October 20, 2017

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But can one be so sure?

Now that the Los Angeles Dodgers have made it to the World Series for the first time in 29 years, one wonders if there'll be any Hollywood executives not accused of sexual harassment left to attend.

First it was Harvey Weinstein. He was followed by Amazon executive Roy Price. And now there's Chris Savino of Nickelodeon, who was canned amid allegations of sexual harassment. The media likes of Variety are now entertainment industry police blotters, which prompted my decision to call Variety co-editor Claudia Eller (upon returning home from Chicago's Wrigley Field after seeing the Dodgers clinch a Series spot by annihilating the defending champ Cubs).

So what is her very initial take on the potential impact, if any, of all of this on the entertainment industry?

"We had an amazing illustrated photo of Harvey with the headline, 'Game Over,'" Eller said, mentioning how she herself had written about her belief that an inflection point has been reached in the whole culture. "Sexual harassment won't be tolerated in the workplace. Maybe I am being overly optimistic."

She noted a New York Times op-ed by actress Lupita Nyong’o, which added her name to an army of on-the-record Weinstein accusers. "I think that thanks to these brave souls like her, talking about these predatory men like Harvey, Bill O'Reilly, Roger Ailes and Bill Cosby, there will be a shift in the culture. I think it will have an impact on other predators in the community. A lot of powerful men are quaking in their boots. A studio chief told me today that there are so many guys out there who are so far underground, it's not funny."

I asked if Weinstein thought he was operating under acceptable boundaries of the industry. She said, "Look how long he got away with it. Decades. I speak for a lot of other journalists: We tried to get the story. Tried for decades. The reason we we couldn't get it (and I was at the L.A. Times for 20 years) was because there was no paper trail. There were all these settlements and hush money paid. Women signed these non-disclosure agreements, And so these companies, I believe, were complicit in covering up this bad behavior."

"Bravo for The New York Times and The New Yorker. The Times broke the story I wish I had 20 years ago. Hollywood has this history of powerful, entitled men preying on young women. These men feel entitled and had been protected from being outed. When you read these stories, they are astounding. The audacity and sense of 'I can do whatever I want.' It's the same as what Donald Trump said on that 'Access Hollywood' tape. That was the attitude of Weinstein, Cosby, O'Reilly and Ailes. You could do anything you wanted. I hope this horrible culture of secrecy and entitlement is over."

I had a final query as the clock was about to strike midnight in the Midwest: What's her guess as to changes men (and women) out there, who really and truly care about this issue, are willing to make now that this story has so vividly exposed a big problem? Her response:

"This is really interesting. As we speak I am putting together a roundtable discussion,  'Ending Sexual Harassment in Hollywood.' We have a Nov. 1 Inclusion Summit. And I went to my event planners at Variety and said I know you have the program all set but I want to talk about exactly what (reporters) are asking about."

"How do we end sexual harassment? We'll ask  executives and creative people what next steps have to be taken to ensure a safe working environment. One person is Paul Feig, who did 'Bridesmaids' and works with women a lot. So he'll be on my roundtable. And he wants the industry to start a hotline for victims. Kathy Kennedy, the head of LucasFilm at Disney, said we have to start a film industry commission to develop industry protections. My discussion will be just about that."

"And what can the media do to make sure this is an inflection point and that there will be real change?"

John Kelly, a two-legged Army Corps of Engineers

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was poignant and personal as he discussed his son's passing while so clearly straining to defend President Trump's dealings (or non-dealings) with the families of fallen soldiers during a media briefing Thursday afternoon ("a powerful defense," said the cheerleaders at "Trump & Friends" this morning). ABC's David Muir, no slave to the understated, called it "stunning and deeply personal," while NBCs Lester Holt cited Kelly's "emotional defense." "Vice News Tonight" on HBO dispensed with the cliches and said merely that Kelly "defended President Trump's handling of a phone call to the widow" of fallen soldier Sgt. La David Johnson.

At minimum, Kelly  was very old military in both the best and worst of ways (his take on women was hidebound), with one of the better pieces coming from The Atlantic's David Graham. He did note how Kelly was on the mark in noting how little so many know about the military, which includes the elite media in the White House briefing room (some of whom were intoning righteously on Trump and the military this morning). Even by the mid-1990s, if you attended the annual Gridiron Dinner in Washington, where the country's elite tended to surface, it was disconcerting to see how fewer and fewer people stood each year as each of the service anthems were played at the start of the gathering. They were just fewer and fewer veterans in that crowd.

Kelly’s point is correct, as my colleague James Fallows wrote in 2015, "the military is increasingly cut off from the mainstream of American culture, with terrible consequences for both. (It is a critique that sweeps in the president, who assiduously avoided serving in Vietnam.)"

Tom Ricks, one of the best military affairs journalists, said Friday, "I am just heartsick about the whole thing."

"I think General Kelly spoke from the heart. I know someone who was visiting her husband's grave the other day and say Kelly walking among the graves. But I was surprised that Kelly's empathy didn't extend to the newly widowed wife who was riding in a car with the congresswoman, a family friend. Imagine losing your spouse–and then finding yourself in a fight with the White House. A few words in that direction would have gone a long way."

"And none of this would have been necessary had Trump been able to back down and say, Look, I misspoke, I was trying to sympathize in that phone call and did it awkwardly. But Trump appears incapable of apology."

Google's big investment in Lyft

As The Los Angeles Times concedes, "In the topsy-turvy world of tech, an investor can fund a company one minute and sue it the next. It also can turn around and fund a competitor, which is what Google’s parent company did when it announced Thursday that its growth equity fund led a $1-billion investment in Lyft, four years after its venture capital arm invested in Uber."

Lyft has a way to go, as a pretty interesting bit of academic research on Uber's success in Boston makes clear. One of the M.I.T economists who put together a test of drivers' interest in the Uber model vs. a traditional lease-medallion model laid it out for me here.

Fact-checking on Trump

It was kind of late for Trump (6:30 a.m.) but this morning he tweeted, "Just out report: "United Kingdom crime rises 13% annually amid spread of Radical Islamic terror." Not good, we must keep America safe!"

With a couple of minutes to wonder about the factual underpinning, I quickly found a BBC report justifiably headlined "Reality Check: Is crime up or down?" because there are ambiguities in the data. It notes:

"The England and Wales survey, which is conducted face-to-face and asks individuals about their experiences of crime, suggests crime fell by 9% in the 12 months to June 2017 compared with the year before. In contrast, police-recorded crime went up by 13% in the past year. Violent crime went up by 19% and violence that resulted in injury by 10%."


"Imitation is the highest form of flattery, right? In a sign of the growing appeal of the term 'fact-checking,' Czech prime ministerial candidate Andrej Babiš launched a website aping an existing fact-checking outfit's name. Unsurprisingly, its 'fact checks' cast Babiš in a positive light. But will it make a difference?"

A transgender Playmate

The New York Times reports, "For the first time in its 64-year history, Playboy magazine will feature a transgender Playmate, a decision that Cooper Hefner, a top executive at the magazine, said on Thursday was in keeping with its founding mission of embracing changing attitudes about sex."

The Amazon extortion

"Vice News Tonight" and ABC's "World News Tonight" joined the throng doing pieces on the competition for Amazon's second headquarters, with the Jeff Bezos-set deadline Thursday. Vice was very good (far better than ABC's quickie with no original reporting) on some of the self-defeating inter-regional competition, with "crappy tax deals" all over the place. Amazon's scale may make things different since the ambition to create 50,000 jobs dwarfs any such proposal before. It cited an All-Knowing Observer, a Brookings person who suspects a big city on East coast, like Boston or Atlanta, will win, in part due to proximity to big research institutions.

"Trump & Friends" this morning noted that 39 cities are vying for the headquarters during a solid elucidation of pros and cons. It cites a Moody's ranking of supposed leading applicants as topped by Austin, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Rochester-Buffalo and Pittsburgh. But civic pride (or is it self-delusion?) pervades many of the bids, such as Chicago, where ultra-competitive Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel would certainly love it after blowing what seemed like a no-brainer of hosting the new George Lucas museum (he wanted Chicago, local politics derailed it and now he'll build in Los Angeles) and as he sees southerly Census numbers when it coms to the city's declining population.

Libertarian lobbyists

As Recode reminds, "Even the moonshots at Google have lobbyists. The search-and-advertising giant is the tech industry’s most active political spender. But as it seeks to spare its most audacious projects from prohibitive government regulations — big bets like internet-beaming balloons and energy-capturing kites — Google and its parent, Alphabet, is hiring even more help in Washington, D.C."

Personalizing your news

It might seem self-evident but Nieman Reports discourses on how news personalization may lead to greater political polarization. "While news personalization can help people manage information overload by making individuals’ news diets unique, it also threatens to incite filter bubbles and, in turn, bias."

While most slept

"Trump & Friends" obviously loved John Kelly's speech, while CNN's "New Day"  did some fact-checking of its own, or at least gave play to the Miami Herald finding that Kelly got it all wrong in claiming U.S. Rep. Fredericka Wilson (a figure in the disputed call to one of her constituents) took credit for getting the money for a new FBI building in Miramar during the 2015 opening ceremony for the building. Ah, nope, as the paper makes clear

As the Dodgers were wrapping up their victory over the Cubs, Trump was like a dog with a bone, still tweeting on the whole topic of Wilson listening in on that call with the widow. "The Fake News is going crazy with Wacky Congresswoman Wilson (D), who was SECRETLY on a very personal call, and gave a total lie on content!" That was at 10:53 p.m.

As for women being "sacred" once, not anymore, what about that? MSNBC's "Morning Joe" recalled various hypocrisies, at least when it comes to Trump. And a "larger than life omission" concerned Trump's lack of stated concern for the Gold Star family that's at the center of the dispute, Joe Scarborough argued. And colleague Willie Geist spoke about Kelly exhibiting  "an authority and clarity that is missing in his boss."

And there's David Brooks, liberals' favorite conservative moral arbiter of American culture. He writes, "Books will someday be written on how Trump, this wounded and twisted man, became morally acceptable to tens of millions of Americans. But it must have something to do with the way over the past decades we have divorced private and public morality, as if private narcissism would have no effect on public conduct."

Corrections? Tips? Please email me: jwarren@poynter.org. Would you like to get this roundup emailed to you every morning? Sign up here.

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New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S.…
James Warren

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