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Fact-checking President Trump’s whopper-laden interview with Maria Bartiromo

President Donald Trump repeated his false claims that the election was “rigged” and characterized mail-in ballots as a “disaster” in an interview with Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo. Bartiromo allowed him to make his case without challenging him on his lack of proof. “We won the election easily,” Trump said Nov. 29 in an interview that aired over […]

The post Fact-checking President Trump’s whopper-laden interview with Maria Bartiromo appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: November 30, 2020, 11:22 pm

Sowing cedes

Language Corner aims to inform and entertain, and often discusses words and phrases in the news. WHEN DONALD TRUMP allowed the transition to a Biden administration to go forward, he effectively “ceded” that he did not win the election. But he has not “conceded,” and it’s unclear whether he will “proceed” with legal challenges to […]
Posted: November 30, 2020, 8:30 pm

Just how broken is our political information ecosystem, anyway?

We’re in a period of political transition here in the United States, with the incoming Biden administration subject to the usual allotment of lobbying, questioning, and badgering — from interest groups, from industries, and from the media. “How will Biden’s new team treat the press?” CJR’s Jon Allsop asks. Can America again be a beacon...
Posted: November 30, 2020, 8:10 pm

Here are the newsroom layoffs, furloughs and closures caused by the coronavirus

This article was originally published on April 6, 2020, and has been frequently updated since. It was last updated on Nov. 30.  It’s getting hard to keep track of the bad news about the news right now. But we have to. Here’s our attempt to collect the layoffs, furloughs, and closures caused by the coronavirus’ […]

The post Here are the newsroom layoffs, furloughs and closures caused by the coronavirus appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: November 30, 2020, 7:25 pm

A Hard Look Back

There can be no future without the past. In journalism, how we tell the story of what happened can help set the course for what’s to come; moving forward requires a hard look back. Media 2070—a project by Free Press, an advocacy group focused on media reform—invites journalists to reimagine their industry by documenting its […]
Posted: November 30, 2020, 7:00 pm

“Whoa!” “I’m crying!” “Worrisome!” “Buckle up!” The swift, complicated rise of Eric Feigl-Ding and his Covid tweet threads

Eric Feigl-Ding picked up his phone on the first ring. “Busy,” he said, when asked how things were going. He had just finished up an “epic, long” social media thread, he added — one of hundreds he’s posted about society’s ongoing battle with the coronavirus. “There’s so many different debates in the world of masking...
Posted: November 30, 2020, 3:21 pm

Parler is bringing together mainstream conservatives, anti-Semites, and white supremacists as the social media platform attracts millions of Trump supporters

Since the 2020 U.S. presidential election, Parler has caught on among right-wing politicians and influencers as a social media platform where they can share and promote ideas without worrying about the company blocking or flagging their posts for being dangerous or misleading. However, the website has become a haven for far-right extremists and conspiracy theorists...
Posted: November 30, 2020, 2:30 pm

How will Biden’s new team treat the press?

President-elect Joe Biden’s White House communications team is now in place. Jennifer Psaki, a former communications director for President Obama and CNN contributor, will serve as press secretary, with Karine Jean-Pierre, a Biden campaign adviser and former MSNBC contributor, as her principal deputy. Kate Bedingfield, who was the communications director for Biden’s campaign, will hold the same role in the White House, with Pili Tobar, who previously worked for Senator Chuck Schumer, as her deputy. Ashley Etienne will be the communications director for Vice President Kamala Harris, whose spokesperson will be Symone Sanders—a top adviser to Bernie Sanders’s (no relation) 2016 campaign and Biden’s 2020 bid—and Elizabeth A. Alexander will be communications director for the First Lady. As the Washington Post, which was first to report the appointments, noted, Biden’s comms shop will be entirely run by women—a first. (Kayleigh McEnany, the sometime current White House press secretary, raged at that characterization, calling the Post “DISCREDITED” and claiming that Trump’s senior press team is also “ALL FEMALE.” Maggie Haberman, of the New York Times, noted that Brian Morgenstern and Judd Deere, McEnany’s deputies, were likely surprised to learn this.)

The appointments—and those of Psaki and Bedingfield, in particular—feel almost overwhelming in their normality, a sentiment that has been almost ubiquitous, and often positive, in mainstream coverage of Biden’s personnel picks so far. The sentiment extends to press relations: unlike their respective predecessors, it’s hard to imagine Antony Blinken, Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, angrily making a reporter pinpoint Ukraine on a map, or Avril Haines, Biden’s pick for intelligence chief, following QAnon accounts and a 9/11 truther on Twitter. (Blinken did appear on Sesame Street to talk about refugees with Grover, and Haines once owned an independent bookstore—named Baltimore’s finest by the local City Paper—that hosted erotica nights. She also consulted for Palantir, the data-mining firm founded by the Trump ally Peter Thiel.) And it extends to the president-elect himself: as Ben Smith, media columnist at the Times, wrote last week, where Trump has boosted certain Fox hosts, OAN, and Newsmax, Biden’s closest media relationships have been with the likes of David Ignatius, Tom Friedman, and Maureen Dowd. (Jon Meacham, the historian and former Newsweek editor, helped craft Biden’s victory speech, then praised it on MSNBC without disclosing his input.) “It seems that what Donald Trump did for the once-dying industry of cable news, Joe Biden may do for the dusty old newspaper column,” Smith wrote. “What a time to be George Will!”

From the magazine: ‘We need to radically redefine who we are serving.’

If you thought this all sounds like a nostalgia trip you wouldn’t be the only one. The Washington social scene is eagerly awaiting the return of schmoozefests such as the White House correspondents’ dinner, and White House reporters are hoping that Psaki will reinstate the daily press briefing. (That’s yet to be confirmed, but Politico recently reported that the daily briefing is indeed coming back, as part of a broader “return to ‘normalcy.’”) Yesterday, Biden’s doctor said that the president-elect broke bones in his foot while playing with his dog, and the transparency of the announcement drew contrasts with the messaging debacle that followed Trump’s hospitalization with COVID-19 last month (though Biden’s use of a foot boot, which his doctor says he will now need, would have been hard to cover up). All of this (aside, arguably, from the return of the correspondents’ dinner) is indeed cause for tentative optimism. But it isn’t, in itself, a victory for the press: as Dan Froomkin, a media critic who writes the blog Press Watch, put it recently, “simply returning to pre-Trump standards isn’t nearly enough.”

Biden’s recent record with the press is far from perfect. Last year, after his late-ish entry into the Democratic primary, he largely skirted the national media—an apparent bid to limit his potential to commit “gaffes” (long a staple of Biden coverage) and leave intact voters’ memories of Cool Uncle Joe, Obama’s vice president—though he did give interviews to local news stations. As Biden’s campaign flailed in Iowa and New Hampshire, he opened up more, but once he’d locked up the nomination, the pandemic hit, and he mostly stayed in his basement—a perfectly understandable public-health precaution that nonetheless didn’t come with generous workarounds for press access; at one point, Biden went three months without holding a news conference, virtual or otherwise. Since the election, there have been further small signs of strain between Biden and the press corps—a statement without taking questions here, his motorcade leaving behind pool reporters there. (Zeke Miller, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, called the latter incident “unacceptable”stronger language than the WHCA publicly mustered when the current White House comms team exposed reporters to COVID-19.) We’ve heard grumbling, too, about the likelihood that Biden’s administration will be a lot less leaky—and a lot more on-message—than Trump’s has been.

Leaks can do more harm than good—time and again, Trump administration officials have used the cover of anonymity to launder their grudges, lies, and attempts at ass-covering into the public record, and reporters have gone along with it. Leaks can also, however, bring to light crucial issues of public concern. Here, too, Biden has a checkered past; he was vice president of an administration that prosecuted more leakers under the Espionage Act than any prior administration, a record we can only hope he doesn’t seek to emulate as president. So far, he’s stuffed his national-security apparatus with familiar, Obama-era faces; it remains to be seen how he’ll staff his Justice Department, which will, among other cases, inherit the troubling—from a press-freedom standpoint—espionage charges against Julian Assange, of WikiLeaks.

Ultimately, the Biden administration will be run by politicians whose interests—and inclination to transparency—will frequently diverge from those of the press and the public, even if they drop the “fake news” slurs and bring their dogs to the briefing room, rather than binders full of anti-media oppo research. Their motives and associations will require sharp scrutiny. Amid the recent nostalgia, some reporters have sought to offer just that; on Saturday, for example, Eric Lipton and Kenneth P. Vogel, of the Times, reported on transparency concerns around two firms, WestExec Advisors and Pine Island Capital Partners, with various ties to Biden nominees including Blinken, Haines, and Psaki. (Blinken cofounded WestExec, a consulting company, and Haines and Psaki say they served it as a consultant and contractor, respectively. WestExec listed them both as principals.) Biden’s transition team told Lipton and Vogel that Blinken is working to disclose the firm’s clients, which reportedly include an Air Force contractor that makes surveillance drones, but that pledge has been complicated by WestExec’s honoring of nondisclosure agreements, and federal rules that don’t require complete transparency. (Already, John Cornyn, a Republican senator, started wielding the story as a confirmation threat.)

On Twitter, Cliff Levy, an associate managing editor and metro editor at the Times, said that the story reflected the paper’s core mission: “to scrutinize the incoming administration just as thoroughly as we did the outgoing one.” That sentiment is laudable, and a return to pre-Trump-era media complacency must be avoided at all costs. The words “just as thoroughly,” though, also give reason for pause—outlets including the Times have, after all, been known to indulge in false equivalency in the past. Transparency questions must be asked, but they must not, in and of themselves, be equated with the overt corruption of the last four years in the name of some outdated instinct of partisan fairness. Proportionality is the media’s end of the bargain, at any rate. On their end, Psaki, Bedingfield, and their team must provide the transparency.

Below, more on Biden and Trump:


Other notable stories:

  • For CJR’s magazine on this transitional moment for journalism, Jack Herrera spoke with Tasneem Raja, the editor in chief of The Oaklandside, a nonprofit news organization in Oakland, California, that launched earlier this year amid the pandemic, and has aimed to build its journalism around its readers’ information needs. “We need to radically redefine who we are serving,” Raja told Herrera, of the media industry. “That’s the question I’ve been wrestling with over the past nearly ten years of my career: Who is this work for?”
  • Last week, two Washington Post reporters shared details of their personal experiences with COVID-19. Jacqueline Alemany, who writes a politics newsletter, fielded messages from Republican sources checking in on her, and noted the “dissonance” between their private concern and their party’s public rhetoric about the virus. And Tim Carman, a food reporter and columnist at the paper, worried that he would lose his sense of taste, rendering him unable to do his job; he didn’t, but COVID hit him hard regardless.
  • For Undark, Jane C. Hu profiles Eric Feigl-Ding, a Harvard-trained scientist who has become a popular Twitter chronicler of the pandemic, rankling some of his peers. “As Feigl-Ding’s influence has grown,” Hu writes, “so have the voices of his critics, many of them fellow scientists who have expressed ongoing concern over his tweets, which they say are often unnecessarily alarmist, misleading, or sometimes just plain wrong.”
  • For CJR, Pete Vernon profiles Bill Green, a well-known retired journalist in Maine who enthusiastically backed Susan Collins, the state’s Republican senator, for reelection. (She won.) “Green’s decades on the air as an apolitical cheerleader for the state and its people engendered a sense of familiarity and trust among Mainers,” Vernon writes. “Now, he had picked a side.” (Come for the politics, stay for the “rat’s patoot.”)
  • On Friday, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran’s top nuclear scientist, was assassinated in an ambush on the outskirts of Tehran. Yesterday, Kayhan, a hardline Iranian newspaper, published an opinion piece suggesting that officials attack the Israeli city of Haifa—and ensure “heavy human casualties”—should that country’s government be found to have been behind Fakhrizadeh’s killing. The AP’s Amir Vahdat and Jon Gambrell have more.
  • Across France, demonstrators including journalists again took to the streets in protest of a security bill that would, in certain circumstances, criminalize the sharing of images identifying police officers; in Paris, police fired tear gas, and wounded Ameer Alhalbi, an award-winning Syrian photojournalist. I wrote about the bill last week; since then, the French prime minister pledged that an independent commission will re-evaluate it.
  • Chun Han Wong, of the Wall Street Journal, profiles Lu Yuyu, who was arrested in China in 2016 for his work tracking protests in the country online. Lu was finally freed in June, but he remains under police surveillance and hasn’t returned to documenting protests. Authorities warned Lu not to talk to the press, but he decided to speak with the Journal because “being silenced would mean they can act brazenly and lock you down.”
  • Morgane Le Cam, of Le Monde, spoke with Ignace Sossou, a journalist in Benin who was jailed on “harassment” charges after he accurately tweeted a prosecutor’s public remarks. (Sossou was also freed in June.) He told Le Cam that he used his time in jail to report, but that he still doesn’t feel free to do his job, and that his country is trending more and more toward authoritarianism. You can read the interview here (in French).
  • And Oliver Dowden, Britain’s culture minister, told the Mail on Sunday that Netflix should warn viewers of The Crown, its wildly popular drama series about the royal family, that the show is a work of fiction. “Without this,” Dowden said, “I fear a generation of viewers who did not live through these events may mistake fiction for fact.”

ICYMI: Emmanuel Macron’s press-freedom hypocrisy

Correction: Trump called into Maria Bartiromo’s show on Fox News, not on Fox Business as this post previously stated.

Posted: November 30, 2020, 1:21 pm

President Trump’s interview is an embarrassing low mark for him, Fox News and, especially, interviewer Maria Bartiromo

What in the world has happened to Maria Bartiromo? Once a respected journalist who showed her chops as a top business reporter, Bartiromo has seemingly sold her journalistic soul to become a sycophant for President Donald Trump to help him push forward his baseless claims of voter fraud and a rigged election. It has been […]

The post President Trump’s interview is an embarrassing low mark for him, Fox News and, especially, interviewer Maria Bartiromo appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: November 30, 2020, 12:30 pm

President-elect Joe Biden has picked a historic communications staff

Jennifer Psaki will be Joe Biden’s White House press secretary. Her selection means all of the senior staffers in the communications department will be women — believed to be a first among a White House administration. The department will be headed up by Kate Bedingfield, who was Biden’s campaign communications director. She has been named […]

The post President-elect Joe Biden has picked a historic communications staff appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: November 30, 2020, 12:15 pm

‘We need to radically redefine who we are serving.’

A conversation with the editor in chief of The Oaklandside
Posted: November 30, 2020, 11:55 am

The CDC will meet this week to discuss who will be first to be vaccinated

Covering COVID-19 is a daily Poynter briefing of story ideas about the coronavirus and other timely topics for journalists, written by senior faculty Al Tompkins. Sign up here to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. Tomorrow, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet to discuss, […]

The post The CDC will meet this week to discuss who will be first to be vaccinated appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: November 30, 2020, 11:00 am

Covering Michigan’s election standoff

Typically, after the first Tuesday in November, exhausted political reporters might expect to catch their breath. This year—as a sitting president and his allies used a flurry of lawsuits, recounts, and accusatory rhetoric to try to overturn the voting results—Election Day was only the beginning, especially for journalists in swing states like Michigan. “It’s been […]
Posted: November 25, 2020, 11:45 pm

How a retired journalist helped swing Maine’s senate race

Bill Nemitz remembers the moment he realized a new front had been opened in one of the most important senate races in the country. It was early October; Nemitz, a columnist for the Portland Press Herald, had his home television muted during a commercial break when he saw a familiar face appear on screen. It […]
Posted: November 25, 2020, 7:00 pm

“I thought you’d go down with the ship:” Why one reporter chose a buyout after twenty years

Melissa B. Taboada has been a reporter at the Austin American-Statesman for more than twenty years; this month, she took a buyout, along with more than a hundred other Gannett reporters and five hundred Gannett employees. Taboada’s last day in the newsroom will be next week, on December 1. At the end of a decade […]
Posted: November 25, 2020, 2:00 pm

Emmanuel Macron’s press-freedom hypocrisy 

Ten days ago, with the coronavirus and the election continuing to dominate the media-industry conversation in the US, Ben Smith, media columnist at the New York Times, briefly steered attention overseas, publishing an interview with the French leader Emmanuel Macron under the bait-and-switch headline, “The President vs. the American Media.” Macron griped about English-language outlets’ coverage of a string of recent Islamist terrorist attacks in France, which, he said, “legitimized this violence” by deflecting blame away from the perpetrators and onto entrenched Islamophobia in French society. Macron and his allies had complained, specifically, about critical op-eds that appeared in the Financial Times and Politico Europe (both of which were removed from the internet following the backlash, the former amid claims of factual inaccuracy), as well as a range of news stories, analysis pieces, and tweets posted by outlets including the Times, the Washington Post, and the Associated Press.

Smith’s interview further fueled an existing debate about coverage of France, and also sparked irritation among reporters in that country from whom Macron has generally remained aloof. (“My message here is: If you have any question on France, call me,” Smith quoted Macron as saying, before pointing out that Macron has never granted an interview to his paper’s Paris bureau.) “Whaaat?!” Sonia Devillers, a media reporter on the radio station France Inter, said (in English). “Our head of state picks up his phone to talk to an American when we can never approach him?” In the end, Smith’s article, Devillers noted, was unflattering. “Perhaps Emmanuel Macron didn’t know who he was talking to,” she said, calling Smith “a superstar” and “an iconoclast.”

From the magazine: Apocalypse Then and Now

For context here, it’s necessary to go back at least as far as January 2015, when two jihadists stormed the then-offices of Charlie Hebdo—a satirical magazine that previously published cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed, a practice that Muslims consider to be idolatrous—and murdered twelve people, including Charlie’s top editor and seven other journalists. In early September of this year, alleged accomplices in the attack went on trial, and Charlie republished the cartoons, describing them as key “pieces of evidence”; a few weeks later, an assailant, who later told police that he’d been angered by the cartoons, stabbed two people outside Charlie’s former offices. (The victims, who survived and are recovering, work for Premières Lignes, an unrelated documentary company based in the same place; the location of Charlie’s current offices is a secret.) Since then, a terrorist killed three people at a church in Nice, and another beheaded Samuel Paty, a schoolteacher in the Paris suburbs, who had shown the Charlie cartoons to his students as part of a lesson about freedom of expression.

In the aftermath of Paty’s murder, the French government instituted a crackdown, detaining Muslim residents who had previously been flagged for signs of radicalization, but also raiding groups that received public funding for their work on integration; Macron, for his part, vigorously defended freedom of speech, and doubled down on pledges that were already on his agenda: to fight “Islamist separatism,” and to restructure his country’s relationship with Islam more broadly by forging an “Enlightenment Islam in France.” (In early October, before the Paty killing, Macron said in a speech that “Islam is a religion that is currently experiencing a crisis all over the world.”) The tenor of his remarks elicited a furious backlash in multiple Muslim-majority countries, not least Turkey, whose press-bashing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan advised Macron to get a “mental-health exam,” called for a boycott of French goods, and threatened “legal and diplomatic” action after Charlie published a front-page cartoon of Erdoğan leering at a Muslim woman’s nude backside. France, for its part, recalled its Turkish ambassador and pushed for European sanctions. (It should be noted that the two countries have recently clashed over a web of geopolitical issues, spanning from Libya to the Caucasus.)

In late October, Macron gave an interview to Al Jazeera Arabic and attempted to explain himself. “I understand the sentiments being expressed and I respect them,” he said, referring to outrage about his defense of the Mohammed cartoons. “But you must understand my role right now is to do two things: to promote calm and also to protect these rights. I will always defend in my country the freedom to speak, to write, to think, to draw.” Then came the Smith interview, in which Macron accused foreign media of failing to understand the principle of laïcité, a distinctively-French notion of secularism that has long been an organizing principle of the country’s public life (and is hard to pithily translate). It’s not just Macron. Other observers, including French columnists and academics have leveled similar charges, and no little Twitter sniping—between French journalists and American foreign correspondents in France, and, sometimes, between the latter group and their opinion-side colleagues back home—has ensued. Some observers have expressed fears that American campus culture is encroaching on France. (Try as one might to avoid them, the woke wars come for us all eventually.)

This isn’t the only speech debate rocking French media at the moment—another, arguably much more consequential, has sprung up around a security bill, put forward by Macron’s party, that would, among other provisions, criminalize the publication of images that identify police officers, including livestreams on social media. (Other provisions include authorizing the police to use drones to film citizens.) The bill contains language about motive—specifically, threats to officers’ “physical or mental integrity”—and officials insist that the bill isn’t intended to impede journalists, but reporters and press-freedom advocates nonetheless reacted with grave concern, calling the bill “liberticidal” and even taking to the streets to protest against it. On Monday, representatives of media unions walked out of talks with Gérald Darmanin, France’s interior minister, accusing him of doing too little to address their concerns. Yesterday, lawmakers passed the bill, which will now be considered by the French Senate.

The two debates are linked. Journalists have accused Macron of a double standard; as Dov Alfon—the editor of Libération, a daily that, last week, protested the bill by running a front-page photo of Macron with his face blurred outtold James McAuley, of the Post, Macron “presents himself as the champion of press freedom in the Muslim world,” but at home, “allows his ministers to propose laws that resemble those of the countries he’s just criticized.” And the security bill comes wrapped up in language about the safety of public servants that cannot be divorced from the recent terrorist attacks; the father of a student in Paty’s class posted a video criticizing Paty prior to his murder, and his killer posted a photo of Paty’s corpse on Twitter.

The dance between free expression and security is an age-old one, of course, and journalists always get caught in the middle. In France, as in the US earlier this year, the consequences for reporters have already gone beyond the hypothetical. Last week, Tangi Kermarrec, a reporter with the TV station France 3, was arrested while covering protests against the security bill and spent the night in custody. (Afterward, Darmanin said he should have “approached the authorities” in advance, drawing further condemnation from press groups). And on Monday night, Rémy Buisine, of the website Brut, was roughed up three times by the same officer while covering a violent police operation to clear a migrant camp in Paris.

In his interview with Smith, Macron accused American news outlets of trying to impose their values on another country’s society. Good foreign correspondents and columnists (including some of the reporters Macron and his defenders have complained about) do, of course, understand cultural differences and try to communicate them in their copy—that’s fundamental to the work. They should, clearly, avoid factual errors and apologism for the obscene. But it’s a foreign correspondent’s job, too, to illustrate the blind spots in other countries’ myths of national exceptionalism. Some truths—racism, police brutality, the targeting of journalists for doing their job—are universal.

Below, more on France:

  • The work of foreign correspondents: For the Times, Constant Méheut and Norimitsu Onishi (whose excellent coverage, earlier this year, of child sex abuse by a well-known writer forced a national reckoning in France) report that French authorities have investigated at least fourteen children over comments about Paty’s killing, and detained four of them, all ten years old, on the grounds that they “defended terrorism.” Noting Macron’s message, to Smith, that foreign reporters should feel free to call him and his team, Méheut and Onishi asked Jean-Michel Blanquer, the French education minister, for an interview about the investigations. He declined, “saying that he had already talked publicly about laïcité and considered the Times’s coverage biased.”
  • Relecture: Last year, I reported for CJR on another media debate in France; it concerned la relecture, or the common practice of politicians and other public figures reviewing, and sometimes amending, their media interviews prior to publication. Ahead of elections to the European Parliament, two outlets, La Voix du Nord and Le Télégramme, refused a joint interview with Macron after his team attempted to impose such terms. Readers are “more and more distrustful of the press, exactly because of things like this,” Patrick Jankielewicz, the editor of La Voix du Nord, told me.
  • Sarko: This week, Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president of France, went on trial—the first former president to appear as a defendant in court. He stands accused of trying to bribe a judge for information about another legal case that he faces. According to Kim Willsher, of The Guardian, Sarkozy used a door away from the cameras to enter court, and police kept journalists away from him inside the building.


Other notable stories:


Before you go, an announcement and a programming note:
Next Wednesday, December 2, at 12pm Eastern, Covering Climate Now, an initiative led by CJR and The Nation, will hold a “Talking Shop” webinar with Neela Banerjee, of NPR; Matthew Green, of Reuters; and Justin Worland, of Time, to discuss the lessons of the election, and what’s next for climate reporting. You have to be a journalist to attend, but you don’t have to be a current Covering Climate Now partner; for more details and to RSVP, click here.

And the programming note: this newsletter will be off for the next two days for Thanksgiving. We’re thankful to you all for reading. Stay safe, eat well, and we’ll see you on Monday.

Posted: November 25, 2020, 1:32 pm

Once a civic monument, The Kansas City Star’s $200 million presses and ‘pavilion’ have been sold and abandoned

When The Kansas City Star unveiled new presses in 2006, it was an event with only a bit less pomp than cracking a champagne bottle on a ship’s hull. Four years in the making, the four-press unit, new and state-of-the-art, was enclosed in an eight-story glass “pavilion” covering two downtown city blocks with office space […]

The post Once a civic monument, The Kansas City Star’s $200 million presses and ‘pavilion’ have been sold and abandoned appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: November 25, 2020, 12:50 pm

It’s time to hold editors accountable for harassed news workers

Like many professors, I follow journalism graduates on Facebook to keep up with their achievements, and recently came upon a disturbing post that inspired this column. An alumna received a signed message from a reader who called her “a f—— idiot” and told her to “go and f— yourself, b—-.” Jessie Opoien, opinion editor for […]

The post It’s time to hold editors accountable for harassed news workers appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: November 25, 2020, 12:30 pm

Apocalypse Then and Now

In March 2019, HuffPost sent me to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, home of the Oglala Lakota Nation in South Dakota, to cover the work of an affordable-housing program. My editors had a particular story in mind, and so I was dispatched to source the material to write it. The article would be a piece […]
Posted: November 25, 2020, 12:00 pm

Happy 100th anniversary to the poem that every writer needs to know

November 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of one of the most famous and influential poems of the 20th century. It is titled “The Second Coming.” It was written in 1919 by the Irish poet William Butler Yeats. To understand the enduring power of “The Second Coming,” it helps to know the historical […]

The post Happy 100th anniversary to the poem that every writer needs to know appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: November 25, 2020, 12:00 pm

Will journalists be considered front-line workers for COVID-19 vaccines?

Covering COVID-19 is a daily Poynter briefing of story ideas about the coronavirus and other timely topics for journalists, written by senior faculty Al Tompkins. Sign up here to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The National Press Photographers Association filed a request with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory […]

The post Will journalists be considered front-line workers for COVID-19 vaccines? appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: November 25, 2020, 11:00 am

The moral argument for diversity in newsrooms is also a business argument — and you need both

This has to be the year that pushes newsrooms to make progress on diversity and inclusion. As the Covid-19 crisis exposed glaring racial health disparities in the U.S., and as the killing of George Floyd prompted global protests against racism, the journalism industry has been forced to confront its own record on race and its...
Posted: November 24, 2020, 6:40 pm

The NewsRun, a daily newsletter about Pakistan, cuts through the noise of a cluttered media market

I’ve always felt a particular guilt that, as a journalist, I’ve struggled to keep up with the news in Pakistan. I’m first-generation Pakistani American and culturally, at least in the Pakistani diaspora, our main topics of conversation are politics, religion, food, and getting married. I grew up in a household that follows Pakistani news every...
Posted: November 24, 2020, 6:29 pm

When procedure becomes the story

Yesterday, media eyes turned to Michigan, where a canvassing board met to certify Joe Biden’s clear presidential victory in the state. CNN’s Dianne Gallagher, broadcasting live from Lansing, tried to explain to viewers that the process is typically “mundane,” but was drowned out by Trump supporters’ chants of “CNN sucks”; online, reporters and curious observers, from Michigan and further afield, watched the meeting on a livestream that, at times, had more than thirty-thousand viewers. The reason for all the interest was the prospect that the board’s two Republican members—in particular, a man named Norm Shinkle—might vote against certification, despite having no good reason to do so. (Shinkle’s wife previously filed an affidavit, in support of a Trump-campaign lawsuit, alleging that poll workers in Detroit were “extremely rude” to her.) NPR’s Linda Holmes printed a t-shirt with a message that just about summed up the situation: “I never wanted to learn this much about the Michigan Board of State Canvassers.”

After several hours, the canvassing board did its job: Shinkle abstained, but his Republican colleague, Aaron Van Langevelde, voted to certify, as did the board’s two Democratic members. The vote was just the latest in a series of procedural dramas that we’ve witnessed since the election—formalities that have passed without media mention in prior years, but become stories in light of President Trump’s refusal to concede defeat and rancid efforts to pressure Republican functionaries to go along with the con. As I’ve written here before, coverage of Trump’s push to overturn the election results has often been head-spinning—it has lurched between discordant notes, from ridicule to alarm, that feel contradictory but actually aren’t, and channeled starkly different assessments of how worried we should be, sometimes within the same hour of TV programming. Last Thursday, for instance, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes advised his viewers not to get “a knot in your stomach” about the outcome since Trump’s assault on democracy “is not gonna work,” then interviewed The Atlantic’s Barton Gellman, who, having covered the assault extensively, was less sure. “You’re probably right that he’s not gonna get away with it,” Gellman told Hayes, “but I wish I could believe that it’s completely out of the question, and I don’t.” The resulting whiplash has been perfectly understandable—Trump has dragged us, once again, into territory that is uncharted and should have remained so—but it’s been disorienting all the same.

From the magazine: New Money

Another theater of unlikely procedural drama has been the federal government’s General Services Administration, whose leader, Emily Murphy, refused for weeks to “ascertain” Biden’s likely victory—a legal box that must be checked before a presidential transition can begin. Murphy, too, has become a character in the national news cycle, perhaps too much so—last week, several stories sought to humanize her by quoting friends who characterized her as a diligent public servant caught in an impossible bind, and drew the ire of various media critics and commentators. (“No. She is not doing her honest duty,” The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum, a prolific chronicler of complicity, wrote in response to CNN’s profile of Murphy. “The only explanation for her behavior is the most obvious one: She has bought the ideology; she has become a true believer; she has accepted the lies.”) It’s a journalist’s job, of course, to portray newsworthy figures with nuance, but that becomes complicated when, as with Murphy, the figure is only in the news because of their refusal to perform a basic task—one that, again, is not commonly worthy of comment—in the public interest. Last night, following the Michigan certification, Murphy finally ascertained Biden’s win. Trump tweeted confirmation that the transition would begin, but he did not concede defeat, and his legal challenges look set to continue. (According to the Daily Beast, Christina Bobb, a trained lawyer and host on the Trump-sycophant One America News Network, is now helping with Trump’s election litigation.)

The phenomenon of paying close attention to typically-mundane processes isn’t unique to the election story—it also applies to the pandemic story, which has disrupted the basic, unremarked mechanics of everyday human life, and trained unusually intense public scrutiny on scientific advances. As I’ve noted here before, and my colleague Shinhee Kang explored in depth last week, this is especially true of the vaccine-development story, where incremental advances have been “magnified as news alerts”; routine setbacks have been amplified in “major headlines, inciting alarm”; and the competition between drug companies has been a dominant theme. As Ellen Ruppel Shell, a professor of science journalism at Boston University, told Kang, “a lot of the coverage is almost done as if it’s a sports match: ‘Who’s going to be the winner?’”

We saw more evidence of that yesterday, as AstraZeneca announced, based on an interim analysis of trial data, that a vaccine it has been developing with researchers at Oxford University, in the UK, is on average seventy-percent effective, a figure that declined to sixty-two percent when two full doses were administered, but rose to around ninety percent when a half dose followed by a full dose was administered. Responding to that complexity, different outlets emphasized different findings—a push notification sent out by Bloomberg, for instance, cited the seventy-percent average and noted that the vaccine had fallen “short of the bar” set by competitors developed by Pfizer and Moderna, whereas a New York Times notification cited the “up to ninety percent” figure and called AstraZeneca “the third drugmaker to announce promising results.” Some experts, meanwhile, cautioned that coverage shouldn’t focus on effectiveness alone: Dr. Peter Hotez, a professor at Baylor and regular guest on CNN, tweeted that we should also assess vaccine candidates’ durability, long-term safety, and ease of delivery. On the latter score, the AstraZeneca vaccine is easier to store than other leading candidates.

Journalists have always had to cover procedure, of course, but the recent raising of the stakes, across numerous beats, has been a challenge. Sometimes, we’ve failed to translate the nuts and bolts into clear, consistent coverage, but we have also seen excellent, diligent reporting on the minutiae, especially on the local level, in Michigan and elsewhere. We should not shy away from detail. But we should be careful—especially when it comes to the vaccine story—not to lose sight of the forest for the trees. And we should ensure—especially when it comes to the election story—that we retain a sense of proportion, and not expend undue resources on hapless chicanery.

More broadly, we should be wary of a contradiction here: we’re diving deeper into the weeds at a time when our information ecosystem incentivizes the opposite—oversimplification, at best, and disinformation, at worst, all with a dollop of outrage. A greater focus on routine processes—especially when they seem to be working as designed—ought, perhaps, to help restore public trust, but bad actors have instead turned them into grist for conspiracies. The supposed corruption of procedure is a key tenet of vaccine denialism, and of Trump’s election denialism, too. His erosion of trust in formalities that the average news consumer did not, until this year, know about will have long-term consequences, even if the air seems to have gone out of his immediate threats. As MSNBC’s Hayes said last night, referring to the belated initiation of the Trump-Biden transition, it “seems like a big deal, and also a tragedy that it had to be a big deal.”

Below, more on the coronavirus and the election:

  • Boosterism: Amid concerning levels of vaccine skepticism among the American public, a marketing push aimed at persuading people to get vaccinated is underway—led not by the federal government, but by the Ad Council, a nonprofit group. The group “led a similar effort in the 1950s, when it urged Americans to get vaccinated against polio,” Tiffany Hsu writes for the Times. Its coronavirus vaccination push “will be one of the largest public education crusades in history,” with public service announcements set to roll out “across airwaves, publications and social media next year.”
  • The transition: Yesterday, we learned the identities of Biden’s first cabinet nominees—he’s tapping Antony Blinken for secretary of state, Alejandro Mayorkas for homeland security secretary, Avril Haines for director of national intelligence, Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador, John Kerry as a special presidential envoy for climate, and Janet Yellen, the former chair of Federal Reserve, for treasury secretary. Many liberal commentators hailed the picks as boring, in a good way. “If you wonder how these people will govern, just close your eyes and imagine yourself back to 2016, before you developed that nervous tic that causes you to rip out your hair by its roots whenever your phone buzzes with a news alert,” The Atlantic’s Graeme Wood wrote. “What a luxury to see the Cabinet gradually populated with low-key operators who do not view manic stimulation of the electorate as a sign of a job well done.”
  • “Make schmoozing great again”: Roxanne Roberts, of the Post, reports that the DC establishment hopes that the Biden administration will restore the city’s previously-cozy social scene. “Without Trump, the White House correspondents’ dinner—typically a night of mutual good will between the administration and the press that covers it—became an awkward defense of the First Amendment,” Roberts writes. Under Biden, events like “the Honors, the Alfalfa dinner, the Gridiron, Ford’s Theatre gala and the correspondents’ dinner” will “likely return to their former glory.”
  • Turkey, I: Yesterday, Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, received the International Emmys’ Founders Award, for his “effective use” of televised press briefings during the pandemic; according to Josefa Velásquez, of The City, his press conference yesterday was delayed by his acceptance speech. Also yesterday, Cuomo said, in a radio interview, that he’d invited his daughters and elderly mother to join him for Thanksgiving—after spending days urging New Yorkers to reconsider their holiday plans. He later reversed course.
  • Turkey, II: Trump will lead the traditional White House turkey pardon today, with two birds called “Concede” and “The Election.” (Just kidding, they’re called “Corn” and “Cob”—though in 2018, Trump really did pardon a turkey named “Carrots” who, in the president’s telling, lost a “fair and open election” but “refused to concede and demanded a recount.” Trump told Carrots that he was sorry, but “the result did not change.”) The ceremony will be Trump’s first public appearance since Murphy ascertained Biden’s win. As Mark Leibovich, of the Times, put it, today “might be the single most awaited presidential turkey pardoning, ever.”


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