November 12, 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.

Lesley Stahl

The veteran CBS News and “60 Minutes” correspondent is this year’s recipient of Poynter’s Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism. She was honored in a virtual gala on Wednesday night. My colleague Angela Fu has the details. Before the gala, there was a virtual VIP reception where PolitiFact editor-in-chief Angie Drobnic Holan and I had a chance to talk to Stahl about her career and the state of journalism. At one point, I asked Stahl if journalism is better today than when she started in the 1970s. Her answer was a bit of a surprise. No, she said. Journalism has taken a step back, mostly because everyone is so quick to get out any little nuggets of information. With social media and 24-hour cable news and streaming services, the need for speed has taken away from detailed reporting. Reporters, she said, sometimes need to “slow down.” And being more deliberate in reporting is a big reason why she loves doing “60 Minutes.” It’s easy to see why Stahl is a legend in the business and is still going strong at age 79.

Geoff Edgers

“What Happened to Eric Clapton?” That’s the headline of the fabulous story by The Washington Post’s fabulous national arts reporter, Geoff Edgers. Clapton has gone from being the “Clapton is God” blues/rock/best-who-ever-lived guitarist to a controversial figure over his COVID-19 stances, including his defiant opinions on masks and his song in which he compares lockdown to slavery. Edgers writes, “Interviews with more than 20 musicians and acquaintances who have known Clapton over the years, from his days in the Yardbirds to his most recent concerts in September, shed light on why he may have thrust himself into the covid debate. Among friends and collaborators, there’s hope that Clapton can repair the damage he’s done to his reputation. But their frustration is apparent.” Edgers’ piece is so good.

Patsy Loris

Meet the new head of Telemundo Network News. Loris, who already has the title of executive vice president, will take over Telemundo news on Jan. 1. She will replace Luis Fernández, who will retire at the end of the year after nearly five decades in the media industry. Beau Ferrari, chairman, NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, said, “Luis has been the driving force behind the growth of Telemundo network’s news properties and Noticias Telemundo’s positioning as one of the most respected news brands in the industry. He has been a transformative leader and a great partner in helping Telemundo fulfill its vision to be the choice and voice of Latinos around the world.” About Loris, Ferrari said, “Patsy is an experienced news leader and has made significant impact in our organization by strengthening Noticias Telemundo’s position as the leading Spanish-language news organization covering politics across all platforms.” Loris joined Noticias Telemundo in 2019 from Univision, where she was executive vice president.

Rochelle Olson

The Star Tribune reporter did something that ESPN’s Adam Schefter didn’t initially do: report the full story. Earlier this week, Schefter reported on Dalvin Cook, an NFL running back for the Minnesota Vikings. Schefter tweeted, “Minnesota Vikings’ RB Dalvin Cook is the victim of domestic abuse and extortion – there’s pending litigation, according to his agent Zac Hiller.” Schefter tweeted more of Cook’s side of the story. But Olson did what you’re supposed to do: She reached out to get the other side of the story and tweeted out text exchanges between the woman and Cook, as well as gruesome photos of the woman following the incident. Schefter eventually took responsibility for not reaching out to get the other side of the story. But Olson was all over it from the start, including this story. Olson’s work is how good — and responsible — journalism is done.

Stephanie Hayes

As I mentioned earlier this week, The Tampa Bay Times columnist had one of the best feature stories I’ve read in a while called “Where is the Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay?” Then she followed that up with a delightful column about home repairs in “HGTV is lies: Tales from pandemic home renovation.” One of the hardest things to do is write funny. And yet Hayes consistently writes funny. The home repair column is a perfect example of that. These two pieces show the range of a writer you should put in your regular reading routine.

Brian Williams

Brian Williams. (Brad Barket/Invision/AP, File)

What the veteran news journalist did back in 2015 — exaggerating his role in a helicopter mission in Iraq — was indefensible. Williams paid a heavy price for this tall tale, losing one of the best gigs in TV news as anchor of the “NBC Nightly News.” But, to his credit, he owned his mistake, humbled himself, kept his head down, worked hard and seemed grateful to still be employed when he started anchoring breaking news stories on MSNBC. He then got his own late-night news program and continued to repair his reputation with a solid and watchable show. This past week, he announced he is leaving NBC News after close to three decades. He undoubtedly will turn up somewhere else — maybe CNN+ or another streaming service. Again, what he did was wrong and many critics will never get over it. But Williams showed that with hard work and perseverance and the proper attitude, his mistake didn’t have to be a career-killer.


Yeah, you’re reading this right. I put the highly-politicized, extremely right-wing cable news station on the list even though it has quite often shown that it’s not a fair and balanced outfit. I mean, any outlet that employs Greg Kelly can’t be taken that seriously, right? But give Newsmax some credit for yanking White House correspondent Emerald Robinson off the air for tweeting out goofy stuff like there are trackers in the COVID-19 vaccine. The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona reported how Robinson has been permanently banned from Twitter and that a Newsmax spokesperson told him that Robinson “remains off-air as Newsmax reviews matters relating to her posts made outside of the channel on her own social media.” The spokesperson added the network has “not determined when she will return to the air.” That’s good. But come to think of it, giving Newsmax credit for looking into a matter that is obviously ridiculous is, well, obviously ridiculous. Scratch this. Remove them from the power rankings.

Jim Rome

The sports radio host was honest and funny when he learned that his three-hour radio show, which is simulcast on CBS Sports Network, wasn’t going to be on TV for the final two hours on Thursday and Friday because it was being preempted for the International Swimming League playoffs. On air, Rome read a comment from a listener that said, “You idiots are going to preempt this show for swimming!? Stupid.” Rome went on to say that he doesn’t control programming, adding, “What I really can’t control is what the CBS Sports Network does during these hours and I don’t have a problem with it. I mean, I don’t. They have other properties. Other things they have in addition to the Jim Rome radio-slash-TV show. Including swimming. So yes, on the TV side we are going to go away for hours two and three. And you will get swimming instead of me. Maybe that’s an upgrade in your mind. Maybe it’s an upgrade, period.” (Hat tip to The Big Lead’s Stephen Douglas for this item.)

TNT’s ‘Inside the NBA’

Shaquille O’Neal. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

The NBA show — featuring host Ernie Johnson with analysts Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley, and Shaquille O’Neal — is the gold standard of sports studio shows. This week, the guys were on top of their game again, breaking down a scuffle between Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokić and the Miami Heat’s Markieff Morris. At first glance, it looks as if Jokić is the troublemaker for his blind-side hit on Morris. But the TNT guys pointed out that, nope, Morris had it coming. Shaq had the best line of all, “It’s called retaliation. First of all, if you hit me, don’t turn around. Don’t turn around … because I’m swinging.” The entire segment, which you watch here, is superb. Oh, in a related item, check out this good column by The Washington Post’s Candace Buckner.

The CBS News Investigative Unit

Led by senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge, CBS spoke with current and former soldiers injured in the Iranian missile strike on the Al Asad airbase in January 2020 who have been denied one of the nation’s most sacred awards, the Purple Heart, as well as the benefits that come with it. CBS found more than 30 soldiers whose injuries appear to qualify them for the Purple Heart nearly two years after their base was hit by the Iranian missile strike. Soldier Geoffrey Hansen said getting medically evacuated became an additional requirement to qualify for the award. CBS News learned that 56 soldiers were diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries and were submitted for a Purple Heart. Those soldiers told CBS News only the 23 who were medically evacuated were recognized. Hansen told Herridge: “That was an indication of … we don’t want casualties right now. And Purple Hearts are an indication of a casualty … the messaging I was getting was just the political situation wasn’t gonna support more approvals.” Here’s the report. Now for its impact: A day after the CBS News Investigative Unit contacted the Pentagon, the Army confirmed they will initiate a new review for the soldiers’ Purple Heart submissions.

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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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