By:
September 21, 2021

We all knew that many days of the Donald Trump presidency ranged from wacky and weird to downright frightening. But we are learning even more through the various books that have come out since Trump left the White House.

And it gets weirder and wackier and scarier.

The latest book, which comes out today, is “Peril,” written by The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. Over the past week, various excerpts of the book have been published. The Monday leak was a story involving Sen. Lindsey Graham, the Republican from South Carolina, and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

The Washington Post’s Isaac Stanley-Becker reports that the book reveals a meeting between Graham and Giuliani on Jan. 2. The point of the meeting was for Giuliani to show Graham evidence he had that could overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Graham and fellow Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, according to the book, looked at the evidence and Graham was unconvinced, calling it suitable for “third grade.”

Third grade? Oof.

This story reveals two things. One, it shows Graham was smart enough to see through Giuliani’s wild and baseless conspiracies, and yet it shows that Graham had taken claims of voter fraud seriously enough to still be investigating it and taking meetings well after the election.

Graham and Lee both certified the result of the election.

This is the third book Woodward has worked on about the Trump presidency. You can check out the review by The New York Times’ John Williams in “Bob Woodward Extends His Trump Chronicles With the Chaotic Transfer of Power.”

And, oh, on the topic of books. Did you see the title of the book by Trump press secretary Stephanie Grisham? It’s “I’ll Take Your Questions Now. What I saw at the Trump White House.”

Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi tweeted, “Is the title of former Trump White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham forthcoming memoir *supposed* to be ironic? Grisham rather famously *never* held a press briefing or publicly took reporters’ questions during her short time as press sec.”

Grisham’s book is due out Oct. 5.

A special ‘Morning Joe’

Woodward and Costa will talk about their new Trump book on today’s “Morning Joe” on MSNBC. And it’s a special day for “Morning Joe.” Today is the 14th anniversary of the show.

Read it here first: ABC’s ‘World News Tonight’ wins the ratings battle

ABC “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir. (Courtesy: ABC News)

When ratings for the 2020-21 TV season come out today, ABC’s “World News Tonight” will win the nightly newscast battle in all key demos. It will mark the fifth consecutive year that “World News Tonight,” anchored by David Muir, is the most-watched newscast across network and cable.

“World News Tonight,” according to Nielsen, is expected to have outdrawn the “NBC Nightly News” by 1.4 million total viewers and the “CBS Evening News” by 3.3 million total viewers.

During a relentless and unnerving 2020-21 news cycle that included COVID-19, a hotly-contested presidential election, the murder of George Floyd and national protests about race and police, “World News Tonight” was often the most-watched program (not just newscast) on TV with viewership in the 10 million range. It averaged 9.61 total viewers during the 2020 calendar year.

In an interview last year, Muir told me, “Viewers have an expectation that we will, with steadiness and great care, guide them through. I do hope the facts, the truth, no matter how dire, will in some small way, reduce some of the anxiety. Perhaps we can be one of the few constants in an unsteady time. That’s my hope.”

The latest on COVID-19

The U.S. has reached another grim milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic. About as many Americans have died from COVID-19 (approximately 675,000) as did during the 1918-19 Spanish flu. The daily death toll now is still about 2,000 Americans.

During an appearance on CNN’s “Situation Room,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told Wolf Blitzer, “I can only say what we do know is that we have the capability, we have the resources, we have the vaccines to stop that and turn that around. As I have told you many times, we now today have approximately 70 million people who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not yet gotten vaccinated. If we get the overwhelming majority of those people vaccinated, we will not see the numbers that you just mentioned; 2,000 deaths per day is absolutely terrible. We have got to get that way, way down. And we can do that by vaccinating the people who are unvaccinated. Those are the people who, when they get infected, have a high degree of likelihood of getting on to a severe disease. Unvaccinated people are the ones who are driving this pandemic. We have got to get these people vaccinated.”

What does the future look like?

Associated Press medical writer Carla K. Johnson wrote, “… scientists hope the virus that causes COVID-19 becomes a mild seasonal bug as human immunity strengthens through vaccination and repeated infection. That would take time.”

Emory University biologist Rustom Antia told Johnson, “We hope it will be like getting a cold, but there’s no guarantee.”

The big vaccination news on Monday was Pfizer saying its vaccine against COVID-19 works for kids ages 5 to 11, and that it will seek U.S authorization to begin vaccinations for children. Also, the U.S. announced it plans to ease travel restrictions on all fully vaccinated foreign visitors starting in November.

Meanwhile, The Atlantic, which has been among the leading publications when it comes to COVID-19 news and analysis, has another must-read piece out. Katherine J. Wu, Ed Yong, and Sarah Zhang write, “Six Rules That Will Define Our Second Pandemic Winter.”

CNN’s return to work plans

CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy reports that CNN is postponing its full return to office until early next year. In a memo to staff, network president Jeff Zucker said the original plan of returning to work in October “does not feel right.” Zucker wrote, “As a result, we have decided to move our full return date to January 10, 2022.”

Zucker also encouraged staff to gradually return to the office over the next few months, saying, “I think you’ll find … it is actually pretty great. The transition does not begin in January. It begins now.”

It is starting to feel like there might never be a perfect time for newsrooms to return to work full time. Clearly many feel the way Zucker does when he says it just doesn’t “feel right” at this time. Some days it’s hard to imagine when it will feel right, meaning newsrooms might just have to plan on having vaccinated employees return instead of waiting for a perfect time that will never come.

Washington Post’s big push

Washington Post executive editor Sally Buzbee, shown here in a 2018 photo. (AP Photo/Chuck Zoeller)

Sally Buzbee took over as executive editor of The Washington Post in June. Now comes this major and ambitious announcement: The Post will add 41 — yes, 41 — editing positions, including the addition of two deputy managing editors.

In a note to staff, Buzbee said the positions “will grow our capacity to produce timely breaking news, revelatory enterprise and definitive investigative work; create visually rich stories that our audiences find compelling; cover topics that resonate with younger, more diverse readers; and develop innovations that will define a new era of digital journalism.”

In an interview with The New York Times’ Katie Robertson, Buzbee said, “A real benefit toward us in a situation like this is ensuring that this will also improve the diversity of our staff, provide career paths across the newsroom for a more diverse group of people, for people from a wide variety of backgrounds and skill sets.”

This is a big deal, and welcome journalism news at a time when many news outlets are slashing jobs, particularly among editors. Washingtonian’s Andrew Beaujon wrote, “The Post is itching to attract international readers, and in August it announced an initiative for next year called ‘Next Generation’ with the goal of extending ‘the reach of Washington Post reporting to younger and more diverse audiences through new products, practices and partnerships.’”

Daily News shake-up

Robert York is out as editor of The Daily News in New York. He will be replaced on a temporary and “as-needed” basis by Andrew Julien, the editor of The Hartford Courant. The Daily News and Courant are both run by Tribune Publishing, which was sold in May to hedge fund Alden Global Capital.

Why the change? Nothing is official. The New York Post’s Alexandra Steigrad suggested it was a cost-cutting move. Steigrad wrote, “According to a source, York’s departure is the latest signal that the Daily News’ new owner, the hedge fund Alden Global Capital, isn’t looking for a powerful editor or publisher to run the paper. Instead, Alden appears set on making do with ‘a few dozen minions’ that reports into a ‘corporate manager,’ the source said.”

Certainly grim news for what used to be one of America’s top newspapers before resources and staff were severely cut in recent years.

Anderson Cooper and his famous family

CNN’s Anderson Cooper and his late mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, in 2016. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

CNN prime-time anchor Anderson Cooper opened up about his famous family in interviews with “CBS Mornings” co-hosts Gayle King, Tony Dokoupil and Nate Burleson and with “CBS Sunday Morning” correspondent Mo Rocca.

Cooper is the son of fashion designer Gloria Vanderbilt, who passed away in 2019, and the great-great-great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the shipping and railroad magnate who was once the richest man in America. Cooper has written a new book, “Vanderbilt: the Rise and Fall of American Dynasty,” which looks at the impact his famous family had on him.

Anderson, who also is a “60 Minutes” correspondent, told CBS, “Growing up, I never really wanted to be associated with that … that name comes with a lot of preconceived notions. The idea was that people have kind of thought I must have a huge amount of money and have some sort of a trust fund, which wasn’t the case. So I didn’t want that being how people saw me when I walked into a room. So, I was very glad my last name was Cooper.”

Cooper told Rocca, “Work for me has been the thing which has gotten me through everything. Work has always been the one constant in my life from the time I was, you know, working as a child model as a kid. … It was something that was reliable, that helped me calm myself. And, you know, I was building a foundation for a life.”

Here’s the “CBS Sunday Morning” segment — which gives me another chance to say how much I thoroughly enjoy “CBS Sunday Morning.” It’s among the best 90 minutes on TV each week.

ESPN’s new NBA show

ESPN has made a decision on what to do about a new daily NBA show and, really, it comes as no surprise. Malika Andrews, whose stock has risen quickly and deservedly in recent months, will host a show called “NBA Today.” The show will air weekdays at 3 p.m. Eastern. It debuts Oct. 18.

“NBA Today” replaces “The Jump,” which was canceled after a mess of a situation over the summer. The New York Times’ Kevin Draper reported how Rachel Nichols was caught on audio questioning if then-colleague Maria Taylor was given the job of hosting the network’s NBA Finals coverage because ESPN was trying to make up for what Nichols called its “crappy longtime record on diversity.” (Nichols is white, Taylor is Black.)

The fallout of that was Taylor left ESPN for NBC and Nichols was essentially sidelined despite having more than a year left on her contract. “The Jump” is still airing with fill-in hosts, but will air its final episode on Oct. 8.

Andrews is only 26 but has an excellent reputation in the business. She filled in more than admirably for Nichols as a sideline reporter during the NBA Finals. She will host the new show with analysts Kendrick Perkins, Chiney Ogwumike, Vince Carter and senior ESPN writer Zach Lowe. In addition, NBA insiders Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne will contribute news and updates.

Look for the show to be more like the format of “NFL Live,” in which host Laura Rutledge sets up the various analysts. That’s different from “The Jump,” where Nichols was given space to provide her own commentary and monologues.

Being sociable

Social media companies are taking plenty of grief for the misinformation that spreads like wildfire on their sites. And the public likely is aware of that narrative. Yet, the latest data from Pew Research shows that nearly half of Americans (48%) still get some news from those sites “often” or “sometimes.”

Then again, that’s a 5% decline from a year ago.

Pew’s Mason Walker and Katerina Eva Matsa write, “about a third of U.S. adults (31%) say they get news regularly on Facebook, while about one-in-five Americans (22%) say they regularly get news on YouTube. Twitter and Instagram are regular news sources for 13% and 11% of Americans, respectively.”

Media tidbits

Hot type

  • Kara Swisher’s latest “Sway” podcast for The New York Times is with Anne Wojcicki, the co-founder and chief executive of the genetic testing company 23andMe
  • “Jeopardy!” has had plenty of controversy of late in trying to replace Alex Trebek, but through it all, they have one of the game show’s greatest contestants. The Ringer’s Claire McNear with “Nothing Can Stop Matt Amodio.”
  • My first favorite rock star? Cat Stevens. (That was my older brother’s influence.) Writing for The Washington Post Magazine, Howard Fishman looks at how we should feel about the singer-songwriter in “The Meaning of Yusuf/Cat Stevens.”

Correction: In the item about ESPN’s new NBA show, the name was originally misidentified. It will be called “NBA Today.”

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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