Friday, September 2, 2016

The Trump World We Live In

The New York Times came in for some much-deserved criticism this week over its coverage of the latest episode in the tawdry life of Anthony Weiner. But far from being chastened, the paper is staunchly defending its own tawdry descent into National Enquirer territory.

 I am certainly no fan of Hillary Clinton, but here's the part of the controversial article that made me cringe:
Now, Mr. Weiner’s tawdry activities may have claimed his marriage — Ms. Abedin told him that she wanted to separate — and have cast another shadow on the adviser and confidante who has been by Mrs. Clinton’s side for the past two decades. Ms. Abedin was already a major figure this summer in controversies over Mrs. Clinton’s handling of classified information as secretary of state and over ties between the Clinton family foundation and Mrs. Clinton’s State Department.
Mr. Weiner’s extramarital behavior also threatens to remind voters about the troubles in the Clintons’ own marriage over the decades, including Mrs. Clinton’s much-debated decision to remain with then-President Bill Clinton after revelations of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Ms. Abedin’s choice to separate from her husband evokes the debates that erupted over Mrs. Clinton’s handling of the Lewinsky affair, a scandal her campaign wants left in the past.
 When contacted for comment by the Times public editor, one of the writers (Amy Chozick) of the piece said:“I completely understand why people have a reaction to a story like this, and question what it has to do with Clinton or politics, or don’t understand why it should. But that’s not the world we live in.”

Readers had reacted so negatively to her article because not only did the story insinuate that Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin are themselves partially culpable for the actions of this troubled, creepy little man, it received pride of place on the top of the front page. It was sexist guilt-by-association with a vengeance.

 Amy Chozick and Patrick Healy then had to add gasoline to the fire by seeking out Donald Trump for his own expert comments. Needless to say, Trump added his own high octane to the gasoline by stating that Clinton's very association with Weiner is a matter of grave national security.

As is its wont, the Times is now doubling down and staunchly defending itself against criticism of its tabloid-style innuendo-rich coverage. Public Editor Liz Spayd herself added gasoline to the fire on Thursday by characterizing the paper's treatment of Weiner's compulsive sexting habit - which now even extends into the realm of child endangerment - as a "hot story."

She writes:
It seems to me this story falls into a realm of news coverage that invariably has the media tripping over itself. There’s a sex scandal, politics and questions about how much one has to do with the other. And contrary to public suspicion, mainstream newsrooms of the type I’ve worked in don’t particularly enjoy these kinds of stories. It’s easy to get ensnared in them and hard to get them right.
I don’t think The Times in this case was wildly off the mark. But it was not precise enough in what it was and wasn’t trying to say. Unfortunately, too many unforced errors can sometimes cost you the game.
Spayd as much as admits that journalism is a sport, with newsroom winners and losers and unforced errors and scorecards. Pretty flippant.

And since I just couldn't get over Amy Chozicks's own flippant retort - that disgusted readers should simply get used to it - I submitted my own two cents:
“I completely understand why people have a reaction to a story like this, and question what it has to do with Clinton or politics, or don’t understand why it should,” she (Amy Chozick) said. “But that’s not the world we live in.”

Ms. Chozick has just obliquely admitted that the mainstream media lives in a world all its own. It's a cocooned, careerist world dominated by horse race politics, clickbait, getting on the Most Popular and Trending lists, and beating the competition on the latest sleaze. It has little to nothing to do with journalism in the public interest.

Forgive me if I don't care to dwell in the world "we" live in, Ms. Chozick.

Hopefully the Times will get back to real reporting on the issues, once this hell of an election season is over. But I'm not counting on it. Coverage of scandals and palace intrigues and petty backbiting and ego-stroking among the elites of the incestuous political-media complex seems to be what passes for journalism these days.

 Coverage of existential issues affecting everyday people apparently just doesn't sell papers or attract enough ad revenue.
Much to my surprise, Amy Chozick responded to me - with a little more gasoline. It's not the media world, folks. It's the "political landscape". (And she seems to assume that since I was critical of her reportage, it naturally follows that I am a biased Clinton supporter) --
 Hi Karen, My comment wasn't about the world "we" (the media) live in, but about the political landscape that we cover. While Clinton supporters would like this to not be an issue, Donald Trump immediately made it one, and thus we have to cover it as such.

I'd also direct you to the numerous stories I've written about Clinton's policy plans, from taxes to criminal justice reform. Those far outweigh anything we've written about Anthony Weiner.

Thanks for writing.
My response:
 Hi Amy,

Thanks for responding and clarifying your statement.

Yes, I have read and admired your many informative pieces on policy. Unfortunately, these are rarely placed above the fold where they belong (that valuable real estate seems to be Donald Trump's exclusive squatting domain lately.)

I look forward to reading your or another reporter's analysis of the very detailed mental health plan which Hillary Clinton unveiled just the other day. If there's already been coverage of it in the Times, and I missed it in trying to navigate the Trump landscape, I do apologize.

I loved "Tinmanic's" response to Amy:
"While Clinton supporters would like this to not be an issue, Donald Trump immediately made it one, and thus we have to cover it as such."

Whoa, whoa, whoa, Ms. Chozick. I'm flabbergasted at this statement.

Trump said it was an issue, and therefore it's an issue?

Problem number one: if the issue was because of Trump, why is Trump hardly mentioned in the article?

Problem number two: since when did New York Times reporters become mere stenographers for the Trump campaign?

You are letting yourselves be manipulated.
Having worked as a newspaper reporter myself in a previous life, I can only imagine the pressure that Amy Chozick must be under, what with Hillary Clinton being her sole defined beat for the last several years. Boredom must be her constant companion. And Hillary is certainly not known for being "accessible" and for treating the press graciously.

Amy Chozick's rationalizations remind me of the time I was assigned by my male editor to confront the wife of a U.S. Congressman about revelations that he had fathered a child with one of his staffers. (My boss opined that it's always more gently effective for a woman reporter to rub a scorned woman's nose in it.) I telephoned, and immediately informed the wife that I was making the call under duress. When she said she didn't want to air her family's dirty laundry in public, I totally agreed with her, murmured apologies, and quickly ended the call. My editor, who'd been hovering nearby, was furious with me at having wasted such a golden journalistic opportunity and for not being sufficiently cutthroat.

 That was the business I had chosen to be in, but I always exercised my option not to obey all the rules of the game. (I refused, for example, to rush to the scenes of bridge-jumpers and landscapes of human beings mangled up in highway accidents). Such sporadic recalcitrance didn't make me many friends in all-male management. But, as has happened so often in the news biz over the past several decades, the paper was sold and folded before I actually got the chance to be fired.

It's the capitalistic, cutthroat world of creative destruction that we live in.


Jay–Ottawa said...

"It's the capitalistic, cutthroat world of creative destruction that we live in."

Yeah. And I'm impressed at how you resisted then and still do.

Happy Labor Day, everybody––those of you who work full-time at raising kids, work for peace within your family, do the best you can on the job for companies who don't always do the right thing, work at supporting politicians and policies and institutions that work for real people, not the elites in their detached contentment, and thanks to all of you who make a habit of working to improve your surroundings wherever you are. It's the only way of keeping the barbarians from crashing through the gates. Good work: the strongest form of resistance.

Ste-vo said...

Like I have started feeling and saying. It keeps getting curiouser and curiouser. It's funny, between all the trees in Vermont, the absolutely delightful breeze and trying to work while a group of adult campers, this week, practicing Rossini's Sonata #6 wafting through the open window I feel like I am living on Mars. Karen, I read your blog and look out the window, listen to the music and it is like cognitive dissonance BIG TIME. I think of The Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime" and how DID I get here? So I guess I should thank you for keeping me grounded.

Meredith NYC said...

I was annoyed to see a photo of Weiner included with the public editor blog.Totally unnecessary. Enough already--as if we need that. I emailed the public editor my complaint. Same as the constant yucky photos of Trump all over the paper every day. These pics repel, not attract.

And---re Times coverage of Clinton:

Here's the 'world we live in' also....per Amy Chozick...big money sponsored elections. Not such a nice article about Clinton.

Page 1 NYT article worth reading (and plenty of pictures) -- " Clinton Uses Access to Woo the Ultrarich.
----Where Has Hillary Clinton Been? Ask the Ultrarich."
Sept 4, by Chozick and Martin.

"a series of high-dollar fund-raisers with public appearances added to the schedule when they can be fit in....
While Clinton has faced criticism for her failure to hold a news conference for months, she has fielded hundreds of questions from the ultrarich in places like the Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard, Beverly Hills and Silicon Valley."

This is the selling of our democracy, reported in the press, all legal and normal. This is why our elections attract bad candidates, who can't represent we the people.

Amazing that other democracies have public financing, limits on private donations, and free media time for candidates in 3 month campaigns. How do their rich get their money's worth in their politics? The buying of US media time is the costliest item US campaigns, and needs billionaire check writing.

US big money corruption is called 'freedom' of speech per our highest Court, which approves of the selling of democracy.

John Nichols of the Nation says 16 states have movements to overturn Citizens United. Where is this in the media? Should be constantly discussed on the op ed page, but they avoid it, as does TV news talk.

Since there is such public opposition to Citizens United, maybe articles that track the candidate fund raising should include a quote or 2 from people who deplore it. Talk about 'fair and balanced'? In fact Clinton herself says she wants to overturn CU.

voice-in-wilderness said...

I'm among the minority who follow the NYTimes Public Editor and the reader responses. Based on that, it looks like the NYTimes is trying to chase reader clicks in various ways, e.g., in the design of the paper online and in changing the staffing mix. I see that leading to a bad situation that satisfies few -- people who want serious news in text form will see less and less, while those who want quick and entertaining headlines will are likely using one or more sources(HuffPo, Facebook, Google News, and so on).

Karen Garcia said...

Hope everyone's having a pleasant holiday weekend and is out of Hermine's way. (Her mean!)

I, too, was impressed with the latest article by Amy Chozick and Jonathan Martin, who even went to the trouble of discerning Hillary's "hourly rate" in the Hamptons.

Do you think that the Times is actually starting to take some of the reader criticism to heart? They actually had a climate story in pride of place at the top of homepage today, while Trump is further down in the pecking order than usual.

After election day and his probable loss, he will still rule the airwaves and digital media to a very large extent, especially given the formation of his own media company. This guy is not going away until the day he dies.

Pearl said...

Am amazed at the number of critical columns about Hillary and her emails, family foundation and wealthy friends in the NYTimes. One article had over a thousand responses most of them supporting the exposure of Hillary's dishonest activities.

I wonder if the NYTimes is losing readers and it is a necessity to change direction in order to not lose more, or a rebellion in the ranks of the Board members and others behind the scenes. Karen, you might know more about what is happening since the timing of all this information is surely having an effect on Hillary's reputation and chances for office or freedom of choices if she gets into office.
Even her vice president muttered some weak support for her.

I wonder if anyone will vote for anyone running. You know what they say about calling for a war and no one showing up.

pissing-into-the-wind said...


Some of us will, indeed, be voting for someone currently running. His name is Gary Johnson:

Jay–Ottawa said...

OK, you heard it first here:

1. Hillary will win by a landslide. Forget the pollsters saying Trump is on her heels. He wants to lose; he wins by losing––it's complicated; that's the deal. His repeated campaign faults are gifts intended for Hillary, so her lead is long. The Times can afford to appear critical––once in a while. But watch the Times revert to form in the final weeks before election day.

2. Election day 2016 will set a record for low turnout.

3. Gary Johnson and Jill Stein will each get over 5% of the total vote––a hit, a palpable hit!––provided enough disgusted voters think out of the Duopoly's Box and look ahead to the campaign of 2020.

4. By 2020 the Duopoly will have lost the critical mass of its former supporters, and a new Third Party––an uneasy coalition of the traditional outliers (Green, Socialist, Libertarian), plus ex-Dems and ex-Pubs––will take the White House with a plurality, and once again with a woman as president.

5. The one event that could upset the above scenario would be Hillary's success at starting a big war with Russia or China. That's the only way she might get a second term, since people don't like to change horses in midstream. However, the military-industrial complex will stop Hillary from having her big war. All the weapons makers need to stay rich and all the generals need to keep their bloated budgets are little wars––the kind that have been so good to them since they recovered their nerve after the defeat in Vietnam. Somewhat like Trump, the MIC does not seek a big win, just continued support. From their point of view, inconclusiveness and endlessness add up to the most profitable victories. Or so the history of US wars tells us.

6. But, just to be on the safe side, you may want to reinforce and stock the bunker in your back yard.

Meredith NYC said...

The Washington Post has a very interesting overview of the history of the Clintons—in case we’ve forgotten (or repressed some of it!)
“How Hillary Clinton helped create what she later called the ‘vast right-wing conspiracy”
By Karen Tumulty September 3

Seems now Hillary’s fierce support by some NYT reader comments blames everything on the rw Gop and excuses Hillary, the unfairly judged victim, no matter what. These partisans seem to be increasing lately, or maybe they just started commenting a few months ago. Anyway, the atrocious Trump serves to make her look great in their eyes.

But in the article, David Gergen says:
“Hillary Clinton is a woman of many strengths and virtues, but like all of us, she also has some blind spots,” Gergen said in a recent interview. “She does not see the world in the same way that others do, when it comes to transparency and accountability.”

Tumulty end with this: “should there be another Clinton presidency, the battles of the last one will continue and escalate. What Bill Clinton described as the “politics of personal destruction” are now a permanent fixtureof the U.S. political system, likely to endure long after anyone can remember what started it all.”

My thought---when we get rid of presidential dynasties and big money election financing we might start getting a better class of candidate---out of 300 million population!--- then be able to start moving away from the politics of personal destruction.

Ste-vo said...

Two thoughts for this last day of the holiday weekend:
I am getting tired, oh so tired, with the "think IBM CLOUD" ads at the top of the digital edition of the NYT. And then there was this article which I thought was in extremely poor taste:
I can't stand it anymore, but I am not ready to kill myself!