The 2016 presidential race has made it difficult for many Americans to embrace their better natures in the face of what feels like an unprecedented amount of anger, divisiveness, and hate. But few have had their morals and mettle tested more dramatically this election season than the staff members of the Arizona Republic.
That's because its editorial board did something that, until last month, had never been done before at the Phoenix newspaper - not even once in its entire 125 year history:
The Arizona Republic endorsed a Democrat for President of the United States.
Now regardless of your political persuasion or your feelings about the two candidates, the endorsement is notable if for no other reason than that the members of the Republic's editorial board were willing to break a 125-year tradition - and, moreover, risk alienating a huge portion of its largely Republican readership - all in service of choosing the candidate whom they believed, in their minds and in their consciences, would be the better choice for America. That takes "courage," says Mouse.org executive director Daniel Rabuzzi. But until this past weekend, we didn't know the full extent of just how brave that decision was...
"YOU'RE DEAD. WATCH YOUR BACK."
"WE WILL BURN YOU DOWN."
"YOU SHOULD BE PUT IN FRONT OF A FIRING SQUAD AS A TRAITOR."
These are just a few of the threats readers have lobbed at Republic staff members in the days since the newspaper endorsed Clinton, according to the newspaper's president, Mi-Ai Parrish. Oh and when she says "staff members," she means everyone from Parrish herself on down to the "young people going door-to-door selling subscriptions." Yes. Really.
It's no wonder the threats left Parrish "speechless," she says. Fortunately, she quickly recovered from her state of stunned disbelief and, oh my, does she have something to say. Parrish has responded to the threats in a powerful must-read op-ed that has garnered near-universal admiration and support from the global journalistic community (not to mention, a whopping 46,000 shares and counting).
I'm trying to decide which of the many magnificent quotes I should pull from Parrish's piece, but instead I'll follow the example of New Hampshire Public Radio's Casey McDermott, who tweeted, "Kept trying to pick out an excerpt but you should really just read the whole thing." She's right, you should. And if you really don't have time to read it? In that case, spoiler alert: Parrish and her staff won't back down. Not even a little.
The Associated Press' Nicholas Riccardi felt this was yet another example - albeit an exceptional one - of the great work that continues to be done by print media this year, which "has really, really distinguished itself in this election," he says. Jennifer Dokes, a former longtime member of the Republic's editorial board, wanted to take the fight against those who would dare to threaten her former colleagues out to the streets, tweeting, "Makes me want to form a human chain around tower @ 200 E. Van Buren (the newspaper's HQ)." Doris Truong of the Washington Post added, "Bravo to @publishorperish + @azcentral for standing tall against threats to journalism. #firstamendment." And finally, many agreed it was the Republic's own front page editor, John D'Anna, whose celebration of his colleagues' bravery resonated most loudly within the journalistic community. In an election cycle when journalists have been made to suffer an unusually high volume of insults, bullying, and predominantly baseless criticism, it's refreshing to hear something positive said about members of the media for a change - even if it came from one of our own:
"So proud to be a journalist."
We'd love to sit around and talk about how great journalists are all day, but this was a busy weekend, and there are a ton of other stories we need to get to - here are some of the ones newsmakers themselves are sharing the most:
The firebombing and swastika-themed graffiti vandalism of a GOP field office in North Carolina, as reported by the Charlotte Observer (fortunately, nobody was hurt), has elicited widespread condemnation from journalists on both the right and the left. Moreover, many left-leaning journalists on Twitter appear to be just as outraged and eager to help as their right-leaning counterparts - though there's a not entirely selfless reason for their altruistic offers. Here's a tweet from journeyman tech journalist David Weinberger expressing how "horrible" the attack was, though in the same message Weinberger takes pains to echo the "We go high" slogan embraced by Hillary Clinton's campaign: "NC Repub office fire-bombed. Horrible msg painted on wall. Dems, let's go high and kick in to re-open that office!" But even if there's an element of political gamesmanship to some Democrats' purported "outrage" over the firebombing. who can complain? After all, Weinberger did much more than send a tweet of condolences; he launched a GoFundMe campaign called "Dems help reopen an NC Repub office" (over 8,000 shares). And it appears that Weinberger and his Democrat friends put their money where their tweets are; within hours, they had raised over $13,000 through the GoFundMe page, surpassing their initial $10,000 funding goal.
After two examples of unfortunate news stories with optimistic twists, well... we'll leave it to you to find the silver lining in this next item: At the New York Times, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns examine the fallout from Donald Trump's persistent claims that the election is "absolutely being rigged" in his opponent's favor, amid efforts by "Republican leaders and election officials from both parties" to reassure the public that fraud is very rare and that it is "hard to cheat," in the words of Ohio secretary of State Jon Husted. But despite the wealth of evidence cited by NYT and others which strongly suggests that the election will almost certainly NOT be "rigged" against Trump or anybody else in any significant way, election officials are still struggling to convince Trump's base - or as NYT's Ellen Barry calls them, the "pitchforks-and-torches crowd" - that their votes are safe from Team Hillary's hi-jinks. There's clearly a deep divide between the Trump faithful and people like Barry's NYT colleague Adam Nagourney who can only throw up his hands and tweet this five-word phrase that, by Muck Rack decree, shall be named the unofficial slogan of the 2016 presidential campaign: "We really talking about this?"
According to the New York Times' Amy Chozick and Nicholas Confessore, over the weekend Wikileaks released what it claims are transcripts of three paid speeches delivered by Hillary Clinton at events hosted by Goldman Sachs, one of Wall Street's biggest and most controversial investment banking firms. As soon as the news broke, we all wondered: Do the new speech transcripts include any October Surprises? Gamechangers? Smoking guns? Nah, just a few items that raised eyebrows on Twitter - The Toronto Star's Daniel Dale points out a passage in which Clinton says "the jury's still out" on Dodd-Frank, adding that it had been passed for merely "political reasons." That's a little awkward, considering that Dodd-Frank was one of the key pieces of legislation passed by the Obama Administration in the wake of the financial crash. And the quote doesn't help her already rocky repertoire with advocates for Wall Street reform who by and large support the bill. Meanwhile, many large banks have lobbied strongly against Dodd-Frank. But let's face it: we're three weeks away from the election. Voters have (mostly) already decided who they will vote for. And while a major scandal can definitely make a difference between now and the election (Google: Donald Trump + p*ssy), McClatchy's Mark Seibel says, rather glibly but accurately, that the latest revelation from Wikileaks isn't likely to have a huge impact on Election Day: "Going out on a limb: this won't drive a lot of Clinton voters to Trump."
In world news, keep your eyes on what's happening in Mosul, where an Iraqi military offensive has commenced to retake the city from Islamic State fighters. Located near the northernmost tip of Iraq, the BBC calls Mosul "the last major stronghold of the so-called Islamic State." Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi referred to his country's offensive as "the mother of all battles." which sounds like something he stole from the back of a Game of Thrones DVD. But this isn't TV or HBO. Rather, many are concerned that, in the "worst case scenario," the Mosul offensive could lead to "the worst humanitarian crisis—excluding geonicide—since Rwanda." That's according to Alex Milutinovic, the International Rescue Committee’s country director for Iraq, as quoted in Florian Neuhof's report on the Mosul offensive for the Daily Beast.
And finally, the weekend's undisputed victor of verbiage, champion of chitchat, and conqueror of quips is CNN's Jake Tapper who deserves credit for delivering one of the most memorable quotes we've heard all year from any of the Sunday Morning Pundit Circles. His witty riposte was made on CNN's Reliable Sources program after Congresswoman Renee Ellmers' (R-NC) characterized the growing list of sexual assault allegations made against Donald Trump as "a she said/he said situation."
"Just to correct you," Tapper said in perfect deadpan, "it's a she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said situation"
Cheers, Mr. Tapper.