Aug 10, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🐻 Smokey the Bear turns 75. The prowler-and-growler became the official fire-prevention poster creature for the U.S. Forest Service in August, 1944, replacing Bambi. (Reuters)

Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,194 words ... ~ 4 minutes.

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1 big thing: Media struggle to talk about race

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The role of race in the recent hate-fueled violence — along with President Trump's increasingly brazen embrace of racist stereotypes and language — has highlighted the news media's struggles in talking about race, hate and other painful issues of divisiveness, Axios' Ursula Perano writes.

  • Why it matters: News organizations are expected to stick to the facts and avoid taking sides, but they're under growing pressure not to mislabel statements and actions that most Americans would consider racist.
  • And the lack of diversity in newsrooms means many have blind spots on issues of race that become obvious in their coverage.

Driving the news: The New York Times came under fire Monday night for the first-edition headline "Trump Urges Unity vs. Racism" on an article about the president's remarks on mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

  • While the article itself was considered fair, the headline was criticized for focusing solely on Trump’s remarks, and disregarding the hostility of his previous tweets and statements.
  • The Times changed the headline for the next edition to: "Assailing Hate Not Guns." (See the two headlines.)
  • Times executive editor Dean Baquet told The Atlantic's Lizzie O’Leary: "Part of our job is to make the country look itself in the face."

The big picture: Across the board, newsrooms have drawn backlash for their coverage of recent events.

  • Lulu Garcia-Navarro, host of NPR’s "Weekend Edition Sunday," writes for The Atlantic that many newsrooms failed to fully address the shooting in El Paso as it relates to hate. While mass shootings have become alarmingly common, ones where the victims are hunted because of their ethnicity are less so. The shooter admitted to police he drove 650 miles to the Texas Walmart to shoot Mexicans.
  • Politico was criticized for writing that Trump's tweets attacking Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and his Baltimore district, which is primarily black, were a continuation of his "racially charged drumbeat." As many on Twitter noted, racism is not a song.
  • And we've been wrong as well. Axios first dubbed the tweets against the congresswomen a "nativist attack." After internal discussions, we decided to characterize such comments as "racist" in future coverage.
  • But NPR got backlash for calling the tweets racist, with public editor Elizabeth Jensen writing that her inbox was filled with "passionate (and yes, often angry)" reader and listener responses against the decision.

Between the lines: The standards of journalism require us to avoid emotional judgment in order to provide a factual report. Describing statements or actions as racist when they are is part of factual reporting.

  • Columbia University's Bill Grueskin, a former journalist, told AP that the stakes now are similar to the civil rights movement, a moral issue that was so clear that some reporters abandoned their usual reluctance to suggest who was right and wrong.

Newsrooms could improve in several ways:

  • Newsrooms are still overwhelmingly white. While there's been improvement, a 2016 study from the American Society of News Editors found that the minority workforce in traditional print and digital news publications only reached 17%. When underserved voices are not given a role in coverage, that coverage suffers.
  • What makes journalists different, be it sexuality, gender identity, race or ethnicity, can often be seen as a bias. In fact, these differences strengthen coverage and make news stories more accurate.

Our thought bubble: Axios has room to grow, and we love your critiques and suggestions. Just reply to this email, or drop me a line at

2. Trump: Raids will go on "for a long time"
Co-workers and family wave to one of several buses that were filled with detainees after an immigration raid at a chicken-processing plant in Morton, Miss. Photo: Rogelio V. Solis/AP

"The White House has told ICE officials to conduct dozens more workplace enforcement operations this year, a senior immigration official with knowledge of the conversations told CNN."

  • "Those operations can include criminal investigations, business audits and raids."

President Trump said yesterday on the South Lawn: "[T]his serves as a very good deterrent. ... And when people see what they saw yesterday, and like they will see for a long time, they know that they’re not staying here."

3. Facebook gives candidates an early 50-state face
Expand chart
Data: Bully Pulpit Interactive 2020 Campaign Tracker (March 30 to July 27). Chart: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The Democratic presidential campaigns already have 50-state strategies online, driven by requirements of broad support to qualify for debates, Axios media trends expert Sara Fischer writes.

  • For the third debate (Houston in mid-September), the DNC requires at least 130,000 unique donors, including at least 400 unique donors in 20 or more states, plus at least 2% support in 4 designated polls.

The Trump campaign also continues to spend heavily online, according to Facebook data from Bully Pulpit Interactive.

  • Trump has spent most heavily in Texas and Florida.
4. Pic du jour
Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

In El Paso, pallbearers wheel the casket of Angelina Englisbee, 86, a victim of last weekend's massacre, following her funeral mass at St. Pius X Church.

  • She had eight children and had just gotten off a phone call with one of her sons, while in the checkout line, when the shooting began.

Sneak peek ... Sixteen 2020 Democrats (plus Beto by video from El Paso) are expected in Des Moines today for the Gun Safety Presidential Forum, organized by Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund after last weekend's massacres.

  • Mike Bloomberg will say: “We are seeing historic unity in the Democratic Party on gun safety. ... Now, we've got to take that unity we’ve built and translate it into action in Washington.”
  • Livestream beginning at 9:30 a.m. ET.
5. 🚕 D.C. offers free taxi for grocery desert

An innovation for our door-to-door times ... D.C. has "come up with an eye-popping transportation deal for people in some of the city’s lowest-income neighborhoods," the WashPost's Michael Laris writes:

  • "The city is offering free three-mile taxi rides for residents and visitors to buy groceries at Safeway, Giant, Harris Teeter, Whole Foods and a Martha’s Table food pantry in Wards 7 and 8, or across the Anacostia River in Ward 6."
  • Why it matters: David Do, director of the District’s Department of For-Hire Vehicles, said the program is designed to make sure people who don't have a car "connect to the freshest and most nutritious foods."

How it works: "The city will pay the first $10 of the taxi fare, which ... covers about 3.5 to 4 miles, and officials have budgeted $65,000 for the pilot."

  • "The program has no income or residency requirements."

An earlier version of the Taxi-to-Rail program, which offered people east of the Anacostia River a ride to Metro in a D.C. Yellow Cab for only $3, had trouble getting riders, The Post reported last month:

  • "[F]or reasons that are unclear — possibly because $3 is too much in lower income communities, or that not many know about it, or that traditional cabs are out of vogue in the age of Lyft and Uber — hardly anyone has been using the program. There were only about 40 subsidized rides in May and June."
  • Now, the program offers a free cab ride of up to $10.

Taxi-to-Rail "Quick Booker."

6. 1 cub thing
Photo via AP

Giant panda mother Hao Hao holds one of her twin babies in her mouth at the zoo in Brugelette, Belgium.

  • The wildlife park, Pairi Daiza, said in a tweet that Hao Hao, a panda loaned by China in 2014, has given birth to "two little 'pink shrimps.'"
  • The twins were born Thursday, the 8th day of the 8th month, and the park notes that the number 8 is considered lucky in Chinese culture. (AP)
Photo News via Getty Images
Mike Allen

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