A 20-Question Quiz for the Media

1680283We live in an era where the very foundations of journalism are increasingly under attack, where “fake news” is ascendent and the intellect and attention span of the public is on the decline.

In response, the editors of Pensito Review, in consultation with researchers at the Moscow Center for Media Studies, have crafted this 20-question quiz to help journalists clarify their mission and find their place in the cosmos during the current Trump administration.

1. Are you feeling depressed, demoralized, disgusted, disenfranchised or simply dissed by the state of the news media and its public perception today? (select one)

  • One of them
  • Two of them
  • Three of them
  • All of them
  • None of them


Tewspaper Is Not the Future of Newspapers, Right?


So there’s this new online newspaper that has no reporters, no editors, no fact-checkers and no advertising salespeople. Local versions of it are available in New York, Chicago, Baltimore, Dallas and Los Angeles. It sends specially programmed robots out over Twitter to glean pertinent tweets and posts them automatically with the originally links intact.

It apparently has at least one human staff member, a guy named Jared to whom you are supposed to direct any “feedback” you’d like to share.

It’s called Tewspaper.

So this is it — the end of the newspaper as we know it, right? Well, not exactly.

See, despite the fact that it uses robots instead of reporters, there’s a good reason why it exists in those five cities — they all have robust newspapers that have embraced the online distribution system pretty aggressively, creating a ready inventory of localized content on Twitter. The upshot is, without real newspaper reporters posting tweets about their stories along with links to the online versions, Tewspaper could not exist.

So instead of replacing newspapers, Tewspaper serves as a kind of RSS feed of capsule summaries (less than 140 characters) of newspaper content. Indeed, it’s a shame the newwspapers didn’t think of it first — they might have been able to monetize the linkbacks. Oh, well ….

USA Today Creator Al Neuharth Reads Pensito Review

This week Al Neuharth is celebrating USA Today’s quarter-century of turning trees into the intellectual lowest common denominator. It’s hard to believe that it was just 25 years ago that virtually overnight Americans went from being human beings with complex lives to being collective cyphers in brightly colored charts and graphs.

‘This is a lot of interesting bullshit.’
— Al Neuharth

USA Today did for the newspaper business what Kevin Federline did for rap music. OK, maybe not quite that bad, but you know what I mean.

You have to hand it to him, though, Neuharth says he still reads five or six newspapers a day, apparently with a straight face. And, it would seem from comments he made yesterday at a luncheon in his honor, that he’s an avid reader of Pensito Review:

He also reads blogs — “more than I’d care to mention” — but doesn’t have a particularly high regard for them. “Most of them, when I read them, I say, ‘This is a lot of interesting bullshit,'” he says. “But what bothers me about bloggers is there’s a growing sentiment that maybe the government should exercise some control over them. I’m totally opposed to that.” He likens today’s bloggers to the pamphleteers whose incendiary writing helped bring about the American Revolution.

That said, he has no interest in joining their ranks. “I use the internet to retrieve information, not to peddle information or gossip.”

It’s that “interesting bullshit” comment that leads me to believe Pensito Review is among the exaggerated number of blogs Neuharth reads. That’s how I usually describe my co-editors’ posts on this site, so it must be the case. And the “information or gossip” reference seals it.

I’m pretty sure Neuharth comments fairly regularly, too, as pie-chart-al@aol.com.

Hey, Al, congrats on the silver anniversary. According to a pie chart, there’s a 21.37 percent chance that you’ll continue to read Pensito Review.

Murdoch’s NY Post Fakes AP Story to Smear Dems and Promote Perpetual War

It may sound like my tin-foil hat talking but it really is fundamental to the right’s authoritarian agenda to keep the country in a perpetual state of war. But evidence of their true intent is rarely so brazenly exposed as it was this week by the intentional manipulation of a story at Rupert Murdoch’s flagship U.S. newspaper:

In the changed story, the Post added a quote from the White House saying Sen. Harry Reid and the Democrats would issue a death sentence “for millions of Iraqis.”

[The New York] Post completely rewrote [an Associated Press] story to make it a hit on Dems — than ran the piece with the imprimatur of the AP and Espo. While papers are free to edit AP copy, this complete makeover is nonetheless extraordinary — and extraordinarily revealing.

The lede from the original AP story:

A historic veto showdown assured, Democratic leaders agreed Monday on legislation that requires the first U.S. combat troops to be withdrawn from Iraq by Oct. 1 with a goal of a complete pullout six months later.

‘No more will Congress turn a blind eye to the Bush administration’s incompetence and dishonesty,’ Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a speech in which he accused the president of living in a state of denial about events in Iraq more than four years after the U.S.-led invasion.

The Post changed this to:

The White House warned yesterday that Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid’s new legislation requiring the first U.S. troops to be withdrawn from Iraq by Oct. 1 is a “death sentence” for millions of freedom-loving Iraqis.

The stinging comments from President Bush’s spokeswoman came just days after Reid declared the war is already “lost” and as negotiators for the House and Senate nailed down the details of the war bill, which also set a goal of completing the pullout by April 2008.

Dana Perino, the president’s spokeswoman, charged that Reid is in denial about the vicious nature of the enemy and about the U.S.-led plan to provide more security in Iraq.

Reid (Nev.) had earlier accused Bush of being in a “state of denial” about what’s happening in Iraq four years after America went to war.

Perino fumed about Reid, “He’s also in denial that a surrender date – he thinks it is a good idea. It is not a good idea. It is defeat.

“It is a death sentence for the millions of Iraqis who voted for a constitution, who voted for a government, who voted for a free and democratic society,” she added.

I thought I was unshockable by this crowd but they continue to amaze.

Reports Today on Ryan Skipper Vigils in Tampa Trib and Ledger (Sort of)

Better late than never: The Tampa Tribune reported on the hate crime vigils in memory of hate-crime murder victim Ryan Skipper set for today. A link to the article is prominently featured on the newpaper’s homepage.

The Lakeland Ledger also has posted an article about the vigils, but it is not linked from the paper’s homepage, and can only be found via the site’s search function.

The list of local newspapers that have covered the vigils now looks like this:

  • Lakeland Ledger: Yes
  • Winter Haven News Chief: Yes
  • Orlando Sentinel: Yes.
  • Tampa Tribune: Yes

Winter Haven News Chief Announces Ryan Skipper Vigil at Polkonline.com

We’re updating our list of local papers that have reported online on the upcoming vigil for hate crime victim Ryan Skipper:

The Lakeland Ledger continues to ignore or be unaware of the upcoming vigils.

As you can see, we added the Tampa Tribune to the list. A concerned citizen contacted a reporter at the Tribune to ask why the paper had not covered the vigil. According to the caller, the reporter said he hadn’t heard about the vigil. Perhaps the news release from Equality Florida was misdirected to the wrong department.

Update: A source close to the organization of the vigil locally says the Tribune plans to cover it.

We also updated the list to show that News Chief, one of the two news services based in Polk County, has covered the details of Saturday’s events via its website, polkonline.com:

Statewide vigils are scheduled for Saturday to honor 25-year-old Ryan Skipper, whose body was found near Wahneta early on March 14…

Equality Florida, an organization dedicated to securing equality and justice for the state’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, will assist with vigil plans, in Polk County, around the state and possibly in other parts of the nation Saturday to mourn Skipper’s death…

The Polk County vigil will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday in Winter Haven at Central Park, located on Central Avenue at Fourth and Fifth streets. For details, call 813-849-3919 or russ@eqfl.org.

The Lakeland Ledger continues to ignore or be unaware of the upcoming vigils. (I’m planning a separate article on this later.)

Local Coverage of the Lack of Local Coverage

Our coverage of the local media’s lack of coverage of the murder of Ryan Skipper has been noticed by a writer at Lakelandlocal.com:

[Posts] at the Pensito Review are proving a point about local newspapers. The public hasn’t written them off yet. The newspaper is where we expect to find local news. Not 60 Seconds of Local News at Six. We’re looking for The Ledger to cover the CSX story and Pensito Review is asking why the Ledger hasn’t mention the vigils for Ryan Skipper to be held Saturday in 13 Florida cities and Washington, D.C.

H/t thesue2u

USA Today Founder: I Was Wrong, Bush Is Worst President Ever

In his President’s Day commentary, USA Today founder Al Neuharth says that he once disputed the idea the George W. Bush was America’s Worst President Ever — but now he has seen the light:

Millions of people saw through Bush’s bluster from the get-go, while the people who control the media, and thus the message, completely bought into the packaging of Bush as a strong and decisive leader whose only failing was his stubbornness about protecting freedom.

A year ago I criticized Hillary Clinton for saying “this (Bush) administration will go down in history as one of the worst.”

“She’s wrong,” I wrote. Then I rated these five presidents, in this order, as the worst: Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan, Ulysses Grant, Hoover and Richard Nixon. “It’s very unlikely Bush can crack that list,” I added.

I was wrong. This is my mea culpa. Not only has Bush cracked that list, but he is planted firmly at the top.

Recognizing that we have a problem is a good first step, Al. But shouldn’t your hair be on fire? Our government is in the hands of the most incompetent, dimwitted and dishonest president ever. What are you going to do about it?

Hard reporting has been in short supply recently. What the USA needs today, Al, is the best journalism you can muster. The public needs to know the real reason Bush and Cheney took the country to war in Iraq. We still don’t know who from Enron was involved in writing Cheney’s energy policy in 2001. And — this may seem trivial and personal, but it isn’t — we need to know if Bush has started drinking again. Unlike Pres. Clinton’s sex life, Bush’s ability to cope with the pressures of the presidency are a matter of grave national security concern.