Covering the Bully Pulpit

Recommendations for a New New Journalism; how AT&T is getting around net neutrality regulations; and more.


  • “Mr. Trump’s Twitter account—a bully pulpit, propaganda weapon and attention magnet all rolled into one—has quickly emerged as a fresh journalistic challenge and a source of lively debate,” Micahel M. Grynbaum and Sydney Ember write for the New York Times, although in their coverage of the media’s quandary, they highlight calls to “boycott” coverage of his tweets rather than more moderate recommendations to cover the tweets within reason. “Critics say that any coverage elevates unsubstantiated assertions and murky policy suggestions,” they write [emphasis added]. They follow this assertion with a quote from The Nation editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel’s Twitter account, “Media would be wise to stop hyper-coverage of Trump’s tweets—they distract, distort and debase.” [Again, emphasis added.] Beyond a tweet from historian Fred Kaplan asking reporters to “ignore his tweets” and pay attention to the “real scandals,” they do not have a single quote from an editor, journalist, or anyone else in support of boycotting coverage of Trump’s tweets.

  • The issue crops up (obviously) in Margaret Sullivan’s recommendations for a “New New Journalism”: “Pick your spots. Not everything Trump says or does deserves the same five-alarm level of outrage, or coverage. The president-elect’s tweets criticizing the cast at the “Hamilton” musical are one thing. The proposed appointment of Jeff Sessions, with his history of racist behavior, as attorney general is quite another. (Rule of thumb: Tweets should get less attention. Actions should get more. Deep digging, even if not by one’s own news organization, should get more still.)

    “Trump is, of course, a master of distraction and media ma­nipu­la­tion. It’s possible to resist being his chump, but it takes continued self-regulation.”

    Another good nugget is her take on the “don’t normalize” stipulation: “Provide context. This is another way of saying “Don’t normalize,” which is beginning to lose its meaning through repetition. For example, rather than calling Steve Bannon “alt-right” or, worse, “controversial,” take some time to explain what he has done in making the Breitbart website a haven for white supremacists.”

  • Speaking of covering Trump’s tweets, that’s how he “announced” that he is “leaving my…great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country,” Michael D. Shear, Eric Lipton, and Carl Hulse report for the New York Times.

  • Steve Bannon, President-elect Trump’s choice for chief strategist, was supposed to attend a Harvard Kennedy School event this week, “Campaign for President: The Managers Look at 2016,” which begins today, but has changed his mind, Steve Annear reports for the Boston Globe. Students and community groups and mobilized to start planning a protest of Bannon’s visit.

  • Before Bannon canceled the Harvard visit, 300 members of the MIT faculty, including four Nobel Prize recipients, signed a statement that reads in part, “The President-elect has appointed individuals to positions of power who have endorsed racism, misogyny and religious bigotry, and denied the widespread scientific consensus on climate change. Regardless of our political views, these endorsements violate principles at the core of MIT’s mission.” The statement can be found in full at The Sparrow Project.

  • Lol what net neutrality? T.C. Sottek reports for The Verge on how AT&T is using a loophole in internet regulations that allows for zero rating to give preferential treatment to DirecTV, a company owned by AT&T. If you want something fiery to raise your blood pressure this morning, read this.

  • After being identified on Facebook by name, image, and former place of work as the planner of an anti-Trump protest, Nicole Farnham was verbally harassed and threatened with a lawsuit by her former boss, Talal Ansari reports for BuzzFeed. Her former boss, the owner of the restaurant identified in the Facebook post “exposing” Farnham, responded to the flood of one-star reviews by denouncing Farnham’s actions, writing “what she did is a disgrace!!!!!” The person behind it all is Jonathan Lee Riches, who served 10 years in prison for running a phishing scam, and posed as school shooter Adam Lanza’s uncle, Jonathan Lanza, in Newtown, Connecticut, in the days after the shooting, even talking, as Jonathan Lanza, to the New York Daily News. (This will also raise your blood pressure.)

  • Writing for ChinaFile, four experts—Kaiser Kuo, Clay Shirky, Andrew McLaughlin, and Edward Friedman—respond to the news that Facebook has developed a tool that can suppress posts from certain news feeds, which could help the company enter China. Three of the four express, to varying degrees, surprise, disapproval, and doubts regarding Facebook’s efforts in China.

  • The co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, John Perry Barlow, who interviewed Edward Snowden on the 2014 Personal Democracy Forum stage, has been very ill since April 2015, and his family have created a page for friends to donate to support his ongoing care and recovery.

  • Show up to show up: Hollaback! is hosting an online Bystander Intervention training on December 6. Equip yourself with the skills and the information you need to be an effective bystander to violence or harassment. Learn more and purchase tickets here.

  • Correction: The agenda for the invite-only Summit on Poverty and Opportunity was posted on the Stanford’s Poverty and Technology Lab webpage, but it was not visibly linked to from anywhere. Anil Dash, who was in attendance, tweeted “For better or worse, this has been a pretty standard set of panel discussions with federal & local gov + nonprofits about what’s working.” He followed up with “I have no doubt the tone might change when the startup folks show up, but at least initially this doesn’t fit the worst stereotypes” and then wrote that he had to duck out because, unrelated to the conference content, he wasn’t feeling well.