September 30, 2021

Before we get started today, a quick note. There will be no Poynter Report on Friday. I will return Monday. Have a great weekend. Now onto today’s report …

YouTube is taking a stand.

It’s kind of late to the game, and we’ll see how effective it will be.

But it’s taking a stand.

On Wednesday, YouTube announced that it’s banning the accounts of several high-profile anti-vaxxers, including Joseph Mercola and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., in an effort to crack down on misinformation about vaccines that has run rampant on its site.

In a blog post, YouTube, which is owned by Google, said, “… content that falsely alleges that approved vaccines are dangerous and cause chronic health effects, claims that vaccines do not reduce transmission or contraction of disease, or contains misinformation on the substances contained in vaccines will be removed. This would include content that falsely says that approved vaccines cause autism, cancer or infertility, or that substances in vaccines can track those who receive them.”

The Washington Post’s Gerrit De Vynck wrote, “Misinformation researchers have for years said the popularity of anti-vaccine content on YouTube was contributing to growing skepticism of lifesaving vaccines in the United States and around the world.”

So what took YouTube so long to crack down?

Matt Halprin, YouTube’s vice president of global trust and safety, told the Post that it was focusing on misinformation about coronavirus vaccines. It then expanded the ban when they saw misinformation about other vaccines. Halprin told the Post, “Developing robust policies takes time. We wanted to launch a policy that is comprehensive, enforceable with consistency and adequately addresses the challenge.”

Google already had some measures in place to attempt to stop misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. But this new ban addresses long-approved vaccines against such things as measles and hepatitis B, as well as applying to “general statements about vaccines.”

The New York Times’ Davey Alba wrote, “The new policy puts YouTube more in line with Facebook and Twitter. In February, Facebook said it would remove posts with erroneous claims about vaccines, including assertions that vaccines cause autism or that it is safer for people to contract the coronavirus than to receive vaccinations against it. But the platform remains a popular destination for people discussing misinformation, such as the unfounded claim that the pharmaceutical drug ivermectin is an effective treatment for Covid-19. In March, Twitter introduced its own policy that explained the penalties for sharing lies about the virus and vaccines. But the company has a five ‘strikes’ rule before it permanently bars people for violating its coronavirus misinformation policy.”

CNBC’s Jessica Bursztynsky reports that, aside from Mercola and Kennedy, YouTube also has removed pages associated with Erin Elizabeth and Sherri Tenpenny. De Vynck wrote in the Post, “When the pandemic hit, and vaccines became a topic that was suddenly relevant to everyone, not just parents of young children, many went looking for answers online. Influencers like Mercola, Kennedy and alternative health advocate Erin Elizabeth Finn were able to supercharge their followings. Some anti-vaccine influencers, including Mercola, also sell natural health products, giving them a financial incentive to promote skepticism of mainstream medicine.”

In its post, YouTube said, “Today’s policy update is an important step to address vaccine and health misinformation on our platform, and we’ll continue to invest across the board in the policies and products that bring high quality information to our viewers and the entire YouTube community.”

Going into overtime

My Poynter colleague, Angela Fu, has a stunning story up this morning on She reports that multiple journalists from Gannett have told her about working overtime without pay.

This controversy went viral earlier this month when Rebekah Sanders, a reporter at The Arizona Republic, tweeted that it had been “drilled” into her that working overtime without pay was part of paying dues in the business. She added, “It robbed me of sleep, dinners with loved ones & money that I rightfully earned. Life is short. Don’t work for nothing.”

Yet, some — such as another reporter at the Republic — did chalk up unpaid overtime as all a part of “gaining experience” that would pay off down the road. That reporter backed off those comments, but that got the ball rolling on this conversation.

Fu writes, “… several journalists at The Arizona Republic and other Gannett papers shared instances with Poynter of working uncompensated overtime, as recently as last month.”

She also wrote, “Several reporters said negative responses to their request for overtime discouraged them from asking for it in the future. It was easier to work those extra hours and not risk creating conflict by trying to log them.”

Gannett gave Fu a statement, saying in part, “Gannett values all our employees. We strive to provide meaningful opportunities and fair compensation in a very challenging time for our industry and we strongly disagree that there is a culture of exploitation.”

Be sure to check out Fu’s excellent story for more.

A grim prediction

I’ve written several times over the past year that no one has covered COVID-19 with more authority, analysis and insight than The Atlantic’s Ed Yong. He won a Pulitzer Prize last year for his work. So whenever he writes about COVID-19, I’m all in.

But, yeesh, the headline alone on his latest piece gives me the shakes: “We’re Already Barreling Toward The Next Pandemic.”

Yong tweeted, “The opening chapter of the next pandemic is being written right now. I know, I know. Next one?! Can’t we get through this one first? No, sadly, we can’t. History tells us we don’t have time. Learn from the past immediately, or repeat it imminently.”

He adds, “In some ways, Delta was an audition for the next pandemic — and one that we flubbed. Many of the actions we took this spring were headlong dives into the neglect phase of the cycle. This is a warning about how swiftly complacency can set in.”

Yong also previews more, tweeting, “We need to think about preparedness differently, in terms of not just vaccines & tech solutions, but also social measures like paid sick leave, universal healthcare, and more. Social equity is not a side-quest of preparedness but its foundation.”

As usual, it’s another must-read piece from Yong.

Strong piece

“CBS Mornings” co-host Nate Burleson, second from left, speaks with Kevin Love, far left, DiDi Richards, second from right, and Brandon Marshall. (Courtesy: CBS News)

New “CBS Mornings” co-host Nate Burleson had one of his first bigger stories on Wednesday, interviewing athletes dealing with mental health challenges. Burleson, a former NFL star, was the perfect person to report on this story. He interviewed NBA star Kevin Love, WNBA rookie DiDi Richards and former NFL star Brandon Marshall.

Love told Burleson about his panic attack on the court in 2017 and trying to figure out what happened after all his tests at the Cleveland Clinic came back clear. Love said, “So to me, I’m thinking, ‘What the hell just happened?’ I was taught to compartmentalize. I was taught to not speak about it, not show weakness. I think as athletes we can all confide in that and understand that in a way.”

Richards told Burleson about suffering an injury that left her temporarily paralyzed: “As athletes, they think we’re robots. You get hurt, OK, they’re hurt, they’ll be back. I started thinking like that — ‘OK I got hurt, yes, but I’m coming back’ — instead of thinking, ‘I’m hurt, I need to figure out how I’m going to deal with this and how I am feeling deep down inside.’ As a Black female, you’re taught to swallow that (expletive). Just swallow it and figure it out on your own.”

And Marshall talked about the panic attack that set in after he contracted COVID-19. Marshall told Burleson, “If this continues to happen, then I’m going to have to go to the hospital, and they put me on a ventilator. And then what happens if I’m under? Now I can’t control it. And all I could think is I just want my wife to come in here, if she can just come in here and let me hold on to her leg. I need somebody to touch me, to be here with me. No one could come in that room.”

It was a strong piece that comes on the heels of other high-profile athletes talking about mental health. Tennis star Naomi Osaka is taking a break from tennis to get in a better place, and star gymnast Simone Biles opted out of most of the Olympics because she didn’t feel she was mentally prepared. In an interview with New York Magazine published just this week, Biles said she should have quit “way before” the Olympics and that she remains a “work in progress.”

The mental health of athletes remains an important story that requires lots of attention and reporting going forward.

Sad news

Nick Oza, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, has died following injuries sustained in a car accident. He was 57. Oza had been with The Arizona Republic since 2006.

In an obit in the Republic, Richard Ruelas wrote Oza was “known for an immersive style of photography, working as a documentarian and following individuals through life-changing events. His signature images captured emotion, often expressed through a subject’s eyes or hands. Though he often was with people as they suffered through trying times — cleaning up a hurricane-ravaged house, anxious about a looming deportation — Oza had a disarming personality that put subjects at ease.”

Oza was part of the Republic’s Pulitzer Prize-winning team in explanatory reporting for a 2017 project called “The Wall,” about President Donald Trump’s planned border wall. Oza also was a part of the Biloxi Sun Herald’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Oza was with the Sun Herald’s sister publication — The Telegraph of Macon, Georgia — at the time.

The Republic’s Daniel Gonzalez, who often worked with Oza on immigration stories, told Ruelas, “He was always looking for that really beautiful poetic image that captured a story in a way that the words couldn’t. … He was trying to see things at a much higher level. He knew the reporter would do their job. He wouldn’t want photos to be redundant of the words. He wanted photos to say something at another level that only a photograph could do.”

Be sure to check out Ruelas’ touching tribute to Oza.

Katie Nolan and ESPN split

Katie Nolan, hosting the Clio Sports Awards in 2019. (Charles Sykes/Invision for Clio Awards/AP Images)

This tweet was sent out by Katie Nolan, who apparently now is formerly of ESPN:

“I’ve thought about sending this tweet for weeks and I still have no clue how to make it not make you all roll your eyes. Alas: the obvious thing has happened. I no longer work at ESPN. I’m really grateful for my time here. I made incredible friendships and valuable mistakes.”

She added, “This year of slowing down has affected me on a cellular level. If you listen to the podcast this isn’t news to you. What’s next for me is to figure out how/where/when this new me can use the skills the old me acquired to make the stuff I think needs making. And maybe a vacation?”

Nolan joined ESPN in 2017 after being with Fox Sports, where she was known for her show “Garbage Time.” She won a Sports Emmy for that program. Of late, Nolan has been hosting an ESPN podcast called “Sports? With Katie Nolan.”

Nolan is talented, funny, interesting, charismatic on TV and just far enough outside the box that she isn’t like many other TV sports personalities. And she has a following. Yet no one has been able to find a vehicle for her that gets the most out of her talents or lasts for the long haul. She seemed a natural to do something on ESPN+, which was the case for a while, but that didn’t pan out either.

She had been working regularly on ESPN’s “Highly Questionable,” but that show was canceled earlier this month as ESPN shook up some of its daytime programming.

What’s next? Well, as you can see from her tweets, that’s to be determined.

Media tidbits

Chuck Todd in a promo photo for “Meet the Press Report.” (Courtesy: NBC News)

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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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