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It was a bit of an InfoSnooze, if damning and ultimately worthwhile.
Megyn Kelly’s much-hyped interview with conspiracist Alex Jones of InfoWars proved “kind of blah,” as put by Julia Keller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former Chicago Tribune reporter and a onetime TV critic herself.
It proved perfectly suitable for prime time, especially given how derivative it was of standard TV magazine formats. And while Jones has already yelled about the segment, he came off badly, assuming that was him speaking those words and not some hologram devised by the “deep state” he and the White House aides keep yelling about.
That was especially true when he tried to rationalize total lies as merely an intellectually honest attempt to play “devil’s advocate” (he would offer lame running commentary of it on his own site).
Eric Mink, a HuffPost contributor and former terrific TV critic and columnist in St. Louis and New York, is correct to note, as he did in a back-and-forth last night, that “Viewers knowing little to nothing about right-wing extremist media icon Alex Jones going into this week’s ‘Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly’ on NBC came away knowing considerably more.”
“They now know Jones is a pumped-up radio and internet performer who peddles vile, fact-free conspiracies to an immense audience. They know he makes good money doing it. They know President Trump follows Jones’ work, which sometimes worms its way into presidential tweets and speeches.”
And, Mink added, “They know that when Jones is pressed on some of his more absurd, offensive and contradictory spewings by focused and well-prepared journalists, he gets sweaty, swallows a lot, loses his concentration and becomes a thoroughly ridiculous figure.”
Yup. Kelly and NBC News producer Carol Gable were efficient and effective in underscoring his craziness on Sandy Hook, his “Pizzagate” craziness and his smearing of Chobani yogurt company. The meat of the piece comprised about 10 of 17 minutes that, as Mink notes, “suffered from content padding, weak editing choices and missed interview opportunities to challenge Jones further.”
“You can’t ever lay a glove on these guys because they don’t respond to logical arguments. We knew what he was going to say, because he says it all the time, and he said it again,” Keller said. “I wish NBC had done more reporting on his organization’s finances and clientele. That is, I wish they’d told us something we didn’t already know, which used to be the heart of journalism’s mission.”
It would be naive to think any current Jones partisans were moved. But it’s likely that a large audience that never knew him will now be informed enough to hop any bandwagon. It was a curious mix of caution and pandering but provided an ultimate service.
As for the show’s finale, namely a Tom Brokaw essay on the state of political and online rhetoric, it was as underwhelming as the fastball of an aging pitcher who’s seen better days.
But, again, it was a show that was really about a prominent Fox News alumna (Kelly) intoning righteously about our “toxic” political climate and then unmasking a prime exemplar of the climate.
And you could then turn on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” this morning and hear co-host Joe Scarborough and pundit John Heilemann argue that the nation is not as divided as our politics.
“We’re just not as divided as Twitter and prime time cable news would have us believe,” said Scarborough. Should he have added that we’re not as divided as much as some broadcast news magazines would have us very conspicuously believe?
The Amazon-Whole Foods deal
It’s not just a matter of how Amazon stock rose.
“Amazon’s Friday morning announcement that it was acquiring Whole Foods sent the high-end grocery’s stock soaring. This was bad news for Whole Foods’ grocery competitors, who now face a fierce battle with Amazon.” (Recode)
“Target, Kroger, Costco, Walmart, Dollar General, SuperValu and Sprouts lost a combined market value of $21.7 billion in one day — 6 percent of their total worth, according to data from FactSet.”
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that Jeff Bezos will look to cut prices in part to shed the “Whole Paycheck” image.
“The Front Page” returns (sadly)
The Guardian reports, “King’s College Hospital is to lodge a complaint with the press watchdog over a journalist who allegedly impersonated a friend of a victim of the Grenfell Tower fire in order to get an interview with him.”
So what happened? “It is understood that the Sun was trying to get an interview with Mario Gomes, a resident on the 21st floor who has been hailed as a hero after racing back into the building to find his 12-year-old daughter.”
“Sources say a Sun journalist has been accused of attempting to impersonate a friend of Gomes to hospital staff in order to interview him.”
It began two decades ago with “You Don’t Know Jack,” a trivia game for folks who hated trivia games. But Jellyvision, the Chicago video game maker nearly closed its doors before a true rebirth. How did it do it? What was behind new hits like Drawl and Fibbage? (Adweek)
So what is in the healthcare bill?
Even John Oliver on HBO took off on the secrecy surrounding the Senate version of the House-passed bill. But Vox asked eight GOP senators what was in it.
“They rarely answered directly, at least not on the bill’s policy merits. Sometimes a senator could identify a desired outcome, like ‘lowering premiums’ or ‘stabilizing marketplaces.’ But they rarely could explain the mechanism through which they planned on achieving that outcome.”
The big-city need for superstars
Aaron Renn of the Manhattan Institute discourses on “The Superstar Gap,” or the need for cities to make their marks not just through quality of life but having true superstars in various fields. And Midwest cities, notably Chicago, are falling short.
He doesn’t mention media but his thesis could easily apply to a brain drain that has landed a preponderance of young talent on the coasts, not the Heartland. (Urbanophile)
Then, again, Adweek is rather less melancholy on at least one topic via “These companies are helping put Chicago on the cutting edge of emerging tech.”
In a Washington Post opus on Trump supporters, there’s Stacey Cotton, 43, an elementary school teacher in Houston:
“Cotton watches the local news in the morning, but she’s not following what’s happening in the White House as closely as she followed the campaign. Her parents watch Fox News nearly all day long, but her mother admits that she doesn’t know much about the Russia investigations.”
“If you’ve been a fan of Major League Baseball since the turn of the century, you may remember the name Darren Baker. His father, Dusty Baker, is currently the manager of the Washington Nationals and previously managed the San Francisco Giants between 1993 and 2002, the same year he took them to the World Series.” (12Up)
“During that Fall Classic, an adorable bat boy carved his name into baseball lore by innocently doing his job at the worst possible time, nearly getting run over by incoming baserunners.”
Darren Baker is now 18 and a college shortstop who was drafted by his dad’s current team, the Nationals, last week in the amateur draft. He got trolled, with the allegation being nepotism, but he gave as good as he got in an exchange. Regardless, he’s staying in college and won’t turn professional.
From “Fake libel court order used in (failed) attempt to vanish sexual battery conviction”:
“People who do not have a legal reason to have content delisted are still trying to trick Google into compliance with various illegal actions. So far, we’ve seen bogus lawsuits filed by fake plaintiffs against fake defendants, slid by inattentive judges to secure takedown orders.
“We’ve seen people trying to limit negative search engine results by forging judge’s signatures on fake orders. We’ve seen people assemble fake news sites to post copies of negative content solely for the purpose of targeting the original posts with fraudulent takedown orders.” (TechDirt)
Worst trade ever?
Stefan Bondy made the case (a strong and long one, at that, in four tab pages) in the New York Daily News that when it comes to pro basketball, it was the 2013 deal that brought the Russian-owned New York Nets two aging stars, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, in exchange for a raft of future draft picks.
The tournament ended yesterday but not before Jaime Diaz, a prominent golf writer, whined about golf’s propertied class not coming to the tournament interview room (and often handing out banalities to the stenographic assembled). (Golf World) In the instance that set him off, however, a star player did talk, albeit briefly at a nearby so-called flash area.
Meanwhile, one of the best stories, by Beth Ann Nichols, tied to the tournament was found in Golf Week, namely a profile of the biracial grandson of a biracial granddad who suffering racist segregation years earlier.
It wasn’t until the grandson, Cameron Champ, attended Texas A&M in College Station that the granddad, Mack Champ, disclosed how at age 19, after enlisting in the Air Force, he couldn’t get served at a whites-only lunch counter in, yes, College Station.
The Cosby verdict
“And so we find ourselves in a situation where making Cosby look credible would be an uphill battle but making his accuser seem vaguely dubious could be done in a snap.” (The New Yorker)
“That was the defense’s tactic — to position (Andrea) Constand, who was a bright and earnest presence in the courtroom, as the kind of woman who might just possibly be lying as she recounted an event that made her shake and cry on the witness stand, a humiliating account that she has told over and over again, to her mother, her brother-in-law, two police departments, her lawyers, her alleged rapist, the courtroom, the world.”
Headline of day
“NASA wants to probe Uranus in search of gas” (BGR)
Techies come to the White House
Mike Allen of Axios looks this morning at the arrival today at the White House of various tech leaders during a period where the public may be souring on their accumulation of such enormous wealth. “The darlings of Silicon Valley are in danger of becoming the devils of Trumpism’s nationalist wing.”
Earlier, his colleague Jonathan Swan outlined the agenda of Apple boss Tim Cook, who wants to get into immigration, encryption, veterans’ affairs and human rights. (Axios)
The morning babble
“Trump & Friends” defended their guy over a Washington Post story that he’s being investigated for obstruction of justice. But kudos to Brian Kilmeade for diverting from the company line in dumping on the Trump-inspired “Julius Caesar” in Central Park, saying, “I don’t think it’s right for the audience to rush the stage,” as was the case over the weekend.
CNN’s “New Day” got into the rhetorical weeds with Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow’s Sunday denials of Trump being “under investigation,” with Washington Post reporter Karoun Demirjian reiterating just what the paper’s reporting has said (meaning Sekulow is off base). Sekulow, a onetime Fox favorite who’s exhibiting TV intoxication in his new role, hit some of the morning shows himself.
MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” went to London for reports on the possible terrorist attack as a van plowed into Muslim worshippers outside a mosque. Meanwhile, Josh Earnest, the former Obama press secretary, surfaced as an analyst, joining the Costco-sized line-up of White male pundits, while Joe Scarborough argued that congressional leaders be held more accountable for crazy comments by colleagues.
Correction: I originally cited the wrong author to the New York Daily News piece on the Nets-Celtics trade. It’s Stefan Bondy.