November 9, 2021

Good morning. Plenty in today’s newsletter, including the latest involving Bari Weiss as well as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Howard Stern shredding Aaron Rodgers. But, we start off with an item from my colleague Angela Fu about Wirecutter and an intriguing threat. Here’s Angela’s item:

Frustrated by the lack of progress in contract negotiations, the union at Wirecutter, the product review site owned by The New York Times, announced Monday it will launch a strike starting Black Friday.

The planned strike, which has received support from over 90% of union members, comes after nearly two years of bargaining for a first contract. If a deal cannot be reached before Black Friday on Nov. 26, workers will walk out and ask readers not to shop through Wirecutter that weekend, the busiest time of the year for the site.

The Wirecutter Union, which represents roughly 70 employees, is calling for higher salary floors and annual guaranteed raises. They argue that Wirecutter brings in “record revenue” for the cash-flush New York Times, yet the company refuses to adequately compensate its employees.

The strike announcement comes shortly after The New York Times released its third-quarter earnings report, which showed that Wirecutter had earned 10,000 net subscriptions in the first month after it launched paid subscriptions in September.

“We look forward to continuing to work towards an agreement with the Wirecutter Union in our standard process at the negotiating table,” New York Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha wrote in an emailed statement. “Our compensation proposal is more generous than what they’ve described and seeks to maintain a similar compensation structure for Wirecutter employees with programs in place for others at The Times Company.”

The union also filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board on Monday, alleging that the company has failed to provide information needed for wage negotiations. Rhoades Ha said The New York Times has not yet seen the charge and could not comment on it.

Meanwhile, the two other unions at the company — The Times Guild and the Times Tech Guild — are locked in their own labor disputes. The Times Guild, which represents roughly 1,300 editorial staff, is negotiating a new contract, and the 600-member Times Tech Guild is waiting for its NLRB election to determine whether New York Times tech workers will have union representation. The Times Tech Guild held its own half-day walkout in August after filing three unfair labor practice charges.

Members of all three unions are planning a rally outside The New York Times building next Tuesday to protest what they say are “anti-union tactics” by company management.

Thanks, Angela, and now on to the rest of today’s newsletter …

Higher learning

You remember Bari Weiss. She was The New York Times opinion columnist who famously quit the paper in a rather lengthy resignation letter in July 2020. She complained of a hostile work environment created by bullying colleagues and an “illiberal environment.”

She has since gone on to write on Substack and host a podcast. Now Weiss and some of her pals are claiming America’s university system is broken and they are tired of waiting for it to get fixed. So they are starting their own university. In a tweet, Weiss said the university is “dedicated to the fearless pursuit of truth.”

In a Substack posting, former St. John’s College president Pano Kanelos, who will be the university’s president, wrote more about their plans and the dozens of folks involved, including Weiss and founding faculty members such as Andrew Sullivan and Caitlin Flanagan.

The Wrap’s Lindsey Ellefson wrote, “It will be called the University of Austin, but it is already garnering comparisons to Trump University.”

Twitter, naturally, took shots at the idea because the school, as of now, is not accredited and will not offer actual degrees. The university will “offer a summer program for college students called ‘Forbidden Courses’ that invites top students from other universities to join (them) for a spirited discussion about the most provocative questions that often lead to censorship or self-censorship in many universities.” Master’s programs will begin a year from now.

The Daily Beast’s Noah Kirsch wrote, “The tumult follows other high-profile education scandals, most notably the now-defunct Trump University, which paid a $25 million settlement to former students in 2018 over fraud allegations. UATX, which will operate as a nonprofit, is positioning itself as very real. The school says it has already received seed money and is attempting to land $250 million in additional capital.”

As I mentioned, plenty took their shots at the so-called university on Twitter, including ESPN’s Bomani Jones. Although he never mentioned it by name, you knew who he was talking about when he tweeted, “don’t let em trick you into fueling the p.r. campaign for that school.”

Let me check my phone

(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Where do Americans get their news?

A large majority say they get it from their smartphones, computers or tablets. That’s what the Pew Research Center found in its latest data that explores the platforms Americans use to consume news.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • About 84% of U.S. adults say they get news from a smartphone, computer or tablet “often” or “sometimes.”
  • That’s more than those who say they “often” or “sometimes” get their news from TV (68%), radio (51%) and print (34%)
  • When asked where they prefer to get their news, 50% said digital devices, as compared to those who said TV (36%), radio (7%) and print (5%).
  • When it comes to those who use their digital devices to get their news, the poll shows news is gathered from news websites and apps (66%), search engines (63%), social media (48%) and podcasts (23%).

Be sure to check out the data, which also includes many other factors and numbers, including the demographics of news consumers.

The latest from UNC

My colleague Rick Edmonds, Poynter’s media business analyst, is out with a story today about the latest at the University of North Carolina Hussman School of Journalism and Media following the Nikole Hannah-Jones controversy.

Edmonds reports on what has been going on since the school initially balked at giving Hannah-Jones tenure, leading her to turn down a position at UNC. She went to Howard University instead.

Edmonds writes, “Four months later, the main players in the drama are taking measured steps to move on. Feelings were too hot, I was told several times, for a fast turnaround.”

Edmonds talks to several of those still at UNC and looks at what has been going on and what might be next.

‘Frontline’ investigations

PBS’s “Frontline” has two on-the-ground global investigations debuting tonight at 10 p.m. Eastern on most PBS stations.

In the hour’s first segment, “Frontline” presents “The Pandora Papers” along with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The investigation looks at the deep political and financial ties of some of the world’s richest and most powerful people. Here’s the trailer.

In the second segment, “Frontline,” Retro Report and ProPublica will present “Massacre in El Salvador.” PBS describes it as “a new, short film showing the ongoing fight for justice for the horrific 1981 attack on the village of El Mozote and surrounding areas.”

PBS also said, “This on-the-ground investigation details how for decades following the tragedy, there’s been little movement towards holding anyone accountable, and how today, the case against high-ranking military officials is faltering under Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele. The president has described himself ‘the world’s coolest dictator’ and has been critical of the handling of the El Mozote case.”

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar dunks on Aaron Rodgers

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 2018. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers often carries himself as if he’s the smartest guy in the room. Well, that’s not true if he’s in a room with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In a devastating Substack post, the basketball Hall of Famer blasted Rodgers over Rodgers’ deception about being vaccinated.

Some of Abdul-Jabbar’s comments:

  • “Instead of consulting immunologists, he consulted anti-vaxxer and podcast host Joe Rogan, who also contracted the virus. If he ever requires open-heart surgery will he hand the scalpel to romance writers because they know about matters of the heart?”
  • “What’s especially bothersome is that Aaron Rodgers didn’t just lie and threaten the health of those around him, he also damaged professional sports.”
  • “Rodgers’ ignorance regarding the science of immunology brings back to life the old stereotype of the big dumb jock. His utter lack of even the most basic knowledge and logic is shocking.”
  • “Rodgers complained that the ‘cancel culture’ was coming for him, but his own words cancel him as a liar and a bad thinker. If he had a principled objection to the vaccine, he could have chosen not to play, like Kyrie Irving, who at least is honest. What really sacked his whining stance was his refusal to wear a mask during interviews to protect others from sickness and death. That was merely his hubris and arrogance against what he called the ‘woke mob.’ In this case, woke means compassion and responsibility toward others. He might also remember that the only reason he is able to play in front of crowds again is because all those suckers got vaccinated.”

And unlike Rodgers, who turned to Rogan, Abdul-Jabbar actually quotes scientific data and facts in his essay. Abdul-Jabbar closed by writing, “I can’t help but think of Colin Kaepernick, who was blacklisted by the NFL for passively expressing his frustration with systemic racism — a brave act meant to help his community and save lives — while multi-millionaire Rodgers will continue to play, despite lying to the fans and his teammates and putting innocent lives in danger. Time will tell whether Rodgers will be judged by the content of his character or the strength of his throwing arm.”

Abdul-Jabbar wasn’t the only one to blast away at Rodgers on Monday. Howard Stern went off, saying, “If there was decency in this world, you know, I would throw this guy out of the football league so fast. What he did to his fellow teammates. This (expletive) guy, they should throw him out of the league so fast.” Stern went on to say, “We have no time for idiots in this country anymore. We don’t want you. We want you to all, either go to the hospital — stay home — die there with your COVID. Don’t take the cure, but don’t clog up our hospitals with your COIVD when you finally get it. Stay home, don’t bother with science, it’s too late.”

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith called it the “most embarrassing moment of Aaron Rodgers’ career.” And, I should’ve mentioned this the other day, but ESPN’s Mina Kimes offered this measured, but strong analysis of the Rodgers situation. It’s a must-see.

And, oh, one more: The New York Times’ Ken Belson and Emily Anthes with “Scientists Fight a New Source of Vaccine Misinformation: Aaron Rodgers.” It includes this tremendous quote from David O’Connor, who is described as a virologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Packers fan: “Aaron Rodgers is a smart guy. (But) he’s still vulnerable to the blind side blitz of misinformation.”

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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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