May 11, 2017 Last Updated 8:12 am

Days of five column headlines return; North Carolina appears serious about ending newspapers publishing of legal notices

Morning Brief: The Washington Examiner declares it to be the end days for newspapers, uniquely interpreting Pew data to support its own attack on the media

The New York Times ran an open letter to the Deputy Attorney General, The Washington Post ran a front page picture of the president yucking it up with Russian diplomats. One might think that the US was on the verge of some sort of political upheaval. But in the Senate the leader of the GOP said there was no way there would be a special prosecutor named, and in Omaha voters returned the incumbent Republican mayor to office, despite the best efforts of Sen. Bernie Sanders and the Democrats. In other words, its Wednesday, and tomorrow will be Thursday, and not much will really be different by the end of the week.

The open letter editorial comes on the same day news reports claim that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein threatened to resign after the Trump White House portrayed him as the one to recommend that the president fire James Comey as FBI director. It is the reason, most likely, why the NYT targeted him in their letter, pushing the demand that he appoint

The New York Times, Editorial:

An Open Letter to the Deputy Attorney General

Mr. Comey’s misjudgments in his handling of the F.B.I. investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server were indeed serious. Yet you must know that these fair criticisms were mere pretext for Mr. Trump, who dumped Mr. Comey just as he was seeking more resources to investigate ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

You must also know that in ordering you to write the memo, Mr. Trump exploited the integrity you have earned over nearly three decades in public service, spending down your credibility as selfishly as he has spent other people’s money throughout his business career. We can only hope that your lack of an explicit recommendation to fire Mr. Comey reflects your own refusal to go as far as the president wanted you to…

…You have one choice: Appoint a special counsel who is independent of both the department and the White House. No one else would have the standing to assure the public it is getting the truth.

The Washington Post, Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, Sari Horwitz and Robert Costa:

Inside Trump’s anger and impatience — and his sudden decision to fire Comey

The president already had decided to fire Comey, according to this person. But in the meeting, several White House officials said Trump gave Sessions and Rosenstein a directive: to explain in writing the case against Comey.

The pair quickly fulfilled the boss’s orders, and the next day Trump fired Comey — a breathtaking move that thrust a White House already accustomed to chaos into a new level of tumult, one that has legal as well as political consequences.

Rosenstein threatened to resign after the narrative emerging from the White House on Tuesday evening cast him as a prime mover of the decision to fire Comey and that the president acted only on his recommendation, said the person close to the White House, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The battle over legal notices continues in North Carolina. In many states run by Republicans, efforts have been made to overturn the long standing tradition that government notices should be publicly published in newspapers. The argument for the practice is that this insures a certain level of government transparency, as well as insures that the notices will be permanently available to the public.

But some legislators argue that the practice is expensive, a subsidy of sorts for newspaper publishers — and besides, most citizens get their news online today.

In most states attempting to overturn the practice, Republican legislatures or governors have been pressured to think twice before ending the public publishing practice. But North Carolina looks ready to go ahead and end the newspaper publishing requirement, with local governments pushing the idea because they see it as a money maker for themselves.

The Charlotte Observer, Colin Campbell:

Local governments want public notices out of newspapers, and onto their own websites

Newspaper publishers say legislation that recently passed the N.C. Senate would harm “the public’s right to know” by moving government notices from published ads to little-viewed corners of local government websites.

Supporters of the bill counter that newspaper classified-ad pages aren’t getting many readers either, and that the change could save millions of dollars for counties and municipalities…

…The local governments could also host other peoples’ legal notices on their own websites, charging attorneys and others for legally required announcements about foreclosures, seized property and other proceedings. The revenue from those ads would fund teacher-pay supplements.

Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Hendersonville Republican who’s sponsoring an identical bill in the House, says the notices “have little or no value but generate plenty of money for newspapers. I don’t think government ought to be in the business of subsidizing pretty much anything.”

Yesterday, TNM ran a story on the new Pew Research Center study — Americans now sharply divided as to media’s role as watchdog — which talked about the division between Republicans and Democrats in regard to how they see the role of the media as watchdog of government.

“Democrats and Republicans, who already tend to place their trust in different news sources and rely on different outlets for political news, now disagree more than ever on a fundamental issue of the news media’s role in society: whether news organizations’ criticism of political leaders primarily keeps them from doing things they shouldn’t – or keeps them from doing their job,” wrote the report’s authors, Michael Barthel, journalism researcher, and Amy Mitchell, Director, Journalism Research at the Pew Research Center.

I pointed out that by and large the public sees the media of going a good job of reporting local and national news. If you combine the number of people who say the national media is doing a very good or fairly good job you find that 78 percent have a positive opinion of the job the media is doing.

Ah, but the problem with interpretation is that someone can come along and interpret the data in the opposite way, ignoring the large number of respondents that said “fairly good” and only looking at the small number who said “very good” — now the picture looks completely different and gives support to (of all people) media folk who want to criticize their own profession.

The Washington Examiner, Paul Begard:

End of newspapers: 85% get news on mobile device, highest ever

In the latest death knell for print, Pew Research Center said the use of mobile devices for newsies equals that of desk top computers, but that a big 65 percent majority would rather just use their phone or tablet…

…Most also don’t find the news provided by the media “very trustworthy.” On that score, just 11 percent of Republicans called it “very trustworthy,” and for Democrats it was 34 percent.

While the survey doesn’t give a key reason, it comes amid a huge media battle over President Trump and his administration and the fight over fake news. His attacks on the mainstream media has been adopted by millions of Americans and that anti-media wildfire likely influenced the survey.

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