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Impeachment fatigue might be setting in | How Wednesday’s debate rated | Player’s Tribune ‘acquired’
The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, click here. Next week is Thanksgiving, so this is the perfect time to think about what we’re thankful for when it comes to the media. Me? I’m thankful I get to read the incredible work done by my three favorite […]
The post Impeachment fatigue might be setting in | How Wednesday’s debate rated | Player’s Tribune ‘acquired’ appeared first on Poynter.
“Where there’s no competition, there’s no pressure to do better”: Local news is suffering even in areas where newspapers remain
Five years in, Scalawag is reframing who gets included in “the South” (and how to build a business off it)
Univision and Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network join forces to fight misinformation in the U.S.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Nov. 21, 2019) – The Poynter Institute announces that its International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) will partner with Univision News to elevate international fact-checks of interest to Spanish language audiences living in the U.S. leading up to the presidential election. U.S. political campaigns have even more sophisticated and diverse opportunities to reach their […]
The post Univision and Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network join forces to fight misinformation in the U.S. appeared first on Poynter.
Galaxy brain: The neuroscience of how fake news grabs our attention, produces false memories, and appeals to our emotions
The best debate so far, thanks to the moderators | Critical impeachment moments | Coffee chugger caught on camera
The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, click here. Best debate yet, thanks to the moderators Know how we all want Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to host every Golden Globes? Well, maybe we can get Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell, Ashley Parker and Kristen Welker to moderate […]
Yesterday morning, Gordon Sondland, the Trump donor turned US ambassador to the European Union, gave explosive testimony in the impeachment inquiry—directly tying the president and his top allies, including Mikes Pence and Pompeo, to the Ukraine scandal. Comparisons to John Dean’s testimony that implicated Richard Nixon in Watergate were pretty much everywhere, uniting Fox and The Nation; as with prior Trump-era John Dean parallels, CNN invited actual John Dean to discuss it. But the Dean–Sondland comparison (as Dean himself noted) is flawed. Jill Wine-Banks, a Watergate prosecutor, told the Times that Sondland reminded her less of Dean than of another Nixon official, Jeb Magruder. (“Jeb was always sort of weaseling out of full admissions. John, when he came clean, he really came clean.”) BuzzFeed’s Ryan Broderick offered a more pertinent reality check. “I know everyone wants their John Dean moment today, but it’s 2019,” he tweeted. “The majority of the country gets their news piecemeal via algorithmically sorted newsfeeds on their phones from platforms that Trump and his followers have spent the last three years completely dominating.”
Another key difference between Watergate and now is that the former crescendoed in 1973 and 1974, at the beginning of Nixon’s second term; by contrast, the Trump impeachment is unfolding at the same time as a presidential campaign season. Yesterday, the two huge stories collided with their heaviest thud to date: following Sondland’s testimony (and that of Laura Cooper and David Hale) the nation’s attention turned to Atlanta for the latest Democratic primary debate. Well, a portion of it did. Many outlets agreed that Sondland “overshadowed” the debate. That’s literally the case on today’s front pages of the Times and the Post, both of which have six-column headlines about the testimony, with the debate pushed below the fold. Online, the Post, which co-hosted the debate with MSNBC, went for a split-screen effect; still, Sondland spanned two-thirds of the top of the page.
Admittedly, yesterday’s schedule clash was not really a fair fight. Even by recent dramatic standards, Sondland’s testimony was an exceptional, bombshell moment. The debate was not—it wasn’t the first (nor the second, third, or fourth) that we’ve seen this cycle; nor was it the last chance for candidates to get points across before the early states vote. (Some post-debate headlines—for example, “At critical moment, Democrats tackle range of issues,” in the Post—betray that this was not exactly a thrill ride.)
Still, adequately covering both impeachment and the campaign will be an increasingly tricky balancing act for news outlets. We don’t yet know the exact impeachment timetable, but as things stand, it looks likely that the Senate will take up proceedings in January. The schedule there is controlled by Republicans. In recent days, GOP senators have mused, privately and in public, about dragging out Trump’s trial to disrupt the Democrats’ focus on Iowa and New Hampshire. (Six Democratic senators are candidates, including current frontrunners Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.)
Clearly, it’s not journalists’ job to apportion attention in ways that benefit candidates for office. Nonetheless, the issues being raised on the campaign trail—healthcare, taxes, systemic racism, and so on—are extremely important, and will remain so whatever the outcome of these impeachment proceedings. The challenge, for the press, is to ensure that DC drama doesn’t totally submerge discussion of enduring policy problems, and ideas for addressing them.
In some ways, the debate last night was a case in point. The moderators plowed right into questions about impeachment (no time here for opening statements), directing them first at the senators (and future Trump jurors) on stage. The format, from there on, was reasonably fluid; nonetheless, many weighty matters got buried under questions about the president’s behavior. Cory Booker was asked if he would carry on tweeting as president and Joe Biden was asked if he’d support a hypothetical criminal investigation of Trump before we arrived at a question about climate change. By that point, the debate had been going on for an hour.
Still, the debate also offered pointers as to how we might strike a better balance. Warren used Sondland to condemn the practice of giving top donors plum ambassador jobs; in doing so, she expanded a narrow impeachment question into a broader conversation about wealth and cronyism at the heart of government. Soon afterward, Rachel Maddow, one of the moderators, made the balance question explicit by putting it to Sanders. “Americans are watching these impeachment hearings,” she said. “At the same time, they’re also focused on their more immediate, daily economic and family concerns. How central should the president’s conduct uncovered by this impeachment inquiry be to any Democratic nominee’s campaign for president?” Sanders replied that we can’t just be obsessed with Trump.
Whenever Trump leaves office—be it prematurely; as a result of the next election; or as late as January 2025—problems like the climate crisis will still be central. We need to keep our focus on them, too, no matter how compelling the John Dean metaphors coming out of Washington. Impeachment is clearly very important. But there’s room for more than one facet of democracy at a time in our coverage.
Below, more on impeachment and the campaign:
- Up next: The next Democratic debate will be on December 19, in LA. PBS NewsHour and Politico will host, with CNN also airing it. The Democratic National Committee—as well as some journalists at PBS and Politico—reportedly objected to Politico’s choice for moderator: Tim Alberta, who specializes in coverage of the Republican Party and used to work for National Review. Writing in that magazine this week, Jim Geraghty defended Alberta as “a first-rate journalist,” and told the DNC to “quit whining.”
- Meanwhile, in Washington: The Times’s Peter Baker writes that Sondland, in his testimony, “put his finger on a distinction often overlooked: For the president, it seemed more important that Ukrainian officials announce that they were investigating Democrats than for them to actually follow through on doing it.” Sondland testified that while parts of the Ukraine quid pro quo were explicit, the president did not tell him directly that military aid was conditional on the announcement of the investigations; instead, Sondland said Trump told him, on a September 9 phone call, that “I want nothing” from Ukraine. By that point, the White House already knew that a whistleblower had flagged Trump’s Ukraine dealings; still, the president emphasized the call to reporters on the White House lawn yesterday, reading “I WANT NOTHING” off of a notepad marked with black Sharpie.
- Vindman v. Fox: Also yesterday, a lawyer for Alexander Vindman, the government Ukraine expert who testified on Tuesday, demanded that Fox News retract or correct an October segment on Laura Ingraham’s show, during which guest John Yoo suggested Vindman may have committed “espionage.” Fox said that because Yoo was a guest, not Fox staff, he’s “responsible for his own sentiments.”
- Pizzazz party: After NBC tweeted last week that the first impeachment hearing lacked “pizzazz,” Emily Nussbaum, TV critic at the New Yorker, went looking for it. Pizzazz “was satisfying media shorthand: it was fun to say, spangled in ‘Z’s, faintly vaudevillian—an anxious catchphrase that framed a serious subject. But the word also captured a genuine tension about just what sort of show was being produced here, and for whom.”
- And finally: Click here for the best impeachment photo so far, from the Post’s Matt McClain.
Other notable stories:
- Today CJR is out with a preview of the forthcoming issue, “True Lies,” on the theme of disinformation. Simon van Zuylen-Wood profiles the National Enquirer, which has played an important role in the Trump presidency. It’s tempting, van Zuylen-Wood writes, to chronicle “how a gossip rag like the Enquirer laid the groundwork for the rise of fake news and a mendacious president.” But that’s not his approach. “The real shame is that, in the Trump era, the Enquirer strayed from its underappreciated penchant for muckraking.” What the Enquirer covers—or catches and kills—is as much a matter of intrigue as the business of the paper itself, and van Zuylen-Wood talks with its buyer, James Cohen, about the plans for its future. “Not to be too Enquirer-y about it, but the Enquirer is facing an identity crisis,” van Zuylen-Wood observes.
- Following controversy, in the summer, about the Times’s coverage of racism, the paper is issuing new guidance to its staff on when to use the word “racist.” Per a memo obtained by Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo, Times reporters should avoid “vague, awkward, or half-hearted euphemisms” such as “racially tinged”—but use of the word “racist” to describe the actions of current political leaders should be “thoroughly discussed” with higher-ups to avoid “overuse, inconsistency, or an appearance of editorializing.” Elsewhere, BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith assesses the three main candidates to replace Times editor Dean Baquet when he eventually retires: Joe Kahn, James Bennet, and Cliff Levy.
- Last week, Politico’s Dan Diamond and Adam Cancryn wrote that Seema Verma, the administrator for Medicare and Medicaid services, spent millions of taxpayer dollars contracting outside Trump allies to run PR. Now Diamond and Cancryn report that the contractors worked on boosting Verma’s personal profile, pushing for potential features about her in publications such as Glamour magazine, CNN, and Washingtonian.
- For CJR, Chris Gelardi—whose source Jimmy Aldaoud died in August after ICE deported him from Michigan to Iraq—explains the problems with seeing refugees through American blinders. “When illustrating the very real dangers that refugees, asylum seekers, and other forced migrants have faced,” Gelardi writes, “how do journalists avoid propagating racist caricatures of the places from which they’ve fled?”
- Some local-news news: the Chicago Reader, an alt-weekly, is going nonprofit. (The Salt Lake Tribune recently took a similar step.) Nieman Lab’s Ken Doctor has a scathing take on Michael Ferro selling his Tribune shares to the hedge fund Alden Global Capital. And staffers at the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald voted in favor of setting up a union.
- In other union news, New York’s Sarah Jones reports that management at Hearst Magazines—where staffers recently announced their intention to organize—are running “a classic union-busting campaign.” Per Jones, “even by the uneven standards set by other media companies, Hearst has adopted an especially hostile posture toward staff.”
- With his disastrous BBC interview still making headlines, Britain’s Prince Andrew said yesterday that he’s stepping back from royal duties for “the foreseeable future.” Andrew said the controversy about his ties to Jeffrey Epstein—which has included allegations about his own sexual conduct—has become “a major disruption” for the royal family.
- And Random House will publish a series of books based on the Times’s acclaimed 1619 Project, a major effort to recenter the American story around slavery. The series will include a graphic novel and four publications aimed at young readers.
Reading social media about the crisis in Bolivia is like diving into a deep and obscure sea of misinformation. It requires time, patience and a lot of attention. Since Oct. 20, when Bolivia held its election and former president Evo Morales won for the fourth time under suspicion of fraud, street protests in La Paz […]
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Seeking leads from sources whose stories haven’t yet become public is a routine reporting practice. That’s why reporters — as part of an unsettling package of news stories about how the University of Illinois allowed professors found culpable for sexual harassment to resign quietly without creating a record of wrongdoing — invited readers to submit […]
The post College media labs may increasingly clash with their universities appeared first on Poynter.
Pulitzer Prize winner Lane DeGregory and her editor just recorded their 100th podcast. Here’s what they’ve learned.
I didn’t want to do this. I wanted to make a podcast like Sarah Koenig’s “Serial,” or Chris Goffard’s “Dirty John.” I was working on this murder story and had killer audio. So my editor, Maria Carrillo, and I went to talk to our friends at Poynter to see if they could help. But they […]
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Emily Ramshaw and Amanda Zamora are launching a national news nonprofit aimed at women and we’re dying to know more
Newsonomics: By selling to America’s worst newspaper owners, Michael Ferro ushers the vultures into Tribune
The post For 7 years, this local site has brought random acts of kindness to Sault Ste. Marie appeared first on Poynter.
Even compared to this year’s other brutal weeks for American journalism, the past seven days have been particularly turbulent. Last Wednesday, the publishing giant McClatchy reported severe liquidity problems along with its third-quarter results; its share price has since collapsed from $2.28 to $0.40. Last Thursday, shareholders voted to approve the merger of two more media giants—GateHouse and Gannett—despite stock in GateHouse’s parent, New Media Investment Group, also having cratered since the merger was announced. The deal closed yesterday; the new company is just called Gannett. Also yesterday, Alden Global Capital—a hedge fund, notorious for cost-slashing at its media properties, that itself tried to buy Gannett earlier this year—acquired a 25 percent stake in Tribune Publishing Company, becoming its biggest shareholder.
To simplify, the Wall Street types who increasingly control local news are playing with all their biggest chips at once. As Nieman Lab’s Ken Doctor told CNN last night, this week marks a “major turning point” for the industry. “At a time when local news is needed more than ever, it is the bankers who are deciding what will be defined as news, and who will be employed to report it.”
From archives: Politico embarrasses WSJ by publishing transcript
The closure of the Gannett-GateHouse deal was the least surprising of these new developments, and is probably the most significant. Prior to their merger, the companies were, respectively, America’s first and second biggest publishers by circulation; post-merger, the company owns about one of every six American newspapers. That’s serious scale—but, as Doctor wrote in July, it’s unlikely to facilitate vaulting editorial ambition; rather, it’s about buying time until industry leaders “figure out” a profitable transition to digital. Cost-cutting to that end will surely lead to layoffs; management already told staff to expect “a reduction in our workforce after thoughtful review.” In interviews yesterday, executives insisted that they’ll prioritize the protection of editorial jobs, and that the “duplication costs” saved by the merger will prevent mass layoffs next year. (Speaking to CNN, Gannett CEO Mike Reed suggested the company might “redeploy” some journalists whose assignments overlap, rather than axing them.) Still, it’s a sad truth about our industry that damage control—rather than, say, the mass hiring of reporters—is the outcome we’re hoping for from this merger, despite its massive scale.
With the Gannett deal done, McClatchy becomes the second-biggest newspaper publisher in America by circulation. The timing could be better: Bloomberg reported on Monday that McClatchy may have to file for bankruptcy in 2020 should it fail to honor mandatory pension payments worth $124 million. The Internal Revenue Service declined to waive that obligation, so McClatchy is now in talks with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, a federal body that could yet assume McClatchy’s pension plan in exchange for future payments. However that pans out, Doctor writes, McClatchy will be burdened with a tricky financial mess of some description; Chatham Asset Management—a hedge fund that is currently McClatchy’s biggest lender and shareholder (and also owns the parent company of the National Enquirer)—will take a central role in resolving it, one way or another.
Per Doctor, McClatchy recently (re)entered talks with Tribune, now the fourth-biggest publisher by circulation, about a merger. Yesterday, another hedge fund, Alden, made its move on Tribune, buying up the 25 percent of its shares held by Michael Ferro, Tribune’s controversial former chairman. In ordinary circumstances, Ferro’s exit might have been celebrated in some quarters. His tenure included turmoil at the flagship LA Times and the ignominious “tronc” rebrand, amid other tumult; it ended, last year, with Ferro’s retirement, which came shortly before Fortune published sexual harassment allegations against him. But an Alden buy-in is not “ordinary circumstances.” The fund and its media subsidiary—known variously as Digital First Media and MNG Enterprises—have become industry bywords for severe cuts and low pay. Last year, staffers rebelled vocally against them. Yesterday, journalists at Alden papers in the Bay Area protested again, even before the news of the Tribune deal broke.
It’s unusual for the biggest players in American local journalism to all have such big news at once. In general terms, however, there is a cyclical aspect to all this. Industry big shots come and go: as the Chicago Sun-Times noted yesterday, Ferro, for one, once harbored much loftier ambitions than a “quiet exit,” stage left. Not all money men are equal—some are better for journalism than others. Nonetheless, as Doctor writes, executives who come to journalism from the world of finance almost always sees their jobs differently than old-school newspaper executives once did. “I haven’t found any,” Doctor writes of media’s new paymasters, “who believe there’s a growth story for local news.”
Below, more on local news:
- Spanish-language struggles: The decline of the news business has exacted a particularly harsh toll on Spanish-language media, which is heavily composed of legacy outlets. Three have shuttered this year, and a fourth—Hoy, a Tribune paper in Chicago—will close in December. NPR’s Michel Martin discussed the problem with Graciela Mochkofsky, a journalism professor at the City University of New York.
- Not all bad news, I: A new report from the Knight Foundation and Gallup found that a majority of Americans value local news organizations, but are ignorant of their financial problems. The report also has a more hopeful finding: “When people are told about the financial situation facing local newspapers or the ways in which local journalism supports a healthy democracy, they were significantly more likely to donate to a nonprofit organization that supports local journalism (54%) than were those who did not get such information (40%).”
- Not all bad news, II: Two weeks ago, I looked at various initiatives and experiments that aim to improve the local-news business model, including the Salt Lake Tribune’s pioneering switch to nonprofit status. ICYMI last week, Nieman Lab shared the Tribune’s successful application to the IRS, which could serve as a road map for other papers looking to make the transition.
- Three more dispatches from the world of local news: Poynter’s Al Tompkins checked in with WFAA, a Dallas TV station that took local climate change skeptics on a fact-finding trip to Alaska. Emily Ramshaw, editor in chief of the Texas Tribune, and her colleague Amanda Zamora are leaving the publication to launch a national nonprofit outlet “aimed at giving women the facts, tools and information they need to be equal participants in democracy and civic life.” And in Arkansas, a court sentenced Nkiruka Azuka Omeronye, a local TV reporter, to three days in jail for recording a hearing.
Other notable stories:
- It’s a banner day for political TV junkies. During the day, Gordon Sondland, Laura Cooper, and David Hale will testify across two sessions of the impeachment inquiry; then, beginning at 9pm EST, ten Democratic candidates for president will debate in Atlanta. MSNBC and the Washington Post will host, with Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell, Kristen Welker, and the Post’s Ashley Parker as moderators. It’s only the third time that an all-female panel is chairing a presidential primary debate; less positively for MSNBC, candidates Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Cory Booker called publicly, ahead of time, for an external review of sexual-misconduct issues at the network’s embattled parent, NBC News. Also ahead of the debate, CJR’s Akintunde Ahmad, Lauren Harris, and Savannah Jacobson compared all the debate questions Democrats have faced this year with those Republicans faced in the first six debates of the 2016 cycle. The Democrats have fielded more questions on healthcare, the climate, guns, and how to pay for their policies—and their moderators are obsessed with Trump.
- The UK had a debate of its own last night. On a set seemingly borrowed from the makers of Tron, Conservative prime minister Boris Johnson and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn faced off ahead of elections on December 12. Brexit came up a lot, and the candidates spent more time on what they’d give each other for Christmas than they did addressing climate change. During the debate, the Conservative Party’s press office rebranded its Twitter page “factcheckUK,” with a check mark as its picture. The gimmick was highly misleading; Twitter warned the Conservatives they’ll face action if they do it again.
- The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Michael Edison Hayden released more of Trump adviser Stephen Miller’s emails; the latest batch shows that, prior to the 2016 election, Miller coordinated more closely with Breitbart than was previously known, using contacts there to push negative stories about Marco Rubio, in particular. Michelle Goldberg, of the Times, urges us not to forget the recent Miller revelations amid the torrent of other news.
- Prosecutors in Sweden dropped their investigation into rape allegations against Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks; the dormant probe was reopened earlier this year, after Ecuador ended Assange’s asylum in its London embassy, but has been curtailed again because witnesses’ memories have faded. The US wants to extradite Assange from Britain to face information-gathering charges, including under the Espionage Act.
- Amid a political crisis, Bolivia’s interim government has granted the military expansive license to target civilians. According to Human Rights Watch, reporters in the country are also under threat. Several have been attacked recently; last week, the interim communications minister threatened to deport journalists who are “committing sedition.”
- Iran, too, is facing widespread popular unrest; in response, authorities have shut down the country’s internet. While blackouts are not unprecedented, Alp Toker of NetBlocks, an internet-monitoring group, tells CNN that this is the “most severe disconnection” he’s seen “in any country in terms of its technical complexity and breadth.”
- And in February, CNN caused consternation when it hired Sarah Isgur, a GOP operative with minimal journalism experience, as a senior editor. Following backlash, Isgur joined the network only as a political analyst. She’ll now combine that role with a new gig at The Dispatch, a new conservative site founded by Jonah Goldberg and Steve Hayes.
This post has been updated to clarify Isgur’s name and journalism experience.
A better plan for impeachment hearings on TV | Candidates want NBC investigation | Sports Illustrated’s questionable future
The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, click here. Busy day in media today. Impeachment hearings during the day. Democratic presidential debate tonight. Welcome to Wednesday. Today starts with an email I received from a reader. A better way to divide the impeachment pie Poynter Report reader Michael […]
Thailand’s brand new Anti-Fake News Center arrested a person for the first time last week. According to The Bangkok Post, the Digital Economy and Society Minister, Buddhipongse Punnakanta — who is considered the name behind the new governmental regulatory entity — said the person who was taken into jail is a “hacker” who anonymously asked […]
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