• Major Errors by Major Networks

    For anyone who cares about accurate reporting, the past week was truly disastrous.

    Since democracy depends on transparency and some measure of justified trust in our basic institutions, these journalistic failures are damaging to the country.

    The misreporting comes on top of well-documented sexual harassment and abuse allegations that led to Matt Lauer’s firing and raise questions about how much his bosses knew and covered up over the years. One, Andrew Lack, is still at NBC. The other, Jeff Zucker, runs CNN.

    We also heard Cokie Roberts, long-time reporter for ABC News, say on the air that female reporters knew not to get into elevators alone with some Congressmen and Senators. She didn’t seem to notice that neither she nor anyone else considered that worthy of investigating or reporting.

    As for last week’s errors, Glenn Greenwald cites chapter and verse here:

    The U.S. Media Suffered Its Most Humiliating Debacle in Ages: Now Refuses All Transparency Over What Happened (The Intercept)

    CNN also illustrates how these organizations offered only lame apologies for BIG errors:

    Misreporting the date, which both CNN and ABC did, was not a minor matter. It went to the heart of charges that candidate Trump worked with Russia and Russian-backed organizations to win the election. In fact, the accurate dates were after Trump was elected.

    Some people have attributed the errors to sloppy reporting, others to deliberate efforts (presumably by the leakers) to harm either Trump or the networks that reported.

    There is no doubt the reporting was sloppy, the retractions mealy-mouthed.

    But I have an additional observation, albeit purely speculative. First, note that the leaks came from classified settings, such as the House Intel Committee. Second, we know that the Department of Justice has established a high-priority task force to identify the sources of classified leaks. So, I speculate, could DOJ (working with US intel agencies) given specific people some documents seeded with misinformation to see if that identifiable info was leaked? If it was, then the source would be obvious to DOJ or the CIA.

    That technique is a familiar one. Intelligence agencies sometimes alter each document slightly for each individual recipient. That way, if some portion ends up in the newspaper, it might be possible to identify which recipient leaked it. I wonder if that’s what happened here? The fact that two sources confirmed CNN’s erroneous story makes me wonder if a Congressman or two received a deliberately altered document.

  • News You Can Trust, From Reporters You Can Rely On: The Brian Action Team

    When big national news breaks, I turn to Brian Ross and Brian Williams.

    If anybody can break the news, it’s those two inventive reporters. –Ted Baxter

     

    In all three, the fake is mistaken for the real. But there’s a crucial difference. In The Life of Brian, our hero has integrity. He is committed to telling the truth, even when the public doesn’t want to hear it. Ross and Williams could learn from that.

  • The Next Stage in the National Harassment Story? The Executives Who Knew and Did Nothing

    The latest episode, broken by New York Magazine’s The Cut, involves harassment allegations against now-retired NPR personality, John Hockenberry. (Link here)

    What happens next shows the Ghost of Christmas Future.

    There is outrage that Hockenberry’s employer did so little after being told of the initial allegations. She admits knowing of the allegations for months–and NPR contributors are not happy.

    Calls for public radio president Laura Walker to resign after ‘cowardly’ response to sex harassment claims–Fox News

    If, as I expect, the story expands from “who did it” to “who covered it up,” then a lot of executives will be in deep trouble.

    It’s one thing for Hollywood stars and producers to know about Harvey Weinstein and stay silent. That’s morally troubling, but, because they are not his employer, they don’t have an affirmative, legal obligations to act.

    That’s not true for, say, the executives at NBC who employed the immensely-profitable Matt Lauer. They had a responsibility to protect their other employees from his predations and to create a safe workplace. Instead, they allowed the installation of a “lock-the-door” button in his office so he could drop his pants.

    Who is in the line of here? The executives who worked most closely with Lauer over the years. High on that list are NBC’s Andrew Lack and Jeff Zucker, formerly at NBC, now at CNN.

     

  • ICON? ABC’s Cokie Roberts says of John Conyers, “Every female in the press corps knew that, right, don’t get in elevator with him”

    Roberts made her comment on ABC’s This Week. (Transcript here)

    PALMER: I don’t think that the culture has — we haven’t seen major shift, right? And I would also just point out, members policing themselves, a very bad track record of it, whether it’s about these kind of scandals, whether it’s about how they use their finances. There is — nobody is saying that they’re going to change the whole process by which this is done, that they’re going to throw out members if they actually have sexual harassment cases. This is a big problem for them.

    ROBERTS: The fact that people are willing to be public can change things. I mean, we all talked about for years.

    RADDATZ: A little bit at a time.

    ROBERTS: Don’t get in the elevator with him, you know, and the whole every female in the press corps knew that, right, don’t get in elevator with him. Now people are saying it out loud. And I think that does make a difference.

    Comment: She apparently did not recognize that her admission is as damning to the cozy DC press as it is to Conyers.

    She was casually reporting that, even after the Weinstein scandal, no one in the Washington Press corps was willing to expose what all insiders knew.

    Btw, I didn’t see other news outlets picking up Roberts’ admission and broadcasting it widely.

    Media bias involves omission, as well as commission.

    Comment #2: If Conyers’ conduct was habitual and well-known, then Nancy Pelosi’s defense of him is even more noxious.

    Comment #3: Please note that I have written extensively on Roy Moore’s predatory behavior. This post about Conyers is not a partisan one.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, November 7

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Trump in South Korea: What’s on the agenda? 

    Comment: Mostly North Korea but also some trade issues. The goal is to get South Korea’s leftist president to side more closely with the US, less with China.

    A separate ZipDialog post, with more analysis, is here.

    Texas Church Massacre: what we know

    From police reports, three basic facts are emerging:

    • The shooter was angry, uncontrolled, and mentally unstable
    • Several different bureaucracies knew about the problems–the US military, a mental institution from which he escaped, and local officials who knew about violence and cruelty
    • The bureaucracies did not inform each other, so none had a full picture of the lethal danger he posed.
      • Some of this information might have blocked gun purchases

    Comment: As we learned after 9/11, you can’t connect the dots if bureaucracies don’t share information. In the 9/11 case, the failure was the predictable consequence of laws blocking such sharing between the FBI (focused on domestic crime prosecution) and the CIA/NSA (focused on foreign issues, not crime, and prohibited from domestic spying). Terrorists exploited those “stovepipes” by moving across borders.

    In the Texas case, it was simply the military’s failure to enter info in shared databases. In the case of the shooter’s escape from a mental hospital, we don’t know why that information was not entered into shared databases, where it could have blocked gun purchases.

    Even if the information is available, there is so much of it that local law enforcement may not be able to sort through it and use it effectively.

     Very tight governor’s race in today’s Virginia election:

    UPDATE: Democrat Wins

    The state has been trending Democratic for some years, fueled by population growth in the DC suburbs of Northern Virginia.

    Hillary won the state by 5 points and Trump’s unpopularity in North Virginia is why he didn’t campaign for the Republican, the first Presidential no-show in half a century.

    That’s why the Democrat tried to make it a “national” election while the Republican tried to make it “local.”

    Beyond the usual impact on policy, the winner will influence Virginia’s redistricting after the 2020 Census.

    Harvey Weinstein: Two developments

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, November 3

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    Bowe Bergdahl, Army deserter held by Taliban, avoids prison sentence (Washington Post)

    Comment: This outcome is shocking. US soldiers died looking for this creep. Others were injured. Lots of resources devoted to finding a soldier who voluntarily abandoned his post and planned for weeks to do so.

    Pres. Trump immediately weighed in, via Twitter. My guess is that Trump’s position will be very popular on this issue. He’s implicitly daring the Democrats to come out on the other side, as many of them did (to their cost) on the NFL kneeling.

    More good economic news: Unemployment down to 4.1%, the lowest rate since 2000.

    Less good: Wage growth slow (Wall Street Journal, subscription)

    Best news of all: Strong Productivity Growth. (CNBC)

    Comments: Productivity growth is crucial. It is the underlying source of real wage growth.

    The biggest problem for the economy now is the misfit between the skilled jobs available and the unskilled workers who are unemployed.

    Tax Bill, next phase: We will find new details (none good, otherwise they wouldn’t be hidden), and gored oxen will come out to save themselves

    Example of hidden details:

    House Republicans claim the tax plan they introduced Thursday keeps the top individual rate unchanged at 39.6 percent—the level at which it’s been capped for much of the past quarter-century. But a little-noticed provision effectively creates a new band in which income is taxed at over 45 percent.

    Thanks to a quirky proposed surcharge, Americans who earn more than $1 million in taxable income would trigger an extra 6 percent tax on the next $200,000 they earn—a complicated change that effectively creates a new, unannounced tax bracket of 45.6 percent. –Politico

    Example of gored oxen:  Republican Tax Proposal Gets Failing Grade From Higher-Ed Groups (Chronicle of Higher Education)

    The House tax-reform proposal released today would discourage participation in postsecondary education, make college more expensive for those who do enroll, and undermine the financial stability of public and private two-year and four-year colleges and universities,” said Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education and under secretary of education in the Obama administration, in a written statement.

    In broad terms, the bill would eliminate or consolidate a number of tax deductions meant to offset the costs of higher education for individuals and companies, including the Lifetime Learning Credit, which provides a tax deduction of up to $2,000 for tuition, a credit for student-loan interest, and a $5,250 corporate deduction for education-assistance plans. –Chronicle of Higher Education

    Comment: There is also tremendous pushback on the limitations on deducting state and local taxes, led by Republicans in high-tax states.

    These issues will be fought out over the next month, first in House committee, then on the floor in both chambers, then in reconciliation.

     Spain issues arrest warrant for Catalonia’s leader, who has fled the country (BBC)

    ◆ Mainstream media ignore bombshell, documented revelation that Hillary and DNC rigged primaries

    All three major TV news networks completely skip the story (Fox News)

    NYT: nothing

    Comment: It’s not surprising that most Democratic politicians are silent. But the story is a significant one, and it’s omission by mainstream outlets is bias, pure and simple.

     Pressure builds on AG Jeff Sessions, accused of false or misleading statements to Congress. The issue: what he knew Trump campaign officials’ contacts with Russia 

    The Atlantic magazine calls it: “Jeff Sessions’ Selective Memory

     

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    Hat Tip to

    ◆ Robert Pahre for the Chronicle of Higher Education story

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, October 19

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ US consulting firm with ties to the Clintons lobbied on behalf of Russia’s nuclear giant (Circa)

    A Russian nuclear executive, whose company was the target of an FBI investigation and who admitted to corrupt payments to influence the awarding of contracts with the Russian state-owned nuclear energy corporation, paid millions of dollars in consulting fees to an American firm in 2009 and 2010 to lobby the U.S. regulatory agencies and assist the Russian’s who were then attempting to acquire twenty percent of American uranium, according to court documents, a former FBI informant and extensive interviews with law enforcement sources.

    Roughly $3 million in payments from 2010 to 2011 were made to APCO Worldwide Inc., which is described on their website as the second largest lobbying firm in the United States. The firm also provided in kind pro-bono services to Bill Clinton’s foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative, services they begin 2007, according to APCO officials who spoke with Circa

    and press releases from the company. It was during the same time that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was part of the Obama administration board that would eventually approve the sale of the U.S. uranium to Russia. –Sara A. Carter at Circa

    ◆ Great News about the US Economy: Lowest jobless claims since 1973 (Bloomberg)

    Comment: One-month data contains random effects, but the trend is great.

    Head of NBC News dined with Harvey Weinstein, then spiked the well-sourced exposé from Ronan Farrow. Pressure to resign–but he’s still on the job. (Fox News)

    NBC says they are not investigating.

    NBC News is coming under increasing criticism for its failure to investigate why its embattled president, Noah Oppenheim, spiked a bombshell story that would have been the first to expose Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein as a sexual predator.

    An NBC spokesperson says the network is not investigating the matter, despite new revelations that Oppenheim sat at small table with Weinstein at an exclusive New York gala in April, when Oppenheim reportedly already knew that his reporter, celebrity scion Ronan Farrow, had obtained damning audio recordings in which Weinstein admitted groping the breasts of an Italian model. –Fox News (link here)

     Screenwriter close to Weinstein highlights Hollywood’s code of omertà: “Everybody f**king knew” (Mashable)

    Scott Rosenberg worked with Weinstein and company for almost a decade:

    “Everybody fucking knew,” he wrote (not once, not twice, but three times) in a lyrical, near novella-length Facebook response to those shrinking away from responsibility in enabling Weinstein’s behavior.

    Hollywood’s general unwillingness to face the music of personal accountability for the rot in their own industry added insult to injury in the onslaught of allegations. Because those (seemingly) well-meaning yet spineless responses only ensure one thing: that this will keep happening. –Mashable

    Comment: Mr. Rosenberg’s choice of words is certainly apt.

    I just hope this little unpleasantness doesn’t keep Hollywood from preaching to the rest of us.

    ◆ John Kelly speaks eloquently about his son’s combat death, says he was “stunned” by a Congresswoman’s criticism of Pres. Trump’s condolence call

    NYT gives it a straightforward headline: Kelly Speaks About Son’s Death and Criticizes Congresswoman Wilson

    CNN gives it an ugly spin: John Kelly’s stirring but incomplete attempt to clean up for Donald Trump

    Comment: CNN’s spin, presented as hard news, is shameful.

    ◆ FUSION GPS:  Founders of the firm behind Trump-Russia dossier take the Fifth (Business Insider)

    Won’t talk to House Intel Committee. Refuse to say who paid for the smear job.

    Comment: The now-discredited dossier is important because then-director of the FBI, James Comey, used it as the basis for an investigation of the Trump campaign.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Hat Tip to

    ◆ Tom Elia for the Mashable “everybody knew” story.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, October 11

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ The devastation–human and material–keeps growing from California wildfires

     

    Stand and Deliver: Goodell send letter telling NFL players he wants them to stand during anthem(ESPN)

    No specifics on how the league plans to ensure it or act toward players who do not stand.

    Comment #1: ESPN broke into their political coverage to cover this sports story.

    Comment #2 re Trump vs NFL kneelers: ZipDialog predicted

    (a) the league would cave after seeing the fans’ and advertisers’ reactions,
    (b) Trump was politically smart to make this an issue; most people respect the flag, and ALL his base does; and
    (c) when Trump won on this issue, he wouldn’t be shy about saying so.

     Horny Harvey and Hollywood Hypocrisy

    Harvey Weinstein’s Behavior Was ‘Worst Kept Secret in Hollywood,” says actor (Fox News)

    Comment: Now that he has been destroyed, the powerful people and institutions will finally speak.

    I completely understand why the weak and vulnerable kept quiet; they are victims. But the powerful and well-entrenched who knew about this have no such excuses.

     The next phases of the Weinstein story, as I see it

    Comment: Here are some obvious angles. The question is whether the media wants to investigate, given that they are directly implicated, along with their powerful friends:

    • Democrats who were close to him will have to defend themselves and offer stories about their ignorance (some true, some false)
      • Many are now saying they are “shocked, shocked” to find out this about Mr. Weinstein. Gimme a break.
      • Why did Hillary, Barack, and all the others wait five days after the NYT broke the story before commenting?
      • Why did all the late-night comedians (except John Oliver) maintain radio silence, as Saturday Night Live did? They will jump on Weinstein’s figurative corpse now, but where were they after the story broke?
    • The media will be all over the Weinstein story but they will downplay or ignore the media’s complicity or the Democrats role in it (just as the conservative media will harp on it)
      • The NYT, the most MSM of MSM outlets, deserves lots of credit for breaking the story. But they need to explain why they didn’t dig further a decade ago, when they first had the story. Lots of women were harmed in the intervening years.
    • What about the media outlets, like the NYT and NBC, that had the story and didn’t run it?  What about the gossip sites like TMZ? Why didn’t they investigate this well-known rumor?
    • What about the others sexual harassment and exploitation in Hollywood? Will the media investigate or wait for Gloria Allred? There have been rumors for years about pedophilia, but no real reporting.

    Henry Kissinger meets with Trump. What’s that about?

    Comment: Kissinger  has made one of the most sensible and serious proposals about working with China to resolve the North Korean crisis. He is also the most trusted intermediary to broker a deal between Beijing and Washington and to carry back-channel messages between the two. (Kissinger’s proposal was contained in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, subscription)

    My guess: Trump listened to Kissinger, said “great, if Xi is willing to do it. But if he won’t or it doesn’t work, tell him the US will act unilaterally in a wide variety of ways that the Chinese won’t like.”

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    Hat Tip to

    ◆ Randy Helm for pointing out that the NYT deserves credit for breaking the story

  • Thanks to the New York Times: They ran my Tweet on “Fearless Girl” prominently below their story

    The story, as you may recall from my ZipDialog post (here), is that the company that erected  inspiring statue of “Fearless Girl” on Wall Street just settled a pay-discrimination charge by the US government.

    The allegation is that they paid women and black executives less than their white counterparts. It didn’t seem to matter if they were fearless or not.

    The settlement amount was trivial for a large financial corporation like State Street.

    But the irony is rich.

    I created a picture about it, wrote the post, and linked to it on Twitter. When the New York Times ran its story on the episode today, they included my tweet just below the story itself on their website.  Many thanks to Carol Felsenthal for letting me know.

     

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