Paul Jay and Sharmini Peries Ousted from The Real News Network in June; Current Fundraiser Hides that Fact; Falling Viewership and Liberal Turn Result

It’s remarkable, or perhaps a function of the aggressive use of non-disclosure agreements, that the June defenestration of Paul Jay and Sharmini Peries from The Real News Network, the site they had founded and run for over a decade, has been kept under wraps for so long.

I received a fundraising e-mail from The Real News Network the day before yesterday and noticed the surprising absence of Paul Jay’s name. I went searching through my inbox to see if I had an e-mail address for him. While I came up empty, what I did see was that Paul’s name had last appeared in the “TRNN Daily” e-mails on June 17.

The “6/8” means that this was the sixth segment in an eight part series. The first segment was released on June 2, and consistent with normal The Real News Network practice, the later installments came out shortly thereafter, on June 4, two on June 11 (#4 is here), and June 13.

So what happened to the last two? They did appear, after an unusually long gap, on
August 20 and August 22. Yet “TRNN Daily” e-mail notices for those segments scrubbed all mention of Paul:

Remarkably, The Real News Network site credits Paul for only the first and last segment in the eight part series. Similarly, Sharmini Peries’ last segment credit on the site is as of June 13.

Confirming my concerns, a colleague who ought to be able to get Paul’s attention tried him on his personal e-mail and got no reply.

So I decided to try the front door. I e-mailed The Real News Network, using their Contact Us page, and chose the “Donor Relations” dropdown:

I have contributed to The Real News Network for the past five years, as well as regularly linking to and reposting your videos on my website.

I could not help but notice that Paul Jay’s name was not on the current fundraising letter. I went to the site, and I find that Paul and Sharmini Peries have been removed from the staff list. Nor have they hosted any recent videos.

What has happened to Jay and Peries? They were central to TRNN. Why should I continue to support TRNN when the people who built it and were central to its sensibility and coverage choices have disappeared, and without any explanation?

I’m sure you’ll be the first to understand my concerns – and that I’ll be making my decision about this year’s contribution based on your response.

Thank you!

I got this reply less than 24 hours later, from tom@therealnews.com headed “Your email:

Hi Ms. Webber –
Thank you for your note and request for information about the whereabouts of Paul Jay and Sharmini Peries.

Paul and Sharmini were on leave over the summer and subsequently left the organization, and are in conversations with the TRNN Board about finalizing the terms of their departure. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to comment while that process is underway.

The Board is in the process of launching a search for their successors.

All the best, and thank you for your support

Tom Livingston


Tom Livingston
Interim CEO1
The Real News Network

(410) 243-1974 (office)
(703) 798-1199 (cell)

This is an utter disgrace:

Paul and Sharmini built The Real News Network from nothing. I remember meeting them in NYC in the early years, when Paul, Sharmini, and a staffer were hauling large and awkward bags of lighting, booms, and cameras to be able to set up on a remote location. This was not just a job for them but a mission which they pursued with intensity and intellectual courage, as well as their available funds.

The Real News Network has been and continues to misrepresent the ouster of Paul and Sharmini while in the midst of a $200,000 fundraiser. Paul’s bio page listing him as “CEO and senior editor” and Sharmini as “a journalist and executive producer for the National and International News Bureaus at The Real News Network.”

Similarly, the existence Livingston as “interim CEO” is well hidden. He is on the Staff page with a photo in a white starched shirt. But even if you thought to click through, the listing is obfuscatory. It gives an idea of what he’s done, but does not give a clue as to what exactly he is doing for The Real News Network.

A teeny bit of additional digging reveals that in addition to serving at Pacifica, which his The Real News Network bio mentions Livingston has also been an interim CEO at a host of radio networks, such as AIR, WKSU, KRCC, WWNO and Capital Public Radio.

Yet The Real News has not been successful in keeping the status of Paul and Sharmini a state secret up to now. If you look at Paul Jay’s bio on Wikipedia, you will see edits in the revision history that memorialize his forced departure:3

The Real News Network has deteriorated since Paul and Sharmini were turfed out. When the cross-posting pickings were thin, I’d have to resist the impulse to hoist them more often and would feature them as Links instead. But in the last few months, I’ve mainly come up empty when looking for something good enough to showcase to our readers. With the benefit of hindsight, The Real News Network has taken a liberal turn, buying into and eagerly promoting narratives it treated in a more judicious manner under Paul and Sharmini, such as Russiagate and Ukrainegate.

My hazy impression is confirmed by YouTube traffic counts. Even though The Real News Network still has more or less the same number of subscribers, many of its recent videos have traffic counts well under 5000, which would have been a low number under Paul and Sharmini. Although I have not done a rigorous analysis, an eyeballing strongly suggests views are down considerably.

The following observations are more speculative (some people connected with The Real News Network were willing to speak in light of the information above but they were awfully chary, underscoring that lawyers were involved and they were concerned that publicity would be used against Paul and Sharmini):

The pacing of the ouster strongly suggests there was no serious financial or other impropriety. When people have their hand in the cookie jar or up the skirt (or in the pants) of a subordinate in a leftie organization the #MeToo era, they are usually booted quickly. That doesn’t mean that as part of the coup that the board hasn’t gone over Paul and Sharmini’s expense reimbursements with a fine toothed comb to see if they can depict sloppiness as malfeasance to get bargaining leverage (see the example of CalPERS board member Margaret Brown’s temporary misplacement of CalPERS equipment being depicted as a hanging crime for an example of how this is done).

The extremely attenuated “settlement” screams of bad faith dealing by the board and any significant backers that they represent. Notice that Livingston said the board was “finalizing the terms of their departure.” Huh? What could there possibly be to discuss that could go on for five months? It’s not hard to negotiate payment for gag orders and mutual releases.2 Departures of big-name CEOs, who can afford to hire big-name law firms to push back, go way way way faster than this has.

It is inconceivable that Paul and Sharmini have the financial wherewithal to be holding up a settlement (which implies payout) via a lot of legal jousting. This looks like a mean-spirited, perhaps even vindictive strategy by the insurgents to get Paul and Sharmini to accept less than they deserve by starving them out.

The change in editorial slant appears to be more “liberals” taking advantage of a crisis than the basis for the exits. It does not appear that Paul and Sharmini were defenestrated for being too leftie. An employee said that Aaron Mate’s departure in late 2018 was due to him and Paul having differences, as opposed to pressure to abandon skeptical coverage of Russiagate.

It also does not appear that ouster was the result of overspending. For one thing, you don’t see any signs of retrenchment or budget-cutting, such as cuts in headcount or programming.

However, if you’ve paid attention, The Real News has regularly had very large challenge grants, often $25,000 and if my memory is correct, even a $100,000 donor challenge. That means there is at least one very heavyweight backer. There isn’t a sign from the board roster of foundation money or a very wealthy individual or family, but it’s not hard to find representatives for that role.

Insiders indicated that a major money source backed the defenestration, but some staffers did as well; we’re not sure what the internal controversy was about.

The Real News Network looks to have gone from the frying pan into the fire. Aside from the traffic decline, the involvement of the interim CEO Tom Livingston is another cause for pause. A former board member of Pacifica Foundation was gobsmacked that he listed his work there as an accomplishment.

Livingston was hired to be Pacifica’s interim executive director for nine months in 2018. After losing the court case when the Empire State Realty Trust sued Pacifica over non-payment of WBAI’s tower rent, the board was bitterly split over whether to take out a loan or go into voluntary bankruptcy. Livingston was recommended to some of the pro-loan board members by the loan broker. Unsurprisingly, Livingston signed the $3+ million loan less than two months after being hired. His friend’s fee was estimated at $50,000.

Livingston was also instrumental in getting the Pacifica CFO to resign. From the former board member:

He took on the title of iCFO but displayed zero interest or competence in this area and did some damage, including signing a 990 he apparently never even looked at because it was full of obvious mistakes. He also recommended Pacifica outsource their accounting to a small firm he had worked with. They have performed poorly for Pacifica.

Livingston was also contracted to do a search for a new Executive Director for a fee above his generous salary. His candidate lasted only nine months, and Livingston will do a replacement search, although raising the question of why Pacifica would ask him to double down on a record of failure. Livingston will apparently conduct the search during his Real News Network gig. Has he informed the Real News Network board of this competing demand on for his time?

Livingston’s comment “The Board is in the process of launching a search for their successors” leaves open the question of whether they’ve yet engaged a headhunter. You can be sure that Livingston pitched the business hard; you can also imagine not-savvy board members being persuaded by Livingston allies that they shouldn’t demotivate him as interim CEO by giving the search business to someone else…as if his fee isn’t enough of a motivator. But there’s no evidence that Livingston has deep enough contacts in TV or online. And it’s not like he did a bang-up job of recruiting at Pacifica, which is in his bailiwick.

And is Livingston hiring cronies as he did at Pacifica?

Naked Capitalism is withdrawing its endorsement of The Real News Network as a trusted platform for interviewees, financial contributors and/or viewers. Dishonest efforts to create the impression that it is operating on a “business as usual” suggest that even more is amiss. It is our view that The Real News Network is no longer, either intrinsically or administratively, what it once was and aspired to be.

Moreover, if you are as deeply disturbed as we are by this turn of events, I strongly urge you to contact The Real News Network, give them a piece of your mind, and demand answers. The official contact form is here. Please also circulate this post widely, including featuring it on Facebook and Twitter

I have not tried to find the coordinates of board members, but if any readers have or can obtain them, please provide them in comments and I will add them to this post as an update.

___

1 This was escalated awfully quickly, unless one assumes Livingston handles all donor inquires personally.

2 One thing that could take some wrangling would be if Paul and Sharmini controlled the domain name and (not at all unreasonably, particularly given they created its value) are requiring the usurpers to pay to license it. But negotiating a license should not take remotely this much time.

3 Lambert checked the IP addresses of the parties making the edits (neither had an account name). The earliest one was from Brooklyn, the later one, from Mount Laurel, NJ.

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113 comments

  1. vidimi

    wow, i wasn’t aware of this and it’s a huge loss for honest journalism. sad that i have to strike the RNN off my dwindling trusted news sources list now.

    Reply
  2. Tim

    Hello

    Thank you for this. I was wondering what was going on.

    I have had the same impression for at least 2 months that something was amiss.

    Where was Paul? and the whole tone off the site has changed dramatically.

    To me it once again highlights the fragility of progressive news sites.
    Mother Jones – 5 years back great reporting of the workplace environment at Amazon, now TRUMP BAD BAD…..
    Alternet.org the same
    Salon and Slate.

    We are running out of progressive sites, which create original content

    Reply
    1. Tyronius

      THIS. There’s an old saying often attributed to the intelligence services that goes something like, ‘once is an anomaly, twice is a coincidence- but three times is enemy action!’

      Something more than merely coincidentally strange is going on. There aren’t many progressive sites doing actual reporting in the first place, so the loss of any is keenly felt. Such a small community doing such inflammatory work is a natural target, which leads me to wonder.

      This is a full blown trend and as such it’s deeply worrying.

      Did anyone else notice the lack of an email address on that page or did I fail to notice it?

      Reply
  3. Paul

    Thanks for reporting on this. I stopped listening to their daily podcast last summer after noticing a liberal turn to their coverage. Sad to hear about what’s been happening behind the scenes.

    Reply
  4. Seamus Padraig

    Insiders indicated that a major money source backed the defenestration, but some staffers did as well; we’re not sure what the internal controversy was about.

    In our ‘free’ society, the easiest way to censor the media is to buy it. And with non-profit media, this is done through donations and grants. It’s a safe bet that some deep-pocketed donor ponied up a lot of cash simply so that he/she could subvert yet another trusted alternative media source–it’s happening all over. Beware …

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Please do not make claims that we debunked in the post.

      My understanding is this was as very long-standing major donor, as in close to the very beginning, so that person has been on board with the sort of slant Paul and Sharmini have been taking for a very long time. And as we indicated, there is nothing to suggest that the forced exit was over Paul’s and Sharmini’s editorial stance. It appears to be about management issues, and we don’t have the full story there, save that some of the employees supported and maybe even helped foment the ouster.

      So this isn’t a tidy picture at all. The fact that Aaron Mate departed says there may have been some real issues with how Paul was dealing with at least some of his hosts. I don’t want to sound critical of Paul and Sharmini, they were clearly badly wronged, but from what little I have been able to pick up, this isn’t a black and white situation.

      Reply
      1. Darius

        They failed for more than a year in reaching a contract with the NewsGuild for their employees, who could have taken stronger, high-profile measures but refrained out of respect for the organization’s mission. Only after the change did management quickly agree to a contract with the newly organized staff.

        No organizations are perfect but I detected blind spots and the rank and file were not happy. Progressive organizations that resist staff unionization are creating an irreconcilable contradiction. Paul and Sharmini were great hosts who got great guests. I miss them. But the remaining hosts and producers continue to create an extremely informative and important product.

        Reply
        1. RalphR

          Are you sure you aren’t being spun, and that the board and the interim CEO conceded to having a union to buy off the employees who weren’t part of the coup?

          Reply
          1. Darius

            Perhaps. But negotiations were at a standstill for months and management had dug in its heels. The members thought they were being treated decidedly paternalistically and resented it. Talk of not disrupting the family. It was like unionizing Disney.

            Reply
            1. Yves Smith Post author

              “Being treated paternistically”? What sort of grievance is that?

              Getting a paycheck means having a boss. It sounds like some people weren’t on board with a basic power relationship. And I hate to tell you, I have NEVER heard of people who founded an organization and built it being thrown out for not being nice enough to staff. You’d have to have had at a minimum abusive behavior and I haven’t heard anyone alleging anything remotely like that.

              In other words, this story does not add up. I may have been wrong about not thinking this was about the money people, that the money people, just the way big banks enlist small banks to be their lobbying fronts, used what would otherwise be a manageable level of employee discontent as a cover.

              Reply
              1. athena1

                Something sounds very off to me, too. I’m giving it, like, 60% probable that you’re right about the “cover.”

                Reply
        2. CarlH

          I find their current output to be MSNBC lite. It has taken a dive off a cliff, with only a couple of hosts still making worthwhile posts in my estimation.

          Reply
        3. Lambert Strether

          > Progressive organizations that resist staff unionization are creating an irreconcilable contradiction.

          Your comment is interesting, but I’m not seeing an external evidence of a union drive at TRNN. Who’s doing the organizing? Was there a vote? What were the results? Are there results? I would have expected a union drive to be announced at the outset, in order to pressure management through the media and solicit contributions. That’s certainly the case for the union drives at other institutions we’ve been seeing over the past year. So why is TRNN so atypical? (It’s hard to believe the settlement has any effect. TRNN is still a going concern, and certainly a management that’s signing paychecks could sign a union contract?)

          Reply
      2. athena1

        I had assumed Aaron’s departure was probably because Aaron started going on Sputnik, which Paul might have felt uncomfortable with, since the mere association might tarnish TRNN’s pristine reputation.

        I’d guess they’re still friendly, if so. I actually hope Paul lands at Greyzone, if he doesn’t just start a new media operation of his own. If you could find a place for him here, that would be awesome, too, even though that type of media isn’t your traditional forte.

        In my mind, Paul created the gold standard for journalistic and editorial integrity. Whenever the conversation comes up anywhere about “What media do you really trust?” I’ve always listed TRNN as my #1 (and kind of only more or less fully trustworthy) source for that sort of media, and mentioned that Paul Jay’s oversight of everything seemed to be key.

        Reply
  5. michael hudson

    Wow for me too!
    I had not heard from Paul or Charmini for some months, and did not see them at the Left Forum in New York, where I usually meet them. The staff simply told me they didn’t come.
    I wondered why I wasn’t being called as usual, but in August I got an interview call to talk about China and the U.S. tariff fight. Greg Wilpert, whom I knew from before, was the interviewer. Nothing seemed changed, and they didn’t mention anything to me, except that they were getting faster transcriptions.
    What to do now …?

    Reply
    1. Isotope_C14

      Thank you Michael Hudson for all of your excellent perspectives on economics! I must say since you haven’t been on much at TRNN lately, I’ve been missing your perspective. I thought you were out fishing or something.

      “What to do now …?” Perhaps reach out to some youtube big-wigs:

      I think it’s time for Michael Hudson on the Joe Rogan show – that would be incredible. That would be some huge reach.

      The new Useful Idiots podcast with Matt and Katie would be fantastic, also I’m 100% sure Jamarl Thomas would love to have you on. You could always do Jimmy Dore again, that would be a hoot!

      Be well, happy and healthy!

      Reply
      1. worldblee

        Anywhere that Michael speaks is good. I’ll follow him to any show, because his segment will be informative no matter what.

        Reply
  6. Carla

    Many thanks, Yves, for this explosive and vital information. I was about to contribute to TNR again this year; now I will not. The news about Paul and Sharmini is shocking.

    Now I’ve got two The Real News t-shirts I can’t wear and a heavy heart to go with that…

    ;-(

    Reply
  7. John Halle

    I was solicited by them for an article recently and asked about what was going on.

    The response from my contact “came at it sideways”.

    “There is now a union and not a single member of the union would stand up for Paul.”

    Reply
        1. Michael Fiorillo

          In a traditional NLRB-type campaign, the drive is usually clandestine while the union and organizing committee sign people up. Once a large majority (since there’s usually attrition in support, especially if the employer is aggressively anti-union) has signed authorization cards, the campaign will go public and demand recognition/file for an election.

          Reply
          1. ambrit

            In this particular situation, how many people are we talking about? Plus, wouldn’t most of this group already be aware of each other, thus speeding the process up?
            I’ve lived in the south most of my life, so, union formation has been sparse on the ground.

            Reply
            1. Michael Fiorillo

              Yes, I was referring to a traditional organizing campaign in a workplace with a significant number of employees, though the dynamics can be similar in a small shop.

              This would almost constitute a “boutique” organizing campaign, given the presumed small number of people involved and, as you suggest, that should change things.

              But you never know how owners/managers will respond when facing a unionization effort. Otherwise rational, progressive people can really lose it…

              Reply
              1. ambrit

                To your penultimate sentence; especially if the organization being ‘unionized’ is a proprietary one. Unionization is always about power in a workplace. Founder owners would, supposedly, have a stronger desire to retain control. The dynamics here look to be tailor made to create strife, no matter, as you remark, the purported level of “social consciousness” in evidence.

                Reply
    1. JohnnyGL

      That’s interesting to hear. I’d always sort of wondered about what seemed like a lot of turnover over the years.

      It may be that Paul Jay produces great content, but is very difficult to work for.

      I met him once, briefly. He came across as a very intense guy. Not a lot of joking around.

      Reply
    2. ambrit

      Who is the union in question affiliated with? There are unions, and there are unions…..
      The ability of “major backers” to remain hidden is a major problem with any public service. As the mantra, “Follow the money” indicates, the holder of the purse strings often calls the tune. So, has something basic changed about the ‘hidden hand’ of this donor, like a shake up in a family foundation?
      Too many questions.

      Reply
      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Yes, after seeing unions throw their weight behind personally corrupt and anti-transparency CEO Marcie Frost, and engage in an astonishingly dirty campaign against JJ Jelincic, I’m no longer of the “unions always good” school. Workers need more power but that does not mean that power is ever and always used to the best ends.

        Reply
        1. Michael Fiorillo

          True from a policy/public interest perspective, but from a worker’s perspective, the usual rule of thumb is, “Even a bad union is better than no union at all.” A self-financing working class institution, no matter how sclerotic or corrupt, is a valuable thing.

          For all the policy and ethical train wrecks that would ensue, almost all of us would be far better off if, as in the ’50’s and early 60’s, thirty-five percent of the workforce was represented by unions, even if they were all “bad.”

          Reply
          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Sorry, I disagree. Keeping Frost around is not good for CalPERS on any level. I am getting more and more reports from current employees of Bad Shit going down which I can’t report because the overall pattern is very consistent, but the conveying data points would out the sources…considerable employee discontent with her….but the union bosses back her to the max.

            You seem to forget that there are principal/agent issues in unions, that union leaders often have more in common with the execs with whom they negotiate than the workers they represent. And more generally (and I need to write this up), big labor is increasingly backing private equity. So I would be awfully careful about exhibiting uncritical loyalty to unions.

            Reply
            1. Michael Fiorillo

              I’m well aware of all the shortcomings you mentioned, Yves; I spent over two decades in opposition caucuses in a management-captured union – UFT/ NYC teachers – but the fact remains that the union itself can be the vehicle for remedying those pathologies, via an activated rank and file. And as much as the UFT, for one example, sucks, teachers and students (the only thing limiting class size in NYC is the union contract) nonetheless benefit from its existence, far more than if they had to rely on the tender mercies of the Mayor, Chancellor and DOE.

              As radical historian David Montgomery used to say, ‘Stick with the working class, even when they’re throwing you out the shop window.”

              Reply
          2. John C. Robichaud

            There are, of course, corrupt unions. And self-aggrandising leaders. But, in general, I’m with you: workers are better off organised than not.

            Driving in Queensland last year we saw a roadside billboard with a local slogan that can be universally extrapolated. It said ‘The stronger the union, the safer the mine’.

            Reply
            1. Michael Fiorillo

              Yes, the IBEW (electrical workers) used to distribute car bumper stickers that read, “Live Better, Work Union.”

              And it’s true.

              Reply
        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Who on staff is in the union, who are contractors, and who are volunteers. Contractors would not be eligible to join a union. Don’t need names, need rough #s. Would help to know if the hosts are employees or contractors.

          Why has the organizing been secret? This is not normal.

          What were the grievances?

          Thanks.

          Reply
  8. ptb

    Thats a shame. RNN was a great source of reporting with integrity, especially on inequality issues the MSM wouldn’t touch, for years.

    Reply
  9. Arizona Slim

    Well, that did it. Count me as a former YouTube subscriber to the Real News Network.

    Any chance of bringing Paul Jay and Sharmini Peries into the NC fold? I’d be willing to toss some bucks into the NC kitty to ensure that they’re properly compensated. Who else is in?

    Reply
  10. John Siman

    Wow, thank you for this insight, Yves! I noticed several months ago that the Real News Network suddenly started to suck in a Voxy Vicey sort of way, and I had no idea why. After a few weeks of continuous disappointments, I unsubscribed from their YouTube Channel. This is all very sad. I think Paul Jay is one of the best journalists in North America, and I miss him very much.

    Reply
  11. Richard

    Please lynk or write same explanation for rats in the cellar at DN!

    I suppose issues I have witnessed do not rise to juan and amy being tossed, butt there is something up at DN! and knot all is easily revealed…

    Oh::the Gratitude for NC! –>> I have donated $25 annual toward real news since inception…

    Redirect to NC n o w-

    :♥)

    Reply
    1. Linda Amick

      I quit DN when they persisted and still do that the coup in Syria was actually the Syrian people protesting for better circumstances and the White Helmets were praised.

      Reply
    2. GF

      Please don’t dump DN into this – even though they originated in Pacifica (still affiliated some way I think). DN, if one listens/watches (they have their own Roku channel), nearly every day has stories and background for current event news that is beyond great. Most guests are very knowledgeable of issues being discussed and the long form interviews allow for much detail to be presented. Many of the guests appearing have written for NC.

      Reply
      1. Michael Fiorillo

        With all due respect to Amy Goodman and and Juan Gonzalez, DN really blew it on Russiagate, guzzling the Kool Aid. They featured a frequently unhinged Marcy Wheeler – someone with no relevant experience, who made preposterous assertions and betrayed sources – as their go-to analyst on the topic. To their credit, unlike other channels they’ve at least given Glen Greenwald and others a chance to re-assess the Russiagate dumpster fire, but they nevertheless undermined trust in their judgement and credibility.

        Reply
        1. Richard

          Yes- Wheeler insanity recent regards Mate is why I made claims in original comment- because something or someone has a lot of “goods” on folks somehow thru foundations or other medieval present day extortion…

          Like venus and mars in scorpio and soon these relational and action symbols will relationally show the truth thru action in truth and opinionation… albeit consequences from past actions in relations will have their say, as the diggdigg actions persist, given relevant rotational periods… 9 mos v 24-

          There is an excellent monologue regards consequences afteraction in the filmart :: the counselor; the flik where brad pitt or maybe val kilmer has his head removed uraniun gizmo style… (recall says pitt)

          Gonna dig that up and extract audio because it is a good preach for all to review from time to time; like N o w-

          :♥)

          Reply
            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Oh, this has been going on for a VERY long time on Twitter! She is always after him and he keeps having to rebut her nonsense. She is rarely comprehensible. She doesn’t make a coherent argument, cites names and legal provisions with explaining the significance, as if just dropping them has talismanic value.

              Reply
      2. Danny

        GF,
        Yes on the environment and the Mideast the Pacifica stations are great. The rest? Not so great. For years my friends and I donated heavily, i.e. $500 a year ~ to KPFA’s pledge drives in the S.F. Bay Area and got nice rewards like Zinn’s books, Oliver Stone’s DVDS etc.

        A few years ago, the “It’s All Whitey’s Fault” mantra began, and we got sick of our ancestors and progressive parents being blamed for everything wrong in the country and the world. KPFA now claims to be
        “the voice of women, students, people of color, migrants and sexual minorities.”
        Fine, then those groups can fund them. They will never get another cent from us or our friends.

        Yes, we donate hundreds to N.C., which has turned out to be the most informative and intellectual source of news available. Naked Capitalism radio would be a great thing.
        We home brew our own by converting text into speech, converting it to MP3s to download to a player and listen to it on the road via car radio. Only problem is headers, side bars and time stamps can’t be segregated out.

        Reply
  12. John Mc

    On the heels of the Taibbi book, this is another example of hidden media processes used to divide unsuspecting viewers. Reminds me of Erving Goffman’s work — back stage practices while shilling the same show (obvious change in their tone, content). Thank you Yves.

    Reply
  13. Mike

    To me, there seemed to be dissension back to last year. Paul and Marc Steiner had an on-air disagreement about a post-election issue that seemed to take Paul by surprise. He could often be seen to be heavy-handed in his questioning and direction of acceptable answers, but I have no knowledge of his internal authority or management style, so cannot judge on that basis. But it did seem the drift toward more acceptable coverage had occurred, less to do with analysis than with subject matter chosen.

    The pattern of late seems to reflect pressure upon alternate news sites and/or their donors (Prop-or-Not and NC stand out), but this has details that say for us to wait and see how this shakes out. Money is the root of most problems (TYT an example) when you get to a point of growth that demands more control over that growth and its patterns. In this news culture, size matters.

    Reply
    1. polecat

      Only those, of Prop r ‘Integrity’ … and ‘Initiative’ .. and the likey, have the right to dispence the ‘truth’ … through applying painful ‘pressured’ points where unwarranted.

      Reply
    2. Plenue

      TYT was never particularly great, and I say that as someone who was hugely into them as an ‘alternative’ news source for the better part of a year. Once you get out of their bubble and move to other souces, just how shallow TYT is becomes apparent. They were bad long before taking Republican money, and that mostly had to do with Cenk Uygur. His backstory (he’s talked about it often) is that he used to be commited conservative before seeing the light. I think the reality is that he never got as far from his roots as he probably thinks he has.

      Reply
        1. Plenue

          That’s nice.

          TYT’s content largely consists of them reading some story in a mainstream outlet and then providing their ignorant opinions on it. And the quality has actually degraded over time, increasingly tending toward clickbait.

          That they’ve taken million from Republican Buddy Roemer is public record, and last I checked Uygur was effectively shilling for Warren.

          Reply
          1. athena1

            I think of TYT as left-MSM for teenagers. I have a 16 year old kid, and he was into TYT from ages 12-15. When he was newly 15 he started noting the shallowness, so I introduced him to NC, TRNN, etc.

            Don’t hate on Cenk for liking Warren, tho. Some of us hard-left, high-info progressives really do believe she’s the country’s best shot for un-familyblogging the Democratic Party and thus the nation.

            Reasonable people can disagree.

            Reply
  14. Michael Fiorillo

    I considered contributing to their fund drive, as I usually do, despite the departure of Aaron Mate, but when he was recently dissed on a show about impeachment, the transcript of which could have been supplied by David Corn or some other Russiagate dementoid, I wrote them off.

    As other commenters have pointed out, the pickings are getting mighty slim out there…

    Reply
    1. Brooklin Bridge

      Do you have a link for that? I’m assuming you’re referring to Mate when you say, “he was recently dissed…,”

      I was very disappointed when Mate left yet still feel uncomfortable making judgements as to why, but getting rid of or loosing such a person with no public explanation just sends a bad signal about what is valued.

      Reply
        1. Brooklin Bridge

          I get a “video unavailable” message, but thanks for the try, also for the date.

          I found it on their web site and will look for the 22:00 mark.

          Reply
        2. Brooklin Bridge

          I watched the segment you pointed out and indeed, found it pretty precious they would go after Mate when they knew they were safe from his being able to respond. Behind one’s back, a whole new dimension to intrepid.

          Reply
          1. Michael Fiorillo

            They were also typically disingenuous, by not addressing the point of Mate’s tweet, which is that politically, Russiagate/Ukrainegate are dogs.

            I don’t want to be dismissive of RNN; their local reporting is important, and they’re generally better than other left/liberal venues, but you can just feel it migrating towards Orthodoxy…

            Reply
  15. Doug Tarnopol

    Thanks for reporting on this. I was getting worried that Jay had gotten really sick or something.

    I’m not ready to fully bail on TRNN, though — or even partially bail. They still do a lot of good work, and the left is all too ready to split, as everyone knows. And should resist, too.

    I don’t want catechisms over articles of faith. I don’t collapse in tears if someone disagrees on Russiagate, say. Or on what to do in Syria. I am not allergic to all possible nouns that could plausibly be modified by “liberal”–people, ideas, whatever. I want to hear from people I don’t agree with; it’s how you stay sharp and avoid falling into a bubble.

    The left usually has little power, is up against a titanic raft of problems in the world it’ll probably never conquer, and has little actual money and resources, always. This makes for seriously toxic intramural competition and scapegoating. Easier to take out the person one quark-length to the left or right of lil of you than, like, take on the Pentagon. Much easier (and cheaper) to blast out some hot take on how Greta’s a cyborg created by MSM to…do something or other. There is much pure insanity on the left. I say we try not to add to it.

    Yes, I’ve done it, too. Yes, it still sucks. Flame away. :)

    Reply
    1. Plenue

      Sorry, but there are very good reasons to question Thunberg. Corey Morningstar has assembled a significant amount of evidence that’s she’s been groomed and manufactured, not to do ‘something’ but to greenwash corporate attempts to funnel and hijack the global rebellion against climate change. Thunberg herself is probably entirely genuine, but she’s a child being manipulated by the adults around her.

      You’re right, we are facing titanic problems, and that incluces powerful enemies who can manufacture a youth symbol to try and coopt public outrage on their own terms.

      And putting all that aside, once again the left is relying on indivuduals. We don’t need yet more charismatic people who speak ‘truth to power’. Power doesn’t care about being spoken strongly to.

      Reply
      1. Doug Tarnopol

        I did suggest we try not to add to the insanity. I didn’t think it would be taken up, so, no surprise, really.

        Reply
        1. Steve H.

          Doug, you provided the initiating stimulus, which was responded to with citations. Perhaps consider Noam Chomsky’s wisdom:

          “I’m sure you believe everything you’re saying. But what I’m saying is that if you believe something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.”

          Reply
      2. Danny

        Plenue,
        “greenwash corporate attempts to funnel and hijack the global rebellion against climate change.”
        AND to promote the scheme to pay the corporate polluters that caused most of the mess additional trillions to clean it up, as well as carbon taxes?

        Reply
  16. JohnnyGL

    Pay Jay has done some incredible interviews over the years. The senator Bob Graham series…some of the best on venezuela, too. His round table discussions on trump, china and russia really helped place things in context on int’l relations.

    Reply
  17. JohnnyGL

    Regarding falling views, youtube seems to have really overhauled its algorithm in the last couple of months.

    The changes look on par with those from the ad-pocalypse episode.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I’m not sure how your comment makes sense. TRNN has over 350K subscribers, a daily mailing list, and a site which also drives viewers to YouTube. This is not at all a site that depends on searches for viewers to find its new videos. The algo changes impact monetization, which TRNN does not do (no YouTube ads) and what comes up on searches.

      Analogous to that, we have e-mail and RSS subscribers. The traffic we get from that has not changed at all despite Google search machinations. And we do a hell of a lot less than they do to generate traffic outside Google.

      Reply
      1. JohnnyGL

        Apologies if I was unclear, the comment was made in a hurry.

        I just noticed in recent months that I’ve seen a huge change in the recommendations. Lots of channels getting suggested that I’ve never watched or heard of. I was speculating that it was at least partially driving the drop in views. I don’t see them in my recommendations much, but that could be because I’ve drifted away from them, too. I’ve noticed the content fading in quality.

        You’re right about my 2nd sentence, my ad-pocalypse comparison didn’t make sense. :)

        Reply
  18. John Hemington

    Thanks for reporting this Yves. I also have stopped my monthly contribution, as follows:
    I have been a monthly subscriber (donor) to TRNN for quite some time now. However, upon hearing of
    the termination of Paul Jay and Sharmini Peries which is a disgrace I am terminating my donations
    effective immediately. Please discontinue charging my credit card.

    Reply
  19. Matthew G. Saroff

    Just added former to titles on the RNN wiki page with link to NC. (I am user msaroff on Wiki)

    We will see if this gets changed.

    Reply
  20. Carolinian

    Thanks for the extensive inside info. Hillary Clinton recently said that it’s a pity that we no longer live in the era when all the news came from three TV networks and that all these alternative sources were “confusing” the public. It’s safe to say the establishment really wants to shut down alternative news by threatening it with the “fake news” label or other tactics. Maybe this isn’t what that is, but those of us out here in webland like to stay informed.

    Reply
    1. polecat

      Future-to-be former bloggers might be wise to have acquired, as a backup, a physical printing-press … for when the ‘internet’ as such, becomes the soul($ucking) domain of the privilaged.
      It’s gonna happen sometime – I can almost sense that plug pulled outta socket !

      Reply
  21. Pat K California

    This is so unbelievably sad. I too could tell that something unpleasant was going on at the Real News. Suddenly Paul Jay and Sharmini Peries were just … gone. Then later, Mark Steiner … gone. Then their coverage of various events started to get thin … and took a new slant in a direction I had never seen before.

    About a month ago I actually searched the entire Real News website and found nothing on either Paul or Sharmini. I couldn’t imagine how this could be since I knew that these two had started the whole Real News endeavor. So I “DuckDuckGoed” their names … and found nothing after about July of 2019. It was as if they’d both dropped off the face of the earth.

    So thank you, Yves, for clearing this up, at least as much as you can. God but I miss Paul and Sharmini. Especially Paul. So many, many stellar interviews over the past 10 years. Can’t thank him enough for them.

    Reply
      1. Pat K California

        Oh my goodness, Yves! I guess that shows just how little I’ve been watching TRNN as of late.Lately all I’ve been seeing are Greg Wilpert interviews. You’d think I would have hit at least a few of Mark’s stories in that time. But no. Funny, but when I searched the TRNN website a month ago, I could have sworn that Mark’s name was gone too … go figure …

        Reply
  22. ambrit

    Ultra tinfoil hatt warning!!!
    Mr Kynikos here to throw out a possible, far out conspiracy theory.
    Can this be part and parcel of an organized effort on the part of some ‘status quo’ alliance to ‘sanitize’ the public discourse? Assange we all know about. Likewise Snowdon and Manning. Similarly, if a bit outre is the Kim Dotcom caper. Blumenthal suddenly gets jailed on a trumped up charge. I follow all this back to the original Irak war and the imposition of the “embedding” of ‘journalists’ within American military units.
    The Enforcement of Conformity program is accelerating.

    Reply
    1. Seamus Padraig

      My sentiments exactly. TPTB now know without a doubt that they’re losing control of The NarrativeTM, and are going on the offensive. The empire strikes back!

      Reply
  23. Steven Greenberg

    I wasn’t aware of this, but it explains a few the recent postings on The Real News Network that I felt they should have been ashamed for.

    Reply
    1. flora

      The Borg: “We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.”

      Reply
  24. Donna

    Yes, I too used to watch the Real News every day but lately have tapered off. Mark Steiner did several interviews with a writer at the Nation about the continuing rightwing lurch of the courts. They never mentioned how Schumer has been cooperating on this. I rarely comment but felt compelled to point this out. The tone does seem to have changed. However, the reporters covering Baltimore still seem to be working hard on the injustices there. They also have a great guy, Stephen Janis, covering the unions.

    I am conflicted about stopping my monthly donation as I too have been donating since the last presidential election.

    Their homepage has changed. They used to show photos of Danny Glover, Gabriel Byrne, Noam Chomsky as supporters or having some relationship to the organization.

    But thanks, Yves, for doing the research on this. I certainly felt like something had changed just couldn’t put my finger on what.

    Reply
  25. clonalantibody

    This parallels what happened to Pacifica/KPFA over the last two decades. A takeover by the neoliberals, as cash crunches loomed with the decline/stagnation in wages of the bottom 80% of the population. The decline/stagnation reduces the contributions from small donors, and the organization then looks to larger donors, who extract their pound of flesh.

    Reply
  26. Pat K California

    Oh my goodness, Yves! I guess that shows just how little I’ve been watching TRNN as of late.Lately all I’ve been seeing are Greg Wilpert interviews. You’d think I would have hit at least a few of Mark’s stories in that time. But no. Funny, but when I searched the TRNN website a month ago, I could have sworn that Mark’s name was gone too … go figure …

    Rats … sorry, I posted this in the wrong place …

    Reply
  27. RBHoughton

    Might some reptilian politician in Baltimore be rejoicing at this? If I was investigating I think that’s where I’d start.

    Its the same with The Guardian. After the 2008 bankruptcy there has been very little publicity about the new owners, bankers and big biz wallahs, with the only person connected with media on the board being Kath Viner. The company is a Cayman Islands incorporation belonging to a trust that pays no tax. All the assets have been sold off but the company’s funds are actually decreasing – sound familiar?

    As an act of political rectitude The Guardian has this year rekindled its love affair with GCHQ and become yet another avenue for spooky news. Its quite difficult to assess reliability. On occasion one of the old staff gets a scoop through. I think the Azerbaijan Laundry was the last, but such events are rare. The secrecy surrounding the change of ownership and the demise of the highly moral principles of the Scott Trust are to be regretted.

    With this news of the attack on social responsibility at TRNN, I start to fear that the Masters of the Universe have a plan and its not in humanity’s interest.

    Reply
  28. Chuckie

    I was wondering what happened to apaul Jay. I noticed he went missing several months ago. I assumed he was ill. Man, this situation stinks. And, recently, Real News did a total hatchet job on Tulsi Gabbard. Not that I think Tulsi is perfect, but this story was awful and they kept emphasizing often how much she is loved by people on the right. I think I’m done with this channel.

    Reply
  29. MathUDX

    When the Real News started shadow banning my comments (“Hide user from channel”) from their Youtube pages for being too critical of terrible Marc Steiner segments, that was the last straw for me. There is no such thing as a thin-skinned journalist, shadow banning is one of the most cowardly tactics for controlling dissent that there is.

    Note that there is also a set of curious workplace reviews on glassdoor.com claiming that Jay was a controlling boss. One review says they’re all bogus and probably a single disgruntled employee. I’ve been trying to contact Greg Wilpert, the last journalist there I really respect, over on Venezuela Analysis because I don’t trust my communications to get through Real News channels, but haven’t had any luck yet. You’d think a journalist would make it easier to contact them directly.

    Reply
  30. di

    Thank you so much for this information. I used to follow TRNN regularly & temporarily subscribed. I too noticed a distinct difference & lost much interest. I couldn’t put my finger on it except I kept looking for Jay and Sharmini. Their shows were great, in part because they were great interviewers. Too bad. Now I understand why I had lost interest. You provided excellent insight.

    Reply
  31. rob

    slouching towards oblivion….
    clarity comes with voices speaking truth to power..
    time passes… anything of substance and persistence is co-opted or crushed.
    The body of the establishment today is the flesh of the opposition it encountered yesterday….time passes..
    there is opportunity to be the voice of clarity
    but evil is the banality of business as usual
    and that is the god of the status quo
    To the victor go the spoils

    Reply
  32. Aintnorep

    Yves Smith, thanks for this. At my house, we’ve been wondering what’s going on with the The Real News. And also thanks to Naked Capitalism for turning me on to the Real News in the first place back in 2007, or 08 or 09 or whenever it was. And yes, this is Sad News, especially given that even 2 years ago, The Real News seemed like it might be on the cusp of becoming a true network for the Sanders Political Revolution. That certainly seemed to be where Paul Jay was trying to go, and it looked for a while it looked like it could happen.

    There were missteps along the way of course. Political movements all have missteps and schisms, and personally I thought Paul Jay might be out of commission as the result of some kind of breakdown. For about the last year and a half of his tenor he seemed to be chasing conspiracy theories of his own devising—including one where Pence was the power behind the throne and Trump was just Pence’s tool and it was all leading up to an invasion of Iran—and then getting people like Aaron Mate to interview him about his theories. It got pretty nutty in the weeks before Aaron left. But that said, the Real News has definitely gone downhill over the last year, both during the last 6 months of Paul and Sharmini and especially since, where Mark Steiner and Greg Wilpert seem like they are just trying to hold the fort.

    Both the above hosts are fine, but a lot of regular guests seemed to have gone by the wayside—Robert Pollin, Stephanie Kelton, Lawrence Wilkerson among them—and the The Real News is poorer for it. TRN clearly needs a wider and guiding vision, and crazy as Paul Jay was talking in the last months, his was it. Whatever the cause was for dumping Paul and Sharmini, it was a huge mistake and incredibly short sighted. For the viewers, for the movement, it’s a real loss. I hope The Real News can recoup. It can be done if they’re willing to be both creative, critical and above all radical in the broadest sense.

    Reply
    1. ambrit

      I’m wondering if Paul Jay will resurface any time soon, or if this is an extended ‘vacation’ for him. Either way, I’d be very interested to see where he does pop up at eventually. Is there to be a Third Wave of muck raking internet journalism?

      Reply
        1. JC

          First time posting. Thanks Yves Smith watched your last show in TRNN with Paul Jay and Sharmini Peries. Searching few mths, what happens to Paul Jay. Hope Margarita Simonyan hire Paul Jay and Sharmini Peries replacing NeoLiberal Holland Cooke. Am a die hard RT.

          BTW why did TRNN sacked Sharmini Peries?

          Reply
  33. Neven

    I’ve also unsubscribed and stopped donating.

    I felt something was wrong for a while, then I saw that horrible Steiner video where they smeared Aaron Maté, and decided to ask where Paul Jay was. Never received a reply.

    What a shame. All they have is Greg Wilpert now. Imagine Jay and Sharmini still being there, and Aaron Maté, and Ben Norton…

    Thanks a lot for this information, which I got to, ironically, via the fundraising campaign video with Steiner.

    Reply
  34. Josh

    Comments on Glassdoor indicate that Paul Jay may not be the best manager, but that could also be part of a coordinated smear. I would wager he’s intense, demanding, disorganized, and blunt — that might turn people off.

    This is hearsay, but in private conversation, Ben Norton agreed with a friend of mine on the assessment that Paul Jay is an amazing leftist voice and visionary, but he isn’t great at managing people.

    I figured they made Wilpert the managing editor as a way to place a buffer between Jay and the employees.

    Even if Jay wasn’t the best manager, the best solution to this wouldn’t be to sack the two people who created the network and were the primary reason for its unique and unparalleled voice in the media ecosystem. It’s a tragedy that this network is falling apart — it used to be a bit of a “one stop shop” for left-leaning, rigorous analysis.

    Reply

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