snap would prove to be more like an overhyped Twitter than a Facebook.
My favorite quip came on Fox Business. There, Steve Cortes, chief strategist for BGC Partners, said, with no ambiguity, “I think this is a fool’s errand. It reminds me of Ponce de Leon chasing the Fountain of Youth. Well, this is a stock version of that.”
But, as Bloomberg reported at day’s end, “Snap Inc.’s Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy each added $1.6 billion to his fortune Thursday after shares in the photo-sharing mobile app closed at $24.48, 44 percent above their listing price.”
“Investor appetite for the first technology listing of the year boosted the net worth of each co-founder to $5.3 billion, propelling Spiegel, 26, and Murphy, 28, up more than 150 places on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a daily ranking of the world’s 500 richest people.”
After the attorney general disclosed that he was recusing himself from any Trump-Russia investigations, Fox News anchor Shepard Smith went to the Justice Department and Catherine Herridge, their chief intelligence correspondent.
I was standing by a locker room TV as she voiced a subtle suspicion about the whole Sessions defense and noted, too, how his meeting with the Russian ambassador came at a similar period in which the FBI was looking into Russian campaign hacking and Trump was doing a softball interview from the Russian-owned RT network.
Her implication was clear: At minimum, the meeting with Sessions was part of a larger, concerted effort by the Russians.
“On Fox News, no less!” declared an older fellow wrapped in his post-shower towel a few feet from me.
“Amazon blamed human error for the big AWS outage that took down a bunch of large internet sites for several hours on Tuesday afternoon.” (Recode)
“In a blog post, the company said that one of its employees was debugging an issue with the billing system and accidentally took more servers offline than intended. That error started a domino effect that took down two other server subsystems and so on and so on.”
Well, just don’t put the guy in charge of the Oscars envelopes next year.
Speaking of which…
“A PricewaterhouseCoopers representative says that the firm has enlisted a security service for Brian Cullinan, the accountant responsible for handing over the incorrect envelope that led to ‘La La Land’ being announced as best picture rather than actual winner ‘Moonlight,’ and his colleague, Martha Ruiz.” (Hollywood Reporter)
And this footnote: “Before he became famous for his involvement in handing over the wrong envelope on Sunday’s telecast, he’d been angling for a spot on the stage, Variety has learned. Cullinan had pitched Oscar producers on doing a sketch involving him and his colleague Martha Ruiz, interacting with host Jimmy Kimmel.” (Variety)
“Washington Post reporter: Democrats ‘are overplaying their hand’ on Sessions,” declared the screaming Breitbart headline.
It was based on a tweet from Philip Bump, a Washington Post correspondent: “Put together a timeline on what Sessions did and said, and am now thinking that Dems are overplaying their hand.” (@pbump)
He might have saved us the opinion and just left us with his timeline. But, hey, the line between reporting and commentary is by and large shredded.
National Review: “The perjury allegation against Jeff Sessions is meritless”
The New York Times: “Kushner and Flynn met with Russian envoy in December, White House says.”
So Tucker Carlson was the preferred venue of absolution for Jeff Sessions last evening, an interview that didn’t go especially well for Sessions — notably with Carlson’s opening query about why he never corrected the Senate record when he knew it was wrong — and included a mid-course correction phoned in during the mild interrogation.
As MSNBC’s Brian Williams underscored on his later show — “4 minutes and 39 seconds later” were the words set across a black background on an otherwise empty screen — a Sessions aide called the show after Carlson indicated that Sessions had met twice with the ambassador and spoken once by phone.
Carlson told viewers, and Sessions, that his aide indicated there’s been no phone call. Sessions, who didn’t have the best of days and remains unpersuasive on why he didn’t correct his Senate testimony earlier, then responded that, “I don’t recall any such call.”
Whether such live on-air fact-checking will impact the future of American media is unclear. And give Carlson credit for asking Sessions why he and aides never corrected the record of his Senate testimony.
Bad burn? Try tilapia
STAT, the fine site on the health sciences, on Thursday put up a video on how doctors in a Brazilian city use sterilized skin from tilapia as bandages for second- and third-degree burns.
According to Matt Orr, their head of video, by Thursday evening, they’d passed six million Facebook views on the video, with about 500,000 comments, 100,000 shares, 50,000 reactions and 10,000 link clinks back to the article itself.
That was all in 12 hours.
The morning babble
Even the “Fox & Friends” spin on Jeff Sessions situation came up short as it replayed a snippet of his hear-no-evil-see-no-evil performance with Tucker Carlson. Co-host Brian Kilmeade even blamed Sen. Al Franken’s “tortured question” as the problem. Yes, blame the messenger.
CNN’s “New Day” touched upon the politics of the mess and whether a few Republicans can be brought into an anti-Sessions fold. The New York Times’ Patrick Healy finds a “drip, drip, drip” of Trump acolytes meeting with Russians and presenting a political, if not legal quandary, while co-host Chris Cuomo argued that President Hillary Clinton would have been hammered far worse if confronted with the same facts.
MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” found “too many tough questions” remaining, as Joe Scarborough put it, in particular Sessions seemingly self-serving memory lapses. Pundit John Heilemann dumped on him, too, notably his remembering some exchanges but not others that might just be more incriminating. “There are a lot of things that just don’t ring true.”
Meanwhile, I asked Watergate figure-turned-author John Dean for his take: “Sessions is in deep trouble, and his press conference today was certainly not on the advice of counsel.”
Solid fashion journalism
“In the corner of Detective Sergeant Kevin Ives’ central London office are cardboard boxes full of fakes; lookalike Nike trainers, Michael Kors handbags and Ugg sheepskin boots. The haul is just a tiny fraction of the global market in counterfeit goods — worth over $450 billion — that Ives’ 14-strong specialized police unit is dedicated to slowing.” (Business of Fashion)
A lawsuit gets ditched
“The saga of game developer Digital Homicide whipped through our pages like an idiotic windstorm,” Techdirt opens with rhetorical gentility. “This gust of blustery nonsense started with the company’s lawsuit against a game critic, Jim Sterling, then moved on to it suing Steam users over reviews they wrote, before twirling into the stage where Valve banned Digital Homicide games from Steam entirely and the company stated it planned to shut down operations.”
“Still, the resolution of the threats against Steam users wasn’t the end of the story. The lawsuit against Sterling was still out there, a $10 million dollar anvil hanging over the game critic’s head. Until this week, that is, when the court in which the suit had been filed dismissed it with prejudice as part of a settlement agreement between the two parties.”
Now here’s a beat to create in newsrooms: insurance fraud. The New York Law Journal has an insurance fraud column, with attorney Evan Krinick now highlighting how “Social Media Is Shining Light on Fraudulent Insurance Claims.”
On “CBS Evening News,” Jan Crawford , the chief legal correspondent and my former colleague, said there’s no way that her fellow Alabaman Jeff Session should be prosecuted for perjury before Congress. And David Martin was very good on a longtime bete noire of Sen. John McCain: the suspect construction strategies and outrageous cost overruns of the unfinished $13 billion aircraft carrier on which Trump spoke yesterday.
NBC’s “Nightly News” agreed about the irrelevance of any perjury prosecution and Chuck Todd argued the Russian mess could not just consume the White House legislation agenda but even “this presidency” unless some independent apparatus is formed to investigate. Hmmm.
ABC’s “World News Tonight” melded Sessions with David Muir’s local tabloid TV aplomb: “the deadly police chase, the disturbing video now emerging, the teen pulled from his pickup truck by deputies tazing him, the deputy with his knee on the young man’s neck…” Then, “the damaging winds, the ice-covered highways, the pile-up and trees coming down, and tonight the blast of cold now moving in.” And, finally, “video from inside this home and the warning tonight for families across the country when you put your house on the market.”
“Vice News Tonight” on HBO did inform of how the Syrian Army, backed by Russia, retook an ancient city and how Sweden (anxious about the Russians) is approving mandatory military service for men and men at age 18. Its own Sessions coverage was duplicative of its broadcasting competitors and, on possible actions, mentioned a special prosecutor. “Think Ken Starrand the Monica Lewinsky case,” as if many of its target audience of millennials know of either.
Slow down, you’re moving too fast…
As the Sessions mess stumbles on, even the Russians are apparently nonplussed.
“Working frantically to readjust the schedule they had outlined back in June 2015, Russian officials admitted to reporters Thursday that they have been left scrambling after seeing their plan to delegitimize Western democracy move much faster than they had intended.”
Might Vladimir Putin admit same, say, to Charlie Rose? Perhaps. But, for starters, read about it in The Onion.
Well, I plan to try to delegitimize unceasing parental intrusions in youth sports over the weekend, with soccer and basketball games — and the politics-filled draft for teams in a youth summer baseball league (not to mention parents night at a ballroom dancing class for kids). Cheers.