March 6, 2017 Last Updated 12:27 pm

President’s tweets (and others) show the power of the media, just not the traditional media

Morning Brief: General Motors sells off Opel brand to French auto company, while this week is when bids are due for all or part of the Time Inc. portfolio

The weekend news cycle was all about the president’s claim that his phones in Trump Tower were bugged, and Trump’s accusation that former president Obama was behind it all. The source of the president’s information? An article on Breitbart which quoted radio host Mark Levin looks to have been the source of the president’s information.

But it appears that the president is not very good at clicking on links, because if he had, he would have found out that the real source of the idea was Louise Mensch of Heatstreet who said it was not the White House that approached the FISA court for a warrant, but the FBI. Obama’s name appears nowhere in the original story, but Levin simply substituted “Obama” for “FBI”.

The president is not the only member of the Republicans that has a habit of reading a story and them immediately tweeting something that they will later regret. Rep. Steve King of Iowa apparently wants a Stalin-like purge of the government after reading a story on a conservative website. Rep. King is known for being, well, out there, but this purge idea has even many of his supporters a tad bit uncomfortable.

It is ironic that at the same time the administration has claimed the media is spewing fake news, and that the major news organizations are “failing” that the influence of the media within the governing party has never been more influential. It is just that the president and some in Congress are not getting their news from The New York Times or NBC News, they are getting it from fringe websites where rumors and conspiracies are reported.

This would not be such a big deal if the State Department and the intelligence agencies were also being consulted. But the new administration has so marginalized other parts of the government that little information can make its way to the new president. Instead, on a late Friday or early Saturday, a lonely president can sit on his bed and read from his phone the odd website and see what he is reading as important and accurate as anything that might come from other parts of the government.

The Washington Post, Derek Hawkins:

Mark Levin has warned before of Obama’s ‘silent coup.’ Now he has a follower in the Oval Office.

On Thursday, Levin returned to the “silent coup” theme during his evening show, arguing that the Obama administration had orchestrated a “silent coup” against President Trump. The Obama Justice Department, he claimed, had wiretapped and spied on the Trump campaign when it investigated Russian interference in the election, and had leaked information to the press to undermine the new president.

Levin’s claims were picked up by the website Breitbart, which reported Levin saying that Obama’s “police state” actions, rather than “conspiracy theories” about alleged Russian interference in the presidential election to help Trump, should be the target of congressional investigation.

By Saturday morning, President Trump was on Twitter accusing Obama, without evidence, of a “Nixon/Watergate” plot to tap the phones at Trump Tower.

The New York Times, editorial:

The Times reported on Sunday that the F.B.I. director, James Comey, was so alarmed by Mr. Trump’s fact-free claim — which implicitly accused the F.B.I. of breaking the law by wiretapping an American citizen at a president’s behest — that he was asking the Justice Department to publicly call it false. In other words, the F.B.I. director was demanding that Justice officially declare the president to be misleading the public.

This is a dangerous moment, which requires Congress and members of this administration to look beyond partisan maneuvering and tend to the health of the democracy itself.

Los Angeles Times, Tracy Wilkinson:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson largely disappears in the Trump Cabinet

More than a month after he became America’s top diplomat, Rex Tillerson is like no other modern secretary of State: He’s largely invisible.

Tillerson’s absence was conspicuous Friday at the release of State’s annual report on human rights around the world, a normally high-profile event that other governments closely monitor and previous secretaries rarely missed…

…In Washington, foreign diplomats and non-governmental organizations that routinely work with the State Department say it appears rudderless.

“There is no one under him,” said a Western diplomat who asked not to be identified because the diplomat’s embassy must deal with the State Department. Visiting delegations “have meetings but find everyone in listening mode.”



This week bids are due to Time Inc. from suitors seeking to buy all or part of the company. The NYT talked to CEO Rich Battista and COO Jen Wong about the company and any potential sale. Sadly, not much new can be gleamed from the story, likely due to the fact that the reporter on the story has no media experience outside the NYT itself. This is becoming increasingly common at the NYT as older reporters accept buyouts and interns become reporters in their place. It is why the NYT appears to be far less connected to the NYT media scene than it has in the past.

As for Time Inc., the company is in the same spot it has been for a while, with suitors looking at some of its properties as attractive, but the company as a whole a risky investment. The problem is that, like the NYT, it has has a new strategy that has yet to play out successfully. If the NYT is looking for digital subscriptions to drive its growth, while advertising declines, Time Inc. is looking for move into video programming, essentially become a broadcaster of sorts. The idea has merit: use its iconic brands as a swing board to digital and video content creation through partnerships, as well as in-house creation. It also hopes through reorganizing its sales teams it can dramatically grow digital advertising.

The challenge is ramping up this approach faster than print ad revenue declines. But the reason it is in this race with time (no pun intended) is because its moves, while boosting one area, hurt the other.

The New York Times, Sydney Ember:

Time Inc. Plots a Future Beyond Its Heyday, as Suitors Line Up

Mr. Battista and Ms. Wong insisted that Time Inc.’s magazines were still important to the company. And in early February, Mr. Battista and Alan Murray, Time Inc.’s chief content officer, sent a note to employees praising recent developments at the company, including a bump in Time magazine’s online audience.

“These achievements are a testament to one of our key points of difference — Time Inc.’s trusted, quality journalism,” they wrote.

But Mr. Battista and Ms. Wong also said the company was looking to leverage the company’s well-known titles into other revenue opportunities.

“The foundation of the company is, has been and will remain the power of these brands,” Mr. Battista said. “It’s about extending these brands and taking these brands far beyond, obviously, the printed word, which was the legacy of this company.”

To some in the industry, Time Inc. seems to be on the right track even if its financial results suggest otherwise. And within the company, some have described a new sense of collaboration. Employees congregate in common areas, where there are bowls of fruit and free snacks. The company’s new headquarters feature bright video studios and test kitchens, instead of the bar carts and palatial executive offices of yore. (Laura Brown, the new editor in chief of InStyle, coyly described the space as “high concept.”)

“I think they’re absolutely doing the right thing,” said Tim Nollen, an analyst at Macquarie Capital. But, he added, “It remains to be seen how they actually can monetize what they’re doing.”



General Motors today sold off its Opel brand, selling it to PSA Group, the company behind Peugeot and Citroen. It is probably all for the good. Like Ford, which used to own Jaguar, the temptation to save costs by spreading elements of the cars between models is just too great.

As I’ve written before, as a Detroiter one gets to hear of all the great cars the big three design but never build. The beautiful new models that are designed with amazing specs end up being the same ol’- same ol’ once the accountants are brought in.

Still, the move will still hurt the egos of those at GM, which has always thought of itself as a global brand.

The Detroit News, Melissa Burden:

PSA Group buys GM’s Opel for $2.2B

French automaker PSA Group is spending $2.2 billion to buy General Motors Co.’s European Opel and Vauxhall division and GM Financial’s European operations, the companies said early Monday. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year, pending regulatory approvals.

For GM, the bold move of exiting a business its controlled for nearly 90 years follows unsuccessfully working since 1999 to bring the Opel/Vauxhall subsidiary back into the black. It has lost nearly $20 billion in the region during that time…

…PSA Group, which makes Peugeot and Citroen cars in Europe, will gain large economies of scale with the acquisition, and synergies in purchasing, manufacturing and research and development. It expects annual savings of $1.8 billion by 2026. With Opel and its sister Vauxhall brand in the U.K, PSA will have about 17 percent market share in Europe, putting it second in the region behind Volkswagen.

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