CNN Should Investigate Brazile Email Ramifications…But It Won’t…

Posted in CNN on October 12, 2016 by icn2

The Hill’s Joe Concha writes about the Donna Brazile debate question email…

A few more questions: If Brazile has access to questions from time to time — again, her words — does Paul Begala have the same access, who runs a pro-Clinton super PAC? Does Ana Navarro, a Jeb Bush supporter and one of Trump’s harshest critics?

An internal investigation and some actual attempts at accountability would go a long way in solving this obvious breach. Remember, an internal investigation was conducted by the law firm of Paul, Weiss soon after the Roger Ailes sexual harassment suit by Gretchen Carlson over at Fox News. Will CNN do the same? Will anyone else in media outside of this space even demand one?

Sure. I will.

This is a no brainer to investigate. I don’t claim to have any inside knowledge of how this went down but there’s more than enough circumstantial evidence that optically points in one direction and one direction only. If that direction is invalid, the only way for it to be properly invalidated is to do an investigation.

But CNN won’t do that and even if it did the outcome would leave us with whetted appetites and nothing more. We can safely assume CNN is not interested in getting to the bottom of this and certainly isn’t interested in doing due diligence here. How can we be so certain of this? Two words: Fareed Zakaria.

The Zakaria investigation, and I use the term very loosely to describe that whitewash, set a benchmark for CNN. A bad one, yes…but a benchmark nontheless. The case against Zakaria was more solid than the case against Brazile here. With Brazile we have conjecture and assumption based on what her email said but what we don’t necessarily have is a smoking gun. With Zakaria there were numerous smoking guns in the articles he wrote and the transcripts of his show which at the very least showed Zakaria was guilty of patch writing. Some would argue the evidence was substantial enough to point to an even worse offense.

And yet despite all the available evidence, the best CNN could do is suspend Zakaria while it did an investigation, not release the results, and conclude they were satisfied with the way things stood.

Given all that does anyone believe CNN is going to do anything with Brazile?

This plays out in one of two ways:

A) CNN informs Brazile she’s no longer welcome back at the network and proceeds to hire an outside firm to dig into this situation to find the culprit or culprits.

B) The network ignores it, and by doing so, tacitly states it has no issue with collusion between its employees and presidential campaigns.

That’s the choice.

No. There’s a third option…

C) CNN informs Brazile she’s no longer welcome back at the network at some point down the road but does not launch an investigation. In effect CNN passive aggressively runs out the clock on Brazile while not publicly appearing to take any action.

This is the route I expect CNN to take.

Tent Shooting 101…

Posted in Miscellaneous Subjects on October 6, 2016 by icn2

The Hill’s Joe Concha pens an article I think is wrong in almost every way…save one.

It starts with what appears to be a non-sequitur…

Before addressing this spat, here’s a personal note from somebody who can say he’s both on the inside and outside when it comes to the world of cable news.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years of meeting those who work on-air in cable news regardless of network — and I’ve been on them all many times — it’s this:
A majority are phonies. Absolute phonies.

The reason? A potent brew of ego, self-importance, a lack of self-awareness, more ego, and a constant need for attention.

Yeah…ok…they’re phonies. I get it. What on earth does that have to do with the propriety of the spat between Hannity and Kelly? Nothing.

Oh sure Concha takes a long and windy road from “they’re phonies” to the Howard Stern Show and somehow comes to the conclusion that because that dysfunctional family, which only succeeds because its sum is greater than its parts, is able to toss dirty laundry about that this is something everyone should emulate because it’s “more real” and “less phony”…

That may work for shock radio. It’s death for cable news.

The Stern show can get away with that because that’s where the bar is lowered to. It’s expected. It’s kind of like watching NASCAR for the crashes. You know there’s going to be shit flying around at some point and that’s why you tune in.

This is where we start getting into that “elitist” “high horse” territory of cable news has to aspire for higher than the Howard Stern Show. There need to be standards. The Stern Show basically has no standards (that don’t involve not breaking the law).

Tent shooting is anathema in cable news and journalism in general. Roger Ailes…you know the guy who used to run the network Hannity and Kelly call home…absolutely abhored tent shooting. Just ask Chris Wallace. MSNBC has had its occasional on air shenanigans but they have mostly been few and far between. Over at CNN, they run such a tight ship over there that anyone who dared take a shot at someone else would probably get fired…if they weren’t top flight talent that is.

Networks hate tent shooting. It means they no longer control the story and, worse, they don’t know where it’s headed. A news organization is hundreds if not thousands of people. It’s not the size of the tiny crew of the Stern show. There are just too many moving parts to allow those parts to start teeing off on one another.

And usually, when they do start teeing off on one another, even if it’s just passive aggressively, it’s sign of a real problem with the talent. No network wants to telegraph that it has talent issues in its shop.

It’s a distraction. No network likes distractions. On the Stern show they can get away with that crap because people have come to expect the lowest common denominator there. Then again, when the beefs get really bad it’s a problem even on the Stern show as you can tell from the turnover that show has had with its cast of characters.

So that’s why networks don’t want tent shooting. Tent shooting produces articles about the tent shooting and questions start swirling. Some of those questions linger for a long time, especially when it appears there’s genuine friction under the surface.

Just a few weeks ago everyone was aghast at the Washington Post’s Editorial board basically taking a dump on The Post’s Journalism wing over its Snowden coverage.

I actually don’t read Kelly’s comment as an attack at Hannity. It really reads as an attack at Trump to me. But Hannity’s response was definitely an attack on Megyn and, of the two, the one that crossed a few lines. But this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise because Hannity is so in the tank for Trump that’s his commentary has taken on an apoplectic take no prisoners scorched earth bent to anything negative about Trump no matter how legitimate it is. And Kelly’s comment was definitely legitimate because Trump has retreated to nothing but safe zones…even worse than Hillary.

Disagreement between co-workers isn’t a bad thing.


It shows authenticity — a concept all the phonies in this business can’t seem to grasp.

You want to know what helps make Fox so popular as it enters its 15th year of being No. 1? It’s editorial talent.

And what that talent does best? They speak their minds, even when it means (gasp) disagreeing with the way a co-worker runs his or her shop. The media bubble thinks it’s bad for the network, the end of harmony at Fox.

Guess what? Harmony is boring. Disagreement is much more engaging.

This is stupid. The propriety of the behind the scenes spat which breaks out into the open is bad not just because it’s an unnecessary distraction for the network but also because it also does absolutely nothing to help the shows.

What does the viewer get out of Hannity and Kelly publicly fighting each other? Nothing. The two don’t interact with each other on air almost ever so any hostility can’t drive a “What happens when they next come face to face” narrative ala Pro Wrestling. The Kelly File and Hannity shows are islands unto themselves. So any hostility off screen isn’t going to do anything on screen. Engaging? There’s nothing for the viewer to engage in when the spat happens off air and there’s no interaction on air.

It’s bad for the network. There is no upside for the network. The “media bubble” is 100% right about that. But the idea of “network harmony” is a straw man. It’s a myth. It has never existed. Concha is right about that. There has never been network harmony. There never will be network harmony.

But, while it might be fun to consider that there is no such thing as network harmony and extrapolate from that networks should embrace their employees showing that there is no such thing as network harmony, the reality is any network that goes this route would surely implode fast. No corporation could survive long by having its dirty laundry aired publicly by its employees engaging in tent shooting exercises and score settling while the network flounders about in the slippery slope world of what attacks are kosher and what attacks are going too far.

This is why we had PR people to begin with…to protect the corporation from its own employees by making one group of people the focal point between the public and the employees.

Social Media has blown up that model to some extent by creating multiple avenues for the talent to communicate with the public (and vice verse). Which is why networks have social media policies with very specific terms about what’s allowed and what’s not allowed. Some are more draconian than others obviously but it would not be unreasonable to conclude that Hannity’s tweet violated FNC’s social media policy.

For those of us who are process junkies (like me) or media navel gazers (like a bunch of others including Concha) spats that erupt are manna from heaven. We love it when we have same shop talent on talent violence. That’s even better than network on network violence.

But we’re not normal. We aren’t the casual viewer who doesn’t benefit from it. And our agenda totally differs from the networks we cover. We want openness because we learn more. Networks don’t want openness because it will lead to only one place; anarchy.

The 2016 Campaign Coverage Mess…

Posted in Miscellaneous Subjects on October 5, 2016 by icn2

Politico’s Jack Shafer scores a home run today writing about how screwed up campaign journalism has become in 2016…

But in campaign 2016 these disinformation efforts have become rampant, and they are gaining currency as never before thanks to the pick-up they’re getting from traditional media. Traditional media once shied from repeating stories they hadn’t confirmed, or that hadn’t been confirmed by their peers. But as so much of cable television has devolved from news to discussion about what people read in the news, that’s changed. It’s not that the old news gatekeepers aren’t doing their jobs. Most are. It’s just that the fences have been breached.

I was going to quote Shafer citing an example but they’re all so good that instead I’ll just say read the dang article…

As 2016 shapes up to be the disinformation campaign, there may be no easy and elegant way to stem the flow of fallacious TV stories, Web pieces, Trump speeches and Twitter blasts in these digital times. The dirty tricks of disinformation have always been part of politics and won’t be banished by decree. Nor will calls for a news quarantine of suspected disinformation work. Besides, news quarantines are antithetical to journalism. Good journalists have traditionally combated disinformation with real information, always knowing that in taking down the phony you run the risk of inadvertently giving it a boost. It’s a paradox we must live with, because the alternative of just letting candidate and information outlets to do their thing unchallenged is much worse.

Monkey See…or…If You Can’t Beat ‘Em…Steal ‘Em…

Posted in CNN on October 3, 2016 by icn2

Let’s see…Jeff Zucker said Buzzfeed isn’t a legitimate news organization. So of course he goes and hires away a bunch of those “poseurs”…as the Huffinton Post’s Michael Calderone scooped today…

BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski and his scoop-driven political research team are joining CNN during the final, frenetic stretch of the 2016 election and beyond.

Kaczynski, 26, has been one of the standout reporters of the campaign season as his K-File team has consistently broken news through deeply mining candidates’ past statements and actions. Three other members of the team ― BuzzFeed deputy politics editor Kyle Blaine and reporters Nate McDermott and Christopher Massie ― are making the jump with him.

The hiring of Kaczynski and company is a major coup for CNN and follows a recent spat between network chief Jeff Zucker and BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith. In August, Zucker said BuzzFeed wasn’t a “legitimate” news organization, prompting Smith to criticize the network for boosting Trump in the pursuit of ratings. The mini-exodus also comes amid questions about BuzzFeed’s commitment to original reporting following a recent reorganization.

No, It’s Not Settled Andy…

Posted in MSNBC on September 28, 2016 by icn2

The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple gets NBC News Topper Andrew Lack to comment, tangentially, on the Brian Williams fiasco…

The shyness has shielded Williams from having to confront again his scandal of 2015. NBC News suspended him for six months after learning about a series of exaggerations/embellishments/lies concerning his past as a reporter — a tour of shame with stopovers in Iraq, the Berlin Wall, Israel and elsewhere. As he prepared to return to work as a breaking news anchor on MSNBC, Williams sat for an interview with NBC News’s Matt Lauer, but he did not individually address all the episodes on his besmirched record. “I would like to take this opportunity to say that what has happened in the past has been identified and torn apart by me and has been fixed, has been dealt with,” said Williams, who lost his job as anchor of “NBC Nightly News.”

Monday, Lack sounded a note of accord. When asked whether Williams had left behind some unfinished business in that Lauer interview, Lack responded, “Ancient history to me.”

Not to me and not to a lot of other people and NBC can blame itself for our prolonged interest. It chose to bury the story rather than do what CBS did with the Thornburgh report which did a complete and very public number on Rathergate. The Lauer interview only compounded things.

We have not had closure. NBC ensured we did not get closure. So Andrew Lack can try and gloss it over…just as Rachel Maddow tried to gloss it over but for us it’s always going to be an issue until we understand what exactly happened and why.

FNC = Trump News Network?

Posted in FNC on September 27, 2016 by icn2

For decades CNN was derisively referred to as the Clinton News Network. The moniker stuck not so much because the charge packed much validity but because the acronym for Clinton News Network matched the acronym for Cable News Network.

I have resisted getting too immersed in the goings on with cable news and campaign 2016. I have a long held beef with all of cable news for overdoing it on the politics side and the horse race nature of its coverage of elections. I hate the campaigns and I hate the coverage of the campaigns. I cannot wait for the next two months to pass by as quickly as possible. Cue up a CNN countdown clock, if you please…

That said, there are some things I just can’t ignore.

I’ve watched for a while now and groaned about Corey Lewandowski’s dubious conflict of interest ridden hiring by Jeff Zucker and CNN, who continue to maintain a straight face while defending said hiring while more and more evidence drips out strongly pointing to the notion that the network just plain fucked up in hiring the guy. Hearing Jake Tapper go to bat for Zucker last week at a Town Hall meeting made my stomach churn…

CNN host Jake Tapper, who moderated Tuesday’s employee town hall, also emphasized that many of the network’s stable of conservative pundits were Trump critics and that it’s important to have people on air representing the views of the tens of millions of Americans expected to vote for the Republican nominee.

Tapper pointed out that CNN is in a unique position when it comes to providing balance, as opposed to Fox News and MSNBC, cable channels with partisan leanings, and broadcast networks that aren’t covering news round-the-clock on television.

Yeah…ok Jake. But so what? None of that goes to the suitability of Lewandowski nor CNN’s weaselly defense of retaining someone on two payrolls which are in direct conflict with one another. Everything Tapper said may be true but it’s also a total non-sequitur to the reason people are sill talking about this.

So I just can’t ignore it. It’s a blight on CNN.

Likewise, what FNC is doing recently with Donald Trump is a blight on its news operation. For starters there was last night’s post debate interview with Sean Hannity. In the middle of FNC’s news division’s post debate analysis…the news division had to stand down so that the opinion side can take over and give Hannity air time he should have absolutely no business being anywhere near.

You expect serious questions from Hannity to Trump? Hell no. You’ll get Hannity lobbing whatever softball will work to prop up the guy he is completely (and admittedly) 100% in the tank for.

You don’t think this spectacle grated on the news wing? It sure as hell grated on Megyn Kelly

Kelly said, “”We’ve got Trump speaking to our own Sean Hannity. We’ll see whether he speaks to the journalists in this room after that interview.”

And now today comes this article on…

When Trump pushed back on Holt, saying “I was against the war in Iraq,” Holt countered: “The record does not show that.”

Then Trump laid out his case.

“The record shows that I’m right,” he said. “When I did an interview with Howard Stern, very lightly, first time anyone’s asked me that, I said, very lightly, ‘I don’t know, maybe, who knows?’ essentially. I then did an interview with Neil Cavuto. We talked about the economy is more important [than going to war].”

Holt repeated that his reference was to 2002 and then tried to move the discussion along.

But Cavuto himself picked up the thread post-debate on Fox Business Network, unearthing the clip Trump referenced, from January 28, 2003 – Nearly two months before the Iraq War began on March 20. In the video, Cavuto asks Trump how much time President Bush should spend on the economy vs. on Iraq.

“Well, I’m starting to think that people are much more focused now on the economy,” Trump said. “They’re getting a little bit tired of hearing ‘We’re going in, we’re not going in.’ Whatever happened to the days of Douglas MacArthur? Either do it or don’t do it.”

Trump continued: “Perhaps he shouldn’t be doing it yet. And perhaps we should be waiting for the United Nations.”

Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczsynski went on a Tweet rampage over that article…

This is, for lack of a better word, complete bullshit from Fox News.

1.) Trump does NOT say he opposes Iraq in the clip. Says maybe wait for U.N. approval and either attack or don’t. Doesn’t “back up” anything

2.) Neil Cavuto did not “uncover” this last night. All fact checkers, @PolitiFact, @GlennKesslerWP, me, had this interview for months.

3.) It’s embarrassing Fox News would categorize this way when Cavuto has clip on his show of Trump calling it success he’s yet to air on TV.

4.) I personally asked multiple Fox people for the clip of Trump Iraq invasion success in 2003 before I had to get if from college archive.

5.) Congrats to Fox News on finding a clip fact checkers had in February and framing exactly how Trump wanted you to.

I won’t go so far as to use Kaczynski’s “complete bullshit” characterization but this article is definitely fundamentally flawed…

I don’t need to rehash the article hyping Neil Cavuto’s “miraculous” finding of this clip months after everyone else already noted it except to say if Cavuto wasn’t involved in any way with this article he should sue for defamation because it really makes him look bad.

No, instead I’m going to attack the article directly for using supplementary evidence which is actually 180 degrees opposite of what the article states is the case…

Yet despite the Cavuto clip, and the ambivalence of Trump’s own on-the-fence answer during the 2002 Stern interview, post-debate fact-checkers nearly universally wrote that Trump had lied during the exchange with Holt.

Politifact rated the claim “False.” The website even noted the Cavuto exchange, while remarking “At most he suggested waiting for the United Nations to do something.”

Politico blared: “Trump [again] says he opposed the Iraq War. That’s still false.”

The article makes it look like the Cavuto clip refutes the fact-checkers, and by extension Lester Holt, when the reality is the Cavuto clip refutes Trump. Here’s Politifact’s own words in context…context which the FNC article did not include…

Our ruling

Trump said, “I did not support the war in Iraq … The record shows that I’m right.”

The record does not support Trump’s repeated assertions that he opposed the war prior to the 2003 invasion. Around the time of the invasion, Trump’s comments were few and far between, not to mention vague.

In 2002, asked if America should go to war, he said, “I guess so.” Less than three months before the invasion, Trump said the president should be more focused on the economy, but he didn’t specifically speak against launching an attack. He didn’t voice full-throated opposition until almost a year and a half after the invasion.

We rate this claim False.

I bolded the part that’s central to this. There has been no…zero…none…nada…zippo public evidence that Trump was publicly against the war from the get go. Unverifiable private conversations with vocal supporters who are in the tank for you don’t count.

Politifact doesn’t have to show that Trump was 100% for the war. It only has to show that Trump wasn’t 100% against it to give validity to the claim that Trump is lying about his record. And the evidence, which the article itself notes, is ambiguous at best in showing what Trump was thinking or feeling publicly before the invasion.

This doesn’t work to Trump’s benefit. It only makes his claim that he was always against the war more tenuous.

Yet to read the article you’d think the Cavuto clip totally settles the matter when the reality is it just throws more confusion when what is needed is clarity.

So the question needs to be asked, what was the purpose of this article? It clearly doesn’t settle the matter in Trump’s favor and it clearly doesn’t refute Holt or the fact checkers and it clearly doesn’t break any new ground given that the overhyped Cavuto clip had already been noted by everyone else and wasn’t the brass ring the article made it out to be.

So what’s the point? Is it just to help Trump? It doesn’t read like a news article. It reads like an opinion piece designed to score points while ignoring inconvenient contrary evidence…the kind of article you’d find on NewsBusters or Media Matters.

Is it propaganda? That’s a strong word. It does share more commonality with propaganda pieces than journalism pieces but there’s no direct evidence this article was ordered from on high and I have yet to hear about this story’s subject getting much play on FNC TV’s dayside news operation.

That said, the websites do seem to operate to a different more muddled standard than the TV news dayside operation does.

But add this article to last night’s Hannity post debate interview, which happened almost immediately after the debate ended, and you have to ask yourself the question: Is FNC turning into the Trump News Network? And how does FNC’s journalism wing feel about that?

The Hazards of Live TV: #25,149

Posted in Hazards of Live TV on September 27, 2016 by icn2

Man who is running things over at 30 Rock these days? How the hell could MSNBC possibly get a CNN branded graphic into its library of video backgrounds and not have someone pick up on it.

This is beyond embarrassing…