May 24, 2017

On Russian TV, Clinton-Trump Race Merits Wall-to-Wall Coverage

Traditional Russian wooden nesting dolls depicting Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump at a gift shop in Moscow on Tuesday. Credit Kirill Kudryavtsev/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

MOSCOW — Given the blanket coverage on Russia’s main state-run new channels on Tuesday, it often seemed that the United States presidential election was actually happening here.

Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump casting their ballots warranted attention, while correspondents stationed at the polls where both contenders voted weighed in repeatedly, though news was pretty thin. Rossiya 24, the main cable news channel, promised live coverage starting at 1 a.m. Moscow time on Wednesday morning, still late afternoon on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.

The blanket coverage had led to more than a little grumbling that the Kremlin-managed news media was devoting more time and energy to the American elections than it paid to a national parliamentary vote in Russia less than two months ago.

“Correct me if I am wrong, but this has not happened for any elections in Russia,” Dmitry Gudkov, an opposition politician who lost his seat in part because nongovernment candidates got virtually zero television coverage, wrote on Facebook.

Another commentator, Lidiya Sergeeva, joked on Facebook that election coverage was so intense in Russia that there would probably be voters out looking for polling stations here on Tuesday to vote for Mr. Trump.


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Mr. Trump has generally received the kinder treatment. Mrs. Clinton, on the other hand, is regarded as an old adversary who would be bad for Russia. But generally speaking, the coverage seemed intended to present the candidates and the process in the worst possible light.

“Everything turned out to stink so hideously that what the United States calls ‘democracy’ prompts nothing but disgust,” Dmitry Kiselyov, the anchor on the main weekly news show said during election coverage on Sunday night that lasted more than 30 minutes.

On the streets of Moscow, Russian voters seemed to have been exposed to enough of the candidates to have an opinion, although many appeared indifferent to the eventual outcome.

“Mr. Trump has made a huge fortune, but he lacks serious political experience,” said Olga Zakharova, 33, a manager.

“I don’t expect anything good from Clinton, either. She is a hostage of the political system, which is fundamentally predisposed against Russia,” Ms. Zakharova said, standing in front of a crowded subway station during the evening rush hour.

“Whoever wins, it won’t have much effect on Russia,” she concluded.

President Vladimir V. Putin said before the vote that he saw his country’s outsize role in the American presidential campaign as a sign of its growing might.

He shrugged off accusations that Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee, leaking emails that put party officials in a bad light. Denying any role by Russia, he said several times that American voters and the news media should concentrate on the information and not on how it was exposed.

There was another spat with Washington on Tuesday over election monitoring, with Russia complaining that its diplomats had been harassed and prevented from observing the vote independently.


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“This is a normal diplomatic practice,” said Maria Zakharova, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.

In response, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying American diplomats would no longer be welcomed at polling stations in Russia.

Despite the omnipresent news media coverage, some people on the streets still had to think a minute about the main contenders for the White House.

“Yesterday on the radio I heard that some woman is running, what is her name, Clinton?” said Daniil Protasov, a student at a dental school. “I know Trump, he is against migrants and homosexuals and Clinton is all about hatred of Russia.”

The chattering classes, who would like a more open system in Russia, were dismayed that the tenor of the campaign gave the Kremlin the opportunity to paint Western democracy as a chaotic mess, contrasting it with the orderliness of the Russian political system. Never mind that the Kremlin has been accused by the White House of intervening in the American campaign, doing its best to create the appearance of chaos.

Still, various people heading home through the early dark, cold winter Tuesday evening found little to engage them.

“I don’t sympathize with either Trump or Hillary Clinton,” said Yelena Arakcheeva, 55, a manager in the communal services industry. “I am more interested in Russian politics, but it seems that for our media the U.S. election is more important.”

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News Analysis: What We’ve Learned About the Media Industry During This Election

The digital social networks, meanwhile, attracted many millions of users to old and new forms of news coverage, as predicted. Their rise to prominence was not overstated. But, as companies, they have either failed to reckon with their new medialike roles — as hosts, gatekeepers and de facto editors — or rejected them outright. “We are a tech company, not a media company,” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, emphasized at a conference in August.


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In media business terms, it is now clear, the 2016 election could not have arrived at a more precarious moment, as industries defined by their futures struggled to handle what was happening in the present. A new business model had not replaced an old one — not yet. There was, for the duration of the campaign, effectively no model at all.

Through this lens, some of the defining narratives about the media and the election start to make a little more sense. Major news organizations, household names trusted for decades, lost a great deal of ownership over audiences. The organizations exist among many contributors in infinite feeds. Their news stories could be more easily brushed aside and ignored as a product of bias or motivated reporting. Once privileged with the leverage to shape narratives, or declare stories important, they now found themselves competing with rivals shaped by new incentives.

It seemed that readers and viewers had been prompted, all at once, to ask news outlets: Who are you to assume we trust you?

The suspicions arrived in links above an article; by a video below it; by the friend or family member whose utterly unfamiliar media bubble bounced into yours. But it extended beyond that, too: by the delivery of your news in an entirely new way, complete with new and obliterating signifiers of authority and truth; by constant confirmation that, yes, the media really is just people saying things; and, finally, by opportunistic insinuations that the level of deception by news organizations knows no bounds.

It is a mistake, of course, to minimize the role played by the social networks that helped create this situation, and the companies that benefit from it.

A voter read The Philadelphia Inquirer as he waited outside a polling station in Phoenixville, Pa. While facing financial headwinds, established media outlets still broke election-defining stories. Credit Mark Makela for The New York Times

Twitter, the service, which has supplanted cable news as the center of the real-time political conversation, is rotten with abuse, harassment and disinformation. Twitter, the company, failed to fix these widely reported problems before the election, only to appear impotent as they blossomed into crises in 2016. Rampant gender-based and racial harassment was a defining characteristic of Twitter’s relationship to the 2016 campaigns. A recent Anti-Defamation League report tallied tens of thousands of vividly anti-Semitic tweets directed at journalists in the last year alone.

Yet the Facebook situation may be the clearest expression of what a transitional media environment actually feels like, and how disorienting it can be. In February, nearly half of Americans said they consumed news on the site — a figure that is most likely higher now. But the company has been widely criticized for the level of misinformation propagated through its service. In the weeks before Election Day, one of Facebook’s most visible functions was as a distributor of so-called fake news.

It is surely not desirable, by any reasonable standard, to have over a million people share a falsified presidential endorsement of Mr. Trump by the pope. But that happened this year. So, too, did the sharing by millions of people of a falsified quotation attributed to Mr. Trump in which he was said to call his future supporters “the dumbest possible group.” The story, first popularized on a left-leaning Facebook page, was convincing enough that its debunking is now being met with conspiracy theories.


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But calls for Facebook to fix the problem — presumably through some sort of new editorial filtering, or prioritization — misunderstand the company and its situation. While asking Facebook to fix it is reasonable, it is probably equally unrealistic. In many ways, the company has already moved on to the future.

The fake news problem, as it has been identified, is occurring on what the company, based on its public statements and actions, would consider an old version of the network, one it seems determined to abandon. In this version, people post links to outside websites, and those websites make money from advertising. This is the Facebook most users probably know best — but it is also increasingly on the margins.

Facebook would rather keep people inside its walls, and the company has already taken major steps to achieve that. In March 2015, it teamed up with more traditional media companies, including The New York Times Company, to host articles directly on the platform, then opened up applications to all news sites. The feature, called Instant Articles, speeds up viewing for readers and makes sharing within the site easier.

Mr. Zuckerberg has also made clear that he considers video to be central to the company’s future. Video-based Facebook, which is beginning to take shape, will have to deal with similar issues, but it may also be structurally different. It may end up more organized, with an emphasis on official partnerships that more clearly select winners and losers. Maybe it is less newsy in general; maybe it duplicates, in some ways, television news.

Of course, this future version of Facebook has not fully arrived, and its predecessor is not yet gone. But the site on which the false report of the pope’s endorsement originated, WTOE 5 News — which describes itself openly as “a fantasy news website” — is not part of any social media platform’s grand plans for the future. The proliferation of fake news links on Facebook, in other words, is probably a problem that will be forgotten before it is fixed — and that might have peaked just as Americans chose their next president.

But it is likewise a mistake — a grave and common one — to underestimate just how liberating these last years have felt for audiences. Facebook and Twitter, the cycle’s most mature and influential platforms, may be profoundly centralized. But they explicitly place the individual at the center of his or her media universe, recording, amplifying and perpetuating their preferences into complete, customized media experiences that no traditional news provider can rival.

The beginning of this shift in power represented a chance to personally right wrongs, long felt and often credible, stemming from legacy media’s presumptions of power and authority. Old media could be held to account for its cozy relationships, its disclosure failures, its hiring practices and its blinkered or slanted coverage — real or perceived. But it also, necessarily, represented a chance to punish ideological opponents, or to exact revenge. And it presented an opportunity, for those so motivated, to sow doubt about the entire project of journalism. .

It will be clear, in retrospect, that this was an election experienced from the bottom of a media trough. Votes were cast from the valley between a collapsing media that was, at one time, at least nominally trusted, and a new media that is not yet ready for the responsibilities it is inheriting.

It is a moment that is less a referendum on the media or the systems that are superseding it, or a sign of where either one might end up, than it is a snapshot of messy change in progress. For all the attempts to understand or explain this year’s endless shocks and surprises, this story — one that connects so many others — will have been a product of unfortunate timing. Elections arrive every four years. Industry sets its own pace.

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Can the Media Recover From This Election?

RUTENBERG We talked about those Trump rules yesterday, and as I said then, it turns out the Trump rules were really just plain old journalism rules: Collate what’s true from what’s false; analyze, contextualize, dig, dig, dig — for scoops and hidden details (and hopefully not your own grave!).

Mr. Trump during a forum hosted by Matt Lauer, right. Credit Eric Thayer for The New York Times

PONIEWOZIK And do it without regard for how it makes you look to one camp or another.

RUTENBERG The new twist was that we had an asymmetry no working journalist had ever seen. Donald J. Trump lied more than his opponent did. It meant that the press was seen calling him out for falsehoods more than it was seen calling out Hillary Clinton, who fibbed less (but did aplenty). That created the impression of imbalance. But so much of it was reflecting what the reporting found, objectively. For instance, last week, when Mr. Trump described a scene in which President Obama verbally attacked a pro-Trump protester at a rally when Mr. Obama had clearly, in fact, argued the protester deserved respect and a hearing, well, that called for a robust fact-check. I mean, reporters have eyes.

That doesn’t mean Hillary Clinton got a pass. When she referred to half of Mr. Trump’s supporters as hailing from a “basket of deplorables,” it was widely aired. The Times broke the story that she was keeping a private email server at her home in Westchester, New York. The media covered the WikiLeaks emails from her adviser John Podesta in ways that produced a fair share of rough headlines for Mrs. Clinton; scrutinized pay-to-play optics at the Clinton family’s foundation, and examined her record on Libya and Syria with an eye on what she’d do as president.


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PONIEWOZIK The press covered Hillary Clinton like the next president of the United States. The press covered Donald Trump like a future trivia question (and a ratings cash cow).

From the get-go, too much coverage of the race has been informed by a belief, overt or unconscious, that Mr. Trump couldn’t win. Last fall, the political press, like their sources, dismissed the polls and stuck to the belief that people would never actually pull the lever for that man. The mind-set stuck well into the primaries — even data-minded Nate Silver succumbed to the siren call of punditry.

RUTENBERG Yes, If you think about it, she received coverage befitting a traditional politician running for president; he received coverage of a billionaire reality-television star who turned politics into performance art and sparked a powerful movement in the process.

PONIEWOZIK And in the general election, it affected expectations. NBC’s September “commander-in-chief forum” with Matt Lauer [of “Today”] was a low point. Mrs. Clinton got an appropriately tough vetting. Mr. Lauer told Mr. Trump “nobody would expect you” to have studied up on foreign policy before running. (Nobody? Do they cover that at orientation?)

Boris Epshteyn and Campbell Burr during an internet show from Trump Tower. Credit Hilary Swift for The New York Times

It’s not as simple as, “the press went easy on him.” In some ways this made for devastating or dismissive coverage. But only one candidate was treated like she might be elected, set policy and make appointments.

RUTENBERG One thing lost in that whole controversy — Mr. Lauer and Mr. Trump were once related by corporate synergy. (Which makes them, what, corporate media cousins?) “Today” used to regularly run segments on the previous night’s edition of “The Apprentice.” So here was Mr. Lauer having to switch from asking Mr. Trump about Omarosa’s antics to those of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. And I bet this threw him. Still, your point stands.

PONIEWOZIK Yes. My biggest piece of advice for covering a candidate like Donald Trump: Just pretend he’s the Republican nominee for president. Within the bubble of conventional wisdom, this didn’t happen enough.

RUTENBERG I was struck by how many times I saw prominent journalists say, “Gee, I don’t know anybody who would vote for Mr. Trump, I’m going to have to work on that,” or some such. Take it from me — having friends who supported Mr. Trump from early on didn’t mean you were going to expect him to win the Republican nomination. But there was without question a big disconnect between mainstream reporters and Trump supporters (and a segment of Bernie Sanders supporters, too, for that matter).


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And this will be key in the days, months and years ahead. The press needs to explore the frustration of those many Americans who think free trade’s gone too far; that immigration threatens the national fabric; and that insiders from Washington, Wall Street and the media have rigged the system against them.

PONIEWOZIK This election has exposed a lot of bubbles. Chuck Todd this morning writes that if coastal journalists were more in touch with economically hard-hit areas, they’d have seen the Trump phenomenon coming. As a southeast Michigan native, I’ll give him that. But I would add that a more diverse press corps would have been less likely to deflect so much of the overt racism, misogyny and anti-Semitism on the campaign trail as “economic anxiety.” And it wouldn’t be so quick to equate “working class” with “white.”

Mrs. Clinton being interview by Mr. Lauer. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

RUTENBERG I think that’s right, in that the press corps’ lack of diversity — not only in terms of race but also class perspective — left it blind to the power of the movement that carried Mr. Trump to the nomination. That said, I think that to the extent that the Trump campaign surfaced pockets of racism, anti-Semitism and misogyny, the news media did a good job calling that out for what it was, which doesn’t come naturally.

Either way, this will be a real wasted opportunity if there isn’t a lot of probing, fearless reporting about how much racism, misogyny and anti-Semitism exist in the culture. It has surfaced. Let’s not let the rug roll back over it all when this is done.

That brings me to this question: When this thing wraps, do you think the mainstream media will revert to where it was before this campaign started, treat this as one nightmare it would just as soon forget? Or does it emerge forever changed?

Because whatever you say about this year’s election coverage, it killed at the box office.

PONIEWOZIK The drive for ratings and clicks will not change, whatever anyone says. Jeff Zucker recently said maybe the network should not have aired so many of Mr. Trump’s rallies unedited.

I take these morning-after regrets the same way I do a political party’s postelection autopsy. Wake me up if they ever implement it.

Another looming question about the postelection media is if Mr. Trump will be a player in it. Especially if he loses, I’m dubious of Trump TV as a full-fledged cable channel. That’s expensive — an online subscription service might be an easier way to cash in. That, and that brand depends on his image as a winner. In defeat, even claiming a rigged election, he may be a tougher sell.

But who says Trump TV would only be a thing if Mr. Trump loses? A President Trump would make aggressive use of the media. Why not his own de facto state TV? What would stop him: his deep respect for the norms of political propriety?

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In Rolling Stone Defamation Case, Magazine and Reporter Ordered to Pay $3 Million

Sabrina Rubin Erdely, left, with a lawyer outside the Charlottesville, Va., courthouse last month. Ms. Erdely is the author of “A Rape on Campus,” the Rolling Stone article at the heart of the defamation suit. Credit Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress, via Associated Press..

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A federal jury on Monday ordered Rolling Stone and one of its writers to pay $3 million in damages to a University of Virginia administrator over a discredited article two years ago about a supposed gang rape at the university.

The jury in Charlottesville, Va., had already decided on Friday, after a two-week trial, that Rolling Stone; Wenner Media, its parent company; and Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the author of the article, were all liable for defamation in a case that centered on faulty reporting and a failure to apply basic fail-safes in editing.

After deliberating for less than two hours on Monday, the jury of eight women and two men decided that Ms. Erdely was liable for $2 million of the total, and Rolling Stone and Wenner Media for $1 million. In her suit, filed in May 2015, the administrator, Nicole P. Eramo, had asked for $7.5 million in damages.

The jury found that assertions made in the story, as well as public statements made after publication by Ms. Erdely and Rolling Stone, were made with “actual malice,” the legal standard for libel against public figures. To meet that standard, a publisher must be found to have known that the information it published was false, or to have had reckless disregard for the truth.

Rolling Stone has not said whether it would appeal the verdict. Scott Sexton, a lawyer for Rolling Stone, said on Monday that according to its agreement with Ms. Erdely, the company was obligated to cover “all liability arising out of the article.”


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Ms. Erdely and her legal team declined to answer questions after the decision was read.

In its decision, the jury made no distinctions about what portion of the damages was tied to the article and what was tied to other comments made by Ms. Erdely and Rolling Stone after publication.

Outside the courtroom on Monday night, Deborah J. Parmelee, a teacher who was the jury forewoman, read a brief statement from the jury that said, in part: “With careful consideration of the facts in evidence for determining damages, the jury made its determination. We were proud to execute our civic duty.”

Nicole P. Eramo, former associate dean of students at the University of Virginia, filed the lawsuit. Credit Steve Helber/Associated Press

Ms. Parmelee declined to answer any further questions about the case.

The article, “A Rape on Campus,” was published in November 2014 and intensified national attention on sexual assault of college students. But the article was soon called into question for its reliance on a single source, identified only as Jackie, in describing a brutal gang rape at a fraternity party near the grounds of the university, which was founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 and is steeped in tradition.

After a report by the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism reprimanded Rolling Stone for failing to take fundamental steps to verify Jackie’s account, and after the Charlottesville police said they had found no evidence that an episode like the one described had occurred, the magazine retracted the article and removed it from its website.

Ms. Eramo, the former associate dean of students, sued for defamation, saying that she had been made out to be the “chief villain” in the article, which portrayed the university administration as being indifferent to the threat of sexual assault on campus. In one of the story’s most scalding passages, Jackie said that Ms. Eramo had told her, “Nobody wants to send their daughter to the rape school.”

Testifying on Monday in the damages hearing, Ms. Eramo wept repeatedly as she recounted personal and professional difficulties after the article was published. She spoke of a loss of self-confidence and a change of her job at the university.

Some members of the jury could be seen dabbing tears during Ms. Eramo’s testimony.

Rolling Stone’s lawyers pointed out that since the article was published, Ms. Eramo has gotten two raises, and her salary is now set at $113,000 a year. They also noted that a report from the United States Department of Education backed up the magazine’s general findings by criticizing how the University of Virginia handled sexual assault cases.

David Paxton, a lawyer for Rolling Stone, also stressed how much the article had already damaged the magazine’s reputation.

“This has been a badge of shame,” he said, “for Rolling Stone and Ms. Erdely.”

But Ms. Eramo found that response wanting.


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“It took two years and all this to get an apology,” Ms. Eramo said, gesturing around the courtroom. “And I still don’t believe it is a real apology. The regret I see is that they’re in the position they’re in today.”

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TV Networks Face a Skeptical Public on Election Night

“We’re surrounded by so much false information and aggressive misinformation,” said James Goldston, the president of ABC News, who will oversee coverage from a Times Square studio built for the occasion. “The pain of getting it wrong in this environment would be very long-lasting.”


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In interviews, network executives said that credibility was their first concern, and that they hoped to tune out competing chatter and focus on what they can control: getting it right.

“We’re editors, in a way,” said Mr. Stephanopoulos, as he sped up Madison Avenue in a yellow taxi after rehearsing on Sunday. “People are going to be coming to us, but they’re also going to be following this on their phones all day and getting all kinds of information. Part of our job is to sort through that and only give out what we can be sure of, in any given moment.”

To ensure independence, network statisticians are typically quarantined in an undisclosed location; some have their smartphones taken away. And despite the competitive pressures, network executives say they are willing to be patient.

“There’s no question that there’s added scrutiny this year of the entire system,” said Steve Capus, executive editor of CBS News. “If anything, I think that means we’re going to take our time to get it right.”

Still, troublingly for the networks, making correct calls in swing states and the Electoral College count is, in this partisan political climate, no guarantee of praise. Some supporters of Mr. Trump — who has warned of a “rigged” election for months and viciously disparaged journalists — are already sowing doubt about Tuesday’s coverage.

“Prepare for the media to position their exit pollsters in the most Dem-heavy districts they can find,” Bill Mitchell, a pro-Trump radio host with a large following, posted on Twitter on Sunday, adding, “You know they will.” By Monday, his comment had been reposted about 900 times.

The specter of the 2000 election, and the networks’ botched calls of the Florida count, still haunts television newsrooms. But there is little reason to doubt the networks’ calculations, in part because they rely on the same sources of information.

Rehearsals at ABC, which built a studio in Times Square for election night. Credit Sasha Maslov for The New York Times

Networks rely on “decision desks,” which often employ dozens of statisticians and pollsters and receive election returns from The Associated Press, which gathers data directly from state and local officials. The desks also subscribe to exit polls from Edison Research, which provide a glimpse of the numbers and are often used to characterize voters’ concerns, demographics and reasons for supporting a candidate.


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Each desk uses a proprietary model to project state-by-state winners. Fundamentally, network officials say, the goal is not to mess up. “Running the decision desk is basically like taking a math test,” said Arnon Mishkin, director of Fox News’s decision desk (and the cellist). “If you don’t get a good grade, 300 million people are going to know.”

This is not the first year that network projections may enter the realm of partisanship. In 2012, Mr. Mishkin made a memorable appearance after Karl Rove, the Republican strategist, raised doubts about Fox News calling Ohio for Barack Obama; the anchor Megyn Kelly walked to Mr. Mishkin’s office for a live interview about why he stood by the call.

But some new players in vote counting see the network model — in which decisions are handed down Moses-style by an invisible group of experts — as outmoded. “Saying ‘trust us’ isn’t enough,” said Ben Smith, editor in chief of BuzzFeed News. “You have to demystify it.”

On Tuesday, BuzzFeed will call races in collaboration with Decision Desk HQ, a grass-roots website that uses volunteers to collect voting data independently from The Associated Press and the news networks. The goal, Mr. Smith said, is to put a second set of eyes on an often opaque process, and to offer real-time commentary on why different news outlets may make different calls.

Mr. Smith sees full transparency as the best way to build trust with modern viewers. “I’ve never covered an Election Day where there weren’t intense claims of misbehavior on both sides, and profound wishful thinking about the results on the losing side,” Mr. Smith said. “I think this cycle, everybody expects it to be worse than ever.”

VoteCastr, a Silicon Valley-backed start-up, is taking a more radical approach: publishing projections before polls close.

Using a team of observers in dozens of swing-state precincts, VoteCastr plans to check live turnout data against its own surveys and historical models to generate an hour-by-hour estimate on Election Day of where the vote stands. Their findings will be published by Slate, along with prominent caveats as to what the data say and does not say.

The goal, said Sasha Issenberg, a journalist and a member of the VoteCastr team, is not to project an ultimate winner, but to offer readers an informed snapshot of the race during the hours when, in the absence of official numbers, social media tends to rely on rumors.


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Still, speculating on results while Americans are still voting has long been considered a journalistic taboo: in 1964, CBS News was criticized after calling the California Republican primary for Barry Goldwater before polls closed in San Francisco.

“If you just put that data out to the public, it’s kind of like trying to predict the score of a football game after playing 5 minutes,” said John Lapinski, NBC’s director of elections. Sam Feist, CNN’s Washington bureau chief, said his on-air analysts would not discuss any results until voting had closed in a particular state. “This is really simple,” Mr. Feist said. “Exit poll information floating out during the day is usually wrong.”

At least one partisan news outlet is planning a cautious approach. Breitbart News, whose chairman, Stephen Bannon, is a top aide to Mr. Trump, is not conducting its own polls, so “we’ll probably end up waiting for The A.P.,” said Alex Marlow, the editor in chief.

What about all that bashing of the mainstream media?

“We do believe that most of the establishment media has an interest in Hillary Clinton becoming president,” Mr. Marlow said. “But once the polls are closed,” he added, “the polls are closed.”

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Mediator: Donald Trump the Showman, Now Caught in the Klieg Lights

Mr. Bush — the former governor, that is — approached his campaign as if it would be operating in a normal political news environment, where at least some of the focus would be on economic and educational proposals, foreign policy plans and those words that were once so revered in Republican politics, “values” and “character.”


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But Mr. Trump came at it with a new philosophy: Give them a big, messy show with a regular stream of action, and they will come with their cameras and won’t turn them off. Jeb Bush and his college affordability plan never stood a chance.

By then it was a proven formula for Mr. Trump.

He reached the highest level of electoral politics not through legislative or executive accomplishment but through a series of video moments that showcased a can’t-look-away personality as much as anything he achieved in business.

Those moments span more than three decades, and the trail they leave on YouTube follows the media’s evolution to its current discombobulated state.

We first see Mr. Trump discussing the presidency in an interview with the gossip writer Rona Barrett in 1980, just as he was becoming an item of fascination in New York.

As Ms. Barrett recounted in an interview with The Washington Post this year, she asked him about the presidency for no other reason than that he began complaining about the state of the world, lamenting that other nations were taking advantage of the United States. (He said he had no interest in running.)

Oprah Winfrey followed with the same question in 1988, after Mr. Trump published his smash hit book “The Art of the Deal” and became an outspoken critic of the trade deficit. When she asked Mr. Trump if he would run, he told her, “Probably not, but I wouldn’t rule it out.” It was daytime television, and it all seemed like good fun.

But then, that same year, he was suddenly talking about it at the Republican convention on CNN, with Larry King, who was, in his way, an open door in the wall that had separated entertainment and news. A decade later, during Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, it was Rowland Evans and Robert Novak on CNN raising the P-word (president) with him as he defended Mr. Clinton.

All the while, Mr. Trump was making regular visits to the studio of the radio talk show host Howard Stern, where he shared views of women such as, “A person who is flat-chested is very hard to be a 10.” (Mr. Trump recently said such commentary was being offered “for the purpose of entertainment,” apparently as he promoted the beauty pageants he owned with CBS at the time.)

So it was not surprising that such a deep well of incredulity rose up when Mr. Trump emerged as a candidate for the Reform Party’s presidential nomination in 1999. “Is it Campaign 2000 or ‘Entertainment Tonight’?” Howard Kurtz, then the host of “Reliable Sources” on CNN, asked in reference to the media attention to Mr. Trump. Still, Mr. Trump made it all the way to the political proving ground of Tim Russert’s “Meet the Press,” before his bid fell apart a few months later.


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Yet as we know now, nothing did more to set up Mr. Trump for 2016 presidential politics than his own TV show, “The Apprentice,” which became a hit during its first season, in 2004. Its huge ratings success made Mr. Trump an even more coveted guest on entertainment shows, like “Access Hollywood” and “Late Show With David Letterman,” and mainstream news programs, which were ever more desperate for ratings and, therefore, ever more willing to embrace celebrities.

Mr. Trump always made it worth their while. He had a willingness to talk about whatever an interviewer threw at him, which is how a one-on-one session with Wolf Blitzer in 2007 came to be dominated by Mr. Trump’s views of the Iraq War (“a disaster” that called for an immediate withdrawal) and his critique of President George W. Bush’s leadership.

He had no policy expertise and was not a historian, but he offered something more compelling for news producers: ratings, which is the only thing that can explain all the coverage he later received for his news conferences questioning President Obama’s citizenship.

Mr. Trump took two other clear lessons away from “The Apprentice”: Television audiences will reward anything that at least looks like authenticity. And the best way to hold an audience is to give it a steady stream of drama, with compelling plotlines that continually surprise.

Those two precepts have consistently seemed to animate Mr. Trump’s campaign, which has sustained various plotlines. There’s always the A plot, based on his own performance. Then there’s a rotating set of B, C, and D plots — be it his ugly war with Ted Cruz, his running feud with the Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly or the whodunit surrounding the lifted passages in the convention speech given by his wife, Melania Trump.

It wasn’t always pretty, and as Mr. Trump told me a few months ago in an interview, he did not set out to produce negative story lines. Nonetheless, his robust menu of content crowded out the message of his Republican opponents’ and, for a time, that of Hillary Clinton’s. It worked well for him.

But as the general election campaign has ground on, his copious video and audio content has buried him. In effect, it has become the equivalent of a senator’s voting record.

His video moments have come to be used against him. In August, for instance, the CNN host Don Lemon asked Mr. Trump how he could he say President Obama and Mrs. Clinton caused the creation of ISIS by prematurely withdrawing from Iraq in 2011, when he had told Mr. Blitzer in 2007 — on tape — that the United States should “get out” right then?


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If he thinks Mr. Clinton was “a disaster” with women, why was it that he told Evans and Novak in 1997, “I think Bill Clinton is terrific”? What about Mr. Trump’s comments about women on Howard Stern’s show?

Of course, his banter with Billy Bush during his “Access Hollywood” appearance is far worse. The Washington Post was the first to expose the tape because an “Access Hollywood” report was delayed, pushing back one that NBC News was preparing to run immediately afterward. Over the weekend, some political commentators wondered why NBC News didn’t take the lead anyway.

But what’s the difference? It all leads to the same place. The question for Mr. Trump is whether that place is the end of the road.

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Brock Yates, Writer and Rebel Who Created the Cannonball Run, Dies at 82

Brock Yates, reporting for CBS at the Daytona 500 racing event in 1979, in Daytona Beach, Fla. Credit CBS, via Getty Images

Brock Yates, an automotive journalist who founded an anarchic, cross-country road race in the 1970s, then fictionalized it in the script for the 1981 Burt Reynolds film “The Cannonball Run,” died on Wednesday in Batavia, N.Y. He was 82.

The cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease, his son Brock Yates Jr. said.

With literary flair, Mr. Yates wrote more than a dozen books about cars and motor sports. He also wrote for The Washington Post, Playboy, The American Spectator and other publications, and worked in different capacities for Car and Driver magazine from the mid-1960s until about a decade ago.

He also had a rebellious streak, which was on display in the early 1970s when he and some colleagues from Car and Driver met for beers at a bar in New York City and discussed the state of racing. They decided that the sport had become staid and that an informal, cross-country race would be one way to enliven it.

They called it the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, more commonly known as the Cannonball Run. Named after Erwin “Cannonball” Baker, a record-setting cross-country driver, it had only one rule: The vehicle that finishes first wins. The only prize was bragging rights. Mr. Yates planned the first race for the spring of 1971.

Besides him, several other people said they would participate, but when they all backed out, Mr. Yates went ahead anyway. He completed the 2,863-mile run in his Dodge van in 40 hours and 51 minutes.


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After he wrote about the experience in Car and Driver, readers encouraged him to schedule another race. That November, eight vehicles — one a motor home — set out from Manhattan for the first competitive Cannonball Run.

Mr. Yates drove a Ferrari Daytona coupe with the auto racer Dan Gurney. They won, averaging 80 miles per hour and, on one deserted stretch, reached a top speed of 172 miles per hour. They made it from Manhattan to Redondo Beach, Calif., in 35 hours and 54 minutes, beating the second-place team by about an hour. (The motor home came in last.)

Mr. Yates wrote the script for the 1981 film, “The Cannonball Run.”

The race, held four more times during the 1970s, was covered by magazines and newspapers, and it inspired two fictional films in 1976, “The Gumball Rally” and “Cannonball.”

The race’s outlaw appeal endured, and Mr. Yates capitalized on it when Hal Needham, the director of the car-oriented Burt Reynolds film “Smokey and the Bandit,” asked him to write the script that became “The Cannonball Run.”

Besides Mr. Reynolds, the film’s star-laden cast included Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Dom DeLuise, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Terry Bradshaw and Jackie Chan.

In 1984, Mr. Yates started the Cannonball One Lap of America, which has since become the Tire Rack One Lap of America, a grueling loop around the country interspersed with time trials and other racetrack competitions.

Brock Wendel Yates was born in Lockport, N.Y., on Oct. 21, 1933, to Raymond F. Yates and the former Marguerite Wendel. His father wrote for The New York Herald Tribune and other newspapers and was the author of dozens of books, including one, “Sport and Racing Cars,” written with his son.

He graduated from Hobart College with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1955 and served in the Navy.

His books include “Sunday Driver: The Writer Meets the Road — at 175 MPH” (1972), “Enzo Ferrari: The Man, the Cars, the Races, the Machine” (1991) and “Cannonball! World’s Greatest Outlaw Road Race” (2002). He and Jerry Belson wrote the screenplay for “Smokey and the Bandit II” (1980).

Mr. Yates’s marriage to Sally Kingsley in 1955 ended in divorce. In the late 1970s, he married Pamela Reynolds, with whom he lived in Fairport, N.Y.


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In addition to his wife and his son Brock Jr., he is survived by another son, Daniel, and a daughter, Claire Lilly, all from his first marriage; a stepdaughter, Stacy Bradley; and three grandchildren.

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De Blasio, Frustrated, Chooses to Take His Private Feuds Public, Again

It had the flavor of a City Hall confessional: For 15 minutes, Mayor Bill de Blasio took pains in a nighttime phone interview to explain why the leader of the nation’s largest city would embark on a seemingly hopeless war with The New York Post, one of the most recognizable tabloid newspapers in the world.

He pleaded his case. He beseeched New Yorkers to come to his side. He spoke from the heart.

And in doing so, he went against the grain of typical political combat in New York, where the conflicts are usually of the hand-to-hand sort, and not broad frontal attacks on powerful antagonists they cannot control.

For the second time in his tenure, Mr. de Blasio has chosen to go public with his feud against the most virulent of his enemies. The first instance came last year, when Mr. de Blasio spoke openly of his divisive relationship with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, accusing the fellow Democrat of undercutting his administration at the expense of New Yorkers.

The strategy seemed to backfire then; the conflict with the governor only deepened, and endures to this day.

On Thursday, the mayor tried again, this time taking aim at The Post at a news conference during which he described the publication as a “right-wing rag,” and pointedly refused to take a question on teacher pensions from one of its reporters.


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Hours later, the paper released an image of its Friday front page: the mayor as a baby in the midst of a tantrum, bottle of milk tossed in the air.

In his public battles with The Post and Mr. Cuomo, Mr. de Blasio appears to feel that he could not do any more damage to himself than was already being done, even if his advisers privately have cautioned him against such behavior.

But in the 15-minute interview with The Times, the mayor said The Post’s actions “had to be called out” as a matter of principle, whether or not it was good strategy to do so. He said the newspaper had deviated from the norms of the city’s other media in its “consistent, organized, systematic attempt to promote a certain ideological line.” He said the city needed to have a “conversation” about the paper.

“There are times in life when something is done for strategic reasons,” he said. “But there are also times when it is just a matter of telling the truth as I know it, and speaking very bluntly and speaking from the heart and I’m going to keep doing that.”

The gambit marked for Mr. de Blasio the culmination of years of simmering resentment toward The Post — from a 2012 editorial cartoon depicting him and his wife, Chirlane McCray, in bed, to its reporting on his father’s suicide.

The front page of The Post on Friday after Mr. de Blasio pointedly refused to take a question from one of its reporters.

Mayors have long complained about the newspapers that cover them, and a partisan press is nothing new. The Post, once liberal, became notably more conservative after its purchase in the 1970s by Rupert Murdoch.

“I’ve counted headlines and it was not difficult to demonstrate a political bias toward Republicans generally and conservatives generally in Murdoch’s Post going back decades,” Mitchell Stevens, a New York University professor who has written about the history of journalism, said.

In the interview, Mr. de Blasio’s remarks went further by saying the tabloid was unlike other mainstream news outlets and engaged in “racial dog whistling.” In that way, they echoed a speech about the extreme right-wing press by Hillary Clinton, whose 2000 Senate campaign Mr. de Blasio ran. But where Mrs. Clinton sought to connect Mr. Trump to headlines on Breitbart, Mr. de Blasio leveled his attacks directly on the media organization.

Mr. de Blasio, in the news conference, drew a direct line between his administration and Mrs. Clinton, saying that he, like her, would ultimately be found to have engaged in no wrongdoing despite myriad investigations.


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In the interview, Mr. De Blasio stuck to his critique of The Post.

“We cannot confuse an honest effort at objective reporting, which is what the vast majority of the press corps is doing, with a propaganda apparatus,” he said. “This is a corporation with a profound, distinct, global ideological mission.”

He spoke at length about the newspaper’s “consistent bias” and its longstanding and top-to-bottom mission “to attack progressive values and progressive leaders all over the country.” He described the paper as “a negative force in this city” that engaged in “coded imagery” on race.

That included the cartoon of Ms. McCray, who is black, which ran during Mr. de Blasio’s nascent mayoral campaign and appeared to have soured him to the paper. He held a news conference at the time with the Rev. Al Sharpton in Harlem to condemn the imagery and demand that the paper “leave my wife alone.”

Peter Ragone, a former top adviser who has shaped much of the mayor’s thinking on the media, said the important thing for voters was that the mayor spoke “authentically.”

Mr. Ragone, who still informally counsels the mayor, said in an interview on Friday, “Voters value mayors calling it as they see it.”

He suggested that the mayor has been speaking his mind about more than just Mr. Cuomo and The Post. “I don’t think it’s fair to just pick those two episodes,” Mr. Ragone said. “I think it’s the way he’s been from the beginning. I think it’s one of the reasons he won in the first place.”

A spokeswoman for The Post declined to comment. But if the paper’s front-page image did not speak volumes, it also offered an editorial on Friday that elaborated on the caricature: “We’re not about to tone things down to soothe his hurt feelings.”

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Someone Mailed Feces to Four Philosophers: A Disquisition

The package received by Carolyn Jennings, one of four academic philosophers who received mailings containing feces. Credit Carolyn Jennings

Philosophy is generally concerned with higher truths. But this week, conversation in the profession turned to decidedly lower-order functions, after word emerged that four philosophers loosely connected through a long-running, multisided argument with one of the field’s most vocal figures had been sent packages filled with excrement.

The mailings, which were received over the summer, were reported on Thursday by BuzzFeed. They involved three professors in the United States and one in Canada, all of whom have pushed back against what they and many others see as the field’s hostility to women and minorities as well as its overly brutal style of argument.

Within hours, comments — and more than a few unprintable jokes — were flying, along with speculation about who was responsible, as well whether the fecal mailings were symbolic, or merely redolent of, the broader controversies roiling the field.

“Some people were like, ‘This is as bad as it can get, hopefully,’” said Justin Weinberg, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina and the editor of Daily Nous, a philosophy blog. “Others were like, ‘This just sums up how bad things are.’”

For his part, Mr. Weinberg took a rigorously empirical stance.

“What’s likely happened is that one person who has problems sent their feces to other philosophers,” he said.


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Those philosophers include Sally Haslanger at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, J. David Velleman of New York University, Carolyn Dicey Jennings of the University of California at Merced and Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins of the University of British Columbia.

While the sender of the packages remains unknown, speculation quickly centered on Brian Leiter, a legal philosopher at the University of Chicago Law School and a famously hard-charging voice in the field, whose return address was on one of the packages. All four philosophers who received the packages have tangled with him over the boundary between intellectual combat and bullying, as well as his own influence. A few hours before the BuzzFeed article appeared, he posted on his blog, denying that he was involved and noting that he had been aware of some mailings since August, but had declined to write about them, since “publicity tends to encourage lunatics.”

“There is no pleasure for me in knowing there is someone out there so obsessed with me and so deranged that they would pull a vile stunt like this,” he added in an email.

It can be difficult to get disinterested comments on Mr. Leiter, a longtime academic kingmaker thanks to Philosophical Gourmet Report, a website that ranks philosophy departments. Two years ago, Mr. Leiter agreed to step down as editor of the report after more than 600 philosophers signed a statement protesting what were characterized as his “derogatory and intimidating remarks about Ms. Jenkins” after she posted online a pledge not to treat other philosophers and their work “in ways that are belittling, trivializing and/or exclusionary.’”

(On his post about the mailings, Mr. Leiter called that petition part of a “smear campaign.”)

Ms. Haslanger, who signed the statement, and Mr. Velleman, who did not sign, also posted online some of Mr. Leiter’s email correspondence with Ms. Jenkins and others, as part of a “statement of concern” over what they called “serious and credible threats aimed at silencing the recipients.”

Ms. Jennings, for her part, had posted online a critique of the Gourmet Report’s methodology, which she said Mr. Leiter insisted she take down. (She did not.)

Some in the field have come to Mr. Leiter’s defense against accusations that he was involved with the mailings. David Wallace, a philosopher of science at the University of Southern California, in a long comment thread on Daily Nous disputed the suggestion in that thread that Mr. Leiter may have sent the feces.

“I don’t really see any plausible way of interpreting this as anything other than third-party malice,” he wrote. (In an email, Mr. Wallace declined to comment further.)

In an interview, Ms. Jennings said she couldn’t be sure that Mr. Leiter was involved but that the incident still reflected on him.


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“It’s another thing coming from his direction, whether it’s from him or another person supporting him or an enemy of his,” she said. “The only reason I would be getting this is because he’s decided to make a mockery of my work.”

Mr. Weinberg echoed that view. “I don’t think he did it. But the fact that a not-trivial number of people are entertaining the idea tells you something about him and the kind of culture he’s fostered in the discipline, more than it tells us something about philosophy as a whole,” he said.

Asked to respond to that sentiment, Mr. Leiter said by email, “I’m appalled that these academics have received these vile packages, and if my disputes with others outside philosophy played a role in their being targeted, I’m truly sorry about that.”

Ms. Haslanger said that while she had no idea who had sent the feces, the packages were intended to send a very distinct message.

“It’s clearly directed at people who are trying to improve the profession,” she said. “For me, it just shows that our profession is totally unwilling to be corrected.”

Correction: October 7, 2016

An earlier version of this article misidentified the university where Justin Weinberg teaches; it is the University of South Carolina, not the University of Southern California.

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Thomson Reuters to Add Up to 1,500 Jobs in Toronto

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, with Jim Smith, the chief executive of Thomson Reuters. Credit Mark Blinch/Reuters

OTTAWA — Thomson Reuters, the news and digital information company, said on Friday that it planned to add 400 jobs in downtown Toronto over the next two years as part of a northern expansion that could create up to 1,500 jobs.

As part of the change, Thomson Reuters’s chief executive and chief financial officers will move to Toronto from the United States.

The power shift within the company, which Thomson Reuters said would include additional executives over time, came with a decision to make Toronto a technology hub for its operations.

Although the company has had its legal headquarters in Toronto since the Thomson family’s company acquired Reuters in 2008, its top executives are now based in New York and Stamford, Conn.

Reuters, the company’s news agency, reported that Jim Smith, the chief executive, told employees in a memo that the move would allow Thomson Reuters to “take a technology leadership position in the region.”


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The company said it would continue to maintain a strong presence in its news hubs in London, Hong Kong and New York.

The announcement comes after a decision by General Motors in June to create as many as 1,000 technology positions in Canada, mostly in the Toronto area. Those new employees will focus on several technologies, including self driving vehicles.

Both companies said they were partly attracted to Canada’s largest city because of the software skills of graduates from Ontario universities, notably the University of Waterloo. Immigration laws also make it easier for companies to import skilled workers to Canada compared with the United States.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a news conference that no financial government assistance was provided.

“This was about smoothing red tape,” Mr. Trudeau said.

Thomson Reuters, a publicly traded company, is already based in Toronto. The members of Thomson family mainly live in the city, and their private holding company is based there.

Cameron Ahmad, Mr. Trudeau’s press secretary, said the prime minister and Chrystia Freeland, the international trade minister, had held several meetings with Mr. Smith in New York and Davos, Switzerland, to discuss the move.

Ms. Freeland previously held senior editorial positions at Reuters and was also deputy editor of The Globe and Mail, a Toronto newspaper owned by the Thomsons’ private holding company.

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