By:
November 19, 2021

Here are my Poynter Power Rankings: a look at those people, places and things that had a big impact on the media. They were the movers, shakers and influencers of the week.

The 1619 Project

One of the most significant journalism projects in recent years — The New York Times Magazine’s commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in the English colony of Virginia — was first published in 2019. This week, two books about the 1619 Project were released. “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story” is composed of 18 essays and 36 poems and works of fiction that look at the legacy of slavery in the United States. In addition, there’s a children’s book called “The 1619 Project: Born On The Water.” The project was led by Nikole Hannah-Jones, who told Trymaine Lee, host of the MSNBC podcast “Into America,” “It was the most difficult, emotionally draining project I’ve ever worked on. I cried a lot making the project, because it wasn’t writing about someone else’s community. It’s not like at the end of the day, I just went home and wasn’t thinking about it anymore. I thought about it all the time; and I also felt a tremendous burden to get it right, to do justice to our ancestors.”

Joaquin Sapien and Joshua Kaplan

Wow, some superb digging for ProPublica by Sapien and Kaplan for the story: “Texts Show Kimberly Guilfoyle Bragged About Raising Millions for Rally That Fueled Capitol Riot.” They write, “In a series of text messages sent on Jan. 4 to Katrina Pierson, the White House liaison to the event, Guilfoyle detailed her fundraising efforts and supported a push to get far-right speakers on the stage alongside Trump for the rally, which sought to overturn the election of President Joe Biden. Guilfoyle’s texts, reviewed by ProPublica, represent the strongest indication yet that members of the Trump family circle were directly involved in the financing and organization of the rally. The attack on the Capitol that followed it left five dead and scores injured.” I appreciated that passage. It explains what their report is about and why it’s important. Good stuff.

Sally Buzbee

Washington Post executive editor Sally Buzbee. (Courtesy: The New York Times)

The (relatively) new executive editor of The Washington Post is Kara Swisher’s guest on the latest “Sway” podcast for The New York Times. Buzbee talks about a variety of topics, including the Steele dossier, the Post being sued by one of its reporters (Felicia Sonmez), covering Post owner Jeff Bezos and today’s media landscape. Buzbee tells Swisher, “I don’t want to give up on any reader. Certainly there are people who are not going to trust the Washington Post, but I don’t think we want to give up on big swaths of the world.” … I also think it’s cool that a New York Times podcast would have a Washington Post editor as a guest, and that a Post editor would go on a Times podcast.

Diane Sawyer

We haven’t seen a bunch of Diane Sawyer lately, but she shows she still is an elite interviewer and journalist in her latest story about the 13 children, ages 2 to 29, who were held captive (some in chains) and abused by a couple in California. The awful story was uncovered in January 2018 when one of the children escaped and called 911. In a two-hour “20/20” special that will air tonight in prime time on ABC, Sawyer interviews two of the children for “Escape from a House of Horror — A Diane Sawyer Special Event.” One of the girls, who is now 33, told Sawyer what it was like when she woke up in the hospital and realized she was free. “Music was playing, I got up,” Jennifer Turpin said. “I made sure there was a little bit of a floor cleared out and I danced.”

‘Saturday Night Live’

The venerable late-night show has taken its share of criticism over the years for no longer being funny. I personally think complaining about “SNL” became a cliche used by many who don’t even regularly watch the show. For the most part, the show has been good for quite some time. But there’s no question that “SNL” has kicked it up a notch this season and even the constant detractors are begrudgingly admitting that the show has been pretty good. There have been buzzworthy moments (Cecily Strong’s Goober the Clown bit about abortion, James Austin Johnson’s uncanny Donald Trump impression); superb hosts (Owen Wilson, Kim Kardashian West, Rami Malek, Jason Sudeikis, Kieran Culkin and Jonathan Majors); and some outstanding musical performances, most notably Taylor Swift, Brandi Carlile and Kacey Musgraves. The “Weekend Update” segments have been solid and the cold opens, usually about politics, have been biting. I’ve always been a fan of “SNL,” but the show is off to its best start in quite some time. If nothing else, it’s shutting up those who have nothing better to do but complain about something they didn’t watch.

Jacob Stern

If you only read one story today, read this in The Atlantic from Jacob Stern: “Can a Boxer Return to the Ring After Killing?” It’s the story of how two boxers — Charles Conwell and Patrick Day — arrived for a fateful fight in October 2019 and how Conwell has carried on after Day died from injuries suffered in that fight. It’s incredibly well-reported and eloquently written. The Atlantic’s Ed Yong tweeted, “This story about a boxer who accidentally killed his opponent in the ring is @jdkstern13‘s first print feature for The Atlantic. It’s so good, so compelling, even if (like me) you have no interest in boxing.

Dick Vitale

ESPN’s Dick Vitale. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

The ESPN college basketball analyst is battling lymphoma. The Bradenton Herald’s Ryan Ballogg reports that he is among the first to be treated at a new Sarasota cancer center. Yet despite enduring intense treatment, the legendary announcer has not lost any of his enthusiasm or optimism. Even while going through this difficult battle, Vitale is posting almost daily motivational videos meant to encourage others. I’m fortunate enough to know Vitale and the 82-year-old has more energy and idealism than anyone. And I know him well enough to know that it’s not an act. It’s who he is. Here’s hoping he has many years left calling college basketball. And that will start again on Nov. 23 when Vitale returns to call No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 2 UCLA after getting the OK from his doctor. “My family and I are absolutely jumping with joy,” Vitale said in a statement.

The Salt Lake Tribune

Utah’s Great Salt Lake is drying up — an apparent sign of climate change. Now The Salt Lake Tribune is working with AccuWeather to change its maps to accurately show that the lake has become smaller. This seems like a small thing, but it’s this kind of commitment that shows the impact and importance of covering climate. In case you missed it, I recently wrote about how things are going with The Salt Lake Tribune, which became the first major metropolitan newspaper to become a nonprofit. And executive editor Lauren Gustus recently wrote a piece with updates about the paper.

NBC and the Premier League

Here’s a whopper of a deal. NBC has retained rights to show the most popular soccer league in the world — the Premier League. And check out the numbers. Reports are NBC is paying the Premier League $2.7 billion over the next six years. That’s well over double the previous deal. The deal means NBC will air all matches per season until at least 2028 across various platforms, including NBC, USA Network, Peacock, Telemundo and Universo. It also means NBC will continue covering a league it has shown since 2013. More details will emerge in the coming days, including the other network offers. (ESPN and CBS were also in serious running.) But this massive deal is seen as a win-win — for NBC and the Premier League.

Pat Collins

Collins is a reporter for NBC4 in Washington, D.C., and he’s something else. He’s a legend in Washington and he shows why in this story about a woman who woke up to find her car vandalized and spray-painted with the words “Mike is a cheater.” Hat tip to this item from The Big Lead’s Stephen Douglas, who writes, “The man is a treasure. And it’s great when an artist like Collins can really sink his teeth into a part like this. The stakes seem extremely high at first, but the victim wasn’t the intended target and her insurance is taking care of everything, so it’s really not that big a deal. Which means Collins can pretend to smash the front window and grill her about the Mikes in her life.” Watch the video. You’ll enjoy Pat Collins.

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…
Tom Jones

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