Category Archives: So Called Liberal Media

‘to get to a certain number’

Is it progress that media ownership is finally just admitting that they’re decimating newsrooms because fuck you? 

Today, four newsroom employees — Shannon Countryman, Chris Kaergard, Thomas Bruch and Aaron Ferguson — will be terminated; a fifth, Wes Huett, will be terminated Sept. 21. To be clear, GateHouse and the Journal Star remain profitable enterprises; these cuts were made to “get to a certain number,” as we were told this week.

The Peoria Newspaper Guild tried to find reasonable alternatives and compromises, including the transitioning of employees to other, necessary work now going undone. We were told no; five employees had to be terminated.

Emphasis mine. Note that that “certain number” is not, say, the number of reporters or stories or pages or investigations or hell, even clicks. No, that “certain number” is a profit margin that makes Gatehouse Media, a wildly wealthy organization, look even wealthier. That’s the number that matters to them.

I mean, at least they’re not lying about needing to adjust to the digital paradigm and inspire the future of the extremely online, or whatever it was they were prattling about last week. I guess that’s something.

Probably after 30 years of never facing any consequences at all for gutting newsrooms, Gatehouse figured they didn’t need to keep paying the intern they hired to fart out buzzwords like “nimble” and “changing tastes of readers” anymore. I mean, this is the very first comment:

Here is the obligatory comment that we now read more news than we ever have but we refuse to pay for it. And this is the result.

This, the bullshit story of the cause and effect, has so utterly defined the narrative of the decline of newspapers that even commenters on a local politics site can parrot it out without missing a beat. Never mind it’s completely false, that the Internet didn’t ruin anything wasn’t already on its way to ruining itself, that all the subscription dollars in the world don’t matter if they all go into the same toxic cauldron of executive incompetence.

Gatehouse isn’t even pretending to blame readers anymore. Readers will blame each other without any help at all. Older reporters will blame younger ones, and they’ll all fight amongst themselves instead of teaming up to take their papers back out of the hands of owners.

To get to a certain number. There’s a mission you can put on your masthead. There’s something to believe in. Good Christ.


Deep State Throat

I wish I could take credit for Deep State Throat as an epithet for the author of the New York Times op-ed but I saw it first on the twitter feed of Never Trump Republican Rick Wilson. He’s a funny man so I wanted to give him credit before stealing the sobriquet. And if Mr. Wilson picked it up elsewhere, thanks to that person.

I’m under no illusion that the identity of Deep State Throat is the most important thing I could write about. (The performance of Senate Democrats during the Kavanaugh hearings has been most inspiring; special kudos to Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Pat Leahy.) But I’m a Watergate junkie and one of my odder hobbies for many years was speculating as to who Deep Throat was. It’s only natural that I’m drawn to speculating about the identity of Deep State Throat.

One thing I’m trying not to do is to dismiss out of hand specific institutional actors. It was a mistake John Dean made when he investigated the identity of Deep Throat. He ruled out the FBI, which was how he lit on Alexander Haig, Nixon’s second chief-of-staff. Under Dean’s sway, Haig was *my* leading candidate but second on my list was former G-Man W Mark Felt.

I  do not consider Mark Felt a hero. He was an important whistleblower, but he was the ultimate disgruntled employee. He had good reason to believe that he would succeed Hoover, which gave him an axe to grind. His main gripe with Tricky and his henchman was that they violated the norms and procedures of Hoover’s FBI. He had no problem with black bag jobs or illegal surveillance of dissidents. But he did look spiffy with a fedora and a rod:

I love those 1940’s ties. I have several of them and enjoyed wearing them in another lifetime. The Insult Comedian would hate them as they’re on the short side. He prefers long ties that point at his tiny pecker. It’s probably why he had a friend by the name of Pecker until he, too, turned on Donald. Penis envy explains a great deal about Trump.

Back to Deep State Throat. There were ritual denials from many senior Trump administration officials including my two prime suspects. The denials don’t rule any of them out. First, they work in an administration whose motto seems to be “lie early and lie often.” Second, Mark Felt repeatedly denied being Deep Throat until he was elderly. Say no more.

I’ve written off some early contenders such as Mike Pence and Nikki Haley who both have presidential ambitions. Deep State Throat will be as radioactive to vestigial Trumpers as Nelson Rockefeller was to the Republican Right back in the day. Besides, Haley isn’t in Washington enough and Pence’s political viability depends on not wielding the knife himself. Michael Heseltine, who wielded the knife against Margaret Thatcher, had to settle for being John Major’s Deputy Prime Minister. Pence is already playing second fiddle, he wants to conduct.

I have two prime suspects if Deep State Throat is truly a “senior Trump administration official” as described by The Times. Let’s start with Pence’s fellow Hoosier. Dan Coats has been willing to publicly disagree with the president* and holds the sort of sincere Reganite views expressed in the op-ed. He issued what is best described as a non-denial denial.

 “Speculation that The New York Times op-ed was written by me or my Principal Deputy is patently false. We did not. From the beginning of our tenure, we have insisted that the entire IC remain focused on our mission to provide the President and policymaker with the best intelligence possible.”

Note that Coats did not denounce the op-ed or declare its contents to be “patently false.” I’m also struck by the mention of his principal deputy; nobody other than former HRC aide Philippe Reines has mentioned Sue Gordon. Did Gordon and Coats collaborate on the op-ed?

The fact that Coats’ right-hand is a woman feeds into a theory advanced by Deep Blog, a self-described intuitive and smart motherfucker, that Deep State Throat is a woman. Charlie Pierce and his wife, Margaret Doris, have floated the notion that Kellyanne Conway is the mole.

She points out that there is something unmistakably feminine in the tone, that it is written in the kind of English practiced in the realms of advertising and public relations, and that the ensuing guessing game has knocked both Bob Woodward’s book and Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination hearings off the top of the news, regardless of what it may be doing the the president*’s evaporating sanity. If, as I speculated on Wednesday, this is a vehicle on which you can ride away from the garbage fire that is this administration*, but you still want to hold onto your conservative Republican street cred, this is exactly the kind of thing you’d concoct.

She thinks it’s Kellyanne Conway.

The op-ed also has a somewhat snide tone at the end when Deep State Throat blames the American people for the Kaiser of Chaos:

The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.

That sounds more like the snippy Conway than the genial Coats. In his days on the Hill, Coats was known to be nice to the “little people” from cleaners to staff. Of course, other Trump officials have bragged about how they obscure their identity when leaking: 

“To cover my tracks, I usually pay attention to other staffers’ idioms and use that in my background quotes. That throws the scent off me.”

The Trump White House is a viper’s nest of backstabbing bastards. It’s reminiscent of the Courts of the Caesars: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero. That’s why I call Donald Trumpberius.

One theory I do not buy is this one: “The op-ed was a plant only designed to distract attention from the Kavanaugh hearings and Woodward book,” In a word: piffle. That is far too slick for the Trumpers who excel only in incompetence. Trump himself has engaged in an epic public temper tantrum and internal witch hunt since the op-ed was published. He wants Deep State Throat’s head on a platter or arm attached to a lie detector by Senator Aqua Buddha.

It will be fascinating to watch this lurid melodrama play out. I suspect Deep State Throat’s secret identity will be revealed sooner as opposed to later but it won’t be Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, or Peter Parker. I fully expect Deep State Throat to go public, since unlike Mark Felt, he/she/it craves attention. They’re relishing the attention but must be aggravated by those, like me, who have called them a coward when Deep State Throat thinks of themselves as a hero. Reveal your identity and resign if you really want to save the Republic from the president* you serve.

The last word goes to Asia with a song with a song about betrayal:

Appetite for No Destruction

Will this finally be the thing that ends him?

The dramatic and previously untold scene is recounted in “Fear,” a forthcoming book by Bob Woodward that paints a harrowing portrait of the Trump presidency, based on in-depth interviews with administration officials and other principals.


November. That’s all we have. Voting in November. So spare me another news cycle of Trump being horrible in slightly more detailed ways than we knew he was horrible. Spare me handing around these insider anecdotes like they mean the GOP will suddenly rediscover oversight. I actually find Trump’s horribleness boring by this point, compared to the atrocities carried out in the streets using him as an excuse.

I’ve been saying this since Trump first announced he was running: The problem isn’t that he’s a giant rude asshole. We’re all fixated on his goddamn manners and not at all on his goddamn morals, which are in order money, self-aggrandizement, and racism. I don’t care he yells at people or that Official Washington thinks he’s a shithead because he ruins their parties. I care that people are in danger because he’s a shithead.

If the stories Woodward’s telling are just more horror aimed at people — GOP senators, and such — who’ve already proven they can’t be horrified, you’ll pardon me for taking the money I could have spent downloading the thing and giving it to the League of Women Voters instead.


The Failure of the Ideas Festival

I’ve thought for a long time that our Thought Leader Idea Model Marketplace Week Festival Symposium was bullshit and broken, and not just when some whackjob promoting an all-meat diet and talking about lobsters became what passed for an intellectual. However, its bullshit-itude and broken-ness certainly reached an apotheosis with the 24-Hour Bannon Fiasco that is now how the New Yorker Festival will be known. 

(There were 600 different ways to NOT FUCK THIS CHICKEN, but there you were, New Yorker, lubing up and heading for the henhouse.)

Workshopping a society by having a bunch of rich assholes talk to each other for hours is a bad way to do things. For starters, until very recently these kinds of setups left out of the conversation the people affected by politics and policies, allowing us all to airily “debate” whether members of marginalized populations are really people, in air-conditioned conference rooms with catered lunch.

You are “engaging” “ideas” instead of “feeding” “people” and I’m sorry but we have a limited amount of time on this planet. I’m a writer, I would never say that telling stories doesn’t matter, but at a certain point that’s all we’re doing. Once you’ve “engaged” with the idea, where are the action items?

Or are those not as attractive as conversations sponsored by major corporations under the guise of “improving society” at which a bunch of lifelong learners nod sagely while being told things they can safely bring up at their next book club? Jesus Christ, this is no way to have civics.

The entire industrial complex of this thing gives me hives, and that’s during normal times, not when we’re at war with goddamn Nazis banning Muslims and deporting law-abiding immigrants and ripping passports from the hands of American citizens at the border. At times like this, do we really want to even throw the party, much less invite Steve Bannon TO IT?

Remnick’s statement, full of sober disappointment at the way “social media” got all het up over silly little things, is just so par-for-the-course. We need active, engaged media leadership asking every single day what people NEED, not what fits in the mold that should have been broken years ago.


Beto, Ted Cruz, and Weasel Voice

No sooner do I read this academic blog about “weasel voice” in journalism: 

The Economist took a look at how it’s not passive voice or active voice that creates the biggest problem for writers and readers. It’s “weasel voice” writing that does the most damage. The article makes several key points about clarity and information that you can use, even if you aren’t covering political insurgencies or violent insurrections. Consider what weasel voice does and what we can do to fix the problems:

Weasel voice hides the identity of the person committing an action:Passive voice provides readers with a limited amount of information because we lack crucial information about the “who” in the sentence.

Than along comes a prime example of it: 

That and a separate arrest for jumping a fence at a University of Texas-El Paso facility have long been a matter of record in O’Rourke’s public life, both on the El Paso City Council and in Congress. But the unexplained details of the crash and DWI in Anthony, a suburb about 20 miles north of El Paso that borders New Mexico, could now emerge as a potential attack point in his quest to unseat Texas Republican Ted Cruz.

Emphasis mine because WHAT THE HONEY BAKED CHRIST.

“Could now emerge.” From whence, pray tell, could this “attack point” (ugh) “emerge?” The mists of Avalon? The reeking trash of whatever Cruz-tinted Super-PAC farted this into the Houston Chronicle’s tipline? And what the hell is a “potential attack point” anyway? Because Beto wasn’t already getting tarred as a soft-on-crime peacefreak who wants to let serial killers out of jail to rape white Texas debutantes?

I mean, I know the answers to these questions because I read and interpret stuff like this for a living and once upon a long time ago before the earth’s crust cooled I wrote it, too, and the answer is either I’m not really confident in what I’m saying or I don’t want to upset anybody or I’m doing somebody’s job for them, and all of these are bad reasons to write a news story.

You use this kind of language to disavow responsibility for what you’re doing, and it’s cowardly, and it’s one of many reasons people left journalism in droves: the demand to use bloodless language to describe bloody things.

Lest you think I’m just picking on one line in this story, here we go again a few paragraphs later:

Neither arrest has factored significantly into O’Rourke’s political career, though both were used against him in his successful 2012 campaign against former El Paso Congressman Silvestre Reyes in a predominantly Hispanic district.


The law enforcement reports show two elements of the incident that have been overlooked: that there was a crash involved, and that O’Rourke allegedly attempted to flee.

Overlooked by whom? A good editor (and a good writer) would address that obvious point.

Doc and I were having a conversation a few weeks back about the endless blogger ethics panel we’re having, and I couldn’t have invented a better example of how American journalism today has defined “acting ethically” as “not upsetting anyone” which leads to “writing so opaque that absolutely no one is served.” If I’m a reader, not a political operative or a journalist, how does this O’Rourke story serve me? What does it tell me that I don’t already know?

Is the writer saying with these grafs that voters SHOULD have rejected O’Rourke previously, based on this police report and his other arrest?  If you have a point, just make it. Hell, do what a really creative reporter would do and find a local university poli-sci professor who likes seeing his name in print and get HIM to make your point for you. This mealy-mouthed nonsense serves no one.

It doesn’t even shield the paper from criticism, which would be a chickenassed enough reason to do anything. I know all Super Savvy Reporters think the job is done if everyone’s mad at them but sometimes everyone’s mad at you because you’ve done something bad and stupid, like write a story about imaginary scenarios without any attribution whatsoever.

Schmucks. Weasel-voiced schmucks. 


Saturday Odds & Sods: Too Late To Turn Back Now

Parade by Jacob Lawrence

It was Katrinaversary week along the Gulf Coast. I wrote about that on the day itself. Nuff said. In related news, former Nagin henchman Greg Meffert aka Muppet crawled out from whatever stone he’s been hiding under since testifying against C Ray. He has a new book out, which I will be reviewing for the Bayou Brief next week. It’s bound to be unintentional comedy gold.

This week’s theme song, Too Late To Turn Back Now, was written by Eddie Cornelius. It was a monster hit in 1972 hitting #2 on the Billboard charts. It’s featured in the new Spike Lee joint; more about that later.

We have 2 versions for your listening pleasure. The original hit song by the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose and a reggae-fied cover by the Chi-Lites.

It’s too late to turn back now, which is why we’re jumping to the break. Make that falling…

Continue reading

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Will Reinvent for the Digital Unknown Future Market Conditions Via Online!

What a load of horseshit: 

“It’s the year 2018, and with the way people review and expect to review information and news, we think we’re doing the right thing,” said Keith Wilkowski, vice president of legal and government affairs for Block Communications Inc., the company based in Toledo, Ohio, that owns the Post-Gazette, on June 27.

“We will be publishing a (digital) newspaper seven days a week,” Wilkowski added. “And, frankly, we reach more people via online than through the print publication.”

It’s the year 2018, and we’ve spent three decades devaluing the print product to make a short-term profit. We reach more people ‘via online’ because we did that on purpose. You don’t need union drivers to deliver ‘the online’ and we can pay journalists peanuts anyway, we always have. 

There, fixed that corporatespeak buzzword-salad for you. WE REACH MORE PEOPLE VIA ONLINE, says the professional word person who works with words, while chiding his customers for not getting with the newfangled internet in the year 2018. Via online. For fucking fuck’s sake.

You reach more RICH people “via online,” is what this human conference call is trying to say. You reach more people who can afford to get their news “via online,” and the people who would have spent 50 cents on your paper or picked it up off your porch, well, fuck ’em, basically.

The reason this line keeps working, though is that reporters, who should be asking hard questions of ambulatory audits like Wilkowski, keep letting him and other corporate raiders lay the blame at the internet’s door:

The print side of newspapers has continued struggling to stay afloat as free and more convenient digital options are readily available for consumers.

This is presented as a fact and intended to imply causation, when in truth “the print side of newspapers has continued struggling to stay afloat as hedge fund owners load papers up with debt and then justify their existence with layoffs and nobody saved anything from the early 2000s when profit margins were 17 percent or more.” I get that’s longer, but this is a story that is “via online” and therefore there is no word count limit, get it right.

The actual story the Post-Gazette is running to celebrate its chickenfucking is even worse than that Hill piece up above. I mean:

By eliminating two days of print the week of Aug. 26 and undertaking a full-throttle commitment to the digital delivery of news, the Post-Gazette is reflecting Pittsburgh’s own transformation from traditional manufacturing into a high-tech center — even as the PG acknowledges that its future, like that of other legacy news organizations, must become untethered from the delivery mechanisms of the past if it is to survive in the digital future.

Can you un-tether yourself from run-on sentences? Jesus, did no one teach this newspaperman how to write for a newspaper? And “its future must become untethered if it’s to survive the future?” I’ve watched time-travel episodes of basic cable sci-fi that made more fucking sense.

I would pay $100 in cash to the journalist who got this guy to explain what he thinks the “digital future” even IS.

“Why are we doing this?” Mr. Block asked. ‘’Print is going away. If you project even five years into the future you cannot imagine there’s a print business that will be vibrant nationally or internationally. We have to acknowledge what is happening. It’s time to put our great digital players fully into the game.’’

The death of the New York Times has been predicted every single year since I was in college and I was in college 22 years ago. Five years from now everybody in the Post offices call up this guy and wish him a happy anniversary of the dumbest prediction ever.

And why were your “great digital players” sitting on your goddamn bench til now? Were the distro guys too busy delivering the paper to update the website? I’m confused as to how this was supposed to work. None of these idiots can ever explain why it’s impossible to have a great newspaper and a great digital news operation within the same company. None of them.

Print is not “going away.” It’s being driven off in favor of cheaper options. You do you, Mr. Owner-Man, but don’t pretend it’s anything else. Throughout the piece it’s blindingly clear this guy and his lickspittles have no fucking clue at all:

He added that the PG’s digital roadmap is not set in concrete but “will be adjusted according to competitive and market conditions.’’

Never set any kind of roadmap in concrete, first of all. Second, if you have no idea how to do this, why are you doing it? Why not make a plan, instead of endlessly flapping about in response to “market conditions?” Why not decide what you’re going to do and do it? Like, before you yell at the top of your lungs that you have no clue.

“We’re going to give this business the best college try,’’ said Mr. Block. “What we are doing is re-inventing the PG for the future.’’

You just admitted you don’t know what the future is. How can you reinvent the PG for a future you can’t define?

But hey, you’re going to give it a whack! Take 200-plus years of brand loyalty and market identity, go to Vegas, and put it all on black. Great idea. That’s never, in history, for anybody, gone wrong.

Then again, this is via online. It could reinvent for the future!


Here Comes the Turn, Any Minute Now

Trump will be nearing the end of his 6th term, Weekend-at-Bernie’s style, as he gibbers and drools, and Official Washington will still be predicting that any moment Republicans will rise up and evict him from the Citadel: 

An inexorable decline is underway. Trump is learning about — and railing against — the limitations of his power. (He even had to cancel his proposed military parade.) But he cannot control himself. His demeaning tweets, his rampant lying, his compulsive attacks on the news media and his breathtakingly bratty behavior might thrill his base, but the rest of Washington is growing sick of him. Republicans will use him to stock the courts with conservatives, repeal regulation and finally get back at Franklin D. Roosevelt, but as soon as Trump is shown to be politically weakened, they will throw him under the bus.

Any day now. Any day. They’ll disown the monster they created. Sure they will. We have been waiting for this train since day one of the Republican primaries back in 2016 and maybe it’s time to accept IT AIN’T GONNA COME.

Look. Republicans might disavow Trump in the aftermath of an electoral loss in 2020, but in no way are they going to give up his slavering hordes of supporters, his in-house and outhouse media, the mailing lists of all the festering boils like the NRA which got Trump elected. They need those people. Those people are all they have left.

They owe the racists and hicks, the stupid great-uncle who still calls people “colored” and the tight-permed aunt who thinks it the height of tyranny to press 1 for English and 2 for Spanish. It’s not that those are Trump’s only supporters, it’s that those are the ones who make the Nice Polite Racists possible.

So long as Trump’s deplorables are still around, his wealthy white-flighters in Washington and Waukesha counties can excuse continuing to vote for anything with an R after its name because (lowers voice, sips from wineglass full of ice cubes) too many people in this country are on welfare. That will still be okay to say, because they’re not driving trucks plastered with Confederate flags around, after all.

White anxiety about the changing world is their only animating principle. Everything is explained by, and undergirded with, racism. Lower my taxes? Yes, because I don’t want my money going to Those People. Better education? Sure, give us money for private schools, because the public ones are full of Those People. Policing? Gotta keep Those People under control. Foreign policy? Just keep Those People out.

This is the base, and the money people know it. That’s all they’ve got, and once Trump made it obvious, they can’t go back. The base has had a taste of the hard stuff now, and they’re not going to support a Romney or a W. Bush ever again, not after Trump. Weak-chinned boys in suits whistling for dogs? Get on up out of here with that shit. J. Frederick LaCrosse-Tenniscourt is going to be begging people to clap for his plan to, I don’t know, privatize oxygen, and the crowd will be chanting WE WANT TRUMP.

They’ll have to roll him out like Immortan Joe and Republican senators can talk to Richard Cohen all they want about how much they hate it. This is the deal they made. It’s the deal they make every single day they don’t impeach him or resign en masse, but Richard Cohen still believes in their sacred honor:

Trump will soon learn the same lesson. It is not his government, it is ours. It is not his White House, it is ours. The deep state is very deep indeed. It booted Nixon from the White House and compelled Clinton to roll up his sleeve. To Trump, it looks like a monster rising from the swamp. To me, it looks like a shivering soldier at Valley Forge.

THE FUCK DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? That shivering soldier at Valley Forge, first of all, was fighting against a capricious man-baby who threw public tantrums whenever he didn’t get exactly what he wanted from his inferiors. Sound familiar?

More than that, though, that poor cold lice-ridden bastard wanted to go home. He wanted to screw the local tavern wench, smoke a pipe, and put his trench-feet up by the warm fire, and I know that because that’s all anybody wants. The only reason to fight a war is if the alternative is worse. The only reason that soldier was freezing his ass off is that a tyrannical madman overrode the desires of the people until they rose up against him. Things had to get BAD for that to happen. So far I see no Republicans being Boston-Massacred. Trump isn’t even quartering soldiers in their homes. Their stamps are still tax-free.

I don’t know who Cohen thinks the GOP is in this scenario but Republican senators are far more likely to be courtiers simpering about the glory of George III, than soldiers shivering beneath Betsy Ross’s banner.


Tweet Of The Day: Fractured Wingnut History Edition

Unlike the Insult Comedian, I don’t watch Fox & Friends. Unlike the people on Fox & Friends, I know something about history:

It reminds me of when socialist Germany bombed Pearl Harbor.

Hey, at least she knows we won the war.

The last word goes to Bluto Blutarsky:

Want to Save Journalism? Do It Yourselves.

For serious, nobody’s gonna save you: 

Even before it was officially announced, The Daily Memphian had become an open secret within an increasingly small coterie of Memphis print journalists.

For the first time in years, high profile reporters were leaving the Commercial Appeal, not because of layoffs, which had become semi-regular events at the Gannett-owned paper.

They were just walking away: food writer Jennifer Biggs, sports columnist Geoff Calkins, popular blogger Chris Herrington. Others followed; the mystery of their departures a source of growing speculation.

They left for a new web-based newsroom now being built from scratch by a nonprofit funded by philanthropists, many of them anonymous. The Daily Memphianwas the result of wealthy citizens’ frustration over the gutting of local news.

And look, I know there’s griping about the philanthropic model, like is it enough, and won’t you then be beholden to donors, etc etc something something ethics-cakes, but this is the conversation currently happening in the for-profit world:

Journalists: We need money. To pay us, and hire photographers, and do research, and travel, and produce stories. We need money to cover the news. Will you give us some money?

Media company owners: How about a redesign?

J: Nope, money.

MCO: We’re re-branding and pivoting to video!

J: Give us some money. Our interns are eating their household pets to survive. Our lights got shut off last week for six hours, on deadline.

MCO: What if we launched a spinoff publication? We’ll call it “WHOOMP THERE IT IS.” The kids love it.


MCO: You’re always asking for money. You can’t just throw money at a problem.

J: Let’s try it, just once.

MCO: We’ve renamed the company. Your e-mail address now ends in “”

J: …

MCO: It’s gonna be great.

Faced with THAT, I will take the ethical minefield that is “wealthy citizens” who actually want to fund the news. Because at least they’re not gonna take the money and light it on fire. One hopes.


This Isn’t About Manners

Bruni interviews a Republican governor in a blue state (Maryland) and listens to him talk about how he doesn’t really feel the need to speak out about anything Trump does other than, you know, the whole “tweeting” thing: 

You said, regarding Trump, I don’t want anything to do with this.” Anything to do with what?

He wasn’t the type of guy who I thought should be president. I didn’t like the tone during the campaign. There were a lot of people running, and I didn’t think he was the most qualified. I didn’t think he was going to win, either.

I’ll say this: One on one, he’s a different person than the persona you see out there. But I don’t like the tweeting. I don’t like the name-calling. The divisiveness really is not good for the country. But he’s not the only one to blame.

In what ways do you think he’s doing the most damage?

I wish he would stop tweeting.

I’ll be the first person to say that the inside of Donald’s head is like the third Port-a-Potty from the main stage on Lollapalooza weekend but that’s not, in and of itself, a disqualification from being president.

If FDR had needed to grab some pussy to win WWII and pass the New Deal I’m sure we could have found some volunteers. Lyndon Johnson’s mouth makes Donald Trump’s sound at home in the Sistine Chapel. John F. Kennedy was putting a dude on the moon while actually inside a Mafia prostitute. We have no IDEA the sorts of things Rutherford B. Hayes got up to.

The tweeting isn’t the problem. The name-calling isn’t the problem. Donald Trump’s issue isn’t that he’s a shitty human being. It’s that he’s a shitty president, corrupt and incompetent in equal measure, and the party that nominated and elected him is being all EWWWW GROSS when he’s not actually veering from their chosen path all that much.

What matters to them, really? Pointless belligerence on the foreign stage, judges who oppose abortion rights, and tax cuts. He’s satisfied all those requirements, like any Republican president would have, so this is all just goddamn dinner theater. Not the good kind. The kind where you gum your boiled beef and watch a former member of the Monkees warble his way through Oliver.

Republican candidates are going to start coming out and trying to challenge Trump for 2020, and they’re going to have to be asked the question none of these garden weasels could answer in 2016: How are you any different?

Because, you know, Ted Cruz might not have been an actual fascist but he certainly would be nominating judges off the same Christianist pecksniff cheat-sheet. John Kasich, that voice of moderation and reason, is actually wandering the wilderness to the right of Trump on abortion, and not just the kind for one’s mistresses. Mitt Romney ran against his own health care program after Obama took it national.

The only thing these personifications of whiskey-dick can offer is the idea that they will be nicer about their regressive, segregationist positions than Trump is. Their conventions will feature “Blue Lives Matter” segments instead of physically humping the flag. They’ll deny women medical care, but won’t call them cunts. They’ll leave insinuations about opponents’ patriotism to their surrogates and think-tank partners, and deny any relationship when questioned.

How refreshing.

The problems we’re having under Trump are not because Trump is weird and gross and probably a rapist, and spends too much time on Twitter. The problems we’re having under Trump are the problems we’ve had under Republican rule in 30 plus states and the federal government: exacerbation of economic inequality and segregation, gerrymandering and vote suppression, encouragement of racism and/or punitive patriotism, contempt for education and labor, I could go on.

Trump disappears tomorrow, and that baloney pony Bruni’s interviewing up there or someone just like him will breathe a sigh of relief, get elected president by yelling the word UNITY a thousand times, and quietly deregulate some more giant banks that foreclosed on widows and orphans. All without a tweet.


Speaking of the State of Journalism

Bugs Bunny should saw it off the country and let it fall into the sea:

But I’ve evolved. It’s been 11 years since we launched PolitiFact, and I think it’s time to move beyond my beloved meter. I am heading a project at Duke University that is developing ways to automate fact-checking—including new ways to present the conclusions. I think the Truth-O-Meter’s ratings (which now range from True to Pants on Fire) are still effective for many readers. But I have come to realize that in our polarized environment, the meter I invented is not reaching everyone, and not reaching conservatives in particular.

BECAUSE THEY DON’T BELIEVE IN FACTS JESUS CHRIST THEY’RE IN A DEATH CULT OF COURSE A FUCKIN’ TRUTH-O-METER (this was always so goddamn dumb anyway) DOESN’T “REACH” THEM. To reach someone they have to be reaching back, not macing you backwards as they run from the life preserver you’re throwing them.

The stupid ratings system (FOUR PINOCCHIOS! THIS WILL SHOW THEM!) with its stupid cartoon illustrations was always garbage. People smart enough to care where someone’s statements fell on the meter were insulted by the childishness of it, and people who needed the info resented being told their favorite fanboy’s pants were on fire.

This is the journalism headline right now. This is what we’ve all decided collectively to give a shit about. Journalism employment is in the toilet and executive bonuses are through the roof and every time some reporter asks for more money to cover something the entire company gets rebranded to “” so a consultant can talk about feeding content into a funnel.

But please, do let’s jerk ourselves off about the stupid cartoon names we use to designate politicians lying, because no matter how dumb they are some conservatives will FEEL VERY ATTACKED BY PEOPLE FLAUNTING THEIR INTELLIGENCE AND ABILITY TO KNOW THINGS AND READ WORDS.


Ron Rosenbaum On TRONC: Destroyer Of Newspapers

I realize that Athenae walks the TRONC beat around here but I felt like taking a few shots at them myself. In this case by posting two tweets from the great Ron Rosenbaum who hates everything about TRONC, especially that stupid name:

TRONC recently sold off the Los Angeles Times. The new ownership is moving the paper out of the gorgeous art deco building erected when the Chandlers owned the paper. One reason cited for the move was high rents. As a part of their asset stripping strategy, TRONC sold the building two years ago, which is why the rent got too damn high. Once they’re done firing people, they’ll do the same thing at the Daily News. Asset stripping is what these fuckers do.

That concludes this post about TRONC: Destroyer of Newspapers.

Nimble. Agile. Digital First.

These justifications are always such fucking crap:

They have no idea what they’re doing, journalistically, and they have no idea in any other sense besides making the quarterly earnings report look slightly less shitty. That’s as far ahead as TRONC! (see previous examples of fuckery here, here, here, here and here) can manage to think.

Let’s review how we got where we are, shall we? 

In the late 1990s/early 2000s, media companies bought up newspapers. They then took those newspapers, profitable operations mostly and profitable by double digits, and tried to make them profitable by triple digits.

They did this by cutting the stuff that made them profitable in the first place because that stuff was expensive.

Journalists are not expensive. Journalists are cheap.

First they cut the distribution, or pared it down. They cut out printing popular sections. They cut out delivering on people’s porches, and eventually, to people’s homes. They cut in-house distribution and farmed it out to non-union mouthbreathers who were as likely to throw the paper in the bushes as get it to the customer.

They cut marketing, too, at a time when the housing market was booming and people were moving place to place at accelerated rates, so that you had no idea when you moved into a community what papers was yours.

What else could they combine or cut? Editorial design. Centralize it and put it in the hands of people who wouldn’t notice if a place was misidentified or spelled wrong. Copy editing! Who cares about spelling, anyway? Local opinion coverage, because syndicated columns about how young men need to pull up their pants are obviously more relevant to readers!

Shockingly, these things didn’t magically make the papers more money. In fact, they started bleeding readers, and the advertisers followed. You’ll notice I haven’t talked about THE DASTARDLY INTERNET yet. That’s because while all this was going on the Internet barely existed.

When it finally came to be, and mobile devices brought news to people wherever they were, news organizations were enfeebled, directionless creatures wounded by so many years of mistreatment that they couldn’t take advantage of a new medium even if they wanted to. And let’s be honest, a lot of the people involved didn’t want to take advantage of the Internet. They wanted to take a damn nap, and could you blame them really.

So the flailing began. Let’s be hyperlocal! Let’s have a paywall! Let’s not have a paywall! Let’s have a paywall that can be hacked by a halfway competent barn cat and put nothing behind it but wire copy and comic strips! Let’s do “longform,” whatever the fuck that is. Let’s do Facebook bots!


When none of that worked because they’d squandered every ounce of goodwill and every drop of brand loyalty built over decades, they started cutting again. And this time there was nothing left to cut but newsroom jobs. So they cut those, and kept cutting, and kept cutting.

That’s where we are right now. None of it has diddly shit to do with the Internet, which some in the industry are just now, 20 fuckin years in, waking up to. All of it has to do with viewing a public goddamn service as just another piggy bank to be smashed when you need change for penny candy.


Saturday Odds & Sods: Dimming Of The Day

New Orleans Window by Lee Friedlander.

Happy Bastille Day. I’m not planning on storming anything, it’s too damn hot for that. I *am* spending some time in the heat by attending San Fermin New Orleans. It’s our zany version of the running of the bulls in which the bulls are rollergirls with plastic bats. I’m not running, I’m drinking mimosas, eating donuts, and hanging out with Dr. A, our friend Cait, the child army, and whoever else shows up. It’s a sweaty, fun, and deeply silly time.

I predicted that the president* would make an ass of himself in the UK and he has done so. He gave an inflammatory interview to the Murdoch owned Sun wherein he praised Boris Johnson, criticized Theresa May, bashed immigrants, and wished people would call the country England again. He apparently re-annexed Ireland while he was at it. The next day, he denied attacking May and called The Sun “fake news” even though it’s owned by his pal Rupert. It was just another day in Trump World.

The featured image is one of my favorite photographs from the New Orleans Museum of Art’s Lee Friedlander in Louisiana exhibit. The New York based photographer has a passion for New Orleans, which is on display at NOMA until August 12th.

This week’s theme song was written by Richard Thompson for Pour Down Like Silver the third album he and then wife Linda recorded together. We have three versions for your listening pleasure. The original version followed by covers by the Neville Brothers and Bonnie Raitt. RT plays on the latter recording.

Now that we’re feeling a bit on the dim side,  let’s brighten things up by jumping to the break.

Continue reading

10 Ways to Cover a Trump Rally

In today’s installment of “mild criticism on Twitter necessitates a nuclear hissyfit,” Beltway journalists act like being asked to not air Trump’s unhinged racist ranting live is tantamount to telling them to all quit their jobs and make butter in the country:

(They should all quit their jobs and go make butter. Butter is useful and has hurt nobody. Then we can give their jobs to people who aren’t so easily butthurt and don’t throw whiny hissies on Twitter.)

Since America’s Most Important Journalists have apparently run out of ways to cover something, other than pointing a camera directly at a podium and listening in respectful silence in real time, I have some suggestions.

Ten of them, in fact.

Ten ways to “cover” a Trump rally that don’t involve repeating word-for-word what the president said or airing it live uncritically. These are in no particular order, though the first one is something I’ve suggested in good faith to journo friends/students.


Here we go:

  1. Stick around after the event is over. Interview the cleanup staff. What did they (likely low-wage employees of a contractor or venue, likely also non-white) think about what they overheard?
  2. Related: What gets left behind after a Trump rally? Empty out a garbage bin and write a list of everything inside there.
  3. Pick one person, just one, inside the rally and stick with them the entire time. Tell the story of the rally from their perspective. Now pick a person outside the rally. Do the same. Tell the two stories in turn, without judging either.
  4. Real-time fact check, a la Daniel Dale.  Preferably without using any cutesy “four pants-on-fires” bullshit.
  5. Count the number of times Trump repeats himself. He doesn’t just say untrue shit, he says the same untrue shit, over and over and over. Find a line he’s used a thousand times and list all the times he’s used it and in what contexts.
  6. Trump goes into a community for one of these things. What does it cost that community? Police, fire, security, cleanup, setup, traffic, etc. How many people locally get pressed into service?
  7. Find the person who would be affected the most by Trump’s message that day. If you know where he’s going to be, a local organization can find you somebody to talk to. You know what his bugaboos are: immigrants, veterans, etc. Have somebody local in these places on call for those topics in case he goes off.
  8. Change your perspective. If he’s gonna be on about the military, watch the speech from a VFW. Watch the speech from a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, public library, anyplace where people are the farthest from public policymaking but most impacted by it.
  9.  Get genuine response. Don’t just ask the chairman of the local Dem organization for a perfunctory “what a complete load of bullshit, say some critics who may or may not be right because we have no ability to tell” obligation-graf. Get a response that presents an alternate reality to what you heard from Trump. Say to someone, “If you had given a speech here tonight as president, what would you have talked about?”
  10. Trump clock: Note when he makes a promise of something happening there in the town you’re in. Return to it when that deadline passes. Keep returning to it.

These are all things that can be done while feeding neither Trump’s ego nor, honestly, the Resistance. Nobody’s asking you to stand there screaming YOU LIE every second, which is what you’d have to do, because he lies every second.

What we are asking are perspectives that don’t involve simply repeating what he said with his title after it and giving it the same credence as you would a pronouncement from a normal president.

Though I suppose that makes us just as bad as people who want to put journalists in concentration camps and hang them from the sour apple tree.

And if you’re reaching for that argument, maybe pick up a butter churn instead.


Civility Is Overrated

Anyone with a pulse should recognize that we’re going through another IOKIYAR moment. Republicans and their allies in the MSM as well as some spineless liberal pundits are lecturing us about manners and civility. It’s particularly rich when the party in power is led by the crudest and rudest president* since Andrew Johnson. We’re being told that manners are for Democrats and that it’s RUDER for Sarah Huckabee Sanders to be refused service in an eatery than for the Trump regime to imprison children. Once again: IOKIYAR.

I, for one, refuse to be lectured by the followers of a president* who sucks up to dictators while attacking our friends and allies. The rationale for tariffs against the best neighbor in the world, Canada, is national security. Justin Trudeau is a threat to our national security? Imagine if Barack Obama had insulted Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper in this manner when they were both in office. The outrage on the right would have exceeded Tan Suitgate. Once again: IOKIYAR.

The Insult Comedian’s persistent racism has inspired his supporters to go after religious, ethnic, and racial minorities. It’s become commonplace to hear of insults being thrown at people of color but when Maxine Waters attacks Donald Trump that’s out-of-bounds incivility. Once again: IOKIYAR.

Some intrepid soul on twitter dug up an article detailing how Paul Ryan celebrated a baker who refused to serve Joe Biden during the 2012 election.  The same Paul Ryan is lecturing us about civility. All hail the Miss Manners of Wisconsin. Once again: IOKIYAR.

Then there’s former Nixon and Reagan aide David Gergen who I thought had been put out to pasture long ago,

Since rampant both-siderism has broken out, I have an example from each side back then. On the right, Bull Connor sicced dogs on children protesting for civil rights in Birmingham, Alabama. On the left, a favorite chant of anti-war protesters was: “Hey, hey, LBJ. How many kids did you kill today?”

Sounds like incivility to me, but what do I know? I didn’t write dog-whistle laden speeches for Tricky Dick, which somehow makes Gergen an expert on civility.

I am in favor of civility in the abstract. I used to be able to discuss politics with conservative friends and relations without drawing blood. That started eroding when Bush the younger was president and ground to a full-stop when those folks wouldn’t admit racism was a factor in Obama derangement syndrome on the right.

There’s been plenty of incivility from the right in my lifetime. Those of us who opposed the Iraq War were accused of siding with terrorists and opposing the troops. The same bunch wants us to be civil in the face of children being torn apart from their parents; a policy that even Laura Bush finds rude. As they say across the pond, BOLLOCKS.

The MSM, Republicans, and their fellow travelers among the liberal punditocracy are using the word civility as a wet blanket to smother dissent. Genuine civility is based on mutual respect as opposed to unilateral verbal disarmament.

I think Amanda Marcotte summed it up nicely on the tweeter tube:

Civility is overrated. I’ll take honesty over hypocritical “niceness” any day.

Repeat after me: IOKIYAR.

Job’s The Same Today

Fuck Gorsuch and just less than half of SCOTUS and McConnell and Ryan and everybody writing about “civility” and the millions of people who voted for Trump because he made them feel good about themselves and fuck the people screaming at the press at Trump rallies and goddamn, blast, confound and fuck every single person in this administration today.

Kick and I spent last night writing postcards to lawmakers over family detention and making plans with friends for another march this weekend, after marching last weekend, because there are fascists in power and we have weekends off work.

I told Kick, who is prone to internalizing everything and processing it as nightmares and also is four years old, that we were writing to the government because the government was not treating children fairly. Why? Because of the color of their skin, I said, citing our picture books about Rosa Parks and Maya Angelou.

(“When government does something we don’t like we ask them to change it,” I told her.

“Can I have a cookie when we get there?”

#WokeToddler is more like #HungryToddler and I can’t tell you how many protests I’ve bribed her through with food or the promise of a playground later.)

It didn’t feel like much, writing postcards. We made cards for the children in detention and she colored them. Especially today, it didn’t feel like much.

But we’re not on the barricades here, not all of us. Some of us are running office supplies and ice cream for the people who are. And some of us aren’t on the barricades today, but will be tomorrow. And tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Nobody’s coming, so save yourselves, and the person to your left, and the person to your right.

Do not be daunted, says my childhood Bible from its box in my attic, by the enormity of the world’s misery. Do justly, now.

Job’s the same as it ever was. Save as many as you can. Feel free to post ideas about how/where to do that, in the comments.


Historical Both Sides!

Read this now.

The führer and the tattletale: Adolf Hitler’s aggression, Anne Frank’s leaks signal a troubling decline in European manners.
— @nytimesworld, January 11th, 1945, 2:42 PM