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May 12, 2022

Good morning. Just a note, there will be no Poynter Report on Friday. The newsletter will return next Monday. See you then. Have a great weekend. Now onto the latest media news, notes and notable journalism.

Respect for Jen Psaki

This is Jen Psaki’s final week as White House press secretary, so today is a good day to offer up a few from-afar thoughts on her tenure.

Psaki will go down as one of the best to ever hold the title of White House press secretary. Even when Chris Wallace was at Fox News, a frequent critic of the current administration, he called Psaki one of the best ever.

Psaki has restored honor, dignity and class to the White House briefing room after four years of Donald Trump press secretaries, who seemed more interested in picking fights and criticizing the media than effectively communicating that administration’s policies and agenda.

Stephanie Grisham, a White House press secretary under Trump, even wrote a book about how dysfunctional it was to work as press secretary in Trump’s White House. In “I’ll Take Your Questions Now,” Grisham wrote she never held an official press conference: “I knew that sooner or later the president would want me to tell the public something that was not true or that would make me sound like a lunatic.”

Psaki was certainly a welcome change from her immediate predecessor, Kayleigh McEnany, who goes down as one of the most incompetent press secretaries ever. (McEnany’s daily pokes at Democrats and the media now fit right in at Fox News.)

Psaki was consistently prepared, effective in communicating for the president and, even when sparring with media members, always respectful. Even her frequent foe in the White House briefing room — Fox News’ Peter Doocy — had kind words for her when she announced she was leaving the post. (And Psaki was kind in return.) Doocy told Psaki, “You’ve always been a good sport. So on behalf of everybody, thank you for everything.”

So why is Psaki, who is so good at her job, leaving? Last weekend, appearing on Fox News’ “Media Buzz,” she told host Howie Kurtz, “I’m leaving because I have a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old. They’re the most important people in my life. And my husband, of course, and I always knew that having worked in the White House before, that this was not a job I could do forever. It is a huge honor to do it, no matter where you are in your life. But I don’t want to miss things with my kids and I don’t want to miss moments or soccer practices or ballet recitals or anything.”

She added, “This is the greatest job I’ve ever had. Maybe the greatest job I (will) ever have. I don’t know. And it has surpassed my expectations in so many ways, in that I’ve learned something new every single day.”

Psaki’s next gig

Psaki will now head off, eventually, to MSNBC — which, in itself, is a bit of a problem of late. As The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple writes, “Now, Psaki is a phenomenal talent, but not even she can wish away the unmistakable conflict of interest at play here. How to ensure fair treatment of media outlets when one of them is a prospective employer?”

Psaki said she has taken steps to avoid such a conflict or to show favoritism. Wemple, using official White House data, notes that since the beginning of the year, Psaki has given four interviews to NBC News/MSNBC; three to Fox News; three to CNN; two to HBO/Showtime; one to ABC News and four to podcasts.

In addition, Wemple notes that when it comes to Sunday morning news shows, administration officials have appeared as follows: ABC News (16), CNN (15), CBS News (13), Fox News (12) and NBC News (11).

Wemple writes, “What sticks out here is the evenhanded treatment among networks, particularly Fox News. As this blog has noted previously, the Biden communications team decided early on that it wanted to reach that network’s audience, a strategy that has included not only giving interviews to Fox News but also tossing it occasional exclusives.”

One more Psaki note

Not only was Psaki good at her job, she actually showed up for her job. According to a tweet from The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple, Psaki held 222 briefings as of Tuesday of this week. And that’s in less than 16 months on the job. That’s more than all the Trump press secretaries combined over Trump’s four years in office. Trump’s press secretaries combined for 205 briefings. As I mentioned above, Grisham didn’t have even one official briefing in her eight months on the job.

Grim news

A Lebanese journalist holds a portrait of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during a protest in front of United Nations headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon, on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed while covering an Israeli military operation in the West Bank city of Jenin on Wednesday.

The Washington Post’s Steve Hendrix, Sufian Taha and Shira Rubin reported that, according to Al Jazeera and the Palestinian Health Ministry, Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli forces. But, the Post wrote, “Israeli officials said the journalist … was killed in an exchange of gunfire but said they had not determined who fired the fatal shot.”

Al Jazeera put out a statement condemning the killing, writing, “In a blatant murder, violating international laws and norms, the Israeli occupation forces assassinated in cold blood Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Palestine, Shireen Abu Akleh, targeting her with live fire …”

The statement went on to say Abu Akleh was killed “while conducting her journalistic duty, clearly wearing a press jacket that identifies her (as) a journalist.”

The statement also said, “Al Jazeera Media Network condemns this heinous crime, which intends to only prevent the media from conducting their duty. Al Jazeera holds the Israeli government and the occupation forces responsible for the killing of Shireen. It also calls on the international community to condemn and hold the Israeli occupation forces accountable for their intentional targeting and killing of Shireen. The Israeli authorities are also responsible for the targeting of Al Jazeera producer Ali al-Samudi, who was also shot in the back while covering the same event, and he is currently undergoing treatment.”

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that Israel Defense Forces were conducting counterterrorism operations and that armed Palestinians shot in an “inaccurate, indiscriminate and uncontrolled manner.”

Bennett added, “Our forces from the IDF returned fire as accurately, carefully and responsibly as possible. Sadly, Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed in the exchange. … Without a serious investigation, we will not reach the truth.”

The Post wrote, “But five witnesses interviewed by The Post at the scene said the fighting between Israelis and Palestinians had occurred hundreds of yards from where the journalists came to be gathered and had ended well before two of them were shot.”

The New York Times’ Raja Abdulrahim and Ben Hubbard wrote, “A Palestinian American, Ms. Abu Akleh, 51, was a familiar face on the Al Jazeera network, where she spent 25 years reporting, making her name amid the violence of the Palestinian uprising known as the second intifada, which convulsed Israel and the occupied West Bank beginning in 2000.”

The Times’ story reviews Abu Akleh’s life and career, including this detail: “Born in Jerusalem to a Catholic family, Ms. Abu Akleh studied in Jordan, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She spent time in the United States when she was younger and obtained U.S. citizenship through family on her mother’s side, who lived in New Jersey, friends and colleagues said.”

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides tweeted, “Very sad to learn of the death of American and Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh of @AJArabic @AJEnglish. I encourage a thorough investigation into the circumstances of her death and the injury of at least one other journalist today in Jenin.”

Ned Price, spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, tweeted, “We are heartbroken by and strongly condemn the killing of American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the West Bank. The investigation must be immediate and thorough and those responsible must be held accountable. Her death is an affront to media freedom everywhere.”

Committee to Protect Journalists Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said, “We are shocked and strongly condemn the killing of the prominent Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the West Bank while doing her job and while clearly identified as a journalist. We call for an immediate and thorough investigation into her killing. Journalists must be able to do their jobs safely and freely without being a target.”

TV12

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady at a news conference in Tampa in March. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Tom Brady’s brand is known as TB12. We might now call it TV12.

The media world is still buzzing over the news that the greatest NFL quarterback of all time will join Fox Sports as its top NFL analyst when his playing days are over. We don’t know when that will be, but when it does happen, he will be paid $375 million dollars over 10 years, according to New York Post sports media columnist Andrew Marchand.

On “The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast,” hosted by Marchand and Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand, Marchand said the money kept “escalating and escalating” until Brady said yes.

Meanwhile, Fox’s big signing comes in the aftermath of Troy Aikman leaving Fox Sports for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.”

Ourand said on the podcast, “When Troy Aikman wanted to get out of his contract, and started talking with Amazon, and started talking with ESPN, and made it public — he would answer any question that was sent his way — it irritated the folks at Fox. As soon as he started to make those entreaties, it wasn’t just that Tom Brady was on a list. They started talking to him. Tom Brady was deciding between going back and playing football, or going to Fox. And he ended up going to play football. We both thought at that time that his negotiations with Fox had been tabled to next offseason, or whenever he retires. At no point did we think those negotiations were continuing to go along to where they would announce it on Tuesday.”

As far as paying Brady a ton of money, it’s more than Fox wanting him for his football commentary. As Sports Illustrated’s Jimmy Traina wrote, “The biggest winner here, obviously, is Fox. It will have the greatest quarterback of all time calling its games. What may be even more important for Fox is that it will have someone who is a celebrity just as much as he is a football player on the broadcasts. Tom Brady has a lot of appeal to the fringe fan and even people who don’t care about football. Fox said in its statement today that not only will Brady call games for the network, but he will be ‘an ambassador for Fox.’”

There will still be plenty of questions about this whole deal, but this is the first one I came up with:

Brady is still playing. Most of his games will be on Fox Sports, which is his future employer. How will Fox Sports cover Brady between now and then? I think the Fox Sports folks will do the right thing and call it like they see it. But it will be interesting to see if they pull a few punches in times when Brady deserves to be criticized, knowing that tomorrow, he’s going to be their teammate, so to speak.

Funny tweet of the day

It has been noted that Brady could, potentially, make more money as a broadcaster over 10 years ($375 million) than he will in his NFL career, which is about to enter season No. 23. So far, Brady had earned $292.9 million in the NFL. (That’s just in salary and bonuses and incentives and does not include endorsements.)

That led to this humorous tweet from former NFL player Andrew Hawkins: “I’d like to take the time to welcome @TomBrady into the very exclusive club of former players who get paid more in media after retirement than they did as competitive athletes. There is no shame in having a mediocre NFL career. Congrats.”

Media tidbits

Hot type

Superb reporting here from The Washington Post’s Jenn Abelson and Reena Flores: “When the sheriff waged a war on drugs in a Mississippi county.”

In a guest essay for The New York Times, Amanda Makulec with “I Lost My Baby. Then Antivaxxers Made My Pain Go Viral.”

For The New York Times Magazine, Sam Anderson with “I’ve Always Struggled With My Weight. Losing It Didn’t Mean Winning.”

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…
Tom Jones

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