By Mike Shiloh
Let’s Get it Right: Facts
We in the news media are, in far too many cases, getting the facts wrong or not even getting to the facts at all.
This was proven a number of times during the recent stories about the firing of FBI director James Comey.
Fact: President Donald Trump is not under investigation by the FBI. There are simply no facts or even unnamed sources who say he is. He is not and neither are any senior Trump administration officials.
Fact: There is little or no connection between the Comey firing and the Justice Department’s issuing of grand jury subpoenas in the investigation of possible wrongdoing by former Trump National Security advisor Michael Flynn. Comey was fired May 9th; the subpoenas were issued, as CNN Wire noted that same day, “in recent weeks;” not the day of the firing, not even in the week before the firing. CNN’s almost-simultaneous reporting of both the firing and the subpoenas left the impression that Comey was fired because of the subpoenas. There is no known factual connection.
Fact: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has said he did not threaten to resign his post. There was breathless reporting in several major media (citing unnamed sources) that Rosenstein threatened to quit while the White House cast his assessment of Comey’s work at the FBI as a major reason for Comey’s firing. He may have been exasperated by the Trump administration’s use of Rosenstein’s assessment as an “excuse” to fire Comey — who knows besides Rosenstein? — but he is on the record as saying he did not threaten to quit.
Fact: The similarities between the Watergate scandal and the Comey firing events are a coincidence and nothing more. Those of us who were around for the Nixon Watergate scandal know that there are vast differences between then and now. Those who claim to see a major correlation between the two are apparently engaging in Clickbait and ratings-grabbing (or wishful thinking?) at the expense of accuracy.
This is not to defend President Trump nor do I claim that more investigations may or may not come along; the facts stand as of now.
It’s a problem for all of us who are working journalists to see deliberate slanting and half-truths and misleading news stories that go uncorrected by leading national journals and broadcasters.
Truth is the goal, not Clickbait.
Who’s More Prejudiced Against Others, Conservatives or Liberals? The Truth Is They’re Both Equally Intolerant of Each Other
Studies have shown that while progressives believe themselves to be much less prejudiced than conservatives against those who are different, the truth according to studies is they are equally biased. We can move forward with the healing of America if we start by understanding this one simple truth.
From Politico: “Research over the years has shown that in industrialized nations, social conservatives and religious fundamentalists possess psychological traits, such as the valuing of conformity and the desire for certainty, that tend to predispose people toward prejudice. Meanwhile, liberals and the nonreligious tend to be more open to new experiences, a trait associated with lower prejudice. So one might expect that, whatever each group’s own ideology, conservatives and Christians should be inherently more discriminatory on the whole.
“But more recent psychological research, some of it presented in January at the annual meeting of the Society of Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP), shows that it’s not so simple. These findings confirm that conservatives, liberals, the religious and the nonreligious are each prejudiced against those with opposing views. But surprisingly, each group is about equally prejudiced. While liberals might like to think of themselves as more open-minded, they are no more tolerant of people unlike them than their conservative counterparts are.
“Political understanding might finally stand a chance if we could first put aside the argument over who has that bigger problem. The truth is that we all do.” More
May Day May Day
For those who don’t remember, May Day is also known as International Worker’s Day and has been widely celebrated since the 19th century especially by labor unions, social democrats, communists, socialists and anarchists, besides being a rite of Spring based on ancient traditions.
It was notable from the reporting on May Day demonstrations around the US on Tuesday May 1st 2017 that some reporters understood the political context of “Labor Day” — and some saw it as largely about demonstrations for immigration freedom and LGBTQ rights and more importantly against President Trump.
And it was about those subjects in most cases because protesters made it about that. In Los Angeles and elsewhere, stores and restaurants closed, which is traditional — it’s a day for workers.
In many cities, turnout was lighter than expected. There were arrests across the nation. And there were violent protests.
In Portland Oregon 25 people were arrested after molotov cocktails were hurled at police; there were riots; the police chief said he wasn’t sure what the demonstrators’ message was “other than pure criminality.”
Reporters around the country saw the diffused message and generally treated it like another day of demonstrations. Notable was Keri Blakinger of the Houston Chronicle, who reported that “Socialists, immigrants and anarchists turned out – some with creative and obscene signage – to mingle in Guadalupe Plaza Park and hear poetry and fiery bilingual speeches as dusk fell.”
But the apparent message this May Day was reflected in the headline: “Socialists, immigrants bash President Trump at Houston May Day Rally.”
The article dutifully lists the rally sponsors including the Houston Communist Party, the Brown Berets and the Students for a Democratic Society.
Good reporting: This was not a spontaneous get together of like-minded citizens (neither was the recent Climate March, which also turned out to be a demonstration largely against Trump). And Ian Goodrum, 27, of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (socialism is always sold as a path to liberation) summed it up: “I think the time has come to stop trying to rely on politicians from the two main parties in the administration. It’s time to look to something else and that’s what radicalism is.”
This resembles the “Day Without a Mexican” gatherings on May 1, 2006, which were also called The Great American Boycott, which called for people of hispanic lineage to walk off their jobs and out of their schools. There were rallies at which participants were met with angry speeches against then-President Bush, socialist magazines and newspapers and leaflets promoting members of the Democratic Party, some of whom along with their organizers were there to speak.
May Day, for those who don’t remember the Cold War of the 1940s-80s, was always the day the Soviet Union paraded its weapons for The People to see; it was a day that had become closely associated with collectivism, which is even today considered radicalism by many.
So collectivism = radicalism is a notion that is something like 100 years old or older, I’ll note just for the record.
There was a time in the 1960s through the ’80s when there were no concerns on the political left about the Soviet Union; it was the hard right that was anti-communist, anti-Soviet. The Russians could be our friends and we could disarm by agreement, destroying our nuclear arsenals, we were told by the New Left.
Now the only people I talk to who are anti-Russian are on the political left. How times change, y’know?
But there seems to be a kind of cognitive dissonance about the role of collectivism in society these days: The fact that the vast majority of Americans only talk politics regularly with like-minded folks can lead to skewed views of communism, socialism, radicalism and their offshoots. After all, when was the last time you talked to someone who lived under Soviet rule?
An acquaintance once described to me a socialist America as “a dream” where we can all get what we want.
The US is largely a capitalist society so collectivism can seem radical, despite its age. Capitalism isn’t exactly a recent discovery either, it’s just that no one yearns for modern capitalism as a radical ideal, except in collectivist nations.
Journalists seem to be increasingly using the term “late capitalism” to describe some of what’s going on in America today. The Atlantic is self-conscious about it’s use of the term, used as it is in seeming anticipation of “system change” in the US, which is a concept heavily promoted by the Eco-Socialist Coalition today.
And then there’s the curious case of the Brooklyn secondary school principal who is being investigated for allegedly engaging in, and recruiting her students for, communist activities, according to WNYC. The investigating body is the New York City Department of Education Office of Special Investigations. It may be surprising to you that people are investigated for communist activities today.
The case is also curious because there are claims that the principal was not teaching a required course and that students who “voice opinions different” from hers were not allowed to express them; it was not just about her “communist activities.”
The city has argued that political speech at school is a violation of academic policy. The principal has filed a countersuit.
It may be that the “intersectionality” of collectivism, as expressed by socialist and pseudo-socialist organizations today, is becoming indistinguishable from the myriad identity-politics that today are so often served up by newspapers, radio, television and magazines.
“I’m about animal rights, that’s why I’m here for May Day.” Even though the ostensible message is about workers’ rights.
If socialism is increasingly not only about social theory and a political system but also about political civil constructs of all kinds, it’s no wonder reporters can be confused about the broad news appeal of socialist demonstrations.
If May Day and Climate Change and Worried Scientists bring out marchers who can’t resist consistently baiting Trump, what they’re marching for becomes seconday.
And if specific social protests can be about anything, are they really about anything?
There’s a recognizable bias in much of the news you read and, yes, it’s increasing: Politico
Probably the most thorough analysis of the increasingly partisan news reporting you’ve been seeing over the past year or years appears in Politico, which has itself been accused of having a left-of-center spin.
In acknowledging this “press myopia” Politico “excavated labor statistics and cross-referenced them against voting patterns and Census data to figure out just what the American media landscape looks like, and how much it has changed. The results read like a revelation.”
Some of the sloppy reporting that’s been appearing in major newspapers, along with major broadcast media and certainly Internet websites, would not have been tolerated even 15 years ago and alarmingly might well not have been classified as “journalism” but simply as “opinion” or “advocacy.”
Some of the stories, to this jaundiced eye, border on polemics, especially with the liberties some reporters take with statements of “fact.” No I’m not talking about Fake News websites, I’m talking the leading dailies.
In the major newspapers alone but including radio and TV, my editors in the 1990s would have soundly rejected as “opinion” a number of news stories that appear daily as hard news today.
But maybe it’s not about bias, maybe these reporters really think their approach is part of the mainstream of American thinking and writing. And it is indeed — along the two coasts, according to Politico.
When I was in Manhattan recently I talked with a man who had grown up in the projects (very low cost housing to put it kindly) and it was his firm belief that New York City is quickly becoming a town just for rich people.
He said folks from other countries are now willing to pay an inflated price just to live in a renovated version of the projects across the street from where he grew up — and of course he was amazed by it all.
So we come to the case of two people who find it hard to live the middle class good life in New York on half a million dollars a year. I wish I could say I’m surprised.
From Financial Samarai: “People who consistently earn $500,000+ annually should not have any financial problems. If they do, they aren’t getting sympathy from anybody since they’re making roughly 10X the median household income. A very simple solution to growing rich is to simply track your finances for free online like how you’d track your weight by x money checks!
“There’s a never ending cycle of financial comparison. And with comparison comes envy, jealousy, depression, and all sorts of ridiculous feelings that would not be felt if you just took a step back and realized how fortunate you really are. This is why if you do want to beat the Joneses, you should compete on FREEDOM because there’ll always one more dollar to be made.
“The below chart is an annual spending example of a couple who each make $250,000 a year as lawyers. They have two children ages three and five. They are both in their early 30s and live in New York City, the most expensive city in America!
Are you like me, are you finding it harder to discern the facts from the news reporting just about everywhere?
Between the “style” of the reporting (is it a blog, a column or straight news reporting?) to the “angle” of the story (center the reporting on one person’s story or spring the story from one fact or just put the headline in the first paragraph) facts are getting hard to come by, and it isn’t just the fault of politicians.
“We are not yet 100 days into Donald Trump’s presidency,” wrote one writer, “but by the sheer volume of news coverage alone, one could be forgiven for thinking that it has been far longer since the inauguration.”
From the Dallas Morning News: Depending on one’s choice of media outlet, one could also be forgiven for thinking there are two entirely different, but parallel, universes in which that news is being made.
The continuous news coverage is aided and abetted by a president whose communication style and media-savvy personality have proved to be a perfect fit for the fragmented media environment that has emerged during the past few years.
And the idea of a “parallel universe” is exemplified when, on two screens carrying two separate networks reporting on the same set of facts, one media outlet is reporting on the existence of classified information that shows alleged malfeasance within the administration while another reports on the failure to find and prosecute leakers of that classified information.
None of this is new or noteworthy. Partisan and polarized media exists around the world, in countries ranked high and low on the Freedom House index of democracy.
What seems new to us – or at least more transparent with Trump in particular – is how the media has chosen to package the news in a way that Americans have gotten used to consuming it: based on what suits pre-existing thoughts and narratives.
To a large extent, this has continued into the present, with the end result that there is no longer one media, but rather fractured media streams that serve not to illuminate “truth” but rather to reinforce dogma.
From former CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson’s excellent website chronicling news media bias, this is how the major political-reporting media fall on the bias chart:
“My biggest rule of thumb is if it arouses an emotional response in you, double-check it,” said Brooke Binkowksi, managing editor at Snopes, a website that specializes in debunking popular internet myths from both the left and the right. “They upset you because they’re meant to.”
When a story seems outrageous, such as a five-year-old Syrian refugee shown in handcuffs before deportation, it might not be true—or entirely true. That Syrian girl wasn’t in handcuffs, her father said after he had heard the reports, and they aren’t refugees. The photo shows detained Syrians trying to go on vacation who, despite their visas, were denied entry and had to return home. Binkowski and D.C. Vito, executive director of the Lamp, which teaches media literacy in New York, suggest searching for a second source, especially when a story is incendiary. — Bloomberg More
Who knew? Those of us who lived through the so-called Rock Era were living in an extraordinary time, though only a few of us realized it, I guess. There are those who say rock and roll music is now passe and belongs to the past, but the truth is rock is still the strongest music around, just as it has been for going-on-60 years.
And as a recent article in the Wall St. Journal makes clear, it doesn’t look likely that the newer rock acts — those from the 1990s and beyond — will have the staying power of the acts from the ’50s and especially the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. It’s a different era now, but in terms of how songs and acts are making money (which is considered a true barometer of popularity because the question is do you like a song or do you love it enough to pay your hard-earned money for it?) rock continues to dominate music today.
So strong has rock proven to be that it continues to squeeze the once-dominant “pop” music down to almost single digit percentages.
“Rock,” the article emphasizes, “has an outsize influence on music sales. It was responsible for 41% of total U.S. album sales last year, far higher than hip-hop and R&B (15%), country (13%) or pop (10%), according to Nielsen.”
“Of the 25 artists with the highest record sales in the U.S. since 1991, when reliable data first became available, just one—Britney Spears—is under 40, Nielsen data show. Nineteen of the 25 are over 50 years old,” the Journal reports.
“In terms of concert-tour revenue, artists over 50 represent half of the $4.5 billion generated by last year’s top 100-grossing tours, excluding non-music acts and comedians, according to a WSJ analysis of data from Pollstar, the trade magazine. Of the top 10, five were over 50, including Bruce Springsteen (67), Guns N’ Roses (average age 53), Paul McCartney (74), Garth Brooks (55) and the Rolling Stones (73), Pollstar data show.”
The Journal’s article is about the impeding deaths of many of rock’s greats on top of the many unexpected losses of recent years (Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Chuck Berry, George Michael, to a name a few). There have been a number of such news stories in recent years, but this one, in the midst of anticipating death, points to continued life in a refreshing way.
Directors Guild of America portrait of Richard Schickel
“Criticism — and its humble cousin, reviewing — is not a democratic activity.
“It is, or should be, an elite enterprise, ideally undertaken by individuals who bring something to the party beyond their hasty, instinctive opinions of a book (or any other cultural object).
“It is work that requires disciplined taste, historical and theoretical knowledge and a fairly deep sense of the author’s (or filmmaker’s or painter’s) entire body of work, among other qualities.”
The two central measures of a movie’s quality should be how much a viewer retains and how much one wants to see it again.
“The truth, very simply, is that most movies are lousy or, at best, routine.”
— from his book, “Keepers, the Greatest Films — and Personal Favorites — of a Movie-Going Lifetime” (2015)
Jan. 20, 2017 —
After taking 6 weeks off for the holidays (they do it in Europe, don’t they? Why can’t we?) and moving to a new server along the way, we can only hope your days off were fun. We saw lots of movies, some great some not so, and of course heard lots of holiday songs, but it was Mike here at TheLatest.Net who went backward instead of forward, buying and downloading Christmas music from the 1930s through the 1950s. He says,
“There was just too much of it available not to fall in love with it in it’s corny beauty. So what if I’m hearing some of it while waiting for a hot mocha on a cold rainy day at Starbucks?
“I knew if they had “I Love the Winter Weather” (“So the two of us can get together…”) there must be lots more vintage Christmas love out there in cyberspace, I just hadn’t found it yet. So I looked.
“We’re all used to the local radio station that goes All-Christmas-All-the-Time, pulling out Perry Como, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby holiday things — artists you can hardly find on the radio any other time of year, which I find rather curious — but I started getting hooked on songs I had never heard before.
“Y’know, energetic little ditties like “Christmas is the Season of the Bells,” (above) sung by Jo Stafford, who was very popular in her time, the 1940s- 60s, written by her husband Paul Weston. Those two must have been hell at parties, singing and playing piano all night.
“I Want You for Christmas” seems to have started the endless barrage of songs that express that sexy sentiment (“You can bet by Jim’ney he’ll come down the chimney with a bag full of you!”), an impressive song when done by Russ Morgan doing the vocal from 1937.
“It’s a classic hoot and even begins with the band reminding us in song to “Do your Christmas shopping early and you’ll avoid the rush.” Maybe next year.
“There’s even a version of that song by Mae Questrel, also from 1937. She was the voice of Betty Boop and Popeye’s Olive Oyl in the cartoons of that era. Long before Madonna and Eartha Kitt, Mae makes it sound like
she’s being as seductive as she can be, like Betty Boop would do. Don’t know who Betty Boop was? Click on the song above anyway. Betty and Grampy would want you to.
“If the December holidays are supposed to be a happy time — even if sometimes bittersweet — I’ll take this jolly song over “Holly Jolly Christmas.” Kind of a Mae-December romance.
“How can you go wrong with this stuff if you’re getting tired of the usual Christmas music fare of “Do You Hear What I Hear” and “Happy Christmas (War Is Over),” most versions of which have been played so often they’ve reached “burn” level, as we say in radio, long ago.
“And a lot of people have called the radio stations I’ve worked at to complain about other stations continually playing “The Little Drummer Boy” so often they get a queasy feeling in their stomachs. Most were inconsolable.
“But it was a little treat to have Bruce Handy nominate “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Judy Garland — from her movie, “Meet Me In St. Louis” — on Christmas Eve in the usually Grinch-like New York Times.
“Who knew that the original lyrics were so sad? (“Have yourself a merry little Christmas, it may be your last, next year we may all be living in the past” (!)) Garland refused to sing those lyrics (People will “think I’m a monster,” she said) so songwriter Hugh Martin brightened it up, from dismal to the melancholy approach as it appears in the movie. (“Next year all our troubles will be out of sight…”)
“Handy notes that even Sinatra thought the lyric, “Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow,” just too grim, so Martin did a little rewrite again, this time giving Frank the line, “Hang a shining star on the highest bough.”
“It’s what’s so great about digging around in the music that was popular long before I was born. There are whole new attitudes to discover. New York City could be cozy even in the tenements on Christmas Eve and Denver was the wilderness, but both could see snow. Scratchy recordings could play “White Christmas” over and over and comforting voices on the radio could remind people that it was the season to be jolly, but also a time to remember.
“What was it like, say, Christmas Eve in New York City, 1939? That’s what I began to wonder. The world was a dangerous place but people were full of hope and good cheer, I imagine. And such imagining can be a good antidote to the cynicism we all encounter so often these days.”
Carlos Slim Helu, who owns the largest individual stake in The New York Times
It’s hardly a surprise that the American news media are pretty much in the cradle of billionaires, but it takes a major publication like Forbes to wrap it up so concisely:
“Here’s a look at some of the billionaires who own news media in the United States:
Michael Bloomberg – Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Media
Michael Bloomberg, the richest billionaire in the media business, returned to his eponymous media company in September 2014, eight months after stepping down as mayor of New York City. One notable sign of his influence on the publication: Michael Bloomberg doesn’t appear on Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index.
Carlos Slim Helu – The New York Times
The New York Times published an article criticizing the power that billionaires wield over media companies.
Rupert Murdoch – News Corp NWSA +1.76%
Rupert Murdoch, former CEO of 21st Century Fox , the parent of powerhouse cable TV channel Fox News, may well be the world’s most powerful media tycoon.
Donald and Samuel “Si” Newhouse – Advance Publications
Donald Newhouse and his brother Samuel “Si” Newhouse inherited Advance Publications, a privately-held media company that controls a plethora of newspapers, magazine, cable TV and entertainment assets, from their father.
Cox Family – Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Cox Enterprises , owned by the billionaire Cox family, counts The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and a number of other daily papers among its many media investments.
Jeff Bezos – The Washington Post
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post for $250 million in 2013. Since beginning his run for president, Trump has accused Bezos of using the Post to get tax breaks for Amazon and sending reporters after Trump.
John Henry – The Boston Globe
Billionaire Red Sox owner John Henry purchased the Boston Globe in October 2013 for $70 million. Henry agreed to purchase the Globe just days after Bezos acquired the Washington Post.
Sheldon Adelson – The Las Vegas Review-Journal
In December 2014, Las Vegas casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson secretly bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The newspaper’s own reporting outed the billionaire buyer, who reportedly arranged the $140 million deal through his son-in-law.
Joe Mansueto – Inc. and Fast Company magazines
Morningstar MORN +2.16% CEO Joe Mansueto made his $2.3 billion fortune at the investment and research firm he founded in 1984.
Mortimer Zuckerman – US News & World Report, New York Daily News
Real estate billionaire Mortimer Zuckerman is the owner of both US News & World Report and the New York Daily News. Zuckerman serves as chairman and editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report, which he bought in 1984.
Barbey family – Village Voice
In October 2015, investor Peter Barbey bought the Village Voice, a New York City alternative weekly, through his investment company Black Walnut Holdings LLC for an undisclosed price.
Stanley Hubbard – Hubbard Broadcasting
Media mogul Stanley Hubbard is CEO of Hubbard Broadcasting, which has 13 TV stations, including a number of ABC and NBC news affiliates in the Midwest, and 48 radio stations.
Patrick Soon-Shiong – Tribune Publishing Co.
On May 23, Tribune Publishing Co. announced that L.A. doctor and pharmaceutical billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong’s Nant Capital was investing $70.5 million into the media company, making Soon-Shiong the second-largest shareholder.
Warren Buffett – regional daily papers
Warren Buffett, as CEO of Berkshire HathawayBRK.B +%, has invested in a number of small newspapers and owns about 70 dailies today.
Viktor Vekselberg – Gawker
Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg’s investment arm, Columbus Nova Technology Partners, bought a minority stake in Gawker in January 2016 for an undisclosed amount.
The GDELT Project: As part of our efforts to leverage the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive for understanding the role of television in politics, we’ve created the following dashboard, updated each morning, that records how many times each US presidential candidate was mentioned on each of the major television networks monitored by the Archive.
These are based on scanning the closed captioning records of each broadcast, so are subject to some degree of error, so absolute counts may contain a certain margin of error. The Archive enforces a 24 hour rolling delay, so the most recent date displayed is 24 hours ago.
The Archive currently monitors a selection of national networks (Aljazeera America, Bloomberg, CNBC, CNN, Comedy Central, FOX Business, FOX News, LinkTV, MSNBC) and a growing set of affiliates across the country.
While the Archive monitors many other stations, these are the ones that have mentioned the political candidates a meaningful number of times.
All news shows on each station are monitored with the sole exception of Comedy Central, in which only the The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore, and At Midnight With Chris Hardwick are monitored due to their focus on current events. See the Tracker page
“Because the passions of men [and women] will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice, without constraint.”
Mike Shiloh is an award-winning broadcast journalist who began in radio in 1981 and has since contributed regularly to AP Radio and Television, CNN and ABC News, while also anchoring for network radio on News24-7 and for top local stations including KILT-Houston, WINK Newsradio/TV Ft. Myers/Tampa FL, KRBE-Houston; has also regularly contributed to KTRH-Houston and is an editor at The Texas Energy Report and TheLatest.net.