Good morning. What a week. It started first thing Monday morning with gazillionaire Elon Musk reaching an agreement to buy Twitter for $44 billion. Ever since, Musk is tweeting like he owns the place … which, actually, he likely soon will.
Then again, the headline on a New York Times piece from John Herrman: “He Always Tweeted Like He Owned the Place.”
Herrman wrote that even before his Twitter bid, Musk’s tweeting habit “had become an essential part of his public persona. He was the world’s richest person, the founder of Tesla, the SpaceX guy, and someone who would not, or could not, stop posting.”
And while he has 88 million followers, most of us weren’t glued to his every tweet like we have been since Monday.
Some of the tweets this week have been serious, like his views on free speech. Some are complete jokes, like when he wrote he was going to buy Coca-Cola and put cocaine back in. And some are meant just to troll people, like he did with this bizarre handmade chart about his political standing. And, in between, he is retweeting SpaceX, his aerospace manufacturer.
It feels risky to tell you about his very latest tweets because you never know what he is going to tweet next.
Clearly, however, he is having a good time — and will for the foreseeable future. It’s going to take a while for the deal to go through and then who knows how long it will take after that for Twitter to settle into what Twitter will eventually become with Musk in charge.
In the meantime, we continue to see more stories about Musk, hoping to gain clues about how Twitter actually will look when (if) he takes over.
The Washington Post’s Reed Albergotti writes, “Musk himself does not run the day-to-day operations of all his companies. Instead, he entrusts leaders under him to keep the operation humming, whether he is there or not, and to carry out his vision. Former employees and observers of his companies say he tends to put in charge extremely hard-working loyalists who are often relatively young for their level of responsibility.”
Albergotti adds, “According to people familiar with the matter, Musk has already laid out ambitions for Twitter that will fundamentally change the user experience. For instance, Musk wants to pay ‘creators’ to produce content on Twitter, a strategy that helped build TikTok into a social networking juggernaut. Those at Twitter can expect a list of changes on a fast time frame, people familiar with the matter say.”
Meanwhile, Twitter’s earnings report out this week revealed some interesting numbers.
CNBC’s Lauren Feiner reports these key figures:
- Earnings per share: 4 cents, adjusted versus 3 cents expected, according to a Refinitiv survey of analysts.
- Revenue: $1.2 billion versus $1.23 billion expected, according to Refinitiv.
- Monetizable Daily Active Users (mDAUs): 229 million versus 226.9 million expected, according to StreetAccount.
In a statement, Twitter said, “Given the pending acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk, we will not be providing any forward looking guidance, and are withdrawing all previously provided goals and outlook.”
But back to Twitter and what Musk will do with it. The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer wrote, “The fight over Twitter’s future is not really about free speech, but the political agenda the platform may end up serving. As Americans are more and more reliant on a shrinking number of wealthy individuals and companies for services, conservatives believe having a sympathetic billionaire acquire Twitter means one less large or influential corporation the Republican Party needs to strongarm into serving its purposes. Whatever Musk ends up doing, this possibility is what the right is actually celebrating. ‘Free speech’ is a disingenuous attempt to frame what is ultimately a political conflict over Twitter’s usage as a neutral question about civil liberties, but the outcome conservatives are hoping for is one in which conservative speech on the platform is favored and liberal speech disfavored.”
We will continue to consume all things Musk and Twitter in the days moving forward, but to wrap up today, a bit of a different view from the media world. New York Times opinion columnist Farhad Manjoo has a column with the headline: “Is Elon Musk Really That Bad?”
Manjoo acknowledges why some are justifiably worried, given some of Musk’s business practices and murky definition of free speech. “Still,” Manjoo writes, “as a longtime Twitter addict, I find the very notion of ruining Twitter amusingly redundant. Twitter’s impact on the world has arguably been quite negative under its current and previous management. During the Trump years, the site became the cudgel with which a media-obsessed president bullied the world into paying attention to little else but him. Twitter’s leaders only found the courage to shut off Trump’s bullhorn after he lost re-election and incited an insurrection. Sure, Musk could reinstate Trump’s Twitter account, and maybe that’d be a disaster for democracy — but that horse left the barn long ago, and it was Twitter’s longtime bosses, not Musk, who held open the door.”
Manjoo adds, “It’s not just that I doubt Twitter under Musk could get much more terrible than it is now. There’s also lots of room for Twitter to become much better, and Musk, with his enviable track record at managing technologically sophisticated companies and making groundbreaking tech products, might be just the owner to unlock its full potential.”
That’s a nice thought, but consider me skeptical.
CNN+ is kaput
It was announced last week that CNN+, the cable news network’s new streaming service, would close. The stunning announcement came three weeks after the service launched. Its last day was scheduled to be April 30.
It didn’t even make that far.
According to an email sent to subscribers, CNN+ closed shop on Thursday.
DigitalTrends’ Phil Nickinson wrote, “The reason for the earlier date likely has to do with refunds. Monthly subscriptions were about to renew, and it looks like someone figured out that the renewal date actually was going to land before the service shut down.”
This week, I wrote about Los Angeles Times reporter Alene Tchekmedyian, who was believed to be under investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department after she wrote a story about the department’s efforts to cover up an incident in which a deputy kneeled on a handcuffed inmate’s head. The key to Tchekmedyian’s story was an internal video of the incident.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva has since backed off, saying Tchekmedyian is not under investigation. He tried to spin it that she never was — even though when asked point-blank if she was, he said, “The act is under investigation. All parties to the act are subject to investigation.”
In wake of what happened, as well as other incidents, The Los Angeles Times editorial board wrote a scathing editorial about Villanueva. The board wrote, “Criminally investigating a journalist for doing her job is a shocking assault on constitutionally protected press freedoms and aligns Villanueva with any number of tin-pot dictators and power-hungry functionaries who abuse their power to retaliate against reporters for critical coverage. Claiming there is such an investigation and then later denying it is the act of a coward who seeks to intimidate his critics without having to stand behind his words.”
It closed by writing, “Los Angeles County voters chose this sheriff in 2018 in part because they were seduced into backing a supposedly liberal Democrat over the Republican incumbent. He has now swung far to the right to appeal to voters who might somehow believe he is the answer to the crime and homelessness that grew on his watch. But regardless of changing politics or ideology, the constant is Villanueva’s paranoia and misuse of his authority. He is a stain on self-government — one that voters have in their power to wash away.”
Los Angeles Times columnist Gustavo Arellano wrote, “This is a man whose job as head of the largest sheriff’s department in the United States is supposed to be about protecting L.A. County from bad hombres. Instead, Villanueva has spent most of his time defending his department with the bluster of a lesser John Wayne character and a skin thinner than tulle.”
Arellano added, “Villanueva must have thought that blasting a reporter who has published damning article after damning article about him would be a slam-dunk. Instead, he threw up an air ball worse than anything Russell Westbrook could ever offer. … The blowback was so harsh that Villanueva walked back his allegation against Tchekmedyian. Michael Jackson never moonwalked as fast as the sheriff slid back on his comments.”
Meanwhile, Tchekmedyian continues to pound away at the story. Her latest: “First eyewitness account of Sheriff Villanueva lying in a cover-up revealed in filing.”
Time magazine’s Simon Shuster reports exclusively from inside Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s presidential compound in Kyiv for “Inside Zelenskyy’s World.”
Shuster writes of Zelenskyy, “His mission is to make the free world experience this war the way Ukraine does: as a matter of its own survival. … He doesn’t know how the war will end, or how history will describe his place in it. In this moment, he only knows Ukraine needs a wartime President. And that is the role he intends to play.”
Here’s the transcript of Shuster’s interview with Zelenskyy.
Here are some more notable links, notes and tidbits for your weekend reading …
- Netflix laid off at least 10 full-time staff and contractors working under the editorial division on Thursday. The Hollywood Reporter’s J. Clara Chan has the story.
- The White House Correspondents’ Association dinner is Saturday night — the first since 2019. The 2020 and 2021 dinners were canceled because of COVID-19. Trevor Noah is set to host. Here are a couple of pieces from The Washington Post. First, Roxanne Roberts with “White House correspondents’ dinner presses on, after covid delays and Trump.” Then it’s Dan Diamond and Paul Farhi with “A fight over coronavirus safety at journalists’ gala event.”
- And here’s Politico’s Ryan Lizza and Eugene Daniels with “Inside Biden’s WHCA dinner speech.”
- Outgoing New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet and replacement Joe Kahn were guests on the Columbia Journalism Review’s “The Kicker” podcast with Kyle Pope. Here’s a transcript of the interview, as well as a link to the podcast.
- From the New Haven Independent, Paul Bass with “Reagan’s Would-Be Assassin NOT Headed Back To Area To Play The Space.” Wait, John Hinkley was supposed to play? Play what? You have to read this story. There’s a note in this story that actually says: “This article is true. It is not republished from the Onion.” By the way, Bass is one of six journalists being honored tonight as recipients of this year’s Yankee Quill Awards, New England’s highest journalistic honor. Here’s more from The Associated Press.
- A feel-good story from my Poynter colleague Amaris Castillo: “Why this family foundation gives out $100,000 of unrestricted money to select freelance journalists.”
- Poynter media business analyst Rick Edmonds with “Quartz will have its fourth owner in 10 years with its sale to G/O media.”
- The latest from The Atlantic’s Ed Yong: “We Created the ‘Pandemicene.’ By completely rewiring the network of animal viruses, climate change is creating a new age of infectious dangers.”
- It’s ProPublica’s Jodi S. Cohen, and the Chicago Tribune’s Jennifer Smith Richards (with photography by Armando L. Sanchez of the Chicago Tribune and illustrations by Laila Milevski of ProPublica): “The Price Kids Pay: Schools and Police Punish Students With Costly Tickets for Minor Misbehavior.”
- For The New York Times, Kim Barker, Steve Eder and Julie Tate with “The Driver, the Officer and the Deadly Traffic Stop in Grand Rapids.”
- GQ’s Tyler R. Tynes interviews the former college and NBA star and now ESPN for “Jalen Rose Explains Why TV Athletes Are Way Underpaid.”
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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