Wednesday, December 7, 2016

One more time: the media and politics

       So here is my challenge for the readers today: When you say "mainstream media" or "liberal media," be specific. Tell me -- by name -- who you are talking about.
       Not by network (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CNN, MSNBC, whoever else you consider the main ones), not by just a newspaper name (The New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, etc.).
       Give me the TV reporters/analysts/and, well, entertainers you watch -- or don't watch. Give me the newspaper reporters/columnists you like -- and don't like.
       In other words, where do you get your news? Where do you get the information to confirm your opinions?    
       Don't just say the "liberal media" or the "conservative media." That's too easy. That's too general.
       I am not promoting any cause here, or criticizing one. I'm just curious to know what you think.
       I welcome the feedback to my blogs -- positive, negative. Whatever. I will post the comments ... if I think they're decent. If they cross the line into name-calling or if they're ugly, most often I will not post them. I might leave them on Facebook for a while, but not forever.
       The lack of civility in this campaign the past year and a half was the most galling aspect to me. Not only from the politicians, but all over social media. Disgusting. Enough already.
       So no bashing Mr. Trump, or President Obama, or Hillary.
       Before I return to the media scene, we interrupt our beginning message for a few thoughts:
       I keep seeing the Hate Hillary comments; I received a couple. Here is my view: She lost. She is no longer relevant. She is history. You don't have to keep beating a beaten candidate. It's piling on.
       On the other side, stop whining about the popular vote and 2.5 million. It doesn't matter; it's not what really counts. The Electoral College counts, and there's no reversing that. It wouldn't be right. And can you imagine the chaos in the streets if it was reversed?
       And when I see "sore losers," count me out.
       I was involved in athletics long enough to know that it's a competition; one side wins, one side loses. If you win, don't gloat too long. There is another game coming. If you lose, don't let it linger. Life goes on.
       An inside joke with some of my friends is that I am "a bitter man." I'm only bitter for a few moments, believe me. But if you want a list of the most painful sports losses, I did a blog on that.
       There are a thousand, ten thousand, games I wish would have come out differently. That doesn't happen.
       So this election is done, and as I wrote four years ago after President Obama's re-election, "get over it and move on." We have a President-elect, and we should wait and see what happens.
       Even if you're a Trump supporter, you might not  particularly like him, you might even admit that he is  unpredictable. You don't know what's coming next, what he's tweeting about at any moment. But you probably also believe his administration can fix what needs fixing.
       I was told by one friend that I must be a "Trump Hater." Nope. I try not to hate anybody; it's a waste of time.
       Didn't support Candidate Trump, but now that he's President-elect Trump, I wish him well. The Presidency should be respected, and if he and the Congress improve health care and immigration and veterans' needs, schools/education, inner-city issues, violence in the streets,  rising terrorism and its threats, etc., etc., we're all for it.
       Back to our regularly scheduled message ... 
       I believe that many people lose sight that many media people are paid to offer their opinions, whether in print or on television and radio. So you should not expect them to be unbiased. 
       You might expect reporters to be more straight-laced, factual. But they are human; they slant their stories through their own filters. And journalism/the media has changed over the years. It is more analysis-based now.
       This hit home with us as we listened to our latest audio book Tuesday. Early in This Town by Mark Leibovich (of The New York Times), published in 2013 and based on life and politics in Washington, D.C., he writes, "Punditry has replaced reporting as journalism's highest calling. ... " 
       After my most recent blog about Mr. Trump and his "war" with the media, one comment in particular triggered the idea for this blog.
Chuck Todd photo from
    John Dittrich, a baseball lover like me and a former Fort Worth resident, wrote: "Like you, I watch the Sunday morning political talk shows religiously (no church-related wisecrack intended). Although I continue to record and watch Meet The Press, it seems to me that [host] Chuck Todd is not very objective. He takes a very obvious hostile approach to the conservatives, particularly to anyone affiliated with Mr. Trump.
       "While I do not like President-elect Trump and consider myself left-leaning, I do feel that Todd gives credence to those in the right who accuse the media of being too liberal. He is so obviously argumentative toward certain guests that it actually makes me uncomfortable. This approach is exactly what damages the credibility of the mainstream media."
       We want to like Chuck, but I must add that I agree with John.
       I will stick with my contention that PBS has the best-balanced newscasts. I'd like to think that Meet The Press is also balanced, that Chuck Todd can be as tough with questions directed at Democrats, or left-leaning people -- as he was last Sunday with U.S. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi -- and that the panel discussions always have both sides represented.
       Same for Face The Nation, where host John Dickerson also asks the hard questions of both sides, but is more congenial than Todd.
       We do miss the late beloved, respected Tim Russert.
       We still see the old anchors from time to time. From left to center to right -- Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, Fort Worth's Bob Schieffer. They are venerable.
       I think today's network news anchors -- Lester Holt (NBC), David Muir (ABC), Scott Pelley (CBS), Wolf Blitzer (CNN), Judy Woodruff (PBS) and, say, Brian Williams (MSNBC) --  play it pretty straight down the middle, they don't take positions. You might not agree. They ask tough enough questions to people from both ends of the political spectrum.
Katy Tur photo from
      But it's different for reporters. We mostly watch NBC, so Andrea Mitchell, Hallie Jackson and Katy Tur were following the Clinton and Trump campaigns. My view was that they were demanding of the candidates they covered, but I had to feel for Katy, only 33, when Mr. Trump named her  specifically in a rally or two, and she needed security at events and afterward after receiving threats.
       We like the CBS 60 Minutes regulars, especially the venerable Lesley Stahl. Anderson Cooper (also on CNN) is clearly slanted toward more liberal position.
       Maybe so are Jake Tapper (CNN) and fast-talking, loud Chris Matthews (MSNBC). They can be tough and argumentative interviewers. Matthews is a small-dose guy, but I loved his reverent commentary when Pope Francis visited his hometown, Philadelphia.
       If you want to go right, go FOX. We don't watch it often, but Chris Wallace seemed like a fair moderator in the first Republican debate and even better in the third Presidential debate, and I wasn't familiar with Megyn Kelly until she squabbled with Mr. Trump in that debate, and he helped make her famous.
       Then there's Bill O'Reilly. Read a couple of his books we liked. Funny guy, at least when he banters with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show. His politics? Not for me, but he's entertaining. 
       You really want to go right, here's some names: Ann Coulter, Pat Buchanan, George Will, Thomas Sewell. We think Mr. Will is an outstanding columnist (Washington Post), and I loved his baseball book Men at Work, but seldom agree with his viewpoint. He also did not back Trump or Clinton. 
       Step to the right with FOX anchor Sean Hannity and to the left with Keith Olbermann wherever he is. Neither one appears on my TV; they are too much. Didn't like Olbermann in the sports arena, either.
       And then there is -- spare me -- Rush Limbaugh ... ultra-right. Is he "media" or "entertainment" or "human?" 
       (Of course, in the sports world, I feel the same about Skip Bayless and Mark May, and a hundred others. You could not pay me enough to watch them. Rarely watch or listen to any TV/radio talkfests. I've blogged on this, too.)
       Two conservative "pundits" who we did not pay attention to before, but impressed us in this campaign with their reason and their calm: Hugh Hewitt and -- surprisingly -- Glenn Beck. Hewitt wasn't enthused about Mr. Trump; Beck flat-out rejected the idea.
       Columnists to the left: No one more left, more critical of the right, than Paul Krugman (New York Times). Leonard Pitts (Miami). We like the very smart Thomas Friedman and the acerbic, rip-'em-all Maureen Dowd (both NYT).

       Also far left: MSNBC's nightly hour shows -- Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O'Donnell. We watch regularly because they give us perspectives (yes, liberal) that we think are well-researched.
       And even farther left: Jon Stewart. Master of satire and The Daily Show on Comedy Central for all those years. Outspoken liberal. Generous benefactor of so many comedians/show hosts/commentator.
       Stewart, of course, is more entertainer than politician. So is Bill Maher. If you are a conservative, either Stewart or Maher might be Public Enemy No. 1 (outside of politics). Think we know who No. 1 and 1A are in politics.
       We don't watch the morning TV shows; too early. So we're strangers to Morning Joe, but it must have balance with Mika Brzezinski (Democrat) and Joe Scarborough (Republican). Do they have verbal battles?
       But have there been better verbal battles than those between Whoopi Goldberg and Elizabeth Hasselbeck -- political/social opposites -- on The View a couple of years ago? Sorry, I missed those (sounds good, but not really).
       Our favorite "pundit" is David Brooks, a New York Times columnist. He and syndicated columnist Mark Shields are regulars for us on the PBS NewsHour each Friday and for big political events.
       Brooks is conservative, but not overly so, and his columns are complex. On television his analysis is usually spot-on, but this campaign, he kept admitting that he was so wrong so often (as were the polls and so many other "experts). David consistently was not happy with either Presidential candidate.
Amy Walter, PBS photo
       Shields has been around forever and he's a liberal who seldom comes out of a left lean.
       Here is who I think provided the best, most balanced analysis of this Presidential race: Amy Walter, national editor of The Cook Political Report. She was a PBS regular, a political-panel regular who seemed to be on 25 hours a day. She is knowledgeable and insightful -- and cautioned to the very end that the Presidential race was wide-open. She was as correct as anyone we heard.
       Our favorite reporters/TV pundits are the Washington Post's veteran Dan Balz and young star Robert Costa (who covered the Trump campaign). They were often on talk/news shows. Two words for them: factual and fair.
       Away from politics: Mitch Albom, a sports columnist who ventures off into books and movies and plays on the real world, is always a good read. Dave Barry is the funniest read.
       My feeling is that all the honest/dishonest, fair/unfair, lying/truthful perceptions about media just depends on each individual and how they perceive it. There's no right or wrong.
       I don't like the attacks on the media -- especially from politicians. Media positions are jobs, and there are different ways to do the job.
       It is just people's opinions, and you know what they say about opinions.
       If you are right-leaning, you likely think the media is mostly liberal. If you are left-leaning, you think the conservatives are off-base. If you're independent -- and I have friends who are -- you don't agree with the media, period.
       So I've given you a lot of names, and there are many more. If you've read this far, you're tired. And so am I.
       Here's a rule I try to live by: Don't let politics spoil friendships. Friends -- true friends -- are valuable.
       I welcome responses and your favorites/least favorites. Tell me who influences your thoughts. Just be civil  about it. 



  1. Nico. Thanks for the shoutout. I am so closely aligned with you.... just posted on a friend's page (who loves to bash Hillary and the Obamas) that they are now in the rear view mirror. He needs to move on. Seems so many folks cannot give it up. They won. Hillary is history. Move on. Let's see if President Trump can take us to the next level. I don't think we need to be "great again" but we can always be GREATER! I pledge not to refer to President-Elect Trump in any disrespectful way, unlike others, I want to rise above the vitriol and support the man who was elected, even if I did not vote for him. Your comments were once again, spot on! John Dittrich

  2. From Cindy Rowland Marrus: None of them.

  3. From Sandra Newman Dyson: I want to see pictures of your precious grandchildren and what they are doing. lol!

  4. From Martha Palmer: Amy Walter. PBS is one of my favorite news sources.

  5. From Jason Brown: The only two commentators/analysts I always read are Charlie Pierce at Esquire and Andrew O'Hehir at Salon. Pierce, a longtime newspaper man, has a formidable knowledge of history and a lethal wit. O'Hehir is brilliant. (I don't care for either publication generally, though, especially Salon.) Don't really watch TV anymore except for sports, but I like Charlie Rose interviews, and I loved Amanda Guerra of KXAS/5 before she broke my heart and left the air. As far as straight-up news, newspaper websites, BBC and NPR pretty much cover it. I just can't take the TV talking heads.

    1. From Martha Palmer: Charlie Rose's interviews are top-notch.

  6. From Richard Liles: I tell my clients, always get their information/news from more than one source. Somewhere in between lies the truth.
    The media of today is too much entertainment and advertising sales. Also, always notice who is buying the ads -- nationally it seems to be dominated by the pharmaceutical companies, and local sources seem to be dominated by lawyers and car dealers. You never seem to see any negative news for the advertisers. Coincidence?
    I too, might have a cynical side that many might take too seriously.

  7. From Ross Montelbano: Dang, this is the second time in a row that I pretty much have no comments. Right on target. I love listening to Amy Walter. I think that she is terrific. Keep up the good work.

  8. Two of my friends were discussing this very topic a while back. One said he got all of his news from CNN. The other said he listened exclusively to Fox. I told them that I listened to both networks and divided by two. The next time I read an original twitter it will be my first. I get zero news or opinions from that source. I consider myself a centralist, but admit that I probably lean a little toward the right. My favorite news commentators/analysis are George Will and Leonard Pitts. Try to figure that out. Their positions are usually separated as the East is from the West. What holds them together is that they are thoughtful and reasoned. It makes me nervous when I disagree with either of them because I know they are not "shooting from the hip." They remind me of my friend Nico Van Thyn. He doesn't "shoot from the hip" either. Good blog Nico.