October 13, 2017 Last Updated 7:35 am

Trumps drumbeat against the media picks up support from some in GOP; Twitter’s response to violation leads to boycott call

Morning Brief: Indiana state lawmaker asks ‘If you’re OK licensing my Second Amendment right, what’s wrong with licensing your First Amendment right?’

The president of the United States has tweeted several times this week that he believes that NBC should lose its “license” due to so-called fake news. It has had more than a few media reporters scratching their heads concerning whether NBC actually has a license, and if so could the president actually revoke it.

The short answer is that networks don’t have, nor need, licenses, but their affiliates do in order to continue to broadcast. But like other outrageous charges by the president, which are laughed at by his critics, there are those public officials willing to go along with the president’s basic concept and make it law.

One of them is Rep. Jim Lucas, a Republican member of the Indiana House of Representatives, who yesterday proposed that media companies need to be licensed. Rep. Lucas is no stranger to seeking publicity, which may be why he quickly came to the president’s defense. But he is giving cover to other lawmakers who, if an actual bills comes up, may be forced to choose between calling the president’s attacks on the media a farce, or supporting a system of public publishing that existed in America before the Revolutionary War, and was much hated, thus proving a reason to include the right in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

Indianapolis Star, Tony Cook:

As Trump slams media, an Indiana lawmaker has drafted a bill to license journalists

“If you’re OK licensing my Second Amendment right, what’s wrong with licensing your First Amendment right?” he said.

The proposal comes as President Donald Trump continues to feud with national news outlets such as CNN and NBC.

“Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!” he tweeted Wednesday.

The Hill, Harper Neidig:

House Dems want hearing on Trump media license threats

A pair of top House Democrats are calling for Congress to hold public hearings on President Trump’s threats to revoke the broadcast licenses of media outlets he doesn’t like…

“Over the past few days the President has repeatedly attacked news outlets and their FCC licenses,” the two said in a joint statement. “This threat alone may already be chilling free-speech across the country. That is why we and others have called on the FCC Chairman to immediately condemn this intimidation and promise to the American public that he will not follow through on the directions he has received from the President.”

“Despite our calls, the Chairman has refused to say if he agrees with the President,” said Pallone and Doyle, two of the top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

This is a terrifying time at many publishing companies, the days just after a quarter closes, and the couple of weeks before the company reports earnings. It is when executive management knows it will be forced to report poor earnings, and when it will be asked by investors what they are doing to reverse the situation.

The solution of choice for many, far too many media executives is to chop some heads, and then claim on the earnings conference call that they have already taken the necessary steps to reverse things.

That is likely the reason behind yesterday’s news that the Chicago Tribune had laid off more newsroom staff, at both the Trib and its Pioneer Press suburban group.

“The news industry continues to face significant financial pressure,” said Bruce Dold, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Tribune in a memo. “We are not immune to that pressure.”

But the drip, drip, drip of layoffs are clearly taking a toll on newspapers around the country. News of hirings generally only come far after a noted staffer has decided to bolt the industry for greener pastures elsewhere. Working in a newsroom is like living on borrowed time as management is conditioning employees to expect layoffs and to not trust reassuring words from editors who say the worst is behind them.

“We are seeing results. Our digital subscriber base is growing. We are drawing new advertisers who find that we can help them to build their businesses through our digital products. I’m heartened by the conversations I have every day with readers and advertisers. They feel a deep connection to us and to our work. They dearly want us to succeed,” Dold told staff, while announcing further cuts.


Layoffs hit Chicago Tribune newsroom

Citing “significant financial pressure,” the Chicago Tribune announced a round of layoffs Thursday designed to restructure its city and suburban newsroom operations…

…The precise number of job cuts was not specified, but sources said a total of 14 positions were eliminated, mainly on the editorial side of the Tribune and its Pioneer Press suburban group. Some also were in the areas of media operations and in manufacturing and distribution…

…Last month the company notified the Chicago News Guild that it planned to cut five positions from the 20-person editorial staff of Pioneer Press. Staffers were offered buyouts prior to the layoffs announced Thursday.

Silicon Valley companies continue to have a problem with how they interface with the media and the public. Apple’s press team is known as one of the best by the incredibly small number of journalists that the company chooses to talk to, and the absolute worst by everyone else.

But the problem is systemic and Twitter went out of its way this week to show they are among the most tone deaf.

This week it temporarily locked the account of Rose McGowan who had included a telephone number in a tweet, a violation of Twitter’s terms.

The problem, of course, is that these kinds of actions almost always have a justification that is clear to the tech company, but comes off as crazy to everyone else. Good example of this was the app rejected by Apple years ago because it said it demeaned people. It was an app from a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, who regularly satirized public officials. But Apple saw it as a violation, while everyone else saw Apple’s actions as proof that the company should not be in a position to censor the media. (Apple thought about it and backed down.)

Twitter explained its rationale for the banning of McGowan, but it just didn’t get it. McGowan was reacting to the sexual abuse revelations of Harvey Weinstein, and claims that she is one of the women he sexually harassed.

In such a situation as this, Twitter needed someone to reach out directly to McGowan to get her to delete the tweet and talk the situation through. Instead, it imposed its powers to get what it wanted. That does not sit well with the public and time is running out for tech companies to understand that their standing with the public is being seriously eroded (and don’t even get started about Facebook).

The Guardian, Hannah Jane Parkinson:

The banning of Rose McGowan shows that nothing’s changed at Twitter

When months of abuse, when violent threats to female politicians, when the online version of hissing at Jewish people, or making monkey noises at people of colour, is apparently all acceptable but a victim of sexual abuse leading one of the most important and most open conversations on a horrific, systemic issue is silenced, even if only temporarily, then it almost makes me want to leave Twitter altogether.

It’s no wonder prospective buyers such as Disney backed off bidding for the platform because of its reputation on abuse. Former CEO Dick Costolo once said Twitter “sucks” at dealing with abuse, and despite some steps in the right direction (quality filters and mute buttons, for instance ), McGowan’s suspension shows that nothing’s really changed.

CNN, Marian Liu:

#WomenBoycottTwitter protest erupts over Rose McGowan’s suspension

Woman all over the world have joined a call to boycott Twitter over the platform’s treatment of actress Rose McGowan.

It started as a reaction to McGowan’s temporary suspension from Twitter (TWTR, Tech30) earlier this week and quickly escalated to the number one global trend on the social media platform on Friday as #WomenBoycottTwitter…

“She had been tweeting powerfully about sexual harassment and bias in Hollywood, and her own experience as a survivor of sexual assault, and she spoke for many women who felt they couldn’t,” said Heidi N. Moore, a New York-based business editor, who was among the first to popularize the boycott.

“Twitter seems to be sending a message that they’d rather see us silenced than take real, meaningful action to fix a problem that’s plagued Twitter since the beginning … when Rose McGowan was temporarily blocked by Twitter, that amplified the perception of silencing victims of various forms of abuse. The idea behind the boycott is to show Twitter that silence they seem to prefer.”

I still remember the days of my youth spent in the newsroom of the Detroit Free Press waiting for by brother-in-law to get off work late in the evening after the paper was being held because a Tigers game had gone into extra innings. The paper could not go to bed, editors believed, without the final score appearing somewhere in the morning paper — otherwise their rivals, the Detroit News, would have another reason to promote the advantages of an afternoon paper.

West coast games, of course, were a problem that a paper in the central time zone regularly had to deal with. But not have the score of the home games in the paper, unthinkable.

Times have certainly changed, but it is not the internet that can be blamed for the fact that many readers of the Tribune this morning in Chicago will not see a final score on the front page of their paper. It is cost cuts, licensed print deals, and the like that prevent later deadlines. Other local papers, such as the Daily Herald, can wait until 11:30 or so for the big game to end and make sure their front pages reflect the Cubs win. Papers further out, too, made sure they at least had a small box on their front page with the news, not so much because their readers didn’t watch the game, but because they know their readers expect it.

Not having the news on the front of the morning paper, well, it’s another reason to promote the advantages of the web.

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