Posts Tagged ‘news’

Liz Bishop, near the lower right, in front of the CBS 6 logo

When I was growing up, occasionally there would be an editorial produced by the general manager of a television station to discuss a vital issue of the day, such as whether to build a new bridge.

The words he said – it was virtually always a he – came from that local broadcaster, someone who lived in your community, not NYC or LA or DC, and had greater potential for trust and accountability. The editorial was well labeled and set apart in the local news broadcast, usually at the very end.

The Federal Communications Commission was very concerned about any one company having too much dominance in any local marketplace or nationally, and it had strict limits on radio and television station acquisition.

That was then. In August 2017, The Guardian ran a story This is Sinclair, ‘the most dangerous US company you’ve never heard of’. Michael Copps, the George W Bush-appointed former chairman of the FCC, said those words.

So did John Oliver, host of HBO’s weekly satirical show Last Week Tonight, when he introduced an 18-minute segment on Sinclair in July 2017, as he noted the dreadful “must carry” requirement the company has been imposing on its 173 local news stations across the country to “parrot right-wing propaganda” and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.

The current regime’s FCC has aided Sinclair’s expansion. Jared Kushner, son-in-law-in-chief, said back in December 2016, “We struck deal with Sinclair for straighter coverage.”

Now, the broadcast group’s proposed merger with Tribune Media is in the spotlight. If this unprecedented-in-size agreement is approved, it will have control of local TV stations reaching 72% of the country, including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, the nation’s three largest media markets. “The FCC chair Ajit Pai — who single-highhandedly has sought to kill Net Neutrality — is under investigation by the FCC’s inspector general for greasing the wheels for Sinclair.

What has caught the nation’s attention recently is this viral video put together by Deadspin “showing news anchors all over the country forced by Sinclair to parrot the same canned scripts attacking their own profession.”

It was heartbreaking to see Liz Bishop, the longtime anchor of WRGB, Channel 6 in Schenectady, NY, one of the oldest stations in the country, on the Deadspin video. It appears that their contracts make it too expensive to quit. It is difficult for staff to fight their overlords.

What to do? Write to the FCC and members of Congress, opposing the Sinclair/Tribune merger. Write to your local Sinclair stations and let them and their advertisers know that you are boycotting both as long as the “must-carry” material appears on their news broadcasts. Lessee, what else?

In general, the really bad ideas from the current regime are touted with the most positive, or at least benign-sounding, intent. Getting rid of environmental regulations will make the country more “competitive,” for instance.

When I first saw the article Homeland Security to Compile Database of Journalists, Bloggers, I seriously thought it was fake news. But it’s no hoax.

“On 3 April 2018, a solicitation for services posted by… [DHS] appeared on the U.S. Federal Business Opportunities website — a system that allows private contractors to bid on providing goods or services to the United States government. That solicitation…, titled ‘Media Monitoring Services,’ seeks a contractor to create a searchable database of information about journalists, social media ‘influencers,’ and media outlets.”

This is so consequential that it has been covered by media in India, Japan, and elsewhere. Presumably the database is designed to… well, I’m not sure.

The Forbes article speaks to my concerns:

“Unfortunately, increasing government encroachment on the freedom of the press is the sinister backdrop to all of this. Freedom House, which has monitored the status of the press for nearly 40 years, recently concluded that global media freedom has reached its lowest level in the past 13 years. The independent watchdog organization blames ‘new threats to journalists and media outlets in major democracies’ as well as ‘further crackdowns on independent media in authoritarian countries like Russia and China.’ And then it goes one step further.

“But it is the far-reaching attacks on the news media and their place in a democratic society by Donald Trump, first as a candidate and now as president of the United States, that fuel predictions of further setbacks in the years to come.”

Snopes “reached out to DHS to ask if media reports suggesting this was an effort to compile political information on journalists were unfounded, as well as to ask for details about how this effort will enhance national security. In response, DHS directed us to a tweet from Homeland Security spokesperson Tyler Q. Houlton, who confirmed the data collection…”

Houlton posted: “Despite what some reporters may suggest, this is nothing more than the standard practice of monitoring current events in the media. Any suggestion otherwise is fit for tin foil hat wearing, black helicopter conspiracy theorists.”

Well, THAT makes me feel a WHOLE lot better. Yeah, right. Hmm, I wonder if I’m considered a “social media influencer.” My Klout score has been going down recently, so maybe DHS won’t notice me…

I finished reading The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789 by Joseph J. Ellis (2015). The title refers to George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay. More about the book in the future.

In reading the footnotes – what a nerd! -one jumped out at me. “…for judicial devotees of the ‘original intent’ doctrine” – what DID the Founders mean? – “Madison’s motives” in crafting what became the Second Amendment to the Constitution “are clear beyond any doubt.”

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

“To wit, the right to bear arms derived from the needs to make state militias the core pillar of national defense” rather than a professional, federal army, which skeptics of federalism feared as threats to small-r republican values. .

“To avoid reaching that conclusion, the [Supreme Court] majority opinion in Heller [v. District of Columbia, 2008], written by Justice Antonin Scalia, is an elegant example of legalistic legerdemain masquerading as erudition. Madison is rolling over in his grave.”

Those not familiar with the fancy noun, it means 1. sleight of hand 2. trickery; deception 3. any artful trick.

In other words, the suggestion that Scalia’s argument is originalist is pure hokum. The Supreme Court had made only a couple rulings over two centuries on that amendment and, it would seem, got it wrong the second time.

In making this ruling, SCOTUS has empowered folks, including some in the powerful National Rifle Association, to argue that ANY limitation on gun ownership is unconstitutional. If the First Amendment can be proscribed – no yelling “fire” in a crowded theater unless there are actually flames – surely the Second can be also.

My wife and I were watching NBC Nightly News on March 24, the day of March for Our Lives rallies all over the world. One of the early stories was Museums across the nation work to archive mementos of grief left after shootings. There is actually a protocol for collecting those items left after mass murders! “Jeff Schwartz of the Parkland [Florida] Historical Society is relying on advice from… curators across the country — from Columbine, Colorado, to Charleston, South Carolina — who have all faced such situations.” We both wept.

So I’m not all that concerned about the “crass ageism” of some of the survivors. The Parkland kids, as of March 24, had been in the media spotlight 39 days, still grieving. I cut them a LOT of slack. “To the leaders, skeptics and cynics who told us to sit down, stay silent and wait your turn, welcome to the revolution,” Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Cameron Kasky told the throngs in DC. “Either represent the people or get out. Stand for us or beware.”

I don’t know what the change in the gun culture will be, but I remain cautiously optimistic, because I have to be.

From The Doors:
The old get old
And the young get stronger
May take a week
And it may take longer
They got the guns
But we got the numbers
Gonna win, yeah
We’re takin’ over
Come on!

Ashley Bennett

It is very easy for me to focus on all the bad news going on. But there are stories recently that really pleased me, and I should note that fact occasionally:

ITEM: A whole bunch of diverse people were elected in November, often with a dollop of irony.

Voters in Helena, Montana, elected Wilmot Collins, a former refugee from Liberia, as their mayor, in a state where the issue of refugees have sparked political tension.

Ashley Bennett defeated John Carman for the Atlantic County, NJ freeholder seat. “Carman posted a meme on the day of the Women’s March [on January 21, 2017 with]… the message, ‘Will the women’s protest be over in time for them to cook dinner?'” This inspired Bennett to run against him. She had been targeted on a white supremacist blog for saying the Confederate flag has no place in New Jersey.

Danica Roem will be the first openly transgender woman to win a seat for the House of Delegates in Virginia, beating Bob Marshall, the state’s self-proclaimed “chief homophobe.”

And there were other groundbreaking elections.

ITEM: “The Walt Disney Company lifted its ban of Los Angeles Times critics from its press screenings after a widespread backlash prompted several media outlets to announce their own boycotts of Disney movies,” The Associated Press reported.

Disney was ticked by the Times’ September reporting on its relationship with the local municipalities, stating that the company received unwarranted assist from local governments on taxes, subsidies, and rent. Disney said the series was “biased and inaccurate…, wholly driven by a political agenda.”

“Disney’s punitive measures against the Times led to many outlets refusing advance coverage of the studio’s films, including The New York Times (which called Disney’s ban a ‘dangerous precedent and not at all in the public interest’), the Boston Globe and The A.V. Club.

Multiple critics groups announced they would bar Disney films from awards consideration, “hammering the company for choosing to punish journalists ‘rather than express its disagreement with a business story via ongoing public discussion. Disney’s response should gravely concern all who believe in the importance of a free press, artists included.'”

ITEM: In October, state trooper Ryan Sceviour arrested Alli Bibaud for driving under the influence. “Bibaud is the daughter of Dudley District Court Judge Timothy Bibaud.”

Sceviour’s initial arrest report said Bibaud told officers she got the drugs in exchange for sex. The report also said Bibaud claimed her father was a judge and offered Sceviour sex in exchange for leniency.

Trooper Sceviour filed a lawsuit alleging that after he arrested Bibaud near Worcester, “he was told to revise the arrest report to remove the references to sex and Bibaud’s father so as not to embarrass the judge.”

Colonel Richard McKeon, the superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, who reportedly ordered the trooper to remove the embarrassing information, retired.

There was a Washington Post article in April 2017, The simple idea to make kids more empathetic? Get them reading the news. It’s about a specific program sythesizing the news.

One of the things I tried to protect the Daughter from was the news. I thought I was watching it when she was busy doing other things. But at some point, when she was eight or nine, I noticed she was picking up on stories. Moreover, she was aware of them at a level that I knew that her classmates were not. And that is still true.

I must admit this is a curse she has inherited from from her father, who was reading op/ed columns in the local paper at 9 or 10. William F. Buckley and Jack Anderson and the like was on my reading diet.

Following the news, she became more aware of the candidates for President – she hated Chris Christie, loved Bernie Sanders – and more of them than 90% of American adults.

I tried very hard not to inculcate her with my pain about race in America. Yet the evidence in the news, with only some minor clarification from me, really informed her, such as when she saw unarmed black men getting shot. I really didn’t want her to have to know about this, but it’s out there.

She has participated in walks to fight hunger. She has contributed money to help shelter animals. She really does have a good heart, which would probably embarrass her, but so be it.

I think that she will be a good citizen. She’ll follow the issues and she’ll always vote. At this point, I can’t see her ever running for office – at some level, she is very shy – but i can imagine her working behind the scenes for a candidate she supports. And perhaps she’ll surprise me.

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