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A version of this story ran in our weekly newsletter on the transformation of local news, Local Edition. You can subscribe here. Working with other people in your newsroom is bound to be tough at some point. But most of us keep at it because the work is rewarding and also they pay us. Collaboration […]
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China arrested 8 for spreading ‘hoaxes’ about what is now known as coronavirus. What happened to them?
Coronavirus, which has killed at least 17 people and landed in the United States this week, is the newest source of misinformation sparking health fears worldwide. The most surprising aspect? In China, it can also get people arrested. On Jan. 3, Agence France Press reported that police forces from Wuhan, the capital of the Chinese […]
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In recent days, President Trump’s Senate impeachment trial has been framed, in many quarters, as a programming clash with the 2020 election—a distraction felt especially acutely by the senators/jurors who would rather be out on the campaign trail. Yesterday, however, the election was front and center as top Democrats opened their formal case for Trump’s removal. Adam Schiff—who spoke on the Senate floor for nearly two and a half hours without a break—accused Trump of soliciting help from Ukraine in order to “cheat” in 2020. Liberal pundits were fulsome in their praise of Schiff’s performance. His “cheating” line echoed through subsequent headlines and coverage, including on the front page of today’s New York Times.
“Cheating,” of course, is far from the only threat to the integrity of America’s elections in 2020. Since the turn of the year alone, we’ve seen a number of alarming stories about vulnerabilities in the country’s electoral architecture, and foreign actors’ plans to exploit them. Election-security experts warn that electronic voting equipment looks susceptible, both to technical glitches and to cyber attacks. (The Kremlin is already thought to have manipulated voting infrastructure in all 50 states, though no vote tally, it seems, has yet been affected.) Congress has put aside cash to fight this sort of thing, but top Democrats fear the money will not be spent wisely, and say much more needs to be done, regardless. Our defenses against Russian interference attempts—be they through hacking or the coordinated dissemination of false and/or compromising information about candidates—have improved since 2016, but weak spots remain, and Russia’s tactics are reported to be more sophisticated this time around. Last week, the Times reported that Russian hackers already breached Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company at the center of Trump’s smears against Joe Biden; it’s not yet clear what they were up to, but the pattern looks similar to what we saw in 2016, when Russia hacked and spread the private emails of top Democrats. Russia isn’t the only foreign threat we face. China, North Korea, and Iran—with which the US hardly has good relations right now—could all try to wreak havoc as America starts to vote.
Threats to the fairness of the vote are coming from inside the house, too. Domestic actors from across the political spectrum have proved themselves more than capable of mimicking Russia’s informational techniques. Other ills—efforts to prevent citizens of color from voting, for example—have older roots. (On Monday, Kristen Clarke, a top civil-rights lawyer, told MSNBC’s Ali Velshi that when it comes to voter suppression, “In many respects, we have slipped back to the Jim Crow era.”) Often, these threats are intertwined. As Errin Haines reported recently for CJR, disinformation campaigns are often targeted at Black voters. Newsrooms—which tend to be less diverse than they should be—often fail to catch such tricks. Shireen Mitchell, an expert in the field, told Haines: “Unless you’re on Black Twitter, you don’t hear the conversations.”
As stories like the ones mentioned above (all of which ran in major outlets; some at real length) show, news organizations are covering the range of challenges facing the vote this year. (To add another example, Slate recently launched “Who Counts?”, a project that aims to amplify issues around voting rights.) The problem is more that such coverage feels atomized, when it should add up to a single, urgent national conversation. Sometimes, it can feel siloed, too—a priority for cybersecurity correspondents, maybe, but less so for political reporters and pundits, who obsess over the state of the horse race without reflecting at much length on whether the track is even. The Times’s Burisma story, for example, caused alarm and even cut through on cable news. But it was quickly lost to our all-consuming news cycle.
As 2020 has approached, we’ve passed up several opportunities to center the specter of foreign election interference, in particular. When the Mueller report was published last year, coverage in the aftermath focused less on its findings about Russian meddling, and more on passages containing new details of possible obstruction by Trump. Later, when Mueller testified to Congress, he noted himself that his findings on Russian interference had been “underplayed to a certain extent,” even though “they’re doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it during the next campaign.” Much of the press, on that occasion, seemed too underwhelmed by the dull “optics” of his testimony to care much about what he had to say.
Likewise, the long-running impeachment story has offered us repeat opportunities to shape a national conversation on election threats, which are, after all, what the impeachment story is principally about. We’ve taken some of those opportunities. But too often, we’ve let the central facts slip into the background, diluted by “bothsidesism” and talk of polls, process, and more.
The media needs to do a better job of connecting the dots between Trump’s conduct with Ukraine and the other election challenges we face, and it needs to do so before such threats materialize, rather than in reaction to them. And newsrooms, if they haven’t already, need urgently to plan for what they’ll do if—or, more likely, when—malicious actors, foreign or otherwise, try to use them as a funnel for stolen information. Belching it out day and night, as we did with Democrats’ emails in 2016, won’t be good enough.
The press may at least get more of a heads up this time than it did in 2016. In recent days, Shelby Pierson, the intelligence community’s top election-security official, has promised greater transparency around impending threats this time around; “Transparency enables resilience,” she told NPR yesterday. “The more that we talk about the threat, potentially the more we empower voters.” It’ll be the media’s job to communicate such warnings to the public (without being overly credulous of the official line, of course). We could start by maintaining our focus on the warning on display in the Senate right now. It’s not biased to advocate for a level playing field.
Below, more on the election:
- Ready or not?: Many observers fear that big social media platforms are ill-prepared to tackle misinformation campaigns ahead of the elections. On Tuesday, Nathaniel Gleicher, head of security policy at Facebook, wrote an op-ed in the Des Moines Register promising voters in Iowa, whose caucuses are in 10 days, that the company is ready.
- Reince, repeat: CBS News announced that it’s adding Reince Priebus—who chaired the Republican National Committee through the 2016 election, then served as Trump’s chief of staff—as an on-air political analyst. Priebus made his debut yesterday. Liberal Twitter was not very happy.
- CPD dispensed?: Last month, the Times reported that Trump could skip the election debates in the fall because he doesn’t trust the Commission on Presidential Debates to run them fairly. Yesterday, Times reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted that Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, is “talking to outside companies about debates.”
- Look who’s back: Tulsi Gabbard, who is still in the Democratic race for president, is suing Hillary Clinton for defamation after Clinton called Gabbard “a favorite of the Russians.” Clinton is back in the news in a big way this week; she’s on the cover of the Hollywood Reporter ahead of the release of a new documentary at Sundance. Clinton told the magazine that “nobody likes” Bernie Sanders, and that she doesn’t think the media has learned the lessons of 2016.
Other notable stories:
- On Tuesday, The Guardian was first to report the extraordinary news that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may personally have helped hack the phone of Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon and the Washington Post, via WhatsApp. Yesterday, two human-rights officials at the United Nations reiterated the allegation, adding that MBS appeared to be trying “to influence, if not silence” the Post’s reporting on Saudi Arabia. The Saudis allegedly spied on Bezos’s phone between May 2018 and February 2019, during which period state assassins murdered Jamal Khashoggi, a Post columnist. (Motherboard obtained the forensic report on the alleged hack, which did not find direct evidence of malware on Bezos’s phone. Some experts have questions. Bezos has yet to comment, but did tweet “#Jamal” yesterday.) Also per the UN, MBS sent Bezos a photo resembling a woman with whom Bezos was having an affair, before the affair was made public by the National Enquirer. Last year, Bezos hinted at Saudi involvement in that story.
- For CJR, Samer Kalaf—who quit as managing editor of Deadspin, along with the site’s entire staff, last year, amid interference from management—tells the story of its decline in three meetings. “Deadspin had survived numerous crises over the years by focusing on what we could control: doing good blogs and sticking together,” he writes. But its new leaders “methodically broke down the walls that protected” Deadspin and its sister sites.
- Serial Productions, maker of the wildly popular true-crime podcast Serial, is weighing a sale and the New York Times is a potential buyer, the Journal’s Benjamin Mullin reports. The Times, of course, has found wild popularity of its own via its morning news podcast, The Daily. For New York magazine, Matthew Schneier explores the show’s success.
- The Miami Herald is closing its production plant; from April, the South Florida Sun Sentinel will print the Herald and its sister paper, El Nuevo Herald, instead. Seventy staffers will lose their jobs, though some may be rehired by the Sentinel. The Herald’s owner, McClatchy, is feeling the pinch; last week, it missed debt and pension payments.
- Late last year, Larry Persily—publisher of the Skagway News, a small local paper in Alaska—appealed for a buyer, and pledged to give them the paper for free. After national media picked up the story, Persily fielded applications from all over the world. In the end, he picked two teachers from the Anchorage School District to run the paper.
- CJR’s Brendan Fitzgerald takes issue with coverage of Monday’s gun-rights rally in Virginia, which was overshadowed by threats of physical violence that did not, in the end, materialize. But “intimidation is a form of violence,” Fitzgerald notes. Rather than state that, reporters “effectively congratulated [the ralliers] for not killing anyone.”
- On Tuesday, authorities in Indonesia arrested Philip Jacobson, an editor at Mongabay, an environmental news site, for an alleged visa violation. Jacobson, who is a US citizen, faces a potential prison sentence of five years. His past work has exposed “environmental degradation and corporate malfeasance” in Indonesia, the Times reports.
- And local newspapers across the UK put climate change on their front pages yesterday. The coordinated effort was part of a campaign to encourage readers to “#Do1Thing” to combat the climate crisis.
Fox News dominates impeachment trial coverage » The scourge of ‘both-sides’ analysis » Is Serial for sale? »
The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, click here. Doing the math on our division Where are Americans going for their impeachment coverage? The answer is Fox News. Kind of. Let me explain. When early Nielsen TV ratings came out for Tuesday’s opening day of the Senate […]
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The Poynter Institute announces investment from Facebook to expand MediaWise digital information literacy program to first-time voters
Public infrastructure isn’t just bridges and water mains: Here’s an argument for extending the concept to digital spaces
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Over the years, Intercept co-founder Glenn Greenwald has made more than a few enemies. What some of his fans and supporters see as a crusade for truth and justice can strike others—including those who become the targets of his journalistic crusades—as needlessly hostile and potentially biased. But there is one enemy that has stood out among all the others of late, and that is Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, whose government has been the subject of wave after wave of coverage by Greenwald, all of it negative (with good reason, Greenwald would no doubt argue). Now, the Brazilian leader has struck back with force: On Tuesday, prosecutors charged the Intercept writer with aiding a criminal conspiracy for his role in the hacking and leaking of cellphone messages belonging to members of Bolsonaro’s government.
The Intercept has published a number of articles based on the leaked messages, stories that raised questions about a corruption investigation involving some of Brazil’s most powerful players in both business and politics. As the New York Times describes, the stories questioned the integrity of the judge who oversaw that investigation, a man named Sergio Moro, who is now Bolsonaro’s minister of justice. The case resulted in a number of powerful businessmen and political figures going to prison, including former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a popular leftist. His departure in turn created an opening for Bolsonaro, a man who is often compared to Donald Trump because of his right-wing leanings and his use of social media as a weapon for pursuing vendettas against the media and others. Last year, he called Greenwald a derogatory term and warned that he “might wind up in jail.”
The criminal complaint filed against Greenwald says that the Intercept’s Brazilian operation, which he founded, didn’t just receive the hacked messages and then publish some of them in news stories. Instead, it argues that Greenwald cooperated with the hackers, and that he therefore played a “clear role in facilitating the commission of a crime.” Among other things, the prosecutors say Greenwald encouraged the hackers to delete archives of leaked material in order to make it more difficult to connect them with the leaks. They also argue that the Intercept writer was in communication with the hackers while they were listening in on private conversations through apps such as Telegram, and that therefore he had ceased to operate as a journalist and instead became a member of a criminal conspiracy.
This strategy—trying to paint a journalist as an active participant in a crime, as opposed to just the recipient of leaked material—is clearly a heinous attack on freedom of the press protections, something journalists and anyone in favor of free speech should be up in arms about. But it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The case against Greenwald happens to be almost a carbon copy of the Justice Department’s argument in the affidavit it filed against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange last year, which contains more than a dozen charges under the Espionage Act. Just like the Brazilian government, US prosecutors try to make the case that Assange didn’t just receive leaked diplomatic cables and other information from former Army staffer Chelsea Manning, but that he actively participated in the hack and leaks, and therefore doesn’t deserve the protection of the First Amendment.
Regardless of what we think of Julian Assange or WikiLeaks, this is an obvious attack on journalism, just as Brazil’s legal broadside against Glenn Greenwald is an obvious attack by Bolsonaro on someone who has become a journalistic thorn in his side. A man who helped win a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on leaked documents involving mass surveillance by US intelligence, files that were leaked to him by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. And the charges come even after Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled last year that Greenwald could not be prosecuted for the hacking case because of press freedom laws. In a statement, Greenwald called the Brazil charges “an obvious attempt to attack a free press in retaliation for the revelations we reported about Minister Moro and the Bolsonaro government,” and said he and the Intercept plan to continue publishing. And so they should.
Here’s more on Greenwald and the Brazil case:
- Outrageous assault: Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union issued the following statement: “The United States must immediately condemn this outrageous assault on the freedom of the press, and recognize that its attacks on press freedoms at home have consequences for American journalists doing their jobs abroad.”
- A threat to democracy: The Electronic Frontier Foundation said: “It is a threat to democracy when authorities use cyber-crime laws to punish their critics, as the Brazilian government has done here with Glenn Greenwald, and it discourages journalists from using technology to best serve the public.” The Brazilian authorities used anti-hacking laws to charge Greenwald, just as US prosecutors did with Assange.
- Sham charges: The Freedom of the Press Foundation, which Greenwald helped found, said in a statement: “These sham charges are a sickening escalation of the Bolsonaro administration’s authoritarian attacks on press freedom and the rule of law. They cannot be allowed to stand. We call on the Brazilian government to immediately halt its persecution of Greenwald and respect press freedom.”
- Shooting the messenger: In an editorial on the case, the New York Times said the Brazilian government’s filing of charges against Greenwald is “an increasingly familiar case of shooting the messenger and ignoring the message,” and a dangerous threat to the rule of law. The paper also said that while Trump hasn’t made a dent in press freedoms in the US, “his outrageous attacks on reporters… have provided encouragement for the likes of Mr. Bolsonaro.”
Other notable stories:
- In a story that sounds like the plot of a spy novel, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had his smartphone hacked after he clicked on a video link that was sent to him during a WhatsApp chat with Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to a report in The Guardian. The paper’s investigation says the message Bezos opened from the Saudi leader contained a malicious file that infiltrated the Amazon founder’s phone and extracted “large amounts of data.” What kind of data was taken and what happened after that remains unknown, the Guardian said, but several months later there was a report in The National Enquirer about Bezos’s divorce, a story that included private text messages sent by the Amazon CEO.
- The staff of the alt-weekly Miami New Times and the Phoenix New Times announced on Tuesday that they plan to unionize, part of a wave of unionization that has moved through a number of media outlets over the past several years as financial pressure has forced owners to make broad cuts. “We do this work because we love it,” the Miami and Phoenix group said in its mission statement. “But we often find that we do this work in spite of low pay and substandard benefits, inconsistent mandates from management, steady turnover, and insecurity about the future.”
- After a number of somewhat embarrassing incidents—including a recent column from Bret Stephens called “The Secrets of Jewish Genius,” which cited a discredited study published by a white supremacist—the Opinion section of the New York Times will now be overseen by standards editor Phil Corbett, the same way the rest of the paper is. In an email, executive editor Dean Baquet, managing editor Joe Kahn, and Opinion editor James Bennet said opinion writers are different from news staff, but their work “is rooted in common standards for accuracy, fairness, and integrity.”
- Senator Bernie Sanders apologized to former Vice President Joe Biden on Monday for an op-ed written by one of his campaign surrogates that claimed Biden has a “big corruption problem.” Sanders told CBS News that “it is absolutely not my view that Joe is corrupt in any way. And I’m sorry that that op-ed appeared.” The opinion piece was published in The Guardian and was written by law professor Zephyr Teachout. In the article, she claimed that Biden “has perfected the art of taking big contributions, then representing his corporate donors at the cost of middle- and working-class Americans.”
- According to a report by Axios, a number of digital media outlets turned a profit in 2019, in some cases for the first time ever. Those publishers include Business Insider, The Information, Vox Media, Axios, and Politico, said media reporter Sara Fischer. Outlets that expect to turn a profit this year include The Athletic, BuzzFeed, and Vice, the Axios report said. The Athletic also just closed a new funding round of $50 million that theoretically values the company at $500 million, Fischer reported. Meanwhile, there are reports that Spotify could acquire The Ringer, the podcasting production company founded by former ESPN host Bill Simmons.
- Bloomberg has launched a vertical devoted to environmental news called Green, a site that editor-in-chief John Micklethwait said he hopes will become a symbol of the climate-change revolution. “We want Bloomberg Green to be the indispensable guide to anyone who wants to understand this great transition,” he wrote in an opening letter. Meanwhile, a group of independent climate reporters have launched their own portal, called Drilled News. The group will produce the Drilled and Hot Take newsletters and sponsor the Heated newsletter written by Emily Atkin, and is part of the Covering Climate Now project that CJR helped launch last year.
- Documents released in a legal case in Puerto Rico, one involving seven university students who are on trial for participating in a nonviolent protest two years ago, show that Facebook gave the government’s Justice Department access to private information posted by student news outlets, according to a report from The Intercept. The case has raised fears among civil liberties advocates of a return to a dark time in Puerto Rico’s history when police routinely targeted citizens for surveillance.
- Apple reportedly considered allowing iPhone users to encrypt backups of their devices that are stored on the company’s iCloud remote servers, but dropped those plans after the FBI complained that offering this service would make it more difficult to access data during its investigations, according to six sources familiar with the matter who spoke with Reuters reporter Joseph Menn. An Apple spokesman declined to comment on the company’s handling of the encryption issue or any discussions it has had with the FBI.
- Quibi CEO Meg Whitman lashed out against the media at an “all-hands” staff meeting last Thursday, according to a report from The Information. The site said that Whitman made an analogy between reporters who cultivate sources and sexual predators who prey on underage victims, according to two people who heard her comments. Whitman was reportedly upset because someone leaked an internal memo from the company’s chief financial officer about a recent fundraising.
The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, click here. Your guide to a healthy media diet And we’re off and running. The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump is underway and so is the exhaustive media coverage. The major networks are interrupting programming and putting their superstar […]
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This former HBO executive is trying to use dramatic techniques to highlight the injustice in criminal justice
Last month—as the House of Representatives prepared to impeach President Trump, setting up his trial in the Senate—Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, laid his cards on the table. “I’m not an impartial juror,” he told reporters. Nevertheless, as the trial began last Thursday, McConnell, along with every other senator, swore an oath to do “impartial justice” in the process. Richard W. Painter, who served as White House ethics chief under George W. Bush, accused him of perjury. Yesterday, more evidence emerged that McConnell is—as he previously admitted—helping coordinate Trump’s defense. Ahead of a vote on them today, McConnell revealed his rules for the trial: each of the two parties will get twenty-four hours for its oral argument, but must use that allocation across two calendar days. In light of their late start time, proceedings could stretch past midnight. Elsewhere, the Washington Post reported that if the Senate ends up voting to hear from witnesses (John Bolton, for example), McConnell will likely “ensure that those individuals are questioned in a closed-door session rather than a public setting.” Last night, Jeffrey Toobin, CNN’s chief legal analyst, reacted to the developments. “I don’t have a problem with the president talking to the senators of his own party; that’s just realism,” Toobin said. “The problem is that they are setting up a process that is a farce.”
Such opacity isn’t limited to the trial itself; top Republicans in the Senate are acting to limit transparency on its margins, too. Last week, it emerged that reporters covering the trial would likely face much tougher restrictions than normal on their interactions with senators. The details remained murky, but on Thursday, several journalists reported that police officers had curtailed their conversations with senators, including a few who had been happy to talk to them. Capitol Police also gave senators cards suggesting phrases that they might use to tell reporters to go away, including “You are preventing me from doing my job” and “Please do not touch me.” (Some senators didn’t need the prompts: when CNN’s Manu Raju tried to question Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican, she called him a “liberal hack,” and hurried off.) Today, reporters will have to file through a magnetometer before they can enter the chamber. Inside, even the camera angles will be controlled by the Senate; according to Michael M. Grynbaum, of the New York Times, “even sedate C-SPAN is aggrieved” by that decision. (For all the platitudes about the trial being a “made for TV” moment, TV, it seems, will not be permitted to make it one on its own terms.)
As Grynbaum notes, such restrictions represent a departure for the normally cordial Senate, suggesting that “the bash-the-press mentality that led the White House to kill off the daily briefing and strip reporters of their credentials has now crept into” Congress, too. Trump, at least, is explicit about his hatred of the media. As his impeachment trial starts in earnest, there is a worry that the Senate’s war on transparency will operate in the shadows—fought not in ALL-CAPS Twitter screeds, but in the language of decorum and procedure. That could add a patina of legitimacy and fairness to Trump’s rank impulses.
As part of the “decorum,” senators will have to sit in silence during the trial, “on pain of imprisonment”; unlike their counterparts in the House, Senate Republicans won’t be able to pepper proceedings with Fox-friendly sound bites. That’s not to say there’ll be no Foxiness on display; the president, as ever, is keen to litigate his case on TV as much as in the courtroom. Outside the chamber, some of Trump’s most ardent defenders from the House—Jim Jordan, Mark Meadows, John Ratcliffe, and others—will act as surrogates for his defense team. Inside the chamber, Trump will call on a formal legal team that, collectively, has averaged roughly one Fox appearance per day in the past year. In addition to Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel; Jay Sekulow, a personal lawyer to the president; and Pam Bondi, a White House adviser, it will include Kenneth W. Starr (of Clinton-impeachment and being-fired-from-Baylor fame), Alan Dershowitz (of closeness to Jeffrey Epstein fame), and Robert Ray (of… me neither). Appearing on Fox on Sunday morning, Ray thanked host Maria Bartiromo for inviting him on her show so often. “If not for you, I don’t know that I would have come to the president’s attention,” he said.
Even on the president’s end, some of the usual, easy-to-spot bombast has put on a smart suit for its court appearance. Touring cable news over the weekend, Dershowitz advanced a measured, legalistic rationale for what he sees as the inadmissibility of the impeachment articles. (Justice Benjamin Curtis, who defended Andrew Johnson during his impeachment trial in 1868, is not a normal fixture on the Sunday shows.) And yet his core argument, that abuse of power isn’t impeachable unless criminal, is far from a consensus view. Similarly, Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes write in The Atlantic, the White House’s initial formal filing in the trial, which it entered on Saturday, looked “a little more lawyerly” than Trump’s campaign rallies—and yet “the message is unchanged. It’s not a legal argument. It’s a howl of rage.” The Post reached the same conclusion on reading Trump’s first full legal brief, which followed yesterday, calling it “a legalese version of the scorched-earth rhetoric commonly used in the president’s Twitter feed.”
As the trial proceeds, we’ll likely see Trump’s defenders try plenty more stonewalling and dissembling under the cover of “legalese.” Senate Republicans, for instance, may call for Hunter Biden to testify under a principle of witness “reciprocity”—a move that would, in practice, only lend institutional credibility to water-muddying smears. The press will need to be extra-vigilant, and call these moves for what they are. So far, pushback has been reasonably robust. Last night, after McConnell revealed his rushed trial timetable, Carl Bernstein referred to him, on CNN, as “Midnight Mitch.” On MSNBC, Neal Katyal, a top Trump-impeachment enthusiast, told Rachel Maddow that “The only things that happen at midnight are trash collection and the execution of prisoners.… Major government decisions and trials don’t happen at that time.”
But such vigilance is not, on its own, sufficient. As the trial progresses, the press also needs to center the facts of the case, and on that score, we could be doing a better job. Scrutinizing procedural skulduggery is important, but it is not an end in itself—process is only valuable to the extent that it brings facts to the fore. If we obsess over process too narrowly, then we abet those—inside and outside of the Senate—who want the facts forgotten. For them, the process is the point.
Below, more on impeachment:
- “Manufactured nihilism”: For Vox, Sean Illing argues that the facts of the trial will struggle to pierce an information ecosystem that’s so “flooded with shit” that news consumers are exhausted. “The sheer volume of content, the dizzying number of narratives and counternarratives, and the pace of the news cycle are too much for anyone to process,” Illing writes. Such an ecosystem can be “hacked” by shameless actors. For the New York Times Magazine, Jonathan Mahler explores the informational tactics of one of them: Rudy Giuliani.
- Sigh, Dersh: Last year, Lyz Lenz spoke with Dershowitz and profiled his media tactics for CJR. Dershowitz, Lenz writes, voiced “a Trumpian ethos. A constant cry of victimhood from the highest echelons of power. The never ceasing voice, shouting and shouting. If you listen you’ll forget the point. If you listen and always react, it’s hard to hear anything at all.”
- Talk of the toon: For the Post, Michael Cavna spoke with editorial cartoonists who covered Clinton’s impeachment about the different challenges they face now. The consensus: Trump is rich fodder for cartoonists—but his impeachment is more complicated than Clinton’s, and the stakes are higher.
- “A broken record”: Yesterday, Joe Biden’s presidential campaign sent an open memo to news outlets, warning them not to amplify Trumpian misinformation alleging corrupt conduct by the Bidens in Ukraine. “Any media organization referencing, reporting on, or repeating these claims must state clearly and unambiguously that they have been discredited and debunked by authoritative sources,” the memo said.
- The inconstant Gardner: At key moments in the trial, media attention will turn to the handful of moderate Republican senators who face tricky reelection fights this year, including Susan Collins of Maine and Cory Gardner of Colorado. According to Elaina Plott, of the Times, Gardner is doing his best to avoid such a focus.
Other notable stories:
- Despite a much-hyped, reality-show-style selection process, the editorial board of the Times failed to unite around a single pick for president. Instead, it endorsed two candidates from competing wings of the Democratic Party: Elizabeth Warren, as a “radical,” and Amy Klobuchar, as a “realist.” The Times acknowledged that some readers would be “dissatisfied that this page is not throwing its weight behind a single candidate, favoring centrists or progressives”; online, you didn’t have to look too far to find such dissatisfaction. Many commentators were scathing. Several Times reporters posted timely reminders that the news pages are walled off from the opinion side of the paper.
- The Chicago Tribune is having its Denver Post moment. In 2018, amid drastic cuts, staffers at the latter paper wrote an editorial calling on their owner—the hedge fund Alden Global Capital—to sell up. In November, Alden became the biggest shareholder in Tribune Publishing; last week, the company started offering buyouts to staff. On Sunday, David Jackson and Gary Marx, investigative reporters at the Chicago Tribune, wrote in the Times that they fear their paper will be the next to be “picked to the bone” by Alden: “Unless Alden reverses course—perhaps in repentance for the avaricious destruction it has wrought in Denver and elsewhere—we need a civic-minded local owner,” they say.
- In other local-news news: New Mexico settled with the Santa Fe Reporter after it sued Susana Martinez, the state’s ex-governor, for violating open-records laws. Lawmakers in New Hampshire are considering a bill that would require news sites to update stories about criminal suspects who are not found guilty. And Peter Lucido, a state senator in Michigan, told Allison Donahue, a female reporter for the Michigan Advance, that a group of schoolboys “could have a lot of fun with you.” Donahue wrote that the comment “was belittling and it came from a place of power.”
- On Saturday, amid a spate of earthquakes in Puerto Rico, Lorenzo Delgado Torres, an activist who calls himself “El León Fiscalizador” (the Lion of Accountability), livestreamed video from a warehouse stacked with unused emergency supplies. The footage went viral and sparked angry demonstrations against Wanda Vázquez, the island’s governor.
- The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and thirty-six partner organizations, including the Times, the BBC, and The Guardian, are out with Luanda Leaks—a new project alleging corruption by Isabel dos Santos, the richest woman in Africa. (In 2018, I spent months behind the scenes of a prior ICIJ project, on medical devices, for CJR.)
- Tony Hall, the director general of the BBC, is stepping down. He leaves at a difficult moment for the public broadcaster, which faces mounting pressure from the government of Boris Johnson and an ongoing pay-discrimination scandal, among other sagas. Emily Bell argues, in The Guardian, that Hall has overseen a period of “strategic stagnation.”
- And Harry Harris, the US ambassador to South Korea, says he has faced discrimination in local media and social media because of his mustache. According to the AP, however, many South Koreans simply find Harris to be “undiplomatic and rude.”