Catching up with notable journalism after the long weekend
Good Tuesday morning. Welcome back after the long Memorial Day weekend. To start today, here’s a look at some notable journalism you might have missed over the past few days.
To get us going, this amazing – and yet not surprising – article in The New York Times by Alexandra Berzon: “Lawyer Who Conspired To Undo Trump’s Loss Is Hiring Election Deniers To Monitor The Vote.”
The story begins with lawyer Cleta Mitchell leading a seminar on “election integrity” telling 150 “activists-in-training”: “We are taking the lessons we learned in 2020 and moving forward to make sure they never happen again”.
As Berzon describes, Mitchell was among the attorneys who “frenziedly compiled unsubstantiated accusations, debunked allegations, and a series of confusing and inconclusive eyewitness reports to buttress the case that the election was tainted by fraud. Courts dismissed the cases and election officials remained unconvinced, thwarting a stunning assault on the transfer of power.
And now? Berzon writes: “Mrs. Mitchell is preparing for the upcoming election. Working with a well-funded network of right-wing organizations, including the Republican National Committee, she recruits election conspirators into an organized cavalry of election-monitoring activists.
Read the story. It is extremely disturbing.
My take: As we head into the 2022 midterm elections, and then the 2024 presidential election after that, there might be no greater threat to democracy than those – fueled by misinformation and promoting savage conspiracy theories themselves – using their positions of power to influence elections and undermine the integrity of elections.
Stories like Berzon’s are key to shedding light on the issue of who, ironically, wants to steal future elections. In this case, it is some Republicans and, in particular, many Donald Trump supporters who continue to push the big lie of 2020. Trump’s support for candidates in recent primaries tended to tilt towards those who supported his claims according which the 2020 elections had been stolen.
Trump laid out such a plan – that the only way for him to lose is to be deceived – in 2016, but he ended up winning this election. He then released that playbook for 2020 and has continued to embrace it as he ponders another run for president in 2024.
Efforts to cast doubt on, and even influence, future election results are well underway.
This summer is the 50th anniversary of the Watergate break-in. I was just a kid, but I still remember Democratic North Carolina Senator Sam Ervin leading the hearings a year later, in the summer of 1973. Like many of us, I later learned of the role the media played in uncovering the truth, including the work of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post.
Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan, however, writes“Yet thinking about Watergate saddens me these days. The nation that came together to force a corrupt president out of office and send many of his accomplices to prison is a nation that no longer exists. It’s not just our policies that have changed, it’s also our radically transformed media environment.
Sullivan then notes that this summer there will be hearings on the events of January 6, but those hearings will be quite different from the Watergate hearings. Sullivan writes that they might be dramatic and might change a few minds, but the public attention will be different and “tiny” compared to how Watergate hearings gripped a nation.
Sullivan writes, “Our media environment is much more fractured and news agencies are much less reliable. And, in part, we can blame the rise of a right-wing media system.
She adds, “All was not good in the media world of the 1970s. It was almost entirely white and male, barely open to other views or voices. This was long before the democratizing effect of the internet, which elevated the ideas of people of color, women and other marginalized groups. But it was a time when we had news media earning the trust of the general public, a necessity to help bring Nixon to justice. This, at least during his presidency, was never possible with Trump.
Again, a difficult but important story. “60 Minutes” correspondent Scott Pelley with “What makes the AR-15 style rifle the weapon of choice for mass shooters?”
It includes this quote about the AR-15s from Cynthia Bir of the University of Southern California Ballistics Lab: “There will be a lot more tissue damage, both bones, organs, whatever is even close to this bullet trajectory. Bones aren’t just going to break, they’re going to break. The organs are not just going to tear or bruise, they are going to, parts of them are going to be destroyed.
I’m a big fan of the movie “Goodfellas”. Isn’t everyone? It’s physically impossible for me to change the channel if I come across it, no matter where it is in the movie and no matter what time of day. If I catch him, more than likely I’ll be there until Ray Liotta, playing Henry Hill, says: “I can live the rest of my life like a schnook.”
I was therefore saddened to learn of Liotta’s passing last week at the age of 67.
Liotta did more than “Goodfellas”. He did a good job playing Shoeless Joe Jackson in ‘Field of Dreams’, although as an avid baseball fan, I’ve always been a bit bothered that Liotta throws left and hits right even though the real Joeless Joe hits left and throws right. (DB Sweeney got it right in “Eight Men Out.”)
Liotta also had one of the best films of all time “Who’s That Guy?” debuted in the highly underrated “Something Wild” and played a good villain (and main course in a very gory scene) in “Hannibal,” the sequel to “The Silence of the Lambs.”
Here are some of Liotta’s fondest memories:
Do you have any comments or advice? Email Poynter Senior Media Editor Tom Jones at [email protected]
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