May 17, 2017 Last Updated 8:35 am

President suggested to the FBI director putting reporters in prison for publishing leaks; waiting for Fox News to bail

Morning Brief: New Bloomberg column claims Time Inc. was too slow to adapt to the Internet, though the reasons for the company’s declining fortunes are many, including being spun off from Time-Warner weighted down with debt

If you have ever lived in California you know what it feels like during an earthquake. Most of the time one stops and gets a quizzical look on one’s face as if saying “is that an earthquake?” Most of the time, by the time one figures out that it is, indeed, an earthquake it is over and one continues on with their day (usually sunny and warm). But during a major earthquake the quizzical look goes away and a realization that this one could be a problem comes over you (then it is over and one goes on with their day, usually sunny and warm).

But what really gets you is that if the first quake was big, there is bound to be aftershocks. I remember after the Whittier earthquake that there was a series of aftershocks, most of the time coming late in the evening. One got used to waking up at 2 am wondering if there would be an aftershock, and on most evenings there were.

That is what the news cycle feels like now. Every day, at around 5pm ET one of the major news organizations drops a story. On Monday, it was the Post reporting that the president gave away classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador, outside the earshot of the US press, but with the Russian news agency Tass chronicling the event for its Russian audience, and later posting the photos on Flickr. On Tuesday, yesterday, the Times reported that former FBI director James Comey had written memos chronicling his meetings with the president, including one time when Trump asked Comey to shut down the federal investigation into former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

What will the next shock be?

The New York Times, Editorial:

Did Mr. Trump Obstruct Justice?

The president of the United States may have a lot of power, as Mr. Trump likes to remind us, but that power does not extend to obstructing a federal investigation.

That is precisely what Mr. Trump was trying to do, Mr. Comey feared…

…This growing crisis now raises urgent questions of abuse of executive power and demands an immediate and thorough response. The White House cannot police itself, of course, and Americans can’t have an ounce of faith in the Justice Department, which is run by an attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who was Mr. Trump’s top cheerleader in the Senate. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who alone has the power to appoint a special counsel, has not given any indication that he plans to do so.

No need to add more reaction to yesterday’s news about the Comey memos. But also inside that Michael Schmidt story was another revelation: that the president asked Comey about whether the FBI should begin jailing reporters in an effort to stop the leaks emanating from his own administration.

The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt:

Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation

Mr. Comey had been in the Oval Office that day with other senior national security officials for a terrorism threat briefing. When the meeting ended, Mr. Trump told those present — including Mr. Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — to leave the room except for Mr. Comey.

Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.

Mr. Trump then turned the discussion to Mr. Flynn.

Photo: Behind Bars by Arne Halvorsen used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Freedom of the Press Foundation, Trevor Timm:

Statement on Trump allegedly telling Comey to jail reporters for publishing classified information

Trump’s comments are disturbing, yet unsurprising. He has made his war on the press a central point in both his campaign and early presidency, and has increasingly become obsessed with pursuing leak investigations. If the Trump administration attempts to jail a reporter for publishing classified information—something major newspapers do all the time—it would present a grave threat to the journalism profession and the First Amendment…

…We hope everyone will loudly condemn both Trump’s remarks that he wants reporters jailed, as well as the Justice Department’s planned prosecution of WikiLeaks. It’s never been more clear that they are not two separate issues, but are inextricably linked.

One question on so many minds these days is why is it that despite all the drama, all the evidence that the members of the Trump administration colluded with the Russians, evidence of Russian bots and trolls, of hacking, and now of obstruction of justice, that Trump voters continue to support the president? If you have a relative that is an avid Fox News viewer you know the answer to that question.

I have a relative that is convinced that President Obama was born in Kenya, that Democrats don’t support veterans, and that the ACA contains death panels.

Yesterday, when the news media was reporting the latest Comey revelations, Fox News talked about the Clinton Foundation, the cancelation of Tim Allen’s TV show, and just how wrong the rest of the media is.

Many think Fox News won’t turn on Trump, but UK citizens might have a different perspective. They remember when Rupert Murdoch, seeing the changing fortunes of the Tories, supported Tony Blair (before then returning to the conservatives). One might not think that, at this point, Sean Hannity will turn on Trump, but don’t be surprised if other Fox News hosts suddenly start reporting what the NYT and WaPo are saying, and without commentary. The sign that this might occur won’t be found first on Fox News, but with Congressional Republicans. The last thing Fox News wants is to be found to be out of touch with conservatives.

Axios, Sara Fischer

What Fox covered instead of the Comey memo

Fox News continued to deviate from MSNBC and CNN on Tuesday night, downplaying the new NYT report about Comey’s memo and Monday’s Washington Post report that Trump revealed classified information to Russia. Hosts called the reports “fake,” and criticized the journalists for using anonymous sources while pivoting to cover other stories, like the Clinton Foundation, the President’s first trip overseas and the conspiracy theory around the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich, which was debunked by NBC earlier Tuesday evening…

…In the 10 p.m. hour: Sean Hannity opened with a graphic reading “Washington Post WRONG AGAIN,” and called a CNN coverage of the Washington Post Russia report “fake news.” MSNBC continued to nearly exclusively cover the Comey scandal while CNN featured a town hall with Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. John Kasich where the Comey memo was discussed.

CNN Money, Julia Horowitz:

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway dumps its Fox stake

Berkshire Hathaway sold its stake in parent company 21st Century Fox (FOX) during the first quarter of 2017, according to a company filing.

The billionaire first scooped up the stock at the end of 2014, buying 4.7 million shares that were worth about $161 million at the time. The company last reported that it held 8.9 million shares worth about $250 million…

…There are also growing concerns about how cord-cutting will hit cable news profits. Additionally, Buffett is a longtime Democrat who backed Hillary Clinton, while Fox has firmly aligned itself with President Trump.

Everything that goes on in US politics seems to have huge implications for the media, which is why TNM’s Morning Brief looks more like a political website than a digital publishing ones these days. But the world of publishing moves on and there is other news to report.

Skift, the travel intelligence startup founded by Rafat Ali, has taken a move further in the direction of reader supported publishing, launching Early Access, which allows subscribers to receive news a day before it appears on the website.

Skift, Rafat Ali:

Exploring the Frontiers of Business Models in Business Media: Why We Came Up With Early-Access

Today at Skift we flipped our business model, almost five years into our existence. Rather, it would be more nuanced to say we crashed the two main media business models into a hybrid one…

Other media observers are coming to the same conclusion about Time Inc. that I have: that it is in serious trouble.

I don’t really know why the board decided not to sell when it could. It might be that they did not see Meredith’s bid as allowing them to cover the company’s debts without shortchanging shareholders. But Time Inc. stock is cratering. It fell another 4,6 percent yesterday and will start the day at $12.45. Its 52 week high was $20.40.

Joe Nocera, who is now a Bloomberg View columnist after years writing for the NYT, pretty much nails this evaluation of the situation. Nocera puts the emphasis heavily on the publisher’s failure to adapt to the Internet. I think that is true, but there are many other issues impacting Time Inc., many of them mentioned in Nocera’s column (which is why I think he just about nailed it).

What’s missing? Well, those I know who are inside the company, or once were, talk about its corporate management, that doesn’t really understand the business, its lack of support for the troops, as well as the slow nature of print salespeople and editors, who are often left in the dust by their digital competitors.

The current management wants to move away from print towards video and broadcast, but one wonders if this is actually a well thought out strategy, or simply what management knows. The problem, of course, is that for every dollar gained in digital — be it online ads or video content — two dollars appear to be lost in what was for many years the core business.

Bloomberg, Joe Nocera:

Vultures Are Circling as Time Inc. Gasps

In an earnings call, and in a subsequent interview with me, Time’s new chief executive, Rich Battista, talked optimistically about the company’s prospects. But it’s hard to see what justifies that optimism. Notwithstanding Battista’s desire to keep Time Inc. independent, I think it’s more likely that the final chapter in the company’s storied history will turn out to be a fire sale, with healthier titles sold and weaker ones shuttered. Vulture investors like Leon Cooperman, chairman of Omega Advisors Inc., are circling…

…Is it any wonder that Time Inc. is having such a difficult time? The debt prevents the company from making a transformational acquisition. And because there is really no more fat at the company, magazine editors have been reduced to laying off some of their most talented writers because those are the ones with the biggest salaries. As for its digital strategy, it’s as if Time Inc. seems intent on making up for lost time by making the same mistakes other companies made years earlier. Time and Fortune both slap short, generic stories on the web, and then tease those stories on Twitter with headlines that are pure clickbait.

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