Rhode Island Trucking Association’s complaint about a bureaucrat’s regular use of air time to promote a gubernatorial candidate points to our problematic campaign finance system.
Here’s an interesting item, via former Providence Journal editorial page editor Robert Whitcomb:
In a very modest effort to help save local journalism, New Jersey is enacting a law that dedicates $5 million in state money to strengthen local media outlets. They’re very important as watchdogs in America’s decaying democracy. Political and other corruption rises as journalism fades.
I’m a bit skeptical about the premise. So, we’ve got “very important… watchdogs” protecting us against “political and other corruption,” and the solution is to increase the extent to which they’re dependent upon government for funding?
The fact that the $5 million would be handed out by a consortium of universities is no comfort. Even if they weren’t (at a minimum) dominated by public institutions, universities are overwhelmingly left-wing, which will color the news that they support. Maybe fears about funding a government-news system could be somewhat abated if the consortium were a clever collection of balanced political and ideological interests, but the attempt isn’t even made.
In other words, a propaganda network doesn’t cease to be one simply because the funding passes through the hands of government’s reliable allies, who are also overwhelmingly allies of a particular political party.
Congressman David Cicilline manages to capture exactly the divide in our cold Civil War.
Reading Kevin Andrade’s Providence Journal article on a poll just released by Brown University’s Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy, one might get the impression that Americans are newly distrustful of the federal government:
Democrats hold a nine-point lead heading into the midterm elections and one in five people distrust the federal government, a poll from Brown University found.
“I think so much is in play with the House race that it’s too soon to tell,” said Susan Moffitt, director of the A. Alfred Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy at Brown University, which conducted the poll.
“A lot could happen,” she said. “What’s more interesting to me is the distrust question. That’s going to be with us for a long time.”
Actually, the distrust has already been with us for a pretty long time. According to Pew polls, one could accurately say that only one-in-five Americans has trusted the government consistently since 2009. Taubman’s finding that trust in local government is much higher is also nothing new.
We’ll see where these numbers go over the next couple of years, but they seem to follow the economy to some degree, which suggests they might be on the upswing. On the other hand, one could reasonably theorize that constant media attacks on Republican administrations have contributed to the two periods that trust has fallen this low — and everything we’re hearing about the FBI, lately, should suppress trust, too — so there will be downward pressure, as well.
A Forbes essay promoting Governor Raimondo’s preferred narrative illustrates how she’s constructed a contrary reality… and how much organizations like Gaspee are needed as a counter.
The headline to John Hill’s Providence Journal article alerts readers to the bias: “R.I. joins voices against separating families.” In the view of the state’s major daily, these few hundred protesters represent the state.
With that as the underlying assumption, I suppose it isn’t surprising that Hill sanitizes the event so to make it palatable for those who aren’t as radical. The only hint comes with this:
[Aarish Rojiani, of AMOR, the Alliance to Mobilize our Resistance,] added that it was no coincidence that the demonstration was held across the street from the ACI: Law-enforcement policies also separate families, he said.
For the real story, turn to comprehensive coverage from the progressive UpriseRI. What Rojiani really meant when talking to the Providence Journal is that they want to end incarceration — that is, prisons. Not only that, but these supposed representatives of Rhode Island want to get rid of borders and nations altogether. That wasn’t just the view of fringe sign makers; a cheat sheet of chants that the organizers handed out puts “No borders, no nations! Stop attacking migration” as the very first one. (Note that it’s not “immigration,” even though the rhythm begs for the extra syllable; they think our borders are illegitimate.)
And so it goes. When conservatives rally, the mainstream narrative presents us as strange, extremist creatures. When radicals rally, the mainstream narrative whitewashes their extremity to make them seem like the voice of goodness.
As local papers often do with national stories, the Providence Journal strove to provide local color to a growing trend in the area of Washington, D.C., of driving Trump Administration figures out of restaurants:
“I know hundreds of restaurant owners in R.I., and I can’t think of one that would turn someone away,” said Bob Bacon, owner of the Gregg’s restaurant and bakery chain and a past chairman of the R.I. Hospitality Association, an industry trade group.
“We are all thrilled to death to be given your business,” he said.
Presumably, reporter Gail Ciampa isn’t aware of Revival Brewing Company’s cancellation of an America’s Future Foundation event at the last minute for political reasons earlier this year, even though I wrote about it in her paper.
It’s very easy for restaurants to proclaim that they’d never turn people away, and it’s easy to find a group of them that would be telling the truth with that proclamation, but that doesn’t capture the reality. AFF had a similar experience with a different establishment shortly after, but I didn’t have time to write about it, and nobody else in Rhode Island media seems to care.
“It could never happen here,” the saying goes… except when it does. Then nobody will notice so that they can continue to believe their pleasant fiction.
Not long ago, Christian writer Rod Dreher coined the Law of Merited Impossibility, which observes a common insinuation from the American Left whenever these sorts of stories emerge: “That will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it.” This is human nature, and conservatives should be prepared for things to get worse before they get better, but it’d be nice if professionals who believe themselves to be objective were able to acknowledge it.
Letting a Rolling Stone top 500 list set the background music for a while brings both nostalgia and perspective.
Given his connection to Rhode Island (he grew up in Middletown and went to URI), General Michael Flynn’s involvement with the Trump White House and plea bargain after special counsel Robert Mueller accused him of lying to the FBI has been a big topic for the local news media. The Providence Journal’s G. Wayne Miller even won an award for a profile titled “Before the Fall.”
Given that this local interest seems to have petered out as the Mueller investigation has come into question, including around Flynn’s plea bargain, it’s important to note how the story is changing for this local boy who made it big. Lawyer/blogger John Hinderaker has followed the story in detail and believed the case against Flynn was “incredibly weak,” in part because the evidence is all in summary notes made by FBI agents, rather than recorded or transcribed. Now he highlights the following detail published in The Hill:
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) suggested Thursday in an interview wth Hill.TV’s “Rising” that evidence may have been tampered with in the case against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn. …
Meadows suggested one focus is whether FBI interview reports — known as 302 reports — about Flynn were altered to improve the chances he’d be prosecuted.
We don’t know what evidence Meadows might cite, but given recent revelations about political corruption in the FBI, especially with Peter Strzok, one of the agents who interviewed Flynn, it isn’t difficult to believe that they set him up for a process charge so Mueller could squeeze him for information that might snag the President of the United States, whom they despise.
A local political analyst for public radio uncritically promotes a Facebook post slandering the United States with no analysis anywhere to be found.
I still remember the excitement around the elementary school when a house in the neighborhood was used to film some part of a movie or TV show. (Obviously, my memory isn’t that clear, although I don’t know whether any of us ever actually knew what it was that was being filmed.) It’s almost like finding a door to another dimension when a place in this world is used in the creation of some fictional world on the screen.
As with everything else, however, the excitement sours when politics enter the mix:
A major TV show is expected to start filming in Rhode Island soon and may have helped persuade lawmakers to sweeten the state’s motion picture incentive program. …
We aren’t allowed to know what the show is or who is in it before our elected representatives commit to giving it more money — much less whether it is the kind of content we would want to subsidize — but:
… they say it is big, with $34 million in estimated production costs, which would make it the most expensive Rhode Island motion picture since the $41.5-million canine superhero flick “Underdog” in 2006.
… those credits could swell to $10.2 million thanks to an amendment inserted into the state budget passed by the House on Friday night, which would allow productions to get 30 percent of their costs back instead of 25 percent.
So why are we doing this? As Patrick Anderson reports in his Providence Journal article, the state’s own office of Revenue Analysis finds that these tax credits don’t come anywhere close to returning their investment for the State of Rhode Island (by which I understand the report to mean the state government).
Perhaps that old elementary school excitement about local movie making doesn’t ever sour for those who get to spend other people’s money to make it happen.
Just sayin’. Neither of the following is purely objective reportage, but the first is stealthily positive, while the second is overtly negative in its focus, its overstatement of the action taken, and insistent reduction to partisan disagreement.
In gay rights victory, Obama administration won’t defend Defense of Marriage Act
The Obama administration said Wednesday that it will no longer defend the federal law that bans the recognition of same-sex marriage because it considers the legislation unconstitutional, a sudden and rare reversal.
Trump administration won’t defend ACA in case brought by GOP states
The Trump administration said Thursday night that it will not defend the Affordable Care Act against the latest legal challenge to its constitutionality — a dramatic break from the executive branch’s tradition of arguing to uphold existing statutes and a land mine for health insurance changes the ACA brought about.
Look, I’m not going to pretend that I haven’t been on the media-bias bandwagon almost since I began really paying attention to politics nearly 20 years ago, but we’re getting to the point that anything negative that a mainstream news source reports about the president must, almost by necessity, be assumed to be spin, potentially to convey the opposite meaning from the truth.
Over-eagerness to proclaim a Rhode Island boom raises questions about government’s “gaming the indexes” to produce cranes without much underlying improvement in health.
Mainly for a bit of midweek creative thinking, give a read to Linda Borg’s recent article in the Providence Journal about three members of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation and their hangout session with some local youths:
Only in a state as small as Rhode Island would you be able to corral most of your congressional delegation in the basement of a brew pub.
But there they were — U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, U.S. Rep. James Langevin and U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse — taking photographs and playing shuffleboard with some 65 millennials against the din of pop music. U.S. Sen. Jack Reed had planned on attending the meet-and-greet but got pulled away on official business.
Many of the college-age students were from organized progressive organizations; a couple had either worked for one of the congressmen or campaigned for them. The mood was relaxed, the questions mostly of the softball variety. This was friendly territory for the delegation, with hardly a Republican in sight.
Take note of the very last line of the article: “Sunday’s event was organized by all four members of the delegation.”
The creative part comes in imagining how the story would be presented differently were our delegation made up of conservative Republicans. First of all, the article wouldn’t lead with the misleading impression that some vague “you” had managed to “corral” the politicians together, in a sign of the warm closeness of our small state. Rather, it would start with the fact that the politicians had organized the event. Maybe the headline would be “Party Faithful Get Special Access,” and it would go something like this:
The promise of campaign-funded beer was not enough to fill the booths in the basement of a local brew pub, as Rhode Island’s conservative congressmen and one of two U.S. senators sought to lure young activists into their campaigns.
The absent senator had planned to attend but decided that his time was better spent elsewhere. Those who attended managed to slip in a few softball questions between bar games and to pose for campaign-ready “candid” photos with the three white Republican men.
If you’re a Democrat with substantive questions for your elected officials, you would not have been welcome.
As I told John DePetro in our segment last week, the attack on Sinclair Broadcasting and Channel 10 in Rhode Island has the feel of scapegoating, as if the mainstream media writ large wants to offload its own sins onto a creature it can banish into the desert. That sense arose again whencombining two items from the Providence Journal.
The first is a column by Executive Editor Alan Rosenberg, who describes how the paper’s national owner, GateHouse Media, provides lots of content and support for local papers, without “must run” stories as with Sinclair. Conspicuous, here, is that the content for which Channel 10 is currently under fire was essentially a corporate advertisement promising straightforward news, in contrast to “fake news” from elsewhere.
Well, just last week, I got identical emails at exactly the same time from the Providence Journal and Fall River Herald, both GateHouse outlets, asking me to subscribe: “Real News, Because the truth Matters. Truth and Honesty. We know what matters.” That sounds quite a bit like the Sinclair spots, which included language like, “We work very hard to seek the truth and strive to be fair, balanced, and factual.” Is it really the difference between journalistic integrity and a threat to our democracy that Sinclair had its news anchors read its version of that ad?
The second relevant item in the Providence Journal is an article by Katherine Gregg about a protest of fewer than two dozen people against Channel 10. Anybody who’s followed local labor union activities will recognize the names of Patricia Ricci and Louis Rainone, and that connection is intrinsic:
“I am here to protest Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s attempt to muzzle what we think is free speech,″ said Scott Molloy, the retired University of Rhode Island labor-studies professor who appeared to be leading the protest by the newly formed “Free Speech Coalition.”
Rainone’s group, Jobs with Justice, is heavily funded by local labor unions, such as the RI AFL-CIO, and the AFL-CIO is an umbrella union covering Katherine Gregg’s labor union at the Providence Journal. Shouldn’t that connection be worth a parenthetical note in an article about union activists attacking a competing news outlet?
Reporting about the budget’s change in payments to hospitals for uncompensated care raises more questions than it answers, pointing to the complexity of government spending and the vulnerability of taxpayers.
Think whatever you like about Diamond and Silk, specifically, and capitalizing on the political success of Donald Trump, generally, but their conflict with Facebook provides a very helpful lesson for one’s interaction with the Internet:
Diamond And Silk have been corresponding since September 7, 2017, with Facebook (owned by Mark Zuckerberg), about their bias censorship and discrimination against D&S brand page. Finally after several emails, chats, phone calls, appeals, beating around the bush, lies, and giving us the run around, Facebook gave us another bogus reason why Millions of people who have liked and/or followed our page no longer receives notification and why our page, post and video reach was reduced by a very large percentage. Here is the reply from Facebook. Thu, Apr 5, 2018 at 3:40 PM: “The Policy team has came to the conclusion that your content and your brand has been determined unsafe to the community.” Yep, this was FB conclusion after 6 Months, 29 days, 5 hrs, 40 minutes and 43 seconds. Oh and guess what else Facebook said: “This decision is final and it is not appeal-able in any way.” (Note: This is the exact wording that FB emailed to us.)
Obviously, this is just one side of the story, but the fact remains that anybody who builds their Internet presence primarily by using somebody else’s platform is subject to the whims of that other party. Use Facebook to build a following, and that other party is Facebook. Build your online presence with a heavy reliance on Google referrals, and online giant’s algorithm may subtly shift to move you down the list of every search.
And it won’t always be obvious that it’s happening.
The lesson is a back-to-basics one. Use these platforms for self promotion, but get people interacting with a URL that you own, and build it up with your content, not the tricks that social media allow.
That’s harder, yes, but it’s a more stable strategy than building on a foundation that others can disappear with the push of a button.
I’m not sure why Patrick Anderson weaves together the hoopla about Sinclair Broadcasting’s recent promotional script with the idea of banning non-compete agreements in journalists’ contracts. That he strives to do so gives the impression of an ulterior motive to construct a narrative, as does the monolithic presentation of non-competes:
Used in a number of industries, non-compete clauses prevent employees from taking a job with a competing company for a set period of time, often one year, after they end their employment, even if it was the station that decided to part ways. …
Former WJAR investigative reporter Jim Taricani called non-competes unfair in written testimony supporting the bill.
“Prohibiting an employee from finding work to support themselves and their families is an outrageous condition of employment,” Taricani wrote. “Unlike non-compete clauses used for employees who work for companies where they may have knowledge of company ‘secrets’ or ‘confidential product research,’ ‘on-air’ talent in broadcasting have no such knowledge of any confidential information.”
The reasons for non-competes vary from industry to industry. In some cases, knowledge of sensitive information is the thing being protected. When I worked for a carpentry temp agency, non-competes were a way of preventing contractors from using the company as a trial service. In the case of journalism, building up contacts and expertise is a critical part of the job, and people who appear on camera are intrinsically part of a station’s brand.
I’m not, therefore, endorsing non-competes, but these aren’t crazy points to make. WPRI and WJAR have invested in Tim White and Parker Gavigan, respectively, to develop contacts and credibility for investigative reports; if WJAR were to hire White away, WPRI would lose one of its key faces and would have to scramble to rebuild its brand on a very important line of products.
Of course, that should encourage the company to make sure that its star employees are happy, but that balance should be subject to negotiation. For newcomers, a non-compete agreement could be something of a box, but further along in a career, an employee may offer a non-compete as a way to get more money out of the employer. If new employees don’t like the box, they don’t have to take the job.
The speed with which people turn to government to enforce whatever they think is in their best interest at any given time is disturbing to behold.
This news, reported by Steve Peoples and Emily Swanson of the Associated Press, is really not at all surprising:
A majority of young people believe President Donald Trump is racist, dishonest and “mentally unfit” for office, according to a new survey that finds the nation’s youngest potential voters are more concerned about the Republican’s performance in the White House than older Americans.
The poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and MTV found that just 33 percent of Americans between the ages of 15 and 34 approve of Trump’s job performance.
Among all adults, that number was 9 percentage points higher, or 42%, which is well above recently reported results for Democrat governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo (at 37%).
In general, though, the news media gives undeserved attention to the opinions of teens and young adults, and reporters do so for the very reason that they shouldn’t: Those in this age group are the most susceptible to the non-stop propaganda that the news and entertainment media dish out.
Of course younger Americans are more likely to feel that the president is “racist, dishonest and ‘mentally unfit’ for office.” That’s the message that is hammered again and again by unfunny comics and opinionated journalists.
To be sure, that’s not to say that all coverage is terrible, and it’s certainly not to say that Donald Trump doesn’t deserve criticism. But just like adults who laud the wisdom of children who repeat their opinions back to them, proclamations that younger folks hold the view that big-time opinion setters say they should have is more rightly seen as evidence of an echo, not a harmony of independently considered voices.
On multiple issues, the Rhode Island news media seems either to inhabit a different universe or to be deliberately skewing Rhode Islanders’ perspective of reality.
This is a good point, but the folks who are giving them a platform from which to embarrass themselves do deserve some push back. Both the media and the anti-gun activists propping these poor kids up need to be called out here. https://t.co/XCmMALQexn
— Giovanni Cicione (@GioCicione) February 21, 2018
Senator Kettle has responded to the threat of an unpleasant ejection process by resigning; unfortunately, even districts that haven’t been deprived of representation are still stuck with the rest of the Senate.
If news reports involving guns didn’t so often seem more like activism than journalism, people wouldn’t find it so credible that journalists would promote outside activists as students.
I see a lot of posts from actors and actresses saying they support the Parkland students. Why don’t they put their money where their mouth is and pledge not to work in a show or movie depicting gun violence?
— Don Botts (@DonBotts) February 21, 2018
The First Amendment is implicated in school shootings, too, but we’re not going to end the nightmare until we fix whatever is making kids want to do this to each other.
The dynamics of rent control and public debate pit dry lessons by people with no incentive to promote them against heart rending stories from activists, leading to bad policies that hurt everybody but a lucky few… and the activists.
Something in this headline from Politico raises a meta question:
— POLITICO (@politico) February 14, 2018
Even putting aside the distinction between the president’s budget and the private donations of one of his secretaries, anybody who’s vaguely familiar with political philosophy would see that the implied gotcha of this headline is bogus. Giving one’s own money to a charity is not at all inconsistent with reducing the compulsory charity of taxpayer funding to the same group. (Yes, it’s deliberate that “compulsory charity” is any oxymoron.)
So here’s the meta question: Do the journalists who publish this sort of story not foresee this obvious response, indicating that they are reporting on subject matter without understanding how about half of their potential audience will see it, or are they framing stories mainly as an opposition party would, with the goal of hurting an elected official with whom they disagree?
In some ways, this is a minor critique of promotion, but in other ways, it seems related to huge problems in our country these days. WPRI’s Ted Nesi just retweeted the following, wherein CNN Executive Producer Katie Hinman promotes a story currently on her organization’s Web site. Keep in mind that the linked story is about a single controversy with a single insurer in a single state:
— Katie Hinman (@khinman) February 12, 2018
Hinman is extrapolating from this one story — which is definitely newsworthy — to assert outrageous behavior by an entire industry. One needn’t be a fan of that industry in order to think that’s irresponsible behavior from a news executive.
Most definitely, CNN should keep digging to find out whether Aetna’s behavior is even more scandalous, because unique, or the scandal is much bigger in scope, because universal. Before doing that digging, though, CNN is just hoping that the story plays out in a particular way and trying to gain attention for a conclusion based on work that it hasn’t done.
If this is modern journalism, then that’s outrageous, explosive evidence of how news companies actually function.
R.W. Alley: “A Shift in the Media” pic.twitter.com/xx4KAiZhqF
— GoLocalProv (@GoLocalProv) February 4, 2018