Trump wants to punish CNN by breaking up the AT&T/Time Warner deal

Peter Kafka writes: What would it look like if the President of the United States punished American businesses he didn’t like, or news organizations that reported things he didn’t like?

It would look like this: Trump’s Department of Justice is threatening to scuttle AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner unless the merged companies dump CNN and Turner, the cable unit that houses CNN, according to a source familiar with the DOJ’s review.

The Financial Times first reported the news today, as did the New York Times.

We got a hint of this this morning, when AT&T’s CFO said he wasn’t sure when the deal would close — though he still thought it would close.

We could spend time discussing why this makes no sense under conventional antitrust law, since AT&T/Time Warner is a “vertical” merger, where the two companies are in different lines of business.

But don’t ask us. Ask antitrust expert Makan Delrahim, who announced last year that the proposed deal shouldn’t be a problem.

Except now Delrahim has apparently changed his mind. Or, more precisely, Delrahim now works for Donald Trump as the head of antitrust at the DOJ.

Since then, Delrahim has been signaling that he may have problems with AT&T/Time Warner after all.

Sober industry observers — including ones that had problems with the deal — figured that Delrahim wanted to slow down approval of the deal, perhaps because he didn’t want to rubber stamp it.

And if he did have problems with it, a logical place to look would be AT&T’s ownership of HBO, which rival pay TV networks had argued would give HBO unfair footing.

Nope. Per the FT, “It’s all about CNN,” which makes sense if you are a leader of a banana republic who believes that news outlets that report stories critical of your leadership are “fake news.” [Continue reading…]

Richard W Painter, White House ethics lawyer for George W. Bush, tweets:

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Harvey Weinstein’s army of spies

Ronan Farrow writes: In the fall of 2016, Harvey Weinstein set out to suppress allegations that he had sexually harassed or assaulted numerous women. He began to hire private security agencies to collect information on the women and the journalists trying to expose the allegations. According to dozens of pages of documents, and seven people directly involved in the effort, the firms that Weinstein hired included Kroll, which is one of the world’s largest corporate-intelligence companies, and Black Cube, an enterprise run largely by former officers of Mossad and other Israeli intelligence agencies. Black Cube, which has branches in Tel Aviv, London, and Paris, offers its clients the skills of operatives “highly experienced and trained in Israel’s elite military and governmental intelligence units,” according to its literature.

Two private investigators from Black Cube, using false identities, met with the actress Rose McGowan, who eventually publicly accused Weinstein of rape, to extract information from her. One of the investigators pretended to be a women’s-rights advocate and secretly recorded at least four meetings with McGowan. The same operative, using a different false identity and implying that she had an allegation against Weinstein, met twice with a journalist to find out which women were talking to the press. In other cases, journalists directed by Weinstein or the private investigators interviewed women and reported back the details.

The explicit goal of the investigations, laid out in one contract with Black Cube, signed in July, was to stop the publication of the abuse allegations against Weinstein that eventually emerged in the New York Times and The New Yorker. Over the course of a year, Weinstein had the agencies “target,” or collect information on, dozens of individuals, and compile psychological profiles that sometimes focussed on their personal or sexual histories. Weinstein monitored the progress of the investigations personally. He also enlisted former employees from his film enterprises to join in the effort, collecting names and placing calls that, according to some sources who received them, felt intimidating. [Continue reading…]

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A billionaire destroyed his newsrooms out of spite

Hamilton Nolan writes: Reporters, for all their flaws, tend to understand what’s happening in their own newsrooms. It’s their job to try to see things clearly. Often, what they see in their workplaces is low salaries, inept management and poor communication — ills that plague many workplaces across America. For more than two years now, online media outlets have been unionizing as a way to make our industry better. This week, we learned just how horrifying some rich people find the idea of employees coming together to improve their workplace.

Joe Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade whose family owns the Chicago Cubs, is worth more than $2 billion. He is the owner of DNAinfo, a local news site that covered New York City and Chicago with unparalleled skill, as well as Gothamist, a network of city-oriented websites that DNAinfo bought this year. He is also a major right-wing political donor of rather flexible morality. During the last presidential primaries, Mr. Ricketts spent millions of dollars funding ads that portrayed Donald Trump as an untrustworthy, dangerous misogynist. Once Mr. Trump secured the nomination, Mr. Ricketts spent a million dollars to support him.

One might think that such flexibility would allow Mr. Ricketts to bend but not break when faced with every plutocrat’s worst nightmare: a few dozen modestly paid employees who collectively bargain for better working conditions.

Alas, no.

Six months ago, reporters and editors at DNAinfo-Gothamist announced their intent to join the Writers Guild of America, East. This is the union that my colleagues and I at Gawker Media joined in 2015, and the union that has organized major online media companies like HuffPost, Vice Media, Slate and Thrillist in the past two years. In that short amount of time, unionized “new media” workers have won substantial raises, editorial protections and other improvements that writers at more mature companies take for granted. In defiance of the conventional wisdom that unions are outdated, this young, high-tech industry has been one of the most visible recent successes for organized labor in America.

The DNAinfo-Gothamist announcement sparked a zealous anti-union campaign: Management threatened employees by saying that Joe Ricketts might shut the whole place down if it unionized. Nevertheless, employees last week voted 25-2 in favor of unionization. And on Thursday, Mr. Ricketts abruptly shut the whole place down. [Continue reading…]

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Jenna Abrams, Russia’s clown troll princess, duped the mainstream media and the world

The Daily Beast reports: Jenna Abrams had a lot of enemies on Twitter but she was a very good friend to viral content writers across the world.

Her opinions about everything from manspreading on the subway to Rachel Dolezal to ballistic missiles still linger on news sites all over the web.

One website devoted an entire article to Abrams’ tweet about Kim Kardashian’s clothes. The story was titled “This Tweeter’s PERFECT Response to Kim K’s Naked Selfie Will Crack You Up.”

“Thank goodness, then, that there are people like Twitter user Jenna Abrams to come to the celebrity’s wardrobe-lacking aide,” reads a Brit & Co. article from March of 2016.

Those same users who followed @Jenn_Abrams for her perfect Kim Kardashian jokes would be blasted with her shoddily punctuated ideas on slavery and segregation just one month later.

“To those people, who hate the Confederate flag. Did you know that the flag and the war wasn’t about slavery, it was all about money,” Abrams’ account tweeted in April of last year.

The tweet went viral, earning heaps of ridicule from journalists, historians, and celebrities alike, then calls for support from far-right users coming to her defense.

That was the plan all along.

Congressional investigators working with social media companies have since confirmed that Abrams wasn’t who she said she was.

Her account was the creation of employees at the Internet Research Agency, or the Russian government-funded “troll farm,” in St. Petersburg.

Jenna Abrams, the freewheeling American blogger who believed in a return to segregation and said that many of America’s problems stemmed from PC culture run amok, did not exist.

But Abrams got very real attention from almost any national news outlet you can think of, according to a Daily Beast analysis of her online footprint.

Abrams, who at one point boasted nearly 70,000 Twitter followers, was featured in articles written by Bustle, U.S. News and World Report, USA Today, several local Fox affiliates, InfoWars, BET, Yahoo Sports, Sky News, IJR, Breitbart, The Washington Post, Mashable, New York Daily News, Quartz, Dallas News, France24, HuffPost, The Daily Caller, The Telegraph, CNN, the BBC, Gizmodo, The Independent, The Daily Dot, The Observer, Business Insider, The National Post, Refinery29, The Times of India, BuzzFeed, The Daily Mail, The New York Times, and, of course, Russia Today and Sputnik. [Continue reading…]

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Is civil war breaking out in the Wall Street Journal over the editorial board’s coverage of Mueller?

Joe Pompeo writes: The editorial page has been doing crazy shit for a long time,” a former long-serving Wall Street Journal editor told me this week. This person was referencing the time-honored divide in most journalistic organizations between the newsroom and the opinion desk. At the Journal, that divide can be particularly fraught. While the paper has long been a leading bastion of conservative thinking, its editorial writers are known to take positions that are more extreme than many of their colleagues in the newsroom can stomach.

The friction is, in some ways, a hallmark of the institution. A decade ago, an editorial-page columnist attacked a 2006 Journal series about the practice of backdating stock-option awards that went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. The page also once defended billionaire junk-bond king Michael Milken, who got a 10-year sentence for securities fraud in 1990 based in part on exposés by Journal reporters. Nevertheless, several Journal veterans I spoke with described the current rift as among the more fractious they’ve witnessed. “It does feel like this is a different level of crazy,” the veteran editor said. [Continue reading…]

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Refusing Weinstein’s hush money, Rose McGowan calls out Hollywood

The New York Times reports: In late September, just as multiple women were days away from going on the record with reports of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct, one of his alleged assault victims, Rose McGowan, considered an offer that suggested just how desperate the Hollywood producer had become.

Ms. McGowan, who was working on a memoir called “Brave,” had spoken privately over the years about a 1997 hotel room encounter with Mr. Weinstein and hinted at it publicly. Through her lawyer, she said, someone close to Mr. Weinstein offered her hush money: $1 million, in exchange for signing a nondisclosure agreement.

In 1997, Ms. McGowan had reached a $100,000 settlement with Mr. Weinstein, but that agreement, she learned this summer, had never included a confidentiality clause. Ms. McGowan, who was most widely known for her role as a witch on the WB show “Charmed,” had recently developed a massive following as a fiery feminist on Twitter, but she was now, at 44, a multimedia artist, no longer acting, her funds depleted by health care costs for her father, who died eight years ago.

“I had all these people I’m paying telling me to take it so that I could fund my art,” Ms. McGowan said in an interview. She responded by asking for $6 million, part counteroffer, part slow torture of her former tormentor, she said. “I figured I could probably have gotten him up to three,” she said. “But I was like — ew, gross, you’re disgusting, I don’t want your money, that would make me feel disgusting.” [Continue reading…]

Ronan Farrow reports: In March, Annabella Sciorra, who received an Emmy nomination for her role in “The Sopranos,” agreed to talk with me for a story I was reporting about Harvey Weinstein. Speaking by phone, I explained that two sources had told me that she had a serious allegation regarding the producer. Sciorra, however, told me that Weinstein had never done anything inappropriate. Perhaps she just wasn’t his type, she said, with an air of what seemed to be studied nonchalance. But, two weeks ago, after The New Yorker published the story, in which thirteen women accused Weinstein of sexual assault and harassment, Sciorra called me. The truth, she said, was that she had been struggling to speak about Weinstein for more than twenty years. She was still living in fear of him, and slept with a baseball bat by her bed. Weinstein, she told me, had violently raped her in the early nineteen-nineties, and, over the next several years, sexually harassed her repeatedly.

“I was so scared. I was looking out the window of my living room, and I faced the water of the East River,” she said, recalling our initial conversation. “I really wanted to tell you. I was like, ‘This is the moment you’ve been waiting for your whole life. . . .’ ” she said. “I really, really panicked,” she added. “I was shaking. And I just wanted to get off the phone.”

All told, more than fifty women have now levelled accusations against Weinstein, in accounts published by the New York Times, The New Yorker, and other outlets. But many other victims have continued to be reluctant to talk to me about their experiences, declining interview requests or initially agreeing to talk and then wavering. As more women have come forward, the costs of doing so have certainly shifted. But many still say that they face overwhelming pressures to stay silent, ranging from the spectre of career damage to fears about the life-altering consequences of being marked as sexual-assault victims. “Now when I go to a restaurant or to an event, people are going to know that this happened to me,” Sciorra said. “They’re gonna look at me and they’re gonna know. I’m an intensely private person, and this is the most unprivate thing you can do.” [Continue reading…]

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Canning O’Reilly and other media men won’t change a thing. Here’s what would

Margaret Sullivan writes: So, now that the dam has burst on sexual misconduct at media companies, we’re good, right?

Don’t believe that for a moment.

The appalling behavior that’s been in the headlines for weeks isn’t going to stop just because some high-profile men have fallen from grace.

Yes, maybe, after this month of eye-popping revelations about influential media figures such as Bill O’Reilly, Mark Halperin and Leon Wieseltier, news organizations will do a better job of taking internal complaints seriously. For a while.

And maybe high-powered men will keep their pants zipped and their hands to themselves so that they won’t lose their positions atop the totem pole. For a time.

The revelations do matter. But something deeper — more difficult — has to happen, too.

Media companies have to address the deep-seated gender inequality that’s at the root of this mess.

“It shouldn’t be forgotten that sexual harassment is often more about abuse of power than sex,” wrote former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, who with journalist Jane Mayer chronicled Anita Hill’s sexual harassment claims against Clarence Thomas during his 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings in their book, “Strange Justice.”

When Abramson was top Times editor — the first woman to hold that coveted post — she promoted talented, qualified women so that half of her “masthead” was female. Good thing she moved fast; Abramson was fired after less than three years.

That kind of equity makes a difference. Having a critical mass of women decision-makers, rather than a token presence, allows ideas to bubble up and voices to be heard in new ways. This is, of course, true for racial diversity, too.

It’s rare, though — and not just in media-management ranks. [Continue reading…]

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Poll: 46 percent think media make up stories about Trump

Politico reports: Nearly half of voters, 46 percent, believe the news media fabricate news stories about President Donald Trump and his administration, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.

Just 37 percent of voters think the media do not fabricate stories, the poll shows, while the remaining 17 percent are undecided.

More than three-quarters of Republican voters, 76 percent, think the news media invent stories about Trump and his administration, compared with only 11 percent who don’t think so. Among Democrats, one-in-five think the media make up stories, but a 65 percent majority think they do not. Forty-four percent of independent voters think the media make up stories about Trump, and 31 percent think they do not.

Among the voters who strongly approve of Trump’s job performance in the poll, 85 percent believe the media fabricate stories about the president and his administration. [Continue reading…]

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How Stalin — and the foreign press corps — hid Ukraine’s famine from the world

Anne Applebaum writes: In the years 1932 and 1933, a catastrophic famine swept across the Soviet Union. It began in the chaos of collectivization, when millions of peasants were forced off their land and made to join state farms. It was then exacerbated, in the autumn of 1932, when the Soviet Politburo, the elite leadership of the Soviet Communist Party, took a series of decisions that deepened the famine in the Ukrainian countryside. Despite the shortages, the state demanded not just grain, but all available food. At the height of the crisis, organized teams of policemen and local Party activists, motivated by hunger, fear, and a decade of hateful propaganda, entered peasant households and took everything edible: potatoes, beets, squash, beans, peas, and farm animals. At the same time, a cordon was drawn around the Ukrainian republic to prevent escape. The result was a catastrophe: At least 5 million people perished of hunger all across the Soviet Union. Among them were nearly 4 million Ukrainians who died not because of neglect or crop failure, but because they had been deliberately deprived of food.

Neither the Ukrainian famine nor the broader Soviet famine were ever officially recognized by the USSR. Inside the country the famine was never mentioned. All discussion was actively repressed; statistics were altered to hide it. The terror was so overwhelming that the silence was complete. Outside the country, however, the cover-up required different, subtler tactics. These are beautifully illustrated by the parallel stories of Walter Duranty and Gareth Jones.

In the 1930s, all of the members of the Moscow press corps led a precarious existence. At the time, they needed the state’s permission to live in the USSR, and even to work. Without a signature and the official stamp of the press department, the central telegraph office would not send their dispatches abroad. To win that permission, journalists regularly bargained with foreign ministry censors over which words they could use, and they kept on good terms with Konstantin Umansky, the Soviet official responsible for the foreign press corps. William Henry Chamberlin, then the Moscow correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, wrote that the foreign reporter “works under a Sword of Damocles—the threat of expulsion from the country or of the refusal of permission to re-enter it, which of course amounts to the same thing.”

Extra rewards were available to those, like Walter Duranty, who played the game particularly well. Duranty was The New York Times correspondent in Moscow from 1922 until 1936, a role that, for a time, made him relatively rich and famous. British by birth, Duranty had no ties to the ideological left, adopting rather the position of a hard-headed and skeptical “realist,” trying to listen to both sides of the story. “It may be objected that the vivisection of living animals is a sad and dreadful thing, and it is true that the lot of kulaks and others who have opposed the Soviet experiment is not a happy one,” he wrote in 1935—the kulaks being the so-called wealthy peasants whom Stalin accused of causing the famine. But “in both cases, the suffering inflicted is done with a noble purpose.”

This position made Duranty enormously useful to the regime, which went out of its way to ensure that Duranty lived well in Moscow. He had a large flat, kept a car and a mistress, had the best access of any correspondent, and twice received coveted interviews with Stalin. But the attention he won from his reporting back in the U.S. seems to have been his primary motivation. His missives from Moscow made him one of the most influential journalists of his time. In 1932, his series of articles on the successes of collectivization and the Five Year Plan won him the Pulitzer Prize. Soon afterward, Franklin Roosevelt, then the governor of New York, invited Duranty to the governor’s mansion in Albany, where the Democratic presidential candidate peppered him with queries. “I asked all the questions this time. It was fascinating,” Roosevelt told another reporter.

As the famine worsened, Duranty, like his colleagues, would have been in no doubt about the regime’s desire to repress it. In 1933, the Foreign Ministry began requiring correspondents to submit a proposed itinerary before any journey into the provinces; all requests to visit Ukraine were refused. The censors also began to monitor dispatches. Some phrases were allowed: “acute food shortage,” “food stringency,” “food deficit,” “diseases due to malnutrition,” but nothing else. In late 1932, Soviet officials even visited Duranty at home, making him nervous.

In that atmosphere, few of them were inclined to write about the famine, although all of them knew about it. “Officially, there was no famine,” wrote Chamberlin. But “to anyone who lived in Russia in 1933 and who kept his eyes and ears open, the historicity of the famine is simply not in question.” Duranty himself discussed the famine with William Strang, a diplomat at the British embassy, in late 1932. Strang reported back drily that the New York Times correspondent had been “waking to the truth for some time,” although he had not “let the great American public into the secret.” Duranty also told Strang that he reckoned “it quite possible that as many as 10 million people may have died directly or indirectly from lack of food,” though that number never appeared in any of his reporting. Duranty’s reluctance to write about famine may have been particularly acute: The story cast doubt on his previous, positive (and prize-winning) reporting. [Continue reading…]

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Russia is showing increasing contempt for Trump

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It seems that Russian state media is starting to chip away at Trump’s burnished image.
Maxim Apryatin

By Cynthia Hooper, College of the Holy Cross

Four major Russia investigations are underway in Washington, along with at least six related federal inquiries.

Anxiety currently swirls around the Kremlin’s manipulation of popular social media platforms Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. Cybersecurity sleuths claim Russia used Pokemon Go to inflame racial tensions and accuse Twitter of deleting crucial data detailing Russian efforts to sow discord during the 2016 presidential election.

“Russia, Russia Everywhere,” read The New York Times Oct. 13 “Week in Technology” review.

But as a cultural historian, I’m interested in how Russia’s media outlets – many of which are state-controlled – are covering these same stories.

It’s no secret that for years the Kremlin has claimed Washington possesses a knee-jerk, anti-Russian bias. Moscow officials have cast recent U.S. charges that Russia has been acting to “undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order” as simply part of this same phenomenon, albeit one that has blossomed, of late, into full-fledged hysteria.

Russia’s most popular media outlets compare the investigations to those of the McCarthy era, calling them “witch hunts” focused on a “phantom menace.”

However, I’ve noticed something surprising. Amid all the emphasis of “Russophobia run wild,” Russian media coverage seems to have become more positive in regard to one issue: the Justice Department’s investigation led by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller.

[Read more…]

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Put women in charge

Michelle Goldberg writes: Most women I know — and probably most women you know — have stories about sexual harassment. Mine happened in college, with a professor who was older than my father and who made me think he was genuinely interested in my writing. One day in his office, he told me he wanted to “kiss and molest” me. I muttered something about having a boyfriend and fled.

As stories like this go, I got off easy. I remember thinking at the time, “Huh, so this is sexual harassment.” I wasn’t particularly traumatized, but it was a blow to my faith in my own talents. I felt ridiculous for having believed that this man, whom I very much admired, saw me as a person with promise instead of an easy mark.

Cumulatively, incidents like this erode women’s self-confidence and make it hard for them to find mentors as their male peers do. But in my case, there was no accumulation; I never again experienced anything like it. There’s plenty of harassment in the media; in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, some women passed around an anonymous, crowd-sourced Google Doc listing men in my industry accused of sexual transgressions. I’d heard some of these stories but have somehow been immune since that office visit so many years ago. Why?

I’m sure the friendly people on the internet will say it’s because I’m undesirable, but despite the Weinstein affair, it’s not just dewy bombshells who experience harassment. Maybe I’ve simply been lucky. But I credit the fact that I worked at a succession of publications — Salon, Newsweek and The Daily Beast, The Nation, Slate — headed, for most of the time I was there, by women. (This was unusual; as of 2016, according to the American Society of News Editors, women still made up only 37.11 percent of “newsroom leaders.”) The books I’ve published have been acquired and edited by women. For most of my 20s and 30s, I never had to worry that getting ahead in my career meant staying in the good graces of a straight man.

More women should have the same privilege. [Continue reading…]

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Trump threatens NBC over nuclear weapons report

The New York Times reports: President Trump threatened on Wednesday to use the federal government’s power to license television airwaves to target NBC in response to a report by the network’s news division that he contemplated a dramatic increase in the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

In a story aired and posted online Wednesday morning, NBC reported that Mr. Trump said during a meeting last summer that he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, stunning some members of his national security team. It was after this meeting that Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson reportedly said Mr. Trump was a “moron.”

Mr. Trump objected to the report in two messages on Twitter later Wednesday and threatened to use the authority of the federal government to retaliate. [Continue reading…]

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Anti-Semitism’s rise gives The Forward new resolve

The New York Times reports: The Forward has chronicled the experiences of Jews in the United States for 120 years. Initially published as a Yiddish-language lifeline for those who fled hatred and strife in Europe, in recent years it had to work harder to stay relevant to a community now largely assimilated, finding new stories to tell about transgender rabbis, the challenges of interfaith marriage and even the “secret Jewish history of The Who.”

Then came 2016, and a sudden clarification of its mission that would be strikingly familiar to the publication’s founders: covering the rise of public displays of anti-Semitism.

“There’s something different happening now,” Jane Eisner, The Forward’s editor in chief, said in a recent interview in her office, where a photo of the publication’s founder, Abraham Cahan, peered from the wall. “And here I’m speaking not just as a journalist, but as a close observer of the American Jewish scene. I feel it’s my responsibility as a writer and editor to illuminate that for people.”

Since the summer of 2016, about a year before The Forward went from being a weekly newspaper to a monthly magazine, it has beefed up its coverage of the so-called alt-right; assigned a reporter to go to white nationalist rallies like the one in Charlottesville, Va., in August, which featured chants like “Jews will not replace us”; and pursued more investigative reporting. [Continue reading…]

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Troll-in-chief: ‘Maybe it’s the calm before the storm’

The Washington Post reports: As President Trump posed for a formal photo with his top military commanders and their spouses in the State Dining Room at the White House on Thursday evening, Trump pointed to the leaders gathered around him and asked the small group of reporters standing before him: “You guys know what this represents?”

“Tell us,” shouted out one of the reporters unexpectedly summoned to witness this photo session.

“Maybe it’s the calm before the storm,” the president replied.

Reporters asked the president what he was talking about, what storm was coming.

“Could be the calm before the storm,” he said a second time. [Continue reading…]

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Trump pushes for Senate intel panel probe of ‘Fake News Networks’ in U.S.

Politico reports: President Donald Trump urged Congress Thursday morning to launch an investigation of the news media, wondering online “why so much of our news is just made up.”

“Why Isn’t the Senate Intel Committee looking into the Fake News Networks in OUR country to see why so much of our news is just made up-FAKE!” the president wrote on Twitter Thursday morning. He did not single out a specific story or media outlet that he believed to be guilty of inaccurate reporting.

Trump’s “fake news” complaints have been a staple of his political rhetoric, a label he often applied to stories that feature negative reporting about him or his presidency. Most recently, Trump has railed against reports that have characterized his administration’s hurricane recovery efforts in Puerto Rico as inadequate, as well as against an NBC News report that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the president a “moron” over the summer and nearly resigned.

Another frequent “fake news” target for Trump has been the multiple ongoing investigations into Russian interference in last year’s presidential election, one of which is being conducted by the Senate Intelligence Committee. The president often refers to those investigations collectively as a “hoax” or a “witch hunt.” [Continue reading…]

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Maria television reporting raises echoes of Katrina coverage

The Associated Press reports: As the days pass since Hurricane Maria ripped across Puerto Rico, television reports increasingly echo those after Katrina a dozen years ago in sounding the alarm for a desperate population frustrated by the pace of relief efforts.

The question is: how many people are listening this time?

The words were blunt by the usually easygoing Bill Weir on CNN: “This is a humanitarian crisis the likes of which we have not seen for a long time.” His report, though, came 20 minutes into a Jake Tapper newscast that was led by political developments in the United States.

The story has struggled to get the attention of predecessor hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which struck the U.S. mainland. The emotional plea of San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz on Friday felt like a turning point, although it was overshadowed in the news by the resignation of President Donald Trump’s health secretary, Tom Price.

Trump himself brought it back into the news Saturday, with Twitter attacks on how the “Fake News Networks are working overtime in Puerto Rico doing their best to take the spirit away from our soldiers” and first responders.

He may have done more to focus people on the story than television had up until the past few days. So far NBC’s Lester Holt has been the only broadcast network anchor to report on the storm from Puerto Rico, a telling measure of the story’s importance to news executives. Puerto Rican developments led NBC’s “Nightly News” each night this past week; on ABC’s “World News Tonight,” it was the lead story once.

Wind and rain stinging Chris Cuomo’s face was a defining image of Hurricane Irma coverage from Florida. Yet until Anderson Cooper arrived on Friday, Maria hadn’t attracted cable news’ marquee stars. [Continue reading…]

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‘Isn’t that the Trump lawyer?’: A reporter’s accidental scoop

Kenneth P Vogel writes: I have always thought of overhearing conversations as an underappreciated journalistic tool.

When political donors, lobbyists and politicians gather at hotels for meetings and strategy sessions, they often keep out reporters. But they usually can’t keep us out of the lobby bars and restaurants where they gather afterward to gossip. And I’ve picked up all manner of tantalizing nuggets — from U.S. senators, billionaire donors and influential operatives, among others — by positioning myself within earshot of those conversations while nursing a beer at the bar.

Sometimes, those nuggets have been featured in my journalism, including in my behind-the-scenes reporting on how major donors have influenced politics; more often, they’ve merely helped me add texture to my reporting on money and influence.

But I’ve never overheard a conversation quite like the one I accidentally encountered last Tuesday, when I met a source for lunch at BLT Steak, a downtown Washington steakhouse frequented by the capital’s expense-account set. My source chose the restaurant, but I didn’t protest, since BLT is on the same block as The New York Times’s Washington bureau and has a delightful tuna niçoise salad with fingerling potatoes and green beans.

Being a rare temperate day in Washington with tolerable humidity, we requested a table in the restaurant’s outdoor section, which abuts a busy sidewalk. Not long after we’d ordered, my source noticed someone he thought he recognized being seated at the table behind me.

“Isn’t that the Trump lawyer?” he asked. [Continue reading…]

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