Friday, October 18, 2019

Has the Media Learned Anything Since the 2016 Election?

After taping "Greater Boston" on Wednesday afternoon, I headed over to Northeastern University, to participate in an event at the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs. I was on a panel with Kimberly Atkins, the Washington Correspondent for NPR/WBUR, and Nate Fredman, a former producer for "The Bill O’Reilly Show" on Fox News (now in charge of digital media at The Hill), discussing and debating whether the media is doing a better job of covering the 2020 presidential election than they did covering the one in 2016.

As you might imagine, it made for a lively discussion. The students in the audience seemed surprised to discover that while partisanship may run roughshod all over Washington, and while voters seem more divided than ever, journalists generally get along just fine, even when they represent employers who cater to different politically active audiences.

The event was part of the University’s Myra Kraft Open Classroom, and since it was open to the public, it was also live-streamed, so you can watch it all right here:

Thursday, October 17, 2019

On WGBH: Discussing and Dissecting the Democratic Debate


On Wednesday night, I joined WGBH’s Adam Reilly, David Pakman of The David Pakman show, and host Jim Braude to analyze Tuesday night’s Democratic debate. It aired at 7 on WGBH-TV’s “Greater Boston,” but you can catch it here:


Tuesday, October 8, 2019

10 Things to Know About Impeachment and Donald Trump

At the 2017 Women's March, the day after President Donald Trump's inauguration. (Photo: Lylah M. Alphonse)
**EDITED to add an 11th thing...**

I'm astonished by how many lawmakers are circulating misinformation about impeachment. I know I shouldn't be -- they're counting on people being ignorant about the process. Impeachment is not about overturning an election or installing a new leader with a different political ideology. FWIW, here are 10 things to know about impeachment:

  1. Impeachment and removal from office are two separate things.
  2. Impeachment happens in the House of Representatives.
  3. Conviction -- the decision to remove the person from office -- happens in the Senate (and requires a 2/3 vote).
  4. Senators are not involved in the impeachment process in the House. Representatives are not involved in the conviction process in the Senate.
  5. Mitch McConnell can't stop the impeachment process. He can choose not to convict.
  6. Nancy Pelosi can't remove the president from office. She can vote to impeach -- or censure -- him for his actions.
  7. Witnesses aren't called as part of the impeachment process in the House.
  8. A coup is a sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power from a government. Impeachment is a charge of misconduct made against a person holding elected office, and the process is outlined in our Constitution. 
  9. One can be impeached but not removed from office. Both Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate (and not removed from office). Nixon was not impeached -- he resigned before the House could vote on the articles of impeachment.
  10. There is a line of succession that must be followed if the President is removed from office -- there's no random appointment, the office doesn't revert to the other main political party, the other political party doesn't install someone temporarily. If Donald Trump is impeached **and** removed from office, Vice President Mike Pence becomes President. If Donald Trump is impeached and **not** removed from office, he's still the President and can finish out his term (and run for another one, if he so chooses).

    BONUS 11th THING!
  11. The Trump administration is now saying it will not cooperate with the House impeachment inquiry. But while refusing to cooperate complicates the inquiry -- a refusal to comply can become it's own article of impeachment, because doing so obstructs the investigation and thus obstructs justice -- it doesn't stop the impeachment process. That is: The House doesn't need Trump to comply in order to vote to impeach him.

Want more? Here's a primer on impeachment, and here's the U.S. Constitution, handily annotated so you can find more information about various terms and topics. Both are worth a read.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Beat the Press: Trump vs. the Media, the Globe vs. Sponsored Content


This week, I joined Northeastern University's Dan Kennedy, WGBH's Adam Reilly and Callie Crossley, and host Emily Rooney to dissect and discuss the media. Our topics: Trump's media bashing reaches a new level, The Boston Globe's sponsored celebration of Boston Children's Hospital, CNN's fact-checking the president in real time, Prince Harry's royal lawsuit against the press, and our weekly Rants and Raves (my rave was for this Slate article by Mark Joseph Stern, which looks at how having a more-diverse jury affected the outcome of the Botham Jean case). The show is in five segments; you can watch the full show at WGBH or check out each segment below.









Tuesday, September 24, 2019

On Greater Boston: Pelosi Launches a Formal Impeachment Inquiry Against Trump


Tonight, Sydney Asbury of DNM Solutions and I join host Jim Braude on “Greater Boston” to talk about the formal impeachment inquiry Nancy Pelosi announced this afternoon. The show airs on WGBH-TV at 7 p.m., or you can watch the clip here: 

Friday, September 20, 2019

Beat the Press: Throwing Softballs at Ortiz, Using Lewandowski as a Source

Tonight on "Beat the Press,” we’re talking about whether The Boston Globe threw softballs when they interviewed David Ortiz, whether the New York Times missed the mark with its latest Brett Kavanaugh story, whether Corey Lewandowski should ever be on the air or used as a source after admitting he lies to the media, and our weekly Rants and Raves. (My rave was for social media -- specifically Snapchat, which launched it's political ad library.) Also: WGBH’s Adam Reilly, former NESN Reporter Mike Nikitas, Northeastern University and I host Emily Rooney in remembering Cokie Roberts. Tune in to WGBH-TV at 7, watch the whole show online at Beatthepress.org,  or watch the clips right here:







Friday, August 9, 2019

Beat the Press: Sudden Vacations at Fox News, Conservatives Calling for Gun Control


Tonight on "Beat the Press”, we’re talking about the sudden vacations scheduled at Fox News (Tucker Carlson’s is the latest, after KKK Grand Wizard David Duke applauded his assertions about white supremacy), editorials in conservative outlets calling for gun control, how the media’s fascination with sharks may have led to a small threat becoming a much larger one over time, and our weekly Rants and Raves. (My rave was for this massive Washington Post correction. Watch the clip to see why.) WBZ's Jon Keller, Northeastern University's Dan Kennedy, and former Wall Street Journal staffer Roy J. Harris Jr. and I join host Emily Rooney at 7 on WGBH-TV. You can watch the whole show online, or you can watch each clip below:



Friday, August 2, 2019

Beat the Press: A Tone-Deaf Front Page, Working the Washington Bubble


Tonight on “Beat the Press” we’re discussing The Boston Herald’s tone-deaf front page, whether the media can report on a mass shooting without amplifying the terrorist’s message, the cozy relationship between journalists and politicians in the Washington, D.C. bubble, and our weekly Rants and Raves. (My rave was for this Wall Street Journal article on bots spreading misinformation during the Democratic debates.) Tune in to WGBH-TV at 7 p.m. to watch Dan Kennedy, Callie Crossley, Roy Harris, host Adam Reilly and me, watch the whole show online at Beatthepress.org, or catch up with the clips below:







Friday, July 19, 2019

Beat the Press: Calling Out Racism, Covering the DA


Tonight, Dan Kennedy of Northeastern University, Dan Lothian of Little Park Media, Callie Crossely of WGBH and I put on our media criticism hats and join host Adam Reilly on "Beat the Press." We’re talking about when the media should or shouldn’t call out racism, Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins and the Boston Globe, the BBC’s controversial agreement with Iran, and our weekly Rants & Raves. (I had a rare rant: it was for CNN, for the "focus group of average conservative voters" it featured without disclosing that most of them were actually active grass-roots advocates for Trump.) You can watch the whole show below:

Friday, June 21, 2019

Beat the Press: Age and Gender Discrimination at NY1, the Media and Big Papi



Tonight, Dan Kennedy, Callie Crossley, Mike Nikitas and I put on our media criticism hats and sit down with host Emily Rooney on "Beat the Press." We're discussing the anchorwomen who are filing an age- and gender-discrimination lawsuit against NY1, how the media is handling the Big Papi shooting, whether the news media is critical enough about the Trump administration's claims about Iran, the risk one photojournalist took to report the news, and our weekly rants and raves. You can watch at 7 on WGBH-TV, or check out the full show below:

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

How the mainstream media covered Trump's re-election rally

In case you missed the president's campaign launch in Florida last night, the coverage itself was an interesting study in how different outlets cater to their audiences. 

I picked traditional print media here, since the TV/cable news outlets (Fox News, CNN, MSNBC) skewed exactly they way you'd assume they would, but more so. Conservative media mostly wrote reviews of the rally, describing Trump's speech as if it was a performance, focusing on the size, tone, energy and enthusiasm of the crowd, quoting the lines that most energizes his base and avoiding any mention of factual errors or demonstrably false statements in his speech. Here's an example from the Wall Street Journal
The kickoff event was billed as a megarally to demonstrate Mr. Trump’s campaign prowess and to deliver his pitch for 2020. During his 75-minute speech, the president largely struck familiar notes, boasting about the economy and his judicial appointments while assailing the media and Democrats. Mr. Trump’s ability to energize supporters, such as the roughly 20,000 who packed the Amway Center, will be key as he begins a crucial phase in the 2020 contest... 
He continued to use 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as a political target, complaining about polls that had predicted her winning the election, and suggesting that the Justice Department would continue to search for emails deleted when she was secretary of state. Many Republicans believe those emails were improperly deleted, and it was a rallying issue for Mr. Trump’s supporters during the last campaign.
Mr. Trump also said he would continue to “drain the swamp,” his metaphor for upending the political establishment in Washington. 
“That’s why the swamp is fighting back so viciously and violently,” Mr. Trump said. “For the last 2 1/2 years we have been under siege.” 
The event had all the hallmarks of the rallies that defined Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign. Thousands donned in “Make America Great Again” hats, chanted “lock her up” and “build the wall,” and waved signs that read “Four More Years.”
The left-leaning outlets decried his attacks on Democrats and mostly analyzed the speech itself, fact-checking his claims and debunking (or, occasionally, confirming) statements he made. Here's the Washington Post's mainbar:
At the Amway Center here, Trump told the crowd that his election in 2016 was the result of a great political movement that has been under attack ever since, despite what he described as the great successes of his presidency 
“We accomplished more than any other president has in the first 2½ years of a presidency and under circumstances that no president has had to deal with before,” he said, using the hyperbole that has marked much of his career. 
Trump’s argument for a second term then quickly became a rehash of grievances and false claims from his first campaign, along with a hit parade of Trump rally applause lines. He veered off script to rail at length against the “witch hunt” special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and revisited complaints about the media, “Crooked Hillary” and her missing emails. 
“They are really going after you,” Trump said of the list of enemies he laid out for the crowd. “They tried to erase your vote, erase the legacy of the greatest campaign and the greatest election probably in the history of the country.”

And he warned of the threats posed by immigrants, a focus of his presidency that has thrilled his most ardent supporters and caused his critics to accuse him of promoting racism.
The Washington Post's fact-check piece homed in on 17 statements from his speech, including this one, which more conservative outlets ignored:
“We passed the largest package of tax cuts and reforms in American history — the largest.” 
This is a Bottomless Pinocchio claim, our worst rating. Trump’s tax cut amounted to nearly 0.9 percent of gross domestic product, meaning it was far smaller than President Ronald Reagan’s tax cut in 1981, which was 2.89 percent of GDP. Trump’s tax cut is the eighth largest on record — smaller, even, than two tax cuts passed under Obama.
Media outlets that try to stay neutral offered some analysis that pointed out possible pitfalls in his reelection campaign or, in some cases, didn't cover it themselves at all, running AP copy instead (that's what we did at U.S. News). Here's Bloomberg's analysis

Trump wound up saying little new in his Orlando speech and he’s probably going to have to do much better if he wants a second lease on the Oval Office. While he’s successfully mobilized the emotions and resentments of a large portion of the electorate, and has commandeered the Republican Party machinery, the biggest fruits of his presidency have been enjoyed by cultural conservatives and his most affluent supporters. Other voters have now road-tested the unproven Trump of 2015 who promised to take a wrecking ball to the Washington bureaucracy, drain the swamp, and negotiate a series of political and economic deals that would benefit average Americans struggling with uncertainty. A significant number of those folks may review Trump’s original promises and find him lacking.



Friday, June 7, 2019

Beat the Press: Racist Incidents at Boston's MFA, Doxxing a Troll



Tonight on “Beat the Press,” Northeastern University’s Dan Kennedy, former CNN Whitehouse Correspondent Dan Lothian, WGBH’s Adam Reilly and I sit down with host Emily Rooney to talk about how Boston media handled the recent racist incident at the MFA, whether The Daily Beast was right to doxx the blogger behind the altered Nancy Pelosi video, and how YouTube handles hateful speech. I also offered up a cautious rave for former President Obama’s upcoming foray into podcasting. Catch us on WGBH-TV tonight at 7, or watch the entire show below:






Friday, May 17, 2019

Beat the Press: A Free Commercial for TB12, Coddling Anti-Vaxxers



Tonight on "Beat the Press," Dan Kennedy, Callie Crossley, Adam Reilly and I join host Emily Rooney to discuss the super-positive media coverage of Tom Brady's new TB12 Centers, NPR's new softer terminology for anti-vaxxers, the updated "Morning Edition" music; Howard Stern's new image (and book), and our weekly rants and raves. (My rave was for the Center for Media Engagement's new study on outrage and click-bait.) Tune in to WGBH-TV at 7 p.m., or watch the clips here:









Friday, May 3, 2019

Beat the Press: Anti-Semetic Cartoons, Betting on the Burkini, Spotlight on the Alt-Right



Northeastern’s Dan Kennedy, WBZ’s Jon Keller, WGBH’s Callie Crossley and I join host Emily Rooney tonight to talk about the media on “Beat the Press.” On the table: The New York Times’s anti-Semitic cartoon, shakeups at CBS, Sports Illustrated’s bet on the burkini, coverage of the alt-right and hate crimes, and our weekly rants and raves. Catch us on WGBH-TV at 7 p.m., or watch each segment below:







Friday, March 15, 2019

Beat the Press: Covering Terrorism in New Zealand, the College Admission Scandal



We had a lot to talk about tonight on "Beat the Press" -- how the media (and social media) covered the terrorist attack at the New Zealand mosque, comments from Fox News' Tucker Carlson and Jeanine Pirro (and whether they are or are not examples of truly conservative commentary), the college admission scandal, and our weekly rants and raves (I rave about The Last Column, a project honoring journalists who have been killed). I join host Emily Rooney, WGBH's Callie Crossley, WBZ-TV's Jon Keller, and Northeastern University's Dan Kennedy tonight at 7 on WGBH-TV. But if you want to watch now, you can see the clips right here: