Dave Weigel

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  • Wash. Post's Dave Weigel Explains How Trump's Extraordinarily Brief Policy Statements Exploit A Media Vulnerability

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel pointed to a massive media vulnerability that Donald Trump regularly exploits, writing that even though the Republican nominee for president “has offered less policy detail than any candidate for president in my lifetime,” Trump is able to game the media because he “has never failed to offer enough detail to fit in a headline or cable news chyron.”

    Weigel’s article comes as both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump released personal health information in drastically different ways, with Clinton releasing detailed letters from her doctor to the public, and Trump choosing to release significantly less information. As Weigel noted, while “The asymmetry between what Clinton released and Trump released was notable … A reader scanning headlines would think that both candidates released full sets of information.”  

    Weigel explains that this has been a general trend, in which “coverage of campaigns needs to be shrunk to fit a chyron, anyway” and that “Trump's innovation has been to preshrink the news.” The result is that it appears as if “Trump is trading Clinton blow for blow and white paper for white paper” if voters “only glance at the news.” Weigel added that Trump’s method gives him the “ability to get credit — and the headline, and the chyron — for what other candidates would consider less than a bare minimum.” From the September 15 article:

    CBS News reporter Mark Knoller is a Boswellian chronicler of the White House. How many foreign trips has the president taken? How many times has he spoken to the press from the Brady press briefing room? Do not waste precious time: Knoller knows.

    This is why it was striking when Knoller tweeted that on Wednesday night's news broadcasts, "newly released medical reports from @HillaryClinton and @realDonaldTrump" were the lead stories. Jamelle Bouie, a CBS News commentator (and former colleague of mine at Slate) was among the people reminding Knoller that Trump had not actually released anything. He had taped an episode of "The Dr. Oz Show"; reporters who talked to audience remembers discovered that he released some details, but not the report.

    The asymmetry between what Clinton released and Trump released was notable, though pretty typical of the campaign. Clinton released an updated letter from her physician, which revealed details like her medication regimen and cholesterol level. (It once again debunked the idea that she is staggering from neurological damage, a conspiracy theory furthered on Fox News.) In the body of their stories, most reporters noted the difference between what was revealed; in summing it up for headlines or tweets, the distinction was elided. A reader scanning headlines would think that both candidates released full sets of information.

    [...]

    What's the upshot of this? I'm going to draw a lesson from a deeply unrelated aspect of my job — I frequently travel through airports or park in newsrooms that are blaring cable TV. Trump has offered less policy detail than any candidate for president in my lifetime. But he has never failed to offer enough detail to fit in a headline or cable news chyron.

    That matters. If, like many people, you only glance at the news (yes, we know how long readers spend finishing articles), you come away with the impression that Trump is trading Clinton blow for blow and white paper for white paper. If either candidate released their entire medical history, or Trump revealed his entire tax returns, only a handful of voters might even read them. They'd depend on the press to find the story and the lede. Most coverage of campaigns needs to be shrunk to fit a chyron, anyway; Trump's innovation has been to preshrink the news.

    [...]

    It's rote for conservatives to see a bias in how their candidate is being covered. On a lot of metrics, like coverage of social issues and immigration, the media's norms are to the left of conservative voters. But there's growing liberal anger about Trump's "hacking" of the media, and his ability to get credit — and the headline, and the chyron — for what other candidates would consider less than a bare minimum.

  • Politico Criticizes Government Consumer Watchdog For Watching Out For Consumers

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    A day after The Wall Street Journal attacked the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for attempting to rein in racial bias in auto loan practices, Politico questioned the agency for seeking advice from a consumer advocacy group that many media outlets -- including Politico -- frequently ask to comment on consumer issues.

    On November 19, Politico questioned the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) supposedly "cozy" relationship with a consumer advocacy group after emails revealed the agency consulted with the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) on payday lending reforms. CRL is a leading source of research on the issue of payday loans; however the article misleadingly compared the CFPB consulting with a consumer advocacy nonprofit to the often nefarious "influence of big banks and lobbyists in writing legislation":

    When the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau put out its proposal to overhaul payday lending rules in March, the move was cheered by consumer advocates as a much-needed crackdown on an industry that preys on the poor.

    But the final product wasn't a surprise to at least one nonprofit group.

    While Elizabeth Warren and other progressives decry the influence of big banks and lobbyists in writing legislation, in this instance, the agency created by Warren to protect consumers from abusive lending leaned heavily on consumer activists as it drafted regulations for the $46 billion payday loan industry. The Center for Responsible Lending spent hours consulting with senior Obama administration officials, giving input on how to implement the rule that would restrict the vast majority of short-term loans with interest rates often higher than 400 percent. The group regularly sent over policy papers, traded emails and met multiple times with top officials responsible for drafting the rule.

    Politico's criticism comes a day after The Wall Street Journal's editorial board lambasted the agency for drafting guidelines on ending racial bias in auto lending, and advocated for legislation to slow the CFPB's consumer advocacy work.

    Politico's false comparison that consumer watchdogs have the same pervasive effect as big banks on legislation and rulemaking fails to note that the Center for Responsible Lending is a well-respected resource on financial products and how these products affect consumers. In the last month, research from the CRL has been cited by a Yale professor in The New York Times, and appeared in articles in Time, The Atlantic and The Huffington Post. On November 19, The Washington Post's Dave Weigel took to Facebook to criticize Politico, explaining to readers that "the nonprofit Center for Responsible Lending, which reporters who have covered any of this stuff recognize as a pretty above-board group that lobbies against predatory loan practices":

    This story is such a fascinating example of how Washington works.1) The payday loan industry doesn't like that the...

    Posted by Dave Weigel on Thursday, November 19, 2015

    In 2009, the Center for Responsible Lending uncovered that 76 percent of the total volume of payday loans are borrowers taking out new loans to pay their existing loan. The CRL also reported that payday loan practices lead to $3.4 billion in excessive fees a year with over 75 percent of these fees generated by borrowers with more than 10 loans a year. The CRL and its sister non-profit -- the Self Help Credit Union -- use this research to advocate for lending practices that will end the perpetual payday loan cycle, saving low income Americans billions.

    While Politico questioned why "CFPB requested data from the nonprofit on payday lenders 'to help focus these efforts,'" it failed to mention it has used reports and published comments from the Center for Responsible Lending on multiple occasions in relation to financial products and legislation. On October 29, Politico asked CRL's Maura Dundon to explain a financial ruling on student loans and, on October 16, quoted Dundon to emphasize the strength of a CFPB crackdown on for-profit colleges. In December of 2008, Politico reported on the CRL findings that minority homeowners were pushed into higher priced mortgage options:

    Research by the Center for Responsible Lending, for instance, shows that African-American and Latino homeowners were often steered into subprime mortgages with hefty fees when their credit scores in fact qualified them for less expensive prime loans. Now those groups are experiencing some of the highest rates of foreclosure.

  • In Debate Shakeup, Republicans Are Reportedly Afraid To Anger Fox News' Roger Ailes

    Blog ››› ››› LIS POWER

    According to The Washington Post, one point of consensus among the GOP presidential campaigns after they met to discuss restructuring the debate format is "the secure standing of Fox News Channel." The Post reported that "any changes" to the debate format "would be applied to debates after next week's Fox Business Network debate," because, according to one source, "people are afraid to make Roger [Ailes, the chairman and CEO of Fox News] mad."

    In the aftermath of the October 28 CNBC Republican presidential primary debate, conservatives reacted with outrage, and charged that the network demonstrated liberal media bias. While some media figures pointed out that there wasn't much of a difference between Fox and CNBC's debates, the RNC responded to the criticism by suspending NBC's future presidential debate, a move that political journalists criticized as a "harsh" response to "crisis mode." 

    The Washington Post's David Weigel and Robert Costa reported November 1 that representatives from a majority of the Republican presidential campaigns met to map out "new demands for greater control over the format and content" of the remaining Republican primary debates. The Post reported that "the campaigns reached an early consensus" during the meeting, agreeing that the changes would take effect after Fox Business Network's debate, because, according to one source, "people are afraid to make Roger [Ailes] mad":

    The campaigns reached an early consensus on one issue, according to several operatives in the room: the secure standing of Fox News Channel. Any changes would be applied to debates after next week's Fox Business Network debate. Among the reasons, according to one operative in the room, was that "people are afraid to make Roger [Ailes] mad," a reference to the network's chief.

    Bush campaign manager Danny Diaz recommended that Telemundo be reinstated after being dropped along with NBC. But the campaign of businessman Donald Trump, represented by manager Corey Lewandowski, threatened to boycott a debate if the Spanish-language network that Trump has clashed with was granted one.