Sunday, March 12, 2017

That Liberal Media Bubble

By Ralph Cipriano

In case anybody missed it, Nate Silver over at has written an essay, "There really was a liberal media bubble," that blames the media's inability to figure out Donald Trump was going to be elected president on "groupthink" and a pack mentality.

His thesis: the media suffered from a lack of diversity of viewpoint and independent thought. Rather than finding out what was going on with real people, the media, by talking to each other in an echo chamber, came to the faulty conclusion that Hillary Clinton had a 100 percent chance of winning an election that she lost badly.

My hat's off to Silver for engaging in an exercise that the media seldom does: trying to figure out what went wrong when they screw up. Sadly, this type of thing never happens here in Philadelphia. In a town where we suffer from a double blind: a liberal Democratic newspaper of record that mirrors the prevailing groupthink of our liberal Democratic city. At a time when the newspaper is on life support and our local government is both inept and corrupt.

When Donald Trump first announced he was running for president, I thought it was a joke. And I laughed along at Republican primary debates, when Trump was ripping the Bush family, particularly "Low Energy Jeb," and George W., for starting the dumbest war in history.

But then I became aware that something was going on with Trump. So I forced myself to watch an unedited video of one of his campaign rallies. I saw that Trump, running as the quintessential political outsider, was connecting with people in a free-flowing way that was generating all kinds of crowds and energy. In a year where people were desperate for change. Then I looked at Hillary and saw that she was preaching to the choir in her usual shrill and wooden way.

My son gave me the single most illuminating insight of the entire presidential campaign when he pointed out that Donald J. Trump was a member of the pro wrestling hall of fame. Pondering this insight, I began to see all the obvious ties between the huckstering at Trump campaign events and the hype at the old WWF bouts, down to the cartoon villains, one of which was the media, which was dutifully playing along.

My inescapable conclusion: Trump was a fresh new act who was just plain outworking Hillary, in a year where voters were yearning for change. And Hillary, overconfident and relentlessly boring, and not even bothering to campaign, was setting herself up for an epic fall. Just like she had done previously when she ran against Obama. And she would have done against Bernie Sanders, if her friends at the DNC hadn't previously rigged the contest.

I canvassed many of my liberal Democratic friends in the media, basically telling all of them that if the Dems stuck with Hillary as their candidate, she was going to lose. Their reaction was unanimous: some of them thought that Hillary was the smartest person in the room; others saw her flaws. But regardless, every one of them insisted she was going to win and win big. Trump was a clown who was going to get killed. And I was an idiot for doubting the prevailing wisdom.

How does this apply to the local media?

Nate Silver wrote about a disturbing unanimity of thought and lack of diversity among the media, where only 13 percent of jobs at daily newspapers are held by minorities, at a time when 92 percent of journalists have college degrees, and only 7 percent identify themselves as Republicans.

This brought me back to the 1990s, when I was a reporter at the Inquirer, and forced to attend "mandatory" diversity workshops, a real exercise in comedy.

What I thought was so funny at the time was what did it matter if we concentrated our energies on hiring more minority reporters? When everybody that we hired, black white or whatever, all wound up living in the same parts of town [Mt. Airy or the suburbs] read the same books and newspapers, went to see the same movies, and basically all thought alike to a frightening degree?

What was so diverse about that?

Last week, a young reporter for a local news website asked me how I came up with the story about District Attorney Seth Williams getting banned from the Union League. I basically tried to explain that 90 percent of journalism is just showing up. Listening to people and getting them to trust you. So that when something happens, they might tell you about it.

Sadly, when I go to many news events, I often see all the reporters in a huddle talking to each other. Rather than talking to real people who might know something. As a wise old editor once told me, there are no stories in a newsroom. To find a story, you actually have to leave the building.

So why does our local daily newspaper miss so many stories that we wind up by default writing about on this blog? Because too many people down at our local daily newspaper all think alike.

Right now, people at the Inky are upset because some editors had to reapply for their jobs in a game of musical chairs that amounts to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Once again, what does it matter if they all think alike?

So in the spirit of constructive criticism, here's my three-pronged proposal guaranteed to reverse the sagging fortunes of our daily newspaper, beginning today:

-- Fire all the editors. Immediately.

Replace them with young independent-minded reporters, and  turn them loose. Maybe even hire some non-college graduates. Or if you insist on college degrees, some non J-School grads who might actually know something. Maybe even consider hiring some Republicans or conservatives or Libertarians. Or people who don't automatically accept the prevailing wisdom.

-- Insist that everyone who covers the city actually live there. Just like they used to do with cops. So that earnest young journalists might meet some real people who might tell them something.

-- Enact an immediate ban on all stories that have as their theme the latest outbreak of racism or sexism or homophobia. Especially such stories as written by your increasingly shrill columnists or editorial writers. See if you can go a week, or maybe even a month without sermonizing.

Here's a tip: the general public keeps telling you, whether by electing a non-PC president, or by not buying your newspapers any more, or by teeing off on liberal writers with hostile comments on, that they are sick and tired of being lectured to by the PC Ministers of Truth.

Last week, Sandy Shea, the editorial page editor of the Daily News, wrote an idiotic column where she proposed first a day, then a week without men.

Some of Shea's open-minded and enlightened prose:

Imagine a day when men aren't scheming to design new restrictions on a woman's control over their own body and her own health, or access to contraception . . . or to appropriate billions more to the military budget, or to concoct new ways to kill their fellow human beings.

You get the idea. The sad part was that the editors at the Inky turned off the comments section so that  readers couldn't tee off on Shea for her silly screed.

At least that would have been interesting.


  1. Great article, Ralph.

    The interesting thing is the way the Inquirer suppresses comments on articles, typically about hot social issues like gender. The Inquirer doesn't suppress comments about economic issues, like minimum wage, soda tax, salary-history questions, etc. But anytime the article pushes a gender issue (or any issue involving sex, for that matter), the comments are shut off. Police issues fall into the same category. Archdiocese issues, being a combination of police and sex, are likewise shut down. Basically, any time a comment would hurt someone's feelings or piss someone off, the comments are shut down.

    The effect of this, however, is that those who's feelings would otherwise be hurt are spared the damage and left in denial. Next election, though, those same folks will be scratching their heads in collective shock over their surprise loss.

    On the other hand, those min-wage proponents, salary-history proponents, and soda-tax opponents are getting a free lesson in economics from all of the commenters. At least they are hearing from the other side of the aisle and will have some insight into why the votes go the way they go.

    Overall, it's a disservice and an abdication of the media's traditional role - first by pushing the article, and second by shutting down opposing viewpoints. It serves only to move the debate to the ballot box.

  2. Under the category of the INKY not listening to the people on the street should be added the heading concerning what they have done to those that have been accused of a crime by federal prosecutors.

    I need to understand how responsible journalism consists of printing one sided articles, taking this stance aligns the paper with the prosecution.

    Is that what the Inky reporters are telling the public, that they believe wholeheartedly the prosecution because the prosecution has shared their "facts" with members of their staff, or maybe its as simple as believing that the prosecution have to be trustworthy because they represent our government.

    Talking to the people on the street that are are accused or know the true facts of a "crime" would be a start, I am not talking about the street between 6th and 8th on Market.

    My life and the lives of my family have been ruined because of the actions of the Inquirer.

    We were accused of non-existent crimes, but thanks to "facts" that were given to them by the prosecution we live under a cloud that will be with us the rest of our lives.

    No good man, woman or family should ever have to suffer the hardship we have had to endure. We are good people, we have a good family, we have the respect of our community, we did not deserve to be treated despicably by our own government and a media outlet.

    No one can prepare you for the betrayal of having your own government bear false witness against you, the trauma and humiliation lasts a lifetime. Especially when you had hoped that the media would come to your aid, instead of aiding the prosecution.

    In my opinion the prosecution never admits an error on their part and its has become apparent to me that either does the Inky.

    Ruining good peoples lives and not taking responsibility to correct the falsehoods leads to mistrust as well as outright hatred for their government and the media. The recent adds touting journalism you can trust is a laughable statement to those that have lived through the horror of reading lies written about themselves.

    As Americans seem to have so little to place their trust in these days, we at least need to think that journalist should get both sets of facts on a case. Their lack of accuracy can lead to someones total inhalation as a good citizen of the land.

    Being sneered at by reporters and condemned forever in the print is a terrible price to have to pay for lies perpetrated by federal prosecutors that were looking to make a name for themselves. Forever we will have to defend ourselves against the media.

    Maybe the federal government is too big a task to be handled for any one reporter, just as defending a defendant that has been accused by the government is at most times, too big as task for any one attorney.

    The Inky is not staying current on the trends that are trying to change the way people view the criminal justice department, without dedicated, up to date information the Inky has not helped to educate the public as to the injustices that are commonplace and are committed against good people daily.

    The Inky needs to come up to speed or get out of business of printing accusations against defendants. The Inky is not listed among the publications in America that are trying to wake us up to injustices of the "justice" department.

    The Inky is turning its back on the innocently accused that need more than anything for someone to listen to them.

    The Inky is not listening to the man and woman on the street pleading with them to print our truths as well.

    1. It almost sounds like there is a Farnese, Fattah 1, Fattah 2, Verdi, or Williams apologist among us.

      While there were varying levels of overzealousness with most of these trials, each had some merit. One had kicked down quite a few doors, one had been in office way too long and was diverting way too much away from deserving causes, one was being paid $430k to eat frozen pizza and scam the PSD, one was sending his friend's kids to college while most of his constituents racked up college debt, and one was getting his roof fixed while picking off donor's potential enemies.

      While a better vehicle for change might be the ballot box, a fed prosecution also gets the message across and the Inquirer wouldn't get much sympathy for these folks even if it had been walking the streets.

      If there are other fed prosecutions besides these five that are questionable, they effectively haven't been reported anywhere, let alone the Inky, and I'd be curious to hear more about them.

    2. To borrow a line from Oprah Winfrey,"this I know for sure", my entire family was used as pawns to get to an intended target by a career prosecutor.

      Who during the relentless pursuit of our family used discriminatory words and statements, which in the real world would have landed a politician or an average citizen on the front pages of the Inky,but its legal for prosecutors to behave in any manner they wish, legally or illegally.

      One would think that a representative of our government would know better but as any American in any walk of life can tell you that a prosecutor can do and say whatever they want without any fear of punishment.

      The average person when polled, would say with certainty that they believe that prosecutors or FBI agents can get away with just about anything. We are admitting to having a segment of the population that is untouchable, who do not have answer for their egregious behavior and we seem to accept that fact.

      No prosecutor or media outlet is telling me what I know for sure about my life and my family and the circumstances involved in our case. No ballet box was involved.

      Unless you have lived my life I suggest you listen instead of judging, image having your dignity and a lifetime of accomplishments stolen from you by someone that has so little regard for their fellow man that lying and having to invent a crime and distorting facts were more important to them then getting the facts correct.

      You my fellow citizen have never been the victim of malicious prosecution, you I am sure would be the perfect juror for the prosecution as you seem to think that getting the message across out weights the truth or human dignity.

      The day I realized my government was lying changed me forever, I saw ruthless greed and cowardly behavior for the first time in my life.I am more aware of what happens to those that have suffered a similar fate, I had believe if my government said someone was guilty they had to be, now I believe that there is an excellent chance they are innocent.

  3. As an old trial lawyer once told me, process matters.

    Perhaps the examples you cite weren't the greatest politicians or officials.

    But when a judge can throw a juror off the panel for having an independent mind, when an FBI agent can leak grand jury secrets to the media with impunity, and when a DA can corrupt justice to the point where he's putting innocent men in jail and letting convicted drug dealers out of jail, and not prosecuting people arrested for shooting, stabbing, beating and choking victims of domestic violence, we all have a problem.

    Whether these figures are sympathetic or not. You seem to be missing that point. And, by the way, one example is bad enough.

    You're the apologist.

  4. Fair point that one example is bad enough. My criticism applies only to the federal defendants above. Until the 12th juror issue is resolved, I have not heard of any significant misconduct by local federal prosecutors (and the juror issue would be an abuse of the judge's discretion, not the prosecutor's).

    My point was that outside of these specific cases, there isn't a lot reported (including here) that suggests misconduct on the federal level. Zealousness is not misconduct.

    The DA is an entirely different matter. I know full well that he is harassing innocents for political gain - I am one of them.

  5. Your missing the point, prosecutors do not get singled out for their behavior, who do you think is going to do it? The Inky who has crucified the defendants or the defendants themselves who do not have a voice or an outlet to which to speak.

    Sorry to disappoint but we fall into the category of the millions that have been mistreated and abused by federal prosecutors, who seem to have a very distorted view of the world.

    If every reporter was like Ralph Cipriano we may have had a very different outcome, as well as a very different America. Media take note, its called caring enough about your fellow man to get the story right, not just taking notes from the prosecution.

  6. During the trial of former state Senator Vincent J. Fumo, I watched prosecutors routinely lie about the law and the evidence in the case. That upset me.

    A big issue in the Fumo case was whether toxic publicity, as most noticeably generated by the Inquirer, had any effect on the jurors. I was the only reporter in town who went around and knocked on all of the doors and asked them.

    They told me it did have a big effect on them, and what's more, they found out stuff from the media that the judge didn't want them to know.

    When I wrote about that for Philadelphia magazine, to my surprise, the prosecutors then began lying about me in their court documents, to prevent the judge from interviewing the jurors.

    It worked. Like the other commentator on this blog, when your own government lies about you, it is a transforming experience. I have written about all of this in a book that will be published this year about Fumo.

    Next, I saw prosecutors in the so-called rogue cops case hype their case, their evidence, and their witnesses. The jury saw through the whole mess and acquitted six defendants on all 47 charges.

    The prosecutors had to lie to the judge about the evidence to get the case into court. They also were able to keep one of those cops in solitary confinement for many months, where he couldn't even get his hands on a computer, so he couldn't cooperate in his own defense. This is something that I don't know if the Geneva Convention would approve of.

    In the Verdi case and the Farnese case, the prosecutors routinely presented distorted and, the juries would prove, deceitful views of the cases against both men.

    Prosecutors are supposed to speak the truth, not distortions or lies. But they don't. And the fact that we have a newspaper in this town that acts as their press agents, lionizes them in print when they win, and gives them a COMPLETE pass when they lose, only serves to make the problem worse.

    It's as if we have only one truth in this town, and that's the prosecution's truth. Whether juries reject it or not. No matter if it's proven to be false.

    That, my friend, is a real problem. Prosecutors who lie and distort, and a press that protects them when they screw up, and only presents their side of it, at the expense of defendants, and the general public, which has a right to know the truth.

    Sorry, but you're a big-time apologist for a bunch of government bureaucrats who have license to do whatever they want, and the newspaper in this town that gives them carte blanche. I'd say the combo is a danger to democracy.

    1. Understand your point about prosecutors/govt lying. But the part about the computer is simply untrue. The hyperbole about the Geneva convention is misplaced when you use it in comparison. Cmon Ralph.

    2. It is true. The cop in question had to wait in line to use a computer shared by numerous inmates. His lawyer kept arguing to the judge that he couldn't prepare his client for trial. And keeping a guy in solitary confinement for months when he wasn't accused of any violent crime can't be defended.

      It is true. It happened. I was there in court when his lawyer argued to the judge about it.

    3. While all the other defendants, accused of the exact same crimes, were out on bail and allowed to participate in their defense.

      I still can't believe it happened. And it can be defended.

    4. You arent saying that an aquittal equals innocence are you? You would have to be really naive to believe so.Ironic how those complaints about being locked up unfairly and being denied certain rights came from certain people.

    5. You must be a reporter or editor from the Inquirer. That would explain your stubborn refusal to budge off the original story line in the rogue cops case, namely corrupt cops beating and robbing poor innocent drug dealers.

      When the government loses a RICO case 47-0, something went seriously wrong. And the fault isn't with the defendants, it was with the government.

      Some of us have figured that out. Others cling to the original fairy tale they were told by the government.

      Like the Billy Doe fairy tale. Myth triumphs over facts.

    6. As well as the Traffic Court fiasco, what an embarrassment, there was no crime. The only crime committed was by the prosecution and the FBI agent lying to the grand jury and what they did to innocents. The Inquirer whipped its readers into a frenzy of hatred and disgust for those accused.
      Imagine going to jail for the rest of your life because the Supreme Court wanted to abolish the court and they had to invent crimes to indict.
      What added insult to injury was the Inquirer allowed the prosecution and the agent to away with the crime, as they were in the room and did not report to the public, the defense team catching the agent as well as th prosecution in lies. We know its ok for the feds to lie, just thought the media had an obligation to get it right.
      I suppose its like our current administration in Washington, never take back a lie, once it come out of your mouth.
      Once the Inquirer has condemned someone they cant go back and say they got it wrong. How would that make them look, just like Washington .

    7. Neither Ralph. You would be surprised. I agree the fault was with the government.They brought a shitty case with god awful witnesses. But thats the difference between your viewpoint and mine. Im not standing on the sidelines like you. Not even warm on the inky editor snark. You are rite tho,some of us have figured it out.You arent in that group on this one. And for the record, i usually like ur writing but i also call balls and strikes the right way.

  7. I wonder why federal judges do not come to our aid, don't they care that the prosecution lies as often as it does and brings many false claims against defendants?

    I witnessed prosecutors and agents tell judges multiple lies, bold faced, made up, outrageous lies. I suppose since they are part of the prosecution they do not care about defendants, maybe they read the Inky as well.

  8. Ralph, just read in Billy Penn that you are losing your funding or have lost your funding and will possibly stop the bigtrial website. Please print that story or a similar one here on this website so those that read this site will be aware.

    Can't image you not being here, you're the only one that listens.
    When I see a new article pop up it feels like Christmas morning, I know I am going to read an article that no one else has covered the way it actually happened.

    Having first hand knowledge of the destruction the Inky has had on defendants and the outcome of their trials by their biased reporting, your type of reporting is crucial. Losing this site would be detrimental to justice, just when facts matter most, journalism you can trust will be taken away from those that need it most.

    The prosecution, FBI and IRS agents would think twice about distorting evidence and lying to grand juries and at trial if they knew they would be caught for betraying their oath of office and their country. As it stands now they have nothing to be worried about, no one at the Inky cares if they lie.

    If I were the editor of the Inky I would hire you back with new fresh team of reporters to cover the courts, I would also give you a corner office as well as a large salary.


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