March 21, 2022

He has given powerful speeches to leaders in the U.S. and across Europe. He has done intimate interviews from undisclosed locations. He has made emotional pleas while showing immense courage.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky continues to effectively get his important message out to the world — all while leading his country against one of the biggest armies on the planet, an army that is destroying his country by attacking its citizens and everything and everyone else in its path.

And each time we see him — often looking exhausted yet determined — he passionately demonstrates the need for help.

On Sunday, he gave an exclusive interview to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, where he said he is ready to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but also warned that a failed negotiation could lead to World War III.

“I’m ready for negotiations with him,” Zelensky said. “I was ready for the last two years. And I think that without negotiations, we cannot end this war. If there’s just 1% chance for us to stop this war, I think that we need to take this chance. We need to do that. I can tell you about the result of this negotiations — in any case, we are losing people on a daily basis, innocent people on the ground. Russian forces have come to exterminate us, to kill us, and we have demonstrated the dignity of our people and our army, that we are able to deal a powerful blow, we are able to strike back, but unfortunately, our dignity is not going to preserve lives, so I think that we have to use any format, any chance in order to have the possibility of negotiating the possibility of talking to Putin. But if these attempts fail, that would mean that this is a third world war.”

Dramatic, but not hyperbolic.

Zelensky also pressed for entrance into NATO, saying, “Now the whole world is seeing that our army is strong, but the leaders of world’s countries, all leaders, most leaders of NATO and the European Union were well aware of my position. I told them that we are running out of time. You have to admit Ukraine into NATO right now. We do not have much time. You have to accept Ukraine as a member of EU.”

Again, his warnings of what could happen next are dramatic, but not overstated.

So far, Zelensky has gained most of the world’s sympathy and immense support, although he has yet to get the full support he is looking for. He will continue to implore the world through his compelling interviews and speeches — interviews and speeches that are changing history.

Brennan’s remarks

CBS News’ Margaret Brennan, delivering closing commentary on Sunday’s “Face the Nation.” (Courtesy: CBS News)

CBS “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan talked about Zelensky during the closing remarks on Sunday’s show. She talked about his powerful messages in the speeches he has given to the world in the past week.

She then said, “The role of a journalist is to report facts and report the truth and, above all, stay fair and neutral. But much like Switzerland, we find ourselves agreeing with Volodymyr Zelensky, that some facts are so horrific that equivalency is both false and morally wrong. Above all else, it is most important to be truthful.”

Covering Russia

Interesting insights from Julie Pace, the senior vice president and executive editor of The Associated Press, on Sunday morning’s “Reliable Sources” on CNN. Pace told host Brian Stelter that the AP continues to “have a presence in Russia” despite Russian laws that potentially punish independent journalists for reporting the truth about the war.

“We feel like it’s incredibly important for us to report from there, particularly as we see other news organizations leave the country,” Pace said. “Obviously, the new laws have put restrictions on journalists, but we’re very committed to continuing to tell that story.”

But how? How do you report in a country that doesn’t want the truth reported?

Pace said she didn’t want to get into details about the “how” so as not to put her journalists in jeopardy. “But,” Pace said, “I can tell you that these are decisions and conversations that we have every day, multiple times a day. We cover a lot of difficult places around the world, a lot of places where there are intense restrictions on journalists, so this is something that we’re pretty experienced at.”

She said the safety of AP’s journalists is at the “top of the list.”

More notable coverage of Russia-Ukraine

Confirmation hearings begin today

Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on Capitol Hill last week. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson are set to begin today with Jackson appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

CNN legal analyst Joan Biskupic wrote, “Jackson’s hearings will showcase her status as the first Black woman nominated to the high court. Yet the televised sessions will also bring into national focus the trajectory of America’s highest court, now controlled by a conservative supermajority.”

There already are some signs that this confirmation, like everything in Washington these days, could turn contentious. The New York Times’ Carl Hulse wrote, “Republican leaders, wary of engaging in a potentially racially charged spectacle that could prompt a political backlash, have promised a more dignified review of the latest Supreme Court candidate, after a series of bitter clashes over the court. But in recent days, with the approach of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings on her nomination that begin on Monday, their tone has shifted.”

For example, Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley is making claims that his review of Jackson has shown she has been lenient on sentencing some sex offenders and has worked in the past to reduce penalties for those caught with child pornography.

Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) appeared on Sunday’s “This Week” on ABC and said, “(Hawley) is wrong. He’s inaccurate and unfair in his analysis. … There’s no truth to what he says. And he’s part of a fringe within the Republican Party. This was the man who was fist-bumping the murderous mob that descended on the Capitol on Jan. 6 of the last year. He doesn’t have the credibility he thinks he does.”

In a fact-check of Hawley’s claims, The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler wrote “the picture that Hawley provides is a selective one that lacks significant context.”

Kessler ruled that Hawley’s comments earned “Three Pinocchios,” which equals “mostly false.”

Meanwhile, Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell keeps mentioning that Jackson’s experience as a public defender might make her soft on crime.

Hulse wrote, “The increasingly hostile critiques of Judge Jackson suggest that her confirmation hearings might not be the sober, drama-free proceeding that many had anticipated when she was nominated to replace Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who has announced he will retire at the end of the court’s current term this summer.”

For what it’s worth, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa told The Wall Street Journal’s Natalie Andrews, “We’re going to be fair, thorough and we’re not going to get in the gutter like the Democrats did with (Brett) Kavanaugh.”

Today’s session will feature opening remarks of up to 10 minutes each from the 22 lawmakers on the panel. Then Jackson will give an opening statement. Jackson will be asked questions by the committee on Tuesday and Wednesday. The hearings are expected to conclude on Thursday, but Jackson will not attend the final day.

Here’s an insightful piece from Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow of The Washington Post on how Jackson stands on many of the key issues.

The other big story

Remember COVID-19? Yeah, that’s not over, by the way.

As the country eases up on restrictions and there’s a real sense in many places that we’re in the clear, here comes a new concern.

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that it’s “no time at all to declare victory, because this virus has fooled us before and we really must be prepared for the possibility that we might get another variant. And we don’t want to be caught flat-footed on that.”

The next possible issue is the BA.2 subvariant, which is being blamed for the uptick in cases in Europe and is predicted to increase cases in the U.S. in the coming weeks. The new variant is more contagious than omicron, but it doesn’t appear to cause serious illness in most people, especially those who have been fully vaccinated.

Fauci told moderator George Stephanopoulos, “Hopefully, we won’t see a surge. I don’t think we will. The easiest way to prevent that is to continue to get people vaccinated. And for those who have been vaccinated, to continue to get them boosted. So, that’s really where we stand right now.”

As far as returning to restrictions, Fauci said, “I don’t see us going back into any more really very restrict kinds of restrictions. But you always have to have the flexibility.”

Stephanopoulos also asked the 81-year-old Fauci, in a roundabout way, if he was considering retirement. Fauci said, “I want to make sure we’re really out of this before I really seriously consider doing anything different. We’re still in this. We have a way to go. I think we’re clearly going in the right direction. Hope we stay that way.”

Remembering John Clayton

John Clayton in 2016. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

One of the NFL’s most recognizable and respected reporters has died. John Clayton, best known for his 20-plus years of work at ESPN, died Friday after a brief illness. He was 67.

Nicknamed “The Professor,” Clayton started his career working in his hometown for the old Pittsburgh Press. He spent a decade at the Tacoma (Washington) News Tribune and then joined ESPN in 1995 as an “insider.” He has spent the past few years writing for various outlets and serving as a sideline reporter on Seattle Seahawks radio broadcasts. Clayton was honored in 2007 with the Bill Nunn Memorial Award, one of the highest honors for football reporters.

Chris Mortenson, another longtime NFL reporter, put together this remembrance of Clayton.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement, “John Clayton, one of the first ‘Insiders,’ helped bring fans closer to the game they loved. For five decades, he covered the league with endless energy and professionalism.”

Seattle Times sports columnist Larry Stone wrote, “John Clayton was the best reporter I ever saw — fearless, relentless, tireless (as he made clear) and as well connected in his arena as anyone could possibly be. He knew everybody in the NFL, it seemed, and could get them on the phone at a moment’s notice.”

Dave Boling, a retired sports columnist who worked with Clayton at The News Tribune, wrote for The Washington Post, “Some referred to his knowledge as ‘encyclopedic,’ but that implies a broad base of information at a shallow depth. Instead, Clayton had a bottomless reservoir of facts on one specific topic: the National Football League.”

Clayton was called “The Professor” in part because of his appearance — which included his small stature, short hair and wire-rimmed glasses. But Clayton made fun of that reputation (as well as playing into a rumor about his hair) in one of ESPN’s best commercials ever.

In a reference to that commercial, ESPN NFL reporter Adam Schefter tweeted, “He dedicated his life to his wife and to football. He was a pioneer, a caretaker, a Hall of Famer and a slayer, in every sense.”

Stone wrote, “Clayton wasn’t called ‘The Professor’ merely as a playful take on his scholarly look; he researched and probed for information like he wanted to be a Nobel laureate of football. I once saw John spend an entire day trying to track down every team’s Pro Bowl selections that were going to be released later in the day. It meant everything to him to have it ahead of everyone else.”

Seemingly every NFL beat writer who knew Clayton flooded Twitter with tributes, showing just how respected and liked Clayton was. And that respect extended beyond the media as quarterback Russell Wilson tweeted, “We will all miss your words and brilliance @JohnClaytonNFL


Media tidbits

Hot type

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at

More resources for journalists

The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, sign up here.

Follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
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…
Tom Jones

More News

Back to News