By:
October 8, 2021

Good morning. I close out this week with something a bit different for The Poynter Report. Here are my Poynter Power Rankings — something I will do occasionally on Fridays. It’s 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. Have a great weekend everybody. Here are this week’s Power Rankings:

Frances Haugen

A week ago, we didn’t know her name. Now, she might have forever changed one of the world’s biggest companies. Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower, provided tens of thousands of internal documents to The Wall Street Journal, exposing the damage Facebook does to our democracy and others, including young people. Then she gave an extensive interview to “60 Minutes” and testified before a Senate subcommittee. Facebook has come under scrutiny before, but this time, Haugen’s revelations seem to have some real teeth. Her testimony especially captivated lawmakers. Is this Facebook’s Big Tobacco moment? The New York Times’ Kara Swisher compared Haugen to Susan Fowler, whose blog post about Uber led to sweeping changes within that company. Haugen’s actions could lead to significant change. The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan suggested a federal agency that focuses on the digital economy. Haugen will long be remembered for what she has done.

Rachel Maddow

The MSNBC prime-time host revealed this week that she had surgery for skin cancer. Maddow reported on air that her partner, Susan Mikula, had noticed that a mole on her neck had changed. So she met with a dermatologist, who made the diagnosis. Maddow says the surgery “got all of it” and that she expects to be fine. Then Maddow had this powerful message for viewers: “Schedule a check now with your doctor. Then when your doctor tells you you’re fine, but you should do this every year, put it in the calendar in your phone for a year from now, and then actually come back and do that follow-up appointment. It’s only by the grace of Susan that I found mine in enough time that it was totally treatable, because I have been blowing off my appointments forever to get stuff like that checked because I’ve assumed it will always be fine.”

Fox News

The cable news giant celebrated its 25th anniversary this week. Love them or hate them, like them or loathe them — there’s no denying the impact Fox News has on our political ecosystem and the influence it has over millions of conservative viewers. Its prime-time lineup of Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham are among the most-watched in the history of cable news and have a devout following. Many would argue that Fox News, at times, is akin to state-run TV for the Republican Party and was (is?) in cahoots with former President Donald Trump. Many also would argue it has done more than any news outlet to stoke political divisiveness in this country. And what’s it like to run this network? Check out the headline on this Hollywood Reporter story by Marisa Guthrie: “‘Sleep Well at Night’: Suzanne Scott on Running Fox News.”

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

The ICIJ is a U.S.-based nonprofit newsroom that works with a global network of journalists and media organizations to report on what it calls “the most important stories in the world.” It includes 280 investigative reporters from more than 100 countries and territories, and it partners with more than 100 media organizations. This week, it published another example of its elite journalism with a project called “The Pandora Papers.” It starts with this paragraph: “Millions of leaked documents and the biggest journalism partnership in history have uncovered financial secrets of 35 current and former world leaders, more than 330 politicians and public officials in 91 countries and territories, and a global lineup of fugitives, con artists and murderers.” A really impressive piece of journalism.

Stephanie Grisham

Former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” (RW/MediaPunch /IPX)

For more than nine months as Donald Trump’s White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham didn’t hold one official briefing with the media. Most of us didn’t even know what her voice sounded like. Now she can’t stop talking as she promotes her new book, “I’ll Take Your Questions Now.” Grisham is unloading on her former boss, calling him “erratic” and “delusional” and saying she’s “terrified” of Trump running for president in 2024. She also has taken shots at Fox News for being a willing accomplice in pushing Trump’s agenda, and has revealed various gossip about others, including Melania Trump and Ivanka Trump. She painted her time in the White House as a nightmare because of what she witnessed and how Trump ran the country. It would have been nice if Grisham actually spoke up while she was working in the White House instead of waiting until she was trying to sell a book. But, in this case, it’s better late than never to expose what she saw and warn Americans of what might happen if Trump is again president. Given her position, as well as realizing that she was once one of Trump’s fiercest defenders, Grisham does have credibility.

Ben Smith

The New York Times media columnist blew the lid off issues at Ozy Media. And now Ozy Media has been thrown into a swirl of mess — to the point that it’s not truly clear if the company still exists. Now, let’s take a moment and acknowledge that this Ozy Media story is a niche story — one that media junkies like me eat up. No question it’s fascinating, but I’m willing to bet that many people had never even heard of Ozy Media before all this. The point, however, is Smith and his “Media Equation” column for the Times continues to be a must-read. Each and every week, Smith delivers a media column worth your time. He joked on Thursday with this tweet: “Hmm anyone have a non-Ozy scoop for the column?” Something tells me he’ll find something to write.

Andrew Marchand and John Ourand

Marchand is the sports media columnist for the New York Post. Ourand writes for the Sports Business Journal. They are two of the most plugged-in sports media writers in the country and are among the industry leaders in breaking news. Not only are they connected, but they have great insight and are go-to guests on sports media podcasts, such as the ones hosted by The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch and Sports Illustrated’s Jimmy Traina. So it only makes sense that Marchand and Ourand have started their own sports media podcast. It debuted this week and featured an interview with ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt.

Monica Lewinsky

Monica Lewinsky, at the premiere of “Impeachment: American Crime Story,” on Sept. 1 in West Hollywood. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

She is credited as a producer on FX’s “Impeachment: American Crime Story” about the scandal that made her famous (or infamous). She recently was a guest on “The Daily Show” and Kara Swisher’s “Sway” podcast for The New York Times, as she does the interview circuit talking about the FX show. She owns up to her role in the affair with former President Bill Clinton, telling CNN that it was “wholly inappropriate.” But she has moved on from what happened when she was 22 years old and now, at age 48, confidently offers up intelligent thoughts on things such as the media, social media and her life. And she’s a fun follow on Twitter. For example, psychologist, author and Wharton School professor Adam Grant once asked his followers, “What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever received.” Lewinsky responded, “an internship at the white house will be amazing on your resume.”

Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy

The two media reporters for CNN attacked one of the biggest stories this week — Reuters’ scoop that AT&T has helped back One America News Network — even though AT&T is the parent company of CNN. Speaking on CNN’s “New Day,” Stelter said, “There is a reason Comcast and Charter and others don’t carry this conspiracy network. There’s a reason why they don’t provide carriage fees to OAN. They are making a choice about content. Competition is a good thing. It’s great to have more and more channels. But there is a limit when we talk about channels that spread hate and misinformation. This is not just a conservative channel. It’s a conspiracy channel, and there’s a big difference, and that’s why AT&T has come under very harsh scrutiny.” Give credit to Stelter and Darcy for not shying away from their parent company’s role. (For more, check out this story by Mediaite’s Ken Meyer.)

Robert Kolker

The writer of my favorite story of the week. It’s in The New York Times Magazine: “Who Is the Bad Art Friend?” I mentioned it in the “Hot Type” section of my newsletter earlier this week, but felt the need to recommend it again.

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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