Tag Archives: David Carr

First Amendment: hey, we can buy that!

Penalty, Mr. Snyder: Roughing the press. © BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons

By Bob Hicks

Every reporter at one time or another has felt the heavy hand. The veiled or not so veiled threat. The “You know, I have lunch with your publisher every week, and he listens to me” routine. Sometimes it’s soft and condescending: “I know a smart guy like you is gonna help me out here.” Sometimes it’s hard and condescending: “I’m a major advertiser!”

But rarely does it come down as raw and naked as it did recently from Daniel M. Snyder, owner of the National Football League’s Washington Redskins, who had his lawyer send a letter that included this paragraph to the owners of the Washington City Paper, which had published an unflattering story about Snyder:

“Mr. Snyder has more than sufficient means to protect his reputation and defend himself and his wife against your paper’s concerted attempt at character assassination. We presume that defending such litigation would not be a rational strategy for an investment fund such as yours. Indeed, the cost of the litigation would presumably quickly outstrip the asset value of the Washington City Paper.”

Kapow. The hand smacks down. We can spend you into oblivion.

David Carr, the canny media columnist for the New York Times, unravels the story here, and if Snyder thought he was being ridiculed before … well, let’s just say a little local issue has blown up big.

This threatened takedown strikes Mr. Scatter as the posturing of a bully, and a bully who smells blood: Newspapers are weak, and they can be roughed up. Maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise at a time when the Supreme Court has declared that corporations are people — or at least have all the rights of individual people, which in fact means they have many more rights, because they are much bigger and more powerful. We are living in a time when big money isn’t content to simply pile up and multiply in a few fat wallets. It wants to run every part of the show.

This shakedown won’t work. But it’s both telling and appalling that it’s been attempted. Has Mr. Snyder taken a look at what’s happening in the streets of Cairo?

Probably not. After all, he still insists, in the face of a culture that has shifted under his feet, on calling his football team the Redskins. Now, there’s an insult.


Penalty, Mr. Snyder: Roughing the press. © BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons.

The emperor with no clothes hangs it up

By Bob Hicks

A while back, in this post, we groused about the shocking unprofessionalism of the team of bozos that had taken over management of The Tribune Company, publisher of such flailing giants as the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and the Baltimore Sun.

Illustration from Hand Chriastian Andersen's "The Emperor's New Clothes." Vilhelm Pedersen (1820 - 1859)/Wikimedia CommonsWe were responding to David Carr’s report in the New York Times, laying bare the boorish behavior of the new guys on the block, whose obvious disdain for journalism and lack of respect for people in general seemed indicative of the moral morass that way too much of corporate life seems to be stuck in these days.

So, how about a modest celebration? CEO Randy Michaels, the overgrown frat boy at the center of the debacle, has resigned. Who knows what comes next, but it’s a beginning. You can read the Trib’s own report on the resignation here. And just imagine the celebrating in the newsroom.


Illustration from Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Vilhelm Pedersen (1820 – 1859)/Wikimedia Commons

Quick links: sticks, stones, busted bones

By Bob Hicks

Mr. Scatter has never been able to talk Mrs. Scatter into chucking it all and building a little log cabin in the woods. And, truth to tell, he’s not all that good at the log-splitting thing. Plus, there’s the indoor-plumbing issue: In general, he’s in favor of it.

The dome of Patrick Dougherty's stick-structure in Ketchum, Idaho.Still, he’s fascinated by the rustic stick constructions of North Carolina-based artist Patrick Dougherty — so much so that he wrote in this recent post about one that Dougherty built in Ketchum, Idaho. So he highly recommends Penelope Green’s lavishly illustrated story Of Sticks and Stones in Thursday’s New York Times, about Dougherty’s little-cabin-that-grew that he shares, during his rare down times, with his teenage son and museum-curator wife.

Old and new meet both in Dougherty’s North Carolina compound and the stick sculptures he’s installed worldwide: they speak to something arduous, provisional and soothing in humans’ relationship to the natural world.


We could all use a dose of Dougherty’s soothing sticks after taking in the next couple of recommendations. Both stories depress and exasperate and anger Mr. Scatter. Yet he still considers them must-reads.

The first: Steve Duin’s maddeningly excellent column in Thursday’s Oregonian, Terrified of an unguarded moment, about how today’s politicians are increasingly ducking even the most facile of encounters with reporters, which means, essentially, that they want nothing to do with anything resembling a give-and-take with the public they supposedly are vying to serve. Duin’s immediate case in point is Oregon’s two major-party gubernatorial candidates, John Kitzhaber and Chris Dudley, although he makes clear they’re far from the only ones playing this little game. Everything’s scripted, everyone’s handled, nothing’s real. Is it arrogance, or fear? Or is it just that, in a climate where money pours in very big buckets, the sort of ordinary voters who reporters work for just don’t count?

The second: David Carr’s morbidly fascinating report At Sam Zell’s Tribune, Tales of a Bankrupt Culture in Wednesday’s Times. If true — and it smells right — it’s a shocking if weirdly unsurprising tale of the arrogance, hubris and venality driving far too much of the contemporary corporate world, in which a small group of top-management Visigoths feed at the trough while disdaining not just the common good but also the future and stability of their own organization. That all of this has happened in Mr. Scatter’s own industry — the Tribune Company publishes such once-great newspapers as the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and Baltimore Sun — only angers him more deeply.

Put together the arrogance of our corporations and the isolated, money-baggish timidity of our political leaders, and maybe Mr. and Mrs. Scatter will build that cabin in the woods, after all. Can’t be that hard. Right?


PHOTO: The dome of Patrick Dougherty’s stick-structure in Ketchum, Idaho.