November 5, 2021

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

Fox News

Think what you want about the conservative cable news network — and you can find those who don’t think much of it — there’s no denying its popularity, especially among the Republican base. Fox News had a terrific October, leading all cable news networks in viewers. Its afternoon panel show “The Five” overtook Tucker Carlson’s show as the most-watched cable news network program. And on election night, more people watched Fox News than any other cable news network, with some 5 million viewers tuning in during Laura Ingraham’s 10 p.m. Eastern hour. I’ve said often that when comparing cable news outlets, it’s unfair to compare Fox News to CNN or MSNBC because CNN and MSNBC often share the same viewers. It’s more telling to compare Fox News to the combined viewership of both those networks. But even by those metrics, Fox News was the big winner on election night.

The Washington Post

The most impressive journalism of the week was the Post investigation that used 75 journalists to produce a deeply-reported project about the Jan. 6 insurrection. “The Attack” looks at all that happened before, during and after the horrific events of that. It was elite journalism by an elite journalism outlet. Simply sensational. Something tells me we will be hearing much more about this project when various journalism awards are handed out next year. If you haven’t read it, I cannot recommend it enough.

Sally Jenkins

Speaking of the Post, I’ve written often that Sally Jenkins of the Post is, in my opinion, the best sports columnist in the country. On Thursday, she hit another out of the park with “Aaron Rodgers is entitled to stay unvaccinated. He’s not entitled to lie about it.” To catch you up, in case you missed it, the Green Bay Packers quarterback tested positive for COVID-19. When asked in August if he was vaccinated, Rodgers said, “Yeah, I’m immunized.” Whether he was playing semantics or intentionally trying to be vague, the fact is he was not vaccinated. The issue isn’t whether or not Rodgers has the right to be unvaccinated, but that he was deceptive about it and might have broken certain protocols, acting as if he was vaccinated when he knew he was not. Jenkins, as she always does, nails it throughout the column, but this passage stands out: “Good luck to Rodgers rolling this one back. He will now be known as a guy who is slicker than his TV hair, who thought he was unique, too much so to follow rules, and more precious than anyone in the room. May he make a speedy return to the Green Bay Packers with no symptoms, but as for sympathy, that should be diverted to people who shared spaces with him when he was unmasked, who now have to sit around and wonder whether they brought something home because he was too coy with the coronavirus.”

Julia Black

The Insider reporter has a scathing article about Dave Portnoy, the controversial founder of Barstool Sports — the popular sports website geared toward the frat-boy crowd. The article paints a picture of Portnoy as a middle-aged man who preys on much younger women and engages in violent sex acts that frightened some of those women. It’s a disturbing read. Black tweeted, “This is the hardest I’ve ever worked on a story, and I hope you’ll take some time to read it. Thank you to the team at @insider for their support, and of course, the brave sources who spoke to me over the last 8 months.” Portnoy put out an 11-minute video response on Twitter saying he has never done anything “weird” with a woman and “never anything remotely non-consensual.” He then talked about how the “woke cancel culture wants to cancel me” and said he has “a target on my back.” (Note: I linked to the paywalled version of the story, but if you dig around, you can find one that’s free to read.)

Baxter Holmes

Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver in 2019. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Here’s the other sports story creating lots of buzz Thursday. ESPN senior writer Baxter Holmes has a story on Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver. We knew for weeks now that a big story was coming out. We didn’t know what, but we knew it was big because, before it was even out, the Suns put out a statement saying the story was “completely baseless.” You know it’s a big deal when an organization issues denials before anything is published. The story came out Thursday and it was full of allegations of racism and misogyny during Sarver’s 17 years as owner.


How many newsletters do you get? At last count, I get about a half million, give or take a few thousand. Feels like that, anyway. As I wrote earlier this week, it seems like I spend half my day reading newsletters and the other half writing one. Now I need to figure out a way to create more time in the day because The Atlantic announced it is getting in the newsletter game and will launch nine subscriber newsletters. The Atlantic CEO Nicholas Thompson said, “The evolution of newsletters is one of the most important things happening in journalism today.” Are newsletters just another way to package the same old journalism? Yeah, maybe in some cases. But when done right — like David Leonhardt for The New York Times and Amber Phillips of The Washington Post and Sara Fischer of Axios or Politico’s Playbook, which has been around since before newsletters were cool — it’s good stuff. Then again, read this interesting Twitter thread from Ryan Broderick.

Tracy Swartz and Christy Gutowski

The Chicago Tribune writers make this week’s list for their thoroughly-reported story: “Women in Chicago radio call out ‘toxic and sexist’ culture in male-dominated industry.” It includes this key graph: “Struck by the number of high-profile women departing radio jobs, the Tribune interviewed three dozen women in Chicago radio over the past 10 months, finding both enthusiasm for their work and widespread frustration with what many described as a male-dominated business. Ten women said they left their jobs because they were not happy with the way they were treated, while other female voices were reduced or silenced because of cost-cutting efforts by radio companies — including during the pandemic.” This is an important story. Take some time to read it.

The 2022 duPont-Columbia Awards

The duPont-Columbia Awards announced their finalists for the best in audio and video reporting, in broadcast, documentary and online. This year’s finalists include outlets such as PBS’s “Frontline,” WNYC, Netflix, The New York Times, HBO, CBS and many more. Topics include coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, policing in America and racial inequities. Lisa R. Cohen, director of the duPont-Columbia Awards, said, “This fearless coverage — embedding in Covid wards; slipping behind borders in war-torn Yemen; taking on local police departments for their civil rights violations — exemplifies the dedication of these finalists, many of whom took great risks to inform the public.” Winners will be announced in a virtual ceremony next February. Here’s the complete list.

Katie Couric

Katie Couric. (Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

The former “Today” show co-host and “CBS Evening News” anchor, among many jobs over her brilliant career in journalism, can now add another title to the list: best-selling author. Couric’s memoir, “Going There,” has reached No. 1 on The New York Times’ bestseller list for hardcover nonfiction. Couric started her Thursday morning newsletter with “Good morning from cloud nine.” On the latest episode of her “Next Question” podcast, Couric talked about writing the memoir.

Tim Marchman

Vice’s Tim Marchman wrote this story: “Tucker Carlson Pumped Full of Fentanyl, Emerges With New Understanding of the Opioid Crisis.” Read it. As The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona tweeted, “This story is WILD. At first, I swore it was satire.” That’s it. I’ll just leave it at that. Have a great weekend, everybody.

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at

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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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