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Just Ask The Question Newsletter
Sam Donaldson, Jim Acosta and Press Freedom! Also Alexander Vindman and... Elon Tusk?
Episode 126: Sam Donaldson and Jim Acosta - How can you improve White House reporting?
We celebrated "free speech" this week — just as it's slipping away from us
Joe Biden says the right things. But outrage around the SCOTUS leak makes clear how fragile press freedom really is
Welcome to Kentucky Derby week.
In celebration, after you've had a mint julep and dropped acid in memory of Hunter S. Thompson, come join us by the fireside and let's talk about free speech — before the eighth race claims all our money.
Last Saturday, President Biden paid tribute to journalists at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. Comedian Trevor Noah cheered the efforts of the fourth estate while WHCA president Steve Portnoy recognized fallen journalists from around the world who died trying to bring the world the news from Vladimir Putin's chosen war in Ukraine.
The dinner was quite the event. It celebrated journalism instead of calling us "fake news" and featured a president who is willing to sit and take a few jokes at his expense instead of one who refused to attend and instead hid out in the White House and called us "the enemy of the people." Since the entire purpose of the night is to raise money for a scholarship fund for future journalists, it was nice to have a president who understands the need to educate our youth.
But what about free speech? Sure, the night celebrated it — but it almost feels like we're celebrating the passing of a relative we loved from afar. You know, the relative everyone in the family says they love, but no one really wants around — which, oddly enough, is how many treated Hunter S. Thompson while he was still alive. Not that he ever appeared to give a shit about that…
Beginning at The Courier Journal shaped me as a journalist and how media has changed: Opinion
I first walked into the lobby of The Courier Journal’s Broadway office when I was five. I thought I was walking into the lobby of the Radio City Music Hall in New York.
My mother ushered me into the elevators and we went to the top floor of the building where I and dozens of other kids near my age gathered for WHAS- TV’s T-Bar-V Ranch - the local children’s show featuring Randy Atcher and Tom “Cactus” Brooks. The Bingham family owned both the paper and the television station.
Randy and “Cactus” taught us to “cross at the corner of the block, never in between. And when the light is red you stop - go when it turns green.” Then each individual child got to walk up and tell one of the two hosts what we wanted for our birthday. The boy before me wanted a BB gun, but no one told him he’d shoot his eye out. I asked for a microscope. Then we all gathered, sang Happy Birthday and stared that wonderfully large cake that was on stage. I couldn’t wait to get a slice. It looked great. My heart broke when I saw that it was made of plaster.
Many remarkable memories of my youth surround The Courier Journal and the Binghams. I learned of the Vietnam War by reading that paper every day and remember the body count piling up. “PFC. Gibson Comes Home” by John Fetterman written in 1968 won a Pulitzer. In 1974 Carol Sutton became the managing editor. She was the first woman appointed to such a post at a major newspaper.
For a brief time in the 1980s I worked as a dedicated stringer for the Neighborhood section of the newspaper - I had reached my long-sought goal of working for my hometown newspaper. On the pole that contained electric chords to the desk I shared with others I taped a favorite quote of mine from H.L. Mencken about reporters. “He doesn’t wear himself out trying to get the news as romance has it; he slides supinely into the estate and dignity of a golf player. American journalism suffers from too many golf players.”…
Episode 125: Alexander Vindman - What’s the real story in Ukraine?
Now Elon Musk has to choose between good and evil — and maybe he'll surprise us
Twitter should be treated the way newspapers once were — as a public trust. If Musk gets that, this might work out
Of course I won't stop using Twitter.
But no single human being should have the ability to influence or impose their individual communication vision on the rest of the world, directly or indirectly. There are 8 billion of us here. I don't mind if you're making money — but your freedom ends where my nose begins, pal.
We've yet to see the effects of Elon Musk's purchase of Twitter and there's lots of speculation that leans heavily into the belief that Musk will embrace the dark side of the force. The Trumpers are convinced it'll mean the "end of libtard domination" of Twitter. Supposedly people are fleeing in droves from Twitter World, fearful, angry or wanting to make some sort of political statement.
I don't know. Surprise me.
Maybe he'll do it right.
Maybe he'll appoint an independent editorial board. Put the company in a trust. Treat it as newspaperman Robert Worth Bingham did his family newspapers. "I have always regarded the newspapers owned by me as a public trust," he said, "and have endeavored so to conduct them as to render the greatest public service."
If Musk treats Twitter as a public trust, operates openly and is transparent doing so, then the world could be better off. I'm not ready to flush it just yet. I think Bingham's legacy is transferable to the Twitter age…