May 25, 2022

Another week. Another mass shooting.

But just because it all has become too common does not mean we should be anything less than heartbroken, angry and ashamed. Deeply, deeply ashamed.

On Tuesday, a gunman killed at least 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, a small town outside of San Antonio. The shooter, an 18-year-old, was killed by law enforcement.

It was sadly reminiscent of the 20 children and six adults killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012

In what might be the most devastating tweet I’ve ever read, Niki Griswold of the Austin American-Statesman wrote, “The agonized screams of family members are audible from the parking lot.”

President Joe Biden addressed the nation, saying, “I had hoped, when I became president, I would not have to do this, again.”

He added, “Beautiful, innocent, second, third, fourth graders. And how many scores of little children who witness what happened, see their friends die, as if they’re on a battlefield for God’s sake. … To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away.”

Biden then said, “So tonight, I ask the nation to pray for them, to give the parents and siblings the strength in the darkness they feel now. As a nation, we have to ask when in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God’s name will we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?”

Frustratingly, we have been here so many times before. It was only 10 days after a man went on a racist-fueled mass shooting in a Buffalo supermarket, killing 10.

CBS News’ John Dickerson said on air, “Instead of celebrating school’s end, now families have had their whole world end. And the community will forever mark time as before today, and after. It is a tragedy that should stop us all, but we know it won’t stop. There will be another tragedy and another and the pins on America’s map of tragedy will grow.”

Sadly, that is true.

Politico’s Tyler Weyant wrote, “Mass shootings have become America’s copy and paste tragedy. We change the place, the town, the number of dead and injured. But the constant is lives lost, people who cannot be brought back, and the nation is left in a numb daze.”

The horrific events were felt across the country in all areas. Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors whose father was a professor who was assassinated in Beirut in 1984, told reporters “When are we going to do something? I’m tired. I’m so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there.”

In a passionate speech that lasted nearly three minutes, Kerr added, “I’m tired of the moments of silence. Enough. There’s 50 senators, right now, who refuse to vote on H.R. 8, which is a background check rule that the House passed (last year). … There’s a reason they won’t vote on it: to hold on to power. I ask you, Mitch McConnell, and ask all of you senators who refuse to do anything about the violence, the school shootings, the supermarket shootings, I ask you, ‘Are you going to put your own desire for power ahead of the lives of our children, our elderly and our churchgoers?’ Because that’s what it looks like.”

Watch the whole clip.

I will have more in the days ahead, but here is some notable coverage:

The final word on this in today’s newsletter, here’s this tweet from The Washington Post’s John Woodrow Cox: “Been writing almost exclusively about this subject — children who are shot to death or who survive and are forever broken — for more than five years. This feeling of horror, of helplessness, of nausea, of whatever the hell it is — it only gets worse after each day like this day.”

MSNBC announces Jen Psaki’s new role

White House press secretary Jen Psaki waves goodbye at her last press briefing at the White House on May 13. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

When Jen Psaki announced that she was leaving as White House press secretary, we already knew what her next job was going to be. The news had already broken that she was joining MSNBC in some capacity.

Now we know more of the details.

MSNBC president Rashida Jones announced Tuesday that Psaki will join the network in the fall and begin working on a streaming show that will debut in the first quarter of 2023. In the meantime, Psaki will appear on NBC and MSNBC for special coverage of the midterm elections, as well as coverage regarding the 2024 presidential election.

In a statement, Jones said, “Jen’s sharp wit and relatability combined with the mastery of the subjects she covers have made her a household name across the nation. Her extensive experience in government and on the campaign trail and perspective as a White House and Washington insider is the type of analysis that sets MSNBC apart. She’s a familiar face and trusted authority to MSNBC viewers, and we look forward to her insight during this consequential election season.”

Jones is right. Psaki is a household name and has the smarts, experience and charisma to make a good TV personality. Psaki also earned good reviews for her time as press secretary, and that poise should translate well to TV. However, running a press conference and hosting a TV show are not the same, so it will be interesting to see how Psaki does as host. Giving guest commentary on panels, you would think, would not be a problem, especially because Psaki has done some of that in the past. She was once an on-air commentator for CNN.

In a statement, Psaki said, “Fact-based and thoughtful conversations about the big questions on the minds of people across the country have never been more important, and I’m thrilled to join the incredible MSNBC team. My time in government, from the White House to the State Department, and years before that on national political campaigns will fuel the insight and perspective I bring to this next chapter. I can’t wait to create a space on streaming where we break down the facts, get to the bottom of what’s driving the issues and hopefully have some fun along the way.”

Separately, Psaki tweeted, “Thrilled to join the incredible @MSNBC family this fall. Breaking down the facts and getting to the bottom of what’s driving the issues that matter most to people in this country has never been more important.”

A troubling report

Here’s a disturbing headline on a CNN story: “‘They were shooting directly at the journalists’: New evidence suggests Shireen Abu Akleh was killed in targeted attack by Israeli forces.”

The story — by Zeena Saifi, Eliza Mackintosh, Celine Alkhaldi, Kareem Khadder, Katie Polglase and Gianluca Mezzofiore with video by Livvy Doherty and Oscar Featherstone — says Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh appears to have been killed by Israeli forces while she was reporting earlier this month on military raids in Jenin. The Israeli military said it isn’t clear who fired the shot that killed Abu Akleh.

At the time, Al Jazeera called her death “a blatant murder” by Israeli forces. Eyewitnesses told various news organizations, including CNN, that journalists were targeted even though they were wearing protective gear that said “Press” on it and were nowhere near Palestinian militants. A producer for Al Jazeera was shot, too, but survived.

Tuesday’s CNN story says, “But an investigation by CNN offers new evidence — including two videos of the scene of the shooting — that there was no active combat, nor any Palestinian militants, near Abu Akleh in the moments leading up to her death. Videos obtained by CNN, corroborated by testimony from eight eyewitnesses, an audio forensic analyst and an explosive weapons expert, suggest that Abu Akleh was shot dead in a targeted attack by Israeli forces.”

It also said, “CNN reviewed a total of 11 videos showing the scene and the Israeli military convoy from different angles — before, during and after Abu Akleh was killed. Eyewitnesses who were filming when the journalist was shot were also in the line of fire and pulled back when the gunfire started, so do not capture the moment she is hit with the bullet.”

Lachlan Murdoch’s response

Fox News can try to paint it however it wants, but there’s no question that, overall, it leans right politically, and has plenty of programming — particularly in prime time — that ramps up politically-charged rhetoric and causes divisiveness.

So what does Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch say to those who believe Fox News’ programming has become too divisive?

Murdoch told Axios’ Sara Fischer, “I think when you’re in the news business, and you’re number one … you get a lot of heat and it just comes with the territory.”

That’s not really an answer.

He said this, as well: “I think the world is more divided and on edge than it has been, you know, for a very long time. I think on the noise around it, so much of it is politicized. … And so, you’ve got to be tough about it.”

That’s not really an answer either. I don’t think the question was, “Hey, how are you folks at Fox News handling the criticism?” It was more like, “Hey, how do you answer those who claim that YOU are part of the problem?”

More Murdoch stuff

Fischer talked to Murdoch about a variety of things, including the surprising announcement that NFL star quarterback Tom Brady will join Fox Sports as a game analyst when he finally retires from playing. Murdoch told Fischer that reports that Brady would get $375 million over 10 years (as first reported by New York Post sports columnist Andrew Marchand) were “directionally right.”

I’m not sure what “directionally right” means, but it sounds like Murdoch confirmed Marchand’s reporting.

Al Michaels’ new role

Sports broadcaster Al Michaels in 2019. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

Speaking of NFL announcers, Al Michaels, who might be the best NFL play-by-play announcer ever, is shifting gears. We already knew that he would call “Thursday Night Football” for Amazon’s new TV package this fall. That meant he was leaving as the longtime announcer of NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.”

Yes, he is leaving “Sunday Night Football,” but he is not leaving NBC Sports. Not entirely. NBC Sports announced Tuesday that it has named Michaels to an “emeritus role,” where he will call NFL playoff games for NBC, as well as contribute to Olympics coverage.

In a statement, NBC Sports chairman Pete Bevacqua said, “Revered by viewers and colleagues, Al has been the soundtrack for many of the greatest moments in sports television history. We are thrilled that he’s staying in the family and raising the stature of our events for years to come.”

Michaels will call Thursday night NFL games with ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit. Meanwhile, Mike Tirico, as long expected, takes over for Michaels as the play-by-play voice on “Sunday Night Football.”

Votebeat renewed for 2022 and beyond

For this item, I turn it over to Poynter media business analyst Rick Edmonds.

Votebeat, the three-month pop-up newsroom that covered local voting news in the 2020 elections, has achieved its founders’ hopes of becoming an ongoing nonprofit news venture.

It will gear up for the 2022 midterms, an announcement Tuesday said, with a focus on four states where claims of fraud have been especially disputatious — Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Texas. Votebeat has raised $3.1 million, the announcement said, and is employing a news staff of nine.

Co-founder Elizabeth Green is also co-founder and CEO of Chalkbeat, the local and national education site currently operating in eight states and cities with a staff of roughly 70. Chalkbeat will be the parent organization to Votebeat and will supply business and fundraising help.

Green and co-founder Alison Go wanted a new kind of political site that was all about the mechanics and issues of how votes are counted. They intuited correctly that it would be a hot story between the 2020 election and Inauguration Day, and the controversies haven’t cooled much since.

Go said in an email that there is not yet a firm goal for 2024, but we “are working now toward (our) next milestone which will be bureaus in eight states, with up to two reporters each.”

A trainwreck appearance on ‘The View’

Kellyanne Conway in 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Former Donald Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway appeared on ABC’s “The View” on Tuesday to promote her new book and, no surprise, The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona called it a “trainwreck.”

The interview started off well enough, but as Baragona wrote, “The congeniality was short-lived.”

The hosts brought up the Big Lie, and Conway said, “I think it’s pretty obvious that Joe Biden is the president. I can’t believe we’re still talking about this, respectfully.”

Uh, maybe because her former boss is still talking about it?

When the audience booed Conway at one point while she praised Trump’s time as president, “The View” co-host Whoopi Goldberg scolded them, saying, “Let me do something before you say anything else. Listen, this is ‘The View,’ and this is her view and she’s talking about how she feels and what she knows, please don’t boo her!”

At another point, guest co-host Alyssa Farah Griffin, a former Trump spokesperson who has been critical of Trump and his Big Lie conspiracy theory, got into a testy exchange with Conway. When Conway tried to take a verbal jab at Griffin by saying that Griffin had changed, Griffin fired back, “I didn’t change. I swore an oath to the Constitution, not to Donald Trump.”

You get the gist. As Baragona said, it was a trainwreck.

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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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