‘Media’ haters gotta hate (5×8 – 9/4/12)

The Democrats’ turn, the Madeline Island brouhaha, the day laborers, turning sweaty Oil Patch workers into a four-year degree, and the last days of a State Fair summer.


The Monday Morning Rouser (Tuesday edition):

1) TAKE TWO

It’s the Democrats’ turn this week as the final major political convention gets underway. It’s another chance to hate the (national) media, the legal editor for CBS Radio News writes in The Atlantic.

Andrew Cohen blasts the relationship between political parties and the media during conventions particularly.


Beyond the Beltway, across the Hudson River, in places where people don’t have the time or energy to parse the nuances of the relationship between media organizations and political parties, the televised blending together of journalist and politician is a suspicious thing. By hosting these parties, by marketing their product, by branding their coverage, by buying into the concept of the politician as celebrity, the “watchdogs” are essentially saying to their flock: “Look at how well connected we are with the wolves we are here to protect you against!” Does that make you feel better protected? Me neither.

And why should it? As I wrote a few days ago, the media in Tampa did a terrible job last week covering the voting rights story as it unfolded in the courts — a story expressly and directly connected to the Republicans’ embrace of voter suppression laws all around the country. Is it too cheeky to wonder whether all the time and energy journalists spent on media marketing, all the time spent “to source up” (as Smith put it), was time and energy unspent on asking Republican leaders about why they are fighting so hard, in and out of court, to make it harder for poor voters to vote?

A friend of mine — a former CBS anchor — posted the story on his Facebook page. Another former colleague of his — another CBS anchor (Lou Miliano) — took it apart:


This validation usually comes from articles lacking few specifics (yours had none, instead citing another article with few specifics) and a lot of spin. “Corporate Branding Suites” (media or otherwise) have been around ever since corporate execs found they could draw and rub shoulders with an event’s “celebrities” and have grown exponentially, from a few hundred for that hotel suite at a long-ago White House Correspondents’ Dinner to a million and more for a “must visit” elaborate venue at these conventions. These “suites” have been used since before the Industrial Revolution to conduct business and seal deals and today’s media executives are of the same mind set. But the “deals” they hope to seal are “exclusives,” “gets,” invaluable contacts, even competitor secrets (not to mention good ole’ bragging rights). Commentators (absolutely), producers (you bet) and reporters take advantage of these “deals” because they believe they give them a leg up on the competition. Does this mean all the reporters are slanting stories for these “celebrities” because they visited the suite? I know that is not what you meant. But by not being specific and making reference only to “the media,” you have painted every intern, every writer, every producer, every editor, every reporter, and every news anchor in this business busting his/her ass to put out a solid, unbiased, insightful, in-context story with the same soiled brush. Most Americans think Rush, Beck, Fox, MSNBC, talk radio, any number of cable commentators or mainstream are, individually, “the media, “the news.” If someone “hates” Rush or MSNBC , they don’t hate “the media.” Yet that is how you and so many report it. And that is beneath you, Andrew. And it is sad.

Meanwhile, apart from the fighting media, the Republicans will counter by turning to an old question as a theme: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” Ronald Reagan used it against Jimmy Carter in 1980. It’s an effective question, Nate Silver writes today, because most people can’t really remember what things were like four years ago.

2) THE ISLAND BROUHAHA

Manny Rivas of Duluth wasn’t given a lot of responsibility for planning his recent wedding. He had to show up, of course, but he also was charged with putting a honeymoon together. So, he rented a cabin on Madeline Island, only to find out when he got there, there was no cabin in which to stay.

Scam or understandable glitch? It’s a controversy on the idyllic island.

Rivas told his story to JP Rennquist.

Reached yesterday by NewsCut, however, cabin owner Ben Ryder says it was a glitch. “My computer crashed and I lost all booking information for my cabin rental,” he said in an e-mail. “I have refunded everybody who I double booked, including this gentleman. Thanks for hearing my side of the story. Have a great day!”

3) THE DAY LABORERS

“If you’re looking for work, it’s out there” Mark Waller says. “It’s a guaranteed job every time.” Though he has steady work, he doesn’t have a steady job. He’s one of Fargo’s “day laborers,” living a day-to-day and paycheck-to-paycheck life.

The Fargo Forum documents the world of the day laborer:


Though day labor is sometimes portrayed as a hotbed of undocumented workers and under-the-table payments, services like Heartland operate like any mainstream employer. Applicants provide their IDs and fill out tax forms before working, and collect a paycheck at the end of the day.

Workers are Heartland employees. Companies pay a rate to contract them out that includes their wages, taxes and other fees.

The company is one of two major day-labor providers in Fargo-Moorhead. Labor Ready is the other. Watson said there are also pockets of undocumented labor in the region.

He said most Heartland jobs pay $9 to $12 an hour, though jobs that require a specific skill can pay more. The company doesn’t offer insurance or benefits.

Who are day laborers? NPR’s Talk of the Nation talked a few years ago to the people who conducted the first survey of day laborers.

4) KIDS TODAY, EH? (CONT’D)

The sweat of the Oil Patch in North Dakota is the smell of money for a South Dakota teen who has come up with a business on wheels. The Fargo Forum reports Evan Jensen, 18, created a mobile shower business, converting a semi-trailer truck with the $15,000 he earned in previous summers trapping muskrats. He’s selling the business now and hopes to use the money to pay for four years of tuition at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul.

5) TODAY’S TREES OR TOMORROW’S INSPIRATION?

A science museum in Los Angeles wants to make a big splash for its role as the new home of the space shuttle Endeavor. So there’ll be a two-day parade through the city. Just one problem: The 400 mature trees along the route. They’re being cut down.

“They are cutting down these really big, majestic trees,” a resident said. “It will be beyond my lifetime before they will be tall like this again.”

“It is a historical artifact and national treasure,” said California Science Center president Jeffrey Rudolph. “The community understands that and recognizes that it will help inspire the next generation of explorers.”

Bonus I: It seemed like a good idea on the ground…

Bonus II: More Fair? OK! Hey, this could catch on. You put this film stuff in a camera and the pictures are very cool. Someday, everyone is going to want one of these.

TODAY’S QUESTION

The Democratic National Convention opens today and concludes Thursday with acceptance speeches by President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Today’s Question: Do the conventions help you decide whom to vote for?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Can the campaigns find common ground on women’s rights?

Second hour: Veterinarian Justine Lee takes your questions.

Third hour: Neil Barofsky on “Bailout.”

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers, speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival about teaching and learning.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The new Egypt. Egypt’s new president took a series of bold steps in recent weeks. He defied the country’s military rulers, bombed Islamist militants in the Sinai, chose China as his first overseas trip in office, and now comes out in full support of the rebels in Syria. All while promising major changes at home.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Julian Castro grew up in San Antonio in a family rooted in Latino activism. But as mayor, Castro takes a different approach. While he maintains a connection with the struggles of past generations of Hispanic-Americans, he is establishing a new future for Latinos in American politics. Julian Castro — keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention.

Minnesota dairy farmers these days are watching corn and soybean prices almost as closely as the price of milk. High feed costs have put many farms on the brink of losing money. It’s another impact of the Midwest drought. MPR’s Mark Steil will report.

Julie Siple wonders what happens to the extra produce at Minnesota farmer’s markets? Hunger relief organizations are stepping up their efforts to bring in the agricultural surplus. They see it as a growing food source, as traditional sources wane.

  • Doug Glass

    Bob, one fix for this otherwise impeccable 5×8: the Evan Jensen story comes from Associated Press’ James MacPherson, who has done extensive reporting on the oil patch in the last few years from Bismarck.

  • Chuck

    Trombone Shorty:

    Man, the guy is suddenly everywhere, starting with the MN State Fair a year ago, where he blew me out of my socks. But his recognition is well deserved, even based solely on today’s rouser. If you don’t feel fired up after listening to this piece, maybe you need another cup of coffee. Nice choice, Bob!

  • essjayok

    Seems ironic that something used to seek out other worlds shows just how short-sighted our own world is: let’s cut down hundreds of mature trees on our earth to store this man-made space-traveling machine!

    Despite my sadness over what this says about our world, at least there are also Evan Jensen’s here.

  • David

    I still have a few 35mm and use them solely to shoot B&W. It’s something that I’ll only do every few years, but there is something different about actual film B&W vs digital.

  • KTFoley

    Did I read that correctly? Are the trees being cut down just so that the parade can happen? How sad.

  • mark

    I think there is an extensive banality bias across mediums (not so much for public radio), particularly so in cable news. I get that it’s 2012 and anyone tuning into cable news expecting news, kind of deserves what they get. But I do think that this bias does have real policy consequences. I believe that marijuana, cocaine and heroine would be legal, or at minimum that there would be a strong outcry to reduce demand immediately, if we covered South America.

    In 2009 Biden said Obama wants to build a multipolar world, then says this year that legalization is off the table. These positions are not reconcilable long-term, As our neighbors get stronger, they will be less inclined to suffer the consequences of our drug policy.

    Similarly, the GOP platform says that they stand with the liberal democracies and against the drug cartels and Marxist subversives (guerillas). We all know where these cartels and guerillas get their money, but the platform is silent regarding how the GOP intends to actually reduce funding for these groups.

    I’d say that’s more newsworthy than whether the governor of some state thinks we’re better of now than 4 years ago.

  • Jim Shapiro

    As a long time part time islander, I have mixed feelings about your post on one individuals questionable business practices:

    On the one hand, it might prejudice people against going to the island.

    But on the other hand, it might prejudice people against going to the island.
    :-)

  • BJ

    Kids today.

    Looking at the numbers that shower business looks like it might clear around $52,000 with 24 clients a day. Filling water and removing waste are biggest costs, I figured $14 per cubic meter (22.71 cubic meters = 6000 gallons). That’s about $2.44 per shower (1.9 gallon per minute shower head).

    $95,000 is probably a good deal, if you can push the daily clients to larger number than 24 and limit shower to under 20 minutes (and use low flow shower heads). Friday and Saturday nights you might want to charge $12.50.