Monthly Archives: November 2012

New NYT exec: Up to the job?

By Christopher B. Daly 

Mark Thompson is wrapping up his first week as the new president and chief executive of the New York Times Company. That role puts him in a critical position in U.S. journalism, and he has little margin for error in leading the

Carl Court / AFP-Getty

Carl Court / AFP-Getty

country’s most important news-gathering organization through dangerous and economically challenging times. We all need him to succeed.

And yet.

It is beginning to appear that the Times Company’s principal owner and publisher of the flagship newspaper, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., may have picked the wrong person for the job. The reason for that has to do with Thompson’s last job, as an executive with the BBC. The British broadcasting empire, a tower of journalistic probity, is going through its own scandal.

To its credit, the Times is pursuing the question of what Thompson knew and when he knew it — apparently without much fear or favor. This is as it should be. My concern is that, fairly or unfairly, Thompson may be so damaged by his BBC baggage that he has to go.

Tentatively, I would say Thompson either knew of serious wrongdoing at the BBC and did nothing, or else he did not know and should have. Either way, he is compromised.

 

 

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Q: What’s wrong with U.S. higher ed?

A: It costs too much.

We are doing some things right in higher education, but we are getting this big one wrong. This is one of the saddest stories I have seen in a while.

 

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Follow the money (cont.)

By Christopher B. Daly

Is political spending the same as political speech? Does it deserve the same constitutional protections? Is there anything that can be done to undo the 2010 Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court?

Those are some of the questions raised by the 2012 elections. In the Times, Nicholas Confessore has been doing a good job keeping an eye on the money in politics, and today he weighs in with a “political memo.” (Is that reporting? analysis? opinion?)

One point the memo makes is that if you have a huge number of donors each giving a small amount, you can raise all the money you need to counter the impact of a small number of huge donors. Look at it this way:

100 wealthy donors give $1 million each.

100 x 1,000,000 = 100,000,000

1 million ordinary donors give $100 each:

1,000,000 x 100 = 100,000,000

So, it’s a tie. That shows the power of a million people acting together.

A question remains: How are we better off as a society with all that spending?

 

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Math for journalists (and everyone else too)

By Christopher B. Daly 

In the wake of last week’s election, many Republicans seems to be facing not only a political problem but also an epistemological one. Epistemology is the term philosophers use for the study of knowledge itself. It is an inquiry that asks: How do we know what we know? (or, How do we know what we think we know?)

Two recent pieces raise the issue.

David Carr,in his column in the New York Times, emphasizes the crisis that overtook Fox News on election night, when some professionals at the conservative news network were forced to choose — live, on television — between Republican orthodoxy and journalistic empiricism. Carr rightly applauds Megyn Kelly for insisting on a fact-based approach while she was on-air with Republican Party strategist, fund-raiser, consultant (have I left any roles out?) Karl Rove, who doubles as a paid news “analyst” for Fox. As the Ohio vote was being counted last Tuesday night, it was becoming clear that Obama would win the state and, thus, the country. Rove insisted that Fox set aside the facts and hold off on placing Ohio in the president’s camp.

Inexplicably, though, Carr did not cite the definitive quote in the exchange. Kelly turned to Rove and asked:

“Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better, or is this real?”

(Jon Stewart rightly pounced on it as a moment of political/journalistic/epistemological crisis, and you can see the video.)

 

How about math we do as Americans to determine reality?

 

Many of the same issues are raised in a searching piece in Politico today about the “cocooning” of many Republicans. On election night, some Republicans found it difficult to believe that Obama was actually winning, largely because they only watch Fox News and only hear the views of analysts like Karl Rove. The piece, by Jonathan Martin, points in the direction of the book I am working on about the rise of conservative media after WWII, with the working title: Inside the Meme Factory: The Rise of Conservative Media and Think Tanks. Stay tuned for that. (If you think that an idea/slogan like “the rich are job-creators” arises spontaneously, you got another think coming!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Democracy for sale? (cont.)

In a follow-up piece, the Times continues to follow the money in politics. Turns out, business interests were not able to buy the presidential election — this time.

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, for example, spent millions in this campaign, backing eight conservative candidates. His record:  0-for-8.

Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam.     Photo: Patrick Fallon / NYTimes

Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam. Photo: Patrick Fallon / NYTimes

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Politics: Bad for business?

By Christopher B. Daly 

If business executives and the titans of finance are so good at investing, why do they do so poorly in investing in politicians? Clearly, big business and Wall Street went all-in this time on Mitt Romney and other Republicans. Through direct donations and superPACs, they sank enormous amounts of money (which, by rights, should go to the stockholders) into the Romney campaign and now have nothing to show for it.

Actually, they may have less than nothing to show for it. Because in the process of investing in Romney, they also managed to antagonize the majority of Americans who prefer the other guy.

These thoughts were prompted by a timely piece in today’s Times Business Day section by columnist Eduardo Porter, who tries to follow the money in corporate political donations. Porter estimates that business interests spent about $2 billion and got nothing but ill will.

All of which reminds me of a remark attributed to former hoops wizard Michael Jordan. He became a wealthy businessman by getting into the sneaker business. Later, he was asked why he didn’t endorse Barack Obama. His answer: “Republicans buy shoes too.” (Just recently, Jordan had an apparent change of heart and endorsed Obama.)

For you activists: Some of the biggest donors to conservative candidates and causes are the Koch brothers. Here are some of the companies they own or products those companies make:

Georgia-Pacific

Brawny paper towels

Angel Soft toilet paper

Mardi Gras paper napkins

Vanity Fair paper products

Stainmaster carpets

Lycra fabric products.

And before you buy any oil pipelines, be sure to check the label.

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Dick Morris: wrong or stupid?

By Christopher B. Daly

Among the many satisfactions on election night 2012 was seeing Dick Morris, the smarmy former Clinton political adviser, get slapped around the head by the facts. Just a few days ago, Morris — who has been reborn as a mean conservative — was predicting not only that Romney would win but that the Republican would win in a landslide. You can read the interview he did with his enabler, Bill O’Reilly.

Morris debases the public sphere every time he speaks or writes.

And shame on Fox News for giving this guy airtime. 

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