July 28, 2022

There’s still some buzz in media circles about the meaning behind two recent editorials criticizing former President Donald Trump and his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection. The editorial boards at The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal — newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch — slammed Trump, with the Post saying Trump was “unworthy” of being president again.

Some used these editorials as evidence that Murdoch, whose media empire has traditionally been a Trump advocate, is turning on the former president. But others, including me in a recent newsletter, aren’t ready to say Murdoch is finished with Trump. That won’t happen until you see Murdoch’s other big media outlet, Fox News, start to hammer away at Trump. And as long as Fox News’ primetime stars, especially Tucker Carlson, continue to back Trump and downplay the events of Jan. 6 and the House select committee hearings about it, one can’t say Murdoch has completely turned his back on Trump.

Maybe Fox News hasn’t publicly jumped off the Trump bandwagon, and maybe it never will. But it could show where it stands by jumping on someone else’s bandwagon.

In a column for Politico, Jack Shafer wrote, “Murdoch has no friends. He has no loyalties. He has no principles. And never has. His support of politicians has always been transactional and extractive. Now entering the final days of his political career, Trump is expendable, making the Post’s and Journal’s twin discoveries in the same moment of Trump’s crimes against the Constitution a convenient cover story for the orange man. Murdoch has always been a political cad, swooning and then dumping his political partners when a better-looking one comes along. Murdoch’s next fling looks to be Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, whom Fox News has slathered with positive attention in recent months.”

Shafer added, “The Murdoch-Trump union, never very stable in the first place, has been vectoring toward splitsville for some time.”

But Shafer also reaches the same conclusion many of us have: that rumors of a Murdoch-Trump demise are greatly exaggerated. Or, as Shafer puts it, not “the seismic event that some pretend it is.”

Shafter smartly wrote, “If Trump runs for president in 2024 and buries the field, there will be plenty of time for Murdoch to do what he traditionally does: Place his bet on the leading pony. Like a pair of powerful gangsters who quarrel over how to divide the spoils, Murdoch and Trump will reconcile if they determine it’s in their mutual interests to reconcile.”

In the end, here’s how I’d put it: Murdoch and Trump are not divorcing. Call it a trial separation.

Layoffs at Vox Media

Vox Media is laying off 39 people — about less than 2% of its staff.

In a memo to staff obtained by multiple media outlets, Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff said, “The current economic conditions are impacting companies like ours in multiple ways, with supply chain issues reducing marketing and advertising budgets across industries and economic pressures changing the ways that consumers spend. Our aim is to get ahead of greater uncertainty by making difficult but important decisions to pare back on initiatives that are lower priority or have lower staffing needs in the current climate.”

Vox is best known for brands such as New York Magazine, The Verge, Vulture, Thrillist and Popsugar.

Axios’ Sara Fischer reported, “The company is laying off staffers in a few key areas, including recruiting, some editorial roles and sales. The cuts are targeted towards certain parts of the company, including some departments within its lifestyle site, Thrillist. The company will continue to hire for critical roles, the source noted, but will reduce the pace of hiring moving forward.”

A victory for the media

Remember Nick Sandman? He was the Covington (Kentucky) Catholic High School student who went to a March for Life rally back in 2019 in Washington, D.C. Videos and photos that went viral showed him face-to-face with a Native American activist named Nathan Phillips.

Sandman ended up suing several high-profile news outlets — including ABC, CBS, The New York Times, Gannett and Rolling Stone — for defamation. The suit claimed the news organizations defamed him by taking the activist’s word that Sandman was blocking his path and, perhaps, intimidating him.

Now a federal judge has ruled in favor of the news outlets.

U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman wrote this week that the news organizations “were covering a matter of great public interest, and they reported Phillips’s first-person view of what he experienced. This would put the reader on notice that Phillips was simply giving his perspective on the incident.”

Bertelsman went on to write, “the Court concludes that Phillips’s statements that Sandmann ‘blocked’ him and ‘wouldn’t allow (him) to retreat’ are objectively unverifiable and thus unactionable opinions. Instead, a reasonable reader would understand that Phillips was simply conveying his view of the situation. And because the reader knew from the articles that this encounter occurred at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, he or she would know that the confrontation occurred in an expansive area such that it would be difficult to know what might constitute ‘blocking’ another person in that setting.”

In a statement, Sandman’s attorney Todd McMurtry said, “We are disappointed with the decision. We intend to appeal.”

A spokesman for The New York Times told Deadline’s Ted Johnson, “We welcome the decision … by the federal district court in Kentucky, granting judgment in favor of The Times along with several other news organizations. The decision in the case reaffirms that The Times provided a fair account of the controversy surrounding the events that took place that day on the National Mall.”

For more details on the ruling, check out Aaron Keller’s story for Law & Crime.

How about the weather?

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

The New York Times announced an interesting new hire this week. John Keefe is joining the Times as editor of weather data. He will lead a new team that the Times says will be “focused on making The Times a destination for extreme weather coverage.”

Keefe comes to the Times from CNN, where he was a senior data and visuals editor. He previously worked at the Times in the graphics department. And before that, he worked with CNN’s climate team.

Times’ assistant managing editor Matthew Ericson wrote in a memo, “At The Times, John will lead a team to explore all kinds of weather phenomena — including hurricanes, severe storms, droughts, heat waves and the day-to-day weather that affects our lives — on a variety of platforms. His unit will build on some of the projects that the graphics department has created like our wildfire maps, hurricane trackers and extreme heat forecasts. Collaborating with other departments — especially graphics and national — the team will explore new, always-on tracking features, and pursue sources of weather data for daily and ongoing coverage.”

Ericson wrote that the Times will post openings for the team in the coming weeks.

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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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