By:
January 12, 2022

Tuesday might turn out to be a pivotal day in the future of the United States.

President Joe Biden went to Atlanta and delivered a major speech in hopes of passing new voting rights protections. He didn’t hold back.

“Sadly, the United States Senate, designed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body, has been rendered a shell of its former self,” Biden said. “As an institutionalist, I believe that the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills, debate them, vote. Let the majority prevail. And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this.”

At one point, Biden slammed the lectern and said, “​​I’ve been having these quiet conversations with members of Congress over the last two months. I’m tired of being quiet.”

Here are some of the pieces covering Biden’s appearance, along with that of Vice President Kamala Harris:

CNN’s Jake Tapper interviewed Delaware Democratic Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester and said, “(Biden) basically was suggesting that even Democratic senators that don’t support changing the filibuster rule are on the side of Jefferson Davis, on the side of Bull Conner, on the side of George Wallace. I don’t know that that language is going to work on Joe Manchin.”

To which Rochester said, “But I do think that he made the real imperative call to Republicans, to Democrats, to everybody, that this has to be a No. 1 priority. One of the things that gets lost is that this is not like a policy issue. … this is the foundation of our country. This is about the ability to even be an American.”

So all of this sounds and is important, but … uh, what does all this mean?

The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips, in her excellent 5-Minute Fix newsletter, does a superb job of explaining this stuff, including answering one fundamental question:

What are “voting rights” anyway?

Phillips writes, “It’s a catchall phrase that encompasses legitimate concerns about state laws making it harder for people to vote, gerrymandering that could dilute people’s votes and a concerted push to subvert the results of those votes. There are two pieces of legislation Democrats want, and one that Republicans are talking about in this space.”

That includes:

  • The Freedom to Vote Act, which, Phillips writes, “would set national standards for how we vote, like allowing everyone to vote by mail and making Election Day a holiday.”
  • The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which, Phillips writes, “would allow the federal government to review state voting laws that could be considered discriminatory, in response to recent Supreme Court decisions that have nullified courts’ power to do so under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”
  • The Electoral Count Act, which, Phillips writes, “governs how Congress and the vice president count states’ electoral votes after a presidential election, and Republicans want to strengthen it to prevent the federal government’s ability to overturn states’ results.”

This is smart, helpful journalism that explains what exactly this is all about, and why Phillips’ daily newsletter is a good place to read about and understand important matters of the day.

Top-notch work

A special shout-out today to ProPublica’s Emily Hopkins and Melissa Sanchez for their important story: “Chicago’s ‘Race-Neutral’ Traffic Cameras Ticket Black and Latino Drivers the Most.”

Hopkins and Sanchez write, “But for all of their safety benefits, the hundreds of cameras that dot the city — and generate tens of millions of dollars a year for City Hall — have come at a steep cost for motorists from the city’s Black and Latino neighborhoods. A ProPublica analysis of millions of citations found that households in majority Black and Hispanic ZIP codes received tickets at around twice the rate of those in white areas between 2015 and 2019. The consequences have been especially punishing in Black neighborhoods, which have been hit with more than half a billion dollars in penalties over the last 15 years, contributing to thousands of vehicle impoundments, driver’s license suspensions and bankruptcies, according to ProPublica’s analysis.”

Take some time with this story. It’s worth it.

Tough day at Spotify

The Verge’s Ashley Carman broke this story: Spotify is shutting down its founding podcast studio and laying off some of its 10 to 15 employees. Carman wrote that “Studio 4, or Spotify Studios as it’s been referenced externally … produced shows like ‘Dissect’ and ‘Chapo: Kingpin on Trial.’ Spotify called affected employees on Friday and said their last days would be January 21st. They’ll receive two months’ worth of severance. Some employees were reassigned while others were laid off and pointed to the Spotify job board. The studio’s head, Gina Delvac, was also let go.”

Carman added, “For a company sharing news of its podcasting endeavors most anywhere it can, Studio 4 rarely, if ever, showed up in the press. (I only documented one public use of it.) However, Studio 4 does occasionally appear in earnings reports as Spotify Studios. It was the first podcasting studio Spotify created and consisted of all the employees who worked on podcasting prior to the company’s major network acquisitions.”

Those acquisitions include Gimlet, Parcast and The Ringer.

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Not so fast

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Not everyone is thrilled about the sports website The Athletic being sold to The New York Times. In a scoop by Axios’ Dan Primack and Sara Fischer, a venture capital investor in The Athletic criticized the $550 million sale, saying The Athletic’s owners were “gun shy and on defense post-COVID.”

Early investors, according to Primack and Fischer, are happy with the sale. But then it gets a little complicated, so let me quote straight from Axios:

“Powerhouse Capital’s co-founders first invested in The Athletic in 2018, as part of a Series B round at an $80 million post-money valuation. But that was while they were leading a predecessor firm. Powerhouse came in on the Series C and Series D rounds, the latter of which was done in early 2020 at a $530 million post-money valuation. That final investment basically broke even, as a source tells Axios that the sale price is just four cents per share higher than the Series D price. Those that front-loaded their investments in earlier rounds will have better outcomes.”

Axios obtained a letter from Powerhouse to its limited investors that said:

The Management team opted for this all-cash acquisition at the last round’s valuation rather than take on more capital to push forward with some of the international and other initiatives (sports betting, increased podcasting, more sports like F1) … While we believe that there is still more value to unlock for The Athletic platform, it now appears that the NY Times gets to build on that foundation.

Another capital investor told Axios that he wouldn’t have written a letter like that, but he agrees with what Powerhouse said.

Meanwhile …

Folks are still doing think pieces and analysis about what The Athletic might look like under The New York Times’ umbrella, along with other thoughts about the potential ripples it could have.

Let me direct you to Joshua Benton’s piece for Nieman Lab: “How big a threat is The Athletic to local newspapers under The New York Times?” It’s a smart analysis at a time when some are predicting this transaction could take a big chunk out of local news.

No more standing on the sidelines

NBC Sports reporter Michele Tafoya. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

Michele Tafoya’s last game as a sideline reporter on NBC’s NFL coverage will be Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13. Tafoya, who has won four Emmys for her sports reporting, has been on the NFL sidelines for NBC Sports since 2011. This Sunday, she will work her 325th game as a sideline reporter. She’ll finish after her fifth Super Bowl.

In a statement, Tafoya said, “Some may consider me crazy to walk away from one of the more coveted roles in sports television, and I do not doubt that I will miss many aspects of the job. But for some time, I have been considering other areas I would like to explore both personally and professionally. I couldn’t ignore that little voice anymore after what we have all endured over the last few years. There’s no better way to walk away from covering the NFL than with one more Super Bowl!”

Tafoya stirred up some controversy this past season because of her two-day stint in November sitting in as a panelist on ABC’s “The View.” Tafoya compared COVID-19 to the flu and also had comments that pushed back on the idea that Colin Kaepernick is being blackballed by the NFL. When the audience groaned, Tafoya snapped back, “Oh, you’re all gonna groan at me. Bring it on! Bring it on!”

Over the next several weeks, Tafoya didn’t work three games for NBC. A few blogs and podcasts speculated that Tafoya’s comments on “The View” might have been the reason why. While it seemed odd that a sideline reporter would need breaks during an 18-week NFL schedule, NBC Sports said that’s exactly what it was — scheduled bye weeks for her. And that’s when rumors started that this might be her last season working an NFL sideline.

Turns out, it will be. By all accounts, this is Tafoya’s decision.

No word yet on who will replace Tafoya, but a good bet is Kathryn Tappen, who has filled in for her.

Fred Gaudelli, executive producer of “Sunday Night Football,” said in a statement, “No one has performed the sideline reporter role better than Michele in my professional lifetime. … Her contributions to ‘Sunday Night Football’ have been significant and I know she’ll be successful at whatever she chooses next.”

Sad news

Golf writer and broadcaster Tim Rosaforte has died after a battle against Alzheimer’s. He was 66.

Rosaforte retired in 2019 after a distinguished career that included work at Sports Illustrated, Golf Digest and Golf Channel. He also worked at various newspapers in his career, including the Clearwater Sun, Tampa Times, The Palm Beach Post and Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.

He was honored with the PGA of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism, as well as being awarded a lifetime membership to the PGA — the first journalist to receive that honor.

Tributes poured in across Twitter all afternoon.

Molly Solomon, executive producer at Golf Channel, said in a statement, “Tim Rosaforte was golf journalism’s original ‘insider.’ He was endlessly curious about people, tirelessly intrigued by golf and blessed with an indefatigable work ethic. He combined all of that to produce entertaining and informative storytelling that distinguished him, first as a newspaper and magazine writer, and then as a television personality. More than that, his gentle, caring demeanor and love for quality conversation made him a singular friend and colleague.”

In a special for The Palm Beach Post, veteran sportswriter Craig Dolch has a nice tribute.

Media tidbits

Correction

In Tuesday’s newsletter, I wrote about a new Washington Post programming series available for Post subscribers. I wrote that the series kicked off Tuesday, but it actually starts Jan. 18. For its launch, Pulitzer Prize-winning national investigative reporter Carol Leonnig will talk with legendary Post reporter Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame. Bernstein will talk about his new memoir, “Chasing History: A Kid in the Newsroom.”

Hot type

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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