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Saturday, April 30, 2011

MSM mess that disserves voters -Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic on "How to Fix Our Flawed Election Coverage"; Phil Bronstein muses on WH PR flacks





Obama protest at DNC fundraiser http://bcove.me/mq3c122l
Related story in San Francisco Chronicle is at bottom.

Friday afternoon, while pondering the Miami Dolphins' NFL draft strategy -is there one?- I sent the link to this prescient Conor Friedersdorf story below around to my circle of Usual Suspects, and got a pretty favorable response, though some reporter friends who work in The Beltway actually thought it was, if anything, a little "too gentle" in their criticism of the American Mainstream Media.

They are constantly dumbfounded at the sheer number of people around them who 'play' journalist, but who are actually not emotionally or ethically grounded enough, or even talented enough, to be one.


If anything, they find many of their colleagues consistently unprofessional and nothing but either Washington press secretary wannabes or political consultant in-waiting.

Yes, everyone wants to be like David Axelrod -but not actually him.
Reporter first, then campaign consultant.

And however much they may talk and vent to me from time-to-time, they genuinely believe that the American public has no earthly idea how much many more conscientious reporters and columnists with more old-fashioned ideas about the ethos and the lines you don't cross, genuinely loathe many popular media stars, esp. those with a connection to TV.



The Atlantic

How to Fix Our Flawed Election Coverage
By Conor Friedersdorf
April 29, 2011, 12:52 PM ET

In presidential contests, the press regularly elevates candidates for all the wrong reasons

My colleague James Fallows is understandably dismayed by the American media's coverage of Donald Trump, the entrepreneur, reality TV star and occasional bankrupt who may or may not run for president. "Perhaps the media types who have been paying attention to Trump and his braying will stop to think about what they've actually been doing," he writes. "Conceivably there will be a moment of recoil about the unworthy, irrational indignity of this stage of national life. But I'm not holding my breath."

It is bizarre that an opportunistic publicity hound is shaping the national discourse. But is a "moment of recoil" among journalists the needed remedy? For the most part, Trump's enablers are either utterly shameless, or else they're already disgusted by the pathologies of their profession but feel powerless to change them...

Read the rest of the post at:
http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/04/how-to-fix-our-flawed-election-coverage/238039/

Also on Friday, I saw San Francisco Chronicle Executive Vice President Phil Bronstein's always interesting Bronstein at Large blog on the recent dust-up involving the Chronicle's Carla Marinucci and other Hearst folks running afoul of what White House preferences (ground-rules) were for reporting stories that had nothing to do with the reason President Obama was there.

Chron headline: San Francisco Chronicle: Obama Administration punishes reporter for using multimedia


Later:
Update: Chronicle responds after Obama Administration punishes reporter for using multimedia, then claims they didn't

It's quite insightful, too, and shows how childish so many of the professional, taxpayer-paid PR handlers for elected officials, even The White House, can be when it comes to wanting to short-circuit enterprising reporters or putting the kibosh on alternative narratives of a story, things the American public wants but usually don't hear about until much later in a book.

Better that we know about such ham-handed efforts when they happen, then later!

I really wish we had about four dozen Phil Bronstein disciples or clones manning South Florida's myriad media machines so that citizens, readers and viewers could be MUCH better served than they are by the current crew that constantly sleeps, sleepwalks and doesn't show-up, and is risk-averse to boot.
IF only...

-----

Conor Friedersdorf is not just 100% correct, he is even more spot-on than he thinks, in that his sound criticism of the Mainstream Media's predictable reach for the low-hanging fruit and 'herd' mentality coverage of the presidential primaries could, in far too many instances, also be applied to local newspaper and TV station's coverage of open congressional seats.
I have a perfect example of it.



The above-the-fold headline of the Miami Herald on Wednesday the 27th was, and I quote, "GOP in search of a rock star" and the article was written by Adam Smith, a very good reporter at the St. Pete Times, someone whose articles and blog posts I've read since returning to the Sunshine State.
http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/04/26/2186913/in-florida-and-nationally-republicans.html

Still... t
hat might well be a fine story in a newspaper's Sunday Op-Ed section in about 5-6 months, but really, in late April of 2011?
Not so much.

It actually seems to me that the news media in Florida, all-too-conscious of how important the state of Florida will be next year in the presidential campaign for both parties -especially with the Republican National Convention scheduled to be in the Tampa/St. Pete area starting August 27th, 2012- actually covet someone to play leader-of-the-pack so they can all know whom they're supposed to analyze to a fair-thee-well, killing with kindness in laudatory pieces for weeks or months before someone decides to get the knives out, rather than have to go out and do intel recon by themselves, and possibly saying something that goes against the MSM's extant CW.

Especially at a time when even in a large state like Florida -particularly for a large state like Florida, the fourth-largest state in the country- few of the potential candidates have actually visited the state for formal organized purposes.


Part of that is not just due to lack of time and money or opportunity, but also the sane realization by the candidate and his top staff that with the media in its current myopic state, any small slip-up of a completely inconsequential nature, is likely to be given extraordinary coverage for the simple fact that the media not only personally prefers to write about the horse-race, NOT the issues, but that in the absence of real tangible news, silly news will more than do.

That it becomes voter's first impression of the candidate is not the concern of the reporter, but should it?


Do you really think more than a handful of people in South Florida can really talk with any objective knowledge about what Tim Pawlenty did or did not do while governor of Minnesota?

http://www.timpawlenty.com/

Guess what, none of that handful are reporters, columnists or editors, but what they can do is re-write and finesse prior stories on Pawlenty to make it seem that they know what they're talking about; t
hey already have
Given that dynamic and reality, why would any reasonable candidate considering the presidency subject himself to needless scrutiny when you don't have to?


Why should you change your long-term plan merely to assuage certain media markets, even in a key state like Florida, when any small slip-up will be over-played and toyed with like a cat and a ball of yarn?


As to the same bad, superficial press coverage template being used on open congressional seats. living in one, I'm more than able to describe what we dealt with and how that also highlights the Miami Herald's downward spiral in quality and sense of purpose, a much-discussed topic on this blog since it was created four years ago, in part because of that very problem.

Last year, to the surprise of nobody, FL-17's Kendrick Meek ran for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate to replace the retired Mel Martinez, whose seat was filled by George LeMieux in the interim.


Since voters and political observers knew well since the summer of 2009 that South Florida's FL-17 would have a brand new face for the first time since the current geographical configuration existed, a great opportunity presented itself to South Florida's much-maligned news media -to show local readers and viewers what's really required to win a Congressional seat in a multi-ethnic area (that stretches across two counties) with very different sort of voters, starting first with who runs for a seat for which you are NOT the candidate for whom it was carved-up for -Carrie Meek- or the heir.


To do the sort of solid fact-filled congressional election stories that CQ (Congressional Quarterly) and National Journal have been doing forever and that you sometimes see reflected in a few serious quality newspapers, where smart reporters and resourceful editors take you deep inside the campaign and give you some tangible insight into the candidates and their way of thinking things through.

In the end, of course, at least for me, the most important thing you vote about -their judgment.


But instead of seizing the opportunity, voters in FL-17 were given nothing but day-old leftovers.
Not turkey leftovers the day after Thanksgiving, which can still be tasty, but more like the mashed potatoes and green peas five days later when the container they were in in the fridge has come off and everything had dried out and become less palatable.

The first "story" in the Herald on FL-17, by Beth Reinhard, circa pre-Christmas 2009, consisted of five sentences, one of which was a list of candidates names.
Talk about underwhelming, and it never got any better!


Nope, all the energy at the newspaper -never very great to begin with the past few years!- seemed to be focused almost entirely on the U.S. Senate race, not that there was much that was very original or compelling from Dec. 2009-July 2010 from the Miami side of the Times/Herald combine with the St. Pete Times.
Just lots of low-hanging fruit, much of it repeating what was first reported elsewhere.


It wasn't until mid-August, two weeks before the actual primary election between about 8-10 Democratic candidates, that what would normally be considered a genuine election campaign story on FL-17 ever actually appeared in the Miami Herald, and that one, naturally, made some obvious mistakes in describing what the exact boundaries of the CD were.

Yes, even though THAT should be the one thing the reporter -frequent HBB
bête noire Patricia Mazzei- gets right. (Not that a correction was ever made!)

One legitimate news story in eight long months about an open congressional seat that nobody knew in advance who would win?
Really?
Yes!

That's the paradox of the American news media we have now.
Far too many print and TV reporters/editors/producers shrink from opportunities to do something original or bold, preferring the easy to write/produce stories about dubious polls and calling political consultants whose faces we recognize on TV before they say word one.

To me, political consultants as the go-to interview, is among the most troubling trends of the past fifteen years in journalism.
It's the lazy reporter's crutch.
They're asked what they think, instead of reporters proactively arranging to meet with large number of well-informed voters TO LISTEN.

Unfortunately, South Florida in the year 2011 is grossly over-represented by reporters, editors and producers who favor political campaign consultants as voices of reality to the very citizen voters themselves.


-----
http://www.nationaljournal.com/

Phil Bronstein's Bronstein at Large
blog at the San Francisco Chronicle:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/bronstein/index

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#HOLLYWOODFL based photographer and entrepreneur Esther Chuang with Hollywood Mayor-elect Josh Levy

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Above, perhaps my most-favorite photo ever of Esther, which is really saying something considering the THOUSANDS that I've actually seen of her, from all over the world. But despite the fact that you can't actually see it here, trust me, her amazing smile and inner and external beauty are there. This photo is an even more amazing achievement when you know the backstory of what it took for Esther to get to the top of the mountain, since it's NOT for the faint of heart. Next time you see her, ask her about that! Morro Dois Irmãos, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on her birthday, July 10, 2015. That's the Christ The Redeemer statue way out in the horizon on the top of another mountain, to the left of her head. �� In case you forgot what the Christ the Redeemer statue looks like, up close, here's another Brazilian beauty to connect-the-dots for you: Gisele Bündchen, aka @Gisele.

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A post shared by Gisele Bündchen (@gisele) on

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North Miami Beach Senior High School, the Home of the Chargers
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In the Heart of a Great Country, Beats the Soul of Hoosier Nation

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