Category Archives: Media

How Trump is trying to delegitimize a Clinton presidency

Trump rally in Arizona earlier this year. Photo (cc) 2016 by Gage Skidmore.

Trump rally in Arizona earlier this year. Photo (cc) 2016 by Gage Skidmore.

All of the media reaction to Wednesday night’s third and final presidential debate focused on one surreal and disturbing moment. Within minutes of the close, the Associated Press moved a story with this extraordinary lede:

Threatening to upend a fundamental pillar of American democracy, Donald Trump refused to say in debate that he will accept the results of next month’s election if he loses to Hillary Clinton. The Democratic nominee declared Trump’s resistance “horrifying.”

The homepage newspaper headlines this morning amplify on that theme. The New York Times: “Trump Won’t Say if He Will Accept Election Results.” The Washington Post: “Trump refuses to say whether he’ll accept election results.” The Wall Street Journal: “Trump Won’t Commit to Accepting Vote if He Loses.”

I want to offer a couple of points about Trump’s deeply transgressive act.

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Print versus digital: Yes, it’s still a thing

I just posted a Storify of my contribution to the latest debate over this timeless, mind-numbing subject.

The present and future of press freedom in Trump’s America

Amy Goodman. Photo (cc) via "Democracy Now!"

Amy Goodman. Photo (cc) via “Democracy Now!”

Update: The charges against Amy Goodman have been dropped.

Freedom of the press is under assault—and it’s only going to get worse in the increasingly unlikely event that Donald Trump is elected president. Three related items for your consideration:

• In Mandan, North Dakota, journalist Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! is scheduled to appear in court today after she was arrested and charged with “riot” for covering the undercovered Standing Rock demonstrations against an oil pipeline being built through Native American lands. Lizzy Ratner has a detailed report at the Nation.

As state prosecutor Ladd Erickson helpfully explains: “She’s a protester, basically. Everything she reported on was from the position of justifying the protest actions.”  And: “I think she put together a piece to influence the world on her agenda, basically. That’s fine, but it doesn’t immunize her from the laws of her state.” I would like to know what North Dakota law prohibits the practice of journalism, but we’ll leave that for another day.

• In the Philadelphia Daily News, columnist Will Bunch writes that the arrest of Goodman, and the prosecutor’s contemptuous dismissal of her First Amendment rights, is a harbinger of what’s to come in Trump’s America:

It’s not happening in a vacuum. It’s happening in the Age of Trump, when you have one of the two major-party candidates for president calling the journalists who cover his campaign “scum” and “lowest people on earth,” and the as-much-as 40 percent of the American people backing his campaign are cheering him on.

• In the Washington Post, media columnist Margaret Sullivan takes note of a resolution passed last week by the Committee to Protect Journalists warning that the press would be less free under a Trump presidency. As Sullivan puts it: “The idea: CPJ would make a strong statement against Donald Trump on First Amendment grounds—the kind of thing the organization had never done before. CPJ’s global mission is to try to keep journalists from being jailed or killed; but it hasn’t been involved before in politics.” (I gave a “rave” to CPJ on Beat the Press for its resolution.)

No president is especially press-friendly. A few years ago, I wrote a piece for the Huffington Post headlined “Obama’s War on Journalism” detailing the president’s overzealous pursuit of leakers and whistleblowers. I doubt that the woman Saturday Night Live now calls “President Hillary Clinton” will be any better than Obama.

But at a moment when our politics have gotten incredibly ugly—when a Republican headquarters in North Carolina is firebombed, and when folks at the traditionally Republican Arizona Republic are receiving death threats for endorsing Hillary Clinton—the last thing we need is a president who seems determined to whip up hate and violence against the press.

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Do presidential newspaper endorsements still matter?

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-8-57-52-amFrom my just-published Q&A with news @ Northeastern:

Presidential endorsements are a way for newspapers as community institutions to express their values and their vision. I’ve written plenty of endorsements over the years, and I was never under any illusion that what we had to say about the presidential candidates was going to change anyone’s mind. Rather, it is a way for a newspaper’s editorial board to say, “This is who we are. This is what we believe.”

The Comeback Id? Not so fast, say the pundits.

Photo (cc) 2016 by xx.

Photo (cc) 2016 by Colleen P.

If you thought that Donald Trump’s semi-coherent performance in the second debate would lead our ever-fickle pundits to proclaim him the Comeback Id, you were wrong—sort of.

Yes, he won some grudging plaudits for coming across as slightly less unhinged than he’d been in the first debate. Overall, though, the morning-after commentary suggests that virtually everyone this side of Breitbart saw the St. Louis encounter as merely another stop on the way to an overwhelming defeat.

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In VP debate, Pence helps Pence—to Trump’s detriment

Donald Trump and Mike Pence in Phoenix, Arizona, earlier this year. Photo (cc) 2016 by Gage Skidmore.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence in Phoenix, Arizona, earlier this year. Photo (cc) 2016 by Gage Skidmore.

The vice presidential debate will be forgotten by the time Donald Trump launches his next tweetstorm. Tuesday night’s encounter between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence was, as Glenn Thrush puts it at Politico, “less a game-changer than a channel-changer.”

To the extent that it matters, though, post-debate media commentary focused on two developments that over the next five weeks may prove more problematic for Trump than for Hillary Clinton.

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Talking with Bob Schieffer about the future of news


Recently I had the opportunity to record a podcast about my Shorenstein paper on the Washington Post under Jeff Bezos with CBS News legend Bob Schieffer and Andrew Schwartz of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Our conversation was posted on Thursday.

Schieffer and I met last spring at the Harvard Kennedy School, where I was a Joan Shorenstein Fellow and he was the Walter Shorenstein Media and Democracy Fellow. Schieffer was a friendly, gregarious presence, and my fellow fellows and I enjoyed his company immensely.

My Shorenstein paper is part of a book project with a working title of The Return of the Moguls, which will be about the Post under Bezos, the Boston Globe under Red Sox principal owner John Henry, and the Orange County Register under entrepreneur Aaron Kushner, to be published by ForeEdge in 2017.

Schieffer and Schwartz’s podcast, “About the News,” offers regular updates about various media topics. It’s available at iTunes.

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