Dear NBC NEWS: What You Are Doing Is Wrong And Wrong-Headed; The LAST Thing America Needed Tonight Was “Counter-Programming”

Having turned in a (not unexpected) horrible performance at the first presidential debate, Donald Trump ducked the second debate (that is what he effectively did) by refusing to address his own diseased status. That’s the headline here, NBC News: Donald Trump is diseased. And not just with coronavirus. He’s decimated every bit of our whole way of doing things — in large part because YOU (and the rest of the news media) have, to this day, refused to hold Donald Trump accountable for any of the overtly criminal, deceitful acts we’ve watched him perpetrate right in our faces.

The Republican Party is waging a culture war on the rest of America — and YOU continue to carry its water. Donald Trump continues to tell YOU you’re full of shit while YOU put his shit on the air often without contextualizing his shit as shit. And you look at yourselves in the mirror…

Now, in your defense, at least you now say openly that Trump is, on average, a liar. But you don’t behave as if that means anything to you. Though you know the odds are what Trump says is a lie, you still present it, first, as if it “might” be true. In other words — right off the bat, sight unseen, you are giving bullshit all the credence of Truth. Or, as you call it, the benefit of the doubt.

The benefit of the doubt is a “But, what if bullshit was true…?” question. What if pigs could fly. What if the Pope did shit in the woods? What if Donald Trump could declare himself emperor for life? The moment you give bullshit credence, you make bullshit results possible. That’s what happens when un-reason triumphs over reason. That never works out in the end.

Never.

America is more polarized than ever in part because corruption is rarely if ever held accountable. That’s happened in part because our news media sees everyone they cover in cynical terms. Everyone’s a cartoon character who acts exactly the same regardless of whether they’re Democrat or Republican. Oh, the Democrats might say they want to make peoples’ lives better but they’re no different from the Republicans who just want to get rich and keep power in the hands of white people. See? They even sound the same.

Who does NBC News thinks is going to watch Donald Trump tonight? Trust me, NBC News — people who hate Donald Trump (and, right now, people are willing to wait in line 12 hours to vote Trump out) are not going to tune in to you tonight. If they do, it’s because you’ve done and are doing the nation — and our democracy — a gross disservice. Donald Trump doesn’t want to stand toe-to-toe with Joe Biden because he can’t. Rather than expose that weakness (something one would think a news operation would WANT to do), you’ve allowed Trump to have his forum all to himself.

Please don’t ask us to trust you — that you will hold Trump’s feet to the fire when he refuses to answer anyone’s question. You haven’t done it for four years. You’re not starting now. You’re not.

Some ideas (“Manimal” comes to mind) should die on the vine.

This bit of “counter programming” was one of them. This isn’t just a bad idea, NBC News, it’s the kind that harms a news organization’s integrity — and (after the way you’ve handled sexual assault allegations inside your ranks) your integrity wasn’t exactly healthy. Never mind how angry some of us are today. Surely you can think longer term than that.

America is going through a massive sea change in its political culture. Women and people of color are taking the power they deserved to have eons ago. The truth is, we’ve never had a level playing field here. Before we can really be the country we aspire to be, we need to address that. Now that so many of us have come out to vote — to hold political power in our hands — more of us will recognize that democracy works only when we make it work. And we will work to make it work.

There’s a circle of fire ahead. The process of rooting out the corruption that nearly destroyed us will be brutal. It has to be. Just as you can’t compromise with evil, nor can you compromise with corruption. The act of compromising immediately corrupts you. One of the questions we’ll have to ask is how did corruption come so close to overwhelming us? Where were the critical voices that should have guarded the commonweal more vigilantly?

When that question comes up, all eyes will look to our news media.

I sure hope they’ll be ready for their close up.

Perspective For Dummies (News Media Edition)

Imagine living inside a bubble and thinking that was all there was — while everything else there was existed outside your damned bubble. Most of America’s news media continue to stumble and bumble their inept way through the greatest news story most of them still don’t see. Apparently Donald Trump’s criminal behavior is too, too out in the open for them. His treason is too plainly stated — as treason — for them to accept. His corruption is too de rigeur and anyway, “both sides do it”.

That’s the nature of the bubble, you see. Both sides do it. Right there, by starting from that assumption, every acolyte of both sides do it journalism begins their reporting from a false narrative that originates entirely from inside their bubble. When a Republican actively suppresses Democratic voters — and, for the record, the reverse NEVER HAPPENS — they’re acting politically. They’re preventing Democratic voters from voting because they fear the political outcome. See? Pure politics.

But, when the suppressed voter raises their hand to complain that their right to vote has been suppressed? They are NOT acting politically, THEY are reporting a crime: their rights as a citizen are being violated.

Our news media however, sees BOTH as “political”. Right off the bat, all perspective is skewed which means there is no perspective.

Gaining and maintaining perspective is hard. For starters, you have to understand people. You have to appreciate what makes them tick — and that something does make them tick; no one ever does anything for no reason or “just because”. They may not be able to articulate what motivates them — even if it’s boredom — but something is motivating them to act. That core why explains them and if you haven’t got to the core why, you haven’t explained them.

If you haven’t even bothered to mine that core “why”, you have no perspective whatsoever and never were going to have any. Why are you in journalism?

Assuming you have a functional, working knowledge of human psycho-pathology, you have to dig deeply — ignoring all evasions, dodges and “hummina-hummina-please-don’t-ask-me-that’s”. You have to begin constructing the context in which every human lives — so you can appreciate that their perspective is not your perspective. For instance — a Donald Trump does not think the way, say, a Kelly O’Donnell thinks. When NBC News’ well meaning but truly awful O’Donnell characterizes Trump’s actions, she sees them the way SHE would see them not the way Trump clearly sees them. She doesn’t ask why Trump seems to behave in a criminal manner, she assumes that since SHE wouldn’t do things for criminal reasons, neither would Trump — so, therefore, whatever he did has a perfectly valid reason — she just doesn’t know what it is.

That, right there, is how abnormal behavior gets normalized. It’s how perspective gets sacrificed live on TV. Rather than seeing all the dots, Kelly O limits the dots she can see. Only normal dots can penetrate her bubble — and that’s how she reports Trump: as if he was “normal”.

The other thing our news media seems incapable of doing is aggregating the Donald Trump story. I know. It’s really complicated. There are a kajillion moving parts — and they can be very hard to keep track of. Welcome to Perspective.

You have to not only be aware of as much of the story as possible, you have to REMEMBER it. Maybe if you wrote it down…

That’s the most frustrating part of watching our news media fumble this story. All they had to do was keep track of their own reporting. It’s like how all those journalists still — to this day — say the Mueller Report cleared Donald Trump. Well, it does, maybe IF YOU DON’T READ IT. But, turns out? If you crack a copy? IT SAYS THE OPPOSITE.

We now know that Team Mueller was working under tight constraints impressed upon them by the duplicitous, treasonous Rod Rosenstein. Even so, the Mueller Report describes significant criminal behavior — and, it says, it would have described more had the criminals not been working so hard to OBSTRUCT JUSTICE.

Here’s the bottom line: not a single American journalist should have a doubt that Donald Trump likely walked in the door to American politics a criminal. Not a hyperbolic criminal, A CRIMINAL. Back before the 2018 election, when the Republicans still owned everything (including the House of Representatives) — and the investigations into Trump had only just become public knowledge — Republicans wanted to quash the Steele Dossier or paint it more dubiously. On August 22, 2017, the Senate Judiciary Committee grilled Glenn Simpson whose research company — Fusion GPS — had been hired to do oppo research on Trump and who’d subcontracted part of that work out to Christopher Steele.

Now — for perspective’s sake — remember: Simpson is a former Wall Street Journal reporter. Initially, Fusion was hired by the conservative Washington Free Beacon to do oppo research on Trump. They backed Jeb Bush and wanted all the dirt they could find on Trump. Simpson testified that, being good journalists, a big part of what they considered their due diligence was to get their hands on every single piece of publicly available material on Trump FIRST. What could ANYBODY know about Donald Trump if they just “asked“?

As Simpson testified, Fusion combed bricks-n-mortar book stores and searched Amazon. They sought out every magazine article they could find. They listened to audio tapes, watched hours of video. Without actually investigating (yet), Simpson testified, Fusion GPS stumbled upon ample (publicly available) evidence that Trump had, at the very least, laundered considerable sums of money through his Atlantic City casinos; their bankruptcies were not a bug of Trump’s ownership, the bankruptcies were the point — the better to launder gobs of Russian mob money. To get at the details, in June 2016, Fusion reached out to Orbis Business Intelligence, a London-based private intel firm run by Christopher Steele (who ran the Russia desk at MI6 headquarters in London between 2006 and 2009).

By April 2016, the Washington Free Beacon had stepped back — Jeb Bush was out of the race — and an attorney for Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the DNC separately hired Fusion to investigate Trump in April 2016.

The overwhelming majority of Steele’s work product (raw intel which requires a whole lot of perspective all by itself to appreciate properly) has proven true. It’s not hard to do that leg work either — to read what Steele wrote and then to find reporting that supports it. It’s called journalism. It works the other way too — if one wanted to disprove the report, one could read it then find evidence to support that conclusion.

But, if you assume that everyone’s always guilty of the worst possible behavior, you’ll cut the corner — because why bother looking up what you already “know”? You’ll reach your conclusion because, really, it’s where you started. The problem is: your conclusion is bullshit.

Bullshit and perspective cannot co-exist. In fact, perspective is bullshit’s kryptonite. The moment anyone — especially the news media — begins consuming bullshit (especially its own “both sides do it” brand of bullshit) all perspective vanishes. It’s like you suddenly live in a bubble. The only dots you can connect are the ones immediately in front of you while all the others? You can’t even see them.

On the bright side? Christmas is coming! Books are always great gifts. If you know a journalist — consider gifting them with a copy. Even if you just watch a journalist who needs perspective, consider sending a copy as a loyal fan. They might turn up their noses — at first.

But if they’re courageous enough to start reading?

They’ll thank you when they accept their Pulitzer.

Can We PLEASE Stop Living Inside False Narratives?

Some false narratives are okay — Santa Claus, for instance.

In point of fact, no jolly, old white man lives at the North Pole where he “employs” (can we please see a labor contract?) elves who make toys for every child on earth — to be delivered over roughly a 12 – 24 hour period via a low tech sleigh pulled by dubious-tech flying reindeer.

It’s a false narrative to tell kids that a human such as Santa exists therefore they better behave themselves. Every time we tell a kid this tripe, we’re telling them we want an untruth to be the basis for their behavior. It won’t be the last time we pepper spray people with untruth and insist they believe it.

Most kids figure it out eventually. There’s no Santa Claus. Yeah, yeah — “culture” and “harmless” and “tradition” but a lie is a lie is a lie. We are still justifying a lie when we could just as easily have told them the truth.

Santa is a false narrative. So is “Donald Trump is a legitimate president therefore we should treat him as such”.

Donald Trump has never been legitimate. He’s been telling us that from the get-go. It might behoove us to listen to him. But, Donald Trump pushing a false narrative — his legitimacy — is one thing. The news media doing it — that’s a whole other thing entirely. That, probably, continues to be the biggest impediment to America solving its problems quickly (or at least more quickly): in the face of mounting evidence — that they themselves were reporting — the news media continues to report on Trump as if he was “normal” — as if his absurd, abnormal-to-its-core presidency was “normal”.

The evidence that our press lives inside a false narrative shows itself every time a reporter wonders aloud if Trump has finally “pivoted” or “changed tone” when all he did actually was read off a teleprompter or NOT act like an ape for two seconds. He didn’t call Mexicans rapists again or tell us how easy it is to score with chicks when you’re famous. Our press lives inside a false narrative that racists & rapists suddenly reform — as if they experienced a religious conversion.

Our press apparently believes in religious conversions. You know, cos “magic!”

I’d love to know who first belched out “both sides do it” and then made that pervasive idiocy the curriculum across America’s J schools. It’s lazy — intellectually, morally, reportorially. It starts by removing itself from the moral equation. “We’re not there to judge”, this brand of journalism tells itself. “We’re just there to report ‘the facts’ as we see them.” But, if you don’t judge facts — that is, if you give all information equal weight — true or untrue — then the the first thing that dies is perspective.

Everything’s a flat, treeless plain. No hills. No valleys.

When a terrible journalist like NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell repeats back the vile, lying puke that Trump or his press office spews — as if it “could” be true (and therefore they’re obligated to report it) — they’re giving it credence. It could be true. No, it can’t. And no amount of “coulding” will change that. Kelly O’Donnell reports virtually context free. I’m sure she’s a lovely person — warm and amiable (it’s how I perceive her anyway) — but an open mic & a camera on sticks could do what she’s doing and for a lot less money.

Bad journalists like Kelly foster the notion that Donald Trump’s presidency falls within the “perfectly normal” range. As Kelly is a trusted, professional storyteller (that’s what journalists are), the public then takes Kelly’s presentation as valid. Trump’s utter bullshit — delivered to Kelly with the utmost cynicism — has now been fed to the American news watching public as if it was “good for them”.

Kelly made bullshit wholesome.

It starts there. Then grows. No — it metastasizes because that’s what this is — a cancer. False narratives are a cancer of the consciousness. They get us believing things that are verifiably untrue (like “the coronavirus will just disappear!” — which will ultimately kill us just like a cancer.

Donald Trump turned his whole coronavirus response into a false narrative — into a whole string of them actually. The virus will disappear. It only kills old people. Masks make me look weak. He turned Black Lives Matter into a false narrative that this is about civil unrest. He turned his entire presidency into a false narrative that he isn’t owned outright by Russia. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect those dots.

You can’t ease yourself off of false narratives. You have to go cold turkey. Otherwise the false narrative will lure you back — using some false narrative.

We’re going to have to come to terms with the fact that Donald Trump’s entire presidency has been a giant false narrative. The rule of law has never stopped functioning; we simply stopped enforcing it. But, when we do go back to enforcing it, we’ll be obligated to deal with this patch right here — when we stopped enforcing it.

The rule of law is very clear: if you cheat to become the president, then you are not (and never have been) president. One plus one can never equal three. If Trump’s very legitimacy is a false narrative then everything inside the false narrative is — say it with me — “FALSE!” An illegitimate president never had the legitimate authority to anything presidential — especially nominate judges (with lifetime appointments). When you consider that getting to appoint those judges (despite Trump’s known illegitimacy) was the point of the exercise — none of this comports with the rule of law. The false narrative would be that it has something to do with Justice. It does not.

A lot of us felt the false narrative kick in the night Trump “won” the 2016 election. We were incredulous, terrified, gob-smacked. But we were also reacting in real time — and with incredible accuracy — to something very real: a strong sense that the man who’d just become president did not win.

We were right. That’s the narrative we should be starting from — that our news media should be starting from.

Donald Trump’s legitimacy is the biggest false narrative going.

The MSM’s Need For “PIZZAZZ” Is What’s Screwing Up American Journalism

I bet NBC News’ Jonathan Allen wishes he could have that one back — the piece he posted on NBC News’ site that panned Day One of the Impeachment hearings because they lacked “pizzazz”.

The firestorm’s been pretty relentless, boring in hard on that one word: “pizzazz”. To Allen’s credit, he encapsulated the American news media’s problem. They think this story’s about… hmmmm — maybe that’s the problem. For all the substance Allen acknowledges, he worries Americans won’t bother with the story of how pirates are actively destroying their Republic on behalf of Russia because there weren’t enough bells and whistles.

Either Jonathan Allen has nailed America or he’s missed us entirely.

I say he’s missed us entirely — in a way exactly how most of America’s news media has. They still give way more credence to Trump’s base — and why it’s so angry at the rest of us (16% minority of the electorate that they are) than the rest of us (84% of the majority that WE are).

Most Americans are actually pretty sensible. By “most Americans” I no longer mean Republicans. Republicans can’t “be” sensible because sensible involves following the Rule Of Law. And, as Republicans know, in the current situation, actually following The Rule Of Law would put pretty much every Republican behind bars for the rest of their natural lives. Their offense is that offensive — and real.

Our news media continues to treat Donald Trump’s words and actions as if they were the words and actions of a real and legitimate POTUS. They’re not. Donald Trump (as it’s becoming clearer and clearer) is not now and never was a legitimate POTUS. Take Russia out of the equation entirely and Trump wouldn’t have survived the primaries.

Russia made Trump president. They need to keep Trump president — and the Republican Party, being entirely complicit in outright TREASON, needs to keep him president too.

If our news media had brought an ounce of perspective to this story — if they’d simply done the due diligence Fusion GPS did before starting their oppo research on Trump (on behalf of the Conservative web site the Washington Free Beacon), we would have ended the Trumpian coup d’etat before it even started.

FFS – Wasn’t “Mexicans are rapists” pizzazz enough? Wasn’t “pussy grabbing”? Wasn’t putting children in cages and betraying the Kurds and obstructing justice every day in every way? I guess when you see the world through “Both Sides Do It” colored lenses, pizzazz isn’t all it seems. One side’s pizzazz is another sides bullshit.

Actually, thinking this story needs more “pizzazz” is bullshit. Like treason isn’t pizzazzy enough for a storyteller…

Dear MSM – Connecting Dots Isn’t Rocket Science – Except Apparently To YOU…

“Gosh. I wonder what it could be,” said the American Journalist…

Storytelling, at its core is simple dot-connecting. We start at the beginning and connect the dots all the way to the end – with lots of zigging and zagging in between.  The image that all those connected dots ultimately form – that’s our story. 

As the dots connect, they form the larger context for each of the dots.  They aren’t just dots floating in space.  They’re part of a much larger picture.  Dot Number 2 and Dot Number 50 are related if distantly.  They’re both part of the same context.

Journalists are storytellers first and foremost.  The difference (in theory) between them and regular joe’s who write blogs is “rigor”.  Journalists need to back up their stories with multiple sources.  Or one really, really good one.  The point of all that rigor is to make sure the dots connect correctly.

But too many American journalists bore so deeply into the one point they focused on that they forget that a larger context even exists.  Or they started connecting dots already infected by “Both Sides Do It”.  When that happens, perspective is impossible.  Then you get mavens of journalistic malpractice like NBC’s Chuck Todd.  Chuck is good at connecting dots.  Problem is, he connects dots that shouldn’t be connected because, though they’ll make a picture, it’s not a real picture. 

For example – Bernie Madoff is a thief.  He stole billions (from rich people).  Jean Valjean, the hero of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables is also a thief.  He steals bread to feed people who are hungry.  In Chuck Todd’s world, that means “both sides do it” because Bernie Madoff and Jean Valjean are both thieves.  Scale (perspective) never enters into it.  Chuck Todd regularly compares things of wildly different scale and insists they’re the exact same thing.

So – putting the Chuck Todd’s of the journalistic world aside, the rest of American Journalism needs to remind itself that a picture made up of connected dots remains a picture regardless of whether you stop looking at it.  When you turn from one part of the larger story to another – those dots don’t suddenly disconnect.  They STAY connected.  The story THEY tell remains valid and true.

Just because you go from a story about Donald Trump and his curious relationship with Vladimir Putin (and Putin’s “possible” impact on election 2016) to a story about Donald Trump trying to extort the Ukraine as part of his 2020 campaign strategy doesn’t mean the “Putin Cheats For 2016 Donald” dots aren’t related to the “Extort The Ukraine As Part Of The 2020” dots.  You have to bring all the connected dots with you from story to story – especially because you want to see if the dots from one story connect to any others.

The answer here is – YES!  All dots connect.  And all dots lead to Donald Trump being a Russian intelligence asset working against America’s interests and for his own interests and Russia’s. 

Today, the three Republicans trying to primary Trump all accused Trump of committing Treason.  They see clearly now how the dots all connect.

Some Perspective On Perspective

As much as I might want to see the world through another person’s eyes, it’s a physical impossibility. The best I can ever really hope for is to imagine what the world literally looks like as they see it. It’s a fact — we all experience “experience” differently.

Imagine a cube sitting alone on a vast, featureless plain. From the cube’s point of view, all one can see — turning 360 degrees — is plain. From the plain’s perspective however, there’s endless plain — and a cube. Differing perspectives see differing things. But one of the two perspectives saw everything (or more of everything) while the other failed to see a key detail.

As a Nation, we stand at a moment of existential crisis because we have lost perspective — and our perspective was dubious to begin with.

How is it that a criminal and traitor occupies the White House and we are seemingly powerless to remove him from office? How is that all this information about Donald Trump’s criminality — including 488 pages of Mueller Report — and we STILL can’t even officially accuse the man of what he’s demonstrably done?

It’s like the Truth is that cube sitting in the middle of vast, featureless plain — and we, living inside the Truth, can’t see it because we’re so “close to it”. If we could just get some perspective, we’d get it. Our news media has a related problem. They want to get at the truth — but don’t seem to realize that the deep dives they take — while detailed — aren’t adding significantly to our overall knowledge because they’re too focused on detail. Or on the wrong details…

A story (like Trump’s with Russia, for instance) is a mosaic. Each tile is significant. The problem is, our Main Stream News Media — while awfully good at boring into any particular tile — have a tendency (while boring in on the particular tile that’s drawn their interest) to forget all the other tiles in the mosaic.

Some of them even forget that the thing they’re looking at is part of a mosaic. They convince themselves that the piece they’re looking at IS the whole picture while the Whole Picture actually looks a lot like this

On a related note — and a similar metaphor — there are the numbers crunchers like NBC’s Steve Kornacki. Kornacki can tell you a lot of fascinating detail about the numbers themselves — how a district voted historically, how a particular candidate has fared with a particular group of voters. But Kornacki’s assumption that the past is prologue doesn’t apply to now. We’ve never had an actual traitor as POTUS — and we’ve never had one of our two political parties committed to keeping that traitor in power.

The details on the ground matter more than the fact that there’s “ground”. Put another way, Number crunchers like Steve Kornacki can wax rhapsodic about a grain of sand (how small it is — or big compared to other grains of sand, what kind of rock it came from, how old it is, what its future probably is) …

Yeah — Kornacki can show you the beauty in a grain of sand. But beyond that things get sketchy…

Almost as important as knowing about the grain of sand is knowing where the grain of sand lives. And that’s something Kornacki can only guess at — because he’s lost perspective (and maybe never had it to begin with). For all Kornacki knows, the grain of sand he’s fixated on comes from here…

But, for all Steve knows, it could just as easily come from the surface of Mars…

It’s lack of perspective that first fed the ludicrous idea that “both sides do it”. “Both sides do it” always functions without any sense of scale — or perspective. To the “both sides do it” crowd, Bernie Madoff and Jean Valjean (from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables) are both thieves — never mind that one ripped off people to the tune of billions while the other stole bread to feed the hungry. The respective-less Both Sides Do It club says thievery is thievery is thievery (if poor people or people of color do it).

Storytellers need to be able to pull the camera back as far as it will go — and then further still. A storyteller with no perspective is a person to whom that story is being told.

They’re like a cube sitting on a wide open, featureless plain…

There’s A Difference Between Storytellers & “Storytellees”; That Difference Is Why American News Media SUCKS…

First things first. Journalists are storytellers. News is a story about what’s happening (theoretically out here in reality) right here, right now. As news anchors all over the world put it as they start yakking — “Here’s what’s happening now“.

Then they proceed to tell you the story.

Except way too many journalists are piss-poor at telling stories. Well… let me be fair — I don’t know how good or bad they are at telling stories in general; what I know is they’re piss poor at telling the “Donald Trump Is A Traitor” story. They don’t know how to approach it, let alone “tell” it.

It seems odd, doesn’t it, that professional storytellers would be so incapacitated by the greatest story they’ll ever get to tell? It starts with their forgetting that THEY’RE storytellers to begin with — albeit storytellers reliant on their sources. But how storytellers approach a source is different than how a storytellee approaches a source. Storytellees don’t have sources.

Let me go a little deeper. When I set out to write a story, I need as much control over as much of the story I can get — so I can FRAME IT the way I want to. I want to frame the story one way vs another because facts are not generic. In and of themselves, facts are independent things. String a bunch of facts together, connect the dots in other words, and those facts paint a picture. Or they present a mosaic-like image, if you prefer.

A storyteller — in composing that mosaic — needs to make choices. Some facts belong and others either don’t belong (they’re not relevant to THIS mosaic) or they aren’t facts. They’re bullshit or too unsubstantiated to have value — so, therefore, don’t make the cut. A storyteller needs to have this sorting process at work constantly in their minds — especially as they’re doing their research. They need to be hyper-critical.

Storytellees, by comparison, are there to soak it all in. Unless a fact or detail strays too far outside their own experiences of life and people, they’re happy to accept it as part of the storytelling. They’re there to listen (critically, one hopes), not story-tell.

Something bizarre happens however when Storytellers fail to act like storytellers and act like storytellees instead. Because they’ve turned their critical faculties off (aside from that last fail-safe one when a story’s details fail to pass any smell test whatsoever), they miss essential details any storyteller relies on. They lose perspective — and therefore any ability to successfully tell that story. You cannot accurately describe what you cannot actually see (one way or another).

The perfect example of the storyteller turned storytellee is NBC’s reporter Kelly O’Donnell. I’m sure Kelly’s a lovely person. That’s not the question. She’s far too credulous — like a storytellee. Watch virtually any Kelly O’Donnell stand-up and, aside from her professional demeanor, all she’s ever doing is repeating back what “her sources” told her.

I bet Kelly’s sources go to her as often as Kelly goes to them. That would mean (if I’m right) that Kelly’s sources are using her as much as Kelly’s “using them”. What Kelly doesn’t get though about this set-up: Kelly’s purpose is “information transmission”, her source’s purpose is “message control”. Without that context, Kelly’s information SOUNDS neutral (Kelly’s intent) while not actually being neutral at all — it’s one-sided. But Kelly has failed to report that fact.

WHY?

In Kelly’s defense (and — bending over backwards to be fair here — it applies to a whole bunch of other reporters across multiple news networks) Kelly has lost sight of how her sources are using her; she’s been too busy patting herself on the back for having sources to begin with. To get those sources, Kelly agreed to put whatever critical faculties she has on hold. She’s agreed to not question their veracity or motives. She’s agreed to not question their information — regardless of how true, false or politically motivated it is.

Kelly has followed the Judith Miller Paradigm to a “T”.

Quick digression — Judith Miller:

Judith Miller worked in The New York Times‘ Washington bureau before joining Fox News in 2008. While at the Times, she gained notoriety for her coverage of Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) program both before and after the 2003 invasion, which was later discovered to have been based on inaccurate information from the intelligence community. The New York Times determined that several stories she wrote about Iraq were inaccurate, and she was forced to resign from the paper in 2005.

Miller herself refused to accept any responsibility. Her defense: It wasn’t her responsibility to “critique” the information she was passing between her “inside sources” and the American public, it was her responsibility to just “pass it along” all steno pool like. Miller’s “lackadaisical” approach to journalistic integrity killed her reputation deader than dead. She’s now a fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute For Public Policy — carrying water for them full time. At least Judith finally is plying her trade on the up-and-up.

Miller’s willingness to trade access to Dick Cheney for her integrity had an even consequence. Miller actively took part in Dick Cheney & Scooter Libby’s deliberate outing of Valerie Plame as CIA. Miller spent 85 days in jail for refusing to reveal that her source in the Plame Affair was Scooter Libby.  The fact that Libby was doing something stunningly illegal — its political motivation crayoned all over its giant sleeve — was, apparently, irrelevant to Miller.

It wasn’t her “responsibility”, I guess, to tell THE TRUTH. It was her “responsibility” to tell Dick Cheney & Scooter Libby’s “truth” regardless of how untruthful it was.

The process of Judith Miller-ing news gathering — of sacrificing integrity for access is the crux of the problem. It’s what causes storytellers to become storytellees instead. The moment they go critical-faculty-free for access, they put their storytelling into a near-permanent cocoon-like stasis.

If not for the fact that journalism is the only job mentioned in the Constitution — it’s obligated to be the final check on political power — none of this would matter. But journalism IS mentioned in the Constitution and it IS purposed with this very high mission. If you don’t want to do the mission, what the hell are you doing in journalism? If you don’t want to be an actual storyteller, please — let us know now. Our future depends on it.

American News Media’s Biggest Fail: They SUCK As Storytellers…

There’s an art to telling a story. It isn’t just knowing how to line up the beginning, middle and end in the right way so the story makes sense…

Anyone who’s ever listened to someone massacre a joke knows what I mean. A joke, after all, is just a story — sketched out in a handful of words. But it works by the same storytelling principle. A set up and a punchline are the beginning, middle & end of a story.

To correctly and successfully tell a joke or a story, you have to know all the pieces of the story — or suspect enough about where they’re going to at least tap dance through the ending. I just finished a book (looking for a publisher now — “How To Live Bullshit Free (and other Showbiz Tales)” — which basically tells my own story; I knew going in what the story was — but, even so, the ending took me by surprise — and I was the guy writing it. Stories can take on a life of their own.

But, in order to go where the story takes you, you have to be fully invested in it. More than that, you have to be the story’s teller — and not the person to whom the story is being told. There’s a huge difference. A huge philosophical difference.

In order to tell you a story, I have to gain your confidence — that is, I have to convince you to suspend your belief if only for a moment. If I tell you that a dog walks into a bar — and you stop me: “Wait — dogs can’t walk into bars!” — then I’ve failed at the start. You haven’t suspended your belief enough to allow the fantastical element at the heart of my story to take wing. But, if instead, you said: “Cool — so, a dog walks into a bar — tell me more!” then I’ve succeeded — at the start. You will let me take you wherever I want — so long as the story stays interesting and doesn’t violate its own rules.

To put a finer point on that — you become the passive listener while I become the active storyteller.

That’s how storytelling works. OUR problem is our Main Stream News Media doesn’t get that. Every time Donald Trump opens his mouth and lies — and the News Media repeats the lie as if it could be true — they stop being storytellers and start being the guy the story was told to instead — who’s simply repeating what he heard. That is not storytelling.

Yes, yes — part of storytelling is listening to others — so you can tell their stories — but storytellers are tasked with finding deeper Truths inside other peoples’ stories — and then telling them. That’s where storytelling ‘art’ kicks in.

It’s not a hard problem to fix. Actually, it’s shockingly easy. All any journalist ever has to do is remind themselves on which side of the storytelling equation they’re supposed to sit. And if they can’t remember themselves, it’s incumbent on US to remind them — as loudly and persistently as we must.

After all — journalists aren’t merely storytellers — they’re the only job mentioned by name in the Constitution. THEIR stories are the last check on power. If they “tell them wrong”, we’re screwed.

What NBC’s Savannah Guthrie did – interviewing young Nick Sandmann — was the exact opposite of storytelling. She became the person to whom Nick Sandmann told his story — as in SHE suspended all belief in order to accept what he said as truth. That she walked away — having allowed a clearly faulty version of the story to stand shouts at us: Nick Sandmann became the styoryteller & an American news outlet became the passive listener to that story.

Fail.

Fail, fail, fail, FAIL.

From one storyteller to another, NBC News – You SUCK at your job. Find other work more suitable to your skills such as they are.

Perhaps Walmart is looking for greeters. Give em a call. Please.