By:
September 28, 2021

The verdict is in. It was not a surprise.

R&B singer R. Kelly was found guilty of racketeering and eight violations of an anti-sex trafficking law by a federal jury in Brooklyn. Kelly, 54, faces the possibility of decades in prison.

The Associated Press’ Tom Hays wrote, “The charges were based on an argument that the entourage of managers and aides who helped the singer meet girls — and keep them obedient and quiet — amounted to a criminal enterprise. Several accusers testified in lurid detail during the trial, alleging that Kelly subjected them to perverse and sadistic whims when they were underage.”

Did media coverage, specifically the docuseries about Kelly that came out two years ago, lead to Monday’s verdict?

When Monday’s verdict came down, I immediately thought of a piece that Eric Deggans, the TV critic for NPR, wrote last month. Deggans wrote, “As the trial of disgraced R&B superstar R. Kelly unfolds, it’s tough to imagine reaching this moment without the 2019 Lifetime docuseries ‘Surviving R. Kelly.’ That’s because the six-part project seemed to transform public opinion about the singer in an instant, with detailed, harrowing accounts from women who said Kelly spent decades pursuing underage girls for sex and maintaining abusive relationships.”

Deggans also wrote, “The public reaction — including prosecutors asking other potential victims to come forward and his longtime label, RCA, dissolving its working relationship with him — was surprising because journalists had been reporting on similar allegations against the singer since the late 1990s. But cultural critic and filmmaker dream hampton, an executive producer on ‘Surviving R. Kelly,’ says this project hit the world in a crucial moment: Social media spread word quickly, a younger generation was less tolerant, and viewers were drawn in by the power of seeing a succession of survivors telling their stories directly to the camera.”

Back when the “Surviving R. Kelly” docuseries came out in 2019, Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote, “Woman after woman faced the camera to tell her harrowing story. And suddenly, the walls surrounding the superstar began to tumble down, as a nation of disgusted viewers turned on him, using the hashtag #MuteRKelly — which had originated in 2017 but now found a whole new life.”

Now we will see what kind of impact this verdict has. For instance, Ben Sisario, who covers the music industry for The New York Times, writes, “R. Kelly’s trial could become music’s #MeToo moment.”

Sisario writes, “The music business has indeed had its share of scandals in recent years. The singers Marilyn Manson and Ryan Adams, and the hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, have been accused of various kinds of misconduct. But the criminal trial of R. Kelly, which ended with his conviction on Monday, has been by far the most high profile #MeToo moment in music.”

And it could lead to other reckonings for those in the music industry who mistreated, harassed and assaulted others.

Tweet and respond

Here’s a Twitter-media dustup.

Last week, conservative radio host and troll Clay Travis tweeted out a Fox News graphic and called it an “amazing statistic.” The graphic said 302 children have been shot in Chicago this year, while 214 American children (ages 17 and younger) have died from COVID-19.

ESPN’s Sage Steele responded by tweeting, “KIDS. SHOT.

The sick trend continues as it has for YEARS in Chicago. Funny how no one talks about it publicly..much less does anything about it. But yes — let’s keep masking up our children! SMH. Once again, when facts don’t fit the narrative………”

Deadspin’s Jesse Spector wrote that, yes, it’s horrible children are being shot. But Spector added, “‘Chicago’ is the go-to for right-wingers to dismiss the idea of doing anything about gun violence anywhere else. It’s absolutely talked about publicly, all the time.”

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones had an even better response to Steele, tweeting, “No one talks about it publicly and yet you learned about it from a news report. And what are YOU ‘doing about it’? And why are you performatively using the shooting of children to spread your anti-mask nonsense? Last: learn to read a stat. This isn’t comparing deaths to deaths.”

Besides, as Spector points out, “… really, 214 dead children is a huge reason for children to be wearing masks. How much higher would the number be if they didn’t? How many of those children got COVID-19 because of lax hygiene by people like Travis and Steele who deny medical science?”

Spector summed up his thoughts with this passage: “What kind of idiot, in the year 2021, sees a Clay Travis tweet, and thinks to themselves that rather than Fox’s resident sportbro spouting off false equivalencies or flat-out misleading people, he’s really making a great point? ESPN’s Sage Steele is that kind of idiot.”

Making history

Jose Diaz-Balart, on the set of his new show on Monday. (Courtesy: NBC News)

Jose Diaz-Balart returned to MSNBC on Monday to launch his new show — “Jose Diaz-Balart Reports” — live from Miami. According to MSNBC, with Monday’s premiere, Diaz-Balart became the only anchor to host national news programs on both cable and broadcast TV in English and Spanish.

At the close of Monday’s program, Diaz-Balart said, “As we wrap up this hour … I want to tell you a little bit about me. I am the Florida-born son of Ira and Raphael Diaz Balart. I’ve been a journalist for 38 years in both English and Spanish. I think in two languages, I dream in two languages, I live in two languages. And the opportunity to report to you, the opportunity to share life experiences with you is truly a privilege. A conversation between us that we start today.”

Diaz-Balart is a major part of NBCUniversal News Group’s overall strategy to bring more diverse voices to the network. Chairman Cesar Conde launched a 50% Challenge Initiative last year. NBCUniversal News Group has nine Latino anchors across broadcast, cable and streaming.

Doing the right thing

This is a cool story. Mike Warner, a photojournalist for KATU — the Sinclair-owned, ABC affiliate in Portland, Oregon — tweeted, “NO NEWS MONDAY… just a heads up, the @KATUNews morning and afternoon shows have been preempted and will NOT air on Monday, Sep. 27th.  The entire news team is attending a seminar to help deal with on-the-job stress and trauma…”

He added, “In almost 25 years as a photojournalist, I’ve never seen a newsroom do this. But it’s been a crazy time filled with a raging pandemic, out of control violence, political unrest, riots, and ongoing death & destruction. Personally speaking, seeing bodies daily gets to you #stress”

The seminar Warner referred to was led by my Poynter colleague, Al Tompkins, and his wife, Sidney, who is a licensed therapist. They have done such workshops for dozens of stations around the country.

Warner tweeted, “It’s hard for us news folks to just stop. But I am grateful for a company and managers who care about our mental health and well being. We’ll still be keeping an eye on things, just taking a day to feel better. Thanks for watching, see ya Tuesday!”

‘SNL’ announces cast for this season

“Saturday Night Live” cast member Kenan Thompson at last week’s Emmy Awards. (Photo by Danny Moloshok/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images)

“Saturday Night Live” has announced its cast for its 47th season, and it’s missing one of the regulars from the past eight seasons. Beck Bennett is not returning to the show.

But many of the familiar faces are, including Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong, Aidy Bryant, Pete Davidson, Colin Jost, Michael Che, Kenan Thompson, Mikey Day, Heidi Gardner, Alex Moffat, Kyle Mooney, Ego Nwodim, Chris Redd and Melissa Villaseñor. Two previous “featured players” — Chloe Fineman and Bowen Yang — will be regular cast members.

Andrew Dismukes and Punkie Johnson return as featured players, and will be joined by newcomers Aristotle Athari, James Austin Johnson and Sarah Sherman. Lauren Holt, who made her debut as a featured player last season, is not coming back.

Variety’s Brian Steinberg has more on the cast for this season. He wrote, “Some veteran members of the cast are likely to appear less frequently than usual, according to a person familiar with the program, and will have some leeway to pursue projects outside the show.”

Season 47 begins this Saturday.

Meanwhile, singer Dionne Warwick continues to show why she’s a great Twitter follow with this tweet: “I was once again not invited to join the cast of @nbcsnl. Maybe next time.”

The return of ‘Axios on HBO’

“Axios on HBO” — one of the more interesting news magazine shows on TV — will return this upcoming Sunday with the first of eight episodes. The weekly show airs on Sundays.

Here’s a trailer for the upcoming season, which includes some very high-profile and powerful guests.

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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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