March 1, 2022

The crisis in Ukraine appears to be growing worse.

While there was hope — perhaps faint, but still hope — that talks between delegations from Russia and Ukraine on Monday could lead to eventual peace, the situation looks as dire as ever. Ukrainians continue to put up a courageous fight, but Russia appears to have ramped up its attack.

On Monday night, the headline on The New York Times’ website blared: “RUSSIAN ROCKETS BATTER UKRAINE.”

CNN’s website said: “Large Russian military convoy reaches outskirts of Kyiv.” And The Wall Street Journal: “Ukraine Digs In as Russia Intensifies Attacks.”

The United Nations reported Monday evening that more than 400 civilians had been killed. ABC News reported nearly 20 have been children.

The news is constantly changing, and media coverage continues to shine a light on these horrific events. As I’ve written many times over the past week, what might be true one moment might have changed the next. So be sure to go to your trusted news source that has reporters actually in Ukraine to get the best sense of what is happening.

While we should never dismiss the courage of the journalists putting themselves in harm’s way to bring the world the latest news on the ground in Ukraine, what I found to be the most meaningful part of Monday’s coverage is what kind of impact the economic sanctions are having on Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.

For example, The Wall Street Journal’s Ian Talley wrote, “Blockade on Russia Central Bank Neutralizes Defense Against Sanctions, U.S. Says.”

And, throughout the day, the networks had excellent analysis of the real consequences of the sanctions.

There continues to be incredible coverage. Here are some of Monday’s highlights:

  • In the most disturbing (but important) report of the day, CNN’s Matthew Chance walked across a bridge on a highway littered with mangled cars, trucks and military equipment. It looked like a junkyard, but it was the remains from a battle so fresh that some of the cars were still smoldering. At one point, Chance came across a dead Russian soldier. Moments later, he didn’t realize he was crouching over an unexploded grenade. “Let’s move away from that,” he said calmly but forcefully. It was a mesmerizing video, and again shows the real impact of what is happening in Ukraine.
  • CNN’s Scott McLean had a difficult-to-watch report of families, especially women and children, desperately trying to board trains to get out of the country. Some traveled days to reach the station, only to be turned away until more trains arrive at a later time. One woman and child were offered spots on a train, but she would not leave her husband, who was not permitted to board the train.
  • ABC News chief national correspondent Matt Gutman had  heartbreaking video of a child holding her mother’s hand while crying into her stuffed animal — another example of a child whose father had to leave her behind to fight. The report closed with the girl on the train, crying while pressing her hand up against the window.
  • Fox News foreign correspondent Trey Yingst continues to provide superb reports from Ukraine. In one report, a man in a town square said, “I am not good at arms. But I have my kitchen knife. And the day I see Russian pigs here in Ukraine, I will slaughter their throats.”
  • CNN’s Jake Tapper had an insightful interview with former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who told Tapper, “It’s clear that the post-Cold War era in Europe is over. So the notion by anybody that (there’s) hope that somehow through economic engagement that Putin can be convinced to play by international rules and norms is probably extinguished by now, or should be.” But, Esper added, Putin has already done three things that he didn’t want to do: He better unified NATO, he now has more NATO troops on his border and he has pushed Ukraine further “into the arms of the West.”
  • For National Geographic, David Beard with “Traveling light, Ukrainian photographer flees, again, from Russian invaders.”
  • The Washington Post’s Elizabeth Dwoskin and Cat Zakrzewski with “Facebook and TikTok ban Russian state media in Europe.”
  • CNN has launched a special open-ended season of the “Tug of War” podcast. In the first episode, chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward and senior field producer Brent Swails discuss what they’re seeing on the ground in Kyiv and Putin’s possible end game.

Again, this is just a very small percentage of the remarkable reporting that is being done around the clock. I wish I had the space and you had the time to go through all of it. But just turn on your TVs, open your computers, and go to the dozens of places that offer some of the strongest reporting that we’ve seen in recent memory.

State of the Union

The chamber of the House of Representatives at the Capitol, where President Joe Biden will deliver his State of the Union speech tonight. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

President Joe Biden will give his State of the Union address tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern.

The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin wrote, “I don’t envy the White House speechwriters. They no doubt spent weeks preparing for a State of the Union address touting the economic recovery, the prospect of a post-pandemic return to normal and the administration’s inflation-fighting plans. Then the world changed.”

What’s happening in Ukraine almost certainly has the speechwriters rewriting. On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told MSNBC’s Peter Alexander and Kristen Welker, “Certainly, what we’re seeing on the ground in Ukraine, the fact that the president has built a coalition of countries around the world to stand up to Russian aggression, to stand up to President Putin, to put in place crippling sanctions, that will be a part of what people will hear in the speech. That wouldn’t have been the case three months ago.”

Rubin wrote that Biden needs to focus on Russia: “Biden needs a very different State of the Union. Instead of defending remarkable domestic progress, with foreign policy relegated to the back end of the speech, he needs to flip the order and build the speech around a historic moment when the United States is leading a worldwide coalition in defense of freedom. This is a time for public education.”

Here are some more thoughts and previews of tonight’s State of the Union:

Now it’s official

We knew this was coming, but now it’s official. Chris Licht will be the next president of CNN.

Licht is a veteran TV producer who helped create MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and helped revamp “CBS This Morning.” He is currently the executive producer of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

CNN’s parent company, WarnerMedia, is in the final stages of its merger with Discovery. That should wrap up in April. On Monday, Discovery CEO David Zaslav said, “We plan to appoint Chris Licht as the new Chairman and CEO of CNN Global, hopefully starting May 1.”

According to CNN’s Brian Stelter, Licht wrote to CNN staffers, “I know you have a lot of questions. Perhaps the biggest one is how will CNN change? The honest answer is that I don’t know yet. David Zaslav has given me one simple directive: To ensure that CNN remains the global leader in NEWS as part of Warner Bros. Discovery.”

Meanwhile, Zaslav wrote to CNN employees, “I am a news junkie at the core and was lucky earlier in my career at NBC to play a role in starting CNBC and MSNBC. I have long been a big fan and admirer of CNN with its extended leadership in breaking news, global news, and investigative reporting. The coverage most recently from Ukraine has been extraordinary.”

Licht takes over for Jeff Zucker, who resigned last month because, in part, he had not disclosed that he was in a relationship with one of his top lieutenants at the network. Licht has a sterling reputation in the TV industry because of his work on shows such as “Morning Joe” and Colbert’s late-night show. But now he will be charged with running an entire network that has shown just how strong and valuable it is over the past week covering the war in Ukraine.

He wrote to CNN staffers, “I am a journalist at heart. While I have enjoyed every minute at ‘The Late Show,’ I am joining CNN because I feel a genuine pull to return to news at such a critical moment in history. CNN is uniquely positioned to be a beacon of meaningful, impactful journalism for the world. I am committed to upholding and building on CNN’s legacy.”

Axios’ big hire

Axios is making a major push into local news and on Monday, it made a major hire. Jamie Stockwell, a deputy national editor for The New York Times who has overseen coverage of Texas, has been named executive editor for Axios Local. Stockwell was previously a managing editor of the San Antonio Express-News and a reporter at The Washington Post.

Axios’ Sara Fischer wrote, “Stockwell will oversee Axios’ plan to expand its coverage to 25 local cities by the summer, and 50 by the end of 2023. Eventually, it hopes to be in over 100 cities and every state.”

As Fischer noted, Axios has local newsletters in Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Chicago, Columbus, D.C., Dallas, Denver, Des Moines, Nashville, Northwest Arkansas, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and the Twin Cities. It has plans to launch newsletters in Baltimore, Boston, Detroit, Houston, Miami, Phoenix, Raleigh, Richmond, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Seattle.

In a tweet, Stockwell wrote, “It’s truly a dream role, an opportunity to reinvent and reimagine local journalism with a team of visionary leaders. Those who know me know how passionate I am about local reporting, and how critical I believe it is to reach readers in their communities. We are a divided and polarized nation whose future is at stake. I believe the solution begins with local journalism.”

Charlotte Observer journalists launch union drive

For this item, I turn it over to my Poynter colleague Angela Fu.

Journalists at The Charlotte Observer announced Friday they are unionizing with the NewsGuild and are asking McClatchy to voluntarily recognize their union.

“We seek to ensure a firm future for the newspaper,” they wrote in their mission statement. “That future must be built on fair and equitable pay, transparency from our leadership and a guarantee of continued opportunities for future generations of Observer journalists.”

Nine McClatchy newsrooms have launched union drives since July 2020, when hedge fund Chatham Asset Management won the auction to buy the chain out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. The Observer is the 10th. In their announcement, Observer journalists mention the acquisition by Chatham and write that they are seeking job protections after “years of instability and cuts.”

In recent years, McClatchy has voluntarily recognized most of its newsrooms’ unions. If the Observer’s union is not recognized, journalists there will have the option of petitioning the National Labor Relations Board for an election to get their union certified. Unionization has become increasingly popular within the media industry over the past decade. News publications have launched more than 200 union drives since 2012, and the vast majority of them have been successful.

Changes at The Undefeated

Big changes at The Undefeated — the ESPN site that covers the intersection of race, sports and culture.

It’s changing its name and expanding its coverage area.

The new name: Andscape. And the coverage? Raina Kelley, Andscape’s editor-in-chief, tells The New York Times’ Brooks Barnes, “It’s time to talk about Black and everything. Far beyond just sports and athletes.”

Barnes added, “How do you be an individual as a Black person in America with your own unique set of interests, some of which are bound together by melanin, but not all of them? And how do you feel whole? We wanted to create a space where Black people could be Black people: Black led, Black P.O.V., absolutely. But also where there were no definitions and no rules about what being Black meant, what you had to talk about.”

The Undefeated launched in 2016 and was a part of But under this new name and rebrand, it will have a much larger presence — including live events, music, TV and film.

So why the name change? Barnes pointed out that “ESPN and Disney do not fully own The Undefeated trademark outside of news and commentary. There is an Undefeated apparel and sneaker company that has no affiliation, for instance.”

Kelley told Barnes, “We couldn’t be everything we wanted to be. Now that we’re growing across the Walt Disney Company, we needed a name that was unencumbered completely.”

NYT-Athletic news

Back in January, the media world was stunned when The New York Times bought the sports website, The Athletic, for $550 million.

Sports and media observers now are waiting to see what the acquisition will end up looking like. There’s no question that the Times is committed to The Athletic. That’s obvious seeing as how they spent a half-billion dollars to get it.

Now another interesting sign: Claudio Cabrera, a five-year veteran at The New York Times, is moving over to The Athletic to become the first vice president of audience and newsroom strategy.

In its announcement, The Times wrote, “He will be defining The Athletic audience strategy, building an audience team to execute it and closely partnering with The Athletic’s newsroom on coverage.”

Before joining The Times, Cabrera led search and social for two years at CBS.

Play ball? Not for a while

Baseball fan Noah McMurrain of Boynton Beach, Fla., stands outside Roger Dean Stadium as Major League Baseball negotiations continue in an attempt to reach an agreement to salvage a March 31 start to the regular season. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Are we going to have baseball this season? You would like to think so, but things look dicey at the moment as Major League Baseball owners and players appear nowhere close to reaching a new collective bargaining agreement. Some games are almost certainly going to be postponed. It’s unlikely that the regular season will start on March 31 as planned.

Whose fault is this? The easy take is there’s enough blame to go around. After all, it’s billionaire owners fighting with millionaire players over a big pile of money that should be enough for everyone to get rich.

But check out this column from ESPN’s Jeff Passan: “Inside the self-inflicted crisis boiling over as MLB’s lockout deadline arrives.” Passan starts with, “Major League Baseball is in a crisis of its own making, a self-inflicted wound borne of equal parts hubris, short-sightedness and stubbornness from a class of owners who run the teams and seemingly have designs on running the game into the ground.”

Pretty strong stuff coming from a writer who works for a network that is a league partner of Major League Baseball.

Meanwhile, there was other big baseball news on Monday. Legendary Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter stepped down as CEO of the Miami Marlins. Jeter has been CEO (and has a 4% ownership stake that he will now give up) since September 2017, when a group headed by Bruce Sherman bought the team from Jeffrey Loria for $1.2 billion.

In a statement, Jeter said, “The vision for the future of the franchise is different than the one I signed up to lead.”

Miami Herald sports columnist Greg Cote has a solid column: “Why CEO Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins’ marriage grew apart and ended in divorce.”

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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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