What Was Felix Salmon Thinking?

April 24, 2014 by  
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Financial journalist Felix Salmon, who writes in unusually clear prose about economics, has announced that he is leaving Reuters to join a mysterious entity called “Fusion.” The hopping of journalists from media-entity to media-entity is not ordinarily interesting, but Salmon is an unusually perceptive writer about trends, and his announcement contained an incredibly bizarre set of assertions about the future of journalism. By contrast to those who feel that the decline of books and in-depth journalism is unfortunate, Salmon says that the true problem is that Web journalism is too detailed:

“The reason why I am going to Fusion… is that they have the ability to help me communicate in the ways that people are going to consume information in the future. Which is not 1,500-word blocks of text.”

1,500 words, mind you, is not much text. It’s hardly a 40,000 word New Yorker profile or a serialized Dickens novel, though I suppose it’s a little longer than the average listicle or piece of Slate counter-intuition. A ceiling of 1,500 suggests an incredible level of uniform shallowness.

Salmon did release a long-form statement giving a bit more context. Fusion is “a TV channel aimed mainly at millennials, whose only real guiding rule is that it’s going to stay away from anything conventional.” In case that’s unclear, Salmon tells us that out of all possible business models, its is “cross-media,” although he says that label, too, doesn’t quite capture it. It will also be “promiscuous media.” Either way, it will “serve up high-quality Fusion-branded content to a new generation of digital natives.” If any of that’s decipherable, I certainly can’t make anything of it myself.

In the most stunning part of the announcement, Salmon writes that “the core of what I do at Fusion will be post-text.” Salmon says that while “text has had an amazing run, especially online,” its time has basically passed, and he implies that not just books, but text itself will soon be a relic. Banishing 1,500 word text-blocks is just the start, even tweets will soon be laughably prolix.

Salmon doesn’t explain what a post-text world will look like, though he reassures us it’s going to be “fun.” Detractors might concede his point, and say we’ve already seen this world and it consists mostly of cat photos. Salmon does say that it will involve animations, and possibly other new things. But if there’s more to it, we have to wait.

The thing about Felix Salmon is that he is very smart, and the statement is unusual in his oeuvre for its mushiness and empty industry PR jargon. Those who don’t understand why this announcement is significant or head-scratchingly weird are encouraged to go back and read his astute and often beautiful blog.

I’ve tried every explanation out in trying to figure out what Salmon is thinking and none of them make sense, except that he’s either ten steps ahead of us, has been abducted and replaced, or has joined a cult. It’s possible, of course, that he’s a visionary, and that all of us who were snarky and naysaid him will soon find our faces coated with egg. My suspicion, however, is that even possession of a critical intelligence cannot in itself eliminate the allure of glitzy new-media trendy bullshit. Hang around this stuff long enough, even as a detached journalist, and as a rule you’ll end up believing in it.

Tech Millionare Who Beat Girlfriend 117 Times Ducks Jail Despite Damning Video

April 23, 2014 by  
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RadiumOne CEO Gurbaksh Chahal pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence and battery charges last week, dodging 45 felony counts for the videotaped 30-minute beating of his girlfriend.

Chahal, 31, faces no jail time. He was sentenced to three years’ probation, 52 weeks in a domestic violence training program and 25 hours of community service. The Internet mogul was arrested in August after police responded to a 911 domestic violence call at his San Francisco penthouse apartment.

His girlfriend told arriving officers that she was unable to breathe and that Chahal had told her four times, “I’m going to kill you,” San Francisco Officer Anh Nguyen told the San Francisco Business Times in March. “She stated she was in fear for her life.”

Home security footage reportedly showed Chahal beating and kicking his girlfriend 117 times during the 30-minute attack. Prosecutors said Chahal lashed out at his girlfriend upon learning that she had cheated on him with another man during a trip to Las Vegas, according to court documents.

Soon after Chahal posted his $1 million bail and hired former federal prosecutor James Lassart as his attorney, his girlfriend stopped cooperating with the investigation and refused to testify against him. During a preliminary hearing, Lassart, who is also defending embattled state Sen. Leland Yee (D-Calif.) on corruption charges, did not deny that Chahal repeatedly struck his girlfriend, but insisted the physical damage was overblown.

In a crippling blow to the prosecution, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Brendan Conroy ruled that the surveillance video could not be used as evidence because police seized it illegally from Chahal’s apartment. The prosecution argued it likely would have been erased if police had waited for a warrant.

Alex Bastian, spokesman with the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, issued a statement after the guilty plea on Thursday.

“We disagree with the judge’s suppression of the video. The judge’s ruling substantially weakened the evidence we had for prosecution,” Bastian said. “Though it is not the outcome we had hoped for, the case has reached a resolution where the defendant acknowledges guilt, is placed on domestic violence probation and has to take domestic violence classes.”

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “The deal also means that Chahal — with no felony conviction — will be allowed to stay on the board of his $100 million-a-year social advertising technology company, RadiumOne, which has been preparing to go public.”

Chahal, once named one of America’s “most eligible bachelors” by ExtraTV, managed to advance his online-advertising network into its final stages for an initial public stock offering despite his arrest. He also secured a new partnership with publisher Condé Nast in April.

Chahal sold his first online-ad network, ClickAgents.com Inc., to ValueClick Inc. at the age of 16 for $20.5 million in stock. Seven years later, he sold BlueLithium Inc., which he also founded, to Yahoo for $300 million in cash.

In 2009, he authored a book about himself called The Dream: How I Learned the Risks and Rewards of Entrepreneurship and Made Millions.

How Rand Paul may owe his presidential bid to Hall of Fame journalist Mark Hebert

April 22, 2014 by  
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Blue moon of Kentucky
Keep on shining

-Bill Monroe

If Senator Rand Paul becomes President Rand Paul in 2017, he may have Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame inductee Mark Hebert to thank.

Follow my logic here.

In 2002, Kentucky Governor Paul Patton was finishing his second term with high popularity ratings and his eye on taking on incumbent Senator Jim Bunning in 2004. An incumbent Governor in Kentucky has little trouble raising money and Patton had a terrific campaign organization. Odds are very strong that he would have beaten Bunning, who won his race in 1998 by a small margin.

Instead, Patton’s political career was derailed when television journalist Mark Hebert broke the story of a fascinating scandal. While serving as Governor, Paul Patton was having an extramarital affair with Tina Conner, a nursing home operator that Patton had also appointed to Kentucky’s lottery board.

Without Patton in the race, the Democrats went to a relatively unknown State Senator from Hazard, Dr. Daniel Mongiardo. Mongiardo was outspent about five to one by Bunning, but still came within a percentage point of winning. In a year when Presidential nominee John Kerry lost Kentucky by a large margin and an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment brought out a large conservative vote.

Mongiardo gave himself a chance to win, but millionaire Paul Patton would have matched or exceeded Bunning in fundraising and organization and cruised to victory.

Bunning left the Senate at the end of the term and Rand Paul took his place. If Paul Patton had been Senator Paul Patton, it’s unlikely that Rand Paul would have taken him on and even more unlikely that Paul would be elected.

It took a journalist with Mark Hebert’s talents, and courage, to dig out a scandal about a sitting Governor and make it a national story. With a long-term national impact.

I’m thrilled to see that Mark is being inducted into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame. Before Hebert took a top job at the University of Louisville, he was considered by many to be one of the best investigative broadcast journalists in the history of Kentucky.

I would suspect that Paul Patton would agree. Hebert told me that Patton always treated him with professional respect and candor, even after Mark did the story that sunk his political career. Patton was the ultimate political professional who understood that Mark Hebert, the ultimate journalism professional, was doing his job of digging up news and letting people know about it.

As he was the ultimate journalism professional, and eventually my friend, Mark and I got off to a rocky start. Mark, who never lost the bluntness of his upstate New York heritage, was very unhappy when I started appearing, in 2004, on the ultimate Kentucky journalism television program, Comment on Kentucky.

Although it is common now, especially on Washington-based news shows, for journalists to have outside business interests, not be affiliated with a legacy media outlet and do various things to promote themselves, it was extremely unusual in 2004 and I suspect I was the Kentucky pioneer in the genre.

Although it took Mark and other establishment journalists a while to warm up to me, eventually they did as host Al Smith (a newspaper publisher who understood living in two worlds) was stubborn enough to make me a semi-regular on Comment on Kentucky.

I got into journalism midlife as I wanted to do what Mark, Al Cross, Tom Loftus and the establishment types were doing: taking on the bad guys.

Mark got to see that taking shots at politicians, without the protection of a multibillion dollar media chain, had some extreme risks. Especially for me.

I started to notice that every time I was critical of the Governor on Comment on Kentucky or in my syndicated newspaper column, various state inspectors started showing up at my financial business. It could have been coincidence, but I viewed the stream of inspectors as an scare tactic or a shakedown.

I did what any good journalist would do when someone is trying to intimidate them. I wrote about it.

Hebert did what a good journalist should do. He followed up on my story himself.

Mark interviewed me and my office staff; he did an open records request of the inspectors schedules, interviewed various people in the departments and ran his own story. He did not find a Chris Christie-like trail to the Governor’s inner circle, but he did find a lot of smoke and a lot of suspicious activity.

Before Mark did his story, I seemed to be audited or inspected by every agency in Kentucky state government on a weekly basis. Even some that had no regulatory power over what I do.

Once he did the story, that stopped completely.

I am thrilled that Mark is going into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame. An interesting class as he goes in with highly acclaimed Eastern Kentucky University Journalism Professor Liz Hansen and the “Doctor of Gonzo Journalism” Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. I hate that Mark is not out on the beat, keeping the rich and powerful from feeling too rich and powerful but he made a great career move at the right time.

It takes a lot of courage and passion to be willing to take on powerful enemies, but Mark has both.

Coming from a Democrat who has watched Rand Paul from ground zero, he will be a formidable presidential candidate. He often gets underestimated, but that is a mistake for anyone going up against him. He is a complicated candidate in a complicated world. I suspect that the public is so tired of cookie cutter, poll-driven, blow-dried talking heads that a person like Paul, who is a little off the beaten path is going to get some attention.

Inheriting his father’s organization and fund raising skill, I can see Paul becoming the 2016 Republican nominee. Hillary Clinton seems like a heavy favorite to be the Democratic nominee and next president but Paul is such an unusual candidate, who picks unusual issues that he could be the kind of candidate that drives Clinton crazy in a one on one race.

He is the first real presidential contender from Kentucky since Harry Truman’s Vice President Alben Barkley and connects with voters in a way that Washington insiders have a hard time understanding.

I only know Paul on a superficial level and was a friend of both of the candidates he beat for Senate. However, I picked Paul to win very early as I could see that Kentucky voters were on his wavelength.

Like him or dislike him, but respect the idea that he could be president.

I have no idea where Hebert stands politically. Like most professional journalists, he has kept his politics to himself and was equal opportunity in his ability to inflict pain on candidates in both parties.

It’s said that journalism is the first draft of history. If Rand Paul becomes president or a presidential nominee, it can be said that the very first draft came from the dogged investigative work of Mark Hebert.

Who is now in the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame.

Don McNay is a former syndicated columnist and is a best selling author. You can read about him www.donmcnay.com

Tim Zickuhr Arrested: ‘Ice Road Truckers’ Star Accused of Kidnapping And Beating Prostitute

April 22, 2014 by  
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Tim Zickuhr, one of the drivers on History’s reality TV show “Ice Road Truckers: Deadliest Roads,” is accused of kidnapping, beating and threatening to kill a Las Vegas prostitute named Snow White, according to multiple media reports.

Zickuhr, who appears in the second season of the “Ice Road Truckers” spinoff, allegedly hired the prostitute in December and gave her his ATM card, telling her to withdraw the money for her services, The Hollywood Reporter said, citing court papers.

But she reportedly took out too much money.

I only withdrew the $80 I was supposed to and an additional $120 that I wasn’t,” Snow White, real name Lisa Cadeau, said in an email to the New York Daily News.

Zickuhr allegedly went door to door looking for Cadeau, she said in her email. When he finally caught up to her, Zickuhr demanded $1,000, she said.

At various points during the ordeal that followed, Zickuhr allegedly beat her, tied her up with backpack straps, poured cold water over her from a mop bucket, locked her in a closet and forced her to jump from a second-floor window and onto a carport, according to a police report cited by multiple media outlets.

She told the Daily News that she gave him $300. When she couldn’t pay the rest, he demanded the number of someone who could. That’s when Cadeau, who had been a “citizen source” for police, gave him the number of a cop who had told her to call if she was ever in trouble, the Las Vegas Sun reports.

Zickuhr, not knowing he was speaking to a police officer, said that if he didn’t get the money, “he was going to go to Mexico to kill Snow White,” according to an arrest report cited by KVVU-TV.

Then, he put Cadeau on the line.

“Help me, he’s going to kill me,” she reportedly said.

Police say that when arrested, Zickuhr “immediately admitted that he made a mistake,” adding that he had planned to put an ad for her on Craigslist and force her to have sex for money for his benefit, according to the Sun.

Cadeau suffered injuries to her face and arms as well as cuts on her wrist where she had been tied up.

In a promotional video for “Ice Road Truckers: Deadliest Roads,” Zickuhr described himself as “an adrenaline junkie” and said “the action is the juice for me.”

He also called himself an “outlaw,” something that could soon be true in a very literal sense as he faces charges of kidnapping, extortion and coercion.

His next court appearance is scheduled for May 6.

Lindsay Lohan’s Words For The Person Who Leaked Her ‘Sex List’

April 21, 2014 by  
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Last month, tabloids reported that Lindsay Lohan had kept a record of her alleged sexual partners, releasing a handwritten list to the public that included the names of 36 men, including A-List celebrities. In the finale of her OWN docu-series, Lohan addressed the controversy, saying that she wrote the list while in rehab at the Betty Ford Center.

“That list that came out, that was a part of my [time at] Betty Ford. It’s step number five or step number eight,” she says, referring to the 12 steps followed by Alcoholics Anonymous. “That was in my Betty Ford book, so that was really personal to my sponsor. You write that for your sponsor.”

(Step five is admitting the exact nature of one’s wrongs. Step eight is making a list of all who one has harmed.)

Lohan believes the list was discovered when she was moving out of the Beverly Hills Hotel. “There were two people there that helped me move,” Lohan says. “All of my books from [Betty Ford] were in that. So, someone took a photo.”

The actress also believes she knows who is responsible for taking and releasing that photo to the media. “Pretty sure I know who it is, unfortunately,” she says. “They’re not a part of my life at all anymore. They might be on the show at some point, but they’re not [in my life].”

Lohan says she knows that she wasn’t the only one hurt by the list being leaked. “I don’t care about me in that situation. I care about the people that are involved with other people because it’s really unfortunate and disrespectful,” Lohan says.

She also opens up about her own reaction. “The fact that that happened was not only humiliating, but just mean. It was mean-spirited for someone to do that,” Lohan says. “That is a desperate human being and I hope they find some peace. Because anyone that’s willing to do that to someone else is really f***ed up in the head. And I don’t want that in my life.”

Read more about the “Lindsay” finale here | Full coverage

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4 French Journalists Home After Long Syrian Ordeal

April 20, 2014 by  
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PARIS (AP) — Four French journalists kidnapped and held for 10 months in Syria returned home Sunday to joyful families, a presidential welcome and questions about how France managed to obtain their freedom from Islamic extremists.

The four — Edouard Elias, Didier Francois, Nicolas Henin and Pierre Torres — were freed by their kidnappers a day earlier at the Turkish border. They were captured in two separate incidents last June. At an emotional welcome ceremony at Villacoublay military airport outside Paris, President Francois Hollande saluted their return as “a moment of joy” for France.

“This is a day of great joy for them as you can imagine, for their families … but it is a day of great joy for France,” he said.

Hollande saluted Turkish authorities for helping in the journalists’ return but did not elaborate.

“It’s such a delight and a relief to be free, to see the sky … to breath the fresh air, to walk, to talk to you,” said Francois, a noted war reporter for Europe 1.

Elias, a freelance photographer, also was working for Europe 1 radio. Henin and Torres are freelance journalists.

Later, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius reiterated “France does not pay ransom” for hostages in an interview with Europe 1 radio. He also said no weapons were delivered to the Islamic radicals holding the four.

“There was no question of contact with the Syrian government” of Bashir Assad, whom France and other Western nations blame for Syria’s civil war and want removed from power, Fabius said.

“So it was of another nature,” he said, suggesting some bargain was struck.

The journalists’ captors have not been formally identified, although the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, among the most radical of the Islamic groups operating in Syria, is a main suspect. A Syrian who served as translator and guide for two of the journalists said that breakaway al-Qaida group surely captured them in the eastern province of Raqqa.

Hussam al-Ahmad, 23, told The Associated Press that Henin and Torres aroused the fighters’ suspicion after they entered a school and asked to take pictures of the fighters as they played soccer. The journalists were seized four days after an initial interrogation, al-Ahmad said.

Francois said the captivity “was long but we never doubted” in an eventual liberation. He said journalists need to go to Syria — the world’s most dangerous conflict for them — because someone must describe the civil war there to the world.

“Our families suffered” for this choice, he said, his voice cracking with emotion.

Henin, his young child in his arms, said in brief remarks that he was “not always” treated well in captivity but did not elaborate. He told France 24 TV station earlier he was held in “about 10 places of captivity, prisons, mostly with other people.”

Just before being freed, Henin said the group was offered extra food but hardly given time to eat.

“Minutes later, they said, ‘Let’s go. To the border.’”

Fabius denied a Turkish media report that the freed hostages were left blindfolded and handcuffed at the border. He said French authorities had known for two weeks that “things were nearing.”

Syria is considered the world’s most dangerous assignment for journalists. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in April that 61 journalists were kidnapped in Syria in 2013, while more than 60 have been killed since the conflict began in 2011.

The widespread abductions of journalists is unprecedented and has been largely unreported by news organizations in the hope that may help negotiations on freeing the captives. Jihadi groups against the Syrian government are believed to be behind most recent kidnappings.


Catherine Gaschka in Paris contributed to this report.

What Type Of Pot Smoker Are You?

April 19, 2014 by  
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Like snowflakes or THC crystals*, no two pot smokers are truly the same.

But even in a group as diverse as marijuana users, certain patterns do emerge. For example, does your pot use lead to endless pontification? You might be what we call the philosopher smoker. Or does your mind wander alone when you’re stoned? If so, you’re probably more the loner-artist type.

Being as it’s 4/20 weekend, what better time to discover where you land on the stoner spectrum? Take our quiz below to find out.

Quiz widget by

*OK, OK, THC crystals tend to look pretty uniform up close, but you get where we were going with it.

Major Media Does Not Rally Behind Pulitzers for Snowden Stories

April 18, 2014 by  
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First, the good news: The Pulitzer Prize for Public Service was not only the best covered of its awards this year, but it recognized a series of disclosures that made many media outlets nervous, if not adversarial — the publication of NSA secrets leaked by Edward Snowden.

They recognized the reporting by the Guardian in England and also Bart Gellman’s work in the Washington Post even as they, did not recognize the work directly of Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras whose independent reporting appeared in many newspapers.

Laura and Glenn still make the news world nervous because a) they are outspoken, b) not always under the control and discipline of traditional editors and have a respectful and acknowledged positive relationship with their source as if that is a high crime or misdemeanor. It is significant that they were recognized by the Polk awards, but not the Pulitzer.

In some higher circles, their source, Ed Snowden, is still considered a traitor or worse.

The Pulitzer Prize is the big enchilada in the media word announced in a formal ceremony at the Pulitzer room in the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism on New York’s Morningside Heights. The journalists who win these prizes are recognized for life as “Pulitzer Prize Winners” a sign that they reached the highest heights in the profession. It’s a ticket to raises and more recognition.

I once was once told by a former dean of the same “J school” — where I taught as an adjunct — that they considered themselves the “Taj Mahal” of American Journalism. I didn’t have the heart to remind her that the original Taj was built as a tomb.

Almost as significant as the prizes to stories emanating from a whistle blower, was the award to an investigative report into coal miners who were denied black lung disease benefits by one of the new not-for-profit media organizations, the Center for Public Integrity. A CPI reporter, Chris Hamby, won that one.

The ink on his award was not even dry before ABC News, a network I used to work for, muscled in with a high profile media claim that since they aired a story based on Hamby’s reporting, they deserved the Pulitzer too. The embarrassingly loud demand for credit by outgoing ABC President Ben Sherwood was gently, and then indignantly rebuffed by the Center’s Director Ben Buzenberg,

According to Talking Points Memo, Buzenberg said: “I don’t take well to being bullied by anybody or threatened by anybody. We just stuck to the facts.”

Buzenberg explained that the Pulitzer committee did not award the prize for broadcast pieces and told ABC to cease its demands.

“The Center is prepared to show in great detail how little ABC’s Brian Ross and Matt Mosk understood about even the most fundamental concepts and key facts and how they repeatedly turned to Chris to advise them or, in some instances, to do their work for them,” he wrote in the letter.

He noted in a letter to ABC:

“Though you have framed the issue as the Center seeking to diminish ABC’s contributions, the reality is quite the opposite: ABC is seeking to take credit for a large body of work that it did not produce. These are the facts, as confirmed under the very strict Pulitzer Prize rules by the Pulitzer Administrator Sig Gissler again just yesterday.”

Having worked at ABC for eight years and written about the experience in my book. The More You Watch, The Less You Know, I could identify with Buzenberg’s taking umbrage at network arrogance and bullying.

In my experience, TV executives see their shops as if they are military units under the control of the men who control the control rooms. (After reports leave the control room, they pass through the even more Orwellian sounding “Master Control.”) These news chiefs would not do well on school report cards evaluating their ability to “work well with others.”

The TV networks are desperate these days for legitimating recognition in a media world that has fragmented, and in which they no longer have the commanding position.

That is not say, that they don’t also relish insider recognition and pats on the head from people in power.

NBC has hosts who are sympathetic to Snowden and Nightly News has carried investigative reports but the the initial tone of its contempt for the whistleblower was nasty when Meet the Press host David Gregory sniped at Glenn Greenwald, asking why he shouldn’t be in jail.

Even as the newspaper world recognized its obligation to recognize the Snowden story — sans Snowden, of course, who the Moscow Times reports has run out of money in his forced exile but may finally have a new job — another major network disses Snowden.

CBS News, once known as the network of Edward R Murrow and, then, Walter Cronkite has veered in another direction since it canned Dan Rather after a star chamber proceeding to punish him for a story showing that president Bush lied about his military credentials.

Today, predictably, CBS has gone the other way on the Snowden story too. That shouldn’t be a surprise for an outlet that appointed Pentagon groupie Lara Logan as its chief foreign correspondent, only to be called on their attempt to cover-up her erroneous Benghazi report that gave credence to right-wing spin on the subject.

More recently, CBS produced a two part pro-NSA story on 60 Minutes, reported by John Miller who acknowledged on air that he has worked for the Director of National Intelligence, but, then after it ran, left the network to become an intelligence chief at the New York Police Department.

As the Village Voice reported:

“Miller is not the first reporter to make this sort of switch — newsrooms are shrinking and folks have families to feed. He has shown that there is a viable, and lucrative, career in circling the revolving door between journalism and law enforcement (or any other institution).”

Now, CBS, the “big eye” network, has gone even further, as Danny Weil reports:

‘CBS News has hired former acting director of the CIA, Mike Morell, as their senior security correspondent. Morell has been a frequent guest on CBS’ Face the Nation, where he has disseminated CIA propaganda and misleading information, raising questions about CBS’ journalistic integrity. Morell also works for Beacon Global Strategies, a DC consulting firm which peddles its government connections to defense contractors, raising even more questions about his role at CBS.

(This news came a few days after it was reported that CBS overlord, Les Moonves, is now bringing home $63 million a year.)

On December 23, 2013, Morell appeared on Face the Nation, where he promoted the government’s campaign to prosecute Edward Snowden. On that day, Morell stated:

“He violated the trust put in him by the United States government. He has committed a crime, in my view. You know a whistleblower doesn’t run. A whistleblower does not disclose information that has nothing to do with what he says his cause is which is the privacy and civil liberties of Americans. You know if I could talk to Mister Snowden myself, what I would say is, Edward, you say you’re a patriot, you say you want to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans, you say that you wanted Americans to have a debate about this and to make up their mind about what to do about this. Well, if you really believe that, if you really believe that Americans should be the judge of this program, then you should also believe that the Americans should be the judge of your behavior in this regard. So if you are the patriot that you say you are, you should come home and be judged.”

Now, it’s our turn to judge: is this or is this not media complicity in the surveillance state? Bear in mind that had Snowden not done what he had — and if Greenwald and Poitras hadn’t done what they did — we would not have learned of what’s being done by the NSA in our name. If we had waited on the big media to tell the story, we would all still be waiting.

News Dissector Danny Schechter edits Mediachannel.org and blogs at News Dissector.net. His latest book is Madiba A to Z: the Many Faces of Nelson Mandela. (Madibabook.com) Comments to dissector@mediachannel.org.

I’m Gonna Be a Professional Tweet Reader

April 17, 2014 by  
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My preparation is nearly complete: I have been building up strength in my index finger by moving it back and forth in a horizontal motion countless times daily.

I utter “hashtag” aloud whenever possible. When my children ask who I’m talking to, I put the aforementioned finger to my lips, silencing them while I continue my regimen.

Finally, I stand in front of a mirror, practicing various expressions of shock, surprise, anger, incredulousness and my best, “I can’t believe somebody tweeted that” look.

Now all that’s left to do is finish my resume, send it to television outlets nationwide and announce that, yes, I’m ready to become a professional tweet reader.

Welcome to the latest vocation under the broadcast media talent umbrella — peering at a laptop screen and starring in a segment called “What Do YOU think?” or something similar. Local news anchors, after reporting that residents in their viewing areas are outraged by property tax increases, often turn to their “social media correspondents” who announce that, according to Twitter, the #property #tax #increase indeed has viewers #outraged. And here’s a tweet from @teapartydude745 to prove it!

Last December The Today Show ensconced Carson Daly — who vies with Ryan Seacrest for the title of “TV guy with most jobs” — in the “Orange Room,” a slice of the NBC set devoted exclusively to monitoring the Twittersphere. As Orange Room emperor, Daly presides over a large map that could easily do double duty for Al Roker’s weather segments or CNN “Where’s That Plane?” updates. But instead of pointing at raincloud, snow flurry, tornado or black box clip art, Daly’s Twitter-trained fingers swipe different geographical areas, revealing actual tweets from viewers in those areas. Daly then reads those tweets verbatim, raises one or more eyebrows depending on the tweet’s tone and then presumably collapses into a chair and removes his makeup, exhausted by his 90 seconds of work.

Eager to jump on the tweet-reading bandwagon, The Today Show‘s chief rival Good Morning America recently signed ESPN host Tony Reali to man a new corner of its studio, called “The Social Square.” No word on what color the studio will be but Reali’s duties are clear: Cover social media. In other words, read tweets. Time permitting, Reali may enter uncharted territory by reading Facebook posts as well.

While some media outlets embrace viewer and reader interaction, others have grown weary with the “join the conversation” vehicle. The Chicago Sun-Times recently pulled the plug on subscriber comments because, according to managing editor Craig Newman, they “too often turn into a morass of negativity, racism, hate speech and general trollish behaviors that detract from the content.”

Hopefully the Sun-Times boss eliminated the comments section before readers could prove his point by hatefully typing, “@#$%^ Craig Newman!”

Personally, I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Twitter. But what keeps me attached to the social media juggernaut is its ease of use and outlet for creativity. It’s amazing how a 140-word post can be hilarious, philosophical, insightful or, on rare occasions, a combination of all three. Follow @SteveMartinToGo for proof.

But I’m perfectly capable of searching for, and then reading those tweets all by my lonesome. I don’t need them spoon fed to me by a spray tanned TV personality. Perhaps if I were functionally illiterate I’d feel differently and would relish somebody like Daly or Reali with their high-tech maps, their tailored suits and their ability to realize that yes, President Obama is trending today!

Then again, if I were functionally illiterate I wouldn’t be watching a morning news show like The Today Show or Good Morning America.

I’d be watching Duck Dynasty. And live tweeting every episode.

Joe Biden Posts First Selfie With None Other Than President Obama

April 16, 2014 by  
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Vice President Joe Biden joined Instagram on Wednesday, and it wasn’t long before he posted his first selfie.

Hours after the vice president launched his account, he cozied up to President Barack Obama for a selfie of epic proportions.

The White House tweeted out the photo, too.

Pals. pic.twitter.com/yt5MjtLYPi

— The White House (@WhiteHouse) April 17, 2014

You can follow Biden on Instagram here.

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