Later On

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Trump blocks reputable news organizations from press briefing

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This is astonishing, The U.S. has put in office a man who cannot take any criticism and is willing to go to any lengths to avoid it. Jordan Fabian reports in The Hill:

The White House blocked a number of news outlets from covering spokesman Sean Spicer’s question-and-answer session on Friday afternoon.

Spicer decided to hold an off-camera “gaggle” with reporters inside his West Wing office instead of the traditional on-camera briefing in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room.

Among the outlets not permitted to cover the gaggle were news organizations that President Trump has singled out for criticism, including CNN.

The New York Times, The Hill, Politico, BuzzFeed, the Daily Mail, BBC, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Daily News were among the other news organizations not permitted to attend.

Several right-leaning outlets were allowed into Spicer’s office, including Breitbart, the Washington Times and One America News Network.

A number of major news organizations were also let in to cover the gaggle. That group included ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Reuters and Bloomberg.  . .

Continue reading.

This seems more suited to an authoritarian government than to a democracy, but it does show the direction Trump is going.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 February 2017 at 11:38 am

At CPAC, Trump lashes out at media

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The Hill has a video along with their report, and Trump is clearly moving into the next phase of his presidency, working hard to undermine any sources of information that reveal exactly what is going on and what he is up to. The Washington Post and Trump probably agree that “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” which is why Trump doesn’t want any reports of his actions (or words, for that matter, given how frequently he contradicts himself (or his appointed officials contradict him)).

Lisa Hagen reports:

President Trump lashed out at the press from the beginning of his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, saying his administration was in a fight against “fake news.”

“I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s phony, fake,” Trump said before a crowd that appeared to love the media hits.

“I called the fake news the enemy of the people. They are the enemy of the people, because they have no sources. They just make them up when there are none.”

The blasts at the media followed another damaging story for Trump.

CNN reported on Thursday that White House officials asked the FBI to knock down media stories about communications between Trump associates and Russia.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Friday morning blasted the CNN report as indefensible. While White House chief of staff Reince Priebus had a discussion with FBI officials, Spicer said there was nothing inappropriate in the conversation.

In his address to CPAC, Trump sought to clarify the difference between the press and “fake news media” and said he supports “honest” reporting and the First Amendment.

“I’m not against the media. I’m not against the press. I don’t mind bad stories if I deserve them,” he said. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 February 2017 at 9:40 am

When memes break free: Discoveries of a Trump-free week

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Farhad Manjoo has an extremely interesting column if you read it through a meme’s-eye view. What you see is the rapid evolution of memes in an environment (the internet) that is particularly rich for memes. Focus on the memes as memes, not the content of them. The mediaQuant evaluation, for example, is evaluating a meme and not its content—in a way, it defines a genus or phylum. His column begins (but do read the whole thing):

I spent last week ignoring President Trump. Although I am ordinarily a politics junkie, I didn’t read, watch or listen to a single story about anything having to do with our 45th president.

What I missed, by many accounts, was one of the strangest and most unpredictable weeks of news in modern political history. Among other things, there was the resignation of the national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, and an “Oprah Winfrey Show” tape that led to the downfall of the nominee for secretary of labor, Andrew F. Puzder.

It wasn’t my aim to stick my head in the sand. I did not quit the news. Instead, I spent as much time as I normally do online (all my waking hours), but shifted most of my energy to looking for Trump-free zones.

My point: I wanted to see what I could learn about the modern news media by looking at how thoroughly Mr. Trump had subsumed it. In one way, my experiment failed: I could find almost no Trump-free part of the press.

But as the week wore on, I discovered several truths about our digital media ecosystem. Coverage of Mr. Trump may eclipse that of any single human being ever. The reasons have as much to do with him as the way social media amplifies every big story until it swallows the world. And as important as covering the president may be, I began to wonder if we were overdosing on Trump news, to the exclusion of everything else.

President Trump is inescapable.</>

The new president doesn’t simply dominate national and political news. During my week of attempted Trump abstinence, I noticed something deeper: He has taken up semipermanent residence on every outlet of any kind, political or not. He is no longer just the message. In many cases, he has become the medium, the ether through which all other stories flow.

Obviously, just about every corner of the news was a minefield, but it was my intention to keep informed while avoiding Mr. Trump. I still consulted major news sites, but avoided sections that tend to be Trump-soaked, and averted my eyes as I scrolled for non-Trump news. I spent more time on international news sites like the BBC, and searched for subject-specific sites covering topics like science and finance. I consulted social news sites like Digg and Reddit, and occasionally checked Twitter and Facebook, but I often had to furiously scroll past all of the Trump posts. (Some news was unavoidable; when Mr. Flynn resigned, a journalist friend texted me about it.)

Even when I found non-Trump news, though, much of it was interleaved with Trump news, so the overall effect was something like trying to bite into a fruit-and-nut cake without getting any fruit or nuts.

It wasn’t just news. Mr. Trump’s presence looms over much more. There he is off in the wings of “The Bachelor” and even “The Big Bang Theory,” whose creator, Chuck Lorre, has taken to inserting anti-Trump messages in the closing credits. Want to watch an awards show? Say the Grammys or the Golden Globes? Trump Trump Trump. How about sports? Yeah, no. The president’s policies are an animating force in the N.B.A. He was the subtext of the Super Bowl: both the game and the commercials, and maybe even the halftime show.

Where else could I go? Snapchat and Instagram were relatively safe, but the president still popped up. Even suggested I consider Trump toilet paper for my wife’s Valentine’s Day present. (I bought her jewelry.)

Trump’s fame may break all records.

All presidents are omnipresent. But it is likely that no living person in history has ever been as famous as Mr. Trump is right now. It’s possible that not even the most famous or infamous people of the recent or distant past — say, Barack Obama, Osama bin Laden, Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Michael Jackson, Muhammad Ali or Adolf Hitler — dominated media as thoroughly at their peak as Mr. Trump does now.

I’m hedging because there isn’t data to directly verify this declaration. (Of course, there are no media analytics to measure how many outlets were covering Hitler the day he invaded Poland.) But there is some pretty good circumstantial evidence.

Consider data from mediaQuant, a firm that measures “earned media,” which is all coverage that isn’t paid advertising. To calculate a dollar value of earned media, it first counts every mention of a particular brand or personality in just about any outlet, from blogs to Twitter to the evening news to The New York Times. Then it estimates how much the mentions would cost if someone were to pay for them as advertising.

In January, Mr. Trump broke mediaQuant’s records. In a single month, he received $817 million in coverage, higher than any single person has ever received in the four years that mediaQuant has been analyzing the media, according to Paul Senatori, the company’s chief analytics officer. For much of the past four years, Mr. Obama’s monthly earned media value hovered around $200 million to $500 million. The highest that Hillary Clinton got during the presidential campaign was $430 million, in July. . .

Continue reading.


. . . On most days, Mr. Trump is 90 percent of the news on my Twitter and Facebook feeds, and probably yours, too. But he’s not 90 percent of what’s important in the world. During my break from Trump news, I found rich coverage veins that aren’t getting social play. ISIS is retreating across Iraq and Syria. Brazil seems on the verge of chaos. A large ice shelf in Antarctica is close to full break. Scientists may have discovered a new continentsubmerged under the ocean near Australia.

There’s a reason you aren’t seeing these stories splashed across the news. Unlike old-school media, today’s media works according to social feedback loops. Every story that shows any signs of life on Facebook or Twitter is copied endlessly by every outlet, becoming unavoidable. . .

This is exactly what one would expect of meme evolution. (Do check out Susan Blackmore’s The Meme Machine at some point. They’re taking over, the next emergent phenomenon. Matter is an emergent phenomenon itself (from the pure energy of the Big Bang), and life is emergent from matter—memes are emergent from life (via us).

Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2017 at 2:54 pm

Interesting: The “most-read” stories right now in the Washington Post

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2017 at 12:11 pm

‘With Such a People You Can Then Do What You Please’ – James Fallows takes stock of Trump and journalism

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James Fallows writes in the Atlantic:

Are Donald Trump’s latest attacks on the press really that bad? Are they that out-of-the-ordinary, given the famous record of complaints nearly all his predecessors have lodged? (Even George Washington had a hostile-press problem.)

Are the bellows of protest from reporters, editors, and others of my press colleagues justified? Or just another sign that the press is nearly as thin-skinned as Trump himself, along with being even less popular?

I could prolong the buildup, but here is the case I’m going to make:  Yes, they’re that bad, and worse.

I think Trump’s first month in office, capped by his “enemy of the people” announcement about the press, has been even more ominous and destructive than the Trump of the campaign trail would have prepared us for, which is of course saying something. And his “lying media” campaign matters not only in itself, which it does, but also because it is part of what is effectively an assault by Trump on the fundamentals of democratic governance.

I don’t know whether on Trump’s own part this campaign is consciously thought-through and strategic: The evidence suggests that he is a man of instinct and impulse rather than patient multi-move deliberation. The evidence about formal and informal members of his constellation, from official advisor Steve Bannon to unofficial ally and model Vladimir Putin, suggests a far more purposeful approach. But whatever its origin, Trump’s record in office is emerging as something different from any previous president’s.

Everyone who has sat in the Oval Office has complained about the way various checks on his power—by the judiciary, the press, stated rules and unstated norms, the opposition party, and alliances and diplomatic obligations—interfere with his ambitions. Trump’s views amount to a rejection of the very existence of those checks. Even in their bitterest tirades against a hostile press (LBJ, Nixon, Clinton, many others), an intransigent court (FDR), a “do-nothing Congress” (Truman, Obama), or feckless allies (take your pick), previous presidents have shown some inner sign that they recognize the legitimacy of a checks-and-balance system, or at least the need to pay it lip service. The standard presidential complaint boils down to: “Sure, we need a free press. I just want it to be ‘fairer’ to me.”

But what Trump has said about the press and all other institutional buffers on his power reflects a simpler calculus, not institutional but tribal. These other centers of power are either for him, or they are against him. If they are for him, they are good—from foreign leaders who congratulate him or call him “brilliant,” to polls that show results to his liking, to “very honorable” news shows like Fox and Friends. Or they are against him, and if the latter they are “so-called,” “phony,” “failing,” “cheating,” “crooked,” or otherwise to be discredited.

Donald Trump accepts the existence of the formal and informal institutional structure that constitutes American democracy only as long as that suits his purposes, and disdains or directly attacks it when it gets in his way. The consistency and extent of this approach have no U.S. precedent that I’m aware of. During the Republican convention in Cleveland last summer, I was in the hall when Trump delivered the most chilling line of his acceptance speech: “I alone can fix it.” Americans have had and supported strong presidents before. This is the closest we have come to a caudillo.


On the specific problems with Trump’s attack on the press, such a rich literature has arisen so quickly that it makes most sense just to list some of the highlights. They include: Jonathan Karl of ABC, “The Free Press is a Big Part of What Makes America Great”; Chris Wallace of Fox, “Trump Has Crossed a Line”; Brian Stelter of CNN on the need for “media literacy”; David Remnick of The New Yorker, on “Donald Trump and the Enemies of the American People”; Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast, on the aptness of the Ibsen play An Enemy of the People; Joel Simon of CJR on Trump’s strategic similarities to Hugo Chavez; Allison Hantschel of First Draft, on “Enemies and their people”; Emily Esfahani Smith of New Yorkmagazine, on the increasingly tribal dimensions of “fact”; Emily Dreyfuss of Wired on the modern nature of the lie; Jon Finer in The Atlantic on why this is a dangerous time for the press and the presidency; and, for good measure, Anthony Lewis’s 2006 review in the NYRB of a biography of Joe McCarthy. Please read all of them and more.

Probably the most sustained of these arguments is that of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial writer Bret Stephens, last week in his Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at UCLA (as reprinted full-length in Time). He develops at length, and very well, the point I am suggesting  here. It’s fair to disclose that in the pre-Trump era I disagreed with Stephens’s views pretty much across the board on international and domestic policy. He was for the Iraq war and against the Iran nuclear deal; my views were the reverse. Similar, and on the same issues, I took a different view of the pre-Trump world from the Washington Post’s editorial writer Jennifer Rubin. I assume I’ll disagree with them again whenever Trump has gone. But in the year and a half since Trump appeared on the horizon, these two have distinguished themselves in standing up for conservative principles, and the underpinnings of small-l liberal democracy, rather than partisan accommodationism. People looking back on this era will contrast them and their clarity with the party leaders who have been so busily averting their eyes.

Back to Stephens’s address. He starts by contrasting Trump’s media complaints with those of other politicians (emphasis added): . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 February 2017 at 9:50 am

More decline and fall (where’s our Gibbon?): The Struggle Inside The Wall Street Journal

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David Leonhardt in the NY Times:

The most successful modern publisher of ideological journalism is Rupert Murdoch. He buys media properties, or starts new ones, and turns them into conservative megaphones.

In England, he carefully nudged the venerable Times to the right, while his tabloids mocked Labour Party politicians as weaklings or Stalinists. In the United States, he transformed the once-liberal New York Post into a peppery conservative tabloid and then built Fox News from scratch.

Clearly, he enjoys both populist and elite media. And in 2007, he bought a journalistic jewel, The Wall Street Journal.

Now The Journal’s newsroom is embroiled in a fight over the paper’s direction.

Many staff members believe that the paper’s top editor, Gerard Baker, previously a feisty conservative commentator, is trying to Murdoch-ize the paper. “There is a systemic issue,” one reporter told me. The dissatisfaction went public last week, with stories in Politico and the Huffington Post. At a staff meeting on Monday, Baker dismissed the criticism as “fake news,” Joe Pompeo and Hadas Gold of Politico reported.

As a longtime reader, admirer and competitor of The Journal, I think the internal critics are right. You can see the news pages becoming more politicized. You can also see The Journal’s staff pushing back, through both great journalism (including exposes on the Trump administration) and quiet insubordination.

Consider The Journal’s coverage of Trump’s false voter-fraud allegations. The stories are mostly solid, noting Trump has no evidence. The headlines often tend toward stenography:

Trump Seeks Election Fraud Probe

Trump Takes Aim at ‘Millions’ of Votes

Top Adviser Repeats Vote-Fraud Claims

Reporters and editors have become accustomed to the “shaving off the edges” of Trump-related stories, one said, especially in headlines and initial paragraphs. The insubordination shows up in later paragraphs, where reporters include harder-hitting information.

There is no shortage of troubling anecdotes: A revealing story about Trump’s white-supremacist support that never ran in print. A dearth of stories about climate change and frightened immigrants. An email from Baker encouraging the staff not to mention the Muslim makeup of the countries when describing Trump’s immigration ban (partly rescinded after BuzzFeed disclosed the email). Glowing stories about Trump — “astonishing,” one longtime editor said — by a reporter who once tweeted a photo of herself smiling with Trump on his jet.

More generally, staffers are worried about Trump-Journal chumminess. Ivanka Trump was until recently a trustee of the Murdoch estate. In The Journal’s Washington bureau, eyebrows rose when Baker’s assistant called to ask how to send Trump a memento: a printing-press plate from an edition reporting his ascendance. (A spokeswoman said no plate was sent.)

The Journal’s opinion pages, of course, have long been conservative. And they have their own tensions: An editor critical of Trump was recently fired, . . .

Continue reading.

It’s essential that an authoritarian leader control the channels of public communication to deliver the messages he wants and—even more important—to repress the messages he wants to silence. Right now Trump has to simply denigrate the media and urge his followers to listen only to him, since he will tell it like it is, and then he spins these delusional fantasies of jobs returning, enemies within and without, and in general that everything is awful and only he, Donald Trump, can save them.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 February 2017 at 5:50 pm

Trump takes feud with press to campaign rally in Florida

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Now it’s getting scary. He’s setting up his supporters to reject out of hand the findings of any investigation that is reported in the media, and it is not unlikely that some of those findings could lead to impeachment. By ensuring that his supporters do not accept anything reported in the media, he must hope to be able to ignore what is found.

Read this report in The Hill and see what you think.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 February 2017 at 5:19 pm

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