ESPN censures anchor for Trump blast, faces backlash

September 13, 2017
Category: Business & Work

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A bad day for the sports cable giant

ESPN had a great idea when it started "The Undefeated," a strong daily foray into sports, race, culture and politics. Alas, that nexus is now rancorously exemplified by ESPN's own Jemele Hill, an engaging show host who leaves no doubt what she thinks of President Trump.

In a Twitter storm, she wrote, "Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.” And, "Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period."

There were others of a similar sort that inspired lots of negative feedback, and it all comes during a period in which the network is getting bashed by the right as being too political on issues (Fox's Tucker Carlson is among the higher-profile critics). The network, whose audiences and revenues are declining for perhaps unavoidable reasons in an era of media fragmentation, reprimanded Hill. 

That action quickly inspired criticism of its own. The right is in a lather for not canning her, with "Trump & Friends" exhibiting relish going after the network this morning at the start of its show. But there are doubts, too, from other venues and ideologies.

Younger skewing sports site Deadspin wrote, "How is it politicizing sports to describe a man who supported neo-Nazi protesters in a nationally televised press conference as a white supremacist? It is a shame and a wonder that ESPN thinks it’s possible to appease people who don’t even want to be appeased." 

Michael Harriot, a staff writer for The Root and host of "The Black One" podcast, jettisoned subtlety by writing, "Jesus f***ing Christ."

"Isn’t the ability to make your black-skinned property shush until it’s spoken to reminiscent of 200 years ago? Isn’t that the definition of white supremacy? Isn’t that like sending them back to their tiny little boxes to huddle in the corner until they learn their boundaries?"

Ultimately, editors across the media spectrum should look right into a mirror at a problem they are responsible for unleashing. They want it both ways: their journalists as "brands" with big online audiences and, at the same time, to not ruffle feathers of consumers and advertisers.

And Twitter is now an outlet that those editors know circumvents them. By and large, it's a vehicle without a filter of editing for many rank and filers. So everybody from Jemele Hill to the beat reporter covering the State Department, county board, city hall, the concert scene, the NFL team, high school sports, immigration and, of course, politics, now possess creative (or un-creative) rein to publish their thought bubbles on anything.

The bubbles can skew left, right, centrist, insightful, dumb and inflammatory.  And a few too many bosses, nervous about declining revenues, look the other way — unless forced by a Hill-like incident to actually look at what's being produced under their banner and respond.

Many editors want provocative. And they've got it, as Hill merely personifies. The train's out of the station when it comes to  everybody strutting their inner op-ed columnist. When it come to the nexus of sports, race, culture, politics and at least Jemele Hill, it's a great topic for "The Undefeated."

Samsung big winner with Apple's new iPhone?

"Vice News Tonight" was good in a report on how pricing a new phone at $999 is partly a function of having to segment the market because of a shortage of OLED screens for the new phone (those screens are more efficient than those used for the other phones). And a big supplier of those screens apparently will be rival Samsung.

So it's now got a very expensive premium product to "modulate the demand" by making a different version of a product at a different price, as a Harvard business professor put it.  An academic at UCLA suggested that the mere existence of the new device could jack up sales of existing phones by making those seem a "compromise," with most consumers adverse to picking an "extreme option." But the company could still skim off the demand by super Apple enthusiasts for a $999 phone.

The pursuit of Amazon

"Several senior Amazon executives advocate putting a second headquarters in Boston, according to a person briefed on the matter." (Bloomberg

Speculation is rife, with some early punditry among urban planners and corporate consultants mentioning Washington, Austin, Denver, Toronto and Chicago as prime contenders in what's clearly a competition. 

It's the sort of region vs. region, tax break-filled de facto extortion that's become commonplace. 

An improvisational masterpiece

Jeff Flock, an original CNN hire who's now at Fox Business Network, is renowned for disaster coverage and pulled off a wonderfully spontaneous few minutes as he dropped in unannounced on his 91-year-old mother in Englewood, Fla., on his way to cover damage in Fort Myers. (Poynter)

Might she be in underwear, asleep, in the bath or brushing her teeth when he showed? He was actually a bit nervous as he walked into her house with his cameraman. But there she was, in a chair and delighted at the surprise. (Look closely and there was a framed AARP piece on Jeff on a wall.)

If you had any doubt it was unscripted, it was dispelled when show host Stuart Varney back in the New York studio, passed along his best wishes to the mom via Jeff, prompting her to tell her son on national television that she likes Varney … but not Lou Dobbs.

A racist inspires 2 million views

Nydian Han, an Asian American who co-anchors a Sunday newscast on the ABC station in Philadelphia, was rightfully miffed when almost hit by a driver who yelled, "This is America!" ( A video response she posted Friday on Facebook has received 2 million views. (FTLIVE)

A great gig for an investigative journalist

How 'bout this job opening? It might be smooth sailing  for a dogged reporter. I've got no clue what might have inspired it.

"Fraud Monitoring Analyst | Equifax"

"Location: Atlanta, Georgia US"

"The Fraud Monitoring Analyst is responsible for analysis and controls maintaining review of systems and processes supporting identity and fraud. These analysts are responsible for monitoring; analyzing and investigating interactions to identify fraudulent access or attempted access to Equifax consumer facing systems in near real-time. One of the primary purposes of this position is to execute on strategic fraud prevention and detection solutions to minimize risk and exposure of Equifax data. The Fraud Monitoring Analyst is responsible for the daily performance of an associated process, and interacting with the related individuals and groups to constantly iterate this capability. This function is a critical line of defense for Equifax and integral to business goals."

Nina Garcia's new gig

Hearst is moving Nina Garcia from Marie Claire to be editor at Elle. With print sagging, it's relevant that "Elle’s new leader has a high profile in popular culture, largely thanks to her stint on 'Project Runway,' where she has been a judge since it launched in 2004; she now counts over 400,000 followers on Instagram." (Business of Fashion)

"As fashion magazines continue to struggle in print, it has become increasingly important for editors to reach audiences through large followings on social media. Recent examples include InStyle's editor-in-chief Laura Brown and Teen Vogue's Elaine Welteroth, each with over 130,000 followers on Instagram. And not even Garcia tops British Vogue's new leader, Edward Enninful, with nearly 600,000 followers."

An early narrative on media hurricane coverage

Joe Concha, a media writer for The Hill, was filling a late morning time slot at Fox yesterday, genteely sparring with supposed media analyst Judy Miller (yes, of New York Times-Iraq War notoriety). His ruminations on hurricane coverage surely pleased the White House.

He cited "superb coverage on the ground" by "people not making the seven figures in New York and Washington." The problem is found with the folks "back in New York" with "a lot more commentary, a lot more fluff, and a lot more noise, John (Scott)." That noise, he asserted, included spending time on Melania Trump's shoes and her spouse's allegedly insufficient empathy. He'll be invited back.

Not a big fan of a TV staple

Melinda Henneberger, an editorial writer-columnist at the Kansas City Star and former Washington Post-New York Times reporter, writes in USA Today:

"Watching cable coverage of Hurricane Irma was kind of like watching one of those Survivor-type reality shows where the contestants eat bugs and crawl through mud, or maybe the other way around, for our viewing pleasure."

"In one live shot after another, rained-on reporters were tossed around by the wind, worrying aloud about flying street lamp covers, and telling viewers in the path of the storm not to even think of trying this at home."

The morning Babel

"Trump & Friends" was back in its Hillary Time Machine as it found a new (slim) angle on the Benghazi raid (that was 2012) and bashing Hillary Clinton. Huh? Some contractors say they were pressured by the State Department to stay mum. And then there was derision of ESPN, with co-host Brian Kilmeade claiming Jemele Hill "told 50 percent of the country 'We don't want you as viewers.' " The implication was that she should be canned since baseball commentator and right-wing former pitcher Curt Schilling was booted last year by ESPN for offensive tweets, including on transgendered people.

CNN's "New Day" did well on the Florida Irma aftermath, with co-host Chris Cuomo in Big Pine Key, though one could have dispensed with underscoring how his crew hasn't slept in a long time. Tough. Or telling guests that he'd be back in touch, as if he were a Red Cross surrogate, or sharing his satellite phone on camera with those needing to contact relatives. But he and CNN did briefly put aside the Florida-centric coverage, and occasional self-absorption (the story is not them), for very relevant updates on the true disaster faced throughout the Caribbean.

"Morning Joe" was by and large back to Trump, Trump, Trump, its bread and butter, with Joe Scarborough finding a somewhat weak analogy in declaring that a Category 5 presidency is downgraded to a Category 2. And there's was pundit Mark Halperin citing "Halperin's First rule of succeeding in politics: controlling your public image." Who's in charge of that in the West Wing, he wondered.

Well, Warren's First Rule of Column Writing is hereby executed. Finishing. Have a good day.

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