November 3, 2021

I’m a big fan of newsletters. Of course I am! It seems as if I spend half my day reading newsletters and the other half writing one.

Newsletters have become the hot thing in journalism over the past several years and are an inventive way for journalists to connect with readers in — if it’s done right — smart, informative, entertaining and personal ways.

Or as Nicholas Thompson, CEO of The Atlantic, said, “The evolution of newsletters is one of the most important things happening in journalism today.”

That explains why The Atlantic is the latest outlet to make a big leap into newsletters. It announced Tuesday that it is launching nine subscriber newsletters.

In an editor’s note, The Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg wrote, “Newsletters are conversational, unrehearsed, contingent, revelatory, humble, and entertaining, and journalism can always use more of these qualities. The Atlantic, which is already home to writers with clashing worldviews and original ways of seeing what is (as a great writer who didn’t have a newsletter once said) too often right in front of our noses, is always keen to showcase for our readers new writers, and new kinds of writing. Growing our family of newsletters dramatically seemed like one good way to better serve our readers.”

The newsletters will be written by Jordan Calhoun, Nicole Chung, David French, Xochitl Gonzalez, Molly Jong-Fast, Tom Nichols, Imani Perry, Yair Rosenberg and Charlie Warzel. (Goldberg’s note describes what each will write about.)

Goldberg told Axios’ Sara Fischer, “I wasn’t looking for topics so much as I was looking for excellent writers. The important thing for me is that they are honest and interesting.”

Warzel is an interesting case. He left The New York Times earlier this year to start a newsletter on Substack. In a final post for Substack, Warzel explained his decision to move over to The Atlantic, writing, “I’m worth more to a publication as part of a package of writers/reporters/thinkers than I am on my own. This makes sense to me. I don’t break tons of news these days and my work lately has been either explanatory or analytical. That may be a harder thing for somebody to pay for individually, but as a larger stable of people, I might fit more nicely into a bundle. Makes sense to me.”

The newsletters will be free until the end of November. After that, you’ll need a subscription to The Atlantic.

The Atlantic moves into a crowded space with other newsletters, but Goldberg doesn’t seem concerned about that, telling Fischer, “​​We have a powerful brand name, and we have an extraordinary collection of journalists already. What’s attractive is the affiliation itself. We are a home for great writers.”

The attack and the aftermath

In case you missed it, The Washington Post had an exceptional project earlier this week about the Jan. 6 insurrection. Called “The Attack,” it’s a three-part look at the events before, during and after the siege at the Capitol.

During an interview Tuesday with Washington Post Live, Post national political enterprise and investigations editor Matea Gold spoke with Donell Harvin, senior homeland security policy researcher with the Defense and Political Sciences Department of the RAND Corporation, and Clint Hickman, Maricopa County supervisor, about the Post investigation.

Harvin talked about the Jan. 6 threats that needed to be responded to with urgency: “Quite frankly it’s the actors. These armed militia are serious players. Their capabilities are not to be doubted. Many of them have former law enforcement or military backgrounds.”

Hickman told Gold, “The lesson to me is watching people breach the Capitol … to me it’s almost like people decided to break into a church and the church is the American democracy that they broke into. … I have a son that’s 16 and another that’s 14. I don’t want to send my son off to war to fight some foreign enemy to feel like an American again and I damn sure don’t want him fighting fellow Americans to prove just how American he is. It’s just not the way to go. So let’s get back to being American again.”

It was a compelling conversation, which you can watch here.

DOJ wants to block merger between publishing powerhouses

The Justice Department has sued to block Penguin Random House from acquiring rival Simon & Schuster because, the DOJ said, such an acquisition “would likely harm competition in the publishing industry.”

According to The New York Times’ Elizabeth A. Harris, Alexandra Alter and David McCabe, “In a publishing landscape dominated by a handful of mega corporations, Penguin Random House towers over the others. It operates more than 300 imprints worldwide and has 15,000 new releases a year, far more than the other four major U.S. publishers. With its $2.2 billion proposed acquisition of Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House stood to become substantially larger.”

The Times added, “Rather than concerns solely over harm to consumers, the Department of Justice said the acquisition could be detrimental to producers — in this case, authors — in what is called a monopsony, as opposed to a monopoly.”

The court filing on Tuesday said the two publishers combining “would give Penguin Random House outsized influence over who and what is published, and how much authors are paid for their work.”

Penguin Random House has hired attorney Daniel Petrocelli, who successfully defended AT&T and Time Warner when the DOJ tried to block their $100 million merger.

According to CNN’s Brian Stelter, Petrocelli said the DOJ is “​​wrong on the facts, the law, and public policy. Importantly, the DOJ has not found, nor does it allege, that the combination will reduce competition in the sale of books. The publishing industry is strong and vibrant and has seen strong growth at all levels. We are confident that the robust and competitive landscape that exists will ensure a decision that the acquisition will promote, not harm, competition.”

So let’s check in on Newsmax

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in 2016. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Here’s another example of some of the ridiculous things coming out of Newsmax. The cable news network’s White House correspondent, Emerald Robinson, tweeted some goofy stuff about there being a tracker in COVID-19 vaccines.

The tweet has since been taken down, but The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona captured it. It said, “Dear Christians: the vaccines contain a bioluminescent marker called LUCIFERASE so that you can be tracked. Read the last book of the New Testament to see how this ends.”

Twitter took down Robinson’s original tweet, saying it violated its policies.

Baragona pointed to political observer Josh Jordan, who tweeted, “She tweets out that the COVID vaccine is meant to track your every move from an iPhone which literally tracks your every move. The problem is that she knows it’s nonsense, but she’s built a brand on taking advantage of those who don’t know any better.”

Meanwhile, more Newsmax news. It announced Tuesday that it has hired former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum as a senior political analyst. He started on Tuesday with Election Day.

The former Pennsylvania senator was last seen working as a CNN contributor, but he was fired in May after he made offensive comments about Native Americans, saying colonists “birthed a nation from nothing” and that there “isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.”

NHL blasted for press conference

Last week, hockey player Kyle Beach came forward and revealed he is the John Doe in a lawsuit that alleges he was sexually assaulted by a video coach with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. Beach then gave a heartbreaking and courageous interview to TSN’s Rick Westhead last week. Westhead has been among the most dogged reporters on this story.

On Tuesday, hockey journalist Frank Seravalli, president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, slammed NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in a statement after Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly held their first press conference to address the Beach story.

Seravalli wrote the PHWA is “deeply concerned and disappointed” that the NHL attempted to “freeze out” Westhead from asking a question during Bettman’s press conference. Seravalli wrote that Westhead was only given a chance to ask a question after another journalist pointed out that Westhead had not been called upon.

Seravalli wrote that it wasn’t the first time Westhead was not able to ask a question at an NHL press conference. Seravalli pointed out that Westhead is not a member of the PHWA, but that his work on the Beach story “gave a voice to the voiceless and discovered countless facts and details that helped uncover one of the worst scandals in the league’s 104-year history.”

Seravalli went on to write, “At best, the NHL waiting 47 minutes to call on the journalist leading the charge in reporting on this heinous story — only after the league was publicly outed for not doing so — was an awful coincidence. At worst, it was an attempt to further avoid accountability and control the narrative. A free press is only effective if it’s truly free. Our message is simple: We will not be silenced. We will not be deterred. We will not stop asking questions — for the good of the game, for the good of all involved.”

The CBC and the closing of Facebook comments

This seems like a really smart idea.

Brodie Fenlon, editor-in-chief and executive director of daily news for CBC News in Canada, writes, “CBC is keeping Facebook comments closed on news posts.”

Fenlon writes that the latest move was partly sparked by CBC News journalist and host Carole MacNeil signing off after 34 years at the CBC. In her farewell to viewers, MacNeil said, “I believe strongly that as journalists, we are in service to you, the public. But the sand is shifting. You get so much information now. Some of it wrong. Some of it right. Some of it meant to make you angry. Some of it out of context. Some weaponizes you. And some of you try to attack us personally, physically, even when we are doing our job. Not many, but some.”

Back in June, as an experiment, the company closed comments on CBC-branded Facebook pages in News, Current Affairs and Local. Fenlon wrote, “We did so because we were seeing an inordinate amount of hate, abuse, misogyny and threats in the comments under our stories. Our story subjects were attacked. Other commenters were attacked. Our journalists were attacked. Misinformation and disinformation were rife.”

To be clear, Fenlon said he was all for criticism and questions about CBC’s journalism and that viewers could still comment on CBC’s website, which is closely monitored. Fenlon wrote, “We’re talking instead about trying to stop, in the online places where we have some control at least, the vile abuse, personal harassment and misinformation that’s so damaging to public discourse.”

With that in mind, the CBC will continue to close the comments sections on its Facebook pages with a few exceptions. “We will open comments for call-outs to ask specific questions of the audience in order to help us cover stories and issues more comprehensively,” Fenlon wrote, “and on a few pages that have small but healthy commenting communities. But otherwise, they will remain closed.

Fenlon added, “Our mission is to develop safer online places where Canadians can have meaningful conversations about the issues of our time and about our journalism; where they can argue and disagree and challenge each other — and us! — without devolving into hate, bigotry or personal abuse. We will also continue doing everything we can to support the mental health and physical well-being of our staff.”

Media tidbits

General Mark Milley. (Rod Lamkey/Pool via AP)

  • NBC News’ Lester Holt will interview Gen. Mark Milley today at 9 a.m. Eastern during the 2021 Aspen Security Forum. The interview will be livestreamed on Aspen Security’s YouTube page and parts of it will air on tonight’s “NBC Nightly News.” Holt is anchoring from various cities this week as part of the newscast’s “Across America” series.
  • For the first time ever, Fox News’ “The Five” was the most-watched cable news program during October with 3,108,000 total viewers.
  • Vanity Fair’s Charlotte Klein with “‘They want it to be a hit’: What happened to The New York Times’ grand podcast ambitions?”
  • The Guardian’s Poppy Sebag-Montefiore with “How two BBC journalists risked their jobs to reveal the truth about Jimmy Savile.”
  • Big TV numbers for the “Monday Night Football” game between the New York Giants and Kansas City Chiefs. The game drew 14 million viewers on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes. The ManningCast on ESPN2, featuring brothers Peyton and Eli Manning, drew 1.96 million viewers — the most ever for a ManningCast.

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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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