Subscribe, Donate and Be Critical
By Doug Porter
While right wingers run out and buy guns after elections not to their liking, many folks are spending money on words following the election of Donald Trump.
In the days since the November 2016 election, news organizations like ProPublica, the Atlantic, Mother Jones and the New York Times have all seen a rise in subscription revenue and on-line readership. The average daily readership at the San Diego Free Press has increased by more than 50%.
Between the rise of fake news and the fall of the financial underpinnings of news reporting, supporting honest journalism should now be considered a patriotic act. I’d like to take that one step further by suggesting gift purchases on Black Friday to support a free press in this country.
Degradation of the Fourth Estate
Teenagers from Eastern European countries (among others) are taking the lead in creating a world where facts don’t matter and absolutism is considered rational. Top fake election news stories generated more total engagement on Facebook than top election stories from 19 major news outlets combined, according to Buzzfeed:
In the final three months of the US presidential campaign, the top-performing fake election news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, NBC News, and others, a BuzzFeed News analysis has found.
During these critical months of the campaign, 20 top-performing false election stories from hoax sites and hyperpartisan blogs generated 8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.
Within the same time period, the 20 best-performing election stories from 19 major news websites generated a total of 7,367,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook. (This analysis focused on the top performing link posts for both groups of publishers, and not on total site engagement on Facebook. For details on how we identified and analyzed the content, see the bottom of this post. View our data here.)
The attempts at blatant manipulations of the news cycle by the incoming administration and the specter of a private-public partnership on access to information vis-a-vis the role of (former, sorta) Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon at the White House should send chills down your spine.
The absolute worst offenders are to be found in corporate broadcast media. The day after Donald Trump calls network personnel and executives in for an off-the-record tongue lashing (no more pictures showing double-chins was among his complaints), CBS waves a magic wand and turns boos into cheers as the President-elect leaves the New York Times building.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) November 22, 2016
How bad was that tongue lashing? We’ll never know for sure. The media nitwits who were summoned to Trump Towers agreed in advance to an off-the-record session. This agreement didn’t stop at least one of the participants from telling the New York Post it was “like a f**king firing squad.”
From New York Magazine:
About 40 people met in one of Trump Tower’s boardrooms, and according to several reports, journalists struggled to be heard as Trump subjected the whole room to a comprehensive dressing down.
Among the attendees were Deborah Turness, Lester Holt, and Chuck Todd from NBC; James Goldston, George Stephanopoulos, David Muir, and Martha Raddatz from ABC; Norah O’Donnell, John Dickerson, Gayle King, Charlie Rose, and Christopher Isham from CBS; Jeff Zucker, Wolf Blitzer, and Erin Burnett from CNN; Phil Griffin from MSNBC; and Bill Shine, Jack Abernethy, Jay Wallace, and Suzanne Scott from Fox News.
According to the Post, while the who’s who of the mainstream media tried to ask questions, time and again they were interrupted by Trump, who allegedly kept repeating the same sentiment: “We’re in a room of liars, the deceitful dishonest media who got it all wrong.”
The leakage continued at the New Yorker:
“I have to tell you, I am emotionally fucking pissed,” another participant said. “How can this not influence coverage? I am being totally honest with you. Toward the end of the campaign, it got to a point where I thought that the coverage was all about [Trump’s] flaws and problems. And that’s legit. But, I thought, O.K., let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. After the meeting today, though—and I am being human with you here—I think, Fuck him! I know I am being emotional about it. And I know I will get over it in a couple of days after Thanksgiving. But I really am offended. This was unprecedented. Outrageous!”
Kellyanne Conway, who managed Trump’s campaign and who is now his senior adviser, said that the meeting had been “very cordial, candid, and honest.”
Participants said that Trump did not seem entirely rational about his criticism of the media, nor did he appear any more informed about policy than he had been during the campaign. When one participant pointed out that all Presidents and Presidential candidates believe they get bad press, Trump said, “Not Obama!
I wonder how many more times the media pack will believe there is anything more to Trump?
CNN chief and other TV bigs agreed to meet with Trump off the record. NYT did not. Upshot: Subscribe to a paper. Read more.
— Alec MacGillis (@AlecMacGillis) November 22, 2016
No, the Media Isn’t Perfect
The New York Times on-the-record interview referred to in the above Tweet wasn’t much more than a story about just how little solid policy knowledge the incoming president possesses.
But if you compare what he’s saying with who he’s appointing to various positions, it should be clear that whoever gets to him last and flatters him the most will have the most influence.
Speaking of stupid sh*t, this morning I heard an NPR correspondent suggest the suggestion of an appointment for Dr. Ben Carson amounted to the creation of a cabinet of adversaries. Do tell? Could the correspondent name any major policy differences? I don’t think so.
The mass media’s insistence on legitimizing the neo-nazis by running fawning stories about how nicely they’ve cleaned up now that Trump is headed to the White House is just plain wrong. Those ne’er do wells don’t care if their racism and anti-Semitism gets mentioned as long as their names were spelled correctly.
The bottom line with both these examples is that reporters and editors are wrong. Or stupid. Or gullible. Sometimes.
Point of View?
And then there’s the question of ‘bias,’ long a favorite topic for pollsters and pearl-clutchers alike. In the real world, bias translates to ‘I don’t agree.’
The truth is nobody’s making any money or building a bigger audience by attempting to be unbiased if such a thing were even possible. The faux neutrality of many big city newspapers in the 20th century, done to appease a broader range of advertisers no longer works.
What we can and should do is to reward honesty and investigative reporting. I’d much rather enjoy lunch with you if told up front about your hate of avocados rather than see you pretending to enjoy the guacamole brought to the table. And while I rail at the stupidity of much of the decision making in the mainstream media, I applaud those who are brave enough to continue to ask questions.
A free press is the foundation of our democracy. A free press is also a threat to those who would use the government for their own benefit; who engage in self-dealing, graft or corruption; or who in other ways abuse their office and their power. A free press must ensure that the public’s business is conducted in the open, and that public records are open to all.
I can only surmise that a president who confers regularly with Vladimir Putin and who has hired Steve Bannon as a “senior counselor” would like to the control the press.
That can not be allowed to happen. We must do our job by resisting attempts by Trump and members of his administration to control, manipulate, coerce, or threaten the press or members of the media. We at Rewire take our obligations as part of the free press deeply seriously, and will continue to take to task any media outlet that fails to do so.
Money Talks, BS Walks
So here’s my shopping list, with comments.
I emailed several dozen politicos, activists, writers and editors around town for input on this list. Sadly, very few cared. Maybe some of them will complain about my choices in the comments.
Many of these organizations sell subscriptions (great gifts!). Others solicit donations. And all will welcome your support and criticism. My recommendations are marked with an asterisk(*). Feel free to add yours in the comments.
I recommend Snopes for the chasing down the ‘something’s not right about that’ stories you may encounter.
Local News & Views
Our Friends & Family:
*Alianza (North County): Progressive News & Opinion in both Spanish & English
* East County Magazine: Nonprofit media in the public interest, serving San Diego’s inland region.
* Numbers Runner: Norma Damashek’s informed take on politics
* OB Rag: News about Ocean Beach and the world curated by SDFreePress editor Frank Gormlie
* South Bay Compass: SD Free Press editor Barbara Zaragoza’s window on that part of the world.
* Will Blog for Food: John Lawrence’s well-informed views on all kinds of things
Local Establishment Media. Because.
We can’t do it all.
San Diego Union Tribune – Our media overlords are owned now by Tribune Media, which also has some made up name, kinda like what Prince did for a while. You can’t know how hard it is for me to type those words putting them on this list. They’ve been my favorite punching bag for decades. But the days of Doug Manchester are over, and there are some decent people working there.
Voice of San Diego – Non-profit, locally focused. Civic engagement stories ranging from superlative to mediocre, some investigative reporting. I often disagree with their choices, yet I still find myself reading it daily.
Times of San Diego – Online. Local news, op-eds you’re unlikely to see elsewhere, and decent coverage of activist actions.
City Beat – Kinda sorta progressive alt-weekly, both printed & online. Good columnists.
KPBS – Some good local reporting. National Public Radio & BBC newscasts can be good resources.
The Reader – Some worthwhile local news reporting by Dave Rice, Matt Potter, Dorian Hargrove, Don Bauder & others. Publisher is a jerk.
Regional, National & Progressive
*Video/Cable: Best tough substantive interviews: MSNBC Chris Hayes (All In) and Joy Reid (AM Joy); Amy Goodman Democracy Now!
* Capital & Main: Online quality reporting, based in California, covering on the most pressing economic, environmental and social issues of our time.
LA Progressive – An online magazine for progressives living in and around Los Angeles
San Francisco Bay Guardian – The former editors and publishers of the San Francisco Bay Guardian have regained control of the 50-year-old alternative weekly paper and website.
Digby’s Hullabalo (Staunch progressive democrat from Santa Monica) Sharp analysis and good aggregate media coverage. Heather Parton also writes for Salon.
Lawyers, Guns and Money – Best labor coverage
Demos – Best coverage of inequality in US
Latino Rebels, Jacobin, The Baffler – Surfing the zeitgeist
Salon, Daily Beast – Sites where you have to shovel a lot of shit to find the pony. (but there is usually a pony)
*The Guardian (US). If you’re reading the LA Times, Washington Post, and NY Times already, consider adding the Guardian to your list.
The Best of the Rest: *Atlantic, New Republic, Vox, *Mother Jones, The Nation, In These Times, Think Progress
Because we need some snark from time to time: *Wonkette, Driftglass
Lest You Forget
I’m taking Thursday off. (Thanks to Anna Daniels for her help on this column.)
On This Day: 1170 B.C. – History’s first recorded (on papyrus) strike, by Egyptians working on public works projects for King Ramses III in the Valley of the Kings. They were protesting having gone 20 days without pay—portions of grain—and put down their tools. (Exact date estimated.) 1976 – Police arrested Jerry Lee Lewis outside the gates of Graceland after he showed up for the second time that night and made a scene by shouting, waving a pistol and demanding to see Elvis Presley. 1998 – The tobacco industry signed the biggest US civil settlement. It was a $206-billion deal to resolve remaining state claims for treating sick smokers.
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I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@SanDiegoFreePress.Org Check us out on Facebook and Twitter.