How We Found Tom Price’s Private Jets – POLITICO Magazine

A great story on how two dogged reporters uncovered former HHS Secretary Tom Price’s overindulgence of private jet travel.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/APPRIMARY SOURCEHow We Found Tom Price’s Private JetsA tantalizing tip, followed by months of painstaking reporting, revealed the HHS secretary’s extravagant travel habits.

The first tip came from a casual conversation with a source back in May: Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was using private jets for routine travel, possibly in violation of federal travel rules that allowed such flights only when commercial options weren’t available.

But it was a tip and little else—no times, no names of charter services and not even a schedule from a notoriously secretive Cabinet secretary.

So we embarked on a months-long effort to win the trust of sources, both in and outside of HHS, who were in a position to know about the secretary’s travel. This required numerous meetings and phone calls, sometimes after hours, seeking to confirm what the original source acknowledged was just secondhand information. Neither of us had ever reported a story of this difficulty before.

Source: How We Found Tom Price’s Private Jets – POLITICO Magazine

Google Fiber not even offering TV in new rollouts

TV networks are as obsolete as rabbit ears

Google Fiber, noting America’s accelerating cord-cutting trend, today announced that it will not be offering television as part of its Louisville and San Antonio rollouts.

Think about that. A major, next-generation telecommunications provider has chosen to skip the video offerings, acknowledging that its customers just aren’t interested. Says Google:

If you’ve been reading the business news lately, you know that more and more people are moving away from traditional methods of viewing television content. Customers today want to control what, where, when, and how they get content. They want to do it their way, and we want to help them.

[…]

For our existing markets with TV as a part of their product offerings, nothing is changing — although more and more of you are choosing Internet-only options from Google Fiber. We’ve seen this over and over again in our Fiber cities.

I predicted back in 2009 (and again, and again, and again, and again, and again) that television networks and cable companies that don’t embrace Internet delivery are doomed:

Last week, I was describing to a friend who was new to Tivo how Tivo changes television. Through the magic of Tivo, MythTV, and similar DVRs, viewers have no use for TV networks anymore. We will watch (or stream) only the show they want and leave the rest. TV networks spend time assembling programming into a “channel” only to have that programming disassembled by Tivo. Eventually viewers will get wise and cut out the network middleman.

The traditional way of watching television is dead.
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David Crabtree retiring from WRAL TV in late 2018 | News & Observer

David Crabtree

I wish David Crabtree well in his new career in the clergy. On the eve of the Iraq War, he moderated a community forum about how America should respond and I won’t soon forget how bloodthirsty he was for vengeance.

I hope his religious studies have since made him a better person.

WRAL announced on Wednesday that longtime anchor David Crabtree will retire in late 2018.Crabtree has been in TV news for 35 years, taking over as the lead anchor at WRAL when Charlie Gaddy retired in 1994. He is a native of Tennessee who has lived in Raleigh since 1994.

According to WRAL, Crabtree, an ordained deacon, will take a permanent role in the Episcopal Church when he leaves the station. He is currently affiliated with St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Raleigh and is on track to earn a master’s degree in Theological Studies from Duke Divinity School in the spring of 2018.

Crabtree is an award-winning journalist who has interviewed presidents and has reported from the Vatican, political conventions and from the funerals of Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II and Nelson Mandela.

Source: David Crabtree retiring from WRAL TV in late 2018 | News & Observer

How Bullwinkle Taught Kids Sophisticated Political Satire | Innovation | Smithsonian

“Mr. Chairman, I am against all foreign aid, especially to places like Hawaii and Alaska,” says Senator Fussmussen from the floor of a cartoon Senate in 1962. In the visitors’ gallery, Russian agents Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale are deciding whether to use their secret “Goof Gas” gun to turn the Congress stupid, as they did to all the rocket scientists and professors in the last episode of “Bullwinkle.”Another senator wants to raise taxes on everyone under the age of 67. He, of course, is 68. Yet a third stands up to demand, “We’ve got to get the government out of government!” The Pottsylvanian spies decide their weapon is unnecessary: Congress is already ignorant, corrupt and feckless.

Hahahahaha. Oh, Washington.

That joke was a wheeze half a century ago, a cornball classic that demonstrates the essential charm of the “Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends,” the cartoon show that originally aired between 1959 and 1964 about a moose and a squirrel navigating Cold War politics.

Source: How Bullwinkle Taught Kids Sophisticated Political Satire | Innovation | Smithsonian

I Shot a Hurricane Irma Photo That Went Viral, and I Wasn’t Paid a Dime

As an amateur lenslinger who’s had my photographs garner the attention of news media in the past, I take the moral to this story very seriously. I give away a lot of my photographs to Wikipedia but if a commercial news organization wants a shot I believe I will negotiate with them from now on.

Google told me today that a photo I randomly took in a restaurant in Spain has crossed the 300,000 views mark. Imagine if I had even a penny for every one of those views.

Virality is an odd thing. You don’t see it coming, but you can feel the momentum building while it’s happening. My phone notifications started going off like popcorn. One here, one there, then many more at once. People were tagging and sharing in an attempt to find someone to help these guys, while also hunkering down for the storm.

The first request for usage came from Fox News Desk. I froze. At this point, it was still very local, and I couldn’t see where it was going. Also, I was very distracted by the hurricane outside. I didn’t even know if I could ask for licensing because other photos were floating around (although not as good).The key part here is that I also didn’t know how. What did I ask for? How much should I ask for? Did they even care? Did I have to copyright or license it somehow?

So I told Fox they could use it as long as I was given credit. Unfortunately, this might have invalidated any other requests for compensation, but at the time I was clueless.

Source: I Shot a Hurricane Irma Photo That Went Viral, and I Wasn’t Paid a Dime

Is Indy up to the task of covering local news?


I had been feeling encouraged that the Indy Week newspaper has been sending reporters to the local government meetings that the News and Observer has apparently chosen to skip. Raleigh desperately needs a local paper of record and the N&O has opted to cast a wider net.

My cheering for the Indy comes to a crashing halt, though, when I read stories like this one. Indy reporter Thomas Goldsmith asks the valid question of whether Seth Crossno’s “ITB Insider” blog is right to claim a sponsored blog post is an in-kind political donation. All fine and good, but Goldsmith loses me when he writes “candidate Bonner” instead of calling Raleigh City Councilor Bonner Gaylord, “candidate Gaylord.”

Bonner Gaylord

An announcement of candidate Bonner’s candidacy was labeled as humor. Crossno says the in-kind donation for that story has been submitted and will be listed on a future disclosure form.

Gaylord has been serving as a Raleigh city councilor since 2009. There is no excuse for a reporter writing about local politics to not get his name right. What’s worse, this is not the first time I’ve seen Indy make this mistake.

Come on, Indy. Don’t destroy your credibility right from the get-go. You’re the only game in town now and we need you to get it right.

N&O losing impactful, dogged investigative reporter in Neff – Raleigh & Company

R. L. Bynum at Raleigh & Company talks to departing N&O investigative reporter, Joe Neff. As I mentioned yesterday, Joe is leaving the N&O.

Joseph Neff projects his passion as an investigative reporter as his voice breaks up relating one of the highlights of his impressive career at The News & Observer.

Neff, who announced last week that he is leaving the newspaper he joined 25 years ago, was talking about the day in March 2016 that Howard Dudley — wrongly convicted of sexually assaulting his 9-year-old daughter — was freed. Eleven years earlier, Neff wrote a series called “Caught in a Lie” that documented the problems with the case.

Source: N&O losing impactful, dogged investigative reporter in Neff – Raleigh & Company

When Silicon Valley Took Over the ‘New Republic’ – The Atlantic

A good read from Gary’s article on the N&O about how chasing clicks killed the New Republic.

Journalism has performed so admirably in the aftermath of Trump’s victory that it has grown harder to see the profession’s underlying rot. Now each assignment is subjected to a cost-benefit analysis—will the article earn enough traffic to justify the investment? Sometimes the analysis is explicit and conscious, though in most cases it’s subconscious and embedded in euphemism. Either way, it’s this train of thought that leads editors to declare an idea “not worth the effort” or to worry about whether an article will “sink.” The audience for journalism may be larger than it was before, but the mind-set is smaller.

Source: When Silicon Valley Took Over the ‘New Republic’ – The Atlantic

Clicking The N&O – Talking About Politics

I’m not the only ink-stained traditionalist concerned about the N&O’s new direction. Former newsman Gary Pearce says his piece over on his blog, Talking About Politics.

In these Trumped-up times, we need good journalism more than ever. Which is why readers of The News & Observer paid careful attention to the recent column by Executive Editor John Drescher on changes there. What he wrote told us three things:
• How much journalism and The N&O are changing,
• How much readers are concerned about the changes, and
• How much editors are concerned about readers’ reactions to the changes.

Readers are concerned that the old wall of separation between news and ads is being replaced by a chart measuring how many clicks stories get and, thereby, how many ads get sold.

Drescher’s column, “On the new N&O menu: Less spinach, more reader-focused coverage,” reassured us that the changes will be positive:

“Starting this week, we’ll be working harder to answer your questions and present the news in a way that is more relevant, with more video and more focus on topics that we know you care about.

“When most of our readership was of the print paper, we never knew with precision how much each story was read. Now we know how much digital readership each story has, and we’ve used that as a guide for which stories we will cover.

“While measuring readership is important to us, it’s not the only factor we’ll consider when deciding what to cover.”

Drescher vowed that the pursuit of digital clicks won’t imperil quality.

“Our core values remain the same. We’ll continue to provide the kind of watchdog reporting that has distinguished The N&O. Check out ‘Jailed to Death,’ our new report on deaths in county jails….We want to give you the news and information that means the most to you in the form and at the times you want it.”

He chided “ink-stained traditionalists” who “worry that we’ll publish nothing but click-bait stories about cats. They (the traditionalists, not the cats) underestimate the intelligence of the readers in this region.”

Well, call me an ink-stained traditionalist. I do worry. Not so much for now, because I know the editors at The N&O today. They are serious, committed journalists.

But they’re under a lot of pressure from business people, bean-counters and click-counters who live on the West Coast. While I trust John Drescher and his colleagues, I don’t know who or what will come after him and them.

Source: Clicking The N&O – Talking About PoliticsTalking About Politics

Also last week, superstar investigative reporter Joseph Neff turned in his typewriter at the N&O. He’ll be joining the Marshall Project:

North Raleigh development reveals Isaac Hunter’s Tavern | News & Observer

While I was away last week, Craig Jarvis’s story on Isaac Hunter’s Tavern ran in the News and Observer. Craig did a nice job summarizing the current state of things and included some bonus photos and video of me traipsing through the woods that day. Had I known I would be populating pixels I would’ve dressed more like Indiana Jones than Mike the Mechanic!

It was fun rediscovering the tavern and I’m happy that I got a mention, though I’m just one of many who have helped bring attention to the Tavern.

RALEIGH Forty-eight years ago, a pair of state archaeologists went in search of a 200-year-old tavern that was the scene of an historic event in North Carolina history but had seemingly disappeared.

When they found it, the dilapidated tavern — near Wake Forest Road just north of what is now the Beltline — the scientists urged immediate action to preserve the structure. But that didn’t happen.

Instead, Isaac Hunter’s Tavern slipped from sight again, disappearing over time into acres of trees and dangling vines until few clues were left that it had ever stood there. Until now, after development plans for the woods were announced this summer, once again stirring the saga of the old tavern.

The story of Hunter’s tavern shows how easily history slips through a community’s collective memory in a fast-growing place like Raleigh.

Source: North Raleigh development reveals Isaac Hunter’s Tavern | News & Observer