Archives for category: Freedom of the Press

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is a time to reflect what we are grateful for.

What are you grateful for?

I am grateful for life. Last year, I had open heart surgery, and for the first five days after surgery, my life hung in the balance. Yet here I am, reading, writing, thinking, alive.

I am grateful for my dear family: My wife, Mary. My children, my grandchildren. I am blessed to be with and near people I love who love me.

I am grateful to live in America. Despite all the challenges our country faces, it’s still a wonderful place to live, where communities come together in bad times, and strangers act to help others.

I am grateful to live in a country where I can speak and write what I wish without fear of punishment.

I am grateful for the rise of a young generation whose idealism and vision will change our country for the better.

I am grateful for the dear friends at the Network for Public Education, whose advocacy and passion on behalf of democracy, public schools, their teachers and their teachers inspires me every day.

I am grateful for the educators who put students first, who work tirelessly for one of the nation’s most important and vital institutions.

I am grateful for the readers of this blog, many of whom have become good friends, without our having met in person. I am grateful too for what I learn every day from you.

If you have read this far, I want you to know that I don’t intend to post much this weekend. Maybe nothing at all.

John Merrow’s title is sarcastic. Of course he wants you to read banned books, and he is deeply concerned about the large number of eligible voters—especially young people—who don’t bother to vote.

When someone on Twitter posted a list of 25 popular books that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had supposedly banned from the state’s public schools, people went crazy. The list included Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” and Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time.”

Below is a screenshot of the list. How many of these books have you read? Have your children read most of them? What on earth is going on in Florida?

People familiar with DeSantis’s efforts to restrict classroom discussion of controversial topics had no trouble believing that he would try to prevent young people from reading controversial or challenging books. If DeSantis did draw up a list, these books might well be on it.

But the list is a fake, a clever satire.

Many people were fooled, including teacher union President Randi Weingarten and “Star Wars” actor Mark Hamill. Hamill’s screenshot of the list amassed more than 100,000 likes and 24,000 retweets.

(Add my name to the list of those who were taken in.)

Like all good satire, that fake list of banned books is rooted in truth, because book banning is real and growing. Florida school districts have banned around 200 books, according to a report published by PEN America, a nonprofit that tracks book banning in the U.S. Pen America ranks Florida third among US states for banning books, trailing only Texas and Pennsylvania.

We are in the midst of a pandemic of book banning, so it’s hard to imagine any title that would never be banned by some zealous or timid school board or ignorant legislator.

One way to stop this outbreak of censorship is to get active, vote, attend school board meetings, run for school board. Passivity and complaining is a losing strategy.

Time to turn back the rising tide of incipient fascism.

Lloyd Lofthouse, author, former Marine, and former teacher, explains what it means to be woke. Some Republican politicians—notably Ron DeSantis— are trying to suppress “wokeness.”

Lloyd writes:

Anyone that attacks what’s known as “woke ideology” is supporting zombie thinking and belongs to a fascist cult of ignorance.

Wokeness means someone that is highly literate, well educated, well read, is a life long learner, questions claims and uses critical thinking, problem solving and rational logic to find out if there is any truth to what these fascist zombies are shouting.

Question: Are you woke?

James Fallows wrote a fascinating article in The Atlantic about the media and its coverage of the election. Journalists are so accustomed to “both-sides-ism” that they find it almost impossible to acknowledge that Trump is lying. He lies habitually, incessantly, and most journalists can’t say that he is lying. He has his version of reality, and “some critics” disagree.

I hope the article is not behind a paywall because it’s too long to copy. And I don’t want to violate copyright law for “fair use.”

Here’s a snippet.

In pursuit of the ritual of balance, the networks offset coverage of Donald Trump’s ethical liabilities and character defects, which would have proved disqualifying in any other candidate for nearly any other job, with intense investigation of what they insisted were Hillary Clinton’s serious email problems. Six weeks before the election, Gallup published a prophetic analysis showing what Americans had heard about each candidate. For Trump, the words people most recognized from all the coverage were speech, immigration, and Mexico. For Clinton, one word dwarfed all others: EMAIL. The next two on the list, much less recognized, were lie and Foundation. (The Clinton Foundation, set up by Bill Clinton, was the object of sustained scrutiny for supposedly shady dealings that amount to an average fortnight’s revelations for the Trump empire.) One week before the election, The New York Times devoted the entire top half of its front page to stories about FBI Director James Comey’s reopening of an investigation into the emails. “New Emails Jolt Clinton Campaign in Race’s Last Days” was the headline on the front page’s lead story. “With 11 Days to Go, Trump Says Revelation ‘Changes Everything,’” read another front-page headline.

Just last week came a fresh reminder of the egregiousness of that coverage, often shorthanded as “But her emails!” On Wednesday, September 9, Bob Woodward’s tapes of Trump saying that when it came to the coronavirus, he “wanted to always play it down” came out, along with a whistleblower’s claim that the Department of Homeland Security was falsifying intelligence to downplay the risk of Russian election interference and violence from white supremacists. On the merits, either of those stories was far more important than Comey’s short-lived inquiry into what was always an overhyped scandal. But in this election season, each got a demure one-column headline on the Times’ front page. The Washington Post, by contrast, gave Woodward’s revelations banner treatment across its front page.

Who knows how the 2016 race might have turned out, and whether a man like Trump could have ended up in the position he did, if any of a hundred factors had gone a different way. But one important factor was the press’s reluctance to recognize what it was dealing with: a person nakedly using racial resentment as a tool; whose dishonesty and corruption dwarfed that of both Clintons combined, with most previous presidents’ thrown in as well; and whose knowledge about the vast organization he was about to control was inferior to that of any Capitol Hill staffer and most immigrants who had passed the (highly demanding) U.S. citizenship test.

In his account of life with Trump, Michael Cohen wrote that Trump won because he got so much free coverage by the media. The generally accepted figure is that he got $2 billion in free coverage because he was so entertaining, so unconventional, so outrageous. The media got higher ratings. And Trump promptly referred to the press as “the enemy of the people.”

A federal judge in D.C. denied the Trump administration effort to block publication of John Bolton’s book. The book will be officially published on Tuesday. The publisher has already shipped hundreds of thousands of copies. The judge said he would hold more hearings, to what purpose it is unclear.

The main effect of the effort to squelch the book will be to sell more copies. Censorship usually backfires.

Veterans of the political struggles of the 1960s explain in this open letter published in The Nation why they will vote for Joe Biden. In my view, anyone who opposes racism, fascism, and the dominance of the fanatical religious right should vote for Biden.

The letter begins:

On April 13, 2020, Senator Bernie Sanders urged his supporters to vote for the presumptive Democratic nominee, former vice president Joe Biden. Writing as founders and veterans of the leading New Left organization of the 1960s, Students for a Democratic Society, we welcome Bernie’s wise choice—but we are gravely concerned that some of his supporters, including the leadership of Democratic Socialists of America, refuse to support Biden, whom they see as a representative of Wall Street capital. Some of us are DSA members, but do not believe their position is consistent with a long-range vision of democracy, justice, and human survival.

Now it is time for all those who yearn for a more equal and just social order to face facts. All of us have charged for years that Trump is the leader of an authoritarian party that aims for absolute power; rejects climate science; embraces racism, sexism, homophobia, and violence; holds the democratic process in contempt; bids to take over the entire federal judiciary; represses voting rights; and violates plain human decency on many fronts. These are the grounds for our solemn determination: A common effort to unseat him is our high moral and political responsibility.

In our time, we fought—for a time successfully—against the sectarian politics of the Cold War. We were mindful then of the cataclysm that befell German democracy when socialists and communists fought each other—to death—as Hitler snuck by and then murdered them all.

Now we fear that some on the left cannot see the difference between a capitalist democrat and a protofascist. We hope none of us learn this difference from jail cells.

We have dedicated much of our lives to the fight to extend democracy to more people, more institutions, more places. We continue this work in diverse ways motivated now as then by a spirit of community and solidarity. But now the very existence of American democracy is in jeopardy.

Some of us think “endorsing” Joe Biden is a step too far; but we who now write this open letter all know that we must work hard to elect him. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment.

Open the link and read the rest of the letter.

I note that my good friend Mike Klonsky, who was National Secretary of SDS in 1968, decided not to sign the letter. You can read his reasons here, but he too will vote for Biden, because, as he writes:

In my view, Trump and Trumpism represent the most reactionary political force in the world today and the most immediate and serious threat to peace and human freedom in the post-WWII era.

Tactically, I’m taking my cues mainly from leading progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders who, to one degree or another, are supporting Biden’s election as a way of defeating Trump and pushing forward our progressive agenda.

Read the new ending to this post. Trump tweeted a response.

The Wall Street Journal offered some useful advice to Trump. Given his ego and vanity, he is unlikely to heed the editorial, even though it comes from his cheering section. His narcissism shields him from any criticism. He thinks that his base loves his attacks on the press. It is always surprising to see any member of the press defend this hater of the free press.

Trump’s Wasted Briefings
The sessions have become a boring show of President vs. the press.

By The Editorial Board
April 9, 2020, Page A16

A friend of ours who voted for President Trump sent us a note recently saying that she had stopped watching the daily White House briefings of the coronavirus task force. Why? Because they have become less about defeating the virus and more about the many feuds of Donald J. Trump.

The briefings began as a good idea to educate the public about the dangers of the virus, how Americans should change their behavior, and what the government is doing to combat it. They showed seriousness of purpose, action to mobilize public and private resources, and a sense of optimism. Mr. Trump benefitted in the polls not because he was the center of attention but because he showed he had put together a team of experts working to overcome a national health crisis.

But sometime in the last three weeks Mr. Trump seems to have concluded that the briefings could be a showcase for him. Perhaps they substitute in his mind for the campaign rallies he can no longer hold because of the risks. Perhaps he resented the media adulation that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been receiving for his daily show. Whatever the reason, the briefings are now all about the President.

They last for 90 minutes or more, and Mr. Trump dominates the stage. His first-rate health experts have become supporting actors, and sometimes barely that, ushered on stage to answer a technical question or two. Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the task force, doesn’t get on stage until the last 15 minutes or so. That becomes the most informative part of the session, since Mr. Pence understandably knows details the President doesn’t.

Mr. Trump opens each briefing by running through a blizzard of facts and numbers showing what the government is doing—this many tests, that many masks, so many ventilators going from here to there, and what a great job he’s doing. Then Mr. Trump opens the door for questions, and the session deteriorates into a dispiriting brawl between the President and his antagonists in the White House press corps.

One of the ironies of this Presidency is that Mr. Trump claims to despise the press yet so eagerly plays its game. Every reporter knows the way to get a TV moment, and get a pat on the back from newsroom pals, is to bait Mr. Trump with a question about his previous statements or about criticism that someone has leveled against him. Mr. Trump always takes the bait.

On Tuesday Mr. Trump was asked, in a typically tendentious question, why he had compared the coronavirus to the flu. Instead of saying he had been hoping for the best but was wrong when he’d said that, he got into a fight over the severity of the flu. This sort of exchange usually devolves into a useless squabble that helps Mr. Trump’s critics and contributes little to public understanding.

The President’s outbursts against his political critics are also notably off key at this moment. This isn’t impeachment, and Covid-19 isn’t shifty Schiff. It’s a once-a-century threat to American life and livelihood.

The public doesn’t care who among the governors likes Mr. Trump, or whether the Obama Administration filled the national pandemic stockpile. There will be time for recriminations. What the public wants to know now is what Mr. Trump and his government is doing to prevent the deaths of their loved ones or help the family breadwinner stay employed.

If Mr. Trump thinks these daily sessions will help him defeat Joe Biden, he’s wrong. This election is now about one issue: how well the public thinks the President has done in defeating the virus and restarting the economy. If Americans conclude he succeeded in a crisis, they will forgive him for reacting more slowly than he and many others might have in January. But on that score, voters will be persuaded by what they see in their lives and communities come the autumn. They will judge Mr. Trump by the results, not by how well he says he did.

If Mr. Trump wants to make his briefings more helpful to the country, here’s our advice. Make them no more than 45 minutes, except on rare occasions. Let Mr. Pence lead them each day, focusing on one issue or problem. Mr. Pence can take the questions, and Mr. Trump can show up twice a week to reinforce the message. Maybe then our friend who was a Trump voter might start watching again.
###
—————-
Who will tell the president?

President Trump should thank The Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board for good advice,
(Trump’s Wasted Briefings,” Review & Outlook, April 9).
The Journal provides advice that the president would certainly not get from his 2020
Re-election Campaign staff or from his loyal followers. Who among them would speak
truth to power for fear of the president’s wrath upon being criticized?
How could anyone in the president’s orbit possibly question a campaign tactic that
serves as a free-of-charge substitute for his expensive political rallies and where the
president stars in a well-staged, daily show with high ratings?
The Journal’s editors were able to tell their readers why the Trump-led briefings are wasted.
Now who will tell the president?

Frank G. Splitt
Mount Prospect, Ill.

Trump responded to the WSJ in a tweet at 3:59 pm today:

“The Wall Street Journal always “forgets” to mention that the ratings for the White House Press Briefings are “through the roof” (Monday Night Football, Bachelor Finale, according to @nytimes) & is only way for me to escape the Fake News & get my views across. WSJ is Fake News!”

The New York Times reported on a huge merger of newspapers.

In August, Gannett, the parent company of USA Today and more than 100 other dailies, and New Media Investment Group, the owner of the newspaper chain GateHouse Media, announced their intention to join forces. Over the next two months, the plan breezed through the regulatory process, winning approvals from the Justice Department and the European Union. Last week, shareholders at the two companies voted yea. And now one in five daily papers in the United States has the same owner, under the Gannett name, according to figures provided by researchers at the University of North Carolina.

The combined company will have its headquarters in Gannett’s home base, McLean, Va., and will be led by Michael E. Reed, the New Media chief executive since 2006. The job puts him in charge of more than 260 dailies — from small papers like The Tuscaloosa News in Alabama to big ones like The Detroit Free Press.

GateHouse’s acquisition of Gannett, a cash-and-stock transaction valued at roughly $1.2 billion, was intended to give the combined companies an annual savings of some $300 million. Mr. Reed said the bulk of the savings “is not going to come from editorial,” meaning newsrooms would be largely spared.

Pressed to say more, Mr. Reed added: “I can’t give you an exact number, but almost nothing. I mean, just for context, there’s 24,000 employees in the two companies, and a significant portion of the cost reductions are going to come from things other than people. But, obviously, people’s a part of this as well. Out of 24,000 people in the company, there’s about 2,500 that are actually writing stories every day. So it’s a small number, relative to 24,000. So there’s so much opportunity beyond the newsroom for us to go get these efficiencies.”

Paul Bascobert, the chief executive of the former Gannett who will hold that same title for the new Gannett’s operating company, seconded that statement, saying the company’s mission “is to connect, protect and celebrate local communities.”

“And the core of that is great local journalism,” he added. “That’s the engine that has gotten us to the place we are today, and that’s the engine that’s going to carry us forward.”

Newspaper executives have sung this tune before, only to end up making aggressive cuts in an industry that has struggled since the one-two punch of the recession more than 10 years ago and the rise of digital media. Twenty-five percent of newsroom employees were laid off between 2008 and 2018, according to the Pew Research Center.

GateHouse and Gannett have both cut newsroom employees in recent years. GateHouse consolidated some business functions at a center in Austin, Texas, resulting in layoffs elsewhere, and laid off more than 100 newsroom employees in the spring. Gannett has let go dozens of journalists, including prominent sportswriters and a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist.

Mr. Reed and Mr. Bascobert, who spoke with The New York Times at the USA Today office in Midtown Manhattan, said the savings they had in mind amounted to 8 percent of annual costs. “So it’s not an overwhelming number — very achievable,” Mr. Reed said.

The News Guild, which represents journalists at many of the company’s newspapers, has been critical of the merger. The union “intends to hold managers of the new Gannett to the promises they have made,” the News Guild president, Bernie Lunzer, said in a statement. “We will continue to demand that they fund high-quality journalism.”

Mr. Reed said he would make newsroom decisions with the help of data that tracked reader interest and the output of journalists. “The ability to measure production at the reporter level allows us to get stronger and healthier and do more quality local journalism with the same amount of resources, potentially,” he said.

He seemed aware that his stats-based approach to newsroom management was not likely to sit well with the union. “The Guild would fight me on that, and say, ‘We should do business like it’s 1950,’” Mr. Reed said, adding, “I frankly think the Guild’s a big problem, and until we can get them to sit at a table and have a real discussion about where the world is today, there’s going to be inefficiencies….”

The merger raises another question: What does it mean that the beleaguered newspaper industry, considered essential to democracy, is controlled by ever fewer corporations, many of them with a focus on finance rather than covering the news?

The supersize version of Gannett has a byzantine corporate structure. It will be managed, under an agreement that lasts two more years, by Fortress Investment Group, a private equity firm in Manhattan. Fortress was the entity that controlled New Media Investment Group, the parent of GateHouse Media.

Fortress, in turn, is owned by SoftBank, the Tokyo conglomerate founded by Masayoshi Son, a brash executive who had a friendly meeting with Donald J. Trump in December 2016, when Mr. Trump was the president-elect. (Mr. Son was also a driving force behind the all-but-final megamerger of Sprint, a SoftBank-controlled company, and T-Mobile; that deal won regulatory approval after a lobbying campaign that included company executives staying at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.)

Iris Chyi, a professor at the University of Texas School of Journalism, expressed concern that the newspaper business was in fewer corporate hands. “From a media economics perspective, more competition is always better,” Ms. Chyi said. “We don’t want a company to have way too much power.”

Another large newspaper chain, MediaNews Group, is owned by a hedge fund, Alden Global Capital. Gannett resisted MediaNews Group’s bid to buy it earlier this year. On Tuesday, Tribune Company, a publicly owned major chain, announced that Alden had purchased a 25 percent stake in it. McClatchy, another major chain, said last week that it risked insolvency.

Mr. Reed grew up in Elmira, N.Y., and was once a delivery boy for The Star-Gazette there — the descendant of The Elmira Gazette bought by Frank E. Gannett in 1906. It was the first publication in what would become a newspaper empire.

Now a part-time resident of the Rochester, N.Y., area, Mr. Reed noted that the new incarnation of Gannett would have two publications in that part of the world: The Daily Messenger, in Canandaigua, formerly a GateHouse publication, and The Democrat and Chronicle, a longtime Gannett daily in Rochester.

“I think both products get stronger,” he said, “because now we’re going to be able to share those resources.”

When he spoke of how Gannett would manage the neighboring papers, he mentioned the newsroom. “Do we need two people covering the Rochester Red Wings?” he asked, referring to the minor-league baseball franchise. “So that’s where we potentially redeploy assets.”

 

A message about this merger from the publisher of ProPublica, which publishes investigative journalism:

 

Not Shutting Up

BY RICHARD TOFEL

Welcome to Not Shutting Up, a newsletter from ProPublica’s president, Dick Tofel. You’re receiving this because you’ve supported ProPublica’s journalism; we’re grateful for that, and we hope to give you some context on how our newsroom works. If this email was forwarded to you, you can sign up to receive it here.

Dear ProPublicans,I know I’ve written to you before about the business crisis in local news, but it has accelerated significantly in the last couple of weeks, and I think you need to understand how and what it means.Here’s what’s happened in just the last 10 days:

    • Two local newspaper chains, GateHouse and Gannett, completed their merger, and the surviving company controls one-fifth of all the daily newspapers in the United States, including the Arizona Republic, Providence Journal and Austin American-Statesman. These newspapers have already been cut back so far that their average news staff — across 260 papers — is fewer than 20 people, and fewer than 10 reporters per city. In the aftermath of the merger, the company plans $300 million in cuts, with at least one leading observer estimating that the cuts will eventually come to $400 million.
    • Hedge funds, which seek high returns in a short amount of time and measure those returns solely in dollars, now effectively control all of the nation’s largest newspaper chains, either through stock or debt holdings. The second largest company, Digital First Media, is controlled by Alden Global Capital. Alden this week bought 25% of the stock of Tribune Publishing, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and New York Daily News among others, becoming its largest shareholder as well. Alden is best known in newspapers for having gutted the Denver Post and San Jose Mercury News.
    • McClatchy, whose properties include the Miami Herald and Charlotte Observer, announced that it owes a pension contribution next year of about $125 million, but it will only have about $20 million in cash to make that payment. The company has shrunk to the point that it has 2,800 employees whose work must generate enough to fund 24,000 pensions. That’s not possible.
  • Meanwhile, important new research from the Knight Foundation (disclosure: a ProPublica funder) and Gallup finds that most people erroneously believe that local news organizations are doing well financially. One bright spot: When told this is incorrect, a majority expressed willingness to support a local news nonprofit.

What, you may ask — you should ask, we certainly do — is ProPublica doing about this? Here, I think, the recent very bad news is somewhat leavened by some hopeful signs.

This week, our own first local newsroom, ProPublica Illinois, published an extraordinary story about the horrifying use of isolation rooms for children as young as 5 years old in schools across the state. This story was the fruit of a collaboration between two ProPublica Illinois reporters and one from the Chicago Tribune, and it was published by both organizations. Yesterday, the state took emergency action to ban the practice. If you have not already read the story, I urge you to do so, as well as this month’s moving and insightful ProPublica Illinois story about the racial legacy of the town of Anna.

Also this week, we published the latest installments in continuing series from our Local Reporting Network partners concerning the concentration of political power in New Jerseyand a major environmental threat in Louisiana.

And we’re in the early stages of our forthcoming initiative in partnership with The Texas Tribune; we posted many of the jobs for it this week.

So that’s what we’re doing. We’re working on possible plans to do more.

What, I hope you might ask, can you do to support local journalism? Beyond continuing your engagement with us, for which we are always deeply grateful, if you still have a local news outlet you think provides you with important facts and perspective on your community, don’t just assume its immortality. Subscribe if you can; donate what you can if that’s possible.

These are tough times for local reporting in this country, and, with hedge funds calling the tune, tougher times lie ahead. You should expect us to do our part to make this a high priority. I hope some of you can do the same.

Regards, Dick

 

 

Masha Gessen, a Russian emigre and journalist, always has interesting commentaries on U.S. politics.

In this New Yorker article, she writes about Mark Zuckerberg and his flawed interpretation of the First Amendment.

In the course of the article, she reveals a startling fact. Zuckerberg is advising Mayor Pete.

Gessen writes:

What is the First Amendment for? I ask my students this every year. Every year, several people quickly respond that the First Amendment guarantees Americans the right to speak without restriction. True, I say, but what is it for? It’s so that Congress doesn’t pass a law that would limit the right to free speech, someone often says. Another might add that, in fact, the government does place some limits on free speech—you can’t shout “fire” in a crowded theatre, or say certain words on broadcast television and radio. I ask the question a third time: What is the First Amendment for? There is a pause as students realize that I am asking them to shift their frame of reference. Then someone says that the First Amendment is for democracy, for the plurality of opinions in the national conversation.

My students are undergraduates, some of whom will become journalists. Before they leave the confines of their small liberal-arts college, they will develop a more complicated view of politics and the media than the one they started with. The adult world they are entering, however, generally sticks to an elemental level of discourse. Last week, for example, the head of the country’s largest media company, Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook, gave a nearly forty-minute lecturein which he reiterated that the right to free speech was invented so that it wouldn’t be restricted. In Zuckerberg’s narrative, as my colleague Andrew Marantz has written, freedom of speech, guaranteed by technological progress, is the beginning and the end of the conversation; this narrative willfully leaves out the damage that technological progress—and unchallenged freedom of all speech—can inflict. But the problem isn’t just Zuckerberg; more precisely, Zuckerberg is symptomatic of our collective refusal to think about speech and the media in complicated ways.

People having the power to express themselves at scale is a new kind of force in the world,” Zuckerberg said in his address. “It’s a fifth estate, alongside the other power structures in our society.” Zuckerberg was appropriating a countercultural term: beginning in the nineteen-sixties, “the fifth estate” referred to alternative media in the United States. Now the head of a new-media monopoly was using the term to differentiate Facebook from the news media, presumably to bolster his argument that Facebook should not be held to the same standards of civic responsibility to which we hold the fourth estate.

This strategy of claiming not to be the media has worked well for Facebook. On Monday, when Bloomberg broke the news that Zuckerberg has advised the Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg on campaign hires, the story called Zuckerberg “one of tech’s most powerful executives.” CNN referred to him and his wife, Priscilla Chan, as “two of America’s most influential businesspeople and philanthropists.” Vox’s Recode vertical calledhim “the world’s third-richest person” and observed that he had become so toxic that “accepting a political donation from Mark Zuckerberg in 2020 is nowhere close to worth the money.” (The Times appears not to have covered the story for now.) Any one of these frames makes for an important and troubling story: a Presidential campaign in bed with a major tech corporation, influenced by and possibly intertwined with one of the country’s richest men—that is bad. It’s worse when one recalls Buttigieg’s attempts to go after Elizabeth Warren during last week’s Democratic debate. Warren has called for breaking up Facebook’s social-media monopoly, and Zuckerberg has referred to Warren as an “existential” threat to the company. Now imagine if it were the head of ABC or CNN or the New York Times Company who had served as an informal hiring consultant to a Presidential candidate. It would almost certainly be a bigger story and more broadly perceived as troublesome. Most of us still believe that the media are an essential component of democracy, and that a media outlet that is partisan or committed to a single candidate, but not in a transparent way, is a bad democratic actor.

 

Do you remember when high school student journalists were not allowed admission to a “Roundtable” between Betsy DeVos and Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin? The young journalists have been invited to cover a discussion in Columbus, Ohio, between me and renowned policy expert Bill Phillis on May 16.

Jeanne Melvin of Ohio’s Public Education Partners wrote today:

GOOD NEWS! Because of the generosilty of Diane’s readers, Dr. Laura Chapman and Dr. Linda Bricker, four student journalists and their teacher will attend the PEP event, MOVING PUBLIC EDUCATION FORWARD, in Columbus on May 16th. 
 
I look forward to meeting these forward-thinking students.
Thank you, Laura and Linda!