Beta Files Podcast
Subject: National News Cycle
April 13, 2018. Paul Ryan throws in the towel, Trump and Russia play footsies over Syria and missiles, Michael Cohen gets a visit by the FBI, Mark Zuckerberg tries to explain Facebook to a bunch of out of touch white guys, and Mike Pence finally gets to realize his lifelong dream of ministering to the people of the Amazon – We need a bigger boat – I’m the Barbour and this is the Beta Files…
Welcome to the BetaFiles week six. On the show this week, we continue our look at education and the attitude towards teachers. We’ll also look at Mr. Zuckerberg and whether his trip to Washington was successful or not, and Exactly how effective was Paul Ryan as speaker of the house? We’ll take a quick look.
Dr J will stop by to talk to us about the national media and its effect on all of us, and in my final segment I will continue the observations with a commentary on how the Times and the Post are changing the way we look at print news.
But first, before we go any further, a programming note. In the very first episode, I mentioned that we were experimenting and that our format would evolve as time progressed. When I originally set out to do this, the plan was for a 20- 30 minute show that just skimmed over the major headlines of the day with a slight twist, a cool little phone conversation with a really close friend, and a final segment that would give some commentary on our little world. Last week I announced a new segment that will focus on Local News, and this past week I started a series of short, 2-3 minute Daily rundowns of the main headlines for the day. Both of these have opened up a possibility of reshaping the format of the show a little, so, that’s exactly what will happen. In addition to the new local segment, the headlines segment will be replaced with a news segment that will only focus on a two or three stories from the week instead of the 6 – 9 stories we’ve been doing. Dr J will still be here to discuss whatever, and we will still do a short commentary at the end, so not a huge change, just a couple of small ones.
There has also been some changes to our website, and I encourage you to please check it out. In addition to our DailyFiles and BetaFiles audio shows, we are starting to add written content for what we are calling The WrittenFiles. The cool thing is that I am not the only author, as we are slowly building a small army of writers who are adding content to help us out. So swing by thebetafiles.com to see what goodies we have posted. There’s also an archive of the podcast, and the current week’s DailyFiles.
We want to grow this thing, even though we are still trying to figure out exactly what this thing is. So help us out by paying us a visit, and reading some of our stories.
Now that I have gotten all of the self plugging out of the way, let’s take a quick look at the LocalFiles…(soudbite)
This week’s Local Story comes from the Grand Island Independent of Broken Bow, Nebraska. The headline, “Broken Bow continues its recent momentum.”
Apparently, the small town in central Nebraska, whose high on Wednesday was 80, with a winter storm advisory for Saturday, has seen a ton of local improvements to its community, and isn’t expected to end anytime soon. In addition to a $2.2 Million library expansion, new recreation trails that lead hikers downtown so they can see the new judicial building, bandstand, and a host of new businesses, Broken Bow is seeing progress at a time when the Midwest is at the center of a looming trade war with China. The small community of 3,500 is set to include a new fire hall this spring to add to the growing list of improvements to the town.
City Administrator Brent Clark helped kickstart the recent focus on re-inventing the town’s image when he took his daughters to the library a couple of years ago to see Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. He noted that the need to rethink the town and its landmarks came as he waited twice as long in line then when he took the girls to Disney World the summer before.
Clark has been key to the addition of new buildings and renovated spaces both downtown, and in the outlying areas including a new sandhills Journey nature trail that outlines the history of the area, and the Dairy Queen Grill and Chill, the areas first prominent fast food chain. Deb McCaslin, Custer County Economic Development executive director, hopes the move by DQ will entice other fast food chains to look at the possibilities Broken Bow has to offer.
The other major improvement to Broken Bow has been the new hotel, the Arrow Hotel East which was built to replace Broken Bow’s old hotel that was lost to a fire. The hotel, with 20 rooms available to travelers, is the center piece to getting more visitors to stop by and take a load off. Anne Thomas, one of the owners of the hotel, pointed out that “If you want grow, you have to fix up.” And that is exactly what Broken Bow is doing.
Brent Clark noted in the article, “it’s been a great success story for Broken Bow for the last 10 years” as he sees his little town as a progressive town eager to get things done.
And that’s all for the LocalFiles for this week, remember, if you have a local story you want read on the BetaFiles, email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send it through Facebook messenger or Twitter DM. You can find us on both networks as thebetafiles. (exit soundbite)
The Week in News:
In a time of darkness and cold, when all seems lost to tweets and snatch grabbing, there’s one place that Americans can find solace – the BetaFiles week in News…(soundbite)
This past week saw a flurry of activity on Capital Hill as several more Judicial Nominees went before hearings, Paul Ryan announced his retirement, and both Senators and Representatives had the opportunity to grill Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg for nearly ten hours on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Zuckerberg, who spent the majority of the time explaining the basic operations of Facebook, was met on Tuesday with an army of cardboard cutouts of himself wearing a tee-shirt that bore the message “Fix Facebook.” His demeanor, however, was rather calm, and the not quite ready for public speaking Harvard grad handled himself quite well under the intense scrutiny over what Farmville did with all those pictures of Senators mistresses.
The face of the social media giant repeatedly explained how ad placement worked on Facebook, assuring congress that Facebook never sold user data to the agencies, but rather used public data posted by users to target ads FOR the agencies, without the agencies ever having any contact with the data. He also reiterated repeatedly that the social network was not in control of the data, but instead the user as it is the user who is able to control what is shown online and what is not.
However, it was revealed in the hearings that Facebook does indeed track what you do when you are NOT logged into Facebook through that little Facebook Like button that is scattered all over the net.
Here’s what happens: when you like a website when you are away from Facebook, the action collects information from your cookies, the website you liked, and matches these data points to your account so Facebook can then use that information to customize your ad experience in your newsfeed.
In other words, Facebook really is tracking you, and they’re doing it so they can advertise more crap to you as you scroll through Aunt Darlene’s photos of the beach trip last summer.
So the whole thing comes down to two sides: yes, Facebook is watching you all the time. That is creepy as hell. No, they do not care what you actually do on Facebook, they only care about how to target you with ads. It’s a more precise version of what TV and radio advertisers have been doing for decades. You don’t sell a luxury sedan who’s base price is $75,000 during the afternoon block of SpongeBob and Timmy Turner, nor do you sell concert tickets to Cardi-B on a country music station. We have been targeted for a long time, Facebook, however, has found a way to drill down further than we’ve been able to before. And, as it bears repeating, they are able to do so because we give them the data to do it with, so if you don’t want to receive ads about jet skis, don’t post those pics of the trip to the lake a few weeks ago. Facebook is watching.
In other news on capital hill, Paul Ryan is ending his tenure as Speaker of the House in January when the new congress comes in. The move assures that we will have a brand new speaker regardless of which party has the majority.
Ryan’s tenure as Speaker has been an interesting journey, as he has seen his once promising career as a possible Presidential Candidate become nothing more than a lost dream that seems so far fetched that he would have a better chance of winning a Bingo tournament against the wives of the Sioux City Masons.
Ryan lost control of the Republican Party he inherited from John Boehner in 2015 when Boehner gave up fighting a Tea Party movement that Ryan worked better with. His fiscal conservative tactics, and desire to actually work with “the other side,” was a welcomed breath of fresh air as Ryan was able to do what Boehner was unable to do: calm the Tea Party down, and get them under control.
Ryan appeared to be on a trajectory that would have landed him in the White House, but then Trump happened. And at the outset of Trump’s campaign, Ryan warned of Trump’s divisive tactics, noting several times that the way to progress was cooperation towards compromise, not division. The message divided the Republican base, and in the results of the 2016 Presidential election, Ryan watched as his hopes of a turn at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave started to catch fire. By the end of the first year of Trump’s Presidency, Ryan’s aspirations were engulfed in a five-alarm flame, and by the time of his announcement on Wednesday, they were nothing more than ashes on the floor that Trump walks over.
Regardless of what you may or may not think about Ryan or Boehner, the past two speakers of the House have been forced by new radical ideologies that alienate them, demands of conformity or political death, and new conservative policies that are based partially on right wing fringe groups built on fear of the other to abandon their own ideologies and long held beliefs just for the sake of survival.
Ryan, who claimed he wanted to spend more time with his children, is heading back to Wisconsin – that stronghold of conservative radicalism – where we can only hope that he will take time to re-group and let this Trumpocracy play out before re-emerging as the once strong candidate he once was. It is a hope that the Republican party needs to cling to if they want to seriously return to a single, solid, traditional conservative message.
Finally, Teacher strikes. Oklahoma spent their second week on strike and campaigning in Oklahoma City to force the state legislature to set aside more funding for schools after the legislature a few weeks ago agreed to an on average $6000 raise for the teachers.
The move, according to the teachers and their supporters, was not enough. They want better books, they want better facilities, they want better desks for their students. In other words, they are tired of being forgotten.
Several problems led to the strike, all financial. First was pay; One of the biggest issues for the state is retention of teachers as Northern Texas has slowly been luring Oklahoma teachers away with nearly $15 to $20,000 more in salaries for first year teachers. This, plus a better benefits package, and a clear attention to facilities and supplies, has forced Oklahoma teachers to abandon the state and head south where they are welcomed with open arms.
The second problem is supplies. Tales all over articles and news casts over the past few weeks have told of outdated books that are being held together by duct tape, desks that are falling apart, and 1970s style technology in the classrooms. One story reported the fact that one elementary student was assigned a text book that was once used by Country superstar Blake Shelton. In 1982.
The third problem is facilities. Again, stories all over the net point to deteriorating buildings, four day school weeks, maintenance issues that border on the hazardous, and occupation limits for students.
All three of these issues stem from one major action: continued strip mining of the Oklahoma education system by a Republican led legislature. So many are fed up, that numerous teachers and administrators have signed on to campaign for state office in the upcoming midterm elections. Their objective: if the current legislature won’t do anything about the current crisis, they will get in there and do it themselves.
Oklahoma’s strike is the central strike at the moment as Kentucky has been fighting an on again, off again battle over pension reform and salary cuts, and in Arizona, tensions are building as it is rumored that the teachers of that state may be on strike as early as nest week, demanding a 20% pay hike and a promise of at least $1.5 billion in funding, demands that the Governor has repeatedly told the press “will not happen.”
All of these stem from the highly successful West Virginia walk outs last month which resulted in higher pay, and legislation for more money allocated to the system for better funding. As these three states are in the throws of trying to repeat the same success their peers accomplished, other states are watching as well, and the trend may continue into the midterm season in the fall.
What is clear, however, is that the strikes have shed light on the broad and deep lying problem of education funding in this country. It is also another hit to the Republican party, who have wielded so much control over the past couple of decades at the state level, and slashed so much of the funding for education in the reddest states in the country. It lends to the argument of the blue wave that may be coming in November, and shows that it isn’t just the nationally known Republicans who run Capital Hill, but the Republicans all the way down to the local level, and how their fiscal policies are finally coming under significant attack. As tax cuts were implemented with the promise of long lasting economic improvements, and better social living, the cuts have instead led to an erosion of communities basic needs, and the largest need for these communities is a good education system. Not an excellent or outstanding educations system, a simple basic good one. And the fact that all over the country we have seen education systems fall below the good standard to the barely surviving level, ensures that whether Republicans hold on to power in November or not, the constituents for each state legislature will not rest until these long term policies are reversed, and public education is once again given the attention it deserves.
And if it continues to be successful, we may just see this happen in other public sectors that have taken huge cuts during the same period.
And that’s the news, or some of it, for this week…(exit soundbite)
Dr J Segment:
(soundbite for J)
Ok –it is time to welcome my dear friend and colleague Dr. J. who is here to join me in a short discussion about national media and how it shapes our understanding of the world…What’s up, man?
As always, thanks to Dr J for stopping by and talking with us.
In my final segment this week, I want to stay with national media, and look at the two largest news papers in our culture: The New York Times and The Washington Post. Now, this is not a conversation about fake news or liberal bias. Instead, I want to look at the unique way that the two print giants have adjusted to the new digital era, and have been rather successful at keeping themselves relevant, in fact, the two have actually become more relevant than they were thanks to the digital realm.
Both organizations have done two rather ingenious things that have helped boost their income and strengthen their business: one, they offer affordable monthly subscriptions to all of their digital content, and two, they each have utilized the podcast to help supplement specific corners of the news market, podcasts, by the way, that are part of the digital subscription.
The digital subscription model allows both papers to reach a much larger, much more diverse audience that in turn demands a broader understanding of what content they choose to run, adding to the quality of material presented to the public, and an increase in their true credibility. In both cases, it was what was needed for the organizations, because just ten years ago they were both in serious trouble. The Times was in the middle of a slew of Plagiarism scandals, and the Post was in another economic crisis, waiting to be saved by a large investor willing to sink enough money into it so it could reinvent itself for the new digital age. In both cases, the two most recognized papers in the country were looking with uncertainty at the future, and where they fit into it with Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, and a pluthera of online blogs and loosely termed news sites all competing for the one thing both papers helped set the standard for.
What they have done since then has re-invented the news again, establishing themselves as the main sources for journalists to pull research from, getting the headlines to your smart phone with detailed, credible language that the cable news networks quote verbatim without question.
And they lead the fight to set the pace for the day’s news, battling the twitter account of Trump as he and his morning briefers at Fox and Friends influence the cable news channels at every quarter hour update; bait that neither paper bites at.
But I think the most impressive thing about these two papers is the fact that the more the conservative right screams that these two organizations hide behind bias that turns their news into fake stories, the more credible they become. Their research is always solid and reliable, and the amount of retractions remains low compared to their television counterparts.
The stunt a few months ago of a conservative watch dog group who tried to catch the Post off guard with a fake story only proved that the papers really are on top of their game.
Before running the story that was based on a bogus story from a true crisis actor, they reporters who were handed the story did what they always do, they dug into the facts behind the story. They found the real story which was that it was fake, and meant to see if they would find it. They did. They passed. And they reported the real facts.
And that’s the show for this week. Next week, we’ll have another fun look at the headlines from the week, Dr J will join me for a fun discussion about who knows what, and so much more. For Dr J, I am The Barbour, thank you for coming by. Make it a great day, and always remember, as long as the sun rises there is opportunity. Take it…
This has been the BetaFiles.