September 14, 2018

Reflections from the TFS Team

We're officially on Insta! Did I throw on a blazer at 5 am for all you lovely people? You bet I did!

Dear readers,

Happy Friday! Before we get down to our usual business, we’re going to try something new.

Over the past year we’ve received lots of questions about our process: how we choose what to cover, which articles to highlight, etc. While we try to answer them as best as we can, we thought it’d be fun/illuminating to highlight our daily struggles using real-world examples.

Here are some questions we regularly ask ourselves:

Are we covering trending topics that are substantive and/or provide fresh perspectives?

Some topics that didn’t make the cut this week include: Omarosa, Serena Williams, and the Nike ad controversy.

To what extent can we avoid inflammatory language without watering down a viewpoint?

We walk a fine line trying to accurately portray each side’s arguments without adding fuel to the partisan fire. For example, in our coverage of President Obama’s speech last Friday, we chose not to include quotes on the left calling President Trump authoritarian or quotes on the right claiming President Obama is a failed president.

Do we cover potentially substantive issues that are only being discussed on one side?

This is an ongoing philosophical question for us. On the one hand, we do think part of bursting media bubbles should be to alert each side of news stories on the other side. On the other hand, it strikes us as unfair to provide readers with only one side of the arguments.

Wednesday night was an especially late night as we went through three topics before finally settling on the fourth. The topics we didn’t choose were:

  • Right coverage / scant left coverage: New Strzok-Page texts indicate there may have been coordinated leaks within the intelligence community soon after the 2016 election
  • Left coverage / scant right coverage: On Wednesday, President Trump signed an executive order enabling sanctions to be placed on foreign countries who interfere in our elections. While conservative media outlets did report the news, there was little opinion/analysis

What we do is often more art than science. We like to think we get it right more often than not, but we can always do better. Please keep your feedback coming!

We hope you enjoyed this glimpse into our decision-making process. For more insight please visit our FAQ page. Now back to our regular programming!


See past issues

The left takes Mueller’s letter and Barr’s testimony as confirmation that Barr is behaving more like Trump’s defense attorney than the U.S. Attorney General.

“It turns out that young Trump's claim to great riches was, at times, completely made up. He was, instead, desperately burdened by debt that topped $1 billion. It seems that his business acumen was at best questionable, at worst fake… The man Trump presented in his book ‘The Art of the Deal’ was a fiction.”
Michael D'Antonio, CNN

Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) “attempted to justify the law’s scientifically questionable reliance on the detectable heartbeat standard based on the notion that dead people no longer have a pulse... [but] under Georgia law and the 1981 Uniform Determination of Death Act, the determination of whether a person is alive is not, in fact, dependent on whether they have a pulse but whether they have sustained ‘irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions, or irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem.’”
Josh Israel, ThinkProgress

An Alabama Doctor writes that one of her patients “was 22 weeks pregnant and had a condition called preeclampsia, which is when high blood pressure puts the health of the mother and baby at risk and can result in death. The only option in that situation was to immediately deliver. The patient understood the high stakes and instead decided to end her pregnancy. But it took time (which we did not have) to convince the hospital and other physicians that this was the correct course of action because of the already hostile climate for abortion… I fear what could happen to women in this situation if the [new] law and its criminal penalties go into effect. Physicians will hesitate in how to care for complex health situations -- and Alabama is already a state with an unconscionably high maternal mortality rate.”
Yashica Robinson, CNN

Regarding the deployment of an aircraft carrier and bombers, many note that the US “has a long history of provoking, instigating, or launching wars based on dubious, flimsy, or manufactured threats… The most egregious case was the U.S. invasion of Iraq, in 2003, which was based on bad intelligence that Baghdad had active weapons-of-mass-destruction programs. The repercussions are still playing out sixteen years (and more than four thousand American deaths) later… The sense of foreboding is tangible.”
Robin Wright, The New Yorker

Trump's “goal, it seems, is to put so much pressure on Tehran that it has no choice but to completely change its behavior — but he could end up leading the countries to the brink of war in the process… Now is typically the time when cooler heads prevail, but it’s unclear if there are cooler heads around… It’s hard to overstate how avoidable this situation was.”
Alex Ward, Vox

“In theory, there’s no reason why a bad businessman can’t go on to become a good president. But a commander-in-chief whose signature legislative achievement expanded tax loopholes that he himself describes as grossly unfair is pretty much a bad president, by definition.”
Eric Levitz, New York Magazine

Impeachment allows Congress to overturn an election. That is a very, very big deal. The Constitution vests ultimate power in the people, and throwing out their choice is in a way the ultimate undemocratic act. What impeachment also is not is a midterm check of ‘fitness.’ It is not a constitutional pause for a referendum on how the president is doing. It is not a way to resolve differences of opinion, policy, or propriety…

“Impeachment is also not a way to bypass other investigative tools and allow a partisan House to poke around a president’s decisions, pre-election business deals, and personal life, or to amass info short of actual impeachable evidence as campaign dirt on the public dollar.”
Peter Van Buren, The American Conservative

The president isn’t playing protectionist here. He’s pushing a single player who needs to be confronted, a cheater and a bully. For decades, China has gotten away with theft of others’ production techniques and other intellectual property, along with technology transfers and mistreatment of US companies. Moreover, it uses its ill-gotten gains to boost its military, adding another threat… Short-term, US consumers will pay a bit more — on goods that make up less than 2 percent of the nation’s $20.5 trillion economy. But China is at growing risk of losing access to the world’s top market, because Americans can buy from other lower-wage producers if Beijing doesn’t blink… Trump didn’t start this trade war, but he’s well positioned to win it.”
Editorial Board, New York Post

“We've got to suck it up. Indeed, we must be bold here. Chinese President Xi Jinping's tariffs escalation reflects his bet that he can spike U.S. domestic fears over the economy, and a corresponding popular pressure on Trump to back down… if we stand firm, Xi will have to back down because China's economy is already weakened by foreign investor doubts, caught between rural poverty and urban wealth, and vulnerable to low-cost labor competition from the region.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

“The broader context here is North Korea's crop crisis. If Kim hasn't got sanctions relief by August's end, a painful winter is coming… Absent Kim's commitment to suspend all ballistic missile tests, the U.S. should not support the provision of food supplies to the North Korean people. A North Korean long-range nuclear strike capability poses an existential threat to American society… Trump must not allow North Korea's coming suffering to dictate his decisions. Supporting North Korea with food will both prolong North Koreans' suffering under Kim and directly undercut U.S. interests.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

Some argue, “It stands to reason that if Kim is willing to starve his own people, deprive his economy of any growth, and pour billions of dollars into missile tech, he will, at some point, develop weapons America and its allies mastered decades ago. And short of an invasion or a diplomatic agreement, under the present circumstances, there is very little we can do to stop him… Taking a hardline approach—what many call the ‘big deal’—or only granting sanctions relief after full denuclearization and the end of Kim’s missile programs is completely impractical and something North Korea would never agree to… only a step-by-step process of disarming Pyongyang, where each side gets a benefit for making a concession, will work.”
Harry J. Kazianis, The American Conservative

Others posit that “the reason Kim is developing missiles that can strike Seattle or LA is that 28,000 U.S. troops are in South Korea… If we cannot persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons in return for a lifting of sanctions, perhaps we should pull U.S. forces off the peninsula and let China deal with the possible acquisition of their own nuclear weapons by Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan…

“After an exhausting two weeks [between North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, and others], one is tempted to ask: How many quarrels, clashes and conflicts can even a superpower manage at one time? And is it not the time for the United States, preoccupied with so many crises, to begin asking, ‘Why is this our problem?’”
Pat Buchanan, Townhall

“The Democrats want to talk to Don McGahn, and maybe they will ultimately prevail in court to get his testimony, but what’s the point? McGahn talked extensively to Mueller, and surely everything remotely damaging is already in the report

“Congress has the report, and now it is up to it to decide. But it doesn’t want to. It’s too painful to admit that the Mueller report was a bust on Russia and that the obstruction material, while damaging to Trump, is hardly a slam dunk; that the public doesn’t support impeachment; that if the House goes through with it anyway, it will end with a whimper in the Senate; and that it’s better for Democrats to focus on beating Trump in 2020 than a forlorn impeachment.”
Rich Lowry, National Review

A libertarian's take

“The scoop reflects poorly on Trump, who willfully misled the public for a decade in hopes of fraudulently representing himself as a man with a Midas touch. But he could not have succeeded without the assistance of many Americans, some mercenary, others over-credulous, who helped to spread the deceit and deception, generating countless newspaper articles, magazine stories, and TV segments that misinformed the public about the publicity hound’s record in business. New evidence of his staggering losses in that decade therefore provides an apt occasion to reflect on the media’s complicity in Trump’s brazen deceit and deception… Let [this] be a lesson for today’s tabloids, gossip columnists, over-credulous or mercenary journalists, and reality-television producers.”
Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic

On the bright side...

Minnesota firefighters rescue bear with its head stuck in milk can.

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