As we move closer to the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection, the major theme that has emerged is how we — the quote-unquote “media” — cover our democracy, both in its current state and, more importantly, its future.
It’s easy to look back at all that happened a year ago and say that our democracy might have bent, but it didn’t break. Our government survived that day. The legitimate election was certified. Joe Biden did become president. Despite his protests, Donald Trump moved out of the White House.
So all turned out well, right?
Not so fast. We now know how close we came to our government being toppled. And we’ve also seen how the stage is set for, potentially, a day when our democracy might not withstand those who can — and will — attempt to overthrow fair and free elections in their hunger for power.
The Associated Press’ Nicholas Riccardi wrote last week, “In battleground states and beyond, Republicans are taking hold of the once-overlooked machinery of elections. While the effort is incomplete and uneven, outside experts on democracy and Democrats are sounding alarms, warning that the United States is witnessing a ‘slow-motion insurrection’ with a better chance of success than Trump’s failed power grab last year.”
Vox’s Zack Beauchamp wrote in a sobering and detailed piece published Monday, “Americans have long believed our country to be exceptional. That is true today in perhaps the worst possible sense: No other established Western democracy is at such risk of democratic collapse.”
He added, “America’s political system is broken, seemingly beyond its normal capacity to repair. Absent some radical development, something we can’t yet foresee, these last few unsettling years are less likely to be past than prologue.”
These are two examples of how the “media” is covering this story — that Jan. 6 was the beginning of something, not the end. Another, as Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan pointed out in her latest column, is The Atlantic, which devoted its entire December issue to the topic of democracy in crisis in the U.S. The ominous headline: “Jan. 6 was practice.”
“But, in general,” Sullivan argues in her column, “this pro-democracy coverage is not being ‘centered’ by the media writ large. It’s occasional, not regular; it doesn’t appear to be part of an overall editorial plan that fully recognizes just how much trouble we’re in. That must change. It’s not merely that there needs to be more of this work. It also needs to be different. For example, it should include a new emphasis on those who are fighting to preserve voting rights and defend democratic norms.”
Sullivan writes news leaders should make it clear to audiences that this topic is important, and devote resources to covering it at all levels. The coverage they produce should not be behind paywalls, but out front so audiences can easily have access to it, just like with stories about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sullivan wrote, “In other words, shout it from the rooftops. Before it’s too late.”
You’ll see a lot of such coverage this week as we look back at the year anniversary of Jan. 6.
But what will then happen on Jan. 7? Or next month? This summer?
If Jan. 6 taught us anything, it’s that it was the start of something and not the end. The coverage of our democracy in crisis and what happened on Jan. 6 shouldn’t end on Thursday. It should just be getting more intense.
The networks are planning lots of coverage as we acknowledge the anniversary of Jan. 6. Here are two examples.
NBC News will have special coverage all week in a series called “State of Extremism.” It includes this report from Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins on how extremism in the U.S. shifted after Jan. 6. More reports on the topic will air on various NBC News platforms, including the “Today” show, the “NBC Nightly News,” MSNBC, NBCNews.com, NBC News NOW, CNBC and Noticias Telemundo.
Meanwhile, “PBS NewsHour” will have special coverage all week. Anchor Judy Woodruff interviewed Sandra Garza, the girlfriend of the late Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, on Monday’s newscast and will interview Michigan Congressman Peter Meijer tonight. Meijer is one of 10 House Republicans who voted for Trump’s second impeachment following the Capitol attack. Also, on Thursday, Woodruff will be joined by Amna Nawaz, Lisa Desjardins, and White House Correspondent Yamiche Alcindor to discuss the events of that day and what has happened since the attack.
Facebook suspends Marjorie Taylor Greene for a day
As I mentioned in Monday’s newsletter, Georgia Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene had her personal Twitter account permanently banned because she continually spread misinformation about COVID-19.
In an opinion piece for CNN, Kara Alaimo — an associate professor in the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication at Hofstra University who writes about women and social media — wrote, “The decision to permanently suspend the account was the right call for Twitter, and applying it more broadly would be an astonishingly simple and effective way of helping to curb the spread of deadly disinformation. Now, it’s time for other social networks to follow suit.”
Well, another social media network did follow suit. Facebook suspended Greene for 24 hours because of her COVID-19 misinformation.
In a statement, Greene said, “Facebook has joined Twitter in censoring me. This is beyond censorship of speech. I’m an elected Member of Congress representing over 700,000 US tax paying citizens and I represent their voices, values, defend their freedoms, and protect the Constitution.”
Alaimo wrote, “While addressing the problem of misinformation is often described as impossibly complex, it’s much simpler than it may appear, and a key component is social media companies shutting down the accounts of people who post misinformation repeatedly or are unusually influential, like Greene.”
Meanwhile, CNN’s Chris Cillizza wrote in a column, “The suspension of Greene’s main Twitter presence also raises another question: What does she do all day?”
Cillizza reviewed her time in Congress and wrote, “One quarter of Greene’s legislative action over the past year has been aimed at impeaching the sitting president. And more than a third of her overall efforts are either about impeaching Biden or getting (California Rep. Maxine) Waters thrown off of committees and/or expelled from Congress. Not one of the nine bills she proposed became law. Not one of the seven resolutions she proposed were approved by the full House. Which, of course, doesn’t matter to Greene. Her goal, legislatively and otherwise, is to get attention. Media attention primarily.”
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) stood up for Greene, although he didn’t mention her by name. In a statement, he said, “It is clear any speech that does not fit Big Tech’s orthodoxy gets muzzled. America is poorer for that conduct.”
Actually, I would argue that America is better when anyone shuts down dangerous misinformation about COVID-19.
Fahrenthold leaves the Post for the Times
Here’s big news in the newspaper world: Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Fahrenthold is leaving The Washington Post for The New York Times. Fahrenthold, who first joined the Post as an intern 21 years ago, won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for his investigation into Donald Trump’s charitable giving. He also was the reporter to first break the story about Trump’s infamous “Access Hollywood” tape before the 2016 presidential election.
Fahrenthold tweeted, “It’s very hard to leave the @washingtonpost, especially at a time when it’s thriving and growing. I’ve loved it for 21 years. But when your employee ID gets old enough to drink, it *might* be time to smack yourself in the face with a new challenge.”
He added, “I feel lucky to be joining the @nytimes’ great investigative team. I’ll write about Trump Org — and also take on a new topic, the abuse/misuse of nonprofits. That means a new set of mysteries to solve — with your help, if you’re inclined. There’s nothing better in the world.”
Fahrenthold will work out of the Times’ Washington bureau.
In a tweet, Post media reporter Paul Farhi called it a “huge loss” for the Post. In another tweet, the Post’s senior Washington correspondent Philip Rucker wrote, “Really sorry to see @Fahrenthold leave. Dave’s a star reporter, as everyone knows, but he’s also been a newsroom pal for more than a decade. Our pod won’t be the same without him.”
The Times also added two people to “The Daily” podcast: John Ketchum comes from the American Journalism Project to become an editor. And Rikki Novetsky, who has audio experience at NPR and The Wall Street Journal, joins as a producer.
Speaking of The Washington Post, Sharif Durhams, Monica Norton and Mark W. Smith have been named deputy managing editors.
Durhams has been managing editor of North Carolina’s News & Observer and Herald-Sun since January 2021. He had worked as a homepage editor at the Post from 2015 to 2017. His resume also includes stops at CNN, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and The Charlotte Observer. Durhams will oversee the Post’s GA team, the Morning Mix and the live desk.
Norton has been the Post’s deputy local editor for planning and enterprise since 2011. The Post describes her role as deputy managing editor as helping with “running the day.” In a staff memo, Post senior editors wrote, “We envision two DMEs leading our news coverage each weekday, one starting early enough to take the handoff from the London editor and concentrating on the digital report. The second DME will take over in the early afternoon, continuing to oversee the digital report, finalizing A1 and handing off to the Seoul editor in the 8 p.m. hour.”
Smith has been director of social and operations on the audience team since 2018, and before that served as deputy audience editor and mobile web editor.
This seems wrong
If this is true, this is a bad look for Major League Baseball. New York Post sports media columnist Andrew Marchand is reporting that the MLB Network, which is run by Major League Baseball, cut ties with reporter Ken Rosenthal because of “acrimony that peaked in the summer of 2020 after Rosenthal criticized commissioner Rob Manfred.” Rosenthal’s criticism came in columns written for The Athletic, where Rosenthal also is employed.
Rosenthal is one of the top news-breakers in the sport. Marchand reported Rosenthal was quietly suspended without anyone noticing by MLB Network at the time, but was on the air during the 2021 season and as recently as last month.
Rosenthal tweeted, “Can confirm MLB Network has decided not to bring me back. I’m grateful for the more than 12 years I spent there, and my enduring friendships with on-air personalities, producers and staff. I always strove to maintain my journalistic integrity, and my work reflects that.”
MLB Network put out a statement wishing Rosenthal well, but saying, “As MLB Network continues to look at fresh ways to bring baseball to our viewers, there is a natural turnover in our talent roster that takes place each year.”
Still, Rosenthal is too good to get caught up in the “natural turnover” of any network. Marchand wrote, “In June 2020, Rosenthal’s analysis of Manfred for The Athletic featured some light criticism, but it didn’t appear to delve into anything personal.”
Rosenthal will continue to work for The Athletic, as well as Fox Sports.
- ESPN’s Mike Greenberg didn’t host his show “Get Up!” Monday morning and will miss most of the week because he said he has tested positive for COVID-19. In a tweet, Greenberg said his symptoms are “very manageable” and that his family is “fine.” He said he hopes to be back on the air Friday.
- Catching up on a couple of media moves from the Christmas break. Michael Fanone, who was with the DC Metropolitan Police Department and was attacked while defending the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection, has joined CNN as a law enforcement analyst. And David Urban, a former senior adviser to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and a member of the Trump 2020 Advisory Committee, has joined CNN as a political commentator.
- My Poynter colleague Kelly McBride writes about reporter Bill Morlin in “Only death could keep this investigative reporter from exposing secrets.”
- Ben Smith’s latest media column for The New York Times: “A Former Facebook Executive Pushes to Open Social Media’s ‘Black Boxes.’”
- Here’s a heck of a lede by Drew Harwell in his latest piece for The Washington Post: “The far-right firebrands and conspiracy theorists of the pro-Trump Internet have a new enemy: each other.” The rest of the story is superb, too. Check it out: “Since Jan. 6, the pro-Trump Internet has descended into infighting over money and followers.”
- In a project co-published by ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine, Elizabeth Weil (with photography by Meridith Kohut): “California’s Forever Fire.”
- The Elizabeth Holmes verdict came down Monday. The Washington Post’s Rachel Lerman, Nitasha Tiku and Faiz Siddiqui with “Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes found guilty of some charges in landmark Silicon Valley fraud case.”
- Amy Schneider continues her dominance on “Jeopardy.” For CNN, Allison Hope with “Amy Schneider knows more than you do – and it’s just what we all need.”
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More resources for journalists
- Covering COVID-19 with Al Tompkins (Daily briefing) — Poynter
- Time for a new job? Your future employer is looking for you on The Media Job Board — Powered by Poynter, Editor & Publisher and America’s Newspapers. Search now!
- Leadership Academy for Diversity in Media (Seminar, Oct. 2022) — Apply by Jan 15
- Poynter Producer Project (In-person and Online) — March 8-29, Apply by Jan. 25
The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, sign up here.