September 22, 2021

Most of us are familiar with John Walsh. He’s the TV personality and victims’ rights advocate who created and hosted the show “America’s Most Wanted” in the late 1980s — just a few years after his 6-year-old son, Adam, was abducted and murdered.

Since his son’s death, Walsh has become one of the leading advocates for missing children and victim’s rights. While always serious, he is often measured.

But in the past two days, Walsh hasn’t held back, ripping into police and others after the disappearance and now, according to an autopsy, murder of 22-year-old Gabby Petito.

During appearances on CNN’s “AC360” with Anderson Cooper and ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Walsh said he was “terrified” after what he saw in the bodycam footage after police responded to a report of Petito fighting with her fiance, Brian Laundrie, in Utah on Aug. 12.

“We looked at it and I said, ‘This girl is terrorized,’” Walsh told Cooper. “This is classic domestic abuse. He terrorized her not to tell the cops that he was the aggressor, he was the slapper and the puncher. … She was terrified.”

He told “Good Morning America’s” Robin Roberts, “She was scared to death in that video … he probably killed her right after.”

In a nearly three-minute rant on “GMA,” Walsh called it all a “tragedy of errors.” He criticized police, Laundrie (calling him a “dirtbag”) and Laundrie’s family, referring to them as “the dirty Laundries.” Laundrie is believed to be hiding and Walsh said he was aided by his parents.

Walsh said he will profile Laundrie tonight on his Investigation Discovery show “In Pursuit with John Walsh.”

Meanwhile, in a piece for The Daily Beast, Molly Jong-Fast writes, “What Gabby Petito’s Case Says About Cops — And Us.”

Jong-Fast writes, “Gabby Petito’s hashtag was searched 268 million times on TikTok. In the same area that Gabby Petito disappeared, 710 indigenous people — mostly girls — disappeared between the years of 2011 and 2020 but their stories didn’t lead news cycles, internet sleuths didn’t clog Instagram and Twitter trying to solve the mystery of their disappearances. Personally, I find it more than a little infuriating that those 710 people didn’t get the same attention as this white, model-thin 22-year-old who’d been documenting her travels through Utah’s national parks in a white van with her boyfriend on Instagram.”

She goes on to write, “​​While her story has resonated on many levels — to some she is an abused girlfriend, to others the victim of a serial killer of the kind you might find in a cold case podcast series (two newlywed women were murdered in Moab at around the same time as Petito came to town), and many of us see proof in this story of how police often don’t take domestic violence as seriously as they should.”

Meanwhile, on her MSNBC show, Joy Reid said, “The way this story has captivated the nation has many wondering: Why not the same media attention when people of color go missing? Well, the answer actually has a name: Missing White Woman Syndrome.”

Reid then mentioned other high-profile cases involving Natalee Holloway and Laci Peterson.

Pittsburgh problems

Be sure to check out this story by my Poynter colleague Angela Fu: “NewsGuild releases report on culture and harassment at Pittsburgh Guild.” Fu writes that the “NewsGuild has proposed changes to its parent union’s constitution and will provide all members with clear instructions on how to report harassment following the release of a report Tuesday that revealed multiple incidents of harassment at the Pittsburgh Guild over the past 20 years.”

The report includes observations from interviews with 55 current and former Pittsburgh Guild members and stakeholders about the culture at the local.

We all agree?

White House press secretary Jen Psaki. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

White House press secretary Jen Psaki was pressed pretty hard during an interview on the set of Tuesday’s “CBS Mornings.” Psaki’s appearance was just ahead of President Joe Biden’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly.

After addressing issues at the U.S. border with Mexico, Psaki was then asked by co-host Gayle King about Biden’s speech, saying Biden “appears to be really under the gun on so many different levels.”

Psaki answered by saying that’s what a president does — “you navigate crisis, you weather storms,” she said. Then King brought up the U.S.’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and made quite the speech doing so.

“We’re still getting hammered for how the withdrawal from Afghanistan happened,”  King said. “Everybody knows … many people believe it was time. It’s just the way that it was done. We all agree, that’s not a good look. You look at what’s happening with immigration. You look at France now saying that they’ve been betrayed by the United States. So I get that we have to look forward. But what are we doing to justify or explain what appears to be very bad behavior on our part now?”

For starters, nothing wrong with King’s question except for the part when she said, “We all agree, that’s not a good look.” Who are we? And who put King in charge of how we feel? That was not a good look, but the gist of the question was valid.

Psaki started her response by saying, “We don’t see it that way,” before going on to talk about the United States’ relationship with France. All in all, it was a solid seven-minute interview with the press secretary.

New boss at Fortune

Continuing the wave of women taking charge of newsrooms, Alyson Shontell has been named editor-in-chief of Fortune. She becomes Fortune’s first female editor-in-chief in its 92-year history.

As Axios’ Sara Fischer notes, “AP earlier this month announced that its D.C. bureau chief, Julie Pace, would be its new executive editor. The Washington Post named Pace’s predecessor at AP, Sally Buzbee, as its first female top editor in its 144-year history earlier this year. Other major newsrooms, like Vox, ABC News and MSNBC have announced new female leaders in the past year, joining companies including USA Today which already has women leading newsroom leaders. Several other major outlets, like Fox News and the New York Times, have women as CEOs.”

Shontell, who was the co-editor-in-chief of Insider’s business division, takes over Fortune from Clifton Leaf, who is stepping down as editor-in-chief.

Man who shot King video dies of COVID-19

In this 1997 file photo, George Holliday points to the spot along a roadside in the Lake View Terrace section of Los Angeles where he videotaped Rodney King being beaten in April 1992. Holliday has died from COVID-19. (AP Photo/E.J. Flynn, File)

On the night of March 3, 1991, a Black man by the name of Rodney King was beaten by four white police officers in Los Angeles. We know that because of a 9-minute, grainy, shaky and occasionally out-of-focus video shot on a new video camera.

The videotape was used in the state criminal trial of the four officers — a trial that ended in controversial acquittals. And those acquittals led to violent protests in Los Angeles and around the country.

On Sunday, the man who shot that video — George Holliday, a Los Angeles plumber — died of complications of COVID-19. He was 61. According to a friend, Holliday was not vaccinated and had been in the hospital for more than a month.

Last year, in an interview with The New York Times’ Azi Paybarah, Holliday said he had bought the camera only a month before the King incident. “You know how it is when you have a new piece of technology,” he told Paybarah. “You film anything and everything.”

That night, he said, he was awakened by noises and grabbed his video camera. What he filmed was both horrific and historic.

King famously reacted to the verdict and violence that followed by asking for peace and saying, “Can we all get along?”  He sued the city of Los Angeles and was awarded $3.8 million. Two officers were convicted of federal civil rights charges. King drowned in his backyard swimming pool in 2012 at the age of 47.

Since the night of the King video, we’ve seen how videos — especially cellphone videos — can be used to document cases of police brutality. The most notable case is last year’s video of George Floyd being killed by a Minneapolis police officer. Darnella Frazier, the teen who recorded Floyd’s murder, was recognized by The Pulitzer Prize board with a special citation “For courageously recording the murder of George Floyd, a video that spurred protests against police brutality around the world, highlighting the crucial role of citizens in journalists’ quest for truth and justice.”

USA Today’s new project

USA Today will unveil a new project today called “Seven Days of 1961” — a multimedia series that spotlights seven pivotal civil rights protests in 1961. USA Today says, “These demonstrations fueled the civil rights movement which helped end legal segregation and extended voting rights to millions of Black Americans.”

The series will run through December and feature text, video, augmented reality, events and podcasts.

USA Today national correspondent Deborah Berry, who created the series, said in a statement, “This project seeks to honor civil rights veterans, as well as the protests they led. These Americans, who are now in their 70s and 80s, faced beatings, prison time, and death as they worked to register Black voters and desegregate whites-only libraries, college campuses,

restaurants, travel accommodations, and more. These freedom fighters made it possible for more Black Americans to graduate from college, access public services, travel freely without violence, register to vote and

cast ballots, and practice freedom of speech.”

Best letter to the editor

Saw this on Twitter on Tuesday. It’s a letter to the editor in The New York Times from Patrick Flynn of Ridge, New York.

He wrote, “I have to confess to being a one-time anti-vaxxer. I was adamantly opposed to the vaccines against measles, mumps, pertussis, diphtheria, tetanus and polio that I was mandated by the state to take. But later I realized that it was actually a good thing. Kindergarten changes a person.”

Media tidbits


In Tuesday’s newsletter, I misidentified the name of ESPN’s new daily NBA show. It will be called “NBA Today” not “NBA Live.”

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