Media Matters 2018

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2018 World Press Freedom Index
RT, Sputnik and Russia’s New Theory of War

How the Kremlin built one of the most powerful information weapons of the 21st century
— and why it may be impossible to stop
.

4 August
A delightful reprieve from “fake news” and “enemy of the people”
Dick Cavett in the Digital Age
Stopping to smell the flowers with the last great intellectual talk-show host.
(NYT) For three decades, Mr. Cavett was the thinking person’s Johnny Carson, embodiment of an East Coast sophisticate. He wore smart turtlenecks and double-breasted blazers, had more cultural references than a Google server and laced martini-dry witticisms into lengthy, probing talks with 20th-century luminaries including Bette Davis, James Baldwin, Mick Jagger and Jean-Luc Godard.

11 October
What makes Jamal Khashoggi’s alleged murder so depraved
By Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists
The crisis in press freedom is a threat to the global order. We live in the information age, yet the people who bring us news and information are being jailed, killed and censored at an unprecedented level. A decent respect for press freedom must be viewed as a guiding principle in international relations, a principle that cannot be sublimated to strategic considerations.
(WaPost) Even if the intent was merely to abduct Khashoggi and not to kill him, how is it possible that Saudi Arabia — a vital U.S. ally that claims to be a responsible actor on the global stage — could consider such an action? Perhaps the reason is that those who use violence and repression to censor the media rarely face significant consequences.
Maybe this is also why so many journalists are being imprisoned and murdered. A record 262 journalists were jailed around the world at the end of last year, according to research by the Committee to Protect Journalists, the organization I lead. As the war in Syria has ebbed, the total number of journalists killed annually has come down from the low-to-mid 70s, but the number of murdered journalists has risen dramatically this year, to 27; there were 19 such deaths in all of 2016, and 18 last year. The suspects in the killings include criminal groups, terrorist organizations and governments. In about 90 percent of these cases, the perpetrators went unpunished.
Powerful forces around the world recognize the threat posed by independent information and are determined to control it

9 October
Truly unbelievable!
Olivia Nuzzi: My Private Oval Office Press Conference With Donald Trump, Mike Pence, John Kelly, and Mike Pompeo
(New York) I guessed that the president wanted to disabuse me of any notion that Kelly was about to be fired, or had almost been fired many times before. I was right, but my imagination was too limited. What ensued amounted to a private press conference — featuring a series of special guest stars from the highest echelon of the Trump administration — to try to get me to change my mind.

1 September
The Village Voice ceases publication after 63 years
The Pulitzer prize-winning New York alternative weekly is going out of business because of intractable financial problems
(The Guardian) The Village Voice, New York’s Pulitzer prize-winning alternative weekly known for its muckraking investigations, brash political reporting, exhaustive arts criticism and anxiety-laden cartoons, is going out of business after 63 years. Last night, New York cultural figures, among them the guitarist Lenny Kaye, came out to salute the publication’s passing.
The Voice was the country’s first alternative news weekly and once had a weekly circulation of 250,000. Along the way, it received three Pulitzers and became known as home for some of New York’s best investigative journalists. The Village Voice prints its final edition – with Bob Dylan on the cover (21 September 2017)

31 August
Former newspaper publisher George MacLaren loved politics, cared about Quebec’s English community
(Montreal Gazette) A prominent figure in Quebec’s English-speaking community, George MacLaren combined his interest in law, journalism, politics and intelligent debate into a full life. MacLaren died Thursday in Nova Scotia.
George MacLaren, the Sherbrooke newspaper publisher who was part of an effort to launch another daily paper in Montreal in 1987, has died,
MacLaren died Thursday morning surrounded by his family at his home at Mahone Bay, N.S. He had a medically assisted death after fighting liver cancer.
MacLaren had been living there in retirement after a long career as a lawyer, newspaper publisher, defender of Quebec’s English-speaking community and friend and advisor to some of the most powerful politicians in the country.
“Canada has lost someone who was a great citizen and great promoter of who we are,” former Quebec premier Jean Charest said in an interview with the Montreal Gazette.
In 1977 MacLaren founded Townships Communications, at the same time acquiring daily newspaper The Sherbrooke Record from former newspaper tycoons Conrad Black, David Raddler and Peter White.

24 August
WSJ: National Enquirer publisher David Pecker granted immunity
(CNN) David Pecker, the head of the company that publishes the National Enquirer, was granted immunity in the federal investigation into President Donald Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen in exchange for providing information on hush money deals, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Postmedia’s Connection To Donald Trump
David Pecker has been accused of wielding the National Enquirer to protect friends including Trump and Harvey Weinstein. He also helps decide how much Postmedia execs should get paid
Since October 2016, he’s been a director of Postmedia, sitting on the board of this country’s largest newspaper company.
Postmedia…  [is] a business in dire straits, having struggled under a massive debt load since springing from the bankruptcy of Canwest in 2010. As a publisher, it’s in a tough spot, and it’s unlikely the presence of Pecker — who earned $117,500 from just his first 11 months on the board — is a positive one for a company looking for assistance from an already reluctant Liberal government. (20 June)

15-17 August
Trump’s war on ‘fake news’ could actually make the mainstream media stronger
(Brookings) After more than 300 newspapers published editorials on Thursday in defense of a free press, Jonathan Rauch, a longtime journalist and Brookings expert, argues that President Trump’s rhetoric has forced journalism to take collective action in order to defend its common interests, strengthening the media as an institution in the process. “One day’s editorials do not a revolution make. They are another welcome sign, however, that America’s civil society and civic culture retain resilience, despite being severely tested. Or because they are severely tested. Nixon and Watergate wound up strengthening the institutions that Nixon hated the most, mainstream media chief among them. Trump may end up having the same effect.”
Separately, veteran journalist Marvin Kalb warns that the president’s attacks on the media have undermined American democracy and opened the door to a constitutional crisis. “Long term: not just in the United States, but in many other countries, too, the Trump message of suspicion and hostility toward the press has spread—and with it, a global turning away from democracy and toward authoritarianism. Trump did not create this right-wing movement, but he is riding its crest; and because of the power of his office, he is driving it to new heights of acceptability.”

Senate adopts resolution declaring “the press is not the enemy of the people”
(CBS News) The Senate unanimously passed a resolution Thursday affirming that “the press is not the enemy of the people.” … The resolution, introduced by Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, passed by unanimous consent.

Editorial: The Guardian view on the press and Trump: speaking truth to power
On Thursday, hundreds of US news organisations are publishing editorials opposing the president’s attacks on the press. The Guardian stands with them
On Thursday, following an initiative by the Boston Globe, it is expected that some 350 editorial boards in news organisations across the United States will publish their own editorial comments on this issue. There is, of course, a risk in this initiative, and there will be differing press views about it. For some, including Mr Trump, it will feed the narrative that there is a partisan war between the press and the president. But the breadth of the response to the Boston Globe’s suggestion – and the fact that each editorial will be separately and independently written – suggests something different: that those who report and comment, day in and day out, in as professional and objective a manner as we can, are concerned that public respect for journalistic truth, reason and civility are under a new and present threat against which we must stand as best we can. As one editor has put it: we’re not at war with the Trump administration, we’re at work.
The Freedom of the Press Is Yours
(The Atlantic) The freedom of the press is an individual liberty, not the peculiar privilege of a profession or an industry. It is your right as an American to read what you will, to write what you think, and to publish what you believe. The press is neither the enemy of the people nor its ally, but rather its possession. That is why attacks on the press, one of the great bulwarks of liberty, seek to abridge or deprive the people of their rights, as Madison would have put it to his colleagues.
We know where attacks on the media can lead. When politicians have questioned the rights and legitimacy of the press, violence has frequently followed.
More than 300 newspapers join Globe effort on freedom of the press editorials
12 August
Deference to Media Waning Around the World
By David T. Jones
Media Key to Good Governance, but Press Freedom Diminishing Worldwide
By David Kilgour
Despite America’s well-known First Amendment, guaranteeing freedom of the press, the United States this year stands only 45th out of 180 countries ranked in the annual Index of World Press Freedom by Reporters Without Borders.
‘Not the enemy of the people’: 70 news organizations will blast Trump’s attack on the media
(WaPost) …the editorial board of the Boston Globe is proposing that newspapers across the nation express their disdain for the president’s rhetoric on Aug. 16 with the best weapon they have: their collective voice.
The rally calls for the opinion writers that staff newspaper editorial boards to produce independent opinion pieces about Trump’s attacks on the media. So far, according to the Associated Press, 70 news organizations have agree. The Globe’s appeal is limited to newspaper opinion writers, who operate independently from news reporters and editors. As The Washington Post’s policy explains, the separation is intended to serve the reader, “who is entitled to the facts in the news columns and to opinions on the editorial and ‘op-ed’ pages.” — from large metropolitan daily newspapers such as the Miami Herald and Denver Post to small weekly newspapers with four-digit circulation numbers.
Online activists hit hatemongers like Alex Jones where it hurts the most — in the wallet
The whole process of applying concerted social-media pressure raises profound questions.
What happens when these same techniques are used not to point out bigotry but to go after legitimate comment or personalities by twisting the facts?
“For better and worse, online activists have shown just how easily the digital economy allows agitators to make web publishers feel their pain,” wrote Osita Nwanevu in Slate, comparing Sleeping Giants to an effort all the way across the political spectrum — the Gamergate movement’s successful targeting of Gawker’s advertisers in 2014 as they made the hypocritical case to advertisers that Gawker supported bullying.
Rivitz notes that Sleeping Giants has never called for a boycott. It has merely — but insistently — pointed out to companies that they are advertising in places that may not be compatible with their corporate image.

7 August
Alex Jones loses his empire — but not because he’s a liar
Apple, Facebook, YouTube and Spotify have moved to remove the content of prominent right-wing talk show host Alex Jones for violating hate speech policies.
(WaPost) Infowars hasn’t changed much since it first started warping the Web nearly two decades ago, and it has changed even less in the past month. What has changed since Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s mealy-mouthed rationalizations for keeping Jones on his site just weeks ago is the amount of pressure the media and politicians have put on tech companies to clean up after themselves.
Apparently, all it takes for most of today’s guardians of the digital galaxy to drive an offending outlet toward obscurity is for one of them to make the first move. That illustrates the immense influence a single action by a single company can have on the online landscape. But it also demonstrates the reluctance of each company to take those actions without cover.

6 August
Twitter thread from David Veitch about Sun Media/Post Media is well worth reading; it starts off “Attacking progressive ideals and promoting the far right — social safety net destroyer Doug Ford, trickle-down obsessive Jason Kenney, even neo-Nazi sympathizers — seem to be the Sun’s raison d’être nowadays. And I believe this is calculated.”

3 August
John Cassidy: How to Counter Donald Trump’s War on the Media
(The New Yorker) For journalists, the best and only response is to keep reporting the news, and analyzing it thoroughly. One good example is the Washington Post’s continued efforts to document Trump’s lies, deceptions, and exaggerations. As my colleague Susan B. Glasser noted earlier today, the Post’s fact-checking team has now logged 4,229 of them, and they are getting more frequent.Another is the story of Russia’s information-warfare campaign in the United States.Two years ago, during the campaign, Trump and others dismissed it as a conspiracy theory. Today, thanks to investigative efforts by the intelligence agencies, the special counsel Robert Mueller, and journalists, even Trump’s appointees are warning about the threat. This “goes beyond the elections,” Coates said at Thursday’s briefing. “It goes to Russia’s intent to undermine our democratic values, drive a wedge between our allies, and do a number of other nefarious things.”
Although Trump is conducting a war on the media, he isn’t necessarily winning it. If he were, he wouldn’t be so angry.
Bret Stephens: Trump Will Have Blood on His Hands
His demonization of the news media won’t fall on deaf ears
(NYT) … for every 1,000 or so Trump supporters whose contempt for the press rises only as far as their middle fingers … how many are ready to take the next fatal step? In the age of the active shooter, the number isn’t zero.
Should that happen — when that happens — and journalists are dead because some nut thinks he’s doing the president’s bidding against the fifth column that is the media, what will Trump’s supporters say? No, the president is not coyly urging his supporters to murder reporters, like Henry II trying to rid himself of a turbulent priest. But neither is he the child who played with a loaded gun and knew not what he did.
Donald Trump’s more sophisticated defenders have long since mastered the art of pretending that the only thing that matters with his presidency is what it does, not what he says. But not all of the president’s defenders are quite as sophisticated. Some of them didn’t get the memo about taking Trump seriously but not literally. A few hear the phrase “enemy of the people” and are prepared to take the words to their logical conclusion. … what should be clear is this: We are approaching a day when blood on the newsroom floor will be blood on the president’s hands.

29-30 July
Trump vs. the Times: Inside an Off-the-Record Meeting
By David Remnick
(The New Yorker) It didn’t take long for Trump to make it plain that he will not mellow or relent. Attacking the media will undoubtedly be part of his campaign strategy for the midterm elections. In Kansas City, four days after his meeting with Sulzberger and Bennet, Trump told followers at a rally, “Stick with us. Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.” And then, as the crowd booed the reporters, Trump added the Orwellian finisher: “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”
Trump accuses ‘very unpatriotic’ journalists of putting the ‘lives of many’ in peril
(WaPost) President Trump escalated his feud with the news media on Sunday, accusing journalists of being unpatriotic and endangering lives after the publisher of the New York Times disclosed that he had warned Trump recently that his inflammatory rhetoric about the media could lead to violence.
NYT publisher: I told Trump his anti-press rhetoric ‘will lead to violence’
Trump has not abandoned some of his most highly charged rhetoric about the press, including calling journalists the ‘enemy of the people.’
(Politico) The publisher of The New York Times sat down with President Donald Trump at the White House earlier this month for an off-the-record meeting in which he urged the president to tone down his attacks on the press.
But the meeting didn’t stay off the record for long — and the pleas of the Times’ publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, appeared to have had little effect on Trump, who last week bashed the press during a speech in Missouri and whose White House even barred a CNN reporter from covering an event there.
On Sunday morning, Trump bragged about his meeting with Sulzberger on Twitter, a move that the Times said nullified their off-the-record agreement, freeing him to speak publicly about what he discussed with the president. (Statement of A.G. Sulzberger, Publisher, The New York Times, in Response to President Trump’s Tweet About Their Meeting) …
Meanwhile, a CNN reporter was barred from covering an event last week at the White House, a decision that prompted widespread outrage from journalists.

28 June
Trump’s Newsprint Tariff Is a Tax on America’s Free Press
Local newspapers were already struggling when Trump imposed a 30% levy on Canadian paper.
By Steve Forbes
(WSJ/paywall) The purpose of ITC investigations—and of President Trump’s general approach to trade—is to revisit assumptions about how trade practices affect Americans. These efforts have produced some good outcomes, such as the government’s toughened opposition to China’s intellectual-property violations. But there is a difference between enforcing clear trade rules that protect all Americans and lurching into piecemeal imposition of tariffs to benefit individual companies.
Norpac’s petition is an example of protectionist cronyism. Among U.S. paper producers, the company is conspicuously alone in its petition for protective tariffs. The trade group that represents paper mills, the American Forest and Paper Association, opposes the tariffs, as do scores of newspapers, book publishers and printers around the country. They are rightly concerned that if the paper they use becomes more expensive, they will be forced to print less. That would be unwelcome news for ink suppliers, small manufacturers, and retailers that advertise with inserts and flyers. Tariffs are taxes, and higher taxes don’t create prosperity.
Even more troubling than the economic damage the tariff is causing is the threat it presents to the strength of America’s free press. The rise of online advertising already has shattered the business model of many newspapers, and most small regional dailies have been forced to consolidate or close. Those that have shifted to an online-only format have tended to offer fewer well-reported stories of interest to local readers.
In such an environment, a sharp price hike in newsprint, which is generally the biggest budget item after labor, could force dozens of additional publications to close or be reduced to shadows of their former selves. The killing of local newspapers by the imposition of tariffs would gut the nation’s free press. It is local newspapers, not cable news networks, that scrutinize the goings-on at town halls, and how tax dollars are spent on schools and public works. Local papers are indispensable in uncovering corruption in government. They expose hospitals that mistreat patients and companies that dump chemicals into local streams. For many people of modest means or who live in rural areas, these papers are the top source of community news and information

24 May
Brilliant!
How a Desautels professor is sensitizing students to fake news
Management prof. imparts information literacy to BComm students by getting them to distinguish fact from fallacy in the media.
(McGill Reporter) With the aim of imparting information literacy to her BCom students, Prof. Obukhova, with assistance from former McGill Associate Librarian Edward Bilodeau, designed an assignment about the ongoing NAFTA renegotiations that would allow them to grapple with distinguishing fact from fallacy in the media.
Students were asked to refer to an actual article about NAFTA and then write their own biased version from the perspective of a key stakeholder, such as the Conservative Party of Canada, a Mexican consumer, or an anti-globalization activist. Thereafter, Prof. Obukhova shifted the focus by asking students to write a blog post that exposed their article’s bias.

23 May
Stephen King Laments Donald Trump’s ‘Poverty of Thought’
At the PEN Literary Gala, the horror king also attacked ‘that intellectual dead zone known as Twitter,’ while Margaret Atwood said the horror of her dystopian work is now reality
(Daily Beast) It’s a terrifying time for democracy, not only in the predictable pockets of repression around the world but right here at home in the good ol’ U.S. of A.
That was the sobering, indeed disturbing, message of Tuesday night’s PEN Literary Gala at New York’s American Museum of Natural History, where horror virtuoso Stephen King and dystopian storyteller Margaret Atwood, along with movie star Morgan Freeman, sounded the alarm to a celeb-studded, black-tie crowd of nearly 1,000.
People who write books—and, just as important, people who read them—“are the crucial counterweight to those who are close-minded and mean-spirited,” King told dinner-goers [including] Malcolm Gladwell, Carl Bernstein, Masha Gessen, Walter Mosley, Mona Simpson, Ron Chernow, Robert Caro, Gay Talese, and actors Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
“While the United States isn’t putting reporters in prison yet, the tactics of the current administration are dangerous,” Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, warned. “They include attacking and discrediting reporters by name, threatening to punish unfavorable coverage, trying to convince the public that reputable and accountable news outlets cannot be trusted, and branding certain news organizations as the enemies of the American people.”

Breitbart Without Bannon: Raheem Kassam, the London editor brought on by Steve Bannon in 2014, has left Breitbart. His departure marks a turning point for Bannon and the news network; Kassam, who is heavily involved in far-right organizations such as the anti-European Union and anti-immigration United Kingdom Independence Party, was one of the few allies Bannon had left at the company after departing in January. Kassam’s exit comes after reports that the website’s readership has dropped by half since last year.

2 May
(Reuters) Journalists in Myanmar believe their government is failing to defend media freedom despite the transition from harsh military rule to an elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, according to a survey published to mark World Press Freedom Day. Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, have been detained in Myanmar for 144 days.

Young man reading newspaper in Dili, Timor-Leste. Photo by Martine Perret.

On World Press Freedom Day 2018, I call on governments to strengthen press freedom, and to protect journalists. Promoting a free press is standing up for our right to truth. — António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General
(The Economist) This week a suicide bomber in Kabul killed 31 people. Ten of the dead, in what looked like deliberate targeting, were journalists. The attack brings the number of journalists killed worldwide this year to 26. That is a rate that has not been seen since 2009, when 75 journalists were murdered or killed in crossfire, or died on dangerous assignments. On World Press Freedom Day, today, this is another grisly reminder of the risks reporters run

25 April
Reporters Without Borders just released its annual press-freedom report card, and the grades are dismal
(WaPost) Last weekend, as Nicaragua’s police brutally cracked down on protesters demonstrating against President Daniel Ortega, journalist Angel Gahona was presenting a related story on Facebook Live. During the middle of his report, a shot rang out. The image from his cellphone stopped working.
He had taken a bullet in the head. Shortly thereafter, he was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital. Yet another journalist killed for doing his job — while doing his job — as the state of free expression around the world continues its downward spiral.
Today, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) releases its 2018 World Press Freedom Index, an annual review of 180 countries and their relationship with the media. In the report, there is very little to celebrate. The survey paints yet another depressing portrait of the gradual erosion of one of free societies’ most treasured principles.
“The unleashing of hatred towards journalists is one of the worst threats to democracies,” says Christophe Deloire, the secretary general of RSF. Politicians are exacerbating the problem, Deloire adds, by using propaganda to undermine fact-based public discourse. “To dispute the legitimacy of journalism today is to play with extremely dangerous political fire.”
[“The United States, the country of the First Amendment, has fallen again in the Index under Donald Trump, this time two places to 45th. A media-bashing enthusiast, Trump has referred to reporters “enemies of the people,” the term once used by Joseph Stalin.”]

20 April
Why Are Newspaper Websites So Horrible?
The pop-up ads! The autoplaying videos!
(City Lab) The torments of these sites are well known: clunky navigation, slow page-loading times, browser-freezing autoplaying videos, a siege of annoying pop-up ads, and especially those grids of bottom-of-the-page “related content” ads hawking belly fat cures and fake headlines (what’s known as Internet chum).
Not all publishers have allowed the economics of digital advertising to ride roughshod over the user experience. A few big media organizations like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post boast millions of digital subscribers nationwide, and they’ve managed to use their paywalls and big readerships to maintain readability. Indeed, many such publications entice subscribers with the ever-more-appealing prospect of an ad-free user experience, using the awfulness of the free version of the site for sales leverage—and stealing readers away from local dailies. Magazines, which still rely more on revenue from issue sales and print advertising, are typically able to field a less maddening digital experience. It’s the smaller news publications, the hard-luck dailies and weeklies that rely on local ads and local eyeballs, that seem trapped in a particular universe of suck.

19 April
(New York Nagazine) Unbowed Blowhard of the Week: In a highly entertaining twist, Sean Hannity was revealed to be Michael Cohen’s mystery third client in open court this week. But the flagrant conflict of interest inherent in Hannity railing against an investigation while seeking representation from one of its key players will have zero effect on the Fox News gabber’s sway, Frank Rich writes, since “the notion that journalistic rules or ethics have any meaning at a Murdoch outfit, or that its audience wants them to apply, is a fantasy.” Instead, the power-hungry Hannity will continue to exert his poisonous influence on the air and at the White House, where he is said to have so much pull that he may as well have a desk in the building. No ethics, no problem. (Sean Hannity Will Remain Trump’s Shadow Chief of Staff)

12 April
U.S. newspapers feeling the effects of tariffs on Canadian newsprint
(AP via Global) Publishers say Canadian imports are not the reason for the decline of U.S.-based paper mills, but rather a 75 percent drop in newsprint consumption over the last two decades. That has led mills to switch to more profitable products such as the boxes Amazon uses for shipping, said Tony Smithson, vice president of printing operations at Bliss Communications, which owns multiple newspapers and radio stations in Wisconsin. The newsprint the company buys all comes from Canada.
Smithson said that even if every paper mill in the U.S. operated at full capacity, they still would only be able to produce about 60 percent of the newsprint consumed in the country. He said that raises another concern: A scarcity of available newsprint if Canadian producers decide to ship to other countries to avoid the new tariffs.

7 April
He was wearing a vest marked ‘PRESS.’ He was shot dead covering a protest in Gaza.
(WaPost) His work had appeared on networks such as Al Jazeera, and in 2016 he worked as a cameraman for Ai Weiwei’s documentary, “Human Flow,” which covered the global refu­gee crisis, including Palestinians in Gaza. The Chinese visual artist posted photos of Murtaja on his Instagram account on Saturday. … Murtaja had tried tirelessly to see beyond blockaded Gaza, including to travel for a training course with Al Jazeera in Doha, Qatar, but he never managed to leave.

1 – 4  April
The real and disheartening danger of the Sinclair story
By Kathleen Parker
(WaPost Opinion) In its defense, Sinclair issued a statement on Monday expressing surprise that anyone would object to its trying to remind viewers of its high standards compared with traditional, as well as social, media. The statement referred to a recent Monmouth University survey that found that more than 75 percent of Americans believe traditional TV and newspaper outlets report “fake news.”
How does a free nation remain free without a vibrant fourth estate? When a media company as vast and penetrating as Sinclair can claim the moral high road, while molding and marshaling public thought essentially against a free press, it seems not irrational to fear a future featuring a Soviet-style propagandist state.
There is some good news in all of this, however. The same Monmouth survey found that most Americans still find the president to be a less trusted source of information than they do the major cable news outlets. That may be only a pewter lining, but it’s something.

Critics blame the FCC.
… critics say the Federal Communications Commission is responsible for enabling and emboldening the right-leaning company behind the scripted content, Sinclair Broadcast Group, in ways that could ultimately hurt conservatives and liberals alike. …
It’s an example of the type of programming that some policy analysts said would become more common after the FCC eliminated a decades-old rule last year whose purpose was to keep local TV stations under local control. Known as the “main studio rule,” the now-defunct federal requirement required radio and TV stations to operate a physical studio in the areas where they were licensed. In voting to repeal the rule, Pai said technological advances make it no longer necessary for stations to keep the lights on in a physical studio; many broadcasters, including NPR, agreed. Pai also said the repeal could help financially struggling broadcasters survive. The chief operator of one small radio station, KMXN in Lawrence, Kan., estimated that complying with the rule cost him $5,000 a year.
NB Read Oct 2017 article The FCC just ended a decades-old rule designed to keep TV and radio under local control

Trump said Sinclair ‘is far superior to CNN.’ What we know about the conservative media giant.
(WaPost) The company is the largest owner of local television stations in the country, with 173 stations in 81 broadcast markets that stretch from coast to coast and just about everywhere in between, at a time when local news outpaces national news outlets both in overall viewership and trust. Some 85 percent of Americans trust local news outlets, higher than the 77 percent for family or friends, according to the Pew Research Center.
But a stunning video that showcased its anchors reading required scripts that seemed to parrot one of President Trump’s favorite themes, has drawn renewed scrutiny to what critics see as the media conglomerate’s years-long efforts to inject conservative-tinged coverage into local markets.
Sinclair owns or operates 59 Fox affiliates, 41 ABC affiliates, 30 CBS affiliates, 25 NBC affiliates, nine Univision affiliates, and others, and also has its own network, Comet, according to its website.


“This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.”
News Anchors Reciting Sinclair Propaganda Is Even More Terrifying in Unison
(New York Magazine) The anchors were forced to read the so-called “journalistic responsibility messages” word for word by their employer, the conservative-leaning Sinclair Broadcast Group, the largest owner of television stations in the country. The features were one of Sinclair’s now infamous “must-run” segments, consisting of conservative commentary that every Sinclair-owned station is required to air.
Think Progress rounded up many of the “fake stories” segments for a chilling video on Friday, but Deadspin’s Timothy Burke published a much more terrifying version on Saturday, which at one point shows 30 of the segments synced up in unison.

28 March
NPR Maintains Highest Ratings Ever
According to Nielsen Audio Fall 2017 ratings, the total weekly listeners for all programming on NPR stations is 37.7 million people – a record that has been maintained since the Spring of 2017.
NPR’s flagship news magazines, Morning Edition and All Things Considered, retained the remarkable growth seen during the Fall 2016 election cycle. Their weekly audience is now at nearly 14.9 million and 14.7 million listeners, respectively – continuing to be the two largest news/talk radio programs in the country, and larger than many well-known television news programs
Trump Is ‘Obsessed’ With Amazon Because He Wants to Crush the Washington Post
(New York Magazine) “One of Trump’s deepest assumptions is that everybody, including the media, is utterly corrupt. (That’s why he has repeatedly stated that the media will endorse him in 2020 — because he’s good for their profits, and Trump cannot imagine a media outlet publishing coverage that would not benefit the profitability of its ownership.) Of the two newspapers he reads, Trump dismisses the New York Times as “failing,” and the Post as a tool of Amazon. And whatever the merits of his case about Amazon, it has nothing to do with helping mom-and-pop shops and everything to do with his authoritarian desire to control the news media.” (Axios: Trump hates Amazon, not Facebook … Trump also pays close attention to the Amazon founder’s ownership of The Washington Post, which the president views as Bezos’ political weapon.)

27 March
5 Liberal Priorities That Were Funded in Last Week’s Budget Bill
(New York Magazine) PBS Lives
For culture-warrior Republicans, national arts programs are perpetual bogeymen to be held up as misbegotten liberal priorities, even though they constitute a tiny sliver of the federal budget. The Trump administration is no different. In its budget, it proposed eliminating funding altogether for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities
But after an intense lobbying push on Capitol Hill, the budget Trump signed boosted funding for both of them by $3 million each, to $153 million apiece for the fiscal year. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which Trump had also threatened with the ax, retained its $445 million budget. And Congress financed other, smaller priorities, like upgrading the public broadcasting interconnection system.
“The legislation reaffirms that federal funding for public media is an investment that continues to deliver proven value and service to the American people,” said Patricia Harrison, the head of the CPB.

26 January
‘Anything could happen’: Amid newsroom clashes, Los Angeles Times becomes its own story
(WaPost) The paper — one of the largest and most important news organizations in America — has been beset by turmoil the past two weeks, prompting questions about its future.
After decades of successful resistance by management and years of demoralizing cutbacks, the Times’s journalists voted overwhelmingly last week to unionize. Before bargaining can begin, however, reporters are concerned about a plan by the Times’s management to reorganize the way the paper produces news.
Under a new “pyramid” structure proposed this month, a network of nonstaff contributors would produce the bulk of the information the Times publishes online. Reporters say the paper has quietly begun hiring a cadre of editors to supervise the reorganization, which would effectively create a new company within the company.

16 January
Mr. President, stop attacking the press
By John McCain
(WaPost) After leaving office, President Ronald Reagan created the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award to recognize individuals who have fought to spread liberty worldwide. Nancy Reagan continued the tradition after her husband’s death, and in 2008 she bestowed the honor on human rights icon Natan Sharansky, who credited Reagan’s strong defense of freedom for his own survival in Soviet gulags. Reagan recognized that as leader of the free world, his words carried enormous weight, and he used them to inspire the unprecedented spread of democracy around the world.
President Trump does not seem to understand that his rhetoric and actions reverberate in the same way. He has threatened to continue his attempt to discredit the free press by bestowing “fake news awards” upon reporters and news outlets whose coverage he disagrees with. Whether Trump knows it or not, these efforts are being closely watched by foreign leaders who are already using his words as cover as they silence and shutter one of the key pillars of democracy.

15 January
Trump’s ‘Fake News Awards’ could violate ethics rules
Little is known about what the president intends to do Wednesday, but some experts aren’t taking it lightly.
(Politico) Every awards show has its critics, but President Donald Trump’s much ballyhooed “Fake News Awards” has drawn attention from a group beyond the usual peanut gallery: ethics experts who say the event could run afoul of White House rules and, depending on what exactly the president says during the proceedings, the First Amendment.
The White House has not yet said what form the awards presentation, scheduled by Trump for Wednesday, may take. But Norman Eisen, the former special counsel for ethics for President Barack Obama, and Walter Shaub, the former head of the Office of Government Ethics, have both tweeted that if White House staff members were involved, they would be in violation of the executive branch’s Standards of Ethical Conduct, which ban employees from using their office for “the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise.”

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