Reason # (Countless) Why Newspapers Matter To Nation

Sunday morning it was most obvious, again.

Often the Sunday newspapers are the edition when powerful stories are reported on page one, or a series starts that examines a topic that is not possible to thoroughly address in only one day.

The Washington Post blasted its way to the must-read category with the start of their international investigation series of powerful people on the world stage using secretive offshore system financing to hide billions of dollars from tax authorities, creditors, and criminal investigators.

The story is simply devastating to the likes of King Abdullah II of Jordan. It is reported that he secretly spent more than $106 million on lavish homes in the U.S. and Britain. Nearly $70 million was paid for three adjacent properties overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, forming one of the largest bluff-top complexes in the celebrity enclave of Malibu.

What is the undercurrent to this particular case is that Jordan, a close U.S. ally, has been roiled in recent years by public discontent over alleged government corruption.

I would urge my readers to spend some time with the news story as it is well researched and written.

But the reason for this post comes with a question. Where would a story like this fit into the world of television news? 

With time limits and the way consultants micro-manage content the series would never find its way on the news, with sufficient substance, so to allow viewers any idea of the scope of the financial manipulation involved.

While the facts of the story about international intrigue matter, so does the fact that newspapers, themselves, matter. And we all need to be mindful of what is happening to the newspaper profession.

I have been posting for years about the woes of the newspaper industry in the digital media age. I have written about the revenue from the industry being cut in half between 2008 and 2018 because of a ruinous decline in print advertising. And to the gut of the matter that means during that same time frame newsroom employment declined 25%. (Pew Research)

We are in fact going to suffer tremendously for the loss of accountability that the papers provide to insure our government has journalistic oversight, a loss of a daily record of events that makes for historical documentation, and a sense of commonality that allows us to have some overall reference point as a nation.

I say this because the morning newspapers that ferret out corruption and investigates issues untouchable to the average citizen is an essential component for how we are made aware of the world. 

As the Post made most clear this morning.

But let us consider this from a local perspective.

What would happen if local newspaper reporters were not at their jobs to hold our state leaders accountable. I can only assume that the Speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly would snicker if a blogger showed up to investigate a legislative scandal.  On the other hand with pen and notepad in hand, a reporter from the Wisconsin State Journal sends a message when entering a room with a question and a barrel of ink. (OK, the ink part is dated, but your blogger came from the nostalgic era when reading a newspaper left a darkness to one’s fingers.)

The point of this post is that there is always a real level of concern about the need to monitor government and policies. That can not be done on the cheap, or by amateurs.  After all, while many like to grouse about the press, let us not forget they are professionals, and do much to keep us free and safe.

Today a national newspaper made that point most clearly.

And so it goes.

Man-Child

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We know the slurs and slams all too well from Donald Trump towards the Fourth Estate.  I have commented about them often on this blog.

Trump has called members of the press “enemies of the people,” deemed critical coverage “fake,” accused news organizations of treason and uttered the phrases just as Joesph Stalin did.

But not until this week had Mr. Trump turned to the ultimate recourse of the unhappy reader: He canceled his subscription.  This should surprise no one as Trump has often stated his disdain for reading.   His illiterate nature is the outcome of such a way of life.

Officials in the West Wing on Thursday announced that copies of The Washington Post and The New York Times would no longer be delivered to the White House. The administration is moving to force other federal agencies to end their subscriptions to the papers, as well.

Trump can not stand the heat that is building under him.  Republicans are coming to realize that the creepy guy they crawled into bed with is seriously ill and wonder how sick the entire party will become.  If all this were to be placed into one quote–from The Washington Post--today it would be the following one from a Trump insider.

“We are getting crushed right now.”

That’s from a Trump adviser who has been regularly speaking with the orange-skinned man, describing to Post reporters the view that Trump and his allies are increasingly struggling to defend him from growing evidence he attempted to bolster his own political future by pressuring Ukraine.

Instead of planning for the end of his term in office the White House is just stopping the messenger from having access to alert them as to when the moving boxes should arrive for Trump’s hairspray bottles.

Tick, tock, tick……

Donald Trump Coming Unglued As Election Losses And Investigations Into Wrongdoing Escalate

Washington Post reporter Philip Rucker has a well-sourced and finely written news story this morning. In part it reads….
For Trump, that testy call set the tone for five days of fury — evident in Trump’s splenetic tweets and described in interviews with 14 senior administration officials, outside Trump confidants and foreign diplomats, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
 
He was frustrated with the trip. And he’s itching to make some changes,” said one senior White House official. “This is a week where things could get really dicey.”
 
During his 43-hour stay in Paris, Trump brooded over the Florida recounts and sulked over key races being called for Democrats in the midterm elections that he had claimed as a “big victory.” He erupted at his staff over media coverage of his decision to skip a ceremony honoring the military sacrifice of World War I.
 
The president also was angry and resentful over French President Emmanuel Macron’s public rebuke of rising nationalism, which Trump considered a personal attack. And that was after his difficult meeting with Macron, where officials said little progress was made as Trump again brought up his frustrations over trade and Iran.
 
“He’s just a bull carrying his own china shop with him when­ever he travels the world,” presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said.
 
Trump sent political aides in Washington scrambling to prepare detailed briefings for him on the still-to-be-called races. He aired baseless allegations of voter irregularities on Twitter — writing from the plane that elections attorney Marc Elias was the Democrats’ “best Election stealing lawyer” but that he would send “much better lawyers to expose the FRAUD!”
 
Still, the president told aides he felt disconnected from the action in his suite at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Paris — even as he consumed countless hours of television news on the trip.
 
“Trump needs adulation, so heading into the midterms, holding these rallies, he was cheered and it became narcissistic fuel to his engine,” Brinkley said. “After the midterm, it’s the sober dawn of the morning.”

Good News For Readers As Pulitzer Prizes Given To New York Times, Washington Post, The New Yorker

This has been another chaos-driven day due to Donald Trump, his cronies, and the laws they have broken.   So it seems fitting that I post some good news.

For decades The New York Times has landed on the doorsteps of the places I have lived.  Over the past 5 years The New Yorker lands in my mailbox.  And over the past year James has made sure The Washington Post digital subscription is accessible at our home.   The times in which we live demand  awareness of the workings of government.  The things that are most detestable in the news–almost on an hourly basis due to Trump–are the things we need to know the most about.  These publications have been front and center in making sure our democratic foundations as a country are protected.   They do that by making information available in a professional way.

I am very pleased with the impressive showing today as the Pulitzer Prizes were announced.

The New York Times and The New Yorker magazine won the Pulitzer Prize for public service on Monday for their reporting on sexual harassment that ushered in a reckoning about the treatment of women by powerful men in the uppermost ranks of Hollywood, politics, media and technology.

Beginning with revelations in The Times about the Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly, followed by reports about the film mogul Harvey Weinstein published by The Times and The New Yorker, the coverage set off a cascade of testimonials from women about abuse in the workplace, whether at a Beverly Hills hotel or a Ford Motor plant in the Midwest. By year’s end, what came to be known as the #MeToo movement had reshaped the modern conversation around gender and fairness.

At a time when President Trump regularly assails the news media, the Pulitzer board awarded its national reporting prize to The Times and The Washington Post, for coverage that unearthed possible ties between Russia and Mr. Trump’s inner circle. The dramatic story line continues to dominate Washington politics.

The Post also won the award for investigative reporting for its exposé of Roy S. Moore, the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, whose bid for higher office was upended after The Post uncovered that he had groped and harassed multiple women, one as young as 14. Columns on Mr. Moore’s candidacy, by John Archibald of the Alabama Media Group in Birmingham, Ala., won the commentary prize.

The Times received three awards in all, including the prize for editorial cartooning for a series that chronicled a Syrian refugee family’s entry into the United States. The public service prize was the sixth time The Times has received the prestigious award in the more than century-long history of the Pulitzers, which are announced annually by Columbia University to recognize excellence in journalism and letters.

Republican Caught Red-Handed CREATING Fake News–But Washington Post Busted Truth Wide Open

Oh, the shame this woman must feel as the light of truth exposes her for what she is.

Two shades dimmer than a 40-watt light bulb.

A woman who falsely claimed to The Washington Post that Roy Moore, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama, impregnated her as a teenager appears to work with an organization that uses deceptive tactics to secretly record conversations in an effort to embarrass its targets.

In a series of interviews over two weeks, the woman shared a dramatic story about an alleged sexual relationship with Moore in 1992 that led to an abortion when she was 15. During the interviews, she repeatedly pressed Post reporters to give their opinions on the effects that her claims could have on Moore’s candidacy if she went public.

The Post did not publish an article based on her unsubstantiated account. When Post reporters confronted her with inconsistencies in her story and an Internet posting that raised doubts about her motivations, she insisted that she was not working with any organization that targets journalists.

But on Monday morning, Post reporters saw her walking into the New York offices of Project Veritas, an organization that targets the mainstream news media and left-leaning groups. The organization sets up undercover “stings” that involve using false cover stories and covert video recordings meant to expose what the group says is media bias.

Brutal Front Page Of Sunday Newspaper For Donald Trump

Lead story — “Trump polls at record lows … LEAST POPULAR PRESIDENT IN MODERN TIMES… Base still loyal; 73% approve of efforts to keep jobs here–It is a must read by Dan Balz and Scott Clement.

“Trump’s first months in office have produced some tangible successes. Beyond the continued enthusiasm of his most loyal supporters, a small majority of Americans see him as a strong leader. A bigger majority approves of his efforts to pressure U.S. companies to keep jobs in this country. Those who say the economy is getting better outnumber those who say it’s getting worse by the biggest margin in 15 years in Post-ABC polling. But the president’s balance sheet overall tilts toward the negative. Majorities of Americans say Trump has not accomplished much during his first months as president. Meanwhile, he shows little improvement on his temperament and honesty, and while he’s gained ground on empathy, over 6 in 10 still say he does not understand the problems of people like them.”

The president’s approval rating stands at 42 percent, the lowest recorded at this stage of a presidency dating to Dwight Eisenhower. Trump’s 53 percent disapproval rating is 14 percentage points higher than Bill Clinton’s 39 percent disapproval in April 1993, the worst before Trump. Eight years ago, then-president Barack Obama’s approval was 69 percent, his disapproval 26 percent.

The Post-ABC poll finds 43 percent of Americans said they strongly disapprove of Trump’s performance. That’s also the worst by far of any president since George H.W. Bush by more than double. In the spring of 1993, 21 percent said they strongly disapproved of Clinton’s performance.

Speaker Paul Ryan “Capitulated” With Donald Trump Endorsement

There was no way to miss the impact or tone set forth in The Washington Post’s editorial about Speaker Paul Ryan’s decision to endorse Donald Trump for president.   It was one of the most frank and powerful reads from that editorial paper in a very long time.

I never thought that Ryan could fail to support the nominee.  There was just no political path that allowed for Ryan to dodge the inevitable given his position.  But I do know it would have been very reasonable of him to lay out his standards and expectations on the foundational issues that make up the Republican Party.  He could have placed principle alongside his political duty.

But Ryan failed to do that.   The paper called him out, and they were correct to do so.

While I have many policy disagreements with Ryan I find him smart, capable, and politically speaking, principled. So I had hoped for more from Ryan, and I strongly suspect many others–from both sides of the aisle–felt the same.

On Thursday Mr. Ryan capitulated to ugliness. It was a sad day for the speaker, for his party and for all Americans who hoped that some Republican leaders would have the fortitude to put principle over partisanship, job security or the forlorn fantasy that Mr. Trump will advance a traditional GOP agenda.

Explaining his belated endorsement of Mr. Trump in a home-state newspaper, the speaker said that conversations with the presumptive Republican presidential nominee have reassured him. Mr. Trump will help turn House GOP ideas into law, Mr. Ryan said, in a way that a President Hillary Clinton would not.

This is fanciful, as Mr. Ryan must understand. Judging by his wild swings of position over the years, Mr. Trump does not believe in much of anything. The convictions that he does hold — against free trade and U.S. leadership abroad, for dividing the nation by religion and ethnicity — are antithetical to the principles Mr. Ryan has said guide him.

Donald Trump Wrong About Watering Down Libel Laws

There is no way to describe last week’s Washington Post interview with Donald Trump without using, or at least thinking, expletives.  Though the following transcript portion is lengthy it is also telling for the lack of depth Trump exhibits when pressed on any matter–this one being his desire to loosen the libel laws in the nation.

Trump wants to sue news organizations he believes have written what he calls “hit pieces.”  As a former radio broadcaster and news reporter this matter resonates for me.  As a history buff and follower of politics and a daily consumer of the work of journalists I do not wish to see limitations placed on the free press.

Before we venture into Trump’s tortured reasoning and chaotic sentence structure during the Post interview let me place this matter into some larger context.

Right now there is a high bar–and for good reason–about how high public officials need to jump to prove libel.  That is a result from a court case I first learned of in high school civics.  A case I was nerdy enough then to find so interesting I wrote a paper on it and still have it in my collection of childhood mementoes.

From 1964, the famed New York Times Co. v. Sullivan case underscored that a public figure has to prove an offending statement was made with “actual malice, that is with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”   It is a high standard, a tough standard, and mostly an impossible standard to meet.    And for good reason.   

To simply not like what a reporter says or writes, or to make a frivolous claim about the intent of a journalist would severely limit the working press corps in this nation.    Whether Trump knows or not–and I strongly suggest he does not know–this matter of libel law is clear, workable, and agreed to by justices from both ends of the political spectrum.

RYAN: Would you expand, for example, prior restraints against publications?

TRUMP: No, I would just say this. All I want is fairness. So unfair. I have stories and you have no recourse, you have no recourse whatsoever because the laws are really impotent.

MARCUS: So in a better world would you be able to sue me?

TRUMP: In a better world — no — in a better world I would be able to get a retraction or a correction. Not even a retraction, a correction.

RYAN: Well, now, you’ve been a plaintiff in libel suits so you know a little bit of the elements …

TRUMP: I had one basic big libel suit, it was a very bad system, it was New Jersey. I had a great judge, the first one, and I was going to win it. And then I had another good judge, the second one, and then they kept switching judges. And the third one was a bad judge. That’s what happened. But, uh…

RYAN: But there’s standards like malice is required. Would you weaken that? Would you require less than malice for news organizations?

TRUMP: I would make it so that when someone writes incorrectly, yeah, I think I would get a little bit away from malice without having to get too totally away. Look, I think many of the stories about me are written badly. I don’t know if it’s malice because the people don’t know me. When Charles writes about me or when Ruth writes about me, you know, we’ve never really met. And I get these stories and they’re so angry and I actually say, I actually say, “How could they write?” – and many stories I must tell you, many stories are written that with a brief phone call could be corrected before they’re written. Nobody calls me.

STEPHEN STROMBERG, EDITORIAL WRITER: How are you defining “incorrect?” It seems like you’re defining it as fairness or your view of fairness rather than accuracy.

TRUMP: Fairness, fairness is, you know, part of the word. But you know, I’ve had stories that are written that are absolutely incorrect. I’ll tell you now and the word “intent”, as you know, is an important word, as you know, in libel. I’ll give you an example. Some of the media, not all of it, but some of it, is very, very strong on – you know I get these massive crowds of people, and we’ll get protesters. And these protesters are honestly, they’re very bad people. In many cases, they’re professionals. Highly trained professionals. And I will rent an arena for 20,000 seats and they will come in – because there’s really no way – how you going to be able to tell – somebody said “oh you shouldn’t let ‘em in” – how you gonna know, you know? They walk in. [Inaudible] So we had an incident this weekend, which was amazing in Tucson, Arizona where a man, a protestor, wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit, another one dragging an American flag, was walking out of the arena, and an African American man who was a supporter was sitting there listening to the speech and we had to stop because they were so loud – they’re so loud, these people, I don’t know what they do, they’re trained voices or something. And they’re walking up and you saw it, because it was all over television, and the African American man became incensed I think the guy said something to him like you know what, like “screw you,” okay? Or worse. I think, because he looked over to him and said something to him and the guy just had it. Now, they were together, these two. The one wearing a Ku Klux Klan, the other dragging a flag or something, but the African American man, who I think was an Air Force person, I just read he had a pretty stellar life so far. And he just became incensed. So when I saw the television yesterday early in the morning I saw the Ku Klux Klan, I saw exactly what happened. By the time it got on to the national shows that was for the most part taken out. They just had this African American smacking, you know, fighting. And it didn’t make sense, you know, why, why. But if you saw it in the morning it made a lot more sense. We don’t condone violence at all but it’s very, very unfair reporting and we, you know…

RYAN: Mr. Trump, you’ve mentioned many times during the campaign, in fact including this morning, instances you feel where the press has been biased or unfair or outright false in their reporting, and you’ve mentioned that you want to “open up” the libel laws. You’ve said that several times.

TRUMP: I might not have to, based on Gawker. Right?

[CROSSTALK]

TRUMP: That was an amazing—

RYAN: My question is not so much why you feel they should be open but how. What presidential powers and executive actions would you take to open up the libel laws?

TRUMP: Okay, look, I’ve had stories written about me – by your newspaper and by others – that are so false, that are written with such hatred – I’m not a bad person. I’m just doing my thing – I’m, you know, running, I want to do something that’s good. It’s not an easy thing to do. I had a nice life until I did this, you know. This is a very difficult thing to do. In fact I’ve always heard that if you’re a very successful person you can’t run for office. And I can understand that. You’ll do a hundred deals, and you’ll do one bad one or two bad ones — that’s all they read about are the bad ones. They don’t read about the one hundred and fifty great ones that you had. And even some of the ones they write that are good, they make them sound bad. You know, so I’ve always heard that. I’ve heard that if you’re successful – very successful – you just can’t run for—

RYAN: But how would you fix that? You’ve said that you would open up the libel laws.

TRUMP: What I would do, what I would do is I’d – well right now the libel laws, I mean I must tell you that the Hulk Hogan thing was a tremendous shock to me because – not only the amount and the fact that he had the victory — because for the most part I think libel laws almost don’t exist in this country, you know, based on, based on everything I’ve seen and watched and everything else, and I just think that if a paper writes something wrong — media, when I say paper I’m talking about media. I think that they can do a retraction if they’re wrong. They should at least try to get it right. And if they don’t do a retraction, they should, they should you know have a form of a trial. I don’t want to impede free press, by the way. The last thing I would want to do is that. But I mean I can only speak for – I probably get more – do I, I mean, you would know, do I get more publicity than any human being on the earth? Okay? I mean, [Editor’s note: Trump points at Ruth Marcus] she kills me, this one – that’s okay, nice woman.

HIATT: But just – given the Supreme Court rulings on libel — Sullivan v. New York Times — how would you change the law?

TRUMP: I would just loosen them up.

RUTH MARCUS: What does that mean?

[Crosstalk]

TRUMP: I’d have to get my lawyers in to tell you, but I would loosen them up. I would loosen them up. If The Washington Post writes badly about me – and they do, they don’t write good – I mean, I don’t think I get – I read some of the stories coming up here, and I said to my staff, I said, “Why are we even wasting our time? The hatred is so enormous.” I don’t know why. I mean, I do a good job. I have thousands of employees. I work hard.

I’m not looking for bad for our country. I’m a very rational person, I’m a very sane person. I’m not looking for bad. But I read articles by you, and others. And, you know, we’ve never – we don’t know each other, and the level of hatred is so incredible, I actually said, “Why am I – why am I doing this? Why am I even here?” And I don’t expect anything to happen–

RYAN: Would that be the standard then? If there is an article that you feel has hatred, or is bad, would that be the basis for libel?

TRUMP: No, if it’s wrong. If it’s wrong.

RYAN: Wrong whether there’s malice or not?

TRUMP: I mean, The Washington Post never calls me. I never had a call, “Why – why did you do this?” or “Why did you do that?” It’s just, you know, like I’m this horrible human being. And I’m not. You know, the one thing we have in common I think we all love the country. Now, maybe we come at it from different sides, but nobody ever calls me. I mean, Bob Costa calls about a political story – he called because we’re meeting senators in a little while and congressmen, supporters – but nobody ever calls.

RYAN: The reason I keep asking this is because you’ve  said three times you’ve said we are going to open up the libel laws and when we ask you what you mean you say hatred, or bad–

TRUMP: I want to make it more fair from the side where I am, because things are said that are libelous, things are said about me that are so egregious and so wrong, and right now according to the libel laws I can do almost nothing about it because I’m a well-known person you know, etc., etc.