March 22, 2022

Here’s the chilling lede in a story Monday by The Associated Press’ Mstyslav Chernov:

MARIUPOL, Ukraine (AP) — The Russians were hunting us down. They had a list of names, including ours, and they were closing in.

We were the only international journalists left in the Ukrainian city, and we had been documenting its siege by Russian troops for more than two weeks. We were reporting inside the hospital when gunmen began stalking the corridors. Surgeons gave us white scrubs to wear as camouflage.

Suddenly at dawn, a dozen soldiers burst in: “Where are the journalists, for (expletive) sake?”

I looked at their armbands, blue for Ukraine, and tried to calculate the odds that they were Russians in disguise. I stepped forward to identify myself. “We’re here to get you out,” they said.

The walls of the surgery shook from artillery and machine gun fire outside, and it seemed safer to stay inside. But the Ukrainian soldiers were under orders to take us with them.

Chernov is a video journalist for the AP. And in this remarkable story — “20 days in Mariupol: The team documented a city’s agony” — Chernov gives his account of the siege of Mariupol as told to correspondent Lori Hinnant with remarkable photos from Evgeniy Maloletka.

It’s an extraordinary story.

Be warned. It contains difficult-to-see photos and gut-wrenching examples of what the journalists saw during their coverage.

But it’s critical to read. Please do so.

The Washington Post’s Elahe Izadi wrote, “If it were not for two Associated Press journalists in the besieged city of Mariupol, the world might not have learned what has been happening there as immediately as we have — nor in such irrefutable, horrifying detail.”

And it’s important to note what the journalists who covered this story — extremely well — were dealing with.

Julie Pace, senior vice president and executive editor of the AP, told Izadi, “They’ve been subject to the same conditions as anybody else who’s been in Mariupol. When you consider how difficult getting that information out has been, it really just makes me extremely proud of their commitment to making sure that people know what’s happening in that location.”

Another Ukraine rescue

Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom” gave some detail in a segment on Monday on how Fox News journalist Benjamin Hall was evacuated from Ukraine after being injured in an attack near Kyiv that killed Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski and producer/fixer Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova.

Hall’s evacuation was facilitated by a nonprofit organization called “Save Our Allies.” Its co-founder, Sarah Verardo, spoke with Fox News anchor Dana Perino and said, “This is a very complex situation, but we have people on our team that are willing to go into harm’s way to protect those from evil and especially when we got that call for help from Fox, we could not move quickly enough to mobilize a multi-national effort to secure Ben’s extraction from a very dangerous combat zone.”

Verardo said the effort was led by “a special operations and intelligence veteran that is very experienced in precision extraction in hostile environments.”

She added, “And when we got the call from Fox and, of course, my 10-year long relationship with Fox and we all know how supportive you are to so many different causes, we could not move quickly enough to make sure that Ben, not only his extraction, but he was stabilized through field medicine by our team that is also led by trauma surgeons, experienced in military battlefield trauma, as well as our team of special operations veterans and intelligence community veterans. And so they moved heaven and earth to move Ben not only quickly out of an active, hostile combat zone, but safely due to the grave condition he was in and his injuries.”

The Pentagon, as well as Polish and Ukrainian militaries, also played key roles in Hall’s evacuation. Perino said on air that Hall is now recovering at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

Getting to the truth in Russia

In a story for Poynter, PolitiFact’s Jon Greenberg has a conversation with a Russian millennial about what information is being learned and shared inside Russia: “Finding truth, avoiding jail: The news Russians can see in wartime.”

The millennial, named Alexey, tells Greenberg about the frustration of having arguments with older family members, who, because of all the propaganda, simply won’t believe what is really happening in Ukraine. But people like Alexey keep trying to seek and pass along the truth.

Alexey told Greenberg, “I had an argument with my elder sister on some facts of civilian casualties. She denied the evidences that there were dead innocent people there. She doesn’t deny now. And I was alone to prove that. Some of my friends were also able to plant seeds of doubt in propaganda, so this is not pointless.”

Making an impact

Speaking of getting the word out in Russia, check out this piece from PolitiFact editor-in-chief Angie Drobnic Holan: “What Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Russia video can teach us all about talking to the misinformed.”

Holan writes, “Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent video to the people of Russia in the war in Ukraine was a master class in how to get people to reconsider their views. We can all learn from it.”

Holan then details the things Schwarzenegger did right in his now-viral video.

More notable pieces regarding Russia-Ukraine

A historic day

Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is sworn in for her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

History was made Monday. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson began four days of Supreme Court confirmation hearings on Monday. She gave her opening remarks, a major step in the process of becoming the first Black woman on the Supreme Court in its 233-year history.

Jackson told the Senate Judiciary Committee, “I have been a judge for nearly a decade now, and I take that responsibility and my duty to be independent very seriously. I decide cases from a neutral posture. I evaluate the facts, and I interpret and apply the law to the facts of the case before me, without fear or favor, consistent with my judicial oath.”

Jackson’s remarks came after nearly four hours of opening comments from the 22 Republican and Democratic senators on the committee. Republicans on the committee have promised a civil confirmation process. However, The New York Times’ Katie Rogers wrote, “… the first moments of gentility gave way to Republicans on the committee who bitterly recalled personal attacks they and previous nominees had weathered, and suggested, without evidence, that she was more closely linked to progressive groups than she had previously indicated.”

In her “The 5-Minute Fix” newsletter, The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips wrote, “Republicans are going to attack her no matter what

They know her confirmation is probably a foregone conclusion. The Senate (not the House of Representatives) votes on whether to confirm a president’s nominee to the court, and Senate Democrats have enough votes to confirm her. She might even get a few Republican votes.

On Monday, Republicans laid out their plan of attack. It’s multi-pronged: Jackson, as a public defender who represented people accused of a crime who can’t afford a lawyer, may be soft on crime. (She is expected to aggressively rebut that.) And they will try to paint a picture of a judge with an activist agenda, primarily because liberal activist groups support her.”

The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake gave his “4 takeaways from Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearing.”

Jackson begins answering questions from the senators today.

Reporter killed in crossfire of shooting

Virginian-Pilot newspaper reporter Sierra Jenkins was one of two people killed during a shooting early Saturday outside a restaurant and bar in Norfolk, Virginia. She was 25.

Three others were injured in the shooting, which is being investigated. The manager of the restaurant said Jenkins was caught in the crossfire. In my Monday newsletter, I linked to a story in The Virginian-Pilot about the tragedy.

Here’s more about Jenkins.

The Virginian-Pilot’s Kim O’Brien Root wrote, “Friends and colleagues called Jenkins a hardworking, dedicated and curious reporter with infectious energy; she had a bubbly personality and a big heart, someone who seemed wiser than her 25 years. Smart and idealistic, she wanted to make her mark on the world, said her editor, Brian Root.”

Before joining The Virginian-Pilot in late 2020, Jenkins interned at Atlanta Magazine and CNN and worked as a news assistant for CNN Health. On Monday, CNN’s Brianna Keilar gave an on-air tribute to Jenkins, talking about Jenkins’ work covering COVID-19 and how she sent the CNN team a photo of her holding up her first front-page story for The Virginian-Pilot.

Keilar said, “Sierra Jenkins — a bright light in a world in need of them taken far too soon.”

Amazon gets its man

Broadcaster Al Michaels in 2019. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

It’s a done deal. Al Michaels, arguably the best play-by-play voice in NFL history, is joining Amazon as the streaming service’s first lead announcer on next season’s “Thursday Night Football” package. The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand was first with the story.

Michaels to Amazon has been rumored for quite some time. Marchand reported that sources told him Michaels will be paid “near the Joe Buck neighborhood.” Buck just signed a five-year, $75 million deal with ESPN to call “Monday Night Football.”

Michaels will team with Kirk Herbstreit, ESPN’s lead college football analyst, on “Thursday Night Football.” Herbstreit will continue his role at ESPN, too.

Michaels, 77, has been calling NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” since 2006 and from all accounts NBC was pleased with his work. As it should be. He remains the gold standard of NFL play-by-play announcers. But NBC has had Mike Tirico in waiting, and clearly felt it was time to give Tirico the permanent job. Marchand reports Michaels still might do a game or two for NBC, including a postseason game.

ProPublica moves

ProPublica — the independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism — announced Monday that Tracy Weber is being promoted from deputy managing editor to managing editor. Weber succeeds Robin Fields, whom ProPublica says is “returning to the reporting ranks for an assignment that will take full advantage of her abilities and range.”

Weber joined ProPublica as a senior reporter when it launched in 2008. Prior to ProPublica, Weber worked for 11 years at the Los Angeles Times. She became a senior editor in 2014 and became deputy managing editor in the fall of 2020.

Stephen Engelberg, ProPublica’s editor-in-chief, said in a statement, “Tracy Weber is one of the finest journalists I’ve ever worked with. I’ve never seen anyone better at getting a reluctant source to go on the record. As an editor, she has displayed a remarkable gift for storytelling. Again and again, reporters under her do the best work of their careers.”

Meanwhile, Alexandra Zayas is being promoted from assistant managing editor to deputy managing editor. Zayas joined ProPublica in 2017 as a senior editor after 12 years at the Tampa Bay Times, where she was an investigative reporter and enterprise editor.

Here’s ProPublica’s story about the moves.

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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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