December 5, 2016 Last Updated 12:00 pm

Managing news decisions complicated by fact that many readers reside in a completely different news universe

Morning Brief: How is it that a man walks into a DC restaurant actually believing that it makes sense to “investigate” whether it is home to a pedophilia ring?

These days it is hard to decide what is the lead story – in the end, it probably comes down to either what is most importantly locally, or what your agenda is. And so, as an editor, you make your decision.

Here at TNM, which was launched to cover digital publishing developments, it should be something like a new platform, maybe a new app or the latest news from a publishing company. But the issues these days have gotten too big to simply think that the most important news in publishing involves whether Apple will ever update and improve iBooks Author.

In Washington, DC, a man walked into a pizzeria with a gun based on the crazy notion that a pedophilia ring run by Hillary Clinton and Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta was being run out of the joint. It is beyond crazy, but thousands of people apparently believe it – and those most vulnerable to believing this craziness are those with mental health or substance abuse issues (and it turns out that the North Carolina man who was arrested had a record in this regard).


But in much of the world, the US’s problems with fake news will take a back seat to the news that Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is resigning after his proposed referendum lost by a wide margin yesterday. The lessons from the vote, though, will be different depending on your point of view. Was this a US-UK-like rejection of the establishment, or the reject of a power grab by an unelected prime minister? (Renzi had been party secretary, not a member of Parliament.)

(This doesn’t even consider two other stories leading newspaper in other parts of the world: Austria’s reject of a far=right candidate and the resignation of New Zealand’s long-time prime minister.)

Still, the issue of what is news, and what isn’t, and what to think of news sites like Breitbart remains at the core of US news publisher concerns. How to maintain an audience, and attract advertisers, when such a huge portion of the reading public prefers reading only content that squares with their own preconceptions. I think the key to understanding these websites can be seen more clearly today when he see that Breitbart’s lead story is neither about “pizzagate” or world events, but a football game between two terrible teams. Why would Breitbart lead with a story about the poor performance by the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers? Because it combines the agenda of its publisher: a white nationalist agenda combined with a demand for political conformity. It’s the perfect little message to the site’s readers.

The Washington Post, Faiz Siddiqui and Susan Svrluga:

N.C. man told police he went to D.C. pizzeria with assault rifle to ‘self-investigate’ election-related conspiracy theory

A North Carolina man was arrested Sunday after he walked into a popular pizza restaurant in Northwest Washington carrying an assault rifle and fired one or more shots, D.C. police said. The man told police he had come to the restaurant to “self-investigate” a false election-related conspiracy theory involving Hillary Clinton that spread online during her presidential campaign…

…Police said 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch, of Salisbury, N.C., walked in the front door of Comet Ping Pong and pointed a firearm in the direction of a restaurant employee. The employee was able to flee and notify police. Police said Welch proceeded to discharge the rifle inside the restaurant; they think that all other occupants had fled when Welch began shooting.

Welch has been charged with assault with a dangerous weapon. Police said there were no reported injuries.

The Charlotte Observer, Mark Price:

N.C. man who stormed pizzeria over hoax story has drug, alcohol record

North Carolina arrest records for an Edgar Maddison Welch date back to 2007, and include charges of possession of up to a half ounce of marijuana, possession of controlled substances, driving after consuming alcohol and driving with an open container of alcohol. He plead guilty on the alcohol and drug charges.

In October, Welch is alleged to have struck a 13-year-old with a car on Harrison Road in Salisbury, according to a WBTV story. He stayed at the scene, it was reported. Officials said the victim suffered head, torso and leg injuries.

Reports emerged late Sunday that Welch might be a struggling actor, with a resume that includes a half dozen minor jobs on film productions, including being an extra and production assistant.

The Daily Beast, Tim Max:

‘Pizzagate’ Gunman Liked Alex Jones

The real-life consequences of a made-up conspiracy theory swirling around a popular D.C. pizzeria became all too real when a gunman walked into the venue Sunday afternoon…

…On his Facebook account, on which he goes by Maddison Welch, the would-be shooter likes both InfoWars and its host Alex Jones. The website has published innumerable stories about Pizzagate including videos alleging that “Pizzagate is global,” calling the “pedophile scandal” a “worldwide network.” Jones himself has tweeted about it to his nearly 500,000 followers as recently as Sunday. A Google search with the words “Alex Jones pizzagate” returns about 190,000 results.

Welch was also recently implicated in another a violent incident in North Carolina. In October, he struck a 13-year-old boy with his car, seriously wounding the teenager, according to WBTV. Witnesses said Kenyatta Belton was walking with friends when Welch drove down the middle of the road, taking up both lanes of traffic. Welch allegedly struck Belton with his car, leaving him with injuries to the head, torso, and leg. Police used a tourniquet to slow the bleeding from Belton’s chest while they waited for a helicopter to airlift to a hospital for treatment. It is unclear whether Welch faced charges.

Welch’s criminal history stretches back to 2007. He has pleaded guilty to drug and alcohol charges, including possession of up to a half ounce of marijuana, possession of controlled substances, driving after consuming alcohol, and driving with an open container of alcohol, the Charlotte Observer reports.


The Guardian, Luigi Scazzieri:

Italy’s referendum result is not another Brexit or Trump

First Britain voted for Brexit. Then America voted for Trump. And now Italians have overwhelmingly voted to reject constitutional reform, leading Matteo Renzi to state he will resign as prime minister later today. It’s tempting to draw parallels between the three votes. But Italy’s referendum does not mark a political earthquake. Its causes are different, and its effects on domestic and international politics are likely to be contained…

…Opposition to the proposed constitutional changes did not just come from the populist Five Star Movement and the nationalist Northern League, but also from mainstream political figures. These included factions of Renzi’s own Democratic party, former prime ministers such as Massimo D’Alema and Mario Monti, prominent academics and former constitutional court judges. This was not a vote that neatly pitted globalists against nativists or “the populists” against “the establishment”.

Italy’s vote is also different because the consequences of the vote are likely to be much more limited. Of course, in the coming days and weeks, we can expect some financial market volatility: it is likely that yields on Italian government debt will rise and that shares in Italy’s most troubled banks will fall.

The Financial Times, Gideon Rachman:

Italy’s threat to Europe’s future

Europe’s fightback against populism was going well for a couple of hours. On Sunday afternoon, it emerged that the far-right candidate had lost the Austrian presidential election. But the good news from Austria was drowned out by bad news that same evening, from the other side of the Alps. Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister, had lost his referendum on constitutional reform and confirmed that he will resign…

…The reasons that Italian populism may ultimately threaten the EU even more profoundly than Brexit are not simply to do with Italy’s traditional commitment to the European ideal. Also crucial is the fact that Italy uses the euro while Britain has kept its own currency. So, while Brexit is a painful and complicated business, it does not directly threaten the survival of the single currency — or risk unleashing a financial crisis. However, the chain of events set off by Mr Renzi’s referendum defeat could potentially do both.

The immediate danger is to the Italian banking system. In the new atmosphere of crisis, the proposed recapitalisation of troubled lenders — in particular Monte dei Paschi di Siena — is threatened.

Breitbart News, Dylan Gwinn:

Colin Kaepernick Turns In Historically Bad Performance Against The Bears, Benched For Gabbert

Colin Kaepernick made quite a name for himself this year by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. Given the way he played against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, the 49ers quarterback should have just stayed on the ground.

Kaepernick sat on the bench, in favor of backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert, after setting an historic benchmark for futility. According to The Washington Post, “…Kaepernick became the first QB in league history to be sacked five times and throw for fewer than five yards in a game.”


East Bay Times, Michelle Quinn, Tatiana Sanchez, Marisa Kendall and Erin Baldassari:

The Ghost Ship victims were young, creative and enjoying life

They went out for music and warm companionship in the cool East Oakland night.

The students, artists and musicians who gathered at the Oakland warehouse dubbed the Ghost Ship made up a loose tribe of young people who reflect the diversity of the East Bay. Some sported tattoos of antlers, deer and balloons. Some had hair dyed blue or green. Mostly in their 20s and 30s, they were students, performers and artists.

By Sunday night, eight were identified as being among the 33 victims at the Ghost Ship Warehouse in what is the deadliest fire in the city’s history. Authorities began to release names as dozens of families continued a heart-breaking and anxious wait for news.

The Guardian, Sam Levin:

Artists and advocates say deadly Oakland fire is product of housing crisis

A devastating warehouse fire that killed at least 36 people has shone a harsh light on a housing crisis in Oakland and its consequences for artists and low-income residents…

…Some reports have cast blame on the artists and residents associated with the warehouse where so many people died, trapped in a building that lacked basic fire safety mechanisms.

Long-time Oaklanders and tenants’ rights activists, however, said the tragedy was a symptom of a major affordability crisis and the long-term failure of urban housing policy to protect the most vulnerable people.

Grieving artists – many still waiting for official news about friends who went missing in the fire – said on Sunday the city must find a way to ensure that underground performance spaces, “live-work” warehouses and overcrowded homes were safe, without shutting down venues and evicting tenants.

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