Monday April 19, 2021
NY Times Buries Lede on OAN
The New York Times ran a good article yesterday about OAN, the right-wing network run by Robert Herring, but under a lousy hed/sub:
One America News Network Stays True to Trump
A recent OAN segment said there were “serious doubts about who's actually president,” and another blamed “anti-Trump extremists” for the Capitol attack.
Why is that lousy? This is the fourth graf:
Some of OAN's coverage has not had the full support of the staff. In interviews with 18 current and former OAN newsroom employees, 16 said the channel had broadcast reports that they considered misleading, inaccurate or untrue.
First: Not the full support of staff? I guess that's right. I guess 12% isn't full. Second: The 88% who disagreed with their own news coverage didn't do so lightly. It was vehement. Some even hoped that Dominion Voting Systems, which has sued Fox News for defamation, will do the same to OAN, since “maybe if they sue us, we'll stop putting stories like this out.” Which gets to the larger point: It feels like the Times buried the lede, while its headline missed it entirely. OAN staying true to Trump isn't exactly news. But OAN staff disagreeing with OAN coverage? And hoping it'll get sued? That's news. I don't know why you wouldn't highlight that. I don't know why the Times keeps softening its coverage of how off-the-rails the right-wing has become.
Actually I do know why. Goes back to Agnew. They're scared of being labeled “liberal news.”
This was the JFC moment in the piece for me:
Assignments that the elder Mr. Herring takes a special interest in are known among OAN staff as “H stories,” several current and former employees said. The day after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, Mr. Herring instructed OAN employees in an email, which The New York Times reviewed, to “report all the things Antifa did yesterday.”
Herring is another rich old codger holding America hostage with his delusions. Great.
Here's another word missing entirely from the Times story: propaganda. It's like when they couldn't bring themselves to call Trump's lies lies. C'mon, guys. Plant your feet and tell the truth. Do your job. Don't pretend you don't know what you know.
Friday February 19, 2021
Rush Limbaugh (1951-2021)
I heard the news via Twitter. Since I don't follow any dittoheads, Foxholes or Qberts, the type of response I saw was mostly versions of the Clarence Darrow line, “I have never killed anyone, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction.” Some even quoted that line. Or misquoted it. Or attributed it to Mark Twain.
One of the first responses I saw was one of the best:
My friend Vinny said something similar: “Don't care how many evil little motherfuckers got born today, the world's a little less poisonous with Rush Limbaugh dead.” People pointed out Rush was “Trending with: Good Riddance; Rot in Hell.” Others pointed out Rush wasn't exactly circumspect about the death of others. The day after Kurt Cobain died, Jim Walsh wrote, Rush called him “a worthless shred of human debris.” Rush daily celebrated the death of gay people from AIDS with bells and horns. He regularly attacked Chelsea Clinton when she was 12. He coined “feminazi.” He mocked Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's Disease. He was a horror show.
Even the Shakespeare Twitter handle got into the act:
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar.
Rush is a big part of how we got here—with 40% of the voting public thriving on fact-less, looney-tunes vitriol. I remember when he broke big in the 1990s, I couldn't get quite wrap my mind around what was happening. I reveled at Al Franken's great takedown, “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big, Fat Idiot, and Other Observations,” as I reviewed it for The Seattle Times. I thought the takedown would take care of things. I wrote: “I won't feign objectivity here: Rush Limbaugh is to the '90s what Father Coughlin was to the '30s: a blotch upon the decade for future historians to wonder over.” Except few wondered over it and Rush kept going. He moved us away from the Age of Enlightenment and into something darker; he created communities outside of objective reality that continue to grow: from Fox to Breitbart to NewsMax to QAnon. Rush begat that ecosystem.
I wonder what he felt in his final moments? Was he fearful? Were there epiphanies? Did scales fall? Whatever there is to know, now he knows.
Saturday October 10, 2020
Rupert Murdoch's Son Politely Slams Fox News
“A contest of ideas shouldn't be used to legitimize disinformation. ... At great news organizations, the mission really should be to introduce fact to disperse doubt—not to sow doubt, to obscure fact.”
-- James Murdoch, son of Rupert, on why he left Fox News, in Maureen Dowd's article “James Murdoch, Rebellious Scion” in The New York Times.
Dowd buries her lede. This is the eighth graf but hugely important. Attorneys do this, by the way. If they have a losing case, if the facts are against them, they do what they can to sow doubt. I think for 30 years or longer, the facts have been against the right-wing in this country but they're very good at sowing doubt. That should be the discussion. Or a discussion.
I wish we'd gotten specifics, examples, of Fox sowing doubt. Don't know if Dowd tried or if she was too busy writing about the lunch in her garden or talking about “Succession.”
Thursday October 01, 2020
Could NPR More Remove Trump from Accountability?
Some legit news organizations have figured it out. They've realized that bending over backwards to “both sides” an issue or event, particularly where one side is extreme, egregious or just plain dumb, isn't doing anyone any good: readers, viewers, participants, accountability, American democracy, the truth. Even The New York Times is improving:
And others, like Rachel Martin and “Morning Edition,” still haven't figured it out.
The morning after the first presidential debate of 2020, in which Donald Trump shat all over decorum, the debate format, and—again—American democracy, she began her report this way:
The first presidential debate between President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was unlike any other. The orderly 90-minute debate format broke down into chaos quickly. Despite moderator Chris Wallace's warnings, debate decorum was thrown out the door. Instead, there were interruptions, cross-talking, name-calling, shouting.
I recall a Louis CK standup routine from a few years ago: a friend said something to his girlfriend “and then she got her feelings hurt.” He said a thing, she got her feelings hurt. Louis' line: “Could you more remove yourself from responsibility?” Let me ask that question: Could Rachel Martin and NPR more remove Donald Trump from accountability? There were interruptions? Who was doing them? Who created the chaos? Who threw decorum out the door? Both men? Of course not. It was just one. One major asshole.
And then Martin has the nerve to suggest that voters who wanted “a clearer understanding of the candidates' policy positions” were out of luck. Right, Rachel. Same with listeners of your broadcast.
Later in the segment, in which she talks with a Democrat and a Republican strategist, they do clarify things a bit. You know who does it? The Republican strategist. Martin is opaque, the Democrat waffles, but the Republican attacks Trump head on: “He went from being on offense to being offensive.” At least someone has the guts to say it.
Saturday September 12, 2020
Quote of the Day
In a dictatorship, the state media tells you the sky is green. In a failing democracy, the free press tells you that one candidate says the sky is blue and the other candidate says the sky is green, without mentioning which is correct. https://t.co/pXFE7oUB6a— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) September 7, 2020
Sunday August 30, 2020
Quote of the Day
Any reporter who thought it was important to point out that most Americans don't know or care about the Hatch Act are in a different profession from the one I've been in.— adamdavidson (@adamdavidson) August 30, 2020
Our core job is to report on things people don't know they should care about. And to make them care.
I'm worried about this election. Everyone do what you can.
Saturday August 29, 2020
Jamison Foser brought this up on Twitter. Last Saturday, August 22, The New York Times ran a piece by Michael M. Grynbaum and Annie Karni on the preparations for Donald Trump's upcoming Republican National Convention. Here's the hed/sub:
Republicans Rush to Finalize Convention ('Apprentice' Producers Are Helping)
The party is promising a more traditional in-person spectacle with President Trump speaking every night. Coming into this weekend, major TV networks had only a foggy idea of what to expect.
Most of the article plays out like that. The convention was going to be in Jacksonville and Charlotte, but Covid, and this is the “Apprentice” producer, and this is what's wrong with the convention the Democrats just had, and wow there was anxiety but now we think we've got it together. A lot of Trump's relatives will speak. There will be a Black speaker, too. And here's more of what's wrong with the Democrats, and our convention will be better.
And then this in paragraph 21:
All of the sites are controlled by the federal government, which some ethics experts say would violate the Hatch Act, a Depression-era law that bans the use of public spaces for political activities. Trump aides said that the White House venues being used are considered part of the residence, and therefore are authorized for political use. Some of Mr. Trump's aides privately scoff at the Hatch Act and say they take pride in violating its regulations.
Oh yes, by the way, the Repubicans might be breaking the law. But they're fine with breaking the law—they take pride in it. They scoff at the law.
Does anyone believe for one goddamn second that if Hillary Clinton was president and John Posesta and Jen Palmieri were bragging about breaking the law, the New York Times would bury that in paragraph 21 and headline some irrelevant volunteer?
This is how democracy dies: Not with a bang but with the lede bured in paragraph 21.
Sunday August 16, 2020
How Two 1922 Newspapers Headlined the Same Syndicated Article about Hitler, and the Lesson It Holds for Today's Media
Here are two versions of the same Universal Services syndicated article about a rising star in Weimar Germany that appeared on the same day, Dec. 15, 1922, in The Bulletin of Pomona, Calif. (left) and The San Francisco Examiner (right). I believe they're among the first mentions of Adolf Hitler in a U.S. newspaper.
A good lesson in headline writing that today's newspapers should note. The Bulletin makes Hitler's accusation the headline while the Examiner opts for the mere fact that he accuses—and who he's accusing. I feel like the latter should almost always be used. The former grants way too much power to the accuser. If you're powerful enough to command media attention, you can accuse anyone of anything and the media helps disseminate that accusation. As today's media keeps doing. (I've been railing against this forever and ever.) The drawback to my suggestion is that you'll wind up using the same headline, or nearly the same headline, over and over again (“Trump Attacks Democrats”), but maybe that's good. The repetition indicates that this thing keeps happening. It'll remind everyone that all this guy does is accuse and attack. And it might encourage, I don't know, fewer lies in the accusations, since the lies won't make the headlines.
Other differences/thoughts on the articles:
- The Bulletin put its story on pg. 1, beneath huge headlines about moonshiners battling “The Dry Squad,” as well as (more relevantly) the “Franco-German debt squabble.” The Examiner stuck the story back on pg. 6.
- The Examiner credits the author. More on him here.
- The accusation is also straight out of the longstanding GOP playbook. Even today, especially today, any U.S. policy that leans vaguely left, Republicans will cry “Marxism” and “Socialism.” And many media outlets will make that the headline.
- Hitler made good on his promise in the final graf. More, actually. A century? We won't forget him as long as human beings record and read history.
Friday July 17, 2020
He Says Goodbye, And He Says Hello
“What has happened, I think, is relatively simple: A critical mass of the staff and management at New York Magazine and Vox Media no longer want to associate with me, and, in a time of ever tightening budgets, I'm a luxury item they don't want to afford. And that's entirely their prerogative. They seem to believe, and this is increasingly the orthodoxy in mainstream media, that any writer not actively committed to critical theory in questions of race, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity is actively, physically harming co-workers merely by existing in the same virtual space. Actually attacking, and even mocking, critical theory's ideas and methods, as I have done continually in this space, is therefore out of sync with the values of Vox Media. That, to the best of my understanding, is why I'm out of here. ...
”And maybe it's worth pointing out that ‘conservative’ in my case means that I have passionately opposed Donald J. Trump and pioneered marriage equality, that I support legalized drugs, criminal-justice reform, more redistribution of wealth, aggressive action against climate change, police reform, a realist foreign policy, and laws to protect transgender people from discrimination. I was one of the first journalists in established media to come out. I was a major and early supporter of Barack Obama. I intend to vote for Biden in November.
“It seems to me that if this conservatism is so foul that many of my peers are embarrassed to be working at the same magazine, then I have no idea what version of conservatism could ever be tolerated.”
Andrew Sullivan, in his final New York magazine column, “See Ya Next Friday: A Farewell Letter,” in which he also announces that he's restarting his blog, The Dish, but on a weekly basis rather than daily. (The daily one nearly killed him.) I‘ve already subscribed. And I doubt I’ll renew my online subscription to New York magazine, if the story he tells above is in fact the story; if that's who and what they've become.
Thursday July 09, 2020
'A Certain Kind of Soft Drink'
In a season 5 episode of “The Simpsons,” “Bart Gets Famous,” there's a great throwaway bit about the awfulness of local television and local news that I‘ve quoted over the years.
Bart gets a job on Krusty the Klown’s show—this is before he becomes famous as the “I didn't do it” boy—and he wants to show his friends his name in the credits. But even as the credits zip by, the screen tilts, and half the screen is filled with the local anchor Kent Brockman, who pimps the news:
On the 11:00 news tonight, a certain kind of soft drink has been found to be lethal. We won't tell you which one until after sports and the weather with Funny Sonny Storm.
This morning I was listening to the radio (NPR/KUOW) and it was near the top of the hour—NPR's “Morning Edition” time—and local anchor Angela King said this, basically (apologies: no direct quote yet):
A Covid outbreak has shut down a favorite Seattle restaurant. We‘ll tell you what to do if you’ve eaten there ... in 4 minutes.
It turned out to be Duke's Seafood at Alki Beach, but good god, KUOW, can't you do better than this? You‘re playing directly into a 25-year-old satire of how bad local news can be. But it worked, didn’t it? I stuck around. I had been ready to turn it off and continue my morning but yesterday my wife and I ordered takeout from our favorite local restaurant, Ba-Bar, so I had to wait to find out.
Anyway, thanks for the news. Four minutes later.
Friday July 03, 2020
‘Former Neo-Nazi Says Trump Uses Language of Neo-Nazism’: The Headlines NPR Can't Hear
Yesterday on “Morning Edition” I heard a story that was the best of journalism and the worst of journalism.
It was the best of journalism because it was an interview with a man, Christian Picciolini, who was once a neo-Nazi, and who is now the founder of a group that tries to prevent such racist extremism. In divisive times, we‘re getting insight from someone who’s not only been behind enemy lines but was once the enemy himself.
And he didn't disappoint. The other day, Donald Trump (the president of the United States, remember) retweeted a video in which, right at the beginning, someone shouted “White Power!” and NPR's reporter, Noel King, asks Picciolini about the phrase. He talks about the ways it was used in his former circles (as greeting, sign-off, philosophy) and she asks if it was ever used positively. No, he says. Then, maybe anticipating where she's going, he parses the difference between “Black power!” and “White power!”:
“‘Black power’ is used as a cry for equity and a cry against white supremacy. ‘White power’ has always been used as kind of a bludgeon and not as anything other than that.”
He keeps doing this. He keeps clarifying. And he keeps coming back to the larger point. She asks a convoluted question about whether Trump intentionally retweeted someone saying “White power!” and he doesn't lean in and dissect that unknowable moment but pulls back:
“This has been a pattern. This hasn't been the first time that the president has tweeted something that has come from a white supremacist or that has had a white supremacist message—whether it's talking about a conspiracy theory that's connected to white genocide or whether it's using pejorative language to describe other people. What is intentional, I believe, is the goal to instill fear. We‘re seeing a lot more language that is racist, especially with the use of social media, and he is emboldening that kind of language through his tweets.”
The most infuriating part to me—the worst of journalism—is how shocked she is that neo-Nazis mention and retweet Trump. Then she asks the same about Pres. Obama and George W. Bush and says, “Oh, wow! ... So it really is, in your experience, only since President Obama that U.S. presidents have become part of the discourse.” It’s like she doesn‘t see the difference between Obama and Trump here. Both of them are just “causing divisiveness,” as it were. But jus as she collapses distinctions, Picciolini raises them again. Obama was, he says, a focal point for their fear and paranoia. Trump? He’s their hero. “He was saying so many similar things that I was saying 30 years ago and that the movement said.”
Get that Noel King and NPR? Former neo-Nazi says president of the United States uses language of neo-Nazism. That's your fucking story.
Picciolini also says things will get worse, particularly if Trump loses the election, since many in the movement think this is their one shot, with this president, to get a world they want. That's the warning he wants to deliver. I doubt NPR heard it through the waters they continually muddy.
Thursday May 14, 2020
Reasoning Backwards with Dr. Christakis
This morning, the day after Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that reopening businesses and schools too quickly could lead to unnecessary suffering and death, with Pres. Trump responding that it wasn't “an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools,” NPR's “Morning Edition” ran a report about a pediatrician who is basically siding with Pres. Trump.
The pediatrician, Dr. Dimitri Christakis, who directs the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children's Hospital, is concerned with the mental health of kids in an age of Covid-19-enforced social distancing. He says: “The social-emotional needs of children to connect with other children in real time and space, whether it's for physical activity, unstructured play or structured play, this is immensely important for young children in particular.”
Of course. Makes sense. So what do we do? Christakis has written an editorial calling for “a panel made up of interdisciplinary experts to make school reopening a priority in the United States.” Then he says this:
“I think we should sort of reason backwards from the expectation that children do start school—that that's an imperative. And then how do we make that happen safely?”
Ah. So the thing that everyone in the world is trying to figure out—how to reopen safely—is the thing the panel needs to figure out. Got it. It's like someone saying: “We need to go to the moon. And all we need to do is ... figure out a way to get to the moon.” Which I guess is always the problem when you reason backwards.
Meanwhile, yesterday's top story on The Washington Post site was about how countries that have eased restrictions are imposing lockdowns again amid spikes in Covid cases. Meanwhile, children with Covid-related inflammatory problems are spiking here and in Europe.
We‘re not having the conversations we need to have.
ADDENDUM: A day later, another NPR report on same, this time by David Greene: “Researchers Examine Long-Term Effects Of Students Being Out Of School.” There’s a thing called “summer slide” that kids go through—they don't learn much during summer vacation and in the fall they‘re often behind where they were in the spring. So x 2 (at the least) for Covid. There’s also concerns about socio-economic disparities and language differences: ESL students who only speak their native tongue at home. It's not a bad report. Sadly, it's still framed against the Fauci/Trump difference about when to return kids to school. To me, it should be about how to make it work given our current situation, given the pandemic. Everything else is noise.