This one is different. And bizarre. And troubling.
On Thursday, Trump tweeted, “Many will disagree, but @FoxNews is doing nothing to help Republicans, and me, get re-elected on November 3rd. Sure, there are some truly GREAT people on Fox, but you also have some real ‘garbage’ littered all over the network, people like Dummy Juan Williams, Schumerite Chris Hahn, Richard Goodstein, Donna Brazile, Niel Cavuto, and many others. They repeat the worst of the Democrat speaking points, and lies. All of the good is totally nullified, and more. Net Result = BAD! CNN MSDNC are all in for the Do Nothing Democrats! Fox WAS Great!”
Still, it just goes to show that Trump believes Fox News should be helping him win, a troubling attitude for the president of the United States to have. No president should expect any network to help a reelection effort. That’s not their purpose. But, considering the support he gets from Fox News’ primetime pundits, Trump’s expectations are not surprising.
As I said, this isn’t the first time Trump has criticized Fox News in recent weeks. In late April, Trump complained that Fox News “just doesn’t get what’s happening” and “No respect for the people running Fox News.”
On Monday of this week, he tweeted, “Fox News is no longer the same” and longed for the days of the late and former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes.
Fox News can spin it to say, “See, if the president is complaining, we must be doing a fair job.” But what it really says is Trump has grown used to favorable coverage from the network and pushes back when anyone criticizes him.
The news was as shocking as it was grim. The Atlantic — which has been getting rave reviews for its coronavirus coverage and recently touted a major jump in subscribers — underwent significant layoffs on Thursday. It laid off 68 employees, which accounted for 17% of its staff.
The reason is a familiar one, one being heard all over the country.
The Atlantic statement added, “The staff reduction most deeply affects our live events division, given the uncertainty about when in-person events will return. We are also making a number of reductions in our sales and marketing team; are closing our video department; and are losing a small number of newsroom positions.”
The layoffs come on the heels of The Atlantic’s announcement that it had gained 90,000 new subscribers since March. In a memo to staff, David Bradley, chairman and owner of Atlantic Media, said it was “the hardest writing in my 22 years with The Atlantic.”
He also wrote, “I had thought that I would spend some substantial part of this memo explaining the reasoning behind our decision. But, I think it may speak for itself. The particular timing is clear — a global pandemic that has shuttered the economy generally, advertising acutely, and in-person events altogether.”
He praised the staff, saying, “There is no fault on the part of people leaving the firm.”
What’s stunning is, from all outside appearances, The Atlantic seemed to be in good shape. In addition to the huge leap in subscriptions of late, The Atlantic has actually added staff over the past couple of years. Several times through the pandemic, I have lauded The Atlantic’s coverage as among the best in the business. Bradley’s memo said The Atlantic reached 132 million readers in March and April, and in the past 90 days, 57 stories reached more than a million readers and 35 stories reached more than 1.5 million readers.
In his memo, Bradley wrote, “It is true that The Atlantic is accelerating its move to a consumer strategy. Like The New York Times and The Washington Post, The Atlantic’s long-term intention is that a majority of revenues comes from its readership. But, in the absence of a pandemic and global crisis, we would have found some kind of kinder contraction. Surely, we would have paused over furloughs instead of severance if we believed the positions were coming back.”
In addition to the layoffs, there will be a freeze on salaries and pay cuts for executives.
While it’s depressing to see another major media company struggle in the midst of excellent work, it’s especially dispiriting to see it happen at a place that seemed to be thriving.
I appeared on Dan Abrams’ SiriusXM radio show Thursday to talk about Mediaite’s decision to run a column by Matt Lauer defending himself against a rape allegation and the reporting of that allegation in Ronan Farrow’s 2019 book “Catch and Kill.” Abrams owns Mediaite and said during our hour on the air together that he approved and stands by the decision to run Lauer’s column.
I disagree, writing a short piece earlier this week that said I would be willing to interview Lauer, but would not give him free rein to write whatever he wanted without challenge. Abrams saw the Lauer piece as an op-ed, and pointed out that Mediaite did independently fact-check the accounts of four witnesses/subjects that Lauer spoke with for his column.
Abrams revealed a couple of interesting things on the air that I didn’t know. One, he said Lauer offered to write his piece for at least one other outlet — Abrams didn’t reveal which one — but was turned down. Abrams also said Mediaite had requested an interview with Lauer in the past, but Lauer refused.
Lauer has not given an extensive on-the-record interview since being fired by NBC in November 2017. The refusal to be interviewed brings Lauer’s credibility into question, another reason I would hesitate to give him free rein to write whatever he wanted.
Just a footnote: If you’re going to go on a radio show and debate a really smart lawyer, you better be on your toes! But, I will also say that while Abrams is a sharp debater, he is a respectful and talented host.
Let this be a warning to all newsrooms as we get ready for the 2020 election. On Thursday, The Oregonian wrote this:
Sen. Shemia Fagan of Portland clinched the Democratic nomination for secretary of state Wednesday, setting her up to run for the state’s second-highest office against a fellow senator in the fall general election.
The Oregonian/OregonLive, in a rare and serious error in its elections modeling, mistakenly called the race after 10 p.m. Tuesday for Sen. Mark Hass, who in fact came in second by about half of a percentage point after more results came in Wednesday.
This is a news outlet’s nightmare: calling a race and having that call be wrong.
The Oregonian wrote, “The newsroom’s usually reliable modeling did not sufficiently account for slower results due to the coronavirus pandemic, said Therese Bottomly, editor, who made the final call. ‘We got it wrong,’ Bottomly said. ‘I unreservedly apologize to Sen. Fagan, Sen. Hass, their supporters and our readers.’”
We have no idea what conditions will be like come November — whether polls will be open in some states or communities, if more mail-in ballots than ever will be used, how long everything will take to be counted. But, it could be an election like we’ve never seen before, and news outlets (especially newspapers working on tight deadlines) will need to be more careful than ever.
The (Minneapolis) Star Tribune announced Thursday that it has now reached 100,000 digital subscribers. Publisher and CEO Mike Klingensmith said in a statement, “We’re very proud to hit this milestone of 100,000 digital subscribers. We continue to foresee a strong future for both digital news and printed newspapers. We envision many more years where digital and print subscriptions, single-copy sales, and strong advertising support combine to enable the Star Tribune to play an important role in the Twin Cities and across the state.”
Earlier this week, I interviewed CBS “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan and the show’s executive producer for a feature on how the Sunday morning program has adjusted and thrived during the time of the coronavirus.
Now, Jeremy Barr of The Hollywood Reporter has a QA with Brennan. One of the more interesting questions was when Barr asked Brennan about President Trump verbally attacking her CBS colleagues Norah O’Donnell, Paula Reid and Weijia Jiang.
“I’ve been on the receiving end of it,” Brennan said. “The president has called us Deface the Nation, and done that more than once. Look, I think it’s a distraction. … I made a conscious choice of viewing it as a distraction and viewing it as a deflection, and not engaging, because it’s not about me. … It has the consequence, intended or otherwise, of elevating the work that they are doing. … I think it’s about the work. It’s not something worth responding to.”
Ever since last weekend’s conclusion of ESPN’s wildly-successful “The Last Dance” 10-part documentary about Michael Jordan, we’ve wondered who the NEXT subject will be for a long documentary.
Well, we already have an answer. It’s NFL legendary quarterback Tom Brady. ESPN is planning a nine-parter for 2021 called “Man in the Arena.” Brady even tweeted out an early trailer.
Jordan helped produce “The Last Dance,” and while it didn’t always portray him in a positive light, nothing aired that didn’t have Jordan’s approval. It appears Brady will have the same influence on “Man in the Arena.” His new production company, 199 Productions, will co-produce this documentary. So it surely will have a Brady spin. (By the way, the name 199 Productions comes from where Brady was drafted in the 2000 draft — 199th overall.)
Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. wrote, “The series will be Brady’s first-hand account of the most iconic moments of his NFL career, including each of his nine Super Bowl appearances as quarterback of the New England Patriots.”
It’s hard to imagine it topping “The Last Dance” because I’m not sure Brady is as interesting or complicated as Jordan. But I’m sure I’ll tune in anyway.
David Scott will look at sports leagues shutting down. Jon Frankel will look at the South Korean baseball league, which is playing again, and what it could mean for Major League Baseball. Andrea Kremer will talk to Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who is using this time to volunteer at a long-term health care facility in his native Quebec.
In addition, host Bryant Gumbel will lead a virtual roundtable discussion with players’ association chiefs DeMaurice Smith (NFL), Michele Roberts (NBA) and Tony Clark (MLB) to talk about the impact of the coronavirus and thoughts on reopening pro sports in America.
A stunning report in The New York Times by James Glanz and Campbell Robertson: “Lockdown Delays Cost at Least 36,000 Lives, Data Show.”
Another New York Times piece, this one in partnership with The Baltimore Sun, LAist and The Southern Illinoisan: “The Striking Racial Divide in How COVID-19 Has Hit Nursing Homes.”
The future of Facebook and working from home by The Washington Post’s Rachel Lerman and Elizabeth Dwoskin.
Sign up to receive our new Coronavirus Facts newsletter — PolitiFact and MediaWise
Journalism job openings — Poynter’s job board
On Poynt Live training: May 28 at 2 p.m. Eastern — Getting Practical About Conflict — Poynter
Student Journalists on the Front Lines of Coronavirus Coping: May 27 at 12 p.m. Eastern — Media Education Lab (at the University of Rhode Island)
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