August 23, 2022

For the uninitiated, there’s something in the media world known as the Friday news dump. If you have news that you might feel sheepish about announcing, you wait until late on Friday — when everyone is headed out for the weekend — to make your announcement.

You put it out there, hope no one notices and count the minutes until happy hour.

That’s what Fox Sports basically did Friday. It was so quietly announced that it went unnoticed by many until Monday. So here’s the news: They have hired former coach Urban Meyer as a college football analyst.

For the uninitiated, the hire seems like a good one. Meyer had a heck of a career coaching college football, he worked as a broadcaster before (including at Fox), and has name recognition. That’s a pretty good resume for a broadcaster.

So why not make a big deal about it? Why go with the down-low Friday news dump? Why not trumpet it from mountain tops?

It’s true that Meyer won national championships in college football at Florida and Ohio State. But it’s also true that his time at Ohio State came to an end after a scandal over how he handled (or mishandled) an assistant coach accused of domestic violence. Meyer eventually landed as the head coach of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars— that’s really where his coaching career went haywire.

As ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio wrote, “He abandoned his post after a Thursday night game in Cincinnati, failing to accompany the Jaguars home to Florida after a tough loss. Instead of returning with his team, he drove to Columbus for the weekend, where he was publicly videotaped cavorting with a woman who isn’t his wife. He allegedly kicked a kicker (he denied it), and he allegedly was verbally abusive to players and coaches.”

He pretty much lost the respect of his team and he was fired before even finishing his first season, losing 11 of 13 games.

Yet even after all that embarrassment, Meyer is back on Fox Sports’ “Big Noon Kickoff” pregame show — where he worked as an analyst in 2019 and 2020.

To be clear, this isn’t about cancel culture. It’s about credibility.

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Sports Illustrated’s Jimmy Traina, who made notice of the “Friday news dump,” blasted Fox Sports’ decision, writing, “So while Meyer might be fine breaking down X’s and O’s, how on Earth is he going to go on national television and talk about the behavior of college football players or what a player’s character means or how a player can’t let his teammates down? He’ll do it because that will be his job and he has no shame. And Fox will pretend Meyer doesn’t have a credibility problem because Fox doesn’t care about his credibility problem. Fox wants to do anything it can to compete with the iconic College GameDay on ESPN, and if that involves Urban Meyer, because he’s a draw in Florida and Ohio, so be it.”

Yahoo Sports’ Jack Baer wrote, “Of course, the standards for ‘NFL head coach’ and ‘college football talking head; are vastly different. Fox clearly believes its audience still wants to see what Meyer has to say about college football, an area where he obviously saw plenty of success.”

Doesn’t Fox realize what it has signed up for? Meyer has become a joke to many football fans.

Florio wrote, “It also will be interesting to see what he has to say about his time in the NFL. Will they gloss over it? Will they force him to own it? Will he get pissy if one of the other guys on the set makes a smart remark about his time with the Jaguars? (Coach may want to kick me under the table for saying this — OOPS!)”

But Traina pointed out that even if Fox Sports was proud of its hire, it would have made a splashy announcement. But they didn’t. Why?

Traina writes, “Because everybody, including Fox, knows bringing Meyer back as if his 2021 didn’t exist is embarrassing.”

More on Brian Stelter and CNN

Columbia Journalism Review’s Jon Allsop weighed in on Brian Stelter’s departure from CNN in “The horribly timed defenestration of Brian Stelter.”

Allsop wrote, “It’s not clear that even Stelter knows exactly what happened to his show. Appearing on air for his final episode (Sunday), Stelter let at least a hint of bemusement cut through his typical sunny demeanor as he noted that Reliable Sources was CNN’s longest-running show — it recently celebrated thirty years on air, nine of them with Stelter as host — and that its ratings were good.”

There is plenty of speculation as to the whys and hows of Stelter’s dismissal. Maybe it has something to do with perceived political bias. Maybe it was a cost-cutting move. Maybe it was both. Maybe it was neither. New CNN boss Chris Licht told staff that more changes are coming to the network and that staff should allow them to play out before reacting. But Allsop wrote, “Licht, of course, could publicly clear up his plans for CNN — and why exactly Stelter didn’t fit into them — any time he likes.”

CNN will continue to cover the media, but there will be no more Sunday show as of now, and it’s unlikely “Reliable Sources” will ever return. Allsop wrote, “Still, Stelter’s exit and the cancellation of ‘Reliable Sources,’ the TV show, undoubtedly add up to a significant retrenchment. Reserving even one weekly hour of cable airtime — a finite commodity, unlike the internet — to let the media examine itself was, at the very least, a symbolic statement about the value of self-examination, and of placing it squarely in front of viewers who might not otherwise give much thought to the way the press works. Muddying that statement would have been sad at any moment. At this moment, it’s unjustifiable.”

Here was what I wrote on Stelter’s final show and the legacy of “Reliable Sources.”

Where it all started

Conservative media have been hammering this talking point lately: President Joe Biden wants to hire and arm 87,000 Internal Revenue Service agents to come after YOU. Let’s be clear. That is not true.

How does this stuff start and then spread like wildfire?

Check out this piece from Grid’s Jason Paladino and Maggie Severns: “Behind the lie of ‘87,000 armed agents’: How an obscure factoid was bent into a popular GOP talking point.”

Fauci news

Dr. Anthony Fauci, pictured here in May. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s infectious disease expert who has advised seven presidents and became one of the most notable voices during the COVID-19 pandemic, says he will step down in December. But he’s not retiring, as much as he is moving on to what he called his “next chapter.” The 81-year-old Fauci led the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984.

For the latest on Fauci, check out:

Memories of Serena Williams

Here’s a cool idea for a column from New York Times’ sports columnist Kurt Streeter. The upcoming U.S. Open is likely to be the final tennis tournament for the legendary Serena Williams. So the headline on Streeter’s column: “Serena Williams Brought New Fans to Tennis. Are You One of Them?”

Streeter writes about Williams’ impact on fans and writes, “If that’s you, I want to hear your story. Especially if you made the pilgrimage to see Williams play in person. Even if ‘up close’ was the nosebleed seats at the Olympic tennis stadium in Rio. Or if you made it to one of the smaller tournaments on the WTA Tour, without the Grand Slam crowds and prices.”

After Streeter writes about what it has been like for him to watch Williams play, the bottom of the column has an interactive section where readers can share their experiences of watching her. And the Times, with permission, might publish some of those answers.

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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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