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COVID-19 Lockdowns are Providing Local Hosts Plenty to Cover

It’s a fantastic opportunity to get back into a daily groove of the “live and local” content that will continue to allow local news talk to separate itself and thrive. On top of that, it’s a chance to stand out in the community and become “the voice” of small and local businesses.

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Photo by spruekar CC BY 2.0.

The last several weeks have been exhausting, but exhilarating in the News Talk world. The election put a bow on 2020, which was admittedly a terrible year for America, with COVID-19, a summer of social unrest, and then an incredibly divisive Presidential election.

But it was also the kind of year that gives endless content to the news talk format.

The last few weeks leading up to election day obviously highlighted and followed the day-to-day happenings of Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden, while the U.S. Senate, House of Representative and other down ballot races were part of the conversation. And while the syndicated shows have, naturally, heavily focused on the fall out from the election and the legal processes that are taking place in swing states around the country, local news talk has an angle to play that is likely of more importance to the daily lives of their listeners.

Unless you are in a market in one of the aforementioned swing states, like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada and others where President Trump’s legal team is holding out hope for a miracle, there is not much to do to localize the story on a daily basis. Plus, the story is, for the most part, at a standstill, until, or if, the bombshell comes.

But right as the election hysteria starts to wind down, 2020 gives the News Talk format one more punch to close out the year: more COVID-19 lockdowns.

This is happening all over the country, and each city is dealing with it in a different manner, depending on the restrictions for your local city, county or state. While the Presidency is undoubtedly important, shutting down local businesses in your community, some of which may even be advertisers on your radio station, has a direct impact on your listeners, along with likely their friends and family.

It’s a fantastic opportunity to get back into a daily groove of the “live and local” content that will continue to allow local news talk to separate itself and thrive.  On top of that, it’s a chance to stand out in the community and become “the voice” of small and local businesses. This kind of grassroots publicity will allow hosts and stations to stand out, when too many in our local and national media landscape are favoring these wildly unfair and draconian shutdowns of, notably bars and restaurants, when there is little to no evidence to point to that these establishments are the super spreaders people want you to believe that they are.

In many communities, including Kansas City where I host my morning show, lawsuits are starting to be filed by small businesses. A bar in Kansas City, Missouri has sued the city for its newly announced forced shutdown time of 10:00 p.m. The bar has abided by all the prior rules and regulations; taking temperature checks prior to entry, enforcement of social distancing between groups and masks when not drinking or eating. But that wasn’t enough. Now, the bar which pulls in nearly 50% of its revenue after 10:00 p.m. has to shut down, when no COVID-19 cases have been tied to their establishment.

On KCMO Talk Radio, I had the first interview with the bar owner, who I did not know until two weeks ago, when I first reached out, built his trust, told him my story and my support for his business, and that resulted in my show getting him for the first interview after his lawsuit was filed. This resulted in earned media for the show in local outlets like The Kansas City Star, which quoted the owner from his appearance on the program.

From a News Talk perspective, am I better off continuing to focus on these issues and building these relationships for the betterment of the community and the show, or repeating talking points you can likely get on any syndicated show about an election from one month ago, when it doesn’t look like the outcome is going to change?

Sign me up for the former, 10 out of 10 times.

BNM Writers

The Challenges of Interviewing The Electorate

To me, it sometimes feels like you’re walking into somebody’s house when they are not quite sure they want you to come in. Granted, you’ve asked them to speak with you and answer questions and they know what is ultimately going to be done with whatever they say but the job still offers that uneasy perspective for me.

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I do not know what it was like where you are but around here turnout for the primary elections was, shall we say, sparse.

It did not seem to come as a surprise to anyone I encountered, at least not to those who knew there was a primary election.

I did find the lack of a crowd, however a little challenging.

The reason being, that I needed to put a microphone in voters’ faces in hopes of inspiring some MOS magic for use during the day.

It’s something I never really enjoyed doing on the outside, talking to people with that dreaded
apparatus…the mic and the mic flag jutted in front of them. I was even reminded this week how people still often back away like you’re going to bop them on the head with it or something.

It will always be something I feel ambivalent about but I still always offer to do it when nobody else is available. To me, it sometimes feels like you’re walking into somebody’s house when they are not quite sure they want you to come in. Granted, you’ve asked them to speak with you and answer questions and they know what is ultimately going to be done with whatever they say but the job still offers that uneasy perspective for me.

I do like voters, though. They’re so often empowered when you catch them after they’ve made their selections. They’re walking out of the polling place with that, “I’ve done my part” feeling and it shows. There is a confidence that almost inspires them to talk to you.

And they suddenly can rattle off what’s wrong with the current climate, who’s to blame and how to fix it all. More often they point to other people as opposed to just one candidate or governmental agency as who or what is to blame for what’s going wrong. One energetic member of the community can easily turn into a half dozen SOTS or actualities, and sadly, you will never use them all.

Of course, that kind of enthusiasm makes it easy.

Turn the tables to an inconvenient social problem, fear of a health issue or tragic occurrence, and things not so easy.

Nor should they be.

How many of us have words at the ready when something inexplicable or unforeseen occurs? Especially when the issue or events are traumatic or spark true emotion. I would venture to say this is why we so often are subjected to the neighbor down the street from the fire, the passerby who was there when the news crew showed up and is asked for a reaction to the crash
at the intersection.

I suppose there is some value to it.

After all, it is picture…it is sound.

Other than that, I sometimes question it.

Break it down a bit.

A dog in the neighborhood mauls a child. The child’s family too distraught to speak, the dog’s owner is in hiding. The dog, he’s not saying anything, he is in enough trouble already. But up pops the lady who lives down the block, “Oh my, that’s horrible…how awful…” Great, thanks.

Is it because she is saying what many of us are thinking or is it just filler?

Now, same lady with some useful information like, “That dog has bitten three people in the last year and the police took him away once already.”

Different story there, of course.

I think radio is more often the bearer of the useless bite or the unnecessary comments, like the story will not survive without the addition of the other voice, almost as proof that the reporter was there.

Some radio reporters balk at telling stories without sound.

What part of storytelling is unclear to you?

But, in any case, those instances are when my earlier comment must be reversed because the
microphone and the mic flag now have become magnets.

Moreover, that attraction is not always good.

From a psychological standpoint, I understand my own feelings about holding that thing and talking to people. It’s largely because I do not think I can do anything helpful for them in that capacity.

To be completely candid, my first experiences were frenzied and abrupt. Like WTO protesters, vandals, and terrified storekeepers on the run in Seattle and later bus bombing victims in Jerusalem, lying on stretchers at Hadassah Medical Center.

After that, I was frequently hesitant and I envied the news professionals who did what was needed to get the story and the job done.

I still do.

When I was a cop, most of us did not think that way.

Years back, wearing blue, I would talk to the people with a problem or who saw something or who even just had an opinion and I potentially could be of assistance. I could be a sounding board or even someone who could do something helpful with the information or details they were able to share.

Now, it is often a question.

What’s more, I have found that I am not alone.

I have worked with people over the years, people so good at their jobs, incredibly talented journalists.

And that same phobia or hesitation comes up. I have talked with many colleagues about it and heard many stories about how they get past it, because like many things, it goes away but often comes back.

They find a way to overcome the uneasiness of talking with people with those tools in their hand and they do it.

Among the greatest of the greats, those who do it with all the accoutrements, the camera, the mic, the lights.

However, for some of us…it’s like a fear of heights, or clowns.

…still hate the circus.

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BNM Writers

Detailing The Downfall of The New York Times

The combined realities of the business model and staff that value mission over independence dictate how the Times will report news and opinion.

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Last week, I wrote about my surprise and dismay when I found an Op-Ed on the front page of USA Today (Deshaun Watson gets laughable suspension, USA Today – August 2, 2022, Page 1).

A spokesperson for Gannett (owner of USA Today) told me via email, “USA Today clearly labels opinion columns as such, and it is not uncommon to appear on the front page.” Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised in this era that a newspaper often tagged “McPaper” would commit such a journalist faux pax.

While nobody ever accused USA Today of setting standards for journalism, The New York Times has long set the standards followed by nearly every legitimate news organization in the country, if not the world. Over the past decade, it has become increasingly difficult to differentiate between news and opinion in “The Grey Lady.”

The NY Times was Founded in 1851 and bought by Adolph Ochs in 1896. It has been controlled by his family ever since. The current Chairman and Publisher, A. G. Sulzberger, is the fifth generation of the family to lead the paper.

After buying the Times, Ochs crafted the paper’s famous slogan, “All The News That’s Fit To Print.” Ochs also published an announcement in the paper promising the Times would “give the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved.”

The New York Times editorial pages have long leaned left. The Times hasn’t endorsed a Republican presidential candidate since Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. However, the Times news section was also considered impartial for many years. The Times published “The Pentagon Papers,” a set of leaked Defense Department documents detailing the United States’ political and military role in Southeast Asia, which showed the government had been dishonest about expanding its role in Vietnam. Still, the Times news coverage was, by in large, still considered impartial.

Less than a year after the Supreme Court denied the government an injunction preventing the New York Times from publishing The Pentagon Papers, William F. Buckley, the leading conservative voice of the time, conducted an audit of the newspaper’s fairness in his magazine, The National Review. In 1972, the magazine reviewed five stories with a “distinct left-right line.” The National Review concluded: “The Times news administration was so evenhanded that it must have been deeply dismaying to the liberal opposition.”

The New York Times established the Executive Editor position in 1964. The Times, perhaps, reached its zenith under executive editor Abe Rosenthal (1977 – 1986). Rosenthal was committed to unbiased, impartial reporting. Joseph Lelyveld, executive editor 1994 -2001, said, “Abe would always say, with some justice, that you have to keep your hand on the tiller and steer to the right or it’ll drift off to the left.”

Many believe the Times began to drift significantly under Howell Raines (2001- 2003). My friend, political consultant (and one-time WPHT-AM, Philadelphia, afternoon host), Dick Morris, stated Raines had turned the paper into a “political consulting firm for the Democratic Party. For decades, the Times was the one newspaper so respected for its integrity and so widely read that it had influence well beyond its circulation. Now it has stooped to the role of partisan cheerleader.”

A 2002 Newsweek story reveals there was considerable dissension under Raines. The article documents Raines’ “almost religious belief in ‘flooding the zone’ – using all the paper’s formidable resources to pound away at a story,” continuing, “The Times is criticized for ginning up controversies as much as reporting them.” Newsweek quotes Slate’s (then) press critic Jack Shafer, saying, “The Times has assumed the journalistic role as the party of opposition.”

If there is a seminal moment that changed the course of the New York Times, aside from technology, it is the Jayson Blair affair. Blair came to the Times in 1999 from the University of Maryland, where he was editor of its student newspaper, The Diamondback. Initially hired as an intermediate reporter, Blair moved up rapidly to a full reporter and then editor.

In 2003, similarities between a front-page Blair story in the Times and one that had appeared two days earlier in The San Antonio Express-News came to an editor’s attention. Further investigation revealed Blair plagiarized or fabricated more than half a dozen stories.

The internal investigation led to Blair’s dismissal and the resignation of Raines and managing editor Gerald Boyd. The matter created strife and factions within the Times, as well as the creation of an ombudsman position called the public editor.

Over 14 years, six people held the public editor title. The first was Daniel Okrent (2003 – 05), who wrote, “Is the Times liberal? Of course, it is.”

Okrent explained the philosophy of then-publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr.; The Times isn’t liberal, so much as it has an “urban” viewpoint. Okrent believed that “living in New York City makes people think that way and that many people who think that way find their way to New York.”

The fifth public editor for the New York Times was Arthur Brisbane (2010 – 12). At the end of his tenure, the Times was a troubled company. It was shedding its early digital assets (about.com was about to be jettisoned) and focusing on its core newspaper business. The company showed an $88M loss in the preceding quarter.

In his final column as the public editor for the Times, Brisbane wrote: “When the Times covers a national presidential campaign, I have found that the lead editors and reporters are disciplined about enforcing fairness and balance, and usually succeed in doing so. Across the paper’s many departments, though, so many share a political and cultural progressivism — for lack of a better term — that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times.”

“As a result, developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in The Times, over loved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects.”

“As the digital transformation proceeds, as The Times disaggregates and as an empowered staff finds new ways to express itself, a kind of Times Nation has formed around the paper’s political-cultural worldview, an audience unbound by geography (as distinct from the old days of print) and one that self-selects in digital space.”

From Okrent through Brisbane, the public editor themes are consistent. They agree there are progressive values and culture throughout the Times. Through 2012, the paper’s ombudsman maintains these beliefs primarily impact reporting on social issues, citing gay marriage as the best example, not political coverage. Brisbane prophetically warns that an empowered staff and an audience that “self-selects” in the coming digital transformation will wreak havoc.

By the time of the final two Times public editors (Margaret Sullivan 2012-16, and Liz Spayd 2016-17), much had changed at the “paper of record”. It had become increasingly common for reporters to insert their “voice” into news stories.

Reader complaints about reporters’ opinions popping up in news stories became a frequent topic for Sullivan, including in a January 2015 column that included quotes from several Times editors.

Sullivan quoted Andrew Rosenthal, the Times opinion editor, who felt there should be a “much more careful separation of news and opinion.”

“I believe that an important line is crossed when first-person, clear opinion or advocacy make their way into the news pages, whether in print or online,” he said. “That sometimes happens.”

Sullivan added, “Top editors at The Times have told me that there is indeed a place for voice, personality, and, yes, sometimes opinion within the news pages.”

If adding “voice” isn’t new, accepting opinion in news stories, in The New York Times, seemingly is.

Sullivan identifies the origin of inserting voice into news content: “The world of online journalism, which is how more and more readers encounter Times articles, presents new challenges, especially in the way opinion stories are labeled or presented.”

In her final column as public editor, Sullivan summarized her four-year tenure. She wrote: “Journalism at The Times, and everywhere, continued to change radically. The corporate way to describe it is to say the business is being ‘reinvented.’ Down in the trenches, it’s seen more plainly: as turmoil, a struggle for survival.”

Sullivan offered advice. Her recommendations included:

— “Maintain editorial control. As partnerships, especially with Facebook, the social media behemoth, become nearly impossible to resist, The Times shouldn’t let business-driven approaches determine what readers get to see.”

— “Keep clickbait at bay. In the push for digital traffic, The Times is now publishing articles it never would have touched before in order to stay a part of a conversation that’s taking place on social media and read on smartphones.”

Liz Spayd became the sixth and final public editor of The New York Times in May 2016. She often criticized the Times, holding it to non-partisan news standards. In return, she faced harsher criticism than prior public editors. Some complaints about her found their way to other liberal publications, especially The Atlantic, which took particular delight in undermining her. The magazine said she was “inclined to write what she doesn’t know” and was “squandering the most important watchdog job in journalism.”

Some believe that the exceptionally severe reaction to Spayd was because she was previously an editor at the competitive Washington Post. Others think it was a reflection of the evolution the Times and other news outlets were undergoing.

Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. ended the public editor position in May 2017, one year before Spayd’s contract expired. Like public editors before her, Spayd’s last column references “digital disruption and collapsing business models.”

Spayd also issued warnings to the Times in her final column: “Whether journalists realize it or not, with impartiality comes authority — and right now it’s in short supply. In their effort to hold Trump accountable, will they play their hands wisely and fairly? Or will they make reckless decisions and draw premature conclusions?”

Sulzberger Jr. announced the end of the public editor position in a memo to the staff. He wrote that the responsibility of the public editor as the readers’ representative had outgrown one office. Now, everybody would be a public editor via the internet and the new “Reader’s Center.”

Things were getting weird.

Like most newspaper companies, during the first dozen or more years of the 21st century, The New York Times struggled with the decline of the printed newspaper and expanding digital media options. People who grew up in the 1980s were the last generation of newspaper readers. They saw their parents reading newspapers and magazines, and they did, for the most part.

The number of daily newspapers in the U.S. remained stable throughout the 1970s at just under 1,750. By 1990 there were just over 1,600. Ten years later, as the new millennium began, there were under 1,500. By 2012 fewer than 1,400 remained. Four years later, in 2016, another 100 were gone, and 1,286 daily newspapers survived.

Circulation dropped more precipitously. In 1988, U.S. daily newspaper circulation peaked at 63 million. By 2000, daily circulation had declined to just over 55 million. The number continues to drop; 43 million in 2012, under 35 million in 2016, and just over 24 million in 2020.

Millennials, born with the internet, learned to consume news on screens. Smartphones and apps became common before the 2016 election got into full swing. Newsrooms adjusted to smaller screens and attention spans by writing shorter copy. Consuming audio and video became practical with the arrival of 3G and 4G. Finally, social media allowed everyone to share every thought. It was survival of the fittest. The Times was looking for answers on how to compete in a post-print world.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, the Times found an answer, but it would test the foundation Adolph Ochs promised in 1896.

Russian media futurist Andrey Mir coined the term “post journalistic” in his book “Post Journalism and the Death of Newspapers“. His thesis is that the news revenue switched from ads to readers (or eyeballs or clicks) because of the internet. The ad-driven media manufactured consent. The reader-driven media manufacturers anger, which serves polarization. In fact, the goal of post-journalism, according to Mir, is to “produce angry citizens.”

Jim Rutenberg, previously a White House reporter, political correspondent, and media columnist for the Times, noted the paper’s conundrum covering Trump in a front-page analysis. Rutenberg asks if you’re a journalist who believes that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue and that he would be dangerous (as Commander-in-Chief), how the heck are you supposed to cover him?”

His answer is: Your reporting will reflect your views. If your reporting reveals that you
think a Trump presidency would be dangerous, it will move you closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional. That’s uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream, non-opinion journalist.” Rutenberg continued, “it upsets the balance journalists train to always strive for.”

Rutenberg acknowledges the coverage Trump receives; “let’s face it: Balance has been on vacation since Mr. Trump stepped onto his golden Trump Tower escalator last year to announce his candidacy.“

Surely, there are pre-Trump campaign examples of bias in The New York Times, but the demarcation line, the point where it’s in the open, loud, and proud, takes place during the 2016 presidential campaign.

And then it gets weirder.

When Donald J. Trump won the presidency on November 8, 2016, it didn’t merely upend the world for most Times employees. It was the apocalypse. They believed there was a greater probability that the sun wouldn’t rise than The New York Times headline would pronounce Donald Trump, the next president of the United States.

Everything they knew was proven wrong.

Liz Spayd, still the public editor, wrote in her November 9 column that the Times would begin “a period of self-reflection.” She hoped the editors would “think hard about the half of America the paper too seldom covers.”

Stupefied, the Times looked for an answer. An online-only piece titled: “Why Trump
Won: Working Class Whites” found where to point the blame.

The Times dug further. How could women have voted for Trump? A week before his Inauguration, the Times ran a story in its news section asking a dozen women to explain their votes for Trump. A full-color photo of each woman was part of each profile.

News coverage of Trump as president-elect remained slightly combative. For example, on January 13, 2017, a page one headline reported, “Latest to Disagree with Donald Trump: His Cabinet.” The article details disagreements between Trump and those he nominated for cabinet roles.

If that sounds like fair news coverage, consider the Times’ reporting of Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s running mate. “Joseph R. Biden Jr. selected Senator Kamala Harris of California as his vice-presidential running mate on Tuesday, embracing a former rival who sharply criticized him in the Democratic primaries.” Most of the Times coverage focuses on her sex, race, and color. The Times repeatedly refers to her as a “pragmatic moderate.”

In another article about her selection, the Times reports, “She had an electric moment in the first debate last June when she forcefully challenged Mr. Biden over his record on race. The way that exchange began was also notable: The moderators had not called on Ms. Harris, but she asserted herself by saying, “As the only Black person on this stage, I would like to speak on the issue of race.”

But it was not the way the exchange began. It was what she said directly to Biden, and if they included it in any coverage at the time of her selection as Biden’s running mate, I didn’t find it.

Here’s what was left out: “It was personal. It was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States Senators who built their reputations on the segregation of race in this country. It was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose bussing.

She pushed him further. “Do you agree that you were wrong to oppose bussing in America, then? Do you agree?”

She continued when Biden tried to explain that he was not actually opposing integration. “There was a failure of states to integrate public schools in America. I was part of the second class to integrate Berkley, California public schools almost two decades after Brown V Board of Education,” she said, hammering away like the former prosecutor she was.

While differences between Biden and Harris are gingerly touched upon, when Trump and his cabinet picks disagree, it is in the Times’ headlines.

Before Inauguration Day, the Times, and The Washington Post, started pushing a story that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Colluding with Russia fit perfectly with the Times’ worldview. So, then it wasn’t white working-class voters. Ignorant women didn’t explain it. It had to be illegal activity between Trump and Russia. How else could he have won?

On January 12, 2017, the Times ran the front-page headline: “How a Sensational, Unverified Dossier, Became a Crisis for Donald Trump. It’s pretty clear by then that this isn’t reliable information.

The New York Times promised the end of the Trump presidency was near seemingly every day. The Times ran over 3,000 stories on the Mueller investigation. In a townhall style meeting leaked to Slate, executive editor Dean Baquet told the staff, “The day Bob Mueller walked off that witness stand, two things happened. Our readers who want Donald Trump to go away suddenly thought Bob Mueller is not going to do it. And Donald Trump got a little emboldened politically. We went from being a story about whether the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia and obstruction of justice to being a more head-on story about the president’s character. We built our newsroom to cover one story, and we did it truly well.”

If the Times’ new “post journalism” didn’t succeed in removing Trump from office at that moment, it did improve the company’s business outlook. Jill Abramson, The New York Times executive editor (2011 – 14), confirms the Times was slanting its coverage and the impact on its business in her book “Merchants of Truth.”

“Though (Dean) Baquet (executive editor 2014 – 22) said publicly he didn’t want the Times to be the opposition party; his news pages were unmistakably anti-Trump. Some headlines contained raw opinion, as did some of the stories that were labeled as news analysis.”

“Given its mostly liberal audience, there was an implicit financial reward for the Times in running lots of Trump stories, almost all of them negative: they drove big traffic numbers and, despite the blip of cancellations after the election, inflated subscription orders to levels no one anticipated,” Abramson wrote.

CNBC reported from the election on Nov. 8 through the 26th (18 days) that the Times saw an increase of about 132,000 paid subscriptions. The growth rate was ten times the same period the previous year. In the first six months after Trump took office, the paper added more than 600,000 subscribers. Trump and the Times’ new philosophy were good for business.

Then there’s the Op-Ed department. In 2016 James Bennet was hired from The Atlantic. The Sulzbergers wanted a more digital-friendly opinion section. Bennet was credited with modernizing The Atlantic.

The editorial board and columnists continued to hammer on Trump. Paul Krugman predicted “a global recession with no end in sight.” However, the people Bennet would bring on board would lead to the most upheaval and, ultimately, his demise.

The Times editorial board changed in the two years, 2018 – 19. Seven of the 15 members were new, and several more hadn’t been there long. The group was younger and more diverse. The department grew from around 70 to approximately 115 by early 2020.

There were occasional headaches when a conservative viewpoint created a brief Twitter tantrum, but nothing prepared management for Tom Cotton in June 2020.

Protests were spreading across the country over a police officer killing George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, MN. The officer planted his knee into the man’s neck for over nine minutes as witnesses pleaded with him to stop while recording the life going out of the man.

The protesters’ goals were to end police brutality and racism. In many cities, however, the protests became violent. The Times and other media outlets downplayed the violence in their reporting calling the protests “mostly peaceful” even as pictures or videos showed burning buildings, broken glass, and looting.

Information about the destructive side of the demonstrations could be found in the opinion pages, at least for a time.

Tom Cotton, a Republican Arkansas Senator, wrote an opinion column for the Times, “Time to Send in the Troops.” His essay proposed using the Insurrection Act of 1807 to restore order in areas where the protests had gotten violent. Cotton probably didn’t think he was suggesting anything radical. Eight Presidents (mostly Democrats) have used the Insurrection Act 11 times over the past 100 years.

John F. Kennedy used the Insurrection Act twice, sending federal troops to Mississippi and Alabama to enforce civil rights laws. In circumstances akin to the summer of 2020, Lyndon Johnson called troops into Detroit to quell riots in 1967 and 1968 after Martin Luther King’s assassination.

The Times posted Cotton’s column in its online op-ed section. That action practically caused an atom to split. Although a nuclear catastrophe was averted, a revolt began. Many of the Op-Ed staff view the Cotton piece as hate speech. The rebels are the newer group members that Bennet has brought in.

Cotton, a lone U.S. Senator, didn’t move any troops or even order any moved. He didn’t have the authority to do eeither. Nonetheless, Times employees found his opinion so odorous that it required immediate action.

The whole point of having opinion pages is to present a wide range of ideas. The Times is, after all, the newspaper that once printed an opinion piece from Vladimir Putin. It is the paper that published an anonymous Op-Ed titled “I am the Resistance,” detailing what some call a “deep state” effort to derail the Trump presidency. While anonymous news sources are common, this Op-Ed has no precedent to the best of my recollection. (About a year later, the author revealed himself as Miles Taylor when he left his position as chief of staff in the Department of Homeland Security and wrote a book, naturally).

The rebels mobilized. They took to Twitter, whipping up followers by condemning their own organization. Twitter and the blogosphere go crazy. The rebellion is in full swing.

Next was management’s turn. They wrote a letter expressing “deep concern” to Bennet, A.G. Sulzberger (who had taken over as publisher from his father), and several other New York Times Company executives.

For the staffers, what’s happening in cities across the nation is a struggle between good and evil. There is no room for opposing views, not even in the opinion pages. Jim Rutenberg predicted this is how the news would be reported four years earlier. Now it’s impacting even the opinion pages.

Their letter demands that the column never appears in the print edition – it didn’t. It demands the online version receives an editor’s note – it did. It is more an apology than a note, and it challenges some of Cotton’s statements – something I’m sure the Senator would like to do to their columns daily. The editor’s comment also claims the process was rushed, which the Senator’s office disputes.

Cotton’s office maintains there was a negotiation process to refine the nature of the article. It took a day for the Times and Cotton to agree on its scope. Afterward, Cotton submitted a draft to the Times. Then there were “at least three rounds of back and forth. The first two rounds focused on clarity and style, the last round on factual accuracy.”

The letter’s authors claim that Cotton’s opinions are dangerous; his opinions put people, especially Times reporters, in danger. This claim is ridiculous. People deciding to break the curfews imposed by most cities and remain where violence occurs (including reporters) aren’t in danger until a Senator suggests doing what eight presidents did over the past 100 years – even though nothing happened, the idea has endangered people?

There is another “townhall meeting,” this time with Bennet, that reportedly doesn’t go well. Bennet didn’t read the Cotton op-ed before publication. One of his deputy editors went through the piece. Two days later, Bennet was out. The rebels won.

Back at the very start of this long history, I said The New York Times sets the standards for every other legitimate news organization. Don’t think throwing Bennet under the bus didn’t send shock waves reverberating throughout the media. Within days Stan Wischnowski, the top editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer and a 20-year veteran of the paper, resigned after his staff walked out to protest an op-ed on the effects of civil unrest on the city’s buildings titled “Buildings Matter Too.”

Those working in the later stages of their careers in newsrooms know what happened to Bennet, Wischnowski, and others. The elders understand the new rules and where the power lies. They are going to keep their mouths shut and their heads down.

The evolution is complete now. Jim Rutenberg’s 2016 column and the words of past public editor warnings come full circle. The combined realities of the business model and staff that value mission over independence dictate how the Times will report news and opinion.

Not only is a reporter’s voice permitted in a news story, but their point of view is also
important.

From the business perspective, it appears that they are on to something. Revenues declined through the first decade of the century but have steadily grown since 2016. Trump has been steroids for the Times digital subscription growth.

For The New York Times staff, it’s about saving the world from what they view as an existential threat.

For A.G. Sulzberger, it’s about saving the family business for the sixth generation.

For the readers, it’s about time to change the box that says, “All The News That Is Fit To Print.” More aptly, it should now read, “Saving The World For Like-Minded People.”

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BNM Writers

Carl DeMaio Looks to Inform While Empowering His Audience

DeMaio ran for mayor of San Diego, radio wasn’t immediately on his mind. But that changed quickly. He got a call as some people felt otherwise.

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Carl DeMaio comes from a background lifted from a Charles Dickens novel.

Not for a moment is he asking anyone to feel bad for him—quite the contrary. DeMaio has done quite well for himself, owning and selling two companies for millions of dollars. He is stronger for challenging experiences.

“My father walked out when I was 13 years old,” DeMaio said. “I was infuriated. He left as my mom was dying of cancer. Just two weeks before she died. He was just a bad seed.”

As a teenager, DeMaio had to grow up fast. 

Born in Dubuque, DeMaio said he didn’t spend much time there. But, after his mother passed away, DeMaio was sent to boarding school. He ended up reuniting with his sister years later and is close today.

There wasn’t a lot of time for DeMaio to entertain dreams or much thought of the future. It was survival. He was immediately sent to Georgetown Preparatory School. 

Georgetown University was next up for DeMaio. 

He earned good grades in high school and started applying for financial aid. But there was one very large problem. To get the financial aid, DeMaio needed to provide parental income information. 

“Since I didn’t have parents, they were still asking me to provide my parent’s tax forms,” he explained. “I remember going to meet with a Jesuit priest and explained my predicament. He informed me the system was not set up to accept students in my position. They didn’t know how to handle it.”

The priest made a couple of life-altering keystrokes on the computer, and suddenly, DeMaio’s application was restored and accepted. 

“I arrived in Georgetown with $36 cash in my pocket,” DeMaio explained. “Obviously, I needed to get a job immediately. My number one goal was to find a way to purchase health insurance. I didn’t know where I was going to get the money.”

“I only had two suitcases when I arrived at Georgetown. I lived in the dorms each year because of my scholarships and financial aid. The dorms were part of the package. I was on a meal plan, but nobody was using theirs, so I got rid of that.”

The Georgetown dorms were his home–in a literal sense. Not designed for o year-round residents, they closed the dorms on Christmas, spring break, and summers. 

“They just locked the doors, and I had nowhere to go,” DeMaio said. “Occasionally, I’d go to my Aunt’s house in Ohio, visit my brother in Dubuque. But I slept in my car a lot at a rest stop. A few times, I was able to sneak back into the dorms.”

In another cost-saving measure, DeMaio needed to shorten his tenure at Georgetown to defray the costs. 

“I’d structured my credits at school so I could get out in three years. I did it by the end of the first semester of my senior year. That’s when he ended up getting a full-time job. I took classes that didn’t require class participation.”

DeMaio found Georgetown too liberal for his conservative tastes. 

“That’s the big urban myth that if you’re coming from a poor background, you must be a Democrat. The reason I’m a conservative is because I learned early on about the failings of government and the value of personal responsibility.”

In retrospect, he found most students were immature and did too much partying. 

“I do regret not having more of a social life while I was there. In all my years at Georgetown, not once did I go into a bar for a drink, and it was such a party school. People tell me I must have had such a great time. I didn’t. I was up at 6:00 a.m. and off to my job.”

During his first semester, DeMaio worked on Capitol Hill with a consumer advocacy group. Later he got a job with the California Raisin Advisory Board placing stories. 

Do you remember the commercials with the dancing raisin in sunglasses dancing to I Heard it Through the Grapevine? That’s them.  

Today he’s the host of The DeMaio Report on Newsradio 600 on KOGO in San Diego.

He started two successful companies early in his career, and his interest in politics intensified. 

“I got fed up with the political scandals in San Diego. I sold my companies and ran for Mayor. I fell short, losing to Bob Filner, who was later removed from office in a sexual assault scandal.”

After he ran for mayor of San Diego, radio wasn’t immediately on his mind. But that changed quickly. He got a call as some people felt otherwise. 

“I didn’t know if I could take over a show and talk for three hours, five days a week,” DeMaio explained. “I don’t consider myself a broadcaster or media personality. Even though I am on the air. I don’t go to broadcasting events. I think our show is different in the way I conceive the show. I don’t want to do standard talk or outrage radio. A lot of the topics I talk about are outrageous, and the public can be upset by some of them. It’s not my goal to upset them – but to inform and, more importantly, to empower them to take action to make a difference.” 

DeMaio said he’d used his radio presence more as a community forum – and he set up a campaign committee on the outside of his radio show – called Reform California – as a way people can take action and as a vehicle for DeMaio to sponsor projects to investigate government and hold it accountable.

“I might rile people up about the latest scam or how city hall is handling their money,” he explained. “I’ll talk about things that my audience should be upset about and help them find ways to take action through our political action committee Reform California.” 

DeMaio appears as a guest on a variety of media outlets as chairman of Reform California.

“In my contract with KOGO, I’m allowed to appear on other channels and stations. It’s a very unique negotiation. Out of respect to KOGO, I don’t reference other stations on our air or the show I will be on.”

DeMaio oversees campaigns: Restore Public Safety, Defeat Gavin Newsom, Stop the Mileage Tax, and School Board Reform. 

DeMaio said he’s interested in the hottest stories of the day on his show. 

“I want you to be the smartest one at the dinner table. I’ll certainly cover national stories, but I’m always trying to bring it back to the San Diego impact.”

His take on the 2020 election outcome is unique from most conservative talk show hosts. As someone who has spent 20 years in politics and running campaigns, DeMaio has a command of the intricacies of election laws. 

He wholeheartedly agrees with Republicans and President Trump that the 2020 election was conducted improperly, but he also concedes that Trump’s legal team failed to meet the high standard of burden of proof that courts require to overturn the result of an election. 

“I believe the way the 2020 election was held should never be repeated again, and that should be our focus,” 

DeMaio points to the use of outdated voter rolls, and mailing ballots to everyone using ancient voter rolls opens the door to widespread fraud. 

“You’re sending all these ballots into the wilderness. Under the old system, people had to physically show up. In the 2020 election, we fundamentally changed how we voted. From voters casting ballots to ballots casting ballots. For Trump to say all that happened, he could be right if it was enough to change the election. But once ballots are out in the wilderness, you can’t track them, and it is hard to prove how many were intercepted and illegally cast – let alone who they were cast for. Shame on state and national Republicans and their operatives for not throwing a temper tantrum when the rules were first changed in July and August of 2020!” 

When DeMaio started his companies, he couldn’t get any loans. So, he maxed out his Discover card. They were allowing kids with no credit to get into $25,000 in debt. “In 1998, $25,000 was a lot of money back then, especially for a kid right out of college.”

“One of my companies was the Performance Institute; the other was the Management Institute. Essentially the same bottle of wine with different labels.” I’m proud of what I’ve done. Proud of what I did. Proud of what I did. The real pride is not just the good work we did but also the background and chances we’ve given a lot of bright young people right out of college. I’m not concerned with what degree they earned. I’m looking for the right attitude.”

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