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Paying attention to Puerto Rico’s problems

Puerto Rico is in crisis. One week ago, Julia Keleher and Ángela Ávila-Marrero, formerly senior government officials on the island, were arrested by the FBI on charges that they steered public contracts to associates unqualified to execute them. Meanwhile, screenshots began to circulate from a private chat group in which Ricardo Rosselló, Puerto Rico’s governor, exchanged scandalous, derogatory messages with aides. On Saturday, the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, an investigative nonprofit, published 889 pages of them. The ensuing scandal—known, in some quarters, as “RickyLeaks”—has driven thousands of citizens into the streets, to protest and to call for Rosselló’s resignation.

No luck so far. Yesterday, Rosselló finally addressed assembled reporters at a press conference about his future. David Begnaud, of CBS News, asked eight questions of Rosselló and streamed the answers to his followers. “What you did, governor, was the final straw for a lot of people,” Begnaud said. “What I hear from you is, it’s business as usual. It seems somewhat tone-deaf, with all due respect. Your response?” Rosselló contested the description, and said he has to focus on the business of governing. He also said that an analysis found nothing illegal in the chat messages, and that certain extracts doing the rounds had been doctored; per Begnaud, Rosselló did not provide evidence for either claim. The press conference did nothing to mollify Rosselló’s critics. Officials expect 20,000 of them to rally in San Juan today.

ICYMI: Norah O’Donnell’s promising start

Begnaud isn’t just covering this story: he’s part of it. Officials in the chat discussed plans to discredit his past reporting about crime on the island, out of concern that it could dampen tourism. Rosselló and his inner circle also singled out bloggers Jay Fonseca and Sandra Rodriguez Cotto, and used a homophobic slur to describe Benjamin Torres Gotay, a journalist with El Nuevo Día. They didn’t just target journalists: Rosselló personally used a misogynistic slur against Melissa Mark-Viverito, the former speaker of the New York City Council, and said she should be “beaten up”; aides said they were “salivating to shoot” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, used homophobic language about the singer Ricky Martin, and joked about dead victims of Hurricane Maria, which ravaged Puerto Rico in 2017. The chat’s implications for the press, nonetheless, are worrying. According to El Nuevo Día’s Dennis Costa, officials outlined efforts “to manipulate public narrative through mass media, influence public polls to favor the administration, and operate a ‘troll network’ to discredit negative press coverage.”

Last week, Puerto Rico’s concurrent crises scarcely featured in mainstream US media. Since the weekend, that’s started to change. Begnaud, for example, has reported dispatches for CBS’s morning and evening news shows since his arrival on Sunday; NPR’s Adrián Florido arrived the same day and has since patched into All Things Considered and Morning Edition. Reporters such as CNN’s Leyla Santiago and the AP’s Dánica Coto have been on the ground, too. On the whole, however, major outlets have downplayed the story. When I checked this morning, Puerto Rico was nowhere to be seen on the homepages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, or The Wall Street Journal. Others featured stories about a cruiseliner canceling a stop in San Juan.

This is a major crisis of governance on US soil. Yet compared to political scandals on the mainland—the mess earlier this year in Virginia, for example—the coverage feels an order of magnitude less prominent. Sadly, there’s nothing unexpected in that. As my former colleague Pete Vernon wrote last year, numerous analyses showed that Hurricane Maria and its aftermath got less coverage than severe weather events in the continental US, apart from when they became a Trump story. Last summer, the cancellation of Roseanne got significantly more play than a new report pegging the death toll from Maria at 70 times the official count. The following weekend, the Sunday shows did not mention the report once. These failures are doubly worth remembering because Maria’s devastating consequences reverberate through Puerto Rico’s latest crisis. The hurricane added to existing financial woes. Austerity imposed by a federally appointed oversight board has destabilized the island’s politics and pushed many Puerto Ricans to their limit.

On Monday, Tanzina Vega centered some of this context as she opened The Takeaway, her show on WNYC, with the Puerto Rico story. Vega asked Michael Deibert, who reports for Bloomberg from San Juan, about public fears that reports of poor governance on the island could provide the Trump administration with a pretext to withhold post-Maria aide payments. Deibert said that wouldn’t surprise him.

Yesterday, the administration put out a statement saying the current crisis has validated many of Trump’s “concerns” about Puerto Rico’s leadership. The statement stressed that federal officials “remain committed” to the island’s recovery. We should do better in holding them to that. We could start by paying more attention to this week’s tipping point.

Below, more on Puerto Rico:

  • “Putting Puerto Rico first”: In a column for the Post, Julio Ricardo Varela, who co-hosts the podcast In The Thick with Maria Hinojosa, outlines greater background to these week’s protests and calls on Rosselló to resign. Puerto Rico’s “debt crisis, as much as Wall Street is at fault, needed its accomplices,” Varela argues. “Rosselló was part of that political class and culture—the cool kids who thought they were smarter, better and entitled to put their personal interests ahead of Puerto Rico’s.”
  • High-profile interest: In a video posted to Twitter last night, Ricky Martin confirmed that he plans to attend today’s anti-Rosselló protests in San Juan. Puerto Rican artists Residente and Bad Bunny are expected to join, too. Will celebrity involvement boost coverage?
  • A depleted media scene: Last September, CJR’s Zainab Sultan found that journalists in Puerto Rico were still struggling to find work one year after Maria. “Dwindling advertising revenues that plagued media operations for years had worsened after the hurricane,” and so many made cuts, Sultan reported. “While the media outlets have somewhat recovered, the individuals who lost their jobs in the process still struggle to regain their footing.”


Other notable stories:

  • In Washington yesterday, the fallout from Trump’s weekend tweets telling four Democratic Congresswomen of color to “go back” where they came from got even uglier. Andrew Feinberg, a reporter for Breakfast Media, asked Kellyanne Conway about the tweets; Conway asked back, “What’s your ethnicity?” CNN drew heat for inviting Richard Spencer, a white supremacist, to discuss the far-right reaction to the tweets. On Fox News, Tucker Carlson said (again) that Ilhan Omar “despises the United States,” and called her “pompous.” (Omar and the other Congresswomen targeted by Trump sat down with Gayle King, of CBS, for a joint interview that airs this morning.) And in the evening, the House of Representatives voted to condemn Trump’s tweets as racist in a session that devolved into a “bitterly partisan brawl,” the Times reports.
  • Earlier this year, a judge restricted what Roger Stone, who is being prosecuted on charges brought by Robert Mueller, could say about his case on social media after Stone posted an image of the judge overlaid with crosshairs. (Stone said the crosshairs were actually a Celtic cross.) Yesterday, the judge banned Stone from using Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, period, after finding that he violated the earlier order, BuzzFeed’s Zoe Tillman reports. Stone is “determined to make himself the subject of the story,” the judge said. His behavior “has more to do with middle school than with a court of law.”
  • Johnson Publishing, the former owner of Ebony and Jet, will today sell the magazines’ combined photo archive at a private auction, the Times’s Julie Bosman writes. The future of “the most significant collection of photographs depicting African-American life in the 20th century” is thus uncertain, Bosman says. “Historians, alarmed by the potential sale, say that the collection is full of cultural treasures that should be opened to the public.”
  • For CJR, Nick Pinto spoke with Dan Taberski, who dedicated the third season of his podcast “Headlong” to examining the cultural impact of the TV show Cops. Taberski “confirms the impression anyone who’s watched a handful of episodes has likely had: Cops emphasizes the lurid, the violent, and the action-packed,” Pinto writes. “The show over-represents violent crime by nearly a factor of four, drug crimes by nearly a factor of three, and prostitution by nearly a factor of 10.”
  • The administration announced yesterday that it is tapping Monica Crowley, a former Fox News contributor, as a Treasury Department spokesperson, The Hill’s John Bowden reports. Crowley, who currently serves Treasury as a public affairs adviser, was slated, in 2017, to become press secretary for the National Security Council, but withdrew after CNN found her book, PhD dissertation, and columns for The Washington Times were partially plagiarized.
  • Quibi—a “quick bites” streaming service for smartphones founded by entertainment veteran Jeffrey Katzenberg and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman—will partner with NBC on a twice-daily news show when it launches next year, The Wall Street Journal’s Benjamin Mullin reports. The BBC will partner with Quibi to provide international news.
  • In Turkey, a court acquitted Reporters Without Borders representative Erol Önderoğlu, human rights defender Şebnem Korur Fincancı, and writer Ahmet Nesin, who had been charged with spreading “terrorist propaganda” in 2016 after they guest-edited a Kurdish newspaper that was subsequently shut down by the government. It’s not all good news though: Önderoğlu faces a separate trial on similar charges in November.
  • And after major news organizations failed to describe Trump’s racist tweets as “racist,” The Daily Show With Trevor Noah came out with a “Trump Racist Euphemism Headline Generator.” Examples include “Trump plants seeds of race-adjoined faux pas” and “Trump scales summit of racially moist boo-boo.” Try it for yourself.

ICYMI: Just say ‘racist’

Posted: July 17, 2019, 12:08 pm

Get out there, stick with it and get those records

What work is your local newsroom proud of? This week we have a story from Sacramento News & Review, an alt-weekly, that shows the value of asking what’s not getting covered, a project from the Tampa Bay Times that shows the value of sticking with the story, and an investigation from the Oregonian that tapped […]

The post Get out there, stick with it and get those records appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: July 17, 2019, 12:00 pm

Tech journalism’s ‘on background’ scourge

One of the most pernicious tools that Silicon Valley uses to control the flow of information to the public is decidedly low-tech: briefing reporters “on background.”  According to the Associated Press, an on background arrangement with a reporter means that “information can be published but only under conditions negotiated with the source. Generally, the sources […]
Posted: July 17, 2019, 10:55 am

Apple might be getting into the podcast-making business. Is its reign as the industry’s benevolent overlord coming to an end?

There had been rumors, and there had been increasing reason to believe them. Spotify’s buzzy start to the year, in which the Swedish platform spent hundreds of millions of dollars acquiring its way into the podcast business, had begun to inspire questions about the future of Apple’s position as the dominant podcast distributor. Those questions...
Posted: July 17, 2019, 12:36 am

Journalism experts in ethics and diversity explain their reactions to President Trump’s ‘go back’ tweet

Kelly McBride is the senior vice president of The Poynter Institute and the chair of the Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership at Poynter. Doris Truong is Poynter’s director of training and diversity.  Doris Truong: When the president of the United States says that four congresswomen should “go back … from (where) they came,” […]

The post Journalism experts in ethics and diversity explain their reactions to President Trump’s ‘go back’ tweet appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: July 16, 2019, 8:59 pm

Email newsletter platform Substack nabs $15.3 million in funding (and vows it won’t go the way of other VC-funded media companies)

The email newsletter platform Substack, which has become home to an increasing number of personal and professional newsletters as creators phase out their use of TinyLetter, announced Tuesday that it’s raised $15.3 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from Y Combinator. Since its launch in 2017, Substack...
Posted: July 16, 2019, 4:52 pm

Investigating the harsh realities of ‘Cops’

Early on in the documentary podcast “Running From Cops,” which debuted in April, the show cuts to audio from a YouTube clip of two young boys playing Cops. Not cops and robbers, but bad-boys-bad-boys-whatcha-gonna-do Cops. “Get down on the ground, now!” one boy bellows at his playmate in a disconcertingly accurate authoritarian tone. “Why were […]
Posted: July 16, 2019, 4:00 pm

West Coast offense: Los Angeles gets a new hub for podcasting to match WNYC Studios out east

Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 218, dated July 16, 2019. California dreamin’. This morning, Southern California Public Radio of supposedly sleepy Pasadena — one of the two major public radio stations serving Los Angeles (excluding KUSC), the other being Santa Monica’s KCRW — announced the launch of a new...
Posted: July 16, 2019, 2:55 pm

Norah O’Donnell’s promising start

Yesterday, the news cycle threw a test at Norah O’Donnell as she anchored her first broadcast as host of CBS Evening News. President Trump’s racist tweets about four Congresswomen of color remained a top story yesterday: Trump said the Congresswomen hated America and called one of them, Ilhan Omar, an Al Qaeda sympathizer. Later, Omar and her targeted colleagues responded with a press conference; “This is the agenda of white nationalists,” Omar said. Many major news organizations—including CBSavoided calling Trump’s tweets racist, instead leaning on tortured euphemisms such as “racially charged.” Would O’Donnell punt, too?

As she started talking, an on-screen graphic referred to a “racial firestorm.” It did not bode well. Less than 10 seconds later, however, O’Donnell did clearly and directly use the R-word. She then briefly trained attention on the continued silence of senior Republican lawmakers before tossing to Weijia Jiang, a CBS White House correspondent. Jiang said “racist,” too.

ICYMI: Just say ‘racist’

It was a strong start. Next, a report by Major Garrett on Trump’s history of “controversial racial comments” (less strong) touched on the president’s equivocation following the deadly white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, in 2017; leading out of that, O’Donnell offered an update in the case of James Fields, Jr., who killed Heather Heyer with his car that day and who was just sentenced to life plus 419 years in prison. The rest followed a similar pattern: O’Donnell passed from the issues commanding the nation’s attention—the ICE raids, Jeffrey Epstein, blackouts in New York—to important stories lower in the news cycle’s churn, including protests in Puerto Rico and the murders of an American scientist in Greece and a civil-rights activist in Louisiana. O’Donnell teased coming interviews with Jeff Bezos and Caroline Kennedy ahead of Saturday’s 50th anniversary of the moon landings, then ran a segment on the forgotten “women of NASA” who were critical to the mission’s success. The space focus was a none-too-subtle nod to Walter Cronkite, the most illustrious of O’Donnell’s Evening News predecessors, who anchored the landings in 1969. O’Donnell quoted another news legend, Edward R. Murrow, at length to close out the broadcast.

There’s more at stake in O’Donnell’s move from CBS This Morning to the evening slot than in a routine network reshuffle. O’Donnell is only the third woman ever to solo anchor a nightly newscast, following Katie Couric, also of CBS, and Diane Sawyer, of ABC. That’s important for representation, but also for CBS. Since the height of #MeToo in 2017, sexual-abuse scandals prompted the firings of star anchor Charlie Rose, 60 Minutes producer Jeff Fager, and chairman and CEO Les Moonves; cascading allegations against Moonves led to reports of a toxic, misogynistic culture at the network. In recent months, the news division has seen something of a turnaround under the direction of Susan Zirinsky, its new president; O’Donnell has said that she would not have taken the Evening News gig if Zirinsky weren’t in charge.

Both Zirinsky and O’Donnell have stressed the need to restore viewers’ trust with serious reporting. To that end, O’Donnell, a former White House and Congressional correspondent, will move the Evening News from New York to DC in the fall. The early reviews, on the trust front, seem positive. In yesterday’s debut, O’Donnell “didn’t rely on any attention-grabbing tricks to carry the day,” Brian Steinberg writes for Variety. It was “a no-nonsense newscast that was packed with information and left little time for gimmicks.”

This being television, the thirst for ratings looms large, too. As The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan wrote last week, for all O’Donnell’s talk of trust, “Network honchos would probably settle for something less lofty: getting the Tiffany Network, as it once was known, out of the ratings cellar for its evening news broadcasts.” CBS Evening News has long lagged rival shows: currently, it averages 6 million viewers a night, whereas the nightly newscasts on ABC and NBC both boast more than 8 million viewers on average. These are important figures. The network newscasts all perform much better than prime-time news shows on cable.

O’Donnell portrays her show as a counterweight to cable’s ever-louder opinionating. “If you want affirmation, you can turn on a cable channel,” she told the LA Times’s Stephen Battaglio. “If you want information, turn on the CBS Evening News.” In the Trump era, this sort of straight-down-the-middle, view-from-nowhere approach feels tired, rooted in old notions of objectivity that too often are a fig leaf for the obscene. Last night, however, O’Donnell proved there’s room for the word “racist” in her conception of facts-first journalism, and room for stories from across America that some national outlets have overlooked. Already, that sets her apart.

Below, more on Norah O’Donnell and CBS:

  • Looking forward: Earlier this month, O’Donnell previewed her time in the Evening News anchor chair in an interview with The Boston Globe’s Shirley Leung. O’Donnell said the hardest interview she’s ever done was with Tom Brady, the New England Patriots quarterback. That might change one day: O’Donnell’s current top interview target is Kim Jong Un.
  • Tumbling down: Variety’s Steinberg writes that Zirinsky and O’Donnell plan to revamp the Evening News for the digital era: it will appear each weekday evening on CBSN, the network’s news-streaming hub, and important stories will be distributed via social media. “Quite frankly, the walls of Jericho are coming down when it comes to digital,” Zirinsky says.
  • Watch this space: Fifty years ago today, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins lifted off in Apollo 11. This morning, CBS News will replay Cronkite’s coverage of the launch in real time. Tonight, O’Donnell, like Cronkite before her, will anchor live from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. O’Donnell is also hosting “Man on the Moon,” a CBS News special that will air at 10pm Eastern.


Other notable stories:

  • Last month, Twitter announced a bold new policy: when tweets by prominent public figures breach its abuse rules, they’ll be left up (in the public interest, Twitter says), but they’ll be down-ranked by the platform’s algorithm and users will have to click past a warning screen to see them. Trump’s racist tweets attacking Omar et al show no such label. Yesterday, Twitter told CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan that the tweets didn’t violate any rules—“a conclusion,” O’Sullivan noted, “apparently contradicted by Twitter’s written policies.”
  • In Puerto Rico, protesters demanded the resignation of Ricardo Rosselló, the territory’s governor, following the arrests of high-profile former officials on corruption charges and the leak, on Saturday, of derogatory private chat messages between Rosselló and aides. Later, police used tear gas and pepper spray on demonstrators. Per El Nuevo Día, the leaked messages detailed efforts to manipulate media coverage—including through a “troll network”—and contained offensive remarks about journalists including Benjamin Torres Gotay, of El Nuevo Día, and David Begnaud, of CBS News.
  • Recently, the BBC brokered access for a foreign correspondent inside Iran; in return, the broadcaster agreed not to share its reporting with its Persian-language channel, BBC Persian, Yashar Ali reports for HuffPost. “The agreement represents a capitulation to a government that has been hostile to press freedom,” Ali writes. On that score, Iranian state television has been showing Gando, an over-the-top procedural drama “based on a real case.” In reality, the show seeks to justify the detention of Jason Rezaian, a Post reporter previously imprisoned in Tehran, and smear him as a spy. The AP has more.
  • For CJR, Megan Frye charts the backlash to a Times story about gang territory in Honduras that, critics say, imperiled sources by using too many identifying details. The Times says its subjects consented, but the criticism of the piece speaks to a broader problem: that journalists’ efforts to be credible can lead to risk for the people in their stories.
  • Staffers for Bernie Sanders say too much coverage of their candidate is negative or dismissive, Politico’s Michael Calderone writes. “Even though he’s consistently near the top in the polls, Sanders’ staff thinks pundits write off his chances. And they’re unusually vocal in calling out coverage they dislike on Twitter and on the media channels they’ve created in-house, fueling frustration once again among the senator’s supporters about whether he’s getting a fair shot at the White House.”
  • A scoop for CNN: Marshall Cohen, Kay Guerrero, and Arturo Torres obtained surveillance documents showing that in 2016, Julian Assange turned Ecuador’s embassy in London, where he was then in exile, into a “command center” to influence the US presidential election, and took a number of “suspicious” deliveries, possibly of hacked materials.
  • Also in the UK, Arron Banks, a controversial political donor and self-proclaimed “bad boy of Brexit,” is suing Carole Cadwalladr, the reporter who broke the Cambridge Analytica story, over a TED talk in which Cadwalladr said Banks was offered money by Russia. Yesterday, Cadwalladr countersued for harassment; Banks’s libel case is the culmination of a campaign that has included trolling and threats of violence, her lawyers said.
  • Clayton Morris, a former Fox & Friends host, and his wife and business partner Natali Morris, a former MSNBC anchor, have relocated to Portugal amid allegations that Clayton Morris defrauded investors in Indiana real estate, the Indianapolis Star’s Tony Cook and Tim Evans report. He denies wrongdoing.
  • And the Post’s Gillian Brockell looks back at the paper’s role in “aiding and abetting” a deadly race riot in DC 100 years ago. A Post front page calling for service men to mobilize and “clean-up” has since been dubbed “highly provocative and shamefully irresponsible.”

ICYMI: Explaining a Novel to Pakistani Intelligence

Correction: Norah O’Donnell closed out the CBS Evening News last night with a quote from Edward R. Murrow, not from Walter Cronkite, as previously stated. The post has been updated.

Posted: July 16, 2019, 12:04 pm

More R-word debates, plus a look at who exactly follows Trump on Twitter

This is the Poynter Institute’s daily newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, click here. July 16, 2019 Good Tuesday morning. Norah O’Donnell ended her first broadcast Monday as the new anchor of the “CBS Evening News” by invoking the name of a broadcasting legend. But it’s how she started her broadcast that caught […]

The post More R-word debates, plus a look at who exactly follows Trump on Twitter appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: July 16, 2019, 11:51 am

A woman secretly taped an NFL player accused of child abuse. A TV station is taking heat for editing it.

A clash of journalism values was on display last week when a Kansas City news director went on the air to defend his station. The background KCTV news director Casey Clark took the unusual step of facing the audience to respond to critics who felt the station had been unfair to Kansas City Chiefs wide […]

The post A woman secretly taped an NFL player accused of child abuse. A TV station is taking heat for editing it. appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: July 16, 2019, 11:30 am

A Texas Republican’s unbiased news site skews to the right

In 2015, on the opening day of the 84th Texas Legislature, newly elected Republican Konni Burton, a former Tea Party leader, stepped onto the Senate floor wearing a pair of black cowboy boots with the words “Stand for Life” inscribed on them. The sartorial choice signaled that Burton would be the polar opposite of her […]
Posted: July 16, 2019, 10:55 am

What sort of news travels fastest online? Bad news, you won’t be shocked to hear

As the old newsroom saw puts it, a thousand planes landing safely isn’t a story. One plane that doesn’t is. That lens on newsworthiness has always given an edge to negative news — wars over peace, crimes over safety, fights over agreement. We know by now that the audience doesn’t always care for those choices;...
Posted: July 15, 2019, 8:09 pm

What’s stopping you from calling something racist in your reporting? Tell this survey (so they can build tools to make it easier for you)

Journalistic language is a funny thing: a mix of official style rules, newsroom norms with fuzzy origins, individual instinct, and whatever the copy desk will let through at a given moment. That intersection is highlighted whenever there’s a controversy about whether a particular usage (or non-usage) is giving cover to bad behavior or reinforcing harmful...
Posted: July 15, 2019, 6:03 pm

Nearly 7,000 people threatened to cancel their newspaper subscriptions. Here’s what got them to stay.

You’re a print newspaper subscriber, and one morning your paper doesn’t show up. You call customer service (how brave of you!) and threaten to cancel. The apologetic customer service rep offers you a discount for the remainder of your subscription, which you accept. But what will you do when that subscription comes up for renewal?...
Posted: July 15, 2019, 5:40 pm

Of dogs, and their days

As we endure the “dog days” of summer, let’s consider why a few generic names for dogs—“Fido,” “Rover,” and “Spot”—have come into being.  To begin with, why are July and August so often called the “dog days of summer” ? It’s not because dogs lie around in the heat, panting, and we feel like we […]
Posted: July 15, 2019, 4:00 pm

Are we ready for the ‘deep nude’ era?

Last week, The New Paper of Singapore revealed the story of Rose, a 27-year-old woman who found a picture she had taken months before — wearing clothes, of course — in a sex forum. In the new image, Rose is naked. She is just one of dozens who may find themselves in the same situation […]

The post Are we ready for the ‘deep nude’ era? appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: July 15, 2019, 3:56 pm

How Free Press convinced New Jersey to allocate $2 million for rehabilitating local news

When the state of New Jersey was about to make more than $300 million off of the FCC’s spectrum sale auction — sort of like money falling from the sky for once in your life, really — it was a moment that Free Press had been waiting for. Founded in 2003, Free Press is an...
Posted: July 15, 2019, 2:11 pm

Trump’s tweets increasingly called racist, plus CBS News’ big night and a stunning Atlantic investigation

This is the Poynter Institute’s daily newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, click here. July 15, 2019 Good Monday. Today is a big day at CBS News, but let’s start this week by looking back at President Donald Trump’s tweets that caused a storm. ‘Go back … ‘ Cries of racism get louder […]

The post Trump’s tweets increasingly called racist, plus CBS News’ big night and a stunning Atlantic investigation appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: July 15, 2019, 12:13 pm

Just say ‘racist’

Yesterday, the president of the United States “fanned the flames of a racial fire.” According to a panoply of major news outlets, Trump “starkly injected” “racially infused” and “racially charged” words into a morning tweetstorm; the language he used was “widely established as a racist trope” and “usually considered an ugly racist taunt.” The remarks were “called racist and xenophobic”; “denounced as racist”; an “example of ‘racism’” (note the quote marks).

What had Trump said to necessitate such pained lexical contortion? He’d told a group of left-wing Democratic Congresswomen to “go back” to “the totally broken and crime infested places they came from.” Of the lawmakers Trump appeared to be targeting, all bar one—Ilhan Omar—were born in America. Irrespective of that context, Trump’s attack wasn’t racially charged; it was just racist, by any useful definition of the term. Why didn’t our media say so?

ICYMI: Social media giants are restricting research vital to journalism

Outlets including BuzzFeed, The Guardian, CNN, Mashable, and Rolling Stone did directly call Trump’s tweets “racist” in news articles. The New York Times—which was otherwise responsible for three of the tortured euphemisms above—managed it, too, in a post asking readers to submit their own experiences of the “go back” attack. On Twitter and in opinion pieces, individual reporters and commentators went further. Times columnist Charles M. Blow called Trump “a raging racist”; Goldie Taylor, editor-at-large at The Daily Beast, wrote that Trump’s tweets were “unapologetically racist,” and that “if you support him, so are you.” Jamil Smith, of Rolling Stone, tweeted: “President Trump is a white nationalist, and telling folks to go back to Africa—and to Palestine and Puerto Rico, apparently—is what white nationalists do.”

On the whole, however, the news desks of mainstream news organizations did not call the tweets racist, or at least did not do so consistently across their output. (CNN, for example, used “racist” and “racially charged” in different areas of its coverage.) “Racist” often appeared in quote marks, which was a cop-out: “Reporters and anchors took the story seriously but largely leaned on ‘critics,’ primarily Democrats, and cited their accusations of racism,” CNN’s Brian Stelter notes. Centering the voices of those who experience racism is important, but it is not, in itself, sufficient: here, “the significance of Trump’s words risked being lost in a partisan fog,” as Stelter points out. The Intercept’s Mehdi Hasan was blunter still. “Historians will look back on the US media’s refusal to use the L (lie) and R (racist) words in relation to Trump as one of the most inexcusable, cowardly and shameful features of this horrific political and media era,” he tweeted.

The debate around the “R word” is not new; nor, at this point, does it seem especially controversial. The Associated Press Stylebook—a trusted arbiter for newsrooms nationwide that is hardly known for its leftist radicalism—ruled in March that we should “not use racially charged or similar terms as euphemisms for racist or racism when the latter terms are truly applicable.” (Interestingly, the AP’s lead story on Trump’s tweets does not use either term without attribution.) So why do the euphemisms persist? As has been the case with the “L word,” perhaps a minute parsing of Trump’s intentions is responsible. (Did he mean to be racist/lie? How can we really know…) Maybe institutional style guides have not been adequately updated amid the unceasing torrent of news. The most likely explanation is, perhaps, the simplest: a residual, old-school squeamishness in newsrooms around charged words that—before Trump broke all the rules, at least—smacked of opinion or activism.

Calling a president’s words “racist” or “a lie” can legitimately be thorny. Should we throw the words around? Probably not. But we should use them when they accurately reflect the truth. Very simply, that’s our job. Go back to where you came from is textbook racism. When we contort ourselves to dance around that fact, the truth is injured.

Below, more on Trump’s words and the weekend news cycle:

  • “Say it with me: Racism”: In September 2017, CJR’s Pete Vernon argued that the press should drop the euphemisms around Trump’s remarks on anthem protests in the NFL. Writing for Nieman Lab last year, Errin Haines Whack—who, as national writer on race and ethnicity for the AP, helped craft its new stylebook entry—wrote for Nieman Lab that “we should be asking ourselves and our colleagues why race continues to be treated like a four-letter word.” Haines Whack detailed her life on the race beat for CJR’s Fall 2018 print issue on race and journalism. Read all the articles from the issue here.
  • The Fox hole: Were Trump’s racist tweets inspired by Fox News? Last week, Tucker Carlson called Omar “living proof that the way we practice immigration has become dangerous to this country”; on Sunday morning, Fox & Friends ran a segment about Omar and the other apparent targets of Trump’s rant—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley—about 20 minutes before Trump tweeted. Later, the show’s hosts pulled the tweets on screen; Jedediah Bila called them “very comedic.”
  • The wider context: Several outlets situated the tweets in the context of Trump’s past racist remarks; some called them a campaigning stunt. But the more immediate context—pre-announced ICE raids designed, very literally, to send undocumented families back where they came from—got a bit lost. The raids were not as extensive as advertised; nonetheless, they caused fear and panic in immigrant communities nationwide. Writing on Friday, Kyle Pope, CJR’s editor and publisher, called the planned raids a “wretched, disturbing, cynical thing: a campaign event for the re-election of Donald Trump, aimed at generating a highlight reel for the fringiest edges of his base.”


Other notable stories:

  • Despite worrying projections late last week, Hurricane Barry “failed to live up to its threat” in Louisiana over the weekend, the (recently merged) New Orleans Times-Picayune/Advocate reports. (Coastal parishes were hit hard, and thousands of people were left without power.) As the storm prepared to pass through, local journalists criticized the national news media for scaremongering. Per Lamar White, Jr., of the Bayou Brief, outlets including MSNBC and the Post “misrepresented the on-the-ground reality,” and showed a poor understanding of flooding issues in New Orleans.
  • On Saturday, parts of Manhattan suffered a power outage42 years to the day after the famous blackout of 1977. The affected area included several newsrooms; NBC’s used backup generators to stay on the air. Mayor Bill de Blasio called into CNN from Iowa, where he was campaigning for president. NY1’s Juan Manuel Benítez predicted that the split-screen optics “will be trouble all week” for de Blasio. So far, New York media is proving Benítez right: the front pages of today’s New York Post and Daily News are both scathing of the mayor.
  • On Friday, the Journal reported that the Federal Trade Commission has recommended a $5 billion fine for Facebook following an investigation pegged to the Cambridge Analytica episode and other data-privacy scandals. The fine is by far the biggest ever issued by the FTC and comes with regulatory strings attached—but, as Nilay Patel writes for The Verge, it barely scratches the surface of Facebook’s revenue; the platform’s stock price actually went up after news of the fine broke. “Fines and punishments are only effective when they provide negative consequences for bad behavior,” Patel argues.
  • Also on Friday, counter-terrorism police in the UK launched a criminal probe into the leak of diplomatic cables in which Britain’s (now former) ambassador to the US excoriated Trump; per The Sunday Times, a rogue civil servant is suspected. In a poorly received statement, police officials advised British journalists to return all leaked information in their possession to the government, and suggested those who don’t could face charges. The UK’s two candidates for prime minister both spoke out in support of the press’s right to publish; the police later rowed back. The Mail, which first published the leaked cables, was not cowed: on Saturday, it dropped more of them, related to the Iran nuclear deal.
  • For CJR, Jake Pitre writes that the PR and media buzz surrounding Pride Month “poses something of a dilemma” for queer journalists. “It can be a welcome boost in income, and an opportunity to get bylines,” Pitre writes. “But some assignments reek of tokenism; in many cases, straight editors think of commissioning queer writers only during the month of June, and mostly for stories of personal trauma or cultural appropriation.”
  • Recently, an immigration appeals board ruled that Manuel Duran, a Memphis-based reporter who was detained while covering a protest in 2018, should be released; the panel agreed with the cornerstone of his asylum claim, that his native El Salvador is not safe for journalists. Last week, Duran was freed on bond, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports. He still faces deportation proceedings, but the clock has been reset.
  • In Alabama, Goodloe Sutton—the Linden Democrat-Reporter owner who sparked outrage with a February editorial supporting the return of the KKK—sold the paper and retired, the AP reports. Following this year’s backlash, Sutton initially tried to transfer management of the paper to its sole employee, Elecia Dexter, a Black woman, but she soon stepped back, citing Sutton’s continued interference. In March, CJR’s Betsy Morais and Alexandria Neason spoke with Dexter for our podcast, The Kicker.
  • Late last week, R. Kelly—the R&B singer who already faces a state sex-abuse case and multiple civil suits—was arrested on federal charges including kidnapping, forced labor, and the distribution of child pornography. Per Stephanie Pagones and Yaron Steinbuch, of Page Six, the arrest came about after a Homeland Security agent watched interviews with Kelly’s victims in Surviving R. Kelly, the recent Lifetime series by Dream Hampton.
  • And militants in Kismayo, Somalia, killed at least 27 people in a hotel attack on Friday. Hodan Nalayeh, a Canadian-born journalist who told positive stories about the war-torn country and founded the world’s first English-language TV show for the Somali diaspora, was among the dead. NBC’s Yuliya Talmazan and Charlene Gubash have an obituary.

ICYMI: Explaining a Novel to Pakistani Intelligence

Posted: July 15, 2019, 11:40 am

When showing credibility imperils a story’s subjects

In their May 4 article for The New York Times, “Inside Gang Territory in Honduras: ‘Either They Kill Us or We Kill Them,’ ” reporter Azam Ahmed and photojournalist Tyler Hicks tell the story of a small gang called Casa Blanca and its efforts to push the notoriously brutal MS-13 gang out of the Rivera Hernández […]
Posted: July 15, 2019, 10:55 am

A call to journalists: Let’s save America

“Don’t be part of the story.” Fuck that.  Whether to put down your notebook or camera to come to the aid of a news subject in extremis has long been posed as a journalistic conundrum. Well, conund all you like; me, I’m not vexed. If a life is at stake, and I’m needed to intervene, […]
Posted: July 12, 2019, 6:55 pm

For many queer writers, Pride Month presents a dilemma

Every June, the LGBTQ+ community celebrates Pride Month with parades, marches, drag shows, and other events that highlight queer history and culture. The participation of corporate brands in these celebrations has long been a point of contention: Do they show genuine support, or merely cash in? From the perspective of queer writers, the media and […]
Posted: July 12, 2019, 4:00 pm

Google is redesigning the News tab, prioritizing context and publisher names

In the land of search engines and social media platforms providing more context to the things they show, Google is now tweaking its search results for news articles. When searching on desktop, users will find — in the News tab — a more prominent display of publishers’ names and specific cards for articles in a...
Posted: July 12, 2019, 3:28 pm

‘Stranger Things’ nails the ’80s — except for female journalists and small towns

While “Stranger Things” got major props for perfecting many details of 1980s life, season three missed one big mark: the small-town newspaper journalism of that era. In doing so, showrunners denied one of the series’ most deserving characters her moment in the sun. Yes, there was plenty of sexism in both newsrooms and the broader […]

The post ‘Stranger Things’ nails the ’80s — except for female journalists and small towns appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: July 12, 2019, 2:57 pm

The beloved pitcher and writer who exposed the raunchy side of baseball has died

This is the Poynter Institute’s daily newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, click here. July 12, 2019 Good Friday morning. Today I go back to my roots with several sports-related items. Have a great weekend. Pitcher, writer Jim Bouton dies at 80 The ‘Ball Four’ author drew back the curtain on the clubhouse, […]

The post The beloved pitcher and writer who exposed the raunchy side of baseball has died appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: July 12, 2019, 11:58 am

Nuclear disasters, information vacuums: How a lack of data in Fukushima led to the spread of fake health news

“They did not have accurate information about the disease incidence.” Last fall, a city council member in Minamisoma City, Japan circulated a printed leaflet among residents of the community, near where the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster happened in 2011. (It was the first nuclear disaster to occur since the internet became widely available.) The pamphlet...
Posted: July 12, 2019, 11:39 am

Governments making “fake news” a crime risk stifling real journalism — accidentally or intentionally

The rapid spread of fake news can influence millions of people, impacting elections and financial markets. A study on the impact of fake news on the 2016 U.S. presidential election, for instance, has found that fake news stories about Hillary Clinton were “very strongly linked” to the defection of voters who supported Barack Obama in...
Posted: July 11, 2019, 4:36 pm

Here’s how some for-profit local news outlets are building subscriptions

Nonprofit status has been enormously helpful for local news outlets, both those kicking off as newbies or transitioning from the commercial (and profit-losing) life. Two hundred organizations are now registered with the Institute for Nonprofit News, collectively bringing in more than $350 million in revenue last year and, of course, doing the important work of...
Posted: July 11, 2019, 3:00 pm

More bills for government funding of local news (or at least its exploration) inch forward

Over the past few years, New Jersey has been the outlier in getting — or even trying to get — a local government to pony up money for local journalism. Garden State-based civic info advocacy group Free Press convinced the state legislature to originally commit $5 million in its budget last summer: The Civic Info...
Posted: July 10, 2019, 6:23 pm

How CALmatters is growing out of its startup stage

Four years ago, CALmatters launched as a new statewide, policy-focused, nonprofit reporting machine for California. Two years ago, the organization was building relationships with other local and regional outlets to grow its presence. Now, it’s time to tweak a few things — starting with its business plan and branding as it steps into the role...
Posted: July 10, 2019, 1:24 pm

Hong Kong protests, but also the Met Gala: The New York Times Chinese edition looks for new audiences

Amid Hong Kong protests, trade wars, and the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, it’s been a big summer for news about China — but of course it’s not easy for Chinese citizens to see uncensored versions of that news. The news is there, however, for people who can use VPNs to get around the...
Posted: July 10, 2019, 1:12 pm

Young adults read the news — but often don’t see themselves reflected in it

A Knight Foundation survey of 1,660 18- to 34-year-olds, conducted by the University of Chicago’s NORC, finds that young adults are relatively active consumers of news — 88 percent of them access it at least once a week and 53 percent do so once a day — but they often don’t think that it reflects them....
Posted: July 9, 2019, 4:25 pm

Working across disciplines: A manifesto for happy newsrooms

Do you want to be ready for a startup in your newsroom, for new research methods, immersive storytelling, and product thinking? Then open doors for people with different skill sets. Invite coders, statisticians, bio-engineers, designers and {INSERT YOUR WILDCARD DISCIPLINE HERE} to work with you. But you’ll also need a fresh toolset and new management...
Posted: July 9, 2019, 2:07 pm

Six months into 2019, what new do we know about the state of podcasting?

Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 217, dated July 9, 2019. A midyear check-in. I feel like I’ve been somnambulant. How is it already July? The past half-year slipped by like a breeze, and I’m still processing the two big news events that have defined the year in podcasting so...
Posted: July 9, 2019, 1:56 pm

Is “news on the internet” the same as “news on your phone”? Here’s how Pew asks

When you read stories in The New York Times’ app, does you count that as reading a story online? What about news from Twitter? Is it only “online” news if you’re reading it from a computer? And, come to think of it, are the New York Times stories you read digitally really “online news” at...
Posted: July 8, 2019, 2:49 pm

Not just one foundation, not just one newsroom: How the Colorado Media Project is trying to rebuild a local news ecosystem

Look at the local journalism scene of almost any metropolitan area in the U.S., and you’ll find a similar set of players facing a similar set of challenges. One remaining daily newspaper, facing still more cuts and cratering print advertising. A few TV stations, buttressed by advertising but facing mergers and uncertain investment in journalism....
Posted: July 8, 2019, 11:53 am

Can a squat wooden disk lead to better civic conversations and smarter journalism? Cortico has $10 million to try it out

Journalists aren’t always the greatest listeners. Yes, it’s kind of in the job description, but sometimes selective listening, not to mention selection bias, can warp what messages actually reach their ears — and their stories. What if a journalist could be a fly on the wall in residents’ conversations about community issues? Or maybe just...
Posted: July 8, 2019, 10:13 am

With a new round of funding, Wondery is ready to push podcasts overseas

Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 216, dated July 2, 2019. Wondery raises $10 million in Series B funding. The round was led by Waverley Capital, and the sum adds to the $5 million Series A raised last year, plus the seed round that came before that. The new money...
Posted: July 2, 2019, 2:45 pm

In Youngstown, an American city loses its only daily newspaper — and it won’t be the last

A declining newspaper is better than no newspaper. A rundown newspaper is better than no newspaper. A bad newspaper is better than no newspaper. Some people will disagree with me there. There are those in the local digital news world who argue that it’ll take the final shutdown of a city’s daily to trigger the...
Posted: July 1, 2019, 3:29 pm

Newsonomics: The New York Times puts personalization front and center — just For You

Remember The Daily Me? Not just the startup that came and went trying to provide a personalized product — I mean that original dream/nightmare of the golden news site that gives the reader what she wants, first voiced ages ago by MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte. In the archives of news dreams lost and buried, it owns...
Posted: June 28, 2019, 3:47 pm

When a local team wins a national championship, your daily newspaper will tell you all about it! (Um, 36 hours later)

When journalists wants to argue that print has a long life ahead of it, one common move is to point to the enormous demand that arises for printed paper the day after the local sports team has won a championship. “See?” they’ll say, attaching a picture of diehard fans lining up for a broadsheet souvenir...
Posted: June 28, 2019, 2:42 pm

Yes, it’s worth arguing with science deniers — and here are some techniques you can use

Countering science denialism. Arguing with the anti-vaxxers/flat earthers/climate change deniers may feel futile, but research just published in Nature Human Behaviour suggests that it’s actually worth it and can be effective. Philipp Schmid and Cornelia Betsch of the University of Erfurt in Germany conducted six experiments, online with 1,773 subjects, to see how to “counter...
Posted: June 28, 2019, 10:00 am

During the Indian election, news audiences consumed a wide and diverse range of sources

How do Indian news audiences navigate the online news domain? Can one find patterns of audience fragmentation in the Indian media ecosystem? At the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, we recently analyzed the behavior of online news audiences in India during the 2019 general elections to understand news consumption in a unique market...
Posted: June 28, 2019, 9:30 am

The Associated Press and Google are building a tool for sharing more local news — more quickly

In Google’s second recent commitment to local news, the Associated Press and the Google News Initiative will build a tool for member newsrooms to directly share content and coverage plans. (And no, it won’t be a glorified Google Doc or spreadsheet.) “The AP has long been a content provider but we also want to be...
Posted: June 27, 2019, 2:00 pm

Here’s The Correspondent’s budget for its English-language expansion

With just over 90 days until its official launch, the English-language — remember, not just U.S. — expansion of De Correspondent has released its budget to its crowdfunding supporters. (Disclosure: Yes, that means I gave them some money. But it’s also on Medium.) The Correspondent raised more than $2.5 million from 40,000 people in its...
Posted: June 27, 2019, 1:57 pm

Habit formation: How The Wall Street Journal turned user-level data into a strategy to keep subscribers coming back

With more than 2.5 million paid members, The Wall Street Journal is the biggest it has ever been. While we will continue to sharpen and evolve our member acquisition strategy, we believe that the next chapter of growth will be fueled by retention. Data clearly shows that the best way to reduce churn is to...
Posted: June 27, 2019, 10:00 am

TV is still the most common way for Americans to get local news, but fewer people are watching

Local TV is trusted and is still the preferred method of getting news (thanks mostly to people 50 and up). But viewership for local TV news continues to decline, according to research released by Pew this week. Pew also took a look at cable and network news, and here are some of their findings about...
Posted: June 26, 2019, 3:04 pm