Post no Post

Image result for new york post headless headlineShortly after I lost my job with the NJ Jewish News, I spoke with an editor at the NY Post. His family was a client of my wife’s veterinary house call practice and had told her to have me give him a call. It was just a courtesy thing, I told her, and sure enough there were no job openings. Which was fine, because while I needed a job, preferably in print journalism, I had no desire to work for the Post. Their reputation may or may not have been great as a business model, but as a model for questionable journalistic ethics, well, that was generally accepted. All this was reconfirmed by an article in the Columbia Journalism Review by Julia Dahl, a former writer for the tabloid.

Like Dahl, I had no experience in writing for a newspaper when I took the job at NJJN. All dues respect, I didn’t even consider weekly community enterprises like this newspapers. Like Dahl, I had to learn to overcome my shyness and fears in asking people questions I consider intrusive and an imposition. My first real story involved interviewing survivors of the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11. Another tough one was about suicide. But these were nothing compared with things the Post and its kind did on a daily basis.

There were a number of similarities between Dahl and myself. From the CJR article:

I DIDN’T GROW UP dreaming of being a reporter. My mom suggested I join the high school paper my senior year because I was “good at writing.” That was true. I got easy As in English…

And while this part never happened to me, it was quite an eye-opener:

But while I credit journalism school with imbuing in me a sense of the seriousness of my chosen career, it did not prepare me for the work I encountered at the Post – or, in some ways, for my work since. It didn’t prepare me for the kinds of compromises I was going to be asked to make in the name of sales (or “clicks”) and deadlines, or for a competitive story. [my emphasis added] It didn’t prepare me for the time my editor bought me a floor seat at a Knicks game and instructed me to hold up a giant sign that said “Fire Isaiah” until security kicked me out. (They didn’t kick me out. Instead, a news photographer “made” me as participating in a stunt, and I bailed, angry and ashamed I’d folded to the pressure to go in the first place. The next day, the editor who had sent me admitted the whole thing was a bad idea.) It didn’t prepare me to chase Paul McCartney’s new girlfriend through a grocery store for a quote.  And it didn’t prepare me for the dozens, maybe hundreds, of times people I talked to told me I was scum for doing my job.

Reporters are often found on the lists of profession most-hated. According to this source,

Idealistic young journalists look back on a golden age of journalism that may not have been so grand after all. Time and again, the same greats’ names are uttered breathlessly, with hushed reverence — Murrow and Cronkite, Woodward and Bernstein. The profession that once inspired so much admiration now regularly resides at the bottom of public approval polls. Unfortunately, for many people the lines between the bottom-feeding, sensationalistic blogger who can string together a couple of sentences and the trained industry professional have become almost indistinguishable.

In fact, a lot of the jobs that came up in my employment searches were for writers to put together a lot of short stories in a little amount of time for almost no money. You’ve seen these pieces, I’m sure: lots of links, often in the form of “slide shows” that make you click and click until you get to the actual heart of the matter.

This is what it’s come to, alas…

If you don’t want to watch the whole 19-minute segment (sadly, well worth it), try this, which appears at the end. But then you;re just feeding into the whole problem of shortened attention spans. Just sayin’.

Press brief blues

Don’t worry, not going to inflict another ukulele ditty on you…yet.

The nice thing about the new job is that it gives me a fair amount of time of during the week so I can watch the White House pres briefings on CNN.

When Sean Spicer was “in charge” (as if anyone can really be said to be “in charge” of anything in the current regime), there were the obvious missteps from the beginning, such as when he out-and-out lied when stating

It went downhill from there. Credibility — not that there was ever that much to begin  with — was a non-starter.

Now we have a new minion in Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who similarly can’t offer a straight answer to the simplest of questions. To be fair, I’m paying a lot more attention now than I ever did when it comes to these things, so I can’t say that previous administrations didn’t do the same things. But it doesn’t seem likely. Her attempts at humor are embarrassing, like that one kid in your high school class who was always trying to be funny but failed miserably. In today’s conference, Sanders was asked if Trump lied when he claimed to have received congratulatory calls from the leaders of the Boy Scouts and the president of Mexico, calls which both of the supposed callers denied.


White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders listens to a reporters question during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Monday, July 31, 2017. Sanders was asked about President Donald Trump's decision to remove Anthony Scaramucci from his position as communications director after 11 days and other topics. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)Asked about Trump’s claim that Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto called him to praise his border policy, a claim Peña Nieto disputed on Monday, Sanders said Trump was in fact referencing “a conversation that they had had at the G20 summit.”

Trump on Monday [Aug. 1] claimed specifically that Peña Nieto “called” to give him “the ultimate compliment” on his border policy. Peña Nieto’s office on Monday said he had “not recently communicated with President Donald Trump by phone.”

Sanders also defended Trump’s claim that the Boy Scouts called him to praise a speech he made at the organization’s national jamboree.

“In terms of the Boy Scouts, multiple members of the Boy Scout leadership following his speech there that day congratulated him, praised him, and offered quite — I’m looking for the word — quite powerful compliments,” she said.

“I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful,” Trump claimed in an interview with the Wall Street Journal (Politico published the transcript).

The Boy Scouts told Time on Tuesday that they were not aware of any call from the organization’s leadership to the White House.

“But the President specifically said that he received a phone call from the President of Mexico and the leader of the Boy Scouts,” a reporter said to Sanders.

“They were direct conversations, not phone calls,” she replied.

“So he lied. He didn’t receive that’s a phone call,” the reporter pressed.

“That’s a pretty bold accusation. The conversations took place. They just simply didn’t take place over a phone call. He had them in person,” Sanders said. “I wouldn’t say it was a lie.”

Yes, Sarah, we know you wouldn’t. But this is representative of the type of non-information we’ve come to expect from these little get-togethers.

And if Trump can’t tell the difference between talking to someone on the phone and in person, well, that’s worrisome. Of course, he could always clarify his comments (not offering an apology, heaven forfend), but you know he won’t.