NY Times illegally published Trump’s tax returns

The New York Times published three pages from Donald Trump’s state tax returns for 1995.  They show a loss of $916 million, which “could have” allowed him to pay no federal taxes for 18 years.  (The story is here.)

That remains highly speculative until we can see the full returns. But the biggest problem is that publishing tax returns without permission is a crime. The Washington Post reports that the Executive Editor of the Times said that he would be willing to go to jail if he could publish Trump’s tax returns.

Read all about it after the jump.  Then consider:  Do you think these revelations will harm Trump’s election chances, as Clinton’s campaign is saying it will?  Do you think this will end up harming the reputation of prestige journalism more than it will Trump?  Won’t ordinary Americans appreciate Trump’s ability to avoid paying the IRS (if that, in fact, happened) while resenting the press’s illegal violation of his privacy? [Read more…]

Media election coverage

After the Republican convention, the media was giving Trump lots of unfavorable coverage.  But once Hillary Clinton racked up a seemingly safe lead in the polls, reporters started giving her a hard time.  To the point that after Matt Lauer’s interview of the two candidates, Democrats complained about media bias!  (Welcome to the Republicans’ world!)  Now that Trump has caught up in the polls, though, journalists are attacking him again.

Prediction:  Watch for stories now about Clinton’s good qualities.

Fox News is coming apart

Roger Ailes, who runs Fox News, is set to be fired by Rupert Murdoch, owner of the network, over charges that he sexually harassed TV journalist Gretchen Carlson.  Megyn Kelly has also said that Ailes harassed her, though other Fox News employees are defending their boss.  In fact, three of the network’s biggest stars–Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Greta Van Susteren–are threatening to quit if Ailes leaves.  This would mean, for better or worse, the end of Fox News as we know it. [Read more…]

The end of the written word?

Facebook is predicting the end of the written word–at least on Facebook, which the head of the company in Europe says may well be all video in 5 years.  Suggesting that reading and writing will be all but obsolete (though not completely), Nicol Mendelsohn said, “The best way to tell stories in this world, where so much information is coming at us, actually is video,” which “conveys so much more information in a much quicker period. So actually the trend helps us to digest much more information.”

This is not true, as media expert Neil Postman has shown.  It certainly isn’t “quicker” to watch a video, as opposed to scanning a few paragraphs.  And the information value of videos is quite low, if you are looking for ideas and facts, as opposed to emotional experiences.  And “stories” can be told with much more depth in writing, as nearly any comparison with a movie and the novel it was based on will prove.

And yet, I can see Facebook and other online media replacing the written words with visual images and oral performances. This would be in line with the predictions of another media scholar, Marshall McLuhan, who said that when this happens, we will revert back to a pre-literate culture, one that is tribal, anti-rational, and functionally primitive. [Read more…]

Refusing to bake Trump’s cake

BuzzFeed announced that it would not honor a $1.3 million advertising contract with the Republican Party because Donald Trump is going to be the nominee.  I suspect other businesses will have similar qualms, as we are already seeing with some rock musicians not letting Trump’s campaign play their songs.  So how is that any different, asks Mollie Hemingway, from a Christian baker refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding?

She says that businesses should have the right to express their moral objections by not selling to certain clients, but asks why media corporations–including BuzzFeed–demonize the little guys who do this, while doing it themselves on a much bigger scale?

[Read more…]

How Luther invented mass media

Media historian Andrew Pettegree has written a new book entitled Brand Luther:  How an Unheralded Monk Turned His Small Town into a Center of  Publishing, Made Himself the Most Famous Man in Europe—and Started the Protestant Reformation.

He tells about how Luther, along with his collaborator the artist and printer LUCAS CRANACH, used the printing press in such a way that the Reformation went viral.  He shows how the two used visual design to, in effect, “brand” the publications.  Luther became the most published author ever, though, in the words of reviewer Ronald K. Rittgers, “he never made a pfennig from his publications.”

Of Luther’s writing style, Rittgers writes, “Unlike the typical theology books of his day, Luther’s early works were clear, engaging, entertaining, and accessible (he frequently wrote in German). And above all, they were brief.”

This is a book I want to read.  The review is excerpted and linked to after the jump, and I have links to Amazon. [Read more…]