April 6, 2022

We start today with an absolutely chilling account from NBC News veteran war correspondent Richard Engel after spending the morning in Bucha, Ukraine — the site of reportedly horrible atrocities by Russian troops against the citizens of Ukraine.

During a report on MSNBC’s “MTP Daily,” Engel told host Chuck Todd this is like nothing he has ever seen before.

“I’ve been to many war zones and you go into a place where a battle has just occurred and it’s not uncommon to see bodies,” Engel said. “That is a natural result, unfortunately, of war. That’s what these weapons are designed to do. But this felt more like a crime scene. Many of the people had been executed, people have been executed at close range. Soldiers were going house to house, conducting searches, stealing everything they could get their hands on.”

Engel told the story of one apartment building where citizens wrote on their doors that they were peaceful and begged to be left alone.

“It didn’t help,” said Engel, who said most of the doors had been knocked off their hinges. The Russians were looking for, mostly, military-aged males and would take them as prisoners.

“If you talked back to them,” Engel said, “if you annoyed them in any way, we were told, they might just shoot you on the spot. And that happened in several cases in just this one building.”

Engel said one man was so scared that he jumped out of a third-story window (and is believed to have survived and escaped). Another woman who lived in the building said she and her husband buried four people who were killed in a small plot of land behind the building.

“That was just in one building,” Engel said. “And each building had a similar story of Russian troops who were firing at will at anyone and anything they chose to, terrorizing the people, stealing from the people and if they chose, they would take you away or execute you right there.”

Engel added, “And that is not a common battle scene.”

This is just one horrific, but specific and important report in a region full of such awful stories. These stories continue to be tough to digest, but they remain critical to see and hear and read.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in an emotional address to the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, said Russian troops were killing civilians “just for their pleasure.” He said there was “not a single crime” that the Russian would not commit.

Zelenskyy said, “They shot and killed women outside their houses when they just tried to call someone. … They killed entire families, adults and children and they tried to burn the bodies. I am addressing you on behalf of the people who honor the memory of the deceased every single day and in the memory of the civilians who died, who were shot and killed in the back of their head after being tortured. Some of them were shot on the streets. Others were thrown into wells, so they died there suffering. They were killed in their apartments, houses, blown up by grenades. Civilians were crushed by tanks while sitting in their cars in the middle of the road, just for their pleasure. Women were raped and killed in front of their children. Their tongues were pulled out only because the aggressor did not hear what they wanted to hear from them.”

And yet Russia continues to deny the allegations even though there appears to be plenty of evidence. Vassily Nebenzia, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, called the accusations against the Russian military “ungrounded” and “not confirmed by any eyewitnesses.”

Yet, to again be clear, news organizations continue to report on what appears to be gruesome signs of atrocities.

And, based on reporting out of Ukraine, we may hear more of these stories in the days and weeks ahead in a war that, sadly, does not appear close to ending.

Here is more notable journalism from Ukraine-Russia

Musk joins Twitter board

Elon Musk in September 2020. (zz/Wil R/STAR MAX/IPx)

Well, that didn’t take long. Less than 24 hours after becoming Twitter’s largest shareholder by buying a 9.2% stake, Elon Musk has been invited to join Twitter’s board of directors. The New York Times’ Lauren Hirsch wrote, “Mr. Musk is set to be appointed to a board seat that expires in 2024. For as long as he is serving on Twitter’s board, and for 90 days after if he chooses to step down, he will not be allowed to own more than 14.9 percent of Twitter’s stock.”

Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s chief executive, tweeted Tuesday, “I’m excited to share that we’re appointing @elonmusk to our board! Through conversations with Elon in recent weeks, it became clear to us that he would bring great value to our Board.”

Agrawal added, “He’s both a passionate believer and intense critic of the service which is exactly what we need on @Twitter, and in the boardroom, to make us stronger in the long-term. Welcome Elon!”

Musk responded by tweeting, “Looking forward to working with Parag & Twitter board to make significant improvements to Twitter in coming months!”

Writing for The Verge, Elizabeth Lopatto wrote, “I notice Musk is already doing some light trolling about Twitter products, with a handy assist from Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal! Specifically, Musk is polling to ask if Twitter should add an edit button, and Agrawal has said the poll will have important consequences. I mean, that’s not tweeting disinformation or anyone’s home address or anything that’s an obvious ToS violation — but it does suggest that some operations and decisions, um, may be made by Musk, actually. The platform’s top s***poster already has the keys to the castle, and he’s gotten them in a way that’s specifically a thumb in the eye of the SEC.”

Politico senior media writer Jack Shafer weighed in on Musk’s investment in Twitter, mentioning other wealthy owners of media companies, such as Jeff Bezos (The Washington Post), Patrick Soon-Shiong (Los Angeles Times), Laurene Powell Jobs (The Atlantic), Michael Bloomberg (Bloomberg News) and John Henry (The Boston Globe).

Shafer wrote, “What’s different about Musk’s impending mogulhood is that most new rich people swoop in with the intention to restore flagship publications to their former glory — in the above examples, the rescue cases were the Post, the Times, the Globe. But rescue is not Musk’s motivation. Twitter is largely self-sustaining and needs no billionaire help to regain lost glory. Instead, Musk is that obsessive Twitterer who so loves its milk he wants to buy the cow. Also, the herd, the dairy and the pasteurization plant. This makes Musk look like the person who doesn’t like the way Twitter censors messages, hence he’s buying the messenger.”

And here’s one more piece to check out: The Atlantic’s Marina Koren with “Of Course Elon Musk Wanted Twitter.”

WarnerMedia chief steps down

Jason Kilar, outgoing CEO of WarnerMedia, in December 2021. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Now that Discovery’s acquisition of WarnerMedia, owners of CNN, is in the final stages, WarnerMedia chief executive Jason Kilar announced he is leaving. That’s not a surprise.

In a memo to staff, Kilar said, “With the pending transaction with Discovery nearing close, now is the right time to share with each of you that I will be departing this amazing company.”

He said leading WarnerMedia was “the honor of my lifetime,” adding, “My heart is so full, and I am beyond thankful to each of you. There is no better team on the planet, and I will savor every last step as I wander the lot in Burbank several more times this week, with this team on my mind, always.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Flint wrote, “During his nearly two-year tenure leading the Warner Bros. studios and cable channels including HBO, CNN and TNT, Mr. Kilar made moves that shook up both the company and the industry. Most recently, he made the call that CNN Chief Jeff Zucker should step down amid recent controversies at the news network.”

The Discovery-WarnerMedia deal is expected to be finalized next week, and the company will be run by Discovery chief executive David Zaslav.

CNN’s Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy have more on Kilar leaving. Appearing on CNBC, Kilar, who turns 51 later this month, said he had “no grand proclamations” about what he’ll do next, but said, “I’m not going to a beach to go and reflect or retire.”

One more Kilar note on CNN’s future

During his interview on CNBC, Kilar talked about CNN+ — CNN’s just-launched streaming service.

Kilar said, “It is ahead of my expectations, in terms of where the subscribers are, where the engagement (is), the receptiveness in terms of people’s response to the journalism of CNN+. I couldn’t be more proud of that team. And it’s not an exaggeration to say that is the future of CNN. I think that anyone who does not have a scalable, robust, paid business model digitally doesn’t have a very strong future. And a lot of credit I’ll give to The New York Times and Wall Street Journal because they have a robust digital paid business model and now CNN does as well.”

Speaking of streaming …

The latest from Variety’s Brian Steinberg: “Streaming Pressures Push MSNBC to Cut Back on Hard News.”

Steinberg writes that sources tell him that “NBC News correspondents have been directed to bring breaking-news coverage first to NBC News Now, the company’s ad-supported streaming news service, or other digital NBC News properties before any appearance on MSNBC is considered.”

An NBC News spokesperson told Steinberg that no division-wide directive relating to such matters has been issued.

Steinberg writes, “Still, as NBC News seeks to break the latest details, MSNBC has been trimming back its news offerings in favor of opinion-led programs.”

Examples are that “Morning Joe” has added a fourth hour to its weekday show and weekend programming has added opinion-based shows, including an upcoming show hosted by Katie Phang, a former aide to the campaigns of President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Breaking news still remains a big part of MSNBC’s programming, particularly during the day. Check out Steinberg’s story for all the details.

Oh, one MORE streaming note …

Speaking Tuesday at Axios’ What’s Next Summitt, NBCUniversal News Group chairman Cesar Conde talked about the importance of access to free journalism.

Conde said in an interview with Axios’ Sara Fischer, “If we don’t do that, we run the risk that over time, large portions of the population who may not be able to afford subscription services may be left with only what’s out there in social media and worse, some of the misinformation and disinformation out there.”

Conde added, “Yes, there’s going to be increasing subscription services coming out of news organizations such as ourselves, such as you all, but we think it’s equally important to offer free access to world-class journalism, from news organizations that have high rigorous standards to the broader population. If we don’t do that, we run the risk that over time, large portions of the population who may not be able to afford subscription services may be left with only what’s out there in social media, and worse, some of the misinformation and disinformation that’s out there.”

DirecTV drops OAN

On Tuesday, as expected, DirecTV dropped right-wing network One America News. When DirecTV subscribers turned to OAN on Tuesday, they were met with this message: “This channel is no longer available.”

Back in January, DirecTV informed OAN that it was not going to renew its contract. The main reason is that OAN pushed the lie that the 2020 election was rigged against former President Donald Trump.

The network also is being sued by Dominion Voting Machines for more than $1 billion. Dominion sued OAN and Newsmax for creating “an alternate reality where up is down, pigs have wings, and Dominion engaged in a colossal fraud to steal the presidency from Donald Trump by rigging the vote.”

DirecTV was OAN’s largest platform, so getting dropped is a major blow.

Off the rails

Georgia Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene speaks during a rally in Rome, Ga., last month. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)

Georgia Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene is taking plenty of criticism for her tweet on Monday claiming GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine) and Mitt Romney (Utah) are “pro-pedophile” because they said they will vote to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. Greene’s tweet was, “Murkowski, Collins, and Romney are pro-pedophile. They just voted for #KBJ.”

Greene wasn’t done. Two hours later, she posted another Twitter thread that included, “Any Senator voting to confirm #KJB is pro-pedophile just like she is. There are MANY more qualified black women judges, that actually can define what a woman is, but Biden chose the one that protects evil child predators. And then Romney, Murkowski, and Collins vote for her.”

Joy Behar had a pretty good line on Tuesday’s “The View,” saying, “Can I apologize to Sarah Palin? Because this woman makes Sarah Palin look like Madame Curie.”

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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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