The Breaking News Epidemic

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published in 2015 but is just as timely–perhaps even more timely–today than when it was first released. We are going into a period of extended “breaking news” interruptions due to the chaos in Washington and the 2020 Election Year Cycle, so it’s not a bad idea to revisit the original piece and to inform critical thinking that can differentiate between a news item that is truly important and worth of the “breaking news” tag, or just a blatant attempt to gain clicks or viewers. Sometimes the best way to understand the future is to look at the past.

Paying Attention: No doubt, we know precisely where the current “breaking news” /”breaking alert” epidemic started: September 11th, 2001. On that day, every news channel and every broadcast station was bombarded with news, news feeds, photos, videos, interviews, theories, conflicting reports about the Twin Towers attack. So much information was coming in so fast and from so many different sources, and the market was so hungry for it, that each new story line was branded as one of “breaking news”–a category of news status that is reserved for the highest, latest, most important information. In the past, breaking news stories were those stories big and important enough to “break into” existing broadcasting programming with short segments on the event in focus–one that was frequently in progress even as the news story covering it was running.
One of the most famous such stories in modern history was when CBS News and Walter Cronkite broke the news  with a CBS News Bulletin about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  But, it was 911 that brought the “Breaking News” label back into popular media deployment (along with the bottom headline ticker, introduced so that multiple streams of information could be delivered simultaneously on a television screen) and as news producers, directors and editors learned that the breaking news label had the power to gather more attention (and ratings), “Breaking News” went from something really, really important to a label applied to some rather mundane stuff.  And, of course, as is the case with anything that is over-used, the public gets numb after a while and “Breaking News” as a label of importance suffers importance degradation.
The most egregious promoters of “Breaking News” overuse are–who else–the folks at Fox News, who continuously  run “News Alert” and “Breaking News” labels continuously on their telecasts. Roger Alies, the head of Fox News, is the best in the business but he has a tabloid attitude–one no doubt inherited from his boss, the one-and-only Rupert Murdoch, a tabloid newspaperman without peer in our time.
The problem with “breaking news” and “news alerts” heading is the same problem laid out decades ago in the fable “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”. If you do it too much, do it too often, do it for stories large and stories small, then soon enough your audience (market) becomes numb to the heading and the words and their meaning just become digital wallpaper on the screen, without significance because they are present on every show, and on every screen.
Breaking News works best when it’s important, necessary, urgent. A little restraint on  news producer’s part would salvage the power of this prime communications tool. But–we do not live in an era of restraint and, ultimately, it is up to you–the viewer–to determine whether the item scrolling along the bottom of the screen or cutting into “regularly scheduled program in progress” is really breaking news or just a programming gimmick.

The Sorensen Memo: How To Manage A Presidential Replacement

Embed from Getty Images

We live in dangerous and interesting times. With all of the very heated discussions about the impeachment inquiry and possible removable from office of President Trump –both sides accusing each other (and anyone else within shouting range) of various forms of wrong doing–it seemed like a good time to do a little digging and see what historical imperatives/perspectives were available to provide background on this unique moment in American history. You don’t have to be President to be impeached–it’s an equal opportunity legal remedy provided for in the Constitution–but there is no doubt that everyone perks their ears up when a Presidential impeachment is being discussed or pursued. That is, to be crass, the “glamour impeachment”. There have been three Presidential impeachments in American history: Andrew Johnson (acquitted), Bill Clinton (acquitted), Richard Nixon (proceedings terminated due to Nixon’s resignation) . In each case, plans had to be made for the government to continue, plans which would be put into action–or not–depending upon the outcome of the impeachment process. There was no need for a Presidential replacement for Clinton (he stayed in office and left with a soaring approval rating) or for Johnson but there was for Nixon, whose situation was more complex.

A little digging turned up the fact that Theodore Sorensen, President John F. Kennedy’s close advisor and speechwriter (and also the author of the seminal biography, “Kennedy”) had written a Memo while the Nixon impeachment was progressing, detailing the nuts and bolt of replacing a sitting president. The Memo was written for Carl Albert, who was then Speaker of the House and was produced to insure that there would be a smooth transition in the Presidency if/when President Nixon was forced from office. For background, the Nixon/Watergate scenario can be found in this recent article from The Washington Post and it was that situation which generated the impetus for this post.

Nixon’s situation, and the necessity for the Memo, was created by the fact that Spiro Agnew, Nixon’s Vice President, had been forced to resign due to legal troubles and the possible resignation or impeachment of President Nixon was imminent. A change was going to come, and it was going to have to be managed. Succession in such cases followed a mandated order: President gives way to Vice President and if the Veep is not available, then the Presidency would go to the Speaker of the House. Nixon had no Vice President (Agnew was out) at the time, so the next person in line for the Presidency would have been Representative Carl Albert (D-Oklahoma), who was then Speaker of the House. Sorensen and Albert both felt that there could be a vacuum in the Presidency if there were a delay in confirming Gerald Ford who had been selected as the new Vice President to replace the disgraced Agnew as the new VP for Nixon. But proceedings were dragging on and a break in government leadership was unthinkable. Thus–the “Sorensen Memo”.

Sorensen’s Memo was a typically brilliant and level-headed way to give Albert a “heads up” on what would be required if he, Albert, had to step into the role of President. Ted Sorensen was one of our very best minds( a member of the “best and the brightest generation” in Washington) and his memo details the logistics and structure of assuming the Presidency; a reading will re-iterate what we have always expected our presidents to do when they take office and will also highlight the significant differences between the ethics and process expected of an American President vs the current administrative occupants in the White House. Perhaps the current administration needs a refresher course in how it’s done. Look no further, it’s below.

The “The Sorensen Memo”, is required reading for our times and was obtained via the Fordham Law Archive of Scholarship and History. Please see the citation at this end of this incredible historical document for proper attribution. We thank the Albert Family, The Sorensen Family, and Fordham University for making it available to Americans. There is a direct link that will take you to a copy of the original document (look sharp, you’re at Fordham Law!) and may be an easier read than the text of Sorensen’s memo, reproduced below, with admittedly some awkward formatting. In any event, it is strongly advised that you read the “Sorensen Memo”, so you have a working knowledge of how a new American president is installed after an existing American President is booted out of office. Given the times, it may come in handy.



Succession Theme

Basic Posture


1) Taking the Oath of Office

2) Physically Taking Over the Office

3) Resignation from the House

4) Preservation of White House Files

5) A “Quick-Fix”on the National Security Situatio

6) The Outgoing President

7) Communications with Existing White House Staff Cabinet, Agencies

8) Congressional Leaders


1) Your Personal Staff

— 6 or 7 slots to fill immediately

2) Address Congress in Joint Session

3) Projecting your Command of the Office to the World

— a series of steps to take

4) First Presidential Press Conference

5) Other Meetings or Phone Calls in FirstWeek

— list of categories of bases to touch

6) Other Decisions to be made in First Week

a) The Vice Presidency

b) Future political plans

c) Succession in Speakership and House

7) Personal Arrangements

a) Health

b) Residence

c) Financial Arrangements

d) Offices






November 8, 1973

This Memorandum is for your use in the event that

you are suddenly elevated to the Office of President of

the United States by an unexpected vacancy in that Office

before the confirmation of a new Vice President. Should

that vacancy occur as the result of a lengthy and foreseeable

process or orderly agreement or arrangement, the additional

planning time thereby provided will make unnecessary

certain portions of this Memorandum and make possible a more

precise elaboration of certain others. Should a new Vice

President be confirmed before a vacancy occurs, or should

the President serve out his term, this entire Memorandum

will become unnecessary and can be destroyed (if you fear

that its existence, if discovered, might be misinterpreted

as evidence of an improper motivation on your part for the

President’s ouster).

If, on the other hand the President should

suddenly become incapacitated or die (and either of those

contingencies would impose additional concerns not set

forth in this Memorandum), or if he should suddenly resign,

this Memorandum — once it has been reviewed, amended as

necessary and finalized by you — is designed to think

through in advance the steps you will need to take in those

first hours and days of unprecedented pressure.


The intended result of the Memorandum and the

theme which should be conveyed in all of your early

actions and statements is simply this:

This country cannot afford even a brief

interruption in the continuity and functioning

of government. Any confusion or instability at

this crucial juncture that gives the impression

of a rudderless ship would risk serious damage

to the national security, economy and spirit.

A new President under these unprecedented circumstances

must visibly, smoothly and efficiently

take charge of the instruments of office in fact

as well as name, and without any show of uncertainty,

before either the nation, its government servants

or its allies lose heart, and before other centers

of power in the government, the nation and the world

start spinning off in different directions.

A few cautionary reminders, undoubtedly unnecessary,

for that first week in the White House:

(1) Beware or men, agencies and nations

seeking to take advantage of the pressures, to test

you, to commit you or to outmaneuver you. Make no

decisions or announcements at the request of others

until necessary and until all possibly interested or

knowledgeable persons have been consulted. Identify

and get rid of any hold-overs undercutting you or

forming factions.

(2) Do not let the press or anyone

else set artificial deadlines for you. The tasks

suggested below will be time-consuming enough

without your making other decisions — particularly

on policy and personnel — with which you will have

to live a long time and which can be made later in

more considered fashion. This Memorandum contains

no suggestions on the process of selecting new

Cabinet members or the process of devising new

policy initiatives. Both may be required later but

not in the first week.

(3) No one else, no matter how much authority

he had in your House office, should be allowed

to commit you to any action, person or.point of view

without your specific approval in advance. Every

casual statement by you or a member of your staff

on or off the record — that was previously a matter

of politics or public relations will hereafter be

regarded as Presidential and national policy.

(4) Many a new President has had difficulty

in shifting roles from'”legislator to Chief Executive;

in realizing that a different perspective and time

frame now govern his place in history, that attacks

by him on his predecessor accomplish nothing, and

that raising questions and pointing with alarm are

no longer enough for the man who must have the

answers and actually run the show.


(5) You must be your own man, listening

to your own common sense conscience and

convictions even when they differ from the experts,

the pressure or the majority opinion. You are not

required to either follow or revamp the patterns

of White House operations established by any of

your predecessors.

Finally, you will need from the start — both for

private peace of mind and for public use — a “Basic Posture”

regarding your service in the Presidency an approach which

will govern your attitude and actions in undertaking both

the early agenda set forth below and your subsequent conduct

of the office. This “Basic Posture” should also be the basis

of your earliest public statements as President; and, although

this involves highly personal decisions on your part that we

have not yet had an opportunity to discuss, I am suggesting

a posture in the form of a first-person statement as

the most helpful way of setting it forth for your consideration:

At no time did I seek this awesome burden; but I

cannot shrink from my responsibility. Under the

statute long ago considered with care and lawfully

enacted by the representatives of the people

convened in Congress, my election by the House of

Representatives as Speaker placed me next in line

for the high office to which I have now succeeded.

Between now and January 20, 1977, I intend to fulfill

the obligations of that office to the best of my

ability. I shall not be a candidate for the Presidency

in 1976 or at any other time.


Our principal task now is to heal the wounds

which have sorely divided and troubled our

country and to renew our national spirit. To

this end, I pledge a non-partisan administration

of national reconciliation and unity. I intend to

retain and appoint in my Cabinet and Administration

the best men and women in the country available for

the job, regardless of party.

To the Congress, to the news media, to those now

serving the Executive Branch and to the American

people, I pledge my unceasing efforts to work with

you for the achievement of our national goals; and

from you I request your patient understanding and

cooperation. With your help, and with God’s help,

we shall not fail.


1) Taking the Oath of Office. For both legal and

practical reasons consistent with the need for no hiatus in

the functioning of government, you should be sworn in as

President as soon as possible, within a matter of hours

after the vacancy occurs.

Where? The East Room of the White House

is preferable to any Capitol Hill location as a symbol

of the transfer of power. An outdoor ceremony or a

large auditorium would be inappropriate.

Who Administers the Oath? The Chief Justice

is the best symbol of non-partisan continuity, although

any Federal judicial officer will do if you have a

strong preference. A family Bible should be on hand.

Who Attends? Numbers are limited by both the

size of the room and the fact that a small, quiet ceremony

is the most appropriate. Invite your family, close friends

and aides, leaders of the House and Senate from both

parties, members of the Cabinet and Supreme Court, and

a pool of correspondents and photographers. In keeping

with the need for visibly demonstrating to the world

a calm and purposeful take-over, television cameras on

a pool basis should be allowed. It should be a somber

occasion — no music or refreshments.

What Statement? A full-scale inaugural address

would be inappropriate. After taking the oath, you can

read and/or have your aides distribute a very short statement

along the lines of the “Basic Posture” suggested above

on pp. 4-5, possibly combining with it some thought

from the “Succession Theme” set forth on p. 2. From

the moment you learn of the vacancy until the issuance

of this “Statement Upon Taking the Oath of Office,” no

other statement to the press or public is necessary or


2) Physically Taking Over the Office. To show

continuity, to assert command and to obtain the maximum

use of the indispensable and unequalled White House communications

and transportation network, and for your own

security, you should move your base of operations away

from Capitol Hill and to the White House/Executive Offices

complex as quickly as possible. If time is required for a

removal of your predecessor’s personal belongings from the

Oval Office, another office can be used temporarily.

Arrangements should also be made to move your own aides, their

secretaries and your secretary into temporary offices near

yours as quickly as possible, even if doubling up is required,

until more permanent staff arrangements can be made when

everyone’s situation (and loyalties) are better known.

Career personnel, military aides and the Secret Service can

brief you regarding the faci!ities and services now at your


3) Resignation from the House. By such letters as

the Parlimentarian suggests, you should promptly resign from

the Speakership and from the House.

4) Preservation of White House Files. Depending upon

the circumstances creating the vacancy, a possibly unpleasant

but obligatory task, which if ignored might open you to

charges of dereliction and on which the advice and assistance

of the Attorney General and/or Special Prosecutor and/or

Senate Watergate Corrunittee Counsel will be required, is to

irrunediately take such steps and issue such orders (implemented

by the FBI) as may be necessary to prevent the destruction

or dispersal of any files or tapes until an orderly

decision on their future can be made by the appropriate

legal authorities.

5) A “Quick Fix” on the National Security Situation.

An immediate briefing from the Director of the CIA, a

briefing from the existing White House military aide regarding

the “buttons”, the courier who follows you about and

the emergency facilities at your disposal, and a brief meeting

with the National Security Council can all be limited the

first day to ascertaining the answers to two questions:

(a) are there any crises or danger spots likely

to explode this week, or likely to be exploited by those

wishing to take advantage of this country’s preoccupation

with the change-over; and what should be planned by way

of deterrent or response; and

(b) What are the procedures to be followed

that will assure your knowing of all developments in ,

the national security area before any corrunitments or

responses are made in your name?

6) The Outgoing President. Assuming the vacancy has

not been caused by the death or disability of the outgoing

President, you should meet with him to pledge an orderly and

efficient transfer of authority, and an administration of national

unity; to request his cooperation and advice; and to discuss

practical problems of his moving out and your moving in to

the Residence and Oval Office.

7) Communications With Existing White House Staff,

Cabinet Members and Other Agency Heads.

By telephone or in group meetings (a Cabinet meeting is

desirable if time permits during the first day), with

such exceptions if any that the circumstances of the takeover

make obvious, you should ask each of them to stay at

least until you get to know them and their work and can

discuss their future with them in calmer fashion. Ask each

one to prepare a confidential report to you on major issues,

problems or tasks facing him at this time, and his recommendations

for your future decisions in his area of responsibility

in particular. Direct a top-to-bottom freeze on

all new jobs, promotions and replacements until you an

your people can examine the need therefor (to avoid any lastminute

partisan moves to create sinecures for friends, etc.)

8) Congressional Leaders, including key Committee

chairmen and ranking members, both Houses, both parties.

Invite to oath-taking ceremony, and meet immediately thereafter.


1) Your Personal Staff. If the change-over is sudden,

your Capitol Hill staff will have to suffice during that

first day. But you will not be able to function effectively

for very long in the White House without a top-flight team

personally loyal to you. Select only those individuals in

whom you personally have supreme confidence and who will

perform precise duties that you now know you will need. It

will be easier to add new bodies later after experience demonstrates

their need than to transfer those you have already

appointed, although some reshuffling during the first year

is inevitable. Keep the numbers down, avoid personality clashes

and rivalries, and keep titles to a bare minimum. The following

are basic (use of “he” means “he or she”). (Each of these

senior positions [the first six listed] may be paid salaries

up to Level II, which is subCabinet rank; and the first spot,

if filled, could receive Cabinet pay.):

(a) Chief of·Staff — You can fill this

role yourself as JFK sought to do; or you can seek

a true alter ego, a deputy President, an Executive

Assistant with even broader responsibilities than

Haldeman or Marvin Watson (but not, like Sherman

Adams, to the exclusion of everyone else).

Consider this with care, forgetting about imagery.

(b) Program and Policy Aide — The focus

here is on legislation, executive orders, the Budget,

and policy pronouncements, with the emphasis on

domestic policy primarily but not exclusively.

He should become plugged-in promptly to the Budgetary

process, inasmuch as work on the Budget you are to

present next January is begun many months ahead. He

should also ascertain immediately from OMB and the

Executive Clerk the status of all bills enacted by

the Congress and awaiting the President’s signature

or veto within the prescribed period of time. He

and you can decide later whether the formal Domestic

Council apparatus erected under Ehrlichman should

remain and how many assistants to cover the various

departments he should have. He need not be a lawyer;

but if he is, he can be called Special Counsel — a

once honorable title. Making maximum use of OMB can

drastically cut the number of White House aides

reporting to him. Speech-writing should be handled

by this aide and those reporting to him, if speechmaking

is to be reintegrated with policy-making.

(c) National Security Aide. This individual

will not have the power, staff or role of a Kissinger;

but as Commander-in-Chief receiving conflicting advice

from the Secretaries of State and Defense, the CIA,

the Congress and foreign officials, you will need

someone to refine and define the issues, keep track

of the “buttons” and budgets and coordinate

this part of your effort. He and the Secretaries

of State and Defense. should be compatible and acceptable

to each other. He should meet promptly with

all officials involved to ascertain what decisions

by you in this area will soon be required and what

is going on in various negotiations and problem areas.

You and he can later decide how large a staff he


(d) Press Aide. This role is clear.

In addition, consider in a later decision whether

to retain the Nixon system separating the White

House “press spokesman” from the “Director of

Communications” who is concerned with strategy,

overall administration press policy, and advancing

the Administration’s image. Your appointees in

this area of activity should also decide with you

after things settle down on their staff needs and

whether to retain in the White House or return to

Commerce the Office of Telecommunications Policy.

(e) Administrative Aide — sometimes

called appointments secretary. Not to be confused

with the across-the-board deputy listed first. This

one handles your appointments, schedule and travel,

oversees the clerical and non-professional White House

personnel, and supervises other logistical and

housekeeping arrangements. He will need assistants,

one of whom oversees the flow of correspondence and

makes certain every letter gets the right answer.

(f) Congressional Relations Aide.

Another clear role. Must work closely with program policy

aide to “deliver” packages prepared by latter.

Needs at least one assistant for Senate and three for

House. All must know Hill, be liked there, and be

willing to spend considerable time in sheer palaver

and hand-holding.

(g) Personal Secretary.

— These 7 slots (six if there is to be no chief-ofstaff)

must be filled promptly, and are necessarily so personal

in their relationship to you that hold-overs from your

predecessor’s White House would not be appropriate. Give some

thought in advance as to whether your present staff can

adequately fill each of the above posts and whom else you

might draft if and when the unpredictable happens.

These key people can be supplemented in time by a

variety of assistants plus the following other posts which

may require your own man:

(h) Director, OMB — a crucial policy as

well as administrative and fiscal position

(i) Personnel and Patronage Aide.

(j) White House Physician — can be military,

but wholly up to you and your wife.

(k) First Lady’s Aides. Two or three principal

aides, serving as Social Secretary, Press Secretary and

Personal Aide; in addition, both the President and the

First Lady should decide on a Chief of Protocol for the

State Department and whether to change the Executive

Housekeeper and Chefs.

That is all that is required. Indeed, these plus their

assistants and the career people on the staff now are all that

the White House requires. A small, lean staff is desirable.

The functions of a “staff secretary,” “cabinet secretary” and

“counsellor” can all be absorbed in the above. Roving, freewheeling

administrative assistants are undesirable. You can

decide later whether one of the above, or someone on their

staffs, or additional special assistants, should be utilized

for narcotics, youth, aging, minorities, Indians, ethnics,

women, liaison with the National Committee, liaison with NASA

and the Space Council, and relations with state and local governments.

An International Economic Affairs Aide, a Science Advisor,

a Consumer Affairs adviser, the Council of Economic Advisers,

the Council on Environmental Quality and the Directors of OEO

and OEP, are all less personal, work out of the Executive Offices

buildings and should report through your aides primarily.

Bear in mind that you will also undoubtedly be needing

some top talent for your Cabinet later on, and should not move

people in and out of the White House staff too quickly or

foreclose a desirable Cabinet appointment by putting the man

or woman in question on your WhiteHouse staff.

All in all, these are potentially the most important

decisions you will make as President. Do not overlook talent

already in the Executive Branch; and scrupulously avoid any

conflict-of-interest problems. In selecting both aides at

the start and Cabinet and other appointees later, the most

careful check is required (as the Eagleton and Agnew

experiences demonstrate) inasmuch as most well-known figures

are rarely equal to their reputations and those whom you do

not know will often seem more attractive than those friends

whose limitations you do know.

2) AddressCongress in Joint Session — within a week

of your taking office at most — possibly the most important

step in reassuring the government, the public and the world

that you are otop of the situation. This will be largely

a personal statement of your hopes, themes and plans and cannot

be written in advance.

3) Projecting Your Command of the Office to the World.

(a) Work with USIA on material to be

broadcast and distributed abroad.

(b) Work with State on cables to principal

heads of state and heads of government, reassuring in

particular Israel, Japan, Western Europe, China and


(c) Plan an early address to the UN.

(d) Plan an early reception for the

Washington diplomatic corps.

(e) Schedule a series of reviews with our

Ambassadors abroad.

(f) Meet with the UN Secretary-General.

(g) Meet with the NSC again, and with the

Secretary of State, Joint Chiefs, Secretary of Defense,

and CIA Director separately, and with the Chairmen

and ranking members of the Senate and House Committees

on Foreign Relations and Affairs.

(h) However, travel abroad would be unwise

and unnecessary.

4) First Presidential Press Conference — not until

after your address to the Congress — schedule in advance

for prime time television as part of the effort to accustom

the public to you as President; also to show a desire to

accommodate all media to the extent possible. Be careful

of exclusive interviews in the meantime unless you know the

interviewer, subject and ground rules thoroughly.

5) Other Meetings or Phone Calls in First Week and

then in subsequent weeks:

(a) Key Governors, Mayors, political

leaders, Senators and Congressmen of both parties;

(b) Key publishers, editors, and leaders of

all the various interest groups; labor, business, farm,

racial, ethnic, religious, lawyers, college presidents,

etc. Lists of each of these can be constructed;

(c) the Special Prosecutor et al.;

(d) Pentagon employees, State Department employees,

heads of government employee organizations;

(e) Various wise men, elder statesmen and others

now in private life not likely to serve on a full-time

basis in your Cabinet but able to offer useful advice

on the Presidency, the country and potential appointees.

To the extent that they are Establishment figures, this

also helps reassure the business community. (Possible

examples: Earl Warren, John Gardner, Averell Harriman,

Robert McNamara, Elliot Richardson, Archibald Cox, George

Ball, Clark Clifford, David Rockefeller, McGeorge Bundy,

Arthur Goldberg, Tom Clark, Andre Meyer, Eugene Black,

J. Irwin Miller, Ralph Nader, Simon Rifkind, John Mccloy,

Ros Gilpatric, Arthur Dean, Douglas Dillon, Wilbur Cohen,

Paul Samuelson, Jerry Wiesner, possibly George Wallace,

and many other possibilities.)

(f) The Chief Justice;

(g) Comptroller General Staats — a useful

source of advice and information;

(h) The Cabinet.

6) Other Decisions to be made in the First Week.

(a) You should have a Vice President soon.

If as a part of your non-partisan approach you want

Gerry Ford and that is still appropriate, you could

include that in your Statement upon Taking the Oath of

Office. If not, you can seek suggestions and discuss

possibilities in the series of meetings outlined above.

NOTE: I question whether it is either necessary

or desirable to commit yourself to resigning in favor

of a Republican Vice President. That would only heighten

the impression of political instability in our government.

You are the legitimately chosen successor selected by

our most representative body under a long-standing plan

adopted by the Legislative Branch. This is stressed

along with the non-partisan nature of your Administration

in the Oath-taking Statement, which speaks in terms of

your remaining until January 20, 1977; and to that I

recommend adding your selection of a Republican Vice


(b) Do you intend to run for office again?

You need not decide that now; but whichever way you do

decide, if you do, that plan could also be included in

the Oath-taking Statement.

(c) Do you want to influence the choice of

your successor as Speaker? Do you want to influence

(c) Financial Arrangements. Exchange for

the choice of your successor in your House seat? If

so, you will want to take quiet steps promptly.

7) Personal Arrangements.

(a) Health. Get a thorough physical

check-up, and consider making the results public.

(b) Residence. Allow Nixon family

adequate time to move. Decide which if any other

residence you want to keep and dispose of the rest.

Your wife should tour the mansion and discuss plans

and staff needs with theHead Usher and Chief

Gardener. See Camp David. It is essential that

your family and the Secret Service fully understand

each other’s wishes. Indicate your preferences for

those to serve on White House detail. Exchange for

government bonds or place in blind trust any remaining

securities you and your family own; resign any

directorships or memberships, and sell any property,

that could conceivably prove embarrassing. Your

salary will be $200,000 plus a $50,000 personal


(d) Offices. As staff situation settles,

decide on whose desks and office will be where.

Your House office files and belongings must be

transferred or stored, and all the personnel in

that office appropriately placed.

Brought to you for free and open access by the Twenty-Fifth Amendment Archive at FLASH: The Fordham Law Archive of Scholarship and History. It has been accepted for inclusion in Watergate Era by an authorized administrator of FLASH: The Fordham Law Archive of Scholarship And History. For more information, please contact

Citation: Sorensen, Theodore C., “Memorandum to House Speaker Carl Albert” (1973).Watergate Era.

The Fine Print: Photo of Theodore Sorensen courtesy of our friends at Getty Images, who have the photographic history of the 20th and 21st Century on File. This photo has not been altered in any way. All rights belong to respective artists. we thank them for sharing.

The Billie Eilish SNL Video Performance

Last Saturday night (28 September 2019), singer Billie Eillish knocked it out of the park with a stellar performance and staging of her song, “Bad Guy”. The visual, which features Eillish walking up the walls, across the ceiling, and down the other wall while she performs, was a classic and a very large production for SNL. The video above shows precisely how it was done……Stanley Kubrick used similar techniques in filming 2001 and so did Fred Astaire in one of his many musical movies. A great song set to phenomenal visuals. What’s not to like?

The Fine Print: Video courtesy our friends at YouTube, via SNL. It has not been altered in any way. All rights belong to their respective owners. We thank them for sharing.

Soundtrack For The News

Paying Attention: 

Trump Faces Intense Impeachment Inquiry

The Fine Print: Embed Video of The Police singing “Every Breath You Take”, courtesy of Vevo and YouTube. This video has not been altered in any way. All rights belong to the respective artists. We thank Vevo and YouTube for sharing. Sound Track For The News is produced by the Media Bunker and Perception Engineering.

While We Were Out


On December 31st, or maybe during the early morning hours of New Year’s Eve 2019, the site went down, at least from an administrative point of view.
If you were on the net and checked in up until the end of April 2019,  you could still see the posts–all of them–starting with our annual New Year’s post for 2019 and stretching back to 2011. Over 2000 posts, complete with photos, illustrations, links, tables.
There were another 1000 or so posts in the “article inventory”….an editorial trick the Media Bunker staff picked up from the days when we put magazines together for the world’s greatest publishers….with the intent of publishing all of those articles at some time in the future. Maybe they needed more work or polishing, or maybe the timing just wasn’t right….but they’re going to get posted.
Most of the publications that the Media Bunker created and nurtured  survived, and a few became massive hits for the simple reason that the Media Bunker staff is composed of a group of very very talented multidisciplinary artists who can do everything from write a business plan to create a product or generate a brand and a website from scratch. Don’t talk about that stuff much because the site is not and never has been about “what we can do for you” or “what we’ve done in the past that might impress you” or even “we’re shopping for a social influencer deal”.
We don’t do that stuff.
What the site was about–and will continue to be all about–is a living, breathing, work-in-progress about extending the bandwidth of what’s possible in all forms of communications. In the past, we’ve done historical pieces, film, music, film festivals, reviews, inspirational quotes, obituaries, travelogs, how-to-do-its on everything from writing a business plan to making a Christmas wreath (we like Christmas…a lot…like the whole idea of it, not just the gift part).
In the process, we developed some themes and editorial components (as we say when we talk with publishers) that showed promise…real promise…and got notice all over the world, which seems amazing. I mean–none of this stuff is heavily publicized and still people seek us out. Amazing.
Things were noticed, and people started tuning into the site to see what was going on.
Tracking visitors via Google Analytics (thank you, Google, for your fine tools) we found that people all over the world were tuning in…and the total of visitors was rising every day, every week, and every month. And then….shut down/turned off/invisible.
Another reason why the sudden admin blackout (we were not able to get into our own site to update it, revise it, edit, etc…and to this date have still not been able to do so)was a bit of a shock.
But the break provided time for some retrospection and that was good. We decided to take a look at what had been created and what to do going forward…if we were going to go forward.
One feature we created, “The Nightshift developed a pretty good international following.
If you’ve been to the site before and seen the “The Nightshift”, you know the format: a very streamlined world news site, with some appropriate editorial photos, a list of three or four or five news events of the day worth your time (with links to each ) and a listing and links to the major English language newspapers in the world.
It was developed when one of the Media Bunker writers was grousing about the extra effort necessary to check out how a single news story was covered throughout the world–journalism is about telling the story, not necessarily shading it (although that happens)–and wanted to find out how other countries were viewing/reporting the same news.
So a couple of days later The Nightshift was created to give writers and readers and people who want a different perspective on the news a single spot to see the world’s take on the day’s events.
Through the kind graces of Getty Images, who enabled world-class photo journalism for the site–and a commitment to publish everyday, even if the publishing day was coming up just as the editorial staff was coming in from a long night out–the format was created, refined, updated, shoved around a bit, expanded, refined again, until it became a very solid, clean piece of world communication.
Without hyperbole, it’s a site that’s faster, more focused, sharper, and streamlined than many big budget news websites. The cleanliness of the design (thank you Anne Ellen Geiger and Handgame Design), the focused and useful content, and the by-necessity brutal streamlining of the news-you-need-to-know editorial approach created a site with regular readers all over the world who want to see what the other side is thinking. Which was the point in the first place.
For the Media Bunker team, the site was a learning project, a chance to test some ideas and learn to program and create in a tight deadline-mandated format (thank you Word Press).
And then it all stopped.
But…in a huge bit of good luck, it stopped on New Year’s Eve……our annual New Year’s Eve post made it up and online and then we couldn’t post anything else.
Time for our own re-set.
So….that was then and this is now and things change. Going forward, The Nightshift has grown enough and received enough support that it will now receive the ultimate gift from the Media Bunker staff–it’s own site.
Effective immediately,  The Nightshift breaks out of and flies on its own.
The new web address:   It will be an evolution of the format that was originally developed for it although graphically it’s going to have a lot more range because the New Year’s Eve blackout forced some necessary changes at the Media Bunker (more about that below). Archives will be available via this site ( until further notice; one of our big challenges is going to be moving legacy Nightshift content over to their new site. Honesty point: we don’t have it all sorted yet, but we do have enough going to push the button and get back online again.

Web hosting has been moved out of our original site at E-Builders. Thanks guys, you were great. But we’re now in a different mode and require different assets and digital opportunities. We still don’t know precisely why we lost the ability to post/edit/control the original DPC site (or why you didn’t sort it out for us), but it makes no difference. As Enzo Ferrari once famously said, “what’s behind you doesn’t matter” and so let’s move on.
We’re now at TMD hosting and onto a new platform, Divi, built on top of our old reliable WordPress platform. There is a learning curve. We’re still learning. We have not mastered it 100% and won’t for a while. We had over 2000 WordPress created posts under our belt when things screeched to a halt and so we were very invested in one program and now have to create, again, that same type of familiarity and ease of production. But we will. We did it before when we didn’t know anything, and we can certainly do it now when we know more than we knew before. We also have more control, more assets, the ability to use an increased array of media formats. It’s all good. It is time consuming making this change, however.

The Nightshift gets its own site and that’s good news.It’s the one good site to know even if the world news is bad, It’s designed to be refreshed daily.

The other good news: will return to it’s roots as more of a personal and experimental editorial outlet. More  of the stories that you can’t find anywhere else (“The Sociology of Christmas Trash”; “The History of Sebring”; “Pain Never Sleeps”; “The Hunter S. Thompson Film Festival”). More great Christmas posts and playlists and videos; more Weekend Video Concerts; more reviews of things fast (Porsche turbos) and slow (Sunfish sailboats) and investigative reporting, like our still-famous report on what is actually inside the black boxes that are retrieved after airliner crashes. More commentary, more humor, more science detuned and a lot of science not detuned because we believe you will get it. More of the stuff that gets us sent to the principal’s office is still present.

The new posts on have started. There is a direct link to The Nightshift (and a direct link from TheNightshift to and until further notice, all of the previous 2000+ posts will be accessible via the site. This is a new design and a new learning curve and everything is moving at once and no doubt we will make mistakes. We’re working our way through through an issue with legacy photographic posts currently. If we don’t make mistakes, we’re not learning and the point is to learn and push the envelope and have fun. If you liked it before, you will love it the new iteration even more. Stay tuned.

And….there’s more. The Media Bunker staff and parent Perception Engineering have lined up over 30 different web projects to be produced in the next 3-6 months. Not of all of these will escape beta, but a good proportion will. Some of them are purely artistic in intent and content (our coming digital art gallery) and others high-tech-industry focused and commercial. We’ll do pop up websites and a few other formats you haven’t seen before.

It’s an experiment.

We’ll experiment.

The bottom line is that a breakdown, somewhere, on the last day of 2018 year, has created an atmosphere in which change was necessary to continue with the program. The choices: Either change or pack it in and call it a day. And that is not the way we do things here at the Media Bunker and Perception Engineering.

We committed to move forward, expand in new directions, develop new concepts, bring in more music and film and design and photography and continue the experiment that started 8 years ago.

Thanks for reading this far and y’all come back. There’s more where this came from. So tune in and turn it up.

The Fine Print: Video embed courtesy of our friends at YouTube. YouTube has lots of stuff that you should see. Have you seen YouTube today? and are produced by The Media Bunker and Perception Engineering. All content, unless otherwise noted, is (c) 2019, donald pierce, all rights reserved. If you see a piece you want to use, drop us a line, we’ll provide the correct attributions, and go for it. is a continuing experiment in news, media and communications and works within a surprisingly wide bandwidth, powered by Macintosh Computers; WordPress; the Elegant Themes Divi publishing platform; McIntosh Laboratories audio amplification equipment; Wilson Audio Speakers (and Audio Technica, B&W, and Beats headphones); Adobe software; Canon video and digital photography equipment; Spotify and iTunes music (on all the time). Hosting by TDM. Follow us on Twitter at @donzzo and on Instagram at @donzzop. Investment banking services provided by Miles Geauxbye at Breakout Funding. The staff of the Media Bunker and Perception Engineering trains at Lifetime Fitness.

Sympathy For The Devil

Music For Today’s Headlines: Jeffrey Epstein Found Dead In Apparent Suicide

You could just see this one coming. Too much money, too much power, too much rule breaking, too many powerful friends, too many secrets that had to go to the grave.

The drama that was Jeffrey Epstein and his life will be with us for years, as the court cases proceed–now civil, since the criminal case against him cannot proceed because there is no him anymore as Jeffrey is dead. A terminal legal technicality for criminal court cases, but reason for possible celebration in the households of people in Epstein’s orbit who might now be clinking champagne glasses and muttering about “poor Jeffrey” and his dramatic exit from the scene while giving a sigh of relief.

The conspiracy theorists (one of them a highly ranked politician) have already fired up the twitter feeds and the analysts and talk show hosts are going to find hours of content and better ratings by ramping up the wilder sides of a very wild Jeffrey Epstein international sex trafficking story.

Some deep background reading on Jeffrey Epstein is below, just so you’ll be prepped for the storm to come.

And our take on the whole thing: One of the Rolling Stones’ very best songs performed live. Perfect for today’s headlines and much better than any talking head on any network. It asks and answers all the right questions.

The Headline Links

Jeffrey Epstein Dead In Suicide

Why Wasn’t Epstein on Suicide Watch?

Trump Shares Unfounded Fringe Conspiracy Theory on Epstein Suicide

The Fine Print: Video courtesy of our friends at YouTube, posted by rcarbone22. All rights belong to designated rights holders. Embed courtesy of YouTube; we thank them for sharing. Music for Today’s Headlines produced by Perception Engineering and the (often unruly) crowd at The Media Bunker. Contents copyright 2019 donald pierce, except for those rights owned by other parties. is a Perception Engineering site. Thanks for reading. Turn it up.

Summer Weekend Concert Series: Dr. John at the Newport Jazz Festival, 2016

A video of Dr. John performing at the Newport Jazz Festival in 2006. The video is very good throughout but there is a bit of an audio issue in the beginning of the set. Stay with it. Thanks to the  Newport Jazz Festival and Funk and Reggae for sharing.

The Fine Print: Special thanks to our friends at YouTube and the Newport Jazz Festival for sharing this video of Dr. John performing. All rights belong to respective artist. Special thanks to Funk & Regagge on MV for posting it. You are advised to run the sound through your stereo system and the video through your flat screen. You are also advised to turn it up. Summer Weekend Concerts are curated and edited by Perception Engineering and the Media Bunker. Turn Dr. John’s concert on and get to the Big Easy without even leaving town..except in spirit. Enjoy. 

Transitions: Dr. John (1941-2019)

Above: Dr. John doing an extended  version of “Such a Night”, one of his best known hits. Good music and excellent photography. Perfect for setting the tone for a piece to remember a musical legend. 

“Such a Night. Sweet confusion under the moonlight….”

  –from “Such a Night” by Mac Rebennack (Dr. John)

Mac Rebennack, AKA Dr. John, (New York Times Article) the legendary New Orleans musician and performer died on 6 June 2019.  He was 78 years old. We are not here to bury Dr. John, but to praise him, for all the good times, memorable songs, honky-tonk infused piano solos and to provide some audio and video remembrances of one of the greats of all time and someone with whom I have a rather long (listening) relationship.


It is spring, 1975, and I am trying to organize a new apartment.

The apartment is spare…only the essentials: a very high quality stereo system (the legendary JBL SA 600 powering a pair of JBL studio monitors. Up against the wall, my beloved, well-curated vinyl collection—over 2000 records that cover every form of music from Dixieland to symphony, courtesy of years spent working in media and broadcasting when vinyl was still the dominant music distribution medium.

There’s a bed, some pillows, a closet full of tennis racquets and workout clothes and shoes, one frying pan, and a small, one cup-at-at-time coffee maker. Plus…of course…an electric typewriter for writing.

Two Wassily chairs, a round breakfast table and four companion chairs, and a lot of art that needs to hung  on the walls but that is, at the time, leaning against them.

That’s it.

But there’s one new addition: a box, professionally packed and shipped, on the breakfast table. It’s the monthly shipment of new records I should be listening to from my pal Niles Siegel, the music wizard from New York City. I’ve known Niles since the late sixties and was with him when he made a career change that turned him into a legend—going from a working NYC advertising photographer to a hustling music industry record promoter, getting the right tunes on the air at the right time. One of the side benefits of being Siegel’s pal, is that you’re on his mailing list, which means a package, once a month, of the latest and best music. You can read about Nile’s rather incredible career via this link. It was through Siegel that I discovered Keith Jarrett—the brilliant jazz pianist known for his solo concerts. Siegel’s range is wide and so you never know what’s waiting to be discovered.

I open the package and inside a short note: “Pierce….a collection of Dr. John’s music. Listen to all of it. You’ll love it. New Orleans musician but so much more. A very unique talent. Trust me.”

And so I spent the night listening to the music of Mac Rebennack, AKA Dr. John (Wikipedia), a New Orleans musical legend, the Night Tripper, the creator of a very singular blend of rockin’ voodoo blues flavored with New Orleans musical spices. A unique talent indeed.

Dr. John music is always special, colored by the cultures and sounds of New Orleans but looking forward, into rock and roll, and rock and psychedelics and, of course, jazz, and never slavishly repeating what had gone before. He had a fear of a great cultural gift—the music of New Orleans—being trapped too much in past and so he pushed it forward, taking the best parts of the old and combining those with the most adventurous parts of the new. He was the man for the job, because he had all the talent to do it, not just as a musician, but a doctor with a specialization in music tradition and combination.

Dr. John had a unique sometimes growling voice combined with the stage presence of someone who has spent most of his life in smoky, loud juke joints. His surprisingly expressive and very distinctive voice was paired with rollicking piano stylings, part rock, part honky-tonk, part blues, creole late night bar-and-club. He grew up under rough circumstances, lived a rather tap-dancing-on-nitroglycerin lifestyle, but found his groove—literally, initially—as a working studio sideman, playing on records with everyone from Sonny and Cher to Paul McCartney. He played with the Rolling Stones, James Taylor and Carly Simon, Maria Muldaur, The Band, Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band, Niles Lofgren, Joe Walsh, Clarence Clemons, Billy Preston, Aaron Neville and Aretha Franklin. And on and on and on. While best known for his solo albums, he was the quintessential studio musician—one of the best of all time– full of new ideas,  musically unique, and technically gifted enough to pull off anything he could conceive and he could conceive a lot. Dr. John was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2011 (John Legend did his honors) and received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Tulane University in 2013. Also in his Tulane class: the Dalai Lama. If you’re known by the company you keep,  Dr. John was music and cultural royalty.

To get an enlightened appreciation of the drama and impact of Dr. John, you are directed to Stephen Thomas Erlewine’s very fine appreciation of his work. Erlewine gets it.

Fast forward 42 years. April 2017. Oxford, Mississippi, the home of the University of Mississippi, better known as Ole Miss. It’s my annual trip to the town’s Double Decker Art and Music Festival. We go for the art, stay for the music and food. This year, as in  years past, I’m shooting the music performances. The festival organizers have very graciously provided me with an all-access photographic pass and, featured tonight is the legend himself: Dr. John. It will be the best of all possible worlds for me—up close and personal access to his concert and his music as the background for the shooting. Sometimes, things happen because they are destiny and the connection created decades ago will now be closed as I have the chance to go face-to-face with the legend himself.

He’s slower than before—76 years old—but the trademark growl in his voice is as strong as ever, the voodoo artifacts occupy, as always, the side of his piano facing the audience, and he’s still wearing snakeskin Gucci loafers and checkerboard socks. A pony tail of significant length stretches out from underneath his straw Fedora. He is walked onto the stage by one of his crew and he seems weaker than I’ve seen him in the past. Moving slowly, he slides into position on the piano bench, adjust his song book and bench, punches in a few notes and chords and then comes alive as his oft-played collection of hits and classics pours out with striking little piano runs and solos delivered by the Doctor himself who’s backed by an effortlessly  talented  band that’s heavy on horns combined with a thumping rhythm section, and as the performance takes off, he gives me one last right-into-the-lens look and disappears into his life—his music, his singular sound–suddenly energetic and alive and in sync with his music and his audience, simultaneously he lifts off, lighter now than before, energized in the way that only performance can provide, and rises into the moment and the notes and the songs.  It’s a form of magic when the greats take the stage and get into it, and Dr. John is one of the greats…and  tonight he’s into it

Talking about Dr. John is one thing, having the privilege of photographing him in performance while listening to his music is another terrific experience, but the only way to truly get a grip on Dr. John is to listen to his music. And so we’re making that very easy, Big Easy easy, really, with a special playlist of some of his great tunes, courtesy of our friends at Spotify. Punch the button and get your groove on. But wait….there’s more…as this weekend we will be posting a Dr. John concert for our Summer Weekend Concert Series. As always with music through this site,  run it through your big sound system, kick back, and have your own personal Dr. John concert. You’ll feel better.

The Fine Print. First, thanks to our friends at YouTube and Blues Piano Sheets for the really great video of Dr. John performing “Such a Night”, which was posted in 2015. All rights belong to respective artists….we thank them for sharing. Photos of Dr. John performing, (C) 2017, donald pierce. If you are interested in using any of these photos, drop us an email and let us know where, when, and how and we’ll get it sorted for you. Text (C) 2016 donald pierce. Special thanks to our pals across the pond at Spotify who make it oh-so-easy to create and post playlists. Also special thanks to the Double Decker Art & Music Festival in Oxford, Mississippi for enabling photographic access for the Dr. John shooting. You need to check that festival out if you like art and/or music. That’s all folks….read the story, link to the music, and appreciate the unique talent of Dr. John. 

The Nightshift: World News 20 December 2018

Press Clippings

The Nightshift publishes direct links to the world’s greatest English language newspapers to facilitate research and encourage understanding of the world’s events of the day.

Today, we added the New York Times Morning Briefing to give you a brief overview of the news and Golf WRX, a specialized news/reviews/information site that covers golf, professional golf, and golf equipment. 

The Front Page Links

New York Times Morning Briefing

The Times (London)

Financial Times (UK)

The Irish Times (Dublin, Ireland)

The Wall Street Journal (European edition)

Washington Post (Washington, D.C.)

New York Times (New York)

The Boston Globe (Boston)

The Guardian

The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles)

Daily News Egypt (Cairo)

South China Morning Post (Hong Kong)

The Moscow Times (Moscow)

Italian Newspapers in English

Le Figaro (Paris) (New York)

The Jerusalem Post (Jerusalem)

The Japanese Times (Tokyo)

The Local (Oslo)

The Local (Italy)

Sputnik (Moscow)

The Buenas Aires Herald (Buenas Aires)

The Sidney Morning Herald (Sidney)

Deadline Hollywood (Hollywood)

FiveThirtyEight (New York City)

Politico (Washington, DC)

Lawfareblog (Washington, DC)

Wired (San Francisco, CA)

The Weather Channel

CNN News Text Site

Ars Technica  

Agence France-Presse

McClatchy DC Bureau



Oil Prices Dot Com

Air Force Times

Straits Times (Singapore)

NOAA/National Hurricane Center (Miami)

Golf WRX

The Fine Print.  Images courtesy of, who have the photographic history of the 20th and 21st century on file. All rights belong to them or their designate. This image has not been altered in anyway. We thank them for sharing.  This post is number 2095 for this site (we stay busy overnight). The Nightshift is a continually evolving experiment in news communications and is a production of Perception Engineering and The Media Bunker. Currently, The Nightshift staff is developing a very streamlined graphic/display approach to news distribution. That doesn’t mean we won’t return to the People, Places, and Events for Today format that we have used for the last year but it does mean that constant development of the site is one of the reasons we produce it. We also re-freshed links to the top five, which had been de-activated (for some odd reason). And, if you are a follower of this site, you know that at the beginning of the month, we suffered an image outage…that programming adventure has been corrected, due to expert intervention by Anne Ellen Geiger, our tech guru….The Nightshift is rapid iteration within a surprisingly wide bandwidth. Thanks for reading. Now–catch up on the world .

Christmas One More Time, VIII

The Hunt for New (Christmas) Music:
More music from our library of Christmas music playlists. Playing loud is highly recommended. You can hear this playlist via our friends at Spotify, who have kindly made it available online…just click the link below and a web player will appear on your desktop and play the list…..enjoy some new sounds for the Christmas holidays.
[table “” not found /]

You can listen to the entire playlist through the courtesy of our friends at Spotify. Just click this link: COMT VIII  and you will be able to stream the Christmas playlist via Spotify’s excellent web player. Special note: when you click the link, you will be taken to Spotify’s web player. There, you’ll have a couple of choices: sign in if you currently have a Spotify account; signup for a free Spotify account (you’ll be glad you did) or take advantage of their $.99 special for three months of Spotify premium, which has a few extra features the free version doesn’t have –wider selection and no commercials. Either way, you should check it out if you like music.  Enjoy…and Happy Holidays. Special thanks to DJ Tschugge for compiling the list, along with the team at the Media Bunker.