Two years ago at this time — well into the summer of 2020 — COVID-19 was the dominant news story. Well, that and the contentious race to see who was going to win the 2020 presidential election.
But the pandemic had a stranglehold on the world and this country. Obviously, because of its devastating impact, COVID-19 had to be the prevailing news story. It was too critical to be anything else .
While writing this newsletter, I naturally talk to news leaders and journalists all the time. As we started to see some optimism regarding COVID-19 because of vaccines, I often would ask journalists this question just to get a gauge: “Is there one important story right now that isn’t getting the attention it warrants because much of our resources are about covering COVID-19?”
The answer I got most often: climate change.
COVID-19 hasn’t completely gone away and it’s still in the news cycle, which feels like a dizzying daily scramble. We have Donald Trump, the upcoming midterms and many of the key issues that could impact those midterms, such as the economy and abortion.
But we are starting to see more attention paid to climate coverage for this reason: We are beyond a critical stage.
The lead story on CNN.com for much of the day Tuesday: “New water cuts coming for Southwest as Colorado River falls into Tier 2 shortage.” CNN’s Ella Nilsen and Rachel Ramirez write, “An extraordinary drought in the West is drying up the Colorado River and draining the nation’s largest reservoirs — Lake Mead and Lake Powell. And amid the overuse of the river and the aridification of the region, the federal government is implementing new mandatory water cuts and asking states to devise a plan to save the river basin.”
What does this mean? Nilsen and Ramirez write, “The Tier 2 shortage means Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will have to further reduce their Colorado River use beginning in January.”
Meanwhile, the homepage of Tuesday’s Washington Post had these two headlines:
- “In America’s fastest-growing metro, a rising fear water will run out.”
- “The Northeast is in the middle of an intense drought.”
Earlier this week, a study from the First Street Foundation claimed that more than 100 million Americans may experience a heat index greater than 125 degrees by the year 2053.
By highlighting these stories, news organizations are showing the potential and real impacts that climate change is having on everyday lives. It’s one thing to talk in generalities about global warming and such, but it’s another to reach audiences by saying, “Here is how your life is being impacted today and here is how it will be affected tomorrow.”
It’s also encouraging to see news outlets dedicating resources to covering the climate. In March of this year, for instance, The Washington Post announced its leadership team for its new Climate and Environment Department. At that time, the Post said, “The department of more than 30 reporters, visual journalists, data experts and editors will anchor a newsroom-wide and globe-spanning effort to cover climate and extreme weather and their impact on humanity through revelatory reporting, visual-first storytelling and innovative forms of data-driven journalism.”
The result is this landing page of impressive climate coverage.
Meanwhile, Tuesday was a big day as President Joe Biden signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act, which helps tackle climate change. The Associated Press’ Lisa Mascaro wrote, “… the bill brings the biggest investment ever in the U.S. to fight climate change.”
Mascaro wrote, “The bill would infuse nearly $375 billion over the decade in climate change-fighting strategies that Democrats believe could put the country on a path to cut greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030, and ‘would represent the single biggest climate investment in U.S. history, by far.’”
By the way, check out the work from Francesca Paris, Alicia Parlapiano, Margot Sanger-Katz and Eve Washington of The New York Times’ Upshot team: “A Detailed Picture of What’s in the Democrats’ Climate and Health Bill.”
A new boss at CNBC
Mark Hoffman is stepping down as the longtime boss of CNBC and will be replaced by NBCUniversal executive KC Sullivan. Hoffman has been with the network for 28 years. He was named president of CNBC in 2005 and named chairman in 2015.
NBCUniversal News Group chairman Cesar Conde said in a statement, “The growth and success of CNBC over so many years is a testament to Mark’s leadership over a nearly three-decade-long career marked by many wins along the way. During his tenure, CNBC became a world leader and every year it has grown better and stronger. It continues to expand both domestically and internationally through new platforms and plays an essential role in keeping audiences and markets informed in real time about consequential issues and events.”
CNBC now turns to Sullivan, the president and managing director of Global Advertising and Partnerships at NBCUniversal. Before that, he had other roles with the company, including as president and managing director of CNBC International, chief financial officer of the News Group and CFO of CNBC.
Sullivan will officially take over on Sept. 12 and Hoffman will stay on to help with the transition.
Deadline’s Ted Johnson wrote, “CNBC is one of NBCU’s most profitable news assets and, in addition to digital expansions of CNBC.com, has increased subscription offerings under Hoffman. Last year, one of the network’s stars, Jim Cramer, signed a new deal that included the creation of the CNBC Investing Club. Hoffman also hired Shepard Smith in 2020, but his 7 PM newscast has not drawn substantial viewership.”
Scary lead of the day
Check out this opening to a story from CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck. It’s both real and extremely frightening. In fact, it’s frightening because it is real. Here goes:
“The Republican nominee for secretary of state in Arizona is a self-proclaimed member of the far-right extremist group the Oath Keepers who repeatedly shared anti-government conspiracies and posts about stockpiling ammunition on social media. CNN’s KFile team uncovered previously unreported posts from Mark Finchem, an Arizona state representative who won his party’s nomination with the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, on several social media websites linked from his since-deleted former Twitter account. The posts included a Pinterest account with a ‘Treason Watch List,’ and pins of photos of Barack Obama alongside imagery of a man clad in Nazi attire making a Nazi salute; Finchem also shared photos of the Holocaust claiming it could happen in the United States.”
Finchem declined comment to CNN because he said CNN isn’t credible.
The examples of Finchem’s rhetoric deserve your attention.
Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin tweeted the story and wrote, “Stark raving nuts brought to you by today’s GOP.”
Leading the way
Know what the No. 1 program on TV is? It continues to be ABC’s “World News Tonight.” According to Nielsen, the evening newscast anchored by David Muir has been TV’s top program for 18 weeks in a row. Last week, it drew 7.53 million viewers.
All the evening newscasts on major television networks continue to do well. The “NBC Nightly News” had 6.17 million viewers last week and the “CBS Evening News” had 4.44 million viewers. Add up the three and you get 18.143 million viewers.
Tuesday was another primary day in America with notable voting taking place in Wyoming and Alaska. I’ll have more in Thursday’s newsletter, but there were two big questions going into Tuesday night. Would former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin win her primary for a Congressional seat in Alaska? And would Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney lose her primary, mostly because of her public opposition to former President Donald Trump and her role as vice chair of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection?
Cheney recently told The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin, “If the cost of standing up for the Constitution is losing the House seat, then that’s a price I’m willing to pay.”
Doc of the day
Remember the catfish story involving former Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o? It’s a story that gripped the sports world back in 2012 when Te’o — one of the best players in college football — talked about having a girlfriend who was diagnosed with leukemia after she was in a car accident. Turns out, it was all a hoax.
The story is, in some ways, still unbelievable. Now Netflix has released part of a fascinating documentary series called, “Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist.” (Here’s the trailer.)
Chapman May, one of the executive producers, told Deadline’s Matthew Carey, “People in the sports world have been kind of fascinated by this story. Neither Manti Te’o or Naya, the person behind the scandal, has talked about this really in depth before.”
For more on the story and the documentary, Esquire’s Laura Martin has “The Complicated True Story of ‘The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist’ and Manti Te’o’s Catfish.” In addition, Te’o appeared on Tuesday’s “CBS Mornings.”
- The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi with “Why the media declared Anne Heche dead twice.”
- Mediaite’s Jackson Richman with “Fox Host Kayleigh McEnany Said ‘Wait For the Facts to Come Out’ on FBI Raid — She Has Done Anything But.”
- Canada Land’s Jesse Brown with “Bell Executive Who Fired Lisa LaFlamme Interfered With CTV News Coverage, Says Colleague.”
- And more on that story from the Toronto Star’s Ivy Mak, Joanna Chiu and Jeremy Nuttall: “‘The optics of it are not good’: Lisa LaFlamme’s shock ouster at CTV stuns colleagues, but not industry watchers.”
- Veteran journalist Katie Couric interviews Fitbit co-founder James Park in “Heart-Rate Monitors Are Just the Beginning: Here’s the Fascinating Future of Wearable Tech.”
- Axios’ Sara Fischer with “Conde Nast on pace to top 2021 revenues.”
- In this clip, Denny’s employees aren’t happy with a local news crew reporting on health violations.
- Alex Wagner’s MSNBC show debuted Tuesday night. The Washington Post’s Jeremy Barr wrote, “Alex Wagner’s challenge at MSNBC: Keeping the Rachel Maddow superfans.”
For Vogue, Imeime Umana (with photos from the great Annie Leibovitz) writes about the new Supreme Court justice in “The Grace and Promise of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Michael M. Phillips with “Hundreds of Somali-American Youths Held Captive in Rehab Centers; ‘They Were Torturing Me.’”
New York Times’ sports columnist Kurt Streeter with “Can a Tennis Player Share His Heart, and Courts, With Pickleball?”
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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