Thinking about teacher’s child porn trouble and my old school’s website

Today, I found out some news about someone who went to school with me, pretty much since kindergarten. In fact, I think he lived two blocks away. I probably haven’t seen him since junior high, which is what we called middle school in those days.

He was very smart and probably could’ve done anything. Eventually, he became a teacher in Florida, near where we grew up. That, I knew. Nothing else, since we hadn’t kept in touch.

Now, I found out he’s in big trouble, pleading guilty to a count of child pornography possession. He’s not the first person I knew, and also not the first teacher.

Don’t ask me what I think. I don’t know the guy. I know what I read, and you can look it up if you have any interest. (I won’t share anything else because what I read made it clear there was electronic possession, and it came from outside this country. Therefore, there’s no threat nor need-to-know in this blog post. Anybody who’d need to know already does.)

That got me thinking about the school where I started teaching. Regular readers know I did way too much there and was taken advantage of. That included figuring out how to be webmaster of the school’s old website. I was assigned that responsibility since I had my own site for my classes throughout that time.

I know since I left, the school had a big web problem and apparently had to pay to get the job done. (It’s funny how they finally found money when they had nothing for me, but I got the last laugh through education, experience and respect.)

lenny michael charlot
June 6, 2012: Honored at the Teacher of the Year luncheon

All this thinking got me to check out the school’s website and I was not pleased.

Below is the email I sent to Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ superintendent, the board chairperson, and the board member whose district includes the school.

Keep in mind, the school is between North Miami and Miami Shores. The majority of the school population was Haitian when I was there, and I have no reason to believe that changed over the past five-plus years.

(I kept the web links in for time purposes, and so you can see for yourself how things are being done and what I’ll be discussing. It’s exactly like the email I just sent.)

email

Hi! Please take just one moment to think about the importance of getting complete, accurate information out to all of your stakeholders, at all of your schools, and looking professional in the process.

I know Superintendent Carvalho recognizes the significance of not just appearing but also being competent, and would think he, the Board Chair and District 2 Board Member will feel as badly as I do after seeing what I just saw on the website of the school where I used to teach, run the website, serve as grade chair, electronic gradebook chair, EESAC secretary, Rookie Teacher of the Year, Teacher of the Year, and too many other things.

Today, I was shocked by what they’re showing the world on the internet.

First, on the District’s information page on Hubert O. Sibley K-8 Academy http://www.dadeschools.net/schools/schoolinformation/school_details.asp?id=5141, the Principal’s Message writes the old school name (Hubert O. Sibley Elementary) which was changed years ago. He does it *three* different times in one single message. His message is not timely. There is no year on it. How long do you think it has been since he updated it? (And just wait. Keep reading and you’ll see I found it at three other locations!) The picture on top has that old school name on it. And there’s a link for the 2012 bond referendum still up. What grade are the children who were born that year in now?

Clicking onto the school’s actual site (which redirects to https://www.hubertosibley.org/

On the homepage:

The Principal’s Message https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=295193&type=d on the right side is exactly the same as I wrote about above, with the wrong school name.

elementary on homepage

“Who is Hubert O. Sibley?” on the left side should be “Who was” since he’s dead. Also, a phrase inside the link https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=297771&type=d looks more like an old phone company than a correctly-spelled description. (I’ll explain it to you later in this letter, if necessary.) A more recent picture of him would also be nice. I know the school had a painting when I was there. Personally, I think the students at the school would relate more to him as an old man in a suit, rather than what they’d consider an old picture of someone in a strange-looking uniform.

who was

phone company

While you’re there, look at the directory of links on the left side. There seem to be two links on most pages on the site and that’s bad, because I don’t think the first link works any of those pages and the second links to one particular person (a math coach) who is listed on every faculty and staff page, and more as you’ll see. FYI: It should probably link here https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/staff/, but that page isn’t totally up to date.

Back to the homepage:

The “Food Menu” https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/food_menu/ has a blank calendar, like they’re not serving anything for breakfast or lunch. My first thought was that the page could link to a District page since schools tend to serve the same foods. Don’t worry. I found where it should go: http://nutrition.dadeschools.net/#!/rightColumn/193. I would actually separate the District menus page from the “To Apply Online for Free and Reduce Price Meals” page. (It should really say “Reduced.”) I’d also add the page to pay for lunch, which is right there, and could save time in the lunch line.

The PTA page https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=295215&type=d looks very old and I don’t think any of the teachers listed have taught at the school in years. Furthermore, Ruth Robert’s name is spelled wrong. It’s not “Roberts” as you can see in her email address. (She’s one of those former Sibley teachers.)

The “Mission Statement” underneath is complete right there, so why do they begin another sentence (which never ends) and wastes the reader’s time to click a link when the new page simply restates that mission statement?

mission

Don’t forget, the homepage is the most important one you have.

Look at the top, and the “About Us” section:

There are at least two errors in “News and Announcements” https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/news/. The first link there (Middle School Mock Trial Virtual Competition, https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/news/show_news.jsp?REC_ID=524303&id=0) has a hyphen where there shouldn’t be, and the paragraphs ends referring to “finals rankings.”

bad hyphen and finals rankings

The third link (Social Media Toolkit, https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/news/show_news.jsp?REC_ID=520826&id=0) needs no explanation. Just look at it, and notice the repetition and lack of proofreading. I remember teaching the students to proofread. Also, there’s nothing to click where it says, “Please click here.”

repeat and no click

In “Upcoming Events” https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/events2/?id=0&v=1&m=9&y=2018#today, there is nothing planned past October? When did you publish the school calendar? (We’ll get to more on that.) And why not post the whole school year on one page instead of separating by month? Wouldn’t that be more reader-friendly?

In “School Improvement Plan,” (redirected to https://www.hubertosibley.org/pdf/5141.pdf), is 2014-2015 really the latest available? How many more recent ones were finished but never posted? I know a thing or two about this, considering I used to sit at the former assistant principal’s desk instead of teaching my students, and typing, doing math and coming up with ideas to write. I also went to a session at another school for administrators on how to do the SIP when again, I should’ve been teaching. We’ll get to more on the assistant principal. Until you get there, think about who gave him permission for me to not do my job.

In “Photo Albums” (plural in the menu but singular on the page https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/album/), the “School at a Glance” is no more than a glance because there are two pictures and one is fake! https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/album/#!albumREC_ID=105733&s=0

In the “Video Gallery” https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/video/, there seems to have been no videos uploaded in two years. I’d consider deleting any whole section with nothing but old material to avoid embarrassment. The reader won’t miss what he or she isn’t trying to find.

Now, to the “Academics” section:

The “Classes/Homework” page https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/classes/ shows there are zero classes offered at the school. Make that “0 classes” for every subject.

The “Departments” page https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/departments/ is similar with “0 classes” for every subject, but staff member numbers are listed and they’re NOT zero.

Also in “Departments,” the Principal’s Message is the exact same old one from the District’s info page, the school’s homepage, and in the “About Us” section. That means it’s wrong in three places the school controls (and that message, in turn, gives the wrong school name three times in each of those places).

That math coach I mentioned earlier, after Mr. Sibley’s biography, is listed in addition (like that math phrase?) to the folks who actually work in each of the other departments (like cafeteria, custodial, security, etc.)! Check them all out.

But more importantly, check out Administration https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=297881&type=d. Yes, she’s there too, but worst of all is the page includes the former assistant principal I referred to earlier who was the subject of many news reports, including the links I’m about to show you, and who will continue to serve time in federal prison for almost the next two years! (Go to bop.gov and look him up.)

clippinger bop

https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdfl/pr/public-school-assistant-principal-sentenced-58-months-prison-and-25-years-supervised

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/crime/article161855528.html

https://www.local10.com/news/crime/assistant-principal-granted-200000-bond-after-arrest-on-child-pornography-charges

https://patch.com/florida/miami/miami-beach-assistant-principal-allegedly-went-666prv

https://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/Miami-Beach-Assistant-Principal-Accused-of-Child-Porn-Leaves-Jail-412607673.html

https://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/crime–law/former-florida-assistant-principal-gets-nearly-years-for-child-porn-charges/vlpCjTWGq7EaIA1SvIyFgJ/

https://www.local10.com/news/crime/family-supports-assistant-principal-arrested-on-child-porn-charges-at-hearing

https://wsvn.com/news/local/assistant-principal-arrested-on-child-porn-charges-faces-judge/

https://www.briansilber.com/don-clippinger-miami-florida-arrested-allegedly-downloading-child-pornography/

https://miami.cbslocal.com/2017/02/02/bond-set-for-assistant-principal-charged-in-child-porn-case/

https://www.facebook.com/FDLEpage/posts/1648494785191744?__xts__[0]=68.ARDRJOdCWkzwN6bUPoYBJY6OnIo7yovY3-U9pjp4R8GI4FyLDYXW2EU3L3mEhlZIFatYBlM2YGEfOeu6RATypuiXVkes62s7-A6o_FsXuH-Hq–0rAGR-8-EICrjVyJzSseUyLlAp6Nek0H8WsTgT2DKagWVvAPCZB2kTUKEJgFEsXlzP9N7IMdqJ2lCj-FAhWojhOqi8HvUxW2HJdqov6T3o7Q&__tn__=-R

I don’t know how this happened. You’d think somebody would’ve/should’ve noticed!

Continuing in the “Academics” section:

The Bell Schedule (singular in the menu and plural on the page, which is the exact opposite of the Photo Album mention from earlier) https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/bell_schedules/ lists bell times for two prior years but nothing for this year. Why would anybody care about an old bell schedule? (You’re making me think of Mrs. Sibley, a belle rather than a bell!)

Now to the “Students” section:

Under “Student Links” https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=295194&type=d, you see that same math coach again! As I mentioned earlier with most pages on the site, the directory of links on the left side is a waste because the upper link doesn’t work and in this case, the content that the lower one links to could actually be on this page! (Remember about being reader-friendly?)

Go to that lower link https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=295194&type=d&termREC_ID=&pREC_ID=links and you’ll see the first two items are old school calendars! You’ll remember I asked about this year’s school calendar, when discussing the About Us/Upcoming Events page. Old, outdated information confuses people, whether it’s on calendars, bell schedules, the school’s name, or anything else you can think of outside a history class. You want to inform, not confuse.

Under “Clubs and Activities” https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/departments/clubs.jsp, look at Fairchild Challenge https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=295204&type=d and you’ll notice information about 2008 and 2009! I was teaching at Sibley *Elementary* in 2008 and 2009 (this page has the school’s name with Elementary four times, which shows how outdated it is) and even volunteered to chaperone the afterschool trip down to Fairchild for the awards ceremony! Again, what grade are the children who were born then in now?

I see they’ve decided to call Reading https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=295201&type=d a “Club and Activity” and even though I haven’t seen the old school website I ran for years for free, since the principal could never find the money, I could swear they took my writing verbatim and copied and pasted it over. Has the Suggested Summer Reading List changed in about the past decade? I know my writing, and the introduction probably hasn’t. Were any new books written in all that time?

They did the same with Science https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=295202&type=d and listed a 2012 event as one of two short paragraphs. That second paragraph may also be my writing because I remember trying to get the former science coach to give me something to write. By the way, in 2006, I got former WTVJ-NBC6 chief meteorologist Paul Deanno to Sibley for Saturday School. We’ve been friends since my first TV stint in Philadelphia. I still have the picture I took, even after 12 years. Do you want me to send it, to show what Sibley is doing in science, these days?

Just beneath “Clubs and Activities” is the “Food Menu” again, and I already mentioned it.

Finally, to the “Parents” section:

The “EESAC Info” page redirects to the District page, so it doesn’t mention any names of people at the school. It should, in addition to minutes and a schedule of future meetings. I was EESAC secretary for about seven years. The school is supposed to be recruiting as many stakeholders as possible, and I remember how difficult it was to get a quorum.

I mentioned the PTA page earlier.

The “Intervention Opportunities for Math and Science” page https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=301576&type=d&termREC_ID=&pREC_ID=563974 looks like part of a memo from the District to school administrators with no explanation for parents (which would be the point of it being on the website, right?). It lists a website without a link to it, and that page only concerns science. On top of that, it looks scary at first glance, with so much on there, especially to parents who don’t know English so well. If the information in what looks like a memo is so important, then why not link directly to each resource described? That would mean taking time to go to the District page, finding the resource among so many other things, and linking right to it. Are “Intervention Opportunities” important enough and therefore worth the time and effort? I’d think so! Then, the school’s page (or the memo) ends with email addresses for science supervisors in elementary, middle and senior high schools, but no links to click to write to them. And it’s a dead giveaway the page was copied and pasted sloppily, like others I mentioned, because Sibley is not a senior high school!

And last, the “Parent/Student Handbook” https://www.hubertosibley.org/pdf/2018-2019%20School%20Parent%20Student%20Handbook.pdf is a mess. Look at the spacing for the name of the school.

spacing

The District’s mission statement on page 3 is different than the school’s, which has been around since I worked there.
There’s no year listed on the handbook until the top of the Superintendent’s Message on page 4, like any letter would have.
The Principal’s Message on page 8 is the same wrong one I mentioned three times earlier. This makes four occurrences. I mean, the name of the school is different on the Principal’s Message than it is on the cover! Who’d sign their name to that nonsense?
On page 9, one assistant principal gets the name of the school correct. The other doesn’t mention it, but spells “Miami Dade” (referring to the County School District) without a hyphen.
On page 11, Mrs. Sibley is referred to as a “Southern bell” again. That’s almost like Ma Bell, which became BellSouth and now AT&T.

I can go on and on, as you can imagine. My first big thought is DISAPPOINTMENT. My second and third are lazy and cheap. That goes completely against the school’s mission statement, which is “Develop ourselves to be better people and professionals so that we may develop better students.” I put everything I had into my work at Sibley – we were even an ‘A’ school for a year when I was there – but I left at the end of the 2012-2013 year because I knew something there wasn’t right. I was right, and it’s still there.

I know you want to see your stakeholders getting complete, accurate information – so students will be better educated – and it’s obvious they’re not. You need people who can do better, at least at Sibley.

Thank you for reading, and please do the man justice. You named the school after him, and he can no longer help fix problems down here.

Lenny Cohen
Formerly employee #280155, if I remember correctly

Click here to visit the section 2006-2014: Teaching Time.

message
How nice this was changed on Monday, Oct. 22! I can only imagine the curses.

Also, the “Food Menu” was replaced, the “Bell Schedule” was updated and the “Administration” section it its old state was removed.

These are other changes I noticed midday on Tuesday, Oct. 23:

Keep up the good work! I know you can do it!

Please leave your comments in the section below. I’ve never done this, but there should not be any names mentioned in the comments here. And don’t miss out. If you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. Don’t rely on social media with its hacking issues and censoring like this, this, and this. I’m also available for writing/web contract work. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lennycohen

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The case against us all paying for private schools

Several times a year, before elections, a man in Florida emails me about who to support in elections down there. The goal is to receive money (Isn’t that everyone’s?) for private schools. In this case, it’s Jewish religious schools. And that’s despite public schools being free for everyone – Jews too – and paid for with everybody’s tax dollars.

So don’t tell me there’s no alternative when public schools are required to bend over backwards to meet all students’ needs.

school student AThe first time I got the email, I wrote back, asking the nephrologist (a doctor specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney diseases) how he got my name and my email address. He was very polite and offered to take me off. I said it wasn’t necessary. I really wanted to read what he had to say. Information is power and I was a teacher for eight years, spending several lousy months at a Conservative Jewish day school.

The private school was the worst of my experiences and probably the least educational of the three schools where I taught, including public schools in two Florida counties.

Most of the parents whose children I taught at the religious school wanted special programs, and they wanted their children in those programs with people of the same culture. There’s absolutely no question in my mind.

I briefly compared the different teaching experiences when I wrote about why I left the field in general, on the eve of my Florida certification expiring in late June.

hochberg

 

religionsSo the problem I had, personally, was “class” and not religion. I actually liked listening to the religious lessons, from attending the second grade morning prayer service daily, to sitting in on the religious classes in my classroom, while planning and grading papers. I didn’t have to, but I know the religious teachers appreciated it, since my presence helped the children’s behavior.

Yes, many students had behavior issues, just like at any other school. The only differences I noticed were race and their families’ wealth.

From what I saw, the parents paid tuition in the five-figures and knew they could get away with anything. There’s a true saying that children learn in three ways: by “example, example, example.” In other words, they watched their parents (children notice more than many adults believe) and were raised to feel entitled.

Keep in mind, I’m writing about one school. It was a Conservative Jewish one, and Conservative (with a capital C) meant that stream of Judaism was started to “conserve” religious practices, about 100 years ago, that the older Reform movement had given up. So Conservative doesn’t mean the opposite of liberal. It allowed egalitarian seating and the use of microphones (electricity).

In fact, these days, Conservative is pretty much considered liberal since Reform has been bringing back some tradition. It has become the most popular in America, taking Conservative congregants who want shorter services, musical instruments during services and intermarriage (usually as long as the couple promises to raise Jewish children). There’s also paternal lineage (Reform considers children with a Jewish father Jewish, as long as they’re raised Jewish), usually more English during services, and absolutely no questions about egalitarianism or same-sex couples getting married.

Of course, whatever a Jewish person’s thoughts are, they have to be comfortable with the specific synagogue they attend and that includes the clergy, other congregants and financial obligations. A school setting is similar.

Orthodox schools vary greatly, but most separate the boys and girls into different classes at some point. I don’t know whether religious schools or any private schools require teachers to be certified by different states, or whether they have to teach the state’s curriculum or administer standardized tests, but I’m pretty sure it varies.

Grown-ups whose parents had them attend some Hasidic schools are now angry and feeling hopeless, since they know Jewish law and are good at Yiddish, but illiterate in English! There is hardly any secular instruction. See recent articles here, here, here and here, one of which says a New York state senator refused to sign off on the state budget unless Hasidic schools in and around NYC

“were given more autonomy over curricula.”

That’s despite the article saying most of the students

“are doomed to a life of struggle and poverty.”

Of course, religious schools are free to teach anti-gay hate, or that men and women have different roles, or that evolution is science fiction. That’s the case and if you don’t believe me, look at Congress or too many state legislatures!

So this morning, I got this email with the subject line,

“The Future of the Florida Jewish Community Will Be Decided November 6,”

since we Jews are always scared of the worst possibility.

email

Keep in mind, there are plenty of issues with Andrew Gillum but they involve separate subjects. Ron DeSantis is far right-wing. I’ve told plenty of people I’m happy to not have to choose in the Florida governor’s race.

Ron DeSantis (R) and Andrew Gillum (D)

For U.S. Senate, he endorsed the current two-term governor who has his work cut out for him with Hurricane Michael, and will for awhile. How he performs may change some voters’ minds, but the Florida Democratic Party claimed Rick Scott “oversaw the largest Medicare fraud in the nation’s history” and PolitiFact Florida rated the claim Mostly True. Still, he was elected twice since then. Senate incumbent Bill Nelson is running for his fourth term. As for the Iran deal, which I was also totally against, I don’t think the reference was appropriate for endorsements on a single-issue. The author basically said so when he mentioned his group’s mission at the end.

Gov. Rick Scott (R) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D)

Right: A liquor store in Panama City Beach around landfall.

I don’t know enough about the state attorney general candidate but am glad the current one is finally stepping down, and I’m impressed the endorsed CFO candidate is a Democrat, simply because they rarely get this guy’s recommendations. Every good cause should have bipartisan support, as party majorities rotate from one to the other, and back. The only variables are how often, and how wide the margin is.

I had some questions and wrote back, specifically about tax money from the public going to rabbis.

i wrote

And as he did some years ago, he politely answered. I honestly can’t challenge him since seems to know the subject and how to explain it, having studied it for years.

his answer

I can’t say I agree with laundering public tax money so it goes towards religion. That’s different that paying a religious organization for doing secular work.

Jeb Bush's Facebook page
from Jeb Bush’s Facebook page

This is the land with the legacy of Jeb Bush, who accelerated the number and importance of standardized tests more than anyone could imagine. He and his friendly legislature also found ways to get millions of dollars for money for school choice. (Sounds great, doesn’t it?) Count the ways you can take advantage, here.

And then there are charter schools that are public – paid for with money taken from school districts and required to administer state tests – but run by outsiders, often companies, out to make money. And studies have gone back and forth whether they get better results than traditional public schools, despite being able to turn away students, pretty much at their will. (That’s as if test scores are the only surefire way to judge education.)

The man who emailed represents a group called Jewish Leadership Coalition and its Facebook page says it’s “a non-for-profit 501(c)(4) Social Welfare Organization comprised of various Jewish leaders and organizations that have joined together to advocate for greater public funding for secular education in Jewish day schools.”fb jewish coalition

It gives a website that doesn’t seem to work, and doesn’t come up in searches, but this 2013 article announced that it started and who would benefit from the money.

ou jlc
https://www.ou.org/news/jewish_leadership_coalition/

The families whose children go to these schools tend to have more kids than the average American family, and they eat only kosher food. The costs add up. So do the number of students!

Other states with large Jewish populations have groups similar to the one above. This website helps parents in six states get government money to pay tuition that public schools don’t charge.

teach advocacy
https://teachadvocacy.org/

I understand parents with strong religious beliefs want their children brought up in their faith and to have extensive knowledge of it. That’s very difficult in a 24-hour day, where students receive a well-rounded education so they can become professionals who can contribute to society.

clock school

Outside of school these days, “free time” seems to be the “in” thing. Competing with that are all the extracurricular activities parents sign their children up to do, even at the school where I taught. It was a way to make money. Perhaps some of that has to go. Nobody can have it all.

money dollars

The rich make teacher unions look like the boogeyman, as you saw in the response to me, as if all they do is take money. Unions don’t want to protect bad teachers. (I’ve been a shop steward, but it wasn’t my idea.) They want good teachers and to see that those good teachers get the protections like a fair contract and the due process they deserve – to avoid being taken advantage of by bad administrators, not to mention parents who think they know more about education than the supposed experts.

In May, a religious friend conducted this Facebook poll:

Facebook poll

I think the principal was out of line and probably ruined his relationship with this “special needs” student, which may have been hard to build and would probably be harder to rebuild.

I responded.

Facebook response

The man who simply said “They listen to their parents” has a wife who is Director of Special Programs at – you guessed it – a (different) Jewish day school!

It’s natural in every financial transaction that the buyer wants to pay less, while the business (or school) wants more. There has to be a fair solution.

And for years, I’ve had what I consider the perfect solution.

I think public school teachers hired by the district should go to the private schools and teach English, math, science and social studies. Perhaps also electives like physical education, music and art. That would be half the day, and it would be paid for the same way public schools pay for educators and materials. Any tuition crisis would be instantly alleviated!

In my solution, the religious side could teach its material during the other half of the day. So half the school would study religion, and the other half would do secular studies, and then they’d switch!

half

What about religious holidays, like half the month of September and the entire eight days of Passover? The schedule could be adjusted. The public school teachers would volunteer to teach at these schools, especially those who take off for all the holidays anyway. It would be a blessing for the religious school parents to have their children in school while they prepare for the holidays, rather than watching over them because school is canceled, so their teachers could take off to prepare for their own families!

Also, the public school teachers would teach the public school curriculum with no interference, and students would take the same tests as the rest of the general population (without overkill for anybody). Plus, the students would be exposed to people who don’t all look, sound or believe like them.school crossing sign

I want to know what you think about this.

It would also eliminate the worst thing that happens: Parents not sending their children to public schools, but taking the scarce money devoted to education away from them. Which state’s legislature pays enough for quality schools? What school system has enough money to really do its job right? Who pays their teachers what they deserve as professionals? What district gives every one of its poorest students equal access to a quality education at their neighborhood school?

In February, USA Today published a list, ranking the states by the quality of their schools. (Eight of the top nine, and ten of the top 12, are states between the mid-Atlantic and New England! Take that for what it’s worth.) Florida ranks number 29 and the lead to the article on the Sunshine State is pretty grim:

“Florida’s public schools receive some of the lowest funding of any state school system in the country.”

Read the article for the state rankings (luckily all on one webpage) and the results of being too cheap when it comes to educating children, but there’s one I have to share: Florida is 48th out of 50 in the percentage of adults, ages 25-64, with incomes at or above the national median. In other words, you get what you pay for and this is pitiful! Imagine who in the U.S. is behind Florida, despite all the visitors who go there and spend money!

I’ll tell you that your child’s teacher is most important person in the school, besides the students, and every school in every state has good ones and bad ones. Hopefully those bad ones don’t last long but the good ones can be convinced to stay, and we all know money talks.

So do you think my compromise idea would work? Is it at least worth a try? How would you tweak it?

Please leave your comments in the section below, and don’t miss out. If you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. I’m also available for writing/web contract work. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lennycohen

Stupid, stupid, stupid!

Sometimes I see or hear something so stupid, I lose control and have to call it out right away. That’s especially true when it comes from somebody who makes herself seem like some sort of expert on a topic. Unfortunately, this is one of those times.

Nachman header
https://lauranachman.wordpress.com/

I woke up to a lot of emails, as usual, but three were about blog posts from Laura Nachman, who has “Philly TV and Radio” on the top of her site. She has been writing about the subject since before I first came to town in 1998.

So much of what she writes is nonsense, which makes it good that her posts tend to be short, but take a look at the first of her three posts from overnight:

Nachman 1
https://lauranachman.wordpress.com/2018/09/26/furious-at-cbs3/

The ONLY thing good about this is that it happened after the storm and not during it!

She’s not just angry, but furious KYW-CBS3 broke into programming for what she referred to as a “weather alert” which was really a tornado warning, if she knew the difference and was paying attention. I mean, if it was on for ten minutes (I’d say almost, but I was doing my own work and not timing the meteorologist), wouldn’t a normal viewer have been able to get that? The coverage and maps seemed on point.

Does she really think TV stations make information like tornado warnings up? Maybe she’s confused that some stations call a “First Alert Day” or some other branding to get viewers to watch throughout the day because something may happen, but a tornado warning comes from the National Weather Service.

In fact, here it is:

tornado warning
https://forecast.weather.gov/product.php?site=NWS&issuedby=PHI&product=TOR&format=CI&version=1&glossary=0

 

If a TV station didn’t break into coverage for a tornado warning, then what type of weather coverage should warrant a special report? A few inches of snow?

And the tornado warning came from an arm of the same federal government that licenses TV and radio stations to use the public airways for the public interest.

The National Weather Service website says about tornadoes:

Biggest Takeaway: (Their bold font) Whatever plan you base off a tornado warning, that NWS tornado warning needs to be received instantly, & your plan triggered and accomplished rapidly (within a few minutes) to be of value.”

Isn’t that something that should be of concern to the public?

Nachman claims she’s furious because she “missed Inside Edition‘s coverage of the Bill Cosby sentencing.” BFD! (See definition #1.)

I’m sorry that was inconvenient for Ms. Nachman, but Philadelphia didn’t miss any coverage of the Bill Cosby sentencing.

Didn’t every station break into afternoon programming when he was sentenced? Didn’t all the stations have live reports from the Montgomery County Courthouse for the past two days?

Was anybody really surprised Cosby was sentenced to prison? The only variable was the length of time, and that gets less and less important when the convict is an 81-year-old blind man.

Then, she chastises the station:

“You just had three and a half hours of local news from 4-7 to talk about the possible tornado.”

That’s absolutely wrong. First, some math: 4-7pm is three hours, not three-and-a-half hours as Bachman claimed. Furthermore, the half-hour from 6:30 to 7 was not local news. It was the CBS Evening News with Jeff Glor, so that’s down to two-and-a-half hours.

Nachman certainly wouldn’t make a good news producer if she can’t time her newscast. Maybe her boss should double-check her timesheets for other exaggerations.

And yes, Glor’s newscast covered Bill Cosby for his national audience. I didn’t have three TV sets on at the same time but I’d guess the other two network newscasts did, as well.

You wanted more national coverage? What about CNN, MSNBC and Fox News? Did you consider those for hour after hour?

Does Laura Nachman really think local news from 4 to 6:30 can cover a tornado warning issued at 6:47pm? Let’s give her a lesson in telling time. 6:47pm comes AFTER 6:30pm. Therefore, there was no way to put a tornado warning issued at 6:47 into a newscast that ended at 6:30pm. Besides, if we could go back and control time, wouldn’t you be furious irked if that took away from your Cosby coverage?most viewed

Let’s look at some other numbers. CBS3 claims the two ‘Most Viewed’ stories on its website are Bill Cosby stories. Nachman can check there if she wants to know more. Plus, just about every other website in the world has Cosby coverage in some form or another! Does anybody else think demanding specific coverage from Inside Edition makes her sound like a two-year-old?

Does she think the weather wasn’t a story?

Look at all the storm reports around the area.

storm reports
https://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/video/category/news-weather/3941636-weather-update-heat-humidity-return/

Also, look at the number of rescues, thanks to first-responders. The video of the ambulance that had to be pulled out because it was stuck in high water was obviously from after the sun went down, and close to the area of the tornado warning.

ambulance flood
https://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2018/09/25/heavy-rain-flooding-rescues/

By the way, has she checked Inside Edition‘s website for Cosby coverage? It’s right here:

IE Bill Cosby
https://www.insideedition.com/bill-cosby-sentenced-3-10-years-sexual-assault-case-47081

Seems like much ado over nothing.

By the way, her other gems from overnight:

Nachman 2
https://lauranachman.wordpress.com/2018/09/26/gritty-makes-inside-edition/

I’m so glad she got to see this, which has been all over the local news for two days, and the mascot even visited the local stations yesterday. It’s also here, for the rest of you:

IE Gritty
https://www.insideedition.com/philadelphia-flyers-mascot-gritty-ignites-social-media-firestorm-47102

Nachman is into sports coverage. Yesterday, she published separate posts naming the announcers for this weekend’s Penn State and Eagles’ games, and two short items on Monday about the same sports radio story.

Unfortunately, in this #MeToo world, she missed the big universal story that FTVLive.com’s Scott Jones mentioned and even non-sports fans would care about.

“Amazon’s live streams of 11 NFL ‘Thursday Night Football’ games will feature the first all-female broadcast booth in league history, the company announced on Tuesday.

“Andrea Kremer, a longtime NFL reporter and recent Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, will announce the games alongside Hannah Storm, an ESPN ‘SportsCenter’ anchor and ‘Monday Night Football’ pregame show host.”

Amazon Thursday Night Football
https://www.ftvlive.com/sqsp-test/2018/9/26/ladies-night

And finally, her specialty, that she can’t stop writing about:

Nachman 3
https://lauranachman.wordpress.com/2018/09/26/happy-49th-anniversary-brady-bunch/

(That’s its, not it’s!)

Maybe Nachman should consider other people’s lives and property, and think of herself as lucky instead of furious. She did lose her credibility in the storm but I’m sure that won’t stop her from hosting a Brady Bunch party for herself today. Priorities!

I just wonder if Nachman is so furious at CBS3 she’s going to boycott Jessica Dean’s last newscasts tonight. Nah! I don’t wonder at all.

nachman jessica dean
https://lauranachman.wordpress.com/2018/09/24/another-new-normal-for-cbs3/

Her readers deserve better.

And please, don’t miss out. If you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. I’m also available for writing/web contract work.

Eric Trump and his shekels

I try not to go more than a week without posting something. Unfortunately, it has been 11 days dues to holidays that won’t be letting up anytime soon, and also my IT support specialist classes. (Last night, I finished Course 2, Week 1, out of 5 courses.)

I just don’t like blogs that give a sentence or two without any thought. They’re a waste of time and I’d be embarrassed to post with my name, so I tend to put them on social media. (You can see my last 20 my Twitter posts from @feedbaylenny right here on this site and visit it to see the whole thing. It’s not private. My last blog post, from 11 days ago, is down to #17 which shows I use it a lot.)

And I hate blogs that haven’t been touched in years. Yes, they exist!

Regular readers and those who know me know I tend to be moderate. In the middle, politically.

I’m putting this post out there because of a discussion on my Facebook page over Eric Trump’s shekels comment and the Washington Post article near the top of it. I expected some support. Any support.

fb eric trump

So let me explain to a wider audience:

The #WalkAway movement (walking away from the Democratic Party) became organized because its founder said so much of the left had gotten

“intolerant, inflexible, illogical, hateful, misguided, ill-informed, un-American.”

See this NBC News article about him. I even wrote about it a month earlier here, days before even learning about the hashtag and movement. Then, this is what I wrote two days later, after finding out about it.

There are a variety of reasons for not supporting the Democratic Party. It’s turning more to the left, engaging with extremist groups on that side, welcoming more anti-Israel activists, and it unfairly helped Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primaries. (I’m referring to disliking the unfair help and not referring to Sen. Sanders. I think my first and next-to-last reasons explain enough.)

But that doesn’t automatically mean conservatism is the answer. You can be conservative on some issues and not others. Ask yourself whether a man married three times with a mouth like his can be considered conservative in most uses of the term.

Check out who goes to his rallies. Look closer and see the staging: Always at least one black person and don’t forget getting rid of the “plaid shirt guy”, last week – actually a 17-year-old high school senior.

Tyler Linfesty eyebrow raise
Tyler Linfesty changed his Twitter profile picture to show his now-famous eyebrow raise!

It definitely doesn’t make President Trump the cure for the far left, and certainly not members of his family who are only part of this discussion because they were the lucky sperm.

Trump has done some good things, arguably the best president dealing with the Middle East, but he’s not perfect there. (Don’t tell me politics has no part in his actions and comments, as he gains Evangelical and some Jewish support.)

Luckily, he says there should be no question between right and wrong when it comes to terrorists and their supporters, unlike certain Democrats. (See Sarsour, Linda.)

Palestinians 2018-09-11

This week, on 9/11, Palestinian Media Watch exposed

“the political party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Fattah) apparently (thinking) the day is the perfect time to mock the US’ current president with tasteless cartoons that dishonor the solemnity of the day and the thousands of lives affected by the brutal attacks.”

Think they’re right? Who can forget Palestinians celebrating 17 years ago when they couldn’t blame Donald Trump?

Trump has made some bad policy decisions (civil rights, labor unions), said some very bad things (Sen. John McCain, daily lies and exaggerations, calling the media the enemy), and been involved in some bad behavior (Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels). Plus, he needs a turnstile for his administration officials because of his management style and it seems he gets to political professionals so much, that they suddenly can’t keep secrets anymore!

To sum up Donald Trump, he does not take people and make them better.

He has huge personal issues, possibly more than any other president, that have influenced his two older sons over the decades. That, and their wealth and fame, guide them. They may be New Yorkers, and live in close proximity to many of us Jewish people, but they are not us and obviously haven’t been influenced by us.

To be fair, I have to add, a Trump-supporting cousin added to the Facebook exchange above shortly before publishing, saying his father Fred was good to Jews and best friends with a rabbi. To quote, “This family has been surrounded by Jews, who basically run the real estate business in NY.”

My response was basically that he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease since his grandsons weren’t even teenagers, so there couldn’t have been much influence. According to Wikipedia, “(Fred) Trump supported Jewish and Israeli causes and institutions, including donating the land for the Beach Haven Jewish Center in Flatbush, New York. He significantly supported Israel Bonds” and other non-Jewish charities. He knew about being of German ancestry and having Jewish tenants, postwar, and we both know the world and people’s behaviors have changed over all this time. I ended by saying I wouldn’t compare Donald to his father, and the grandsons are even more different. (Fred loaned Donald $1 million but kept his business in Brooklyn and Queens. “It was good for me,” Donald later commented. “You know, being the son of somebody, it could have been competition to me. This way, I got Manhattan all to myself.”) That’s not such an appealing quote to me.

In fact, I doubt the young Trumps would admit to being influenced by anybody but their father and revered grandfather, through stories told about him. Eric Trump using a Jewish term in response to Bob Woodward (not Jewish) making money selling a book makes absolutely no sense, and there’s no connection except that it’s a Jewish stereotype. Conservatives try not to label people but this Trump generation tends to.

So let’s look at Eric Trump.

He and his brother, Donald Jr., like hunting. They sure didn’t get that from us!

According to Yahoo! News,

“On a wild game hunting trip in Zimbabwe in 2011 … the Trump sons reportedly killed a number of exotic animals, including an elephant, crocodile, kudu, civet cat and waterbuck.”

Click here for TMZ’s slideshow of ten pictures, if that’s your thing. (Remember, Eric is blond and Jr. has dark hair.)

Eric is an executive at the Trump Organization and was a boardroom judge on The Apprentice. See any daddy influence with either?

He likes his name on things like the Eric Trump Foundation (AKA The Curetivity Foundation. Why would it need an alternate name?), and the Eric Trump Foundation Surgery & ICU Center in the Kay Research and Care Center on the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital campus in Memphis. Great charity, but I wonder who the influence was. Maybe his mom? Keep reading and please, don’t name anything after me until I’m dead. Or a little less humble.

According to Wikipedia, The Curetivity Foundation’s 2016 tax return shows contributions almost doubling from $1.8 million in 2015 to $3.2 million in 2016, when his father ran for president. (To the younger Trump’s credit, he announced in December, 2016, he’d stop active fundraising for it to avoid speculation donors were using him to gain access to his father, the soon-to-be president.)

The foundation gave about $3 million to St. Jude and other charities but also paid $145,000 to for-profit properties owned by the Trump family. Peanuts (or shekels) for some, but nobody I know personally. That shows how rare such wealth is.

Even Forbes reported in June, 2017, “He’s done a ton of good” but after counting the money he raised,

“The best part about all this, according to Eric Trump, is the charity’s efficiency: Because he can get his family’s golf course (Trump National Westchester) for free and have most of the other costs donated, virtually all the money contributed will go toward helping kids with cancer. ‘We get to use our assets 100% free of charge,’ Trump tells Forbes.”

However, “That’s not the case,” according to Forbes. “It’s clear that the course wasn’t free.”

The magazine reported,

“The Trump Organization received payments for its use, part of more than $1.2 million that has no documented recipients past the Trump Organization. Golf charity experts say the listed expenses defy any reasonable cost justification for a one-day golf tournament.”

Also, the Donald J. Trump Foundation

“apparently used the Eric Trump Foundation to funnel $100,000 in donations into revenue for the Trump Organization. … More than $500,000 was re-donated to other charities, many of which were connected to Trump family members or interests, including at least four groups that subsequently paid to hold golf tournaments at Trump courses.”

Worse, Forbes said,

“The president was never known for giving his foundation much money, and from 2009 to 2014, he didn’t give it anything at all.”

Why can’t one family have one foundation? Do the Trumps disagree so much on donations? Couldn’t they save on accounting bills?

And the clincher, according to Forbes, is

“All of this seems to defy federal tax rules and state laws that ban self-dealing and misleading donors.” And, “The person who specifically commanded that the for-profit Trump Organization start billing hundreds of thousands of dollars to the nonprofit Eric Trump Foundation, according to two people directly involved, was none other than the current president of the United States, Donald Trump.”

The article has a lot more details, including, 1. Why the price of the tournament suddenly tripled in 2011, from $46,000 to $142,000, according to the foundation’s IRS filings. Also, 2. Golf tournament costs escalating “to $230,000 in 2013, $242,000 in 2014 and finally $322,000 in 2015 … according to IRS filings.” Plus, 3. This quote attributed to the president:

“I don’t care if it’s my son or not–everybody gets billed.”

You didn’t know any of this before? Neither did I, and I would’ve probably remembered. Besides, the story got picked up by ABC News, CNBC and Business Insider.

There must’ve been a lot of other news going on at the time for this to be buried. Did anyone keep the newspaper from Wednesday, June 7, 2017?

Looking at the big picture, the world is a tough place. So is Washington, but Americans need to give the office of the president and the people who holds that title support during his term (no, not on every issue!). Then, we can reevaluate in about two years.

As for Congress, I have personal questions over whether to support the better candidate if he or she is a Republican, as I believe in my newly-drawn district, since all of Pennsylvania was redrawn due to gerrymandering. That would hurt the chance of getting at least one house of Congress out of Republican control, which could lead to more fair discussions and debates. But it’ll never happen in Philadelphia, and that’ll have to wait for another time.

2018-09-14 Hurricane Florence loop NWS

So for now, I hope you’re safe if you’re in the path of Hurricane Florence!

The best picture I saw is one guy’s painting on a wall, “Hey Flo… Kiss my grits!” Notice it uses both the storm’s name and southern location in terms of food.

Waffle House even posted it on Twitter. (Click here if you don’t know the importance of that regional restaurant chain during storms.)

And of course, we can’t forget Flo on the TV show Alice!

And a special thank you to everyone who visits this site and reads, except certain lawyers, but that may be an eye-opening discussion with full names, evidence and legal documents fully exposed. That can’t happen until next month. Luckily, I’ve learned not to dwell on certain things and hopefully it won’t come to that, but it’s not up to me. As they say in legalese, “Plaintiff has exhausted his administrative remedies.”

You’ve added 300 page views in the past 11 days and while the Sept. 3 post was one of my better ones, if I can say so, I know not all the traffic came from there. So please continue looking through and comment below any article. Remember, I can use some support after that Facebook post above! Also check comments on posts that interest you, since I’m always updating there!

Again, please leave your comments in the section below, and don’t miss out. If you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. I’m also available for writing/web contract work.

Allegiant Airlines: Worst flight of my life

I didn’t plan to be writing this blog right now. I should have already landed in Allentown, got in my car, and been on my way home to Philadelphia.

Instead, I made the mistake of flying Allegiant Airlines.

Please keep in mind I’m writing this on my tablet and phone. Never done that before.

They were an hour late on my trip to Florida on Friday, and an hour late again on my return trip today. And I won’t be getting home until tomorrow.

FLL Allegiant gate
They abandoned the gate in Fort Lauderdale before making us change gates. No people below. Trust me.

We were over Savannah, Ga., when the pilot told us there was a problem reported with the de-icing gauge. He said they knew wasn’t a problem but it had to be looked into, so we would have to make a sharp turn and fly to Asheville. I’m very familiar with that airport and Allegiant from my time in the Tri-Cities.

But if anything could go wrong…

There was bad weather in Asheville so we had to circle and circle around Spartanburg, S.C., until the weather improved, rather than land in Asheville in a thunderstorm.

Then, just before 9, the pilot came on and announced Asheville weather hadn’t improved, and after another seven or eight minutes, we’d have to go further away, to Knoxville! Jamie, do you need an 11:00 lead on channel 6? Lots of angry people!

Google on Allegiant
We’ve seen “On Time” and “Delayed” but not “Redirected,” ever!

Daniel and Jennifer, you were here. And I picked you up on the outside.

When we got internet service, Allegiant had estimated we’d arrive in Allentown at 12:20am. Now, a replacement plane is headed here, to Knoxville.

But if there was no emergency, why didn’t they just fly us to Allentown?

When the trouble began, supposedly over Savannah, we had already flown about 466 miles north from Fort Lauderdale. We’d still have about 770 miles to go until Allentown. (Those are driving miles.)

But we wasted so much time and fuel circling and detouring that we could’ve been to Allentown! Who makes these decisions?

To hell with the customer! What’s in it for us?

They gave us a little glass of water just before we left Fort Lauderdale so late because their baggage contractor’s workers were taking their time, and the crew was not happy. Gee, free water from Allegiant Airlines! It’s a big deal for them.

And we got a free bottle of water here in Knoxville. Good thing, because everything is closed, although I hear there are vending machines.

Actually, we got free non-alcoholic drinks on the way back!

We found out after finally leaving Knoxville — there was paperwork to be done while we sat on the plane — we’d be getting $50 vouchers. Maybe next time, I’ll use it to check a bag, round trip, if I ever fly Allegiant again. But I’m in no mood to travel on any airline for a very, very long time.

On both flights, I signed up for Allegiant’s flight alerts to be informed if there would be any delays. Both times, I got the alerts way too late to do anything.

Allegiant text

So here I am, with water. Not hungry, but restless. Some nice people let me use their multi electrical outlet device because most of the outlets around the gate at the airport don’t work.

I’ve flown a lot and had my share of issues. I spent several days at Kennedy Airport, but not in a row, and they never close that place!

Back in 1987, the plane actually lost an engine and we had to get into crash position and return. But the airline took care of us.

In 2014, my flight from Israel arrived late and I ended up having to make and change arrangements to fly back to Florida. It took all day. But the airline took care of me.

Not so much this time, so I’m going to take care of them.

In 2015, I was supposed to be flown to Richmond for a job interview and that meant flying through Philadelphia in winter. Yes, Shane, your station and your predecessor!

The Richmond leg of the flight was canceled and I ended up spending the day at Philadelphia’s airport. It was a weekday, I couldn’t get out, and nobody I knew could get in to meet up. At least the flight was free, but the parking in Miami wasn’t.

And at least I don’t have to work tomorrow!

I will admit, the crew was very nice. They suffered as well.

So while I get ready to board, enjoy this Allegiant classic from 60 Minutes.

Click here for Allegiant’s response.

So we finally took off from Knoxville at 12:20am, and landed in Allentown at 1:20am.

Too bad for the folks heading from Allentown to Fort Lauderdale, like I did last week. They were supposed to take off at 8:34pm and arrive at 11:10pm, just like my first flight.

Now, they’re going to depart at 2am. Allegiant only flies the route a few days a week.

And the flight crew is also heading back to Fort Lauderdale tonight. How long are they supposed to work in a day? I’m sure the Federal Aviation Administration has its rules but it turns out, one flight attendant told me they never sign out, they were expecting a 15-hour day and it has happened before.

Somebody should look into that.

Big merger, big problem, big surprise!

This was starting to get a little hard to keep track of, and I wrote most of this last night. Good thing I waited to publish, because I had to really rewrite today!

It’s looking like the big media merger I’ve been writing about so frequently may not happen! Even better, it looks like one of the seven deadly sins – greediness – may have killed the deal!

But now, a new contender (and a good one) is putting all its stations up for sale, if the price is right.

Let’s start with the latest.

FTVLive’s Scott Jones learned privately-held conglomerate Cox Enterprises “intends to pursue strategic options for its ownership or other interest in CMG’s (subsidiary Cox Media Group) 14 TV stations.”

This is the statement from the president of Cox Media Group, known as one of the best owners of TV stations in the country.

Cox president

Notice it gives a very tentative timetable of “six months to a year to complete.”

And this is the statement from the president/CEO of parent company Cox Enterprises.

Cox ceo

It seems every letter of this type addresses uncertainty by encouraging employees to keep up the good work.

Cox Media Group owns TV stations, radio stations and newspapers. The parent company also owns Cox Communications, the largest private telecommunications company in the U.S., the nation’s third-largest cable company, advanced digital video, Internet, phone, and home security and automation services. Plus, there’s Cox Automotive, which helps dealers, manufacturers and car shoppers.

There’s no question Cox decided it would try to sell out because Sinclair Broadcast Group – arguably one of the dirtiest and definitely the largest company to own TV stations – seems to have unexpectedly lost its 14-month try for approval to merge with one of the most iconic as well as largest broadcasters, Tribune Media.

NO sinclair tribune

Everything had seemed set. The price of $3.9 billion had been agreed upon.

The Federal Communications Commission – with pro-business Republicans in the majority – even went out of its way to make it happen by reinstating rather than ending a rule!

It brought back the UHF discount in April 2017, less than a year after it was eliminated, paving the way for Sinclair and Tribune combined to meet national ownership limits. The merger was announced the next month.

— UPDATE: The FCC inspector general cleared Chairman Ajit Pai of being unfairly biased in favor of the Sinclair Broadcast Group–Tribune Media merger. —

The combined company was supposed to own control a whopping 233 TV stations and make a move into big cities like New York (WPIX), Los Angeles (KTLA), Chicago (WGN) and Philadelphia (WPHL). Sinclair stations would’ve reached 72 percent of U.S TV households.

Unfortunately for it, the limit was just 39 percent, so Sinclair decided to sell 23 stations – 14 of Tribune’s and nine of its own – to stay under the national TV ownership cap.

So what went wrong? A lot, even though it looked like nothing was going to stop the unfortunate merger.

Rupert Murdoch wikimedia commons
Rupert Murdoch, Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, The Baltimore Sun named several things: Sinclair was already too big; it forced its owners’ conservative views on local news around the country; the company’s ego grew, “assuming it would get its way;” and even behind-the-scenes influence from rival Fox Broadcasting owner Rupert Murdoch.

What finally did the deal in was,

Ajit Pai fcc wikipedia
Ajit Pai (Wikipedia)

“FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, an appointee of President Donald J. Trump who has been viewed as friendly to Sinclair and such a merger, raised ‘serious concerns’ (last) Monday about whether the deal would serve the public interest.”

It’s nice to see the public interest mentioned. Doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should!

Stay with me because if you haven’t realized, there are many aspects to this story. Let’s recap, as more and more information was revealed, to see where we are tonight.

Back in mid-January, I showed you the FCC fined Sinclair $13.4 million for

“allegedly airing news programming that was paid for by a sponsor. … The two Democrats on the five-member FCC pretty much called the Sinclair fine peanuts because Sinclair aired the sponsored content 1,723 times on 77 stations, has had trouble with the FCC before and grossed $2.7 billion in revenue last year. The fine could’ve been $82 million. … I think Sinclair should consider itself lucky. Very lucky.”

By then, it had already bought Bonten Media Group’s stations including WCYB in the Tri-Cities of TN/VA, where I’d been digital media manager.

I wrote,

Click here and see how the WCYB website’s look seemed to change overnight. It’s like everything is becoming the same and there’s no need nor room for creativity.”

Also,

“Sinclair requires conservative commentaries sent from its Maryland headquarters to air during its stations’ local newscasts. That causes viewers to think the biased people they see every night, tossed to by their local anchors, are local as well.”

I remembered, “In 2004, Sinclair barred the ABC affiliates it owned from airing the episode of Nightline that profiled American soldiers killed overseas. (It owns stations affiliated with all of the networks.) The same year, it tried to get its stations to carry a pre-election film that bashed presidential candidate John Kerry.”

And,

“Its gargantuan size already has liberals worried about its influence on elections.”

Bottom line: I admitted “with more competition, a broadcast license is no longer a license to print money as it used to be. But the airwaves belong to the public. TV stations have special responsibilities.” Yet rules were being loosened and I referred to that as, “You give them an inch and they ask for a foot!”

I questioned whether Sinclair would keep its promise to keep local programming local and pay to carry unique events like the Mummers Parade on Philadelphia’s WPHL-17.

On Jan. 27, I actually wrote,

“Next week, the Federal Communications Commission may let Sinclair Broadcast Group buy Tribune Media but force Sinclair to sell off a bunch of stations because it’ll be (way, way, way) too big.”

Fox network

Then, I mentioned 21st Century Fox planning to downsize and what so-called New Fox would look like.

“Reports are Fox will buy ten of those stations. That means, as I wrote earlier this month about the company:

earlier

(Those cities except San Diego had NFL football teams, and Fox – which carries most Sunday NFC games – won Thursday Night Football package that also involves the AFC.)

“Cleveland, are you listening?

“And also from earlier this month, don’t expect a list of Fox-owned TV stations on the Fox Television Stations Group’s website, no matter how many times I put up the link. That would be too relevant!”

Thursday Night Football logo

I called my Feb. 22 post “Got cable, satellite? You’ll foot the bill for Fox’s Thursday Night Football” and showed how Fox’s enormous bid of $3.3 billion for the rights for five years

“is going to trickle down to you and me.”

I traced the skyrocketing cost of sports TV rights over the decades but explained overpaying isn’t always bad because,

“These days, Fox doesn’t have much of a regular Thursday night lineup. The NFL would draw viewers.”

Then, naturally,

“That means Fox stations can expect a call from the network demanding more money for providing better programming – especially in cities with NFL teams – and that may not be so bad, considering what Fox airs on Thursday nights these days? (Do you know?) … And where will these stations get that extra money? Sure, selling ads for higher prices, but also demanding to charge your cable or satellite company more when its contract is up — Fox will insist they do — and that will raise your bill.”

That was part of Fox’s plan to air as many live events as possible and buy more stations. Which brought up Sinclair.

I explained,

“If the $3.9 billion deal goes through, Sinclair will have to sell off some stations because the Federal Communications Commission (public airwaves) and Justice Department (antitrust) ownership limits. Also, Sinclair and Tribune already own stations in some markets and compete, so the combined company would own multiple stations in one city. … Fox wants to buy some of those stations, Sinclair will be forced to sell, and New Fox will have the money from selling so much to Disney/ABC.”

I did note Philadelphia-based Comcast/NBC had “offered substantially more” for Fox at that point.

comcast fox disney

Also,

“Media watchdog groups have long criticized Sinclair for using shared-services agreements to control stations without owning them, which they see as a loophole around the FCC’s ownership rules.”

Plus,

“People strongly opposed to the mega-deal argue it would reduce the number of voices in media and diminish coverage of local news.”

And,

“The (New York) Times learned from New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone and two congressional aides, ‘The top internal watchdog for the F.C.C. opened an investigation into whether Mr. Pai and his aides had improperly pushed for the rule changes and whether they had timed them to benefit Sinclair.’”

A week later, Feb. 28, I pointed out,

Sinclair owns more Fox affiliates than anyone else, giving it power, and owns more Fox affiliates than stations of any other network. In fact, Variety reports that after the deal, Sinclair will have more Fox affiliates than even 21st Century Fox itself owns! … And Sinclair is proposing it be allowed to keep multiple stations in Harrisburg, Indianapolis, and Greensboro, N.C. — even though FCC rules say a company can’t own two of the top four stations in a local market.”

I posed the question,

“Will the merger bolster local news coverage and be a stronger competitor to internet giants like Facebook and Google — or harm competition?”

Broadcasting & Cable magazine quoted Business in the Public Interest chairman and CEO Adonis Hoffman, a former top FCC staffer, as saying,

“When any number of companies outside the broadcast sector can reach the entire country with the same programming, the national cap becomes a fiction that limits, and applies only to, broadcasters.”

I disagreed, saying,

“Those other companies — cable, satellite and the internet — don’t use our public airwaves and broadcasters do, so the rules should be different.”

Also at that point, the plan was

“for Tribune’s WPIX-New York (CW) and WGN Chicago (independent) to be sold, but still operated by Sinclair, which wants its stations to be seen all over the country and is how it has operated around the rules for years.

“Really gone will be Tribune’s Fox affiliate KSWB-San Diego. Expected to be gone are Tribune’s Fox affiliates in Seattle (KCPQ), Denver (KDVR, which Fox once owned), Salt Lake City (KSTU, which Fox once owned), Sacramento (KTXL) and Cleveland (WJW, which Fox once owned). Let this show Fox owned but sold three of those five stations, which shows a lack of commitment to those communities.

Plus, there’s Tribune’s CW Miami-Fort Lauderdale affiliate (WSFL-Channel 39). Imagine the Fox network buying Miami’s WSFL. I’m sure Fox affiliate WSVN’s owner Ed Ansin would have something to say about that. He has more experience than anyone in that situation because NBC did it to him twice: in Miami in 1989 and Boston in 2017.”

The next day, March 1, was one of the most popular posts, possibly because I hadn’t seen it reported at all by South Florida media. The post also had lots of cities, and old logos and promos.

credits wsvn
I started my producing career at WSVN.

“WSVN without Fox? It’s possible if….” ran through many examples from over the years of networks dumping their affiliates in certain cities because they wanted a station of their own. It was because of “the possibility WSVN-Channel 7 in Miami-Fort Lauderdale may lose its Fox affiliation” if Fox buys the competing CW affiliate, which was one of the stations that was going to be spun off from the Sinclair-Tribune deal. Fox hadn’t owned too many stations compared to other groups.

tv owner population share

I mentioned,

The plan (was) that Fox itself will buy several Tribune stations – all Fox affiliates already – but also WSFL-Channel 39, which is South Florida’s CW affiliate.”

WSFL

Then, I posed two questions,

“What would happen to programming on both stations?” and “Would (Fox) give up WSVN’s good ratings and help from its large news department, just to have a station of its own?”

But in 1989, NBC bought CBS affiliate WTVJ when Ansin wouldn’t sell. CBS bought independent (Fox still just airing on a couple of nights) WCIX with a small news department and signal 30 miles south of all the other stations.

In San Francisco, NBC demanded longtime affiliate KRON for a very low price, when the owners decided to sell. When KRON was sold elsewhere, NBC pulled its affiliation and moved former ABC affiliate KNTV up from San Jose.

In Boston, NBC wanted affiliate WHDH – owned by Ansin – for a very low price. Once again, he refused so NBC dropped WHDH and started a new station using New England Cable News; bumped the Telemundo signal on WNEU-Channel 60 in New Hampshire, which it owned, to a sub-channel, and put NBC on the main channel; bought WBTS-LD (low-powered) Channel 8; and leased a sub-channel of WMFP (virtual channel 60.5) in Lawrence, Mass. Then, after a year, it decided the station should be called NBC 10!

In Raleigh/Durham, NBC dumped its weak affiliate and affiliated with a new station that was owned by a company that owned successful NBC affiliates, but it had to start up a news department from scratch.

WNCN1

In Charlotte, Fox dumped one of its strongest affiliates that had a news department just to affiliate with the former UPN station, and start up a brand new news department, so it could carry Carolina Panthers football games.

You could say viewers in lots of the country got confused and there are no more partnerships, since companies will do whatever it takes to make more money.

Looking ahead, had the Sinclair-Tribune deal gone through, some CW affiliates owned by Tribune probably would’ve lost their affiliations to CBS-owned stations.

And separately, there was the channel 4-channel 6 swap in Miami.

I noted in the Miami market,

“Putting WSFL on the block goes against Sinclair trying to buy up stations in every city around the country – or just make a deal with the owners to operate them, to get around the rules. That’s because neither Sinclair nor Tribune have any other stations in Miami.”

And don’t forget Miami has the Dolphins NFL team.

I ended by showing,

“There are also examples where networks own stations but don’t put their own programs on those stations, because affiliating with competing stations makes more sense.”

But nothing had been decided about Miami.

feature no sinclair tribune miami

By March 7, there was finally some “definite” information, or so everyone thought since some details were released.

Sinclair

“announced it would sell several stations to stay under a new cap, but the deals it reached would let it continue to control the New York and Chicago stations it sells, so those big cities won’t count. (Is there ANYBODY who thinks that’s OK?)”

WPIX

“Sinclair (was supposed to) sell WPIX-New York for a measly $15 million to Cunningham Broadcasting. More than 90 percent of that company’s stock is controlled by trusts owned by the estate of Carolyn Smith, the late wife of Sinclair founder Julian Smith and mother of Sinclair chairman David Smith. So the Smith children own it. Talk about a shell corporation! Cunningham owns 20 stations but at least 14 of them are run by Sinclair!

“And it (was supposed to) sell WGN-TV Chicago for just $60 million to Steven B. Fader, chairman of Baltimore-based Atlantic Capital Group and business partner of David Smith in Atlantic Automotive Corp.

“Those stations are each worth hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe a half-billion.”

WGN-TV

On top of that, Variety says,

“Sinclair would not only continue to operate the stations and receive the lion’s share of their revenue, but the sale agreement with both buyers gives Sinclair an option to buy the stations back within eight years. That’s seen as a marker for the company to bide its time in the hopes that the FCC relaxes its station ownership restrictions in the near future.”

TVNewsCheck‘s editor Harry Jessell reported he spoke to Ansin who said Fox hasn’t mentioned anything about “moving into the market and no expression of interest in WSVN.”

I mentioned several other cities where the networks got rid of affiliates they didn’t want. Some cases were nicer than others.

On a national level, Disney’s bid beat Comcast’s for Fox in the U.S., but it wasn’t over.

Comcast logo sized

In Europe, Comcast outbid Fox to buy the 61 percent of Sky PLC Fox didn’t already own. Fox is still trying to consolidate ownership of the powerful British pay-TV company in order to turn it around and sell Sky to Disney.

fox sky news disney

Broadcasting & Cable (reported) eight of the 50 states’ attorneys general came out against the SinclairTribune merger. They told the Federal Communications Commission “it does not have the authority to raise the 39 percent national audience reach cap for TV station groups, that it does have the authority to eliminate the UHF discount” – the old rule that discounts the number of viewers UHF stations reach by half, because they were weaker and harder to watch years ago before modern technology like cable, computers, etc. – and that it should eliminate the discount.

They – according to B&C – argue

“getting rid of the cap would threaten diversity, competition, and localism, and cites Sinclair Broadcasting, whose Tribune deal would benefit from lifting or eliminating the limit, pointing out that it distributes news stories that must run in its newscasts.”

The attorneys general included the ones from Illinois (home to Tribune) and Maryland (home to Sinclair), who opposed the takeover because

“the combination would decrease consumer choices and diversity in the media marketplace.”

According to The Sun, Sinclair claimed

“the merger would allow the new company to better serve local viewers with expanded local coverage, better facilities and more programming, delivered in part by operational efficiencies.”

Days later, on March 11, I published one of my longest posts.

“Call to action: Help stop Sinclair from taking over Tribune” went into detail about why the deal was bad and showed you how to contact the FCC, your Congressional representative and your senator.

This was when Sinclair started ordering hundreds of its local news anchors around the country to recite a script using President Trump’s talking points against the rest of the media.

You’ll remember,

“I’m [we are] extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that [proper news brand name of local station] produces. But I’m [we are] concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country.

“The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media. More alarming, national media outlets are publishing these same fake stories without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’ … This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.

“We understand Truth is neither politically ‘left or right.’ Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.”

feature group

And you’ll certainly watch it – and the parodies like above – in this post!

Blame it on Scott Livingston, Sinclair’s senior vice president of news, who wrote in a statement to CNN:

“Promo messages, like the one you are referring to, are very common in our industry. … “This promo addresses the troubling trend of false stories on social media [Livingston’s emphasis], and distinguishes our trusted local stations as news destinations where we are committed to honest and accurate reporting. This promo reminds our viewers of this mission.”

CNN also went into great detail about how the promos were supposed to “look and sound.”

“Talent should dress in jewel tones — however they should not look political in their dress or attire. … Avoid total red, blue and purples dresses and suits. Avoid totally red, blue and purple ties, the goal is to look apolitical, neutral, nonpartisan yet professional. Black or charcoal suits for men…females should wear yellow, gold, magenta, cyan, but avoid red, blue or purple.”

CNN concluded its description with,

“At the end of the promo, viewers are encouraged to send in feedback ‘if you believe our coverage is unfair’ and ‘Corporate will monitor the comments and send replies to your audience on your behalf,’ so ‘In other words, local stations are cut out of the interactions with viewers. Management will handle it instead.’”

I gave my opinion on the whole propaganda problem:

“TV stations should be run by their general managers who live in and are part of the community. And this is exactly the opposite. … It shouldn’t matter much whether GMs come from the sales side or the news side, as long as they’re serving the public interest. There should be hardly any interference from a major corporation’s headquarters.”

ABC News Nightline

I reminded readers, “Sinclair ordered all of its ABC stations not to air April 30, 2004’s episode of Nightline in which Ted Koppel read the names of the more than U.S. troops killed in action in the Iraq war,” how Sinclair said the Nightline program

“appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq. … Mr. Koppel and Nightline are hiding behind this so-called tribute in an effort to highlight only one aspect of the war effort and in doing so to influence public opinion against the military action in Iraq,”

and how the company’s lawyer Faber confirmed his company told its ABC affiliates not to air the program because,

“We find it to be contrary to public interest.”

Vietnam veteran and prisoner of war, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) disagreed. He wrote in a letter to David Smith:

“Your decision to deny your viewers an opportunity to be reminded of war’s terrible costs, in all their heartbreaking detail, is a gross disservice to the public, and to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. … It is, in short, sir, unpatriotic. I hope it meets with the public opprobrium it most certainly deserves.”

Regardless of politics, whose opinion on “public interest” would you support, John McCain’s or David Smith’s?

Of course, Sinclair stations not airing the program with the rest of the country got many complaints.

So much for localism!

Speaking of David Smith, I had to mention The Baltimore Sun reporting he was arrested “and charged with committing a perverted sex act in a company-owned Mercedes” in August, 1996. It happened “in an undercover sting at Read and St. Paul streets, a downtown corner frequented by prostitutes.” Smith and Mary DiPaulo “were charged with committing unnatural and perverted sex act.” Police said “they witnessed the two engage in oral sex while Smith drove north” on Baltimore’s Jones Falls Expressway. Neither Sinclair nor its local flagship station WBFF-45 would comment. People in the media have lost jobs over less.

Is this someone who deserves a public broadcast license?

vote voting election

But back to politics. CNN also reported,

“According to campaign finance records, four of Sinclair’s top executives each have given the maximum campaign contribution of $2,000 to the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. The executives have not given any donations to the campaign of Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee, the records showed.”

Looking back at that same electionThe Seattle Times wrote in 2013,

“Most notoriously, the company ordered its stations to air a documentary critical of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry right before the 2004 election. … After an uproar, the stations ended up airing just a few minutes of the documentary, Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal, as well as excerpts from a pro-Kerry documentary and interviews with veterans.”

The article continued,

President Barack Obama Official White House Photo
Official White House Photo

“In 2010, several Sinclair stations aired an infomercial about President Obama intended to sway voters in midterm elections. The 25-minute piece, funded by a Republican political-action group, said Obama “displays tendencies some would call socialist” and claimed the president had accepted campaign donations from Middle Eastern terrorist organizations.

“In 2012, on the Monday before the election, viewers in some swing states found their nightly news or other programs replaced on Sinclair channels by an ‘election special’ produced by Sinclair that was biased against Democrats.”

Therefore, I wrote,

“It appears Sinclair’s owners are far right-wingers using their assets (and our airwaves) to get what they want politically. That’s not the public interest.”

Neither is Sinclair being the king of the “must-runs,” which The New York Times reported in May arrive every day at its TV stations. The paper defined them as

“short video segments that are centrally produced by the company. Station managers around the country are directed to work them into the broadcast over a period of 24 or 48 hours.”

Again, so much for local control over content! The Times gave these examples:

“Since November 2015, Sinclair has ordered its stations to run a daily segment from a ‘Terrorism Alert Desk’ with updates on terrorism-related news around the world. During the election campaign last year, it sent out a package that suggested in part that voters should not support Hillary Clinton because the Democratic Party was historically pro-slavery. More recently, Sinclair asked stations to run a short segment in which Scott Livingston, the company’s vice president for news, accused the national news media of publishing ‘fake news stories.’”

komo

And it described a Seattle station the company bought less than five years earlier,

“Eight current and former KOMO employees described a newsroom where some have chafed at Sinclair’s programming directives, especially the must-runs, which they view as too politically tilted and occasionally of poor quality. They also cited features like a daily poll, which they believe sometimes asks leading questions.

“The journalists at KOMO described small acts of rebellion, like airing the segments at times of low viewership or immediately before or after commercial breaks so they blend in with paid spots. They all spoke on condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal from the company.

“Those interviewed said that being on the other side of the country from the corporate headquarters outside Baltimore gave them some breathing room. But not always.

“In late 2013, for instance, after The Seattle Times wrote an editorial criticizing Sinclair’s purchase of KOMO, Sinclair ordered KOMO to do a story critical of the newspaper industry, and of The Seattle Times in particular, according to two of the people interviewed.

“KOMO journalists were surprised in January when, at a morning planning meeting, they received what they considered an unusual request. The station’s news director, who normally avoided overtly political stories, instructed his staff to look into an online ad that seemed to be recruiting paid protesters for President Trump’s inauguration. Right-leaning media organizations had seized on the ad, which was later revealed as a hoax, as proof of coordinated efforts by the left to subvert Mr. Trump.

“Only after reporters had left the room did they learn the origin of the assignment, two of them said: The order had come down from Sinclair.”

Livingston, the company’s vice president for news, told The Times,

“We work very hard to be objective and fair and be in the middle. … I think maybe some other news organizations may be to the left of center, and we work very hard to be in the center.”

I interpreted that to mean Sinclair works very hard to be to the right of other news organizations.

At least the Seattle station, an ABC affiliate, carries news.

Sinclair owns a Fox affiliate in Pittsburgh, WPGH-Channel 53. It used to produce its own newscast but no longer does. Instead, it runs a newscast produced by a competitor. That’s one less local television voice.

Sinclair pretty much closed up shop in Toledo, Ohio. Its NBC affiliate there has a few people left in news but production is done out of its CBS/Fox stations in South Bend, Indiana. That includes its anchors and weather people. Who knows if they’ve ever been to Toledo, know anything about it, its history, what’s popular there, etc.? The weather person is supposed to know the nuances and micro-climates of that area. Sinclair has shown none of that matters.

mark hyman
Mark Hyman

Sinclair had its former Vice President for Corporate Relations Mark Hyman give “must air” right-wing commentaries for years and then hired former Trump campaign spokesman and advisor Boris Epshteyn as its chief political analyst, a month after he left the White House.

Boris Epshteyn clip artSinclair does not offer commentaries from the other side, but tells you the news programming their network-affiliated stations air is left-wing liberalism.

Plus, don’t forget President Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner said Sinclair executives worked with the campaign to spread pro-Trump messages in Sinclair newscasts.

And, concerning the FCC chairman,

“A New York Times investigation published in August found that Mr. Pai and his staff members had met and corresponded with Sinclair executives several times. One meeting, with Sinclair’s executive chairman, took place days before Mr. Pai, who was appointed by President Trump, took over as F.C.C. chairman.

“Sinclair’s top lobbyist, a former F.C.C. official, also communicated frequently with former agency colleagues and pushed for the relaxation of media ownership rules. And language the lobbyist used about loosening rules has tracked closely to analysis and language used by Mr. Pai in speeches favoring such changes.”

Then I scrutinized prices for Tribune stations Sinclair was buying versus past station sales and wrote,

“I think the FCC should insist Sinclair itemize every TV station it plans to buy from Tribune, tell everyone how much it values each and how it adds up to $3.9 billion.”

I think most journalists try to be fair and leave their own opinions at home because they tend to be good people who try to do the right thing, unlike a lot of the corporations that only look out for shareholders and in Sinclair’s case, the owners’ political views. That has caused veteran journalists at stations being bought by Sinclair leaving for the competition, stations in other cities, or just retiring so they could keep the benefits they’ve earned at the other company.

Back on March 23, we thought we’d learned the fates of seven more TV stations that would’ve had to be divested.

They were to go to political commentator, entrepreneur, author of a nationally syndicated conservative newspaper column, and host of the daily radio show and the nationally syndicated TV program, The Armstrong Williams Show. Williams is also the largest African-American owner of television stations in the U.S.

armstrong williams

Wikipedia described him as,

principal in Howard Stirk Holdingsa media company affiliated with Sinclair Broadcasting that has made numerous television station purchases.”

Williams had been in business with Sinclair – a corporation with overtly and pushy conservative leanings – before, but this time looked different.

The backstory is that Williams helped Sinclair buy Barrington Broadcasting. He got NBC affiliate WEYI-TV in Flint-Saginaw-Bay City, Mich., and CW affiliate WWMB in Myrtle Beach-Florence, S.C., BUT according to Wikipedia,

“Both stations remain operated by Sinclair under a local marketing agreement, which resulted in allegations that the company was simply acting as a ‘sidecar’ of Sinclair to skirt FCC ownership rules. Williams defended the allegations, noting that he had full control over their programming, and received the majority of their revenue.”

He did buy five other stations, three from Sinclair.

No price was announced in this deal.

at&t time warner

Funny thing is, according to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, President Trump attacked AT&T’s $85.4 billion bid for Time Warner. However, he even spoke to Fox owner Rupert Murdoch in December and congratulated him on his Disney deal!

Maybe that’s because Fox owns Fox News Channel, which Trump likes, and Time-Warner owns CNN, which the president does not like.

Don’t forget Comcast had originally even offered more than Disney for all those Fox assets but was rejected! That may have been a good thing, since a federal judge let AT&T get Time Warner but the government is appealing. A Fox-Comcast deal would’ve been similar, with a content creator and a content provider.

Then I went over the FCC’s broadcast ownership limits and the reason a combined Sinclair-Tribune could not have simply kept the two highest-rated stations in a big city, or more than one in a smaller city.

Days later, on March 26, I mentioned the Sinclair Divestiture Trust. It’s a flexible list of stations in

“a series of Form 314 filings have been made with the FCC indicating the divestiture of up to 23 broadcast television properties by Sinclair.”

The stations – from both Sinclair and Tribune – were put in the trust “for the purpose of removing them from the licensee” – in other words, to be sold off.

According to RBR+TVBR, Sinclair noted stations were placed in the divestiture trust

“in order to retain flexibility, based on the outcome of Sinclair’s request to own two top-four stations in this market, to determine which station, if any, will be placed in the Trust.”

That’s because FCC rules would not have let the proposed controversial combination simply decide to hold onto the two highest-rated stations in a city.

I really wrote a lot because on March 30, I discussed how unionizing could’ve helped those news anchors at Sinclair-run stations who didn’t want to look into a camera and read that corporate promotional nonsense during newscasts. I think a union would’ve helped the journalists keep the business people in their place, which is out of the newsroom.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer — which properly discloses “KOMO News and SeattlePI have a content-sharing agreement” — called that script

“the next step in the company’s plan to undermine non-Sinclair outlets.”

The SeattlePI continued:

“The claim of balanced reporting is undermined by must-run segments like the one about the ‘Deep State’ that ran during KOMO’s 6pm newscast last week. In the March 21 segment, former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka parroted a Trump talking point regarding the existence of a ‘Deep State’ attempting to undermine the U.S. government.

“That segment was produced by Sinclair’s Kristine Frazao, who before coming to Sinclair was a reporter and anchor for the Russian-government funded news network RT, described as ‘the Kremlin’s propaganda outlet’ by the Columbia Journalism Review.

“Sinclair also requires stations to run segments from Boris Epshteyn, a Russian-born former Trump adviser who now serves as Sinclair’s chief political analyst. Epshteyn recently produced stories with titles like, ‘Pres. Trump deserves cabinet and staff who support his agenda, yield successes’ and ‘Cable news channels are giving way too much coverage to Stormy Daniels.’”

In January, Sinclair had some nerve when it “asked employees to donate to its political action committee meant to sway lawmakers.” FTV Live’s Scott Jones leaked the document that called the Sinclair Political Action Committee, “our fund that supports candidates for Congress who can influence the future of broadcasting” — in their interest, of course!

jerry springer
Jerry Springer

This all made me wonder when it’s time to jump ship, like WMAQ’s Carol Marin did in Chicago in 1997 when Jerry Springer started giving commentaries on her newscast. The New York Times called her “one of that city’s most popular and respected television news anchors.” Her co-anchor also quit.

I ended with New York magazine publishing a piece titled “Local news is turning into Trump TV, even though viewers don’t want it” describing — without repeating what’s above — how

“Trump’s handpicked FCC chair, Ajit Pai, spent much of last year dismantling regulatory obstacles to media consolidation — including two rules that stood in the way of Sinclair’s desired merger with Tribune Media.”

Then it presumed “Sinclair has repaid this favor with interest” and asked “Why has Sinclair’s programming become more right-wing, even as it has expanded into more left-leaning media markets?”

On April 4, my post “My urge: Follow your conscience, despite the cost” discussed how local TV news anchors around the country have been reading those nonsense marketing scripts the rulers of Sinclair Broadcast Group demanded.

According to Bloomberg, the day before, the statement takes “aim at the integrity of other U.S. media outlets.”

That left many – myself included – wondering why some of the company’s journalists with credibility didn’t just quit doing what they’re told, despite the fact they hate everything about it, personally and professionally? Wouldn’t you have more respect for someone who uses their conscience and just says no, regardless of the consequences?

Bloomberg reported,

“The short answer is the cost may be too steep. According to copies of two employment contracts reviewed by Bloomberg, some Sinclair employees were subject to a liquidated damages clause for leaving before the term of their agreement was up: one that requires they pay as much as 40 percent of their annual compensation to the company.”

Can you imagine?

And that right to enforce the liquidated damages clause isn’t just a scare tactic. I gave an example and later learned, a Sinclair assistant news director who left for a job in another city less than two months before her contract ended had to pay too much to leave.

With Sinclair, some employees who never appeared on television were still required to sign such contracts.

Want to fight? Then there’s forced arbitration which means no sympathetic jury for the employee.

No reasonable person can feel anything but resentment if they know how the company operates.

But don’t forget journalists are natural storytellers.

Mediaite reported in Portland, Ore., the general manager issued an internal memo instructing his staff not to answer questions from anyone contacting them! FTVLive’s Scott Jones got a copy of the memo, which said most callers “likely haven’t actually watched and don’t have full context on (sic) due to social media, etc. I will also remind you that giving statements to the media or sharing negative information about the company can have huge implications.” Click here to see it.

Despite what you read, President Trump tweeted twice he’s a fan of Sinclair.

But KOMO-Seattle anchor Mary Nam – remember, a Sinclair station – took issue with the president and had the guts to call him out for calling watching “Fake News Networks” funny.

Another Sinclair station, WMSN in Madison, Wisc., was dealing with record snowfall (even for them!) and an important state Supreme Court election. Sounds a lot more local, important and even life-saving than the bullshit Sinclair demanded.

And thanks again to FTV Live’s Scott Jones who found this gem from WGN-TV executive producer Jeff Hoover.

In Rochester, Norma Holland of WHAM-13’s Good Day Rochester wrote about her dilemma on Facebook:

The Huffington Post reported,

“Some employees have spoken out about their frustration at having to parrot the conservative politics of their employer,” but also, “Others say they’d like to do more, but they’re wary due to what they say is Sinclair’s policy and practice of closely monitoring its employees.”

Also, “There’s a lot held over us,” a journalist at a Sinclair affiliate told HuffPost on the condition of anonymity. “They pay attention to what websites we’re on.”

Plus,

“Sinclair employees say their parent company often pays especially close attention to its affiliates’ editorial activities, meddling in how they present their stories and graphics, and sometimes going so far as to delete offensive comments on an affiliate’s online articles before that station’s own web editors have a chance to do so.”

So a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has done their part to fight for what’s right. I hope they all still have their jobs, or moved on to something better. Unfortunately, I don’t think that was the case in Portland, Ore.

On April 10, I showed you Sinclair is having an effect on trust in local news.

Local news organizations remained the most trusted source of information in Pew Research Center’s polling on trust in media – even though in January, a Pew Research Center report announced fewer Americans regularly rely on TV news, down to 50 percent of U.S. adults, from 57 percent a year prior.

Then, The Poynter Institute says Emory University researchers found

“many TV local news stations are focusing more on national politics and have taken a rightward slant over the past year. And that move is stemming from ownership of the stations, not the demands of a local audience.”

Poynter noted,

“The study comes just as many are raising concerns about a coordinated effort by one major owner of TV stations that forces its anchors to record a segment about ‘the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country.’”

The researchers examined 7.5 million transcript segments from 743 local news stations and saw huge differences between other stations, and outlets owned by Sinclair.

“The authors found Sinclair stations, on average, carried about a third less local politics coverage and a quarter more national politics … (including) commentaries the stations are forced to run by former Trump official Boris Epshteyn.”

Again, how can they claim they’re good for localism?!

On April 11, I wrote about FCC Chairman Ajit Pai speaking at a Las Vegas meeting, the day before.

TVNewsCheck’s Harry A. Jessell reported him saying his approach to broadcast regulations was,

“You either believe in scrapping outdated regulations or you don’t. We do.”

Under the former Verizon lawyer’s leadership, eight rules were eliminated with more to come. (Of course, we know the UHF discount is back, putting Pai under investigation by the FCC inspector general.)girl watching tv

As for what’s next, according to Pai, “In particular, Commissioner [Michael] O’Rielly is now leading an effort to update our children’s television rules so that they better reflect the way that kids watch video these days, and I look forward to getting his recommendations.”

Jessell said O’Rielly got

“a call from an Ohio broadcaster who said his plans for a Saturday morning news program were ‘derailed’ by the need to make way for children’s programming.”

I don’t know which station but will go to go out on a limb and say the news program would be much cheaper using a set already in the studio and an announcer already on staff. And where was the required children’s programming anyway? That’s just my two cents.

Also from Jessell:

“Pai also patted himself on the back for helping broadcasters secure an additional $1 billion from Congress to insure that they will be fully reimbursed for moving to new channels in the wake of the FCC incentive auction.”

So much for helping the poor and the children! Ain’t government great?!

On May 4, I published the massive “Media mega-merger may be moving closer, impacting Miami” because we learned the biggest news for a local TV market if Sinclair and Tribune would’ve merged would’ve been Miami/Fort Lauderdale (of course!).

A week earlier, TVNewsCheck‘s Harry Jessell noted,

For nearly a year, Sinclair has been screwing around, working every angle in its grim determination to hang on to every Tribune station it could in the face of FCC ownership caps and Justice Department antitrust limits.”

But the deal announced in May, 2017, still hadn’t happened.

Government approval would have to come from the Justice Department for antitrust worries, and the FCC to approve ownership limits.

A number of stations would have to be sold and I’d already explained TV ownership limits, with four rules in play: 1. national TV ownership, 2. local TV multiple ownership, 3. the number of independently owned “media voices” – 4. and at least one of the stations is not ranked among the top four stations in the DMA (that’s the “designated market area” or city, and ranking based on audience share), and at least eight independently owned TV stations would remain in the market after the proposed combination.

On April 24, The Wall Street Journal reported Sinclair said it’ll spin off 23 stations in 18 markets – some owned by Sinclair and others by Tribune.

Also on April 24, Deadline magazine reported, “Sinclair expects the transactions for the station sales to close the same day the Tribune deal is approved, and now estimates it all will be wrapped up by June.” Obviously that didn’t happen.

These are the stations owned by Sinclair that would be divested if the merger goes through…

sinclair divest

and these are the stations owned by Tribune.

tribune divest

So we learned who would get the stations, but it’s more complicated than the charts show.

The official licensee could have a different name but we know we’re dealing with stations owned by Sinclair and Tribune.

More importantly and suspiciously is the last column, called Buyer. That’s because Sinclair has been the king of using shell companies to get around ownership rules. These corporations are either owned by the Smith family that owns Sinclair, or others that let Sinclair program them through local marketing agreements. Sinclair doesn’t technically own all those stations, but operates them as if they do.

Cunningham Broadcasting

Cunningham Broadcasting Corporation is the most controversial. It calls itself

“an independent television broadcast company that, together with its subsidiaries, owns and/or operates 20 television stations in 18 markets across the United States.”

Notice “owns and/or operates.”

As for independent, Forbes magazine (not a liberal publication) put out an article called “Meet the Billionaire Clan Behind the Media Outlet Liberals Love To Hate” and it described Sinclair’s owners and their ties to Cunningham.

“The Smith family, which includes brothers David, Robert, Frederick, J. Duncan and a flurry of family trusts, is worth a combined $1.2 billion, Forbes estimates, based on the family members’ ownership of stock in publicly traded Sinclair Broadcasting, share sales over the past 15 years, dividends and some private assets,” it read.

“Revenues have increased 281% over the last decade to $2.7 billion in 2017, while Sinclair’s share price has increased 367% over the same period, pushing its market capitalization up to a recent $3 billion. All of this growth has occurred under the control and oversight of David Smith, 67, the chairman and former CEO of the company, as well as the son of the company’s founder Julian Sinclair Smith,” it continued.

Jessell of TVNewsCheck reported, “Its financials are consolidated with Sinclair’s in its SEC filings and earnings reports.”

Forbes quoted Daniel Kurnos, an analyst at Benchmark Capital, as saying, “Sinclair plays some of the hardest ball of anyone,” from acquiring stations to negotiating advertisement pricing and retransmission fees, which are some of the highest in the business.

sinclair before tribune

Under David Smith, who wouldn’t comment for the article, Sinclair went from three cities – Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Columbus – to what it is now.

“To ‘purely make money’ in a scale-oriented business, David bought up as many broadcast stations as possible. First he concentrated on secondary markets, like Memphis, St. Louis and San Antonio, where operation costs were cheaper than in places like New York or Chicago.

“I believed that certain things were going to happen in the television industry, the most important being consolidation,” David told Forbes in 1996.

So much for public service!

Then came the controversial Cunningham, arguably rigging the system.

“In the 1990s, the company pioneered a technique to circumvent an FCC rule limiting ownership of more than one TV station per metro area. David’s mother, Carolyn Smith, started another business, Cunningham Broadcasting. Following Carolyn’s death in 2012, most of the ownership of Cunningham Broadcasting shifted to a family trust, which is included in the overall Smith family valuation.”

So Cunningham really isn’t independent, as its website claims!

Known as “Glencairn, Ltd. prior to 2002,” it got into some trouble back in 1998. In July of that year, Broadcasting & Cable magazine reported,

PUSH pushing FCC over Sinclair/Glencairn

“The Rainbow/PUSH Coalition is raising questions at the FCC about whether Sinclair Broadcasting is exercising control over a minority-headed TV group with which it has struck a series of local marketing agreements (LMAs).

“In a July 1 filing at the FCC, Rainbow/PUSH said it plans to study whether the LMA deal between Sinclair’s KABB(TV) San Antonio and Glencairn’s KRRT(TV) Kerrville, Tex., violates the commission’s prohibition against common ownership of two local stations. (The rules were more strict then.)

“‘Rainbow/PUSH has not had an opportunity to fully research this matter, and thus preserves here the question of whether Glencaim is the alter ego of Sinclair,’ the group told the FCC.”

More than three years later, in Dec., 2001, Broadcasting & Cable was finally able to report the decision.

FCC fines Sinclair for Glencairn control

“Sinclair Broadcasting exercised illegal control of business partner Glencairn Ltd., the FCC found Monday after three years of investigating the companies’ relationship.

“Each company was fined $40,000 but escaped tougher sanction sought by civil rights groups-a government rejection of Sinclair’s request to buy 14 stations from Sullivan Broadcasting.

“The commission’s three Republicans judged that the companies were liable for misinterpreting FCC policies, but found they did not intentionally mislead the agency about compliance.

“Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps wanted the FCC to pursue a tougher sanction and voted to designate the station sales for hearing in front of an administrative law judge.

“Sinclair has repeatedly ‘stretched the limits’ of FCC ownership rules, he said.”

Back to the Forbes article, last year, Cunningham paid Sinclair more than $120 million for running its stations. Also, Cunningham admits its treasurer and chief financial officer, Lisa Asher, worked as Sinclair’s assistant controller before moving over in 2002.

So we know Cunningham, set to buy Tribune stations in Dallas and Houston, appears to be a shell company, and we can make bets who will operate and control it if the Sinclair-Tribune deal ever comes to fruition.

But there’s a lot more evidence.

Cunningham is headquartered near Sinclair in Maryland, which is very convenient since

“Cunningham Broadcasting owns the FCC broadcast licenses and operates through various management agreements with Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. WNUV-TV in Baltimore, Maryland; WTTE-TV in Columbus, Ohio; WMYA-TV in Anderson, South Carolina; WRGT-TV in Dayton, Ohio; WVAH-TV in Charleston, West Virginia; WDBB-TV in Bessemer, Alabama; WBSF-TV in Flint, Michigan; WGTU-TV in Traverse City, Michigan; KBVU-TV in Eureka, California; KCVU-TV in Chico-Redding, California; WEMT-TV in Greeneville, Tennessee; WPFO-TV in Portland, Maine; WYDO-TV in Greenville, North Carolina; and KRNV-TV & KENV-TV in Reno, Nevada.”

bonten tri-cities stations
Bonten’s Tri-Cities stations, from the signature below my work email

Looking at its list of stations — something the Fox Television Stations Group never posted on its own website despite me calling them out for it herehereherehere (so far in no particular order, although I may have missed a couple), and my favorite, here — I showed you Sinclair bought Bonten Media Group but Cunningham bought the stations Bonten operated. Notice those stations listed on the website have no websites of their own.

WBFF

Another dead giveaway is that Cunningham is based at 2000 W. 41st Street, Baltimore MD 21211 and coincidentally, Sinclair flagship WBFF-45 (Fox affiliate) has the same address!

But not just WBFF.

WNUV

So is WNUV-54 (CW affiliate), which says it’s

“owned and operated by Cunningham Broadcasting Corporation and receives certain services from an affiliation of Sinclair Broadcast Group.”

(Sinclair, the corporation, is based in nearby Hunt Valley, MD.)

But that’s not all, folks!WUTV

There’s still WUTV-24 (MyNetworkTV affiliate), with the same look as the other websites, which says it’s

“a SBG Television affiliate owned and operated by Deerfield Media, Inc and receives certain services from an affiliation of Sinclair Broadcast Group.”

Deerfield, with apparently no website of its own (so see Wikipedia’s take), is another of the shell companies, formed in 2012 but not involved in the proposed Tribune transaction.

How’d that happen?

In Nov., 2012, TVNewsCheck reported,

“For years (before 2012), Fox Television Stations’ WUTB Baltimore gave Fox considerable leverage in its sometime contentious affiliation negotiations with Sinclair Broadcast Group.

“If Sinclair ever got out of line, Fox could threaten to yank its affiliation from Sinclair’s flagship station WBFF Baltimore and move it to WUTB.

“But last May, Fox relinquished that leverage when it extended its affiliation with WBFF and 18 other Sinclair stations for five years starting Jan. 1, 2013, and granted Sinclair an option to buy WUTB.

“Sinclair is now exercising that option by assigning it to a third party, Deerfield LLC.

“According to an FCC filing seeking approval of the deal, Deerfield is buying WUTB and allowing Sinclair to run the MNT affiliate through joint sales and shared services agreements.

“The deal gives Sinclair a virtual triopoly in Baltimore where it also operates CW affiliate WNUV, which is owned by Cunningham Broadcasting, Sinclair’s longtime duopoly partner that is controlled by trusts for the children of Sinclair’s controlling shareholders.”

But Sinclair and Deerfield were already in cahoots.

Months earlier, in July, 2012, MarketWatch reported Sinclair intended

“to buy six television stations from Newport Television LLC for $412.5 million and agreed to buy Bay Television Inc. for $40 million. … Sinclair also agreed to sell the license assets of its San Antonio station KMYS and its WSTR station in Cincinnati to Deerfield Media Inc. Sinclair will also assign Deerfield the right to buy the license assets of WPMI and WJTC in the Mobile/Pensacola market, after which Sinclair will provide sales and other non-programming services to each of these four stations under shared services and joint sales agreements.”

The next day, TVNewsCheck reported,

“Sinclair Broadcast is getting six stations in five markets for $412.5 million:
— Cincinnati (DMA 35) — WKRC (CBS)
— San Antonio, Texas (DMA 36) — WOAI (NBC)
— Harrisburg-Lancaster (DMA 41) — WHP (CBS)
— Mobile, Ala.-Pensacola, Fla. (DMA 60) — WPMI (NBC) and WJTC (Ind.)
— Wichita, Kan. (DMA 67) — KSAS (Fox)

“Sinclair is also acquiring Newport’s rights to operate third-party duopoly stations in Harrisburg, Pa. (CW affiliate WLYH), and Wichita, Kan. (MNT affiliate KMTW). Those rights include options to buy the stations. …

“While Sinclair was buying, it was also selling.

“It said it would spin off its CW affiliate in San Antonio (KMYS) and its MNT affiliate in Cincinnati (WSTR) to Deerfield Media Inc., presumably to comply with the FCC ownership limits. In the deal, Deerfield also picks up an option to buy two of the stations it is acquiring from Newport, WPMI-WJTC Mobile, Ala.-Pensacola, Fla.

“Sinclair said it intends to ‘provide sales and other non-programming services to each of these four stations pursuant to shared services and joint sales agreements.’

“In yet another deal, Sinclair said it is buying WTTA Tampa-St. Petersburg from Bay Television Inc. for $40 million. Since 1998, Sinclair has operated WTTA pursuant to a local marketing agreement.”

And that was the start of the Deerfield connection!

Even more telling is that Deerfield’s WUTV moved from Channel 24 (24.1) to 45.2, which is a subchannel of Sinclair’s WBFF! The website doesn’t tell why. It just explains to viewers watching over the air with an antenna how to rescan, but the reason is really the FCC’s recent spectrum auction.

With three stations realistically (unless you prefer names over control), Sinclair was in a great position to sell off some spectrum space and make even more money. This website shows Channel 24 will go off the air and the owner (or operator?) will get $122,912,964 for its spectrum.

So for those of you in Baltimore, do you need to reach the newsroom, are you looking for a job (Would they hire me for my investigative work?), or interested in inspecting the FCC public file of any of the three stations? All the information is the same, from address to phone numbers, and we already established three stations in one city are not allowed!

Why was the FCC the last to find out? Or did it know and ignore the facts for political reasons?hsh Howard Stirk Holdings

To the next perspective buyer…

HSH stands for Howard Stirk Holdings, and is owned by Armstrong Williams. That’s now mostly true.

In a Broadcasting & Cable article on the news section of HSH’s website dated July, 2013, Williams mentions suing the FCC because it

“adopted a new rule restricting joint sales agreements (JSAs) between television broadcasters in the same market.”

He claimed,

“It effectively slams the door shut on an important gateway to enhancing localism, viewpoint diversity, and opportunities in broadcast television ownership by minorities and underrepresented groups.”

But there’s more.

Armstrong Williams talked about the impact of a March 31, 2014, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruling that television station owners cannot control more than one station in the same local market via the use of joint sales agreements and shared services agreements, often known as “sidecar” deals. Mr. Armstrong, who owns two TV stations through a sidecar agreement with Sinclair Broadcasting, argued that the ruling could cause minority owners, and small station owners more generally, to be forced out of existence.”

That’s from a C-SPAN article on the news section of HSH’s website dated April, 2014, where you can watch the whole interview.

Washington Times article from a few weeks earlier, on the same News page as the others on HSH’s website, said,

“The FCC, backed by the Obama administration Justice Department, argues that broadcasters have used the shared-service, or “sidecar,” arrangements to circumvent long-standing rules against owning multiple television stations in a single market, allowing them to raise ad prices and weaken market competition.”

It seemed every article in HSH’s News section mentioned Sinclair or those joint sales agreements designed to get by without abiding by the FCC’s ownership rules!

In other words, he was a great partner for Sinclair since he’s a minority (but without the views of most other minorities) and they’re both making money by using each other!

But I found it eventually gets somewhat better.

Wikipedia said Williams helped Sinclair buy Barrington Broadcasting in late 2013, so he got stations in Flint, MI, and Myrtle Beach, SC, but they remain operated by Sinclair. They’re actually his only stations run by Sinclair and remember, at the time, his company was accused of “acting as a ‘sidecar’ of Sinclair to skirt FCC ownership rules.”

But that was then.

A year later, he actually, really bought three stations from Sinclair: one in Charleston and two in Alabama. So they’ve been in business several times, and it may not be over.

That means as of now, Howard Stirk Holdings owns seven stations. Two are in the same Anniston-Tuscaloosa-Birmingham, Ala., market, and Williams’ first two are still run by Sinclair. Now, after other purchases, he’s expecting to buy three more if the Sinclair-Tribune merger happens.

standard media

Then there’s Standard Media GroupI hadn’t heard of them either. Its website says Standard General was founded in 2007 and is pretty much an investment adviser, but getting into the broadcasting business. I was skeptical since investment firms are more likely to sell than others with broadcasting in their blood, especially ones who invest in their communities.

However, I learned it’s owned by Soohyung Kim, who started Standard Media to buy nine of the 23 stations. He was a hedge fund manager involved with Media General, Young Broadcasting and LIN before Media General bought them, and Nexstar bought Media General. He owns no TV stations now, and he’s bringing his winning team from years ago with him.

Standard said if the deal goes through, it’ll fulfill its “goal of swiftly building a substantial broadcast television group with a strong and diverse voice” that includes four state capitals.

meredith corporation

TVSpy noted in St. Louis, where Sinclair owns a station and Tribune owns two, Meredith Corp. “signed a deal to acquire KPLR (CW) from Tribune for $65 million, pairing it with KMOV (CBS) which Meredith has owned since 2013.” But that may not happen, even if there is a merger. The Justice Department denied the company the immediate right to create the duopoly.

Sinclair already owns KDNL (ABC) and would also own Tribune’s KTVI (FOX). Great for owners’ synergies. Bad for the number of independent voices in such a big city. Which do you care more about?

We mentioned New York and Chicago, and those plans have changed.

Politico reported on a potential Sinclair news channel, even though Sinclair execs gave denied it. The channel may be just a few hours in the evening to challenge Fox News for conservative viewers. Fox News is carried in more than 90 million homes, compared to 80 million for WGN America which Sinclair would own if regulators approve, and 55 million for the Tennis Channel which Sinclair already owns. It would be based in Washington, DC, where the company already owns local station WJLA-7 and produces some of its national content.

Fox wasn’t on the list of buyers while negotiations were taking place.

Jessell of TVNewsCheck was more direct, saying all Sinclair

“has to do now is wrap up its negotiations with Fox. I don’t know what’s delaying that deal, except that neither Fox nor Sinclair is famous for making concessions. Once Sinclair does that, it can finalize its application and the FCC can complete it long-stalled review.”

That’s where I wrote,

Those greedy bastards are going to end up screwing everything up for themselves (which I’d love to see happen), and you’ve only read about half of the plans, so far!

NFL LogoFox wanted stations in football cities so badly, it got its hands on Cox’s KTVU in San Francisco (with an NFC team, the 49ers, and the AFC Oakland Raiders across the bay will now be moving to Las Vegas in 2020) and gave Cox its own stations in Boston (the New England Patriots are AFC) and Memphis (no NFL team).

Football teams have moved, but the cities Fox wants are Seattle (especially because it’s NFC), and Cleveland, Denver and Miami (because they have AFC teams). San Diego and St. Louis no longer have teams, so Fox isn’t interested in Tribune’s Fox affiliates in those cities.

Seattle, Cleveland and Denver should be easy. The stations are already Fox affiliates so prime-time programming and the amount of news shouldn’t change. And Fox has leverage because it can threaten to take away its affiliation from those stations, lowering their value, if they’re sold to another company.

Miami is a different story. Fox has a very good affiliate, WSVN-7, owned by Ed Ansin’s Sunbeam Television. The ratings are great, the Miami Dolphins play there, and as an AFC team, they show up on Fox on a few Sundays and may also now be seen on Fox on Thursdays.

Fox WSFL WSVN

But the station that’s available is Tribune’s WSFL-39, a CW affiliate without a news department despite a few morning attempts. Should Fox dump WSVN and start from scratch with WSFL? Would it be worth the effort?

In another article, Jessell analyzed the ownership numbers in this case, and you try to figure out what’s true.

He led by saying,

“Sinclair is telling the FCC that its coverage after spinoffs from its merger with Tribune will be just 58.7%. But that’s for regulatory purposes. (In other words, with the revived UHF discount that only counts channels 14 and up as half the audience of the market.) In the real world, where it matters, Sinclair’s national reach will be 66.3% — a full two-thirds of TV homes.”

But he said Sinclair is telling the FCC

“the coverage of the group will be just 58.7% and, with the UHF discount, below the statutory 39% cap. But those percentages are for regulatory consumption, not the real world.”

So there’s a 7.6-point disparity, the difference between 58.7% and 66.3%. How’d that happen? And don’t forget about the part,

“with the UHF discount, below the statutory 39% cap.”

Jessell explained Sinclair

“is claiming 58% because it is not counting stations in three big markets — WGN Chicago, KDAF Dallas, KIAH Houston — that it is spinning off to closely affiliated companies. Without those markets and the discount in effect, Sinclair’s reach will be just 37.39%, safely below the 39% cap.”

Plus, with Dallas and Houston (but not Chicago),

“Sinclair has put additional distance between itself and Cunningham” but will “have an option to buy the stations should the FCC ever ease the rules to allow it.”

So this is Jessell’s bottom line:

“So, again, for regulatory purposes, Sinclair’s reach will be 58.7% without the discount and 37.39% with it.

“But I don’t think that is reality. Those are not the numbers that Sinclair will be showing national advertisers, MVPDs, vendors and others with which it does business.

“In the real world, Sinclair will have a lot of control over Chicago and some control over Dallas and Houston, and its effective national reach will be 66.3%. (For the record, its reach with the UHF discount will be 41.1%, two points over the cap, but that will not matter because regulators will not be counting the three markets.)”

But Deadline noted Sinclair

“has faced further attention in recent weeks over a push to have local anchors at its stations read company-scripted messages, including a recent prohibition against fake news. The spots … struck many in media as too closely aligned with the dismissive rhetoric of President Donald Trump.”

So the company hasn’t been doing itself any favors.

On May 8, I showed you how the FCC had just published a letter from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s response to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) regarding the proposed Sinclair-Tribune merger. Sen. Durbin and others have been especially concerned about Tribune’s WGN-TV9 in Chicago.

Pai to Durbin
https://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2018/db0507/DOC-350587A1.pdf

And the last story I wrote was on May 9. “BREAKING NEWS: Fox buying Miami station” may have gotten more views than any other post.

The negotiation spat between Fox and Sinclair ended with 21st Century Fox announcing it would buy the seven TV stations Tribune owned that had to be spun off to not exceed ownership limits, but had not yet officially found buyers.

“21st Century Fox today announced a definitive agreement with Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media Company to acquire seven television stations for approximately $910 million. The transaction will grow Fox Television Stations’ (FTS) coverage to nearly half of all U.S. households, and its market presence to 19 of the top 20 DMAs, including the addition of key markets that align with Fox’s sports rights,” it said.

fox chart

Six of those seven are Fox affiliates, so not much would’ve changed for viewers in those cities.

Fox WSFL

Yet, the Miami/Fort Lauderdale station is a CW affiliate. What would become of it, and also Sunbeam-owned Fox affiliate powerhouse WSVN? We may never know since the merger looks dead.

The CEO of Fox Television Stations, Jack Abernethy, said,

“This transaction illustrates Fox’s commitment to local broadcasting and we are pleased to add these stations to our existing portfolio. With this acquisition, we will now compete in 19 of the top 20 markets and have a significantly larger presence in the west, which will enhance our already strong platform. This expansion will further enrich our valuable alignments with the NFL, including our new Thursday Night Football rights, MLB and college sports assets. We are also happy to add many talented Tribune employees to our group, some of whom we know well.”

That’s because Fox actually used to own the Cleveland, Salt Lake City and Denver stations but sold them to a company called Local TV which sold itself to Tribune. So much for Fox actually caring about those communities when it owned those stations, sold them, and now wants them back. I hope the people of Cleveland, Salt Lake City and Denver will challenge Fox’s proposed buy with the FCC.

Also, Fox entered into new network affiliation agreements with Sinclair and the stations it doesn’t own but still operates.

Of course, where would Fox find that approximately $910 million to buy the stations? By selling off most of its assets like its movie and TV studio, cable networks FX and National Geographic, and regional sports networks to Disney – keeping just its network, TV stations, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network and FS1/FS2 cable sports channels.

Remember, a much leaner “New Fox” network plans to concentrate more on live events, specifically NFL football.

But it may not matter due to this point from the Fox news release:

“Completion of the stations acquisition by 21st Century Fox is anticipated for the second half of this calendar year, subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals, and is expected to be coordinated with the closing of Sinclair’s proposed acquisition of Tribune.”

And that’s not so likely anymore.

Since the merger announcement, there have been many holdups. Most notably is opposition from people who hate Sinclair’s conservative leanings, must-run commentaries on its local stations and its history of forced network preemptions. There are also those who think Sinclair was already too big of a company and adding Tribune to it would make it much larger.

After a merger, Sinclair said in a news release,

“Pro forma for the Tribune acquisition and related station divestitures, the Company will own, operate and/or provide services to 215 television stations in 102 markets.”

And I quickly responded,

“Something tells me that company doesn’t know what to say and brags too much, which makes its opponents angrier.”

Deadline magazine said that’ll “reach 62% of U.S. households, but 37.4% according to FCC rules limiting station ownership” — which is 39 percent.

Sinclair owner/chairman David Smith (who also controls Cunningham with his siblings, even though it claims to be independent) was apparently smart enough to stay quiet.

WSFL was supposed to be spun off and not take part in any Sinclair-Tribune merger, since Fox was concentrating on cities in the NFL’s NFC conference. The Miami Dolphins are in the AFC, and WSFL is a CW affiliate without a news department.

I suggested Fox look at CBS, making money while owning CW affiliates (it owns half of the CW) and also independent stations, while letting outside companies with either stronger reach or good news departments have the CBS affiliations.

I predicted WSFL losing its CW affiliation since CBS owns two stations in the market. There’s the CBS station WFOR-4, and WBFS-33 which became a MyNetworkTV affiliate to please CW partner Tribune, since CBS got the CW in so many other cities back when the WB and UPN combined.

If Fox ever gets WSFL, it would make perfect sense for CBS to move the CW affiliation to WBFS. WSFL would be a MyNetworkTV affiliate which is perfectly fine, since Fox owns MyNetworkTV.

Fox would have a place to air any network programming WSVN preempts, its Fox News would have access to WSVN’s powerful news coverage like it does from any other affiliate, it could say it owns a station in Miami/Fort Lauderdale to give advertisers more scale, and it could program and promote WSFL and its MyNetworkTV shows any way it wants.

That’s how I saw the perfect solution.

Of course, nobody is perfect and Fox doesn’t always make the right decisions.

It could start news at WSFL. That would give viewers another choice for news but be a kick in the face to WSVN and confuse the viewers, since the market is already splintered with popular stations in two languages.

And I had to say, the Fox Television Stations Group website never posted the acquisition news. But it did show press releases from Feb. 8, 2017 and Nov. 3, 2016.

Instead, it looks like there will be no Sinclair-Tribune merger. The FCC’s administrative judge could take a year to make a decision, and these companies – not to mention their employees – have ants in their pants.

Part of Sinclair’s statement last Monday, July 16, said,

“During these discussions and in our filings with the FCC, we have been completely transparent about every aspect of the proposed transaction. We have fully identified who the buyers are and the terms under which stations would be sold to such buyer, including any ongoing relationship we would have with any such stations after the sales. … At no time have we withheld information or misled the FCC in any manner whatsoever with respect to the relationships or the structure of those relationships proposed as part of the Tribune acquisition. Any suggestion to the contrary is unfounded and without factual basis. … As a result and in light of the ongoing and constructive dialogue we had with the FCC during the past year, we were *shocked* (my asterisks) that concerns are now being raised.

And with Cox coming in and putting its stations up for sale, the dynamics may have completely changed.

cox media group

I’m going to call it a night and return tomorrow with all the details of what went wrong (or right, if you saw things my way).

Each of the articles above came with details and pictures, and some with videos.

Please leave your comments in the section below, and don’t miss out. If you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. I’m also available for writing/web contract work.

The FCC’s war on American children, adults

The Federal Communications Commission has a very important mission, but it’s not being fulfilled.girl watching tv

In fact, the opposite has been happening over the past few days and it’ll likely lead to less children’s programming – and less attention when you complain about your TV, phone company or internet service provider.

The FCC says its mission is to regulate

“interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. An independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress, the Commission is the federal agency responsible for implementing and enforcing America’s communications law and regulations.”

But the amount of regulation looks to be receding faster than cars in a race.

Do you have kids, or know anyone who puts their kids in front of the TV?

trump quotes

Axios reports the FCC is starting to loosen broadcasters’ requirements for children’s TV programming. You know, those stations that are licensed by the government to use the public airwaves for the public interest.

schoolhouse rockYou probably watched Saturday morning cartoons. They weren’t just fun but also carried a message or lesson. Even breaks in programming like ABC’s Schoolhouse Rock! were educational. I’d go as far as to credit NBC’s The More You Know.

Cartoons were on all three networks when there were only three commercial broadcast networks, plus Fox may have even gotten into the act before the end. The new kid on the block did carry weekday afternoon cartoons, early on, when it had weaker stations that didn’t carry news.

smurfs
Common Sense Media

News. That’s the magic word. It’s cheaper to produce and stations can pretty much put as many commercials in as they want.

NBC was first with Weekend Today. Then CBS and ABC came up with weekend editions of their weekday morning shows. (CBS did have Sunday Morning before the Saturday cartoon era ended.) And eventually, local stations followed. The news looked a lot like the previous night’s 11:00 news, just with different people!

It wasn’t like there was much going on most of the time.

OK, so I did produce newscasts with JFK Jr.’s deadly plane crash and Elián González’s capture from his Miami relatives’ closet on weekend mornings while at WCAU in Philadelphia. I had the morning off from KYW-TV when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas while returning to Earth, killing all seven crew members.

But the new newscasts didn’t have to be good back then. It was the same when TV stations started putting local news on, weekday mornings. The TV station just had to let viewers know the world hadn’t ended, we weren’t at war and what the weather would be like.

Now, the FCC says the old rules aren’t needed because kids these days have apps and streaming services just for them! (Do they all have access? Really?)

Axios reports Nielsen data says the prime target of the rules — kids between 2 and 11 – are watching about 22 percent less regular TV between 2014 and 2017. Any wonder, when there’s nothing on for them? Put the youngsters in front of Fox News Channel and Days of Our Lives.

sesame street muppet wikia
http://muppet.wikia.com

Instead, they’re using “apps like YouTube Kids, 24/7 kid-friendly cable channels like Nickelodeon and Disney Junior, on-demand shows like Sesame Street on HBO, and over-the-top kids programming on Netflix.”

FCC commissioners who want to lessen the kid rules refer to them as among the many “outdated, unnecessary, or unduly burdensome” ones on the books, according to Deadline magazine.

They say TV broadcasters have too many rules to follow, while tech companies don’t have any, so this would just make things fairer. But I say that’s because tech companies don’t use the public’s airwaves!

What are those rules and how burdensome are they?

Axios says,

“In 1990, Congress passed the Children’s Television Act, which requires broadcasters to air three hours of educational programming per week (with limited advertising) in order to maintain their license. Children’s programming must also meet certain ‘Kid Vid’ requirements with respect to educational purpose, length and the time of day it is aired.”

My heart goes out to them.

Pee-Wee's Playhouse peewee wikia
peewwee.wikia.com

Nobody is saying the three hours of educational programming per week has to be original. The networks, or syndication companies, or companies that own more than 100 TV stations can come up with it!

Captain Kangaroo Bob Keeshan 1977 wikipediaOn the other hand, back in the day, it seemed every TV station had its own locally-produced children’s programming with live studio audiences, and I’m not referring to Captain Kangaroo which aired on CBS. Of course, back then, they also took news seriously, too!

Coming up next (using a TV phrase), it’s up to us – the public – to comment on the proposal. Then, the FCC will vote on final changes, later this year. If they succeed, Deadline says

“broadcasters could be able to satisfy government requirements that they produce appropriate children’s far by ‘relying in part on special sponsorship efforts and/or special non-broadcast efforts.’”

fcc commissioners 2018Speaking of the public telling the FCC what we think, that federal agency will probably soon start forcing us to pay $225 to file – and for them to review – a formal complaint against a telecom company! That means broadband, TV, and phone companies.

Yes, it’s hard to believe. No, I’m not making this up. This is America, 2018.

Thursday, according to Ars Technica, the FCC voted 3-1 to stop reviewing informal consumer complaints.

The fifth seat – to be held by a Democrat – has not been filled since Mignon Clyburn resigned last month. (As if that vote would’ve changed things!)

You’d still have to pay the $225 even if your internet service provider, which you pay every month, doesn’t respond to your informal complaint.

What would cause the FCC to make this move? I was wondering the same thing.

Turns out, Ars Technica reports the biggest change will be “the text of the FCC’s rule about informal complaints.”

In other words, this is how things have been!

“Nothing is substantively changing in the way that the FCC handles informal complaints,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said. “We’re simply codifying the practices that have been in place since 1986.”

That’s when Ronald Reagan was president.

But the commission’s only Democrat, Jessica Rosenworcel, remembered things differently.

Ars Technica reports she said the FCC has reviewed informal complaints in the past.

“This is bonkers,” she said at Thursday’s meeting. “No one should be asked to pay $225 for this agency to do its job. No one should see this agency close its doors to everyday consumers looking for assistance in a marketplace that can be bewildering to navigate. There are so many people who think Washington is not listening to them and that the rules at agencies like this one are rigged against them – and today’s decision only proves that point.”

Rosenworcel said the FCC gets 25,000 to 30,000 informal complaints a month.

“After they are filed, the agency studies the complaint, determines what happened, and then works with providers to fix consumer problems,” Rosenworcel said. “For decades, this has been the longstanding practice of this agency. But for reasons I do not understand, today’s order cuts the FCC out of the process. Instead of working to fix problems, the agency reduces itself to merely a conduit for the exchange of letters between consumers and their carriers. Then, following the exchange of letters, consumers who remain unsatisfied will be asked to pay a $225 fee to file a formal complaint just to have the FCC take an interest.”

On top of the formal complaint process being expensive, it’s also complicated.

“Parties filing formal complaints usually are represented by lawyers or experts in communications law and the FCC’s procedural rules,”

the FCC says.

If the change becomes final, two references to the commission’s review and “disposition” of each informal complaint will be removed from the FCC complaints rule.

Then, even if you get no response, you’ll have to file a formal complaint – and pay.

FCC headquarters, Ser Amantio di Nicolao-Wikipedia
FCC headquarters, Ser Amantio di Nicolao-Wikipedia

This comes as part of a larger rulemaking aimed at ‘streamlining’ the formal complaint process.

According to FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, “Today’s decision is another win for good government.”

I wonder what we did to deserve that!

Click here for my post containing Schoolhouse Rock! clips.

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Forget Laurel and Yanny. Did Cecily call Adam a moron?

I don’t know about you but yesterday, I couldn’t stop “hearing” about what the people who listened to a certain audio file heard. Most insisted it was one thing: just not the same thing.

That became the Yanny-Laurel debate. What you think you heard became the side you were on. Sometimes listeners even switched teams. They’ve even been known to switch back.

Many of you compared the whole thing to one of those “Is the dress blue or gold?” things from back in 2015. You may remember, a Tumblr user named “swiked” uploaded an image of a dress, which caused a lot of debate about its color.

Is it blue and black, or white and gold?

dress color swiked
swiked.tumblr.com

If you’re like me, you don’t particularly care, although I’d go with blue and black, and wonder about anyone who thought differently.

Part of the reason is that I saw the dress. I hadn’t turned away. I didn’t put in any effort.

BuzzFeed has a whole library of articles on the dress, for those of you who care or just became nostalgic.

As for the sound, I heard the story on TV but wasn’t paying complete attention. I would’ve had to prepare myself to go (slightly) out of my way to listen, and I didn’t. Not even now, while I’m writing against the clock. Maybe later, after this is published. No promises.

That’s why it’s a good thing BuzzFeed News Reporter (that’s how she’s described) Julia Reinstein traced what happened when she listened, and then her coworkers did.

The funny thing (at least according to my level of interest) is that she wrote

It obviously said “yanny.”

in her second paragraph, but at the end,

A mere 10 MINUTES LATER I listened to it again, and was STUNNED. It obviously said “laurel” and now I cannot trust my own ears!!!

That’s her problem.

Oh yeah. BuzzFeed started a new library of its coverage of this major story, but it doesn’t have as many articles as the dress controversy – yet.

If you care and you’re ready, CNN offered this explanation and the right answer.

If you know me, you wouldn’t be surprised the whole sound thing reminded me of something very different than the dress.

The dress involves seeing. This, like laurel or yanny, is about listening.

Cecily Tynan twitter
Twitter

It’s that great controversy over what Cecily Tynan said when her microphone was supposedly off. (It never is and never assume otherwise.)

For those of you not from the Philadelphia area, WPVI-Channel 6 has been one of the highest rated TV stations in America for about the last 40 years, give or take a few. Their newscasts may still have more of a share of its market than any other station in the country, as well. (But not the number of viewers since the New York market – covering people in the city, halfway up to Albany, half of New Jersey and all of Long Island – is so much bigger.)WPVI logo

But 6ABC, as it’s branded now, earned everything by being stable yet moving ahead with the times, even when I thought it was impossible, like getting rid of the actual weather map on the wall that was written on, rather than computer-generated.

You’d recognize a newscast from 30 years ago and some of the people on it. They make great hires and don’t change like the season, like so many other stations. People have watched for generations and consider the ones they see on-air family. I’ve never seen anything like it.

(And in 1997, I just wish their assistant news director had called me back sooner than someone across the street at the NBC station. By the time she did, she got a recording from the phone company with my new number, and left me a message saying she recognized the area code which meant I had gone to the competition. I don’t think 6ABC ever hires anyone who has worked at the competition.)

Anyway, on Oct. 29, 2012, during coverage of Superstorm Sandy, Cecily was giving a special weather report while “World News Tonight” (or was it just plain “World News” back then?) would’ve normally aired. It was an important story so Action News had team coverage on the weather. Cecily tossed to her colleague, Adam Joseph, probably for details on a specific aspect of the storm. (I wasn’t in town then, but we can watch.)

It seems he hadn’t turned his microphone on. It can happen, especially during special coverage. Maybe there was no rundown to go by and they were flying by the seat of their pants. Sometimes, the audio operator in the control room would err. In this case, it was probably Adam’s fault, although there was apparently no mic check done to make sure it was working, even at a low level – and also remind him to turn it on if necessary.

Then, you’d think the audio operator would’ve shut off Cecily’s mic but probably made the split-second decision not to, instead, because Adam was speaking but not being picked up.

I think, in a tense moment during special coverage, Cecily did call him a name for making a technical mistake. Things slip out. No big deal among family and friends, unless it goes out over the airwaves.

What do you think?

The Philadelphia Daily News started its story (because “Action News is everywhere” and what goes on there becomes news, even if they answer with a “no comment”) with

“6ABC meteorologist Cecily Tynan could clearly be heard saying ‘Moron,’ after tossing to fellow meteorologist Adam Joseph who began speaking while his microphone was off.”

After his hit, according to the paper, Adam went on Twitter to deny Cecily used the word “moron” but “moments later” he “tweeted what seemed like a confirmation of the comment.”

It’s in the article, along with a caricature of the two engaged in rough sport (boxing). Great stuff!

And yes, there is now a promo with the two of them competing at things, just as a brother and sister would.

Finally, the paper described how news anchor since the 1970s, Jim Gardner, handled the situation just before 7pm. Jim is usually a hard news guy but not every second of every day, since he “made the matter more bizarre with a somewhat rambling explanation that Tynan had not insulted Joseph.”

“‘Maybe I shouldn’t even acknowledge this but the folks who thought that Cecily called Adam an untoward name when Adam was having trouble with his microphone, that’s not at all true,’ Gardner stated.”

You’ll have to go back and watch, or read it, to do it justice.

Ain’t it great to be able to get away with that stuff?

Jim Gardner twitter
Twitter

Jim Gardner Goldman has performed many surprises over the years. His Twitter bio reads,

“For 40 years, I have anchored the 6 and 11 o’clock news on 6abc in Philadelphia. Eventually, I’ll get it right.”

A year ago, he helped when Cecily had an on-air wardrobe malfunction. She lost an earring while doing the weather. Ever the gentleman, he got right up and started looking for it. Camera, be damned!

Even Live! with Kelly (Ripa) and Ryan (Seacrest) had a good time with it! Click here to watch and don’t forget, Kelly is a South Jersey girl!

But wait. There’s more.

In 2006, Philadelphia Magazine wrote,

“One of Gardner’s legendary gags is to wait for longtime weatherman Dave Roberts (retired, father of actor David Boreanaz  -Lenny) to begin his report. As Roberts says ‘We’re bracing for strong wind gusts today,’ Gardner passes gas. Loudly. Roberts and the crew start to laugh, then keep laughing until the camera returns to Gardner, red-faced and giddy, practically in tears.”

Can’t beat that!

OK, maybe that same article estimating his paycheck back then “at near $2.5 million” (that was exactly 12 years and 2 days ago) or perhaps more importantly, earning my respect for writing half his newscasts by himself rather than eating, playing, or other things anchors have been known to do.

Maybe that’s why I don’t think he’s seen a moment before 6pm, not even for promotions. Besides, Jim Gardner hardly needs promos. The people have been programmed for decades.

So I didn’t listen to laurel or yanny. I listened to Cecily, Adam, and – of course – Jim.

For me, that was the right call.

Speaking of calling and writing: Jim, if you ever need a hand on the job…

And happy birthday!

And for those of you in Miami…

(Disclosure: Ducis and I worked together in Miami so long ago, few if any of today’s interns had even been born back then!)

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In defense: The good Facebook can do when used by the right people

First, happy Mother’s Day to everyone to whom that applies. I hope you’re having a great day!

casey frisky mothers day
You’ll have to excuse them. Casey and Frisky are still learning their colors.

Second, today is also the celebration of Yom Yerushalayim, or Jerusalem Day. It’s the Hebrew anniversary of when the Israelis recaptured the eastern/holy part of the city in the Six-Day War of 1967. It’s where no Arab country’s leader had visited except Jordan’s King Hussein, who’d “occupied” it 19 years earlier in 1948.

But then it suddenly became so important to them.

There is lots and lots to say about President Trump, but this post isn’t about him. Still, he is making the embassy move from Tel Aviv happen and no other American president has done so, despite being able. So thank you, President Trump.

Trump Jlem Day poster
Picture above and video below, courtesy Nyla

Israelis, naturally, are celebrating.

There’s an article written this weekend by former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro (President Obama’s) and publicly supported by current U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (President Trump’s).

Shapiro, who is much more liberal, described the situation with a question:

“Why hasn’t the US ever recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital? Some people date it to the controversy that arose in 1967, when Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in the Six-Day War and unified the city, describing it as a US protest against the Israeli ‘occupation’ of East Jerusalem. That’s wrong.

“The truth is that US policy on Jerusalem derives from events 20 years earlier, when the United Nations passed the Partition Plan for Palestine in November 1947.”

The two differ on many things but as my friend Andy, who pointed the article out, published:

“Good to see President Trump’s ambassador positively sharing an article by President Obama’s ambassador. Let’s keep support for Israel bipartisan.”

In the article, Shapiro described a day in the life of a U.S. Ambassador to Israel:

“Jerusalem had always been Israel’s capital, and we have always treated it functionally, if not formally, as such. When I served as the US Ambassador at our embassy in Tel Aviv, nearly every day I would be driven to Jerusalem to conduct affairs of state with the Israeli government at the Prime Minister’s office, the Foreign Ministry, and the Knesset.”

Then, he goes into a brief history of the complicated situation with Jerusalem at the center of it, describes a possible step towards solving an issue that has been delayed too many times over too many decades, and then how the embassy move could help end the century-old conflict. Let’s hope!

Also, Donald Trump’s face is featured on a ceremonial Israeli coin marking the 70th anniversary of the country’s rebirth.

It depicts Trump alongside the biblical King Cyrus of Persia, who allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem 2,500 years ago, after King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the first Temple (King Solomon’s) in 586 B.C. and exiled the Jews to Babylon.

Why does the other side try to claim there’s no Jewish history in Jerusalem? Who are they trying to fool? The answer is gullible haters who don’t want to believe it.

And onto the subject at hand, since I rarely write about myself and even more rarely write about personal subjects rather than professional ones.

Last week, I got a message on Facebook from someone I hadn’t seen in at least 30 years, and probably more like 40.

Technically, I’ve seen him on Facebook. We have several mutual friends, so we’ve seen each other commenting on their posts. (I’m speaking for myself, but can’t imagine the opposite not being true.) We were never really friendly growing up, even though we certainly knew each other.

The message went:

“Hi Lenny, I’m not sure of you remember me, but we grew up together. My memory may be off here, but I feel like I wasn’t always the nicest person to you and I really just want to apologize If I ever did or said anything to make you feel bad. You may not even recall this and maybe it’s more in my head. Anyhow, I just wanted to reach out and say hello. I hope you and your family are doing well. I remember your father very well. … He was always a really nice guy. Again, I know this is very random, but I saw your comment on _____’s post and just to reach out and say hello. Regards, _____”

Wow! Takes guts and a good person to write something like that. Very impressive!

I responded with a quick,

“No worries. I only remember good things. Hope you’re well. Thanks for writing!”

And we connected a few more times.old Lenny

The truth, as I remember it, is I was not happy growing up in Florida. Early on, I felt most of the people simply couldn’t make it in civilization, like New York.

You know what Frank Sinatra sang:

“If I can make it there,
I’ll make it anywhere.”

It was almost always too hot and humid. I wanted to stay inside and watch TV. I was a loner until high school.

Meanwhile, more people moved in to die. The area got more spread out and there was still traffic everywhere. Just Thursday, a friend posted this picture. It’s not downtown Miami but west of the airport.

The goal was to move to New York, which luckily – thanks to my parents – I didn’t do during college and never took on debt.

And instead of moving to New York, once I had enough career experience, I lived on both sides of it: almost two years in Connecticut and eight years in Philadelphia.

When I visit Florida, which hasn’t happened in more than a year, I feel even more like an outsider because of the language barrier. It’s a right-to-work state. Wages are low. So are taxes, even for people work in much better places and spend just 183 days a year there. On the other hand, insurance rates are sky high because of hurricanes and the water level will soon be, too.

south beach flood
Looking down from the 5th floor of my South Beach condo, at 11th and Alton, after about an hour of rain.

Plus, having the career I had and never letting up, I’ve become more of a homebody in recent years.

The writer, who was nice enough to contact me on Facebook, was not a jerk or bully or anything like that. There were some people like that and always will be, even though the world has changed and adults are supposed to be looking for more signs, these days.

And count on the politically-correct police, out in force, to make sure nobody ever feels bad, ever:

inclusive cheerleading
A friend found this article from New Jersey, last week, which you can click here to read and watch parts of the meeting.
2006 ncaa tournament chris christie philadelphia
Chris Christie would’ve never put up with that!

People are going to feel bad. That’s a fact of life. It’s not fair. I suggest you fight for what you believe most and try not to sweat the less important stuff. Forget about it, especially if you’re not sure it actually happened decades ago.

And I thank Facebook for the information above. I would not have had it otherwise.

We know the company has had issues – not just recently but for many years.

Yes, our personal information is their asset.

No, the company could’ve done more to protect it.

Yes, it’s trying to get its act together on security and news that gives facts.

No, it won’t be done soon. It’s a long work in progress with decisions still to be made.

Yes, I’ve written a lot on the subject!

But if it helps you reconnect with people from your past, parents see pictures of their kids in college, grandparents see pictures of their grandchildren, and lets people celebrate their moms on Mother’s Day, and see the excitement of Israelis thrilled about their capital city being reunited and what’s to come this week, then get on board and sign up.

You don’t have to use every function or app, or even a few – but you’re missing out if you’re too stubborn to say you won’t miss good things if you’re not on Facebook.

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Comey comes alive with tough talk against Trump

comey bookI didn’t know much about James Comey until about two years ago. Since then, I thought pretty highly of the guy and that really hasn’t changed.

Arguably, Comey was the big political story of the week – so far.

Today, his new book A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership was officially released and Sunday, it was ABC News’ 20/20 that got the first interview in the Comey media blitz to promote it.

One hour of George Stephanopoulos’ five hour interview aired Sunday night, at least in most places.

I say that because a TV news director friend in Virginia wrote about the nasty reception he and his team got because they had to break away to report on severe storms (a technical term, not just anybody’s opinion) and a tornado warning in the area. See and read for yourself how potentially saving lives, safety and property turned into a major inconvenience from some loudmouths. Always has, always will. Good thing this wasn’t a soap opera! I especially love the comment that people were able to watch the interview at another time on demand, or watch clips and commentary on any channel for days after.

shane

I have to say, his problem could’ve been worse. I don’t know what the CBS station there – his competition – did. They were carrying the Academy of Country Music Awards and this was Virginia!comey widener

Anyway, James Comey is scheduled to be in Philadelphia as part of Widener University’s Philadelphia Speakers Series at the Kimmel Center. That’s Oct. 1 at 8.

Widener’s bio says,

“Comey was appointed Deputy U.S. Attorney General by President George W. Bush. Appointed FBI Director in 2013 by President Obama, he served until 2017 when fired by President Trump amidst political storms regarding the investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.”

Sounds like a serious career guy who had important supporters in both parties who promoted him to positions of increasing responsibility.

I was sick and asleep, and didn’t watch the Stephanopoulos-Comey interview. I saw some clips on Monday.

According to this ABCNews.com article that was published in the middle of the interview (10:22pm), everyone including Comey thought Hillary Clinton was going to win the election and become the nation’s first female president. He said he believes President “Obama, possibly Russian President Vladimir Putin and even” Donald Trump “thought Clinton was going to win, too.”

hillary clinton donald trump

Meanwhile, Comey was leading the investigation of Clinton’s handling of emails. ABC News reported, “He says that the assumption of a Clinton victory ‘must have’ influenced his actions in the email investigation, though he says not consciously.”

“I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was gonna beat Donald Trump. And so I’m sure that it was a factor,” Comey admitted. “Like I said, I don’t remember spelling it out, but it had to have been. That she’s gonna be elected president, and if I hide this from the American people, she’ll be illegitimate the moment she’s elected, the moment this comes out,” he told Stephanopoulos. That’s understandable and believable for someone in a tough position.

After the election and its surprising results to many, he said, “I heard the president [Obama] say, as I recount in the book, ‘Putin backed the wrong horse.’ That is, all of us were operating in a world where the polls were showing that Donald Trump had no chance.”

Comey added, “Obama’s remark was made in relation to when and if the intelligence community and White House should go public with their findings about Russian interference in the election.”

Specifically, “I think what the president meant by that was the Russian effort is wasted,” according to Comey, “and so why should we help them by announcing what they’re doing when their work is not gonna achieve their goal?”

Stephanopoulos mentioned an announcement like that

“would give people a reason to question the outcome of the election” and Comey agreed, since “Donald Trump was already saying, ‘If I lose, that means the system is rigged.’ And so if the Obama administration comes out saying, ‘The Russians are trying to help elect Donald Trump,’ that walks right into his narrative that’s, ‘See, I told ya,’ that the whole system is fixed and you can’t trust the American democratic process. And the Russians would have accomplished their goal.”

But he decided to keep the fact the FBI was investigating interactions between a “small number of Americans” from the Trump campaign and Russians private until months after the election.

hillary clinton book“That was actually not a hard call, given the sensitivity of the matter and that it was ongoing. We didn’t wanna tip anybody off,” he explained, adding President Obama didn’t want to be seen as having tipped the scale in Clinton’s favor.

Clinton wrote in her book What Happened, she “felt I’d been shivved” by Comey “three times over the final five months of the campaign.”

That’s not entirely true, considering Comey went on national TV less than five months before, specifically described what his FBI investigation found what Clinton had and had not done, and concluded she should not face charges.

Statement by FBI Director James B. Comey on the Investigation of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s Use of a Personal E-Mail System
July 5, 2016

“Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information. … None of these e-mails should have been on any kind of unclassified system, but their presence is especially concerning because all of these e-mails were housed on unclassified personal servers not even supported by full-time security staff, like those found at Departments and Agencies of the U.S. Government—or even with a commercial service like Gmail.”

Then, with the FBI’s recommendation to the Department of Justice:

“Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. Prosecutors necessarily weigh a number of factors before bringing charges. There are obvious considerations, like the strength of the evidence, especially regarding intent. Responsible decisions also consider the context of a person’s actions, and how similar situations have been handled in the past.
“In looking back at our investigations into mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts. All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of: clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice. We do not see those things here.
“To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.”

Sounds great for the Democrats who were a shoo-in against Donald Trump, right? That was four months and three days before the election but may as well have been years before Americans went to the polls.

In fact, the Democratic National Convention here in Philadelphia wasn’t even held until July 25-28 and some Bernie Sanders supporters hadn’t given up, despite the delegate count including superdelegates who make up just under 15 percent of all Democratic convention delegates. And they were angry over the party machine including Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Donna Brazile.

Trump had just won the nomination a week earlier, July 18-21, at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. That was despite speculation everyone in the GOP against Trump would suddenly embrace somebody else.

But who could forget Comey coming out late on that Friday, just 11 days before the election?

According to Politico on Oct. 28, 2016 – you may even remember when you heard the news – “Democrats have soured on James Comey.

“In July, they praised the FBI director’s decision not to recommend charges against Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state. But on Friday, top party officials turned on Comey. …
“Comey sent a letter to several congressional leaders to inform them that the FBI had come across new emails pertinent to its Clinton investigation and would take additional steps to look into them, adding that the FBI did not yet know if the emails were significant and that he did not yet know when the additional review would be finished.
“The letter set off a political firestorm. And while Republicans pounced, Democrats fumed.”

Those new emails were from disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s computer. Weiner was married to Huma Abedin – then vice chair of Clinton’s campaign and before that, deputy chief of staff to the former Secretary of State.

Comey replied “I hope not” to Clinton’s assertion she’d be president if not for the release of the letter 11 days before the election “in which he announced that the FBI would be looking into more emails.”

“But the honest answer is, it wouldn’t change the way I think about it,” he added.

The next day, Politico reported,

“Hillary Clinton and her aides and allies forcefully criticized FBI Director James Comey .. demanding that he release more information about the bureau’s discovery of Clinton-related emails and criticizing him for bad timing.
“At a campaign rally in Daytona Beach, Fla., Clinton said it was ‘pretty strange’ for Comey to ‘put something like that out with such little information right before an election,’ adding: ‘In fact, it’s not just strange; it’s unprecedented and it is deeply troubling.’”

I don’t believe James Comey hated Hillary Clinton. She was the favorite in the Comey house.

He said in addition to his wife, Patrice, “At least my four daughters, probably all five of my kids, wanted Hillary Clinton to be the first woman president.”

He, himself, told Stephanopoulos he didn’t vote in that election and testified on Capitol Hill that year he’d “been a registered Republican for most of his adult life but wasn’t any longer.”

Comey told lawmakers,

“I’m trying to be outside of politics so [I] intentionally tried not to follow it a lot. And that I shouldn’t be choosing between the candidates. I’m trying to lead an institution that should be separate and other.”

And what about accusations Comey, as ABC News put it, “disclosed a great deal of information about the investigation into Clinton’s emails but did not immediately release information about the probe into some members of Trump’s team and their alleged contacts with Russians?”

He said there were fundamental differences in the cases.

“The Clinton email case … was public, and we were actually investigating the candidate herself; and the counterintelligence investigations trying to figure out whether a small group of people, not Donald Trump — we were not investigating Donald Trump. …
“I get the initial reaction. It seems inconsistent. But if you take the time and look at the posture of the two cases, they’re very, very different. And actually illustrate the rule that we’re following.”

Most of what I heard was Comey going off on the man who fired him last May, President Trump. (Did anybody expect forgiveness?!)

The firing happened while Comey was

“leading a criminal investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s advisers colluded with the Russian government to steer the outcome of the 2016 presidential election,” according to The New York Times. “The stunning development in Mr. Trump’s presidency raised the specter of political interference by a sitting president into an existing investigation by the nation’s leading law enforcement agency. It immediately ignited Democratic calls for a special counsel to lead the Russia inquiry.”

(See: Mueller, Robert and presidential mistakes.)

trump letter firing comey

The Times continued,

“Mr. Trump explained the firing by citing Mr. Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, even though the president was widely seen to have benefited politically from that inquiry and had once praised Mr. Comey for his “guts” in his pursuit of Mrs. Clinton during the campaign. …
“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice (reportedly Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein) that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Mr. Trump wrote to Comey.
“But,” the paper continued, “many in Washington, including veteran F.B.I. officers, saw a carefully choreographed effort by the president to create a pretense for a takedown of the president’s F.B.I. tormentor.”

Comey called Trump unfit to lead the nation, saying the president is “someone for whom truth is not a high value” and who treats women “like they’re pieces of meat.” (I didn’t hear a great deal of defense for the president.)

He touched on many of the Trump administration scandals.

The Huffington Post mentions the Russia dossier “compiled by a former British spy and alleged that footage exists of Trump watching prostitutes urinating in a Moscow hotel suite,” and the litany of sexual misconduct allegations.

The Post reported,

“Comey informed Trump about the allegations in private before his inauguration several times, and he writes in his book that Trump was obsessed with disproving them.”

Comey recalled the president asking, “Do I look like a guy who needs hookers?”

He said he wasn’t sure if the rumors were true,

“but said they left the president open to blackmail by the Russian government.
“I honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the ― the ― current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013. It’s possible, but I don’t know,” Comey said.

He said something similar when Stephanopoulos asked if he thought Russia had “something” on the president.

“I think it’s possible,” Comey said. “I don’t know. These are more words I never thought I’d utter about a president of the United States, but it’s possible.”

Other interview highlights chosen by The Huffington Post:

— In regards to Trump asking Comey to drop his investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, there was “certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice.”

— Comey said Trump was “of above average intelligence who’s tracking conversations and knows what’s going on.”

Comey summed it up.

“The challenge of this president is that he will stain everyone around him,” but said he’d still be working for the government had he not been removed.

“I was dreading it,” Comey said, noting he’d be “an unhappy F.B.I. director, but in a way proud of the organization and in my role in trying to protect it.”

According to TVNewser, “That took my breath away,” Stephanopoulos said of Comey’s retelling of events. “I thought I knew this story. Collectively we weren’t really ready for everything that he was getting ready to say.”

Republicans had their say about Comey and the interview. In fact, it was apparently on the president’s mind for days.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later said Comey would “be forever known as a disgraced partisan hack that broke his sacred trust with the president of the United States.”

Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel said in a statement,

“James Comey’s publicity tour reaffirms that his true higher loyalty is to himself . … The only thing worse than Comey’s history of misconduct is his willingness to say anything to sell books. He has no credibility and President Trump was right to follow through on the bipartisan calls for him to be fired.”

Who didn’t try to sell their books?

Comey responded in part, “3 presidents are in my book: 2 help illustrate the values at the heart of ethical leadership; 1 serves as a counterpoint.”

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership has already sold close to 200,000 copies.

By the way, President Bush’s brother Jeb – the former Florida governor who lost to Trump in the primaries and caucuses – will be speaking as part of the same Widener University Philadelphia Speakers Series on Jan. 28, 2019, at 8.

P.S. Condolences to the Bush family on the loss of former first lady Barbara Bush today

and to the

loved ones of Jennifer Riordan, killed in today’s Southwest Airlines tragedy here in Philadelphia.

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