Morning talk shows after scandals


Staff & Wire Reports

This combination photo shows Matt Lauer, former co-host of the "Today" show, left, and Charlie Rose, former co-host of "CBS This Morning." A year after morning news shows at NBC and CBS abruptly lost male anchors Lauer  and Rose in sexual misconduct scandals, the "Today" show has done appreciably better weathering the storm. (AP Photo)

This combination photo shows Matt Lauer, former co-host of the "Today" show, left, and Charlie Rose, former co-host of "CBS This Morning." A year after morning news shows at NBC and CBS abruptly lost male anchors Lauer and Rose in sexual misconduct scandals, the "Today" show has done appreciably better weathering the storm. (AP Photo)

‘Today’ fares better than CBS after loss of male anchors


AP Media Writer

Thursday, December 20

NEW YORK (AP) — A year after morning news shows at CBS and NBC abruptly lost male anchors Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer in sexual misconduct scandals, the “Today” show has done appreciably better weathering the storm.

Momentum at “CBS This Morning,” the most buzzworthy morning show for a handful of years, stopped dead with Rose’s firing. Last week CBS announced the exit of Ryan Kadro, the show’s top executive who had worked there since its 2012 launch, leaving an uncertain future.

“Today” is hardly problem-free — remember Megyn Kelly? — but it has the steadiest audience of all three network morning shows. The elevation of Hoda Kotb into Lauer’s role is widely perceived as a winner.

Rose lost his job in November 2017 following allegations of improper behavior with women who had worked with him. Lauer’s downfall, also due to reports of inappropriate relationships with women, came less than two weeks later.

The NBC show currently averages 4 million viewers a morning, a 3 percent drop from 2017 before Lauer’s exit, the Nielsen company said. CBS has lost 10 percent of its audience in the same period, to just under 3.2 million. ABC’s “Good Morning America,” the first-place broadcast with 4.1 million viewers, lost 5 percent of its audience.

The long history of “Today” likely helps it absorb hits. The show launched in 1952 and while it has had missteps — it has never recovered the dominance it enjoyed prior to the ham-fisted departure of Ann Curry a decade ago — “Today” viewers can be confident it will be around tomorrow.

“It just has the strongest DNA out of all the morning shows,” said Shelley Ross, who produced rivals at ABC and CBS.

For much of the past half-century, CBS has been an after-thought in the mornings, a distant third-place broadcast that changed names, formats and personalities as often as an impatient designer changes paint. That’s what made “CBS This Morning” so encouraging; with a newsy emphasis, it gained a larger share of the audience in the morning and was now competitive in a lucrative marketplace.

Rose, a skillful interviewer who moonlighted on both “60 Minutes” and his own PBS show, teamed with Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell.

In retrospect, Rose seemed more important to the success and chemistry of his show at the time than Lauer did. Rose was replaced by former “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson and, in October, Bianna Golodryga was added as a fourth anchor.

Lauer spent two decades as “Today” co-host, and in his heyday with Katie Couric was part of the most successful anchor team in morning show history. But his reputation took a significant hit with the Curry drama and he wasn’t as popular at the end of his run.

“There was concern when Matt Lauer left that they would be hurt more than turned out to be the case,” said Garth Tiedje, an analyst and senior vice president at Horizon Media.

In fact, Kotb earned the permanent job beside Savannah Guthrie after “Today” did unexpectedly well in the ratings when she was an emergency fill-in. Kotb’s “Q” score, a statistical measure of her popularity, is strong among women — who make up the bulk of morning news show audiences — and more than doubles Lauer’s last score among older women, according to Marketing Evaluations, Inc.

“Everybody loves Hoda,” Ross said. “She’s a magical part of the equation.”

That doesn’t mean everything is sunshine and flowers at “Today,” which has to be concerned about an erosion of younger women viewers. In the second week of December, its audience among 18-to-49-year-old viewers was down 23 percent compared to the same week in 2017, Nielsen said. It faces questions about its third hour following Kelly’s departure, and the fourth after Kathie Lee Gifford said she was leaving the show. NBC declined to comment.

The “Today” show executive producer, Libby Leist, was appointed to her job in January.

For all morning shows, the fact that more people wake up with a hand-held computer on their nightstands in addition to a television remote is ultimately a bigger concern than anchors who have lost their jobs.

In the days following Kadro’s departure, CBS dealt with damaging news stories suggesting that King was unhappy and considering leaving, and that networks were mulling a top-to-bottom renovation. The network declined comment on the reports or ratings, but said its newsy emphasis remains intact now and for the future.

The danger in responding to ratings weakness with big changes is that it could play into a narrative of CBS being less able than its rivals of being able to settle on one type of morning show for the long term.

“It’s always hard to fight against the pull of history if it’s a long trajectory,” Tiedje said. “But I also think that shouldn’t cloud the decisions that need to be made for the future.”

Judge: ‘No basis’ to throw out Weinstein’s sex assault case


Associated Press

Friday, December 21

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York judge declined to dismiss sexual assault charges against Harvey Weinstein Thursday, rejecting the disgraced Hollywood titan’s fierce push to have his indictment thrown out.

Judge James Burke’s ruling buoyed a prosecution that appeared on rocky ground in recent months amid a prolonged defense effort to raise doubts about the case and the police investigation.

It was also welcome news for the #MeToo movement, which took off last year after numerous women accused Weinstein of wrongdoing. About a half-dozen women, including actress Marisa Tomei, showed up to court wearing t-shirts from the anti-abuse organization Time’s Up.

Weinstein’s lawyers argued the case had been “irreparably tainted” by a detective’s alleged coaching of a potential witness and one of the accusers. They also said the grand jury that indicted Weinstein should have been shown friendly emails he exchanged with his two accusers after the alleged attacks.

But Burke ruled that Weinstein’s prosecutorial misconduct claims had “no basis” and that prosecutors were under no obligation to give the grand jury evidence favorable to the defense. He denied Weinstein’s demand for a hearing to examine the police investigation and rebuked his lawyers for what he said were “speculative” claims that political pressure had led to the charges.

“This court has found the grand jury presentation to be legally sufficient to support the charges and that the proceedings were properly conducted,” Burke wrote in a six-page opinion detailing his decision. “Dismissal is an exceptional remedy and only available in rare cases.”

Weinstein, 66, has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex. He is free on $1 million bail and left court without commenting. His next court appearance is scheduled for March 7.

Weinstein’s lawyer Benjamin Brafman said he was disappointed with the ruling but remains confident the former film producer will be “completely exonerated” at trial, which has not been scheduled.

“We intend to continue to vigorously defend this case to the best of our ability,” Brafman told reporters after the hearing. He said that Burke’s ruling “does not in any way suggest that the case against Mr. Weinstein is going to end badly.”

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office declined to comment.

Weinstein is charged with raping an unidentified female acquaintance in a hotel room in 2013 and performing a forcible sex act on a different woman in 2006. That woman’s lawyer, Gloria Allred, lauded Burke’s ruling, telling reporters afterward: “Mr. Weinstein shout have his day in court but so should the two women who are alleged to be the victims.”

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission.

Images of Weinstein in handcuffs last spring were seen by many women as a cathartic moment in the #MeToo reckoning, but the case against him appeared to wobble in recent months with allegations of police misconduct and the defense’s contention that they had evidence showing Weinstein’s relationships with his accusers were consensual.

Prosecutors dropped part of the case in October — an allegation that Weinstein forced an aspiring actress to perform oral sex — when evidence surfaced that Detective Nicholas DiGaudio instructed one potential witness to keep doubts about the veracity of the allegations to herself.

But Burke noted in his ruling that the charge was dismissed because prosecutors determined they may not have been able to prove it, not because they thought she lied.

With the rest of the case up in the air, Thursday’s hearing attracted extra attention. Dozens of reporters squeezed into the courtroom alongside Tomei, actress Amber Tamblyn and other celebrities there to support the accusers, while TV cameras filled the sidewalk outside.

“Today, here in New York, we saw the first steps towards justice,” Time’s Up President Lisa Borders said after the judge’s ruling. “Frankly, we are relieved that Harvey Weinstein failed in his efforts to avoid accountability for his actions.”

Had Burke tossed the case, it would have been a major setback for District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who faced sharp criticism for declining to pursue criminal charges when Weinstein was accused of groping an Italian model in 2015. Vance cited a lack of supporting evidence, despite a clandestine recording of Weinstein discussing the episode with the woman.

Burke’s ruling to move the case forward isn’t necessarily bad for Weinstein, either, because his lawyers will still have an opportunity to raise doubts about the case with the jury, former New York prosecutor Adam Citron said.

Weinstein’s lawyers have indicated that part of their defense will include a witness who will say Weinstein and the woman accusing him of rape had been “hooking up” for a while. They’ve also plucked emails from his movie studio’s servers they say showed Weinstein had friendly, consensual relationships with both women.

“It doesn’t mean they can’t raise these claims at trial,” said Citron, senior counsel with the New York firm Davidoff, Hutcher & Citron. “If anything, it may help the defense given the amount of media attention.”

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Ohio Coalition for Open Government

December 21, 2018

Editorial: Ohio bill to make public most police body camera records could become national model

Cleveland Plain Dealer Editorial

Now awaiting Ohio Senate action is a significant measure that, with a few tweaks, could become a national model by making police body camera footage a public record. A limited number of exceptions would rest mostly on personal privacy grounds. Substitute House Bill 425 has attracted no opposition, although Dennis Hetzel, president of the Ohio News Media Association, has suggested modest changes that could be made via amendments on the Senate floor.

In June, Ohio’s House voted 94-0 for HB 425. On Dec. 6, the Ohio Senate’s Government Oversight and Reform committee reported out a substitute bill on a similarly unanimous 10-0 vote. State Rep. Niraj Antani, a Miamisburg Republican who is the bill’s prime sponsor, said the Senate may vote on the bill today.

The bipartisan bill’s other prime sponsor is state Rep. Hearcel Craig, a Columbus Democrat. Co-sponsors include Democratic Reps. Stephanie Howse, of Cleveland; Kent Smith, of Euclid; and John Rogers, of Mentor on the Lake; and Republican Reps. Tom Patton, of Strongsville; and Steve Hambley, of Brunswick.

HB 425 “can be one of the nation’s best laws involving body cameras,” Hetzel said in Senate testimony last month — although he urged lawmakers to reduce the list of 17 new exceptions the bill would add to state public-records law.

Hetzel also argued the bill should be restricted to body cameras until more testimony could be heard on the implications of a House amendment that added police dashboard camera footage to the bill.

“Case law around dash cam footage is well established,” Hetzel said. The inclusion of dash cams in HB 425 was unnecessary, he added, “and deserves greater discussion.”

The Ohio ACLU’s Gary Daniels said the bill’s exemptions focused laudably on personal privacy issues, and testified to the Senate that passing HB 425 “will not only be good for Ohio, it will establish our legislature as a national leader on the best ways for state legislators to provide assistance on the use of police body cameras.”

Daniels did raise one concern, noting that additional legislation would still be needed to clarify when police body cameras had to be activated – or turned off.

Senators should consider floor amendments limiting HB 425 to body-camera footage until the implications of including police dashboard camera footage in the legislation can be more fully explored. Senators should also seek to reduce the number of exceptions the bill adds to Ohio’s public records law.

Overall, however, HB 425 is an excellent bill – a bipartisan Statehouse consensus that should help assure Ohioans of law-enforcement accountability.

OPINION: The Atlantic

Economics: The Discipline That Refuses to Change

Behavioral economics upended the idea that humans act solely in their rational self-interest. So why do most undergrads barely learn anything about the field?

Antara Haldar

Dec 14, 2018

In the late 1800s, one of the most enduring fictional characters of all time first appeared on the scene. No, I am not talking about Sherlock Holmes or Oliver Twist, but a less well-known though arguably more influential individual: Homo economicus.

Literally meaning “economic man,” the origins of the term Homo economicus are somewhat obscure—early references can be traced to the Oxford economist C. S. Devas in 1883—but his characteristics have become all too familiar. He is infinitely rational, possessing both unlimited cognitive capacity and access to information, but with the persona of the Marlboro Man: ruggedly self-centered, relentlessly materialistic, and a complete lone ranger. Homo economicus, created to personify the supposedly rational way humans behave in markets, quickly came to dominate economic theory.

But then in the 1970s, the psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky made a big discovery. The academics drew on psychological evidence to show that the actions of human beings deviate from the ironclad rationality of Homo economicus in all sorts of ways: People make systematic errors of judgment, such as being excessively attached to what they own, and yet are also more generous and cooperative than they’re given credit for. These insights led to the founding of a new field, behavioral economics, which became a household name 10 years ago, after Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler published the best-selling book Nudge and showed how this new understanding of human behavior could have major policy consequences. Last year, Thaler won the Nobel Prize in Economics, and promised to spend the $1.1 million in prize money “as irrationally as possible.”

But despite the fanfare, Homo economicus remains a stubbornly persistent part of the economics curriculum. While it is fashionable for most economics departments to have courses on behavioral economics, the core requirements in economics at many colleges are usually limited to only two substantive courses—one in microeconomics, which looks at how individuals optimize economic decisions, and another in macroeconomics, which focuses on national or regional markets as a whole. Not only is the study of behavioral economics largely optional, but the standard textbooks used by many college students make limited references to behavioral breakthroughs. Hal Varian’s Intermediate Microeconomics devotes only 16 of its 758 pages to behavioral economics, dismissing it as a blip in the grand scheme of things, an “optical illusion” that would disappear “if people took the time to consider choices carefully—applying the measuring stick of dispassionate rationality.” The staple textbook on macroeconomics, written by Gregory Mankiw, gives behavioral approaches even shorter shrift by scarcely mentioning them at all.

Instead, the overwhelming majority of courses that students take in economics are heavily focused on statistics and econometrics. In 2010, the Institute for New Economic Thinking convened a task force to study the undergraduate economics curriculum, following up on a report from 1991. What changed in the intervening years, it found, was “an increase in mathematical and technical sophistication” that was “not sufficient to foster habits of intellectual inquiry.” In other words, Homo economicus is going strong in lecture halls and textbooks across the country.

Economists’ resistance to incorporate the wisdom of behavioral approaches may seem like a frivolous concern confined to the ivory tower, but it has serious consequences. What students are taught in their economics classes can perversely turn models and charts that are meant to approximate reality into aspirational ideals for it. Most economics majors are first introduced to Homo economicus as impressionable college freshmen and internalize its values: Studies show, for instance, that taking economics courses can make people actively more selfish. The consequences are only made more acute by the fact that business, a more preprofessional version of economics, is the single most popular major for college students in the United States—some 40 percent of undergraduates take at least one course in economics. That behavioral economics has been minimized and treated as an aberration by the mainstream has major bearings on how students make sense of markets and the world.

What is so surprising about the hesitancy of economists today to absorb the learnings of behavioral economics is that until the appearance of Homo economicus, invoking psychology in the teaching of economics was standard. At the University of Cambridge, for instance, before a stand-alone department was established in 1903, economics was taught alongside psychology and philosophy. Only after World War II, when the center of gravity of the discipline shifted across the Atlantic, did the rupture became so stark. The dawn of the American era in economics marked a more intense commitment to mathematical analysis, at the exclusion of all else.

This profound change in the economics curriculum has resulted in a discipline that is sterile, tone-deaf, and lacking an emotional pulse—but also one that has proved ineffective in its explanatory and predictive capacities. Economists don’t exactly have a great track record at anticipating the pertinent developments of late: The discipline as a whole was caught off guard by the Great Recession in 2008 and has been late to recognize the skyrocketing rise of inequality. It is even more ill-equipped to deal with looming seismic shifts on the horizon, such as the accelerating effects of climate change or how advances in artificial intelligence will affect workers. Given the greatly amplified role of professional economists at every level of policy making, the extent to which economics is disconnected from reality is becoming more alarming.

Making behavioral economics compulsory isn’t a cure-all for the ills of the economics discipline, but doing so would go a long way in encouraging students to think about building economic models around actual human beings rather than around the caricature that is Homo economicus. If there’s a deeper lesson to come out of the behavioral revolution, it’s that the vagaries of human behavior make it very difficult to model as a pure science, and economists have a lot to learn from other disciplines, including other social sciences and the humanities. This may mean a dose of humility for economists, but it would enrich both the education that their students receive and their prospects of making positive change in the real world.

So because rumors of the demise of Homo economicus have been greatly exaggerated, economics professors today still have the chance to cast aside this antiquated character once and for all.

Antara Haldar is a law professor at the University of Cambridge.

This combination photo shows Matt Lauer, former co-host of the "Today" show, left, and Charlie Rose, former co-host of "CBS This Morning." A year after morning news shows at NBC and CBS abruptly lost male anchors Lauer and Rose in sexual misconduct scandals, the "Today" show has done appreciably better weathering the storm. (AP Photo) combination photo shows Matt Lauer, former co-host of the "Today" show, left, and Charlie Rose, former co-host of "CBS This Morning." A year after morning news shows at NBC and CBS abruptly lost male anchors Lauer and Rose in sexual misconduct scandals, the "Today" show has done appreciably better weathering the storm. (AP Photo)

Staff & Wire Reports