By:
January 7, 2022

We knew ahead of Thursday’s speech acknowledging the one-year anniversary of the insurrection on Jan. 6 that President Joe Biden was going to be critical of former President Donald Trump.

We just didn’t know it was going to be the overriding arc of a speech that was as harsh as it was ominous.

“For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob reached the Capitol,” Biden said in his nearly half-hour speech. “But they failed. They failed. And on this day of remembrance, we must make sure that such an attack never, never happens again. … His bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution. He can’t accept he lost.”

Referring to Trump several times as “the former president,” Biden said, “A former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election. He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interest as more important than his country’s interest and America’s interest.”

Biden said, “We are in a battle for the soul of America.” He added, “Those who stormed this Capitol, and those who instigated and incited, and those who called on them to do so, held a dagger at the throat of America — at American democracy. They didn’t come here out of patriotism or principle. They came here in rage. Not in service of America, but rather in service of one man.”

MSNBC’s Chuck Todd called it “easily the best speech” of Biden’s presidency, adding, “Those who call it partisan, it’s only partisan if you think there’s a legitimate debate about the result. … He defended American democracy.”

Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman wrote it “might wind up being the most important speech of his career.” Why? Because, Waldman wrote, Biden said what needed to be said: that the Big Lie and the assault on democracy continues and is being led by Donald Trump and his followers.

ABC News chief White House correspondent Cecilia Vega said, “These were certainly (Biden’s) strongest words yet on former President Trump since he has taken office on what happened here in the nation’s capital on January 6. These attacks were personal, and they were one after the next, basically from the moment this president started to speak and make his case.”

ABC News senior White House correspondent Mary Bruce added, “President Biden is really casting this moment, not saying that Jan. 6 and the insurrection was a culmination of President Trump’s presidency, but really just a dangerous chapter in this ongoing campaign against our democracy. The president vowing to fight this, saying he will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of democracy.”

Over on Fox News, anchor Bret Baier said, “It was as forceful, aggressive, pointed, specifically at the former president, as we’ve seen in a speech from President Biden since taking office Jan. 20 of last year.”

Biden also delivered this line: “You can’t love your country only when you win.” To which CNN’s Chris Cillizza wrote, “It’s not only a memorable line — it’s likely to be the one that gets repeated the most today and in the days to come — but also a hugely important one if we hope to fully come to grips with what happened last January 6 and everything that led to that moment.”

Other notable pieces

Here are some other stories as we look back at Jan. 6:

Best point

CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy tweeted: “What’s remarkable (yet also entirely predictable) is that on Fox and in the larger right-wing media ecosystem, Biden and the news media are getting more criticism during discussions pertaining to January 6 than … the former President who incited the attack on the US Capitol.”

By the numbers

Here’s an interesting by-the-numbers Twitter thread from Mother Jones about Jan. 6. The numbers include:

  • More than 725 insurrectionists have been arrested.
  • More than 225 rioters have been charged with assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers or employees.
  • More than 75 of those were charged with using a weapon or causing serious harm to an officer.
  • The average defendant is 39 years old.
  • Approximately 140 police officers were assaulted.

Just the facts

Amy Sherman, from Poynter’s PolitiFact, has a new piece out following the Jan. 6 anniversary: “The facts of a fair US election have only gotten stronger since Capitol attack.”

Swisher takes on another Parler CEO

Parler chief executive George Farmer. (Courtesy: The New York Times)

A year ago, Kara Swisher, host of The New York Times’ “Sway” podcast, interviewed John Matze, the CEO and co-founder of the right-leaning social media network Parler. This is after users on Parler said to “burn D.C. to the ground” during the Jan. 6 insurrection. Apple cited that interview when it decided to remove Parler from its App Store. Eventually, Google kicked Parler off its Play Store, Amazon suspended the web hosting service for Parler and Parler basically went dark. Matze lost his job.

These days, Parler is back up and Swisher has interviewed its new chief, George Farmer, for the latest episode of “Sway.” Farmer told Swisher, “You’ve never seen a company quite so unceremoniously booted off into digital exile. It’s the kind of medieval equivalent of the church sort of excommunicating someone.”

During the interview, Swisher grills Farmer about Jan. 6 and where the social media network is today. They also talk about Donald Trump and social media, Marjorie Taylor Greene’s personal account being booted off Twitter and what Apple, Amazon and Google should have done with Twitter and Facebook after Jan. 6.

As always, Swisher’s pod is a must-listen.

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The New York Times buys The Athletic

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

In 2017, Alex Mather, co-founder of the then-new sports website The Athletic, gave this infamous quote: “We will wait every local paper out and let them continuously bleed until we are the last ones standing. We will suck them dry of their best talent at every moment. We will make business extremely difficult for them.”

On Thursday, The Athletic was sold — to a newspaper.

To be fair, The New York Times is more than just a newspaper. It’s a multimedia powerhouse whose hands are in just about everything: print, digital, video, audio, newsletters. And now they are the owners of The Athletic. In a story first broken by The Information’s Jessica Toonkel, the Times has agreed to buy The Athletic in a deal valued at $550 million.

There’s a lot to unpack here and it will take a while before all the details are ironed out. Let’s start here: The Times has a goal of reaching 10 million subscribers by 2025. They will now add The Athletic’s 1.2 million subscribers to their approximately 8.3 million, giving them a major leg up in clearing their hurdle.

The Athletic’s owners have been looking to sell for a while now. They were engaged in talks with Axios last year, as well as the Times, who reportedly walked away from negotiations. But those talks heated up again recently and culminated in what Axios’ Sara Fischer reported as an all-cash deal.

Founded in 2016, the ad-free, subscription-based sports site made a splash by going after many of the top sportswriters in local markets, which led to Mather’s quote about bleeding papers dry. They hired reporters to cover practically every team among North America’s four major sports, as well as major colleges. They also made an extensive push into Europe to cover soccer.

Overall, the journalism has been solid. It has broken big stories, most notably the Houston Astros cheating scandal. It also, led by sensational investigative reporter Katie Strang, has produced major investigations about sexual abuse and harassment in sports, as well as dysfunction among sports franchises such as the Arizona Coyotes hockey team.

As a sports fan and subscriber and regular reader, I can tell you that their team coverage is solid as well, as it concentrates more on features and analysis as opposed to day-to-day transactions.

The business side of The Athletic had been less impressive. To date, The Athletic has raised about $140 million and has hired about 600 full-time staffers, including 400 for editorial. It put its value at $500 million, although it has said it doesn’t expect to be profitable until next year at the earliest. Like many news outlets, it has had layoffs and pay cuts, especially when COVID-19 hit businesses everywhere. As subscriptions waned, The Athletic gave away start-up subscriptions at an extremely low rate.

But in her Axios story, Fischer called the sale “a huge victory” for The Athletic.

So that’s what we know for now. What don’t we know?

We don’t know exactly what The Times will do with The Athletic. We don’t know if The Times will look to enhance The Athletic’s bottom line by making cuts. Meredith Kopit Levien, president and chief executive officer of The New York Times Company, said The Athletic would be a “subsidiary of The Times Company and continue to operate separately.”

She said in a statement, “Acquiring The Athletic puts us in a position to be a global leader in sports journalism and offer English speakers around the world another reason to turn to the Times Company to meet their daily news and life needs. The Times already provides distinctive sports coverage for a general interest audience as part of our core report. As a stand-alone product, The Athletic will enable us to offer much more — extensive coverage for fans who seek a deep connection to and understanding of their favorite teams, leagues and players. With one of the largest dedicated teams of reporters covering sports globally and a commitment to everyday reporting, The Athletic is a great complement to The Times.”

In their story for The New York Times, Lauren Hirsch, Kevin Draper and Katherine Rosman wrote, “The deal will bring hundreds of additional sports reporters to The Times’s current staff of about 40 sports journalists. Their added expertise could do more to attract readers who may not have been inclined to become subscribers.”

What does that all mean? It doesn’t sound as if The Athletic will become the new Times sports section. However, Times subscribers will be able to access Athletic content. My guess is there could be scenarios where occasional Athletic content could run on the Times’ website or in print, or there could be ProPublica-like projects where staffers from The Times and Athletic join forces. Otherwise, for now, the Times sports section and The Athletic will be separate.

Mather and The Athletic’s other co-founder, Adam Hansmann, will stay on with the company. They will share co-president duties, with Mather also serving as general manager and Hansmann as chief operating officer. They will report to Times executive David Perpich, who will become publisher of The Athletic.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out over the coming days, weeks and months.

But, writing for Defector, Ray Ratto remembered Mather’s quote about bleeding newspapers dry. It should be noted that Mather has walked back on that quote since he said it. Still, Ratto wrote, “What we know now, though, is this: If you’re trying to bring an industry to its knees, you should always be mindful of the ones who fly overhead. The Athletic was a potential revolution that was eventually subsumed by something called The Old Gray Lady, and the ones who planned to eat the entire table ended up on the old menu anyway, a new item right below Appetizers and above Entrees.”

Staff at Outside Magazine launch union drive

For this item, I turned it over to Poynter’s Angela Fu.

Editorial staff at Outside Magazine filed an election petition with the National Labor Relations Board Thursday in a bid to unionize with the NewsGuild. Management had declined to voluntarily recognize their union.

The union drive has already drawn support from 15 of the 17 eligible staff members. In recent years, the magazine has seen high turnover and overall staffing levels decrease. Individual employees’ responsibilities have grown without corresponding increases in salaries and benefits, staffers said.

“In the face of continued cuts, compensation stagnation, and management decisions that value profit and corporate expansion over our editorial missions, we believe that the only way to ensure that Outside is an equitable workplace and its editorial integrity is kept intact is by coming together and forming a union,” the workers wrote in a statement.

The editorial staff also hope that unionizing will allow them to further advance the magazine’s diversity, equity, and inclusion goals and better advocate for their freelance colleagues.

Outside is the first publication to announce a union drive with the NewsGuild in 2022. Last year, the NewsGuild broke its annual organizing record with 1,542 journalists across 26 workplaces joining the union. The media industry has unionized rapidly over the past few years in part due to increasing turmoil and consolidation within the industry.

Media tidbits

Former New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof in October 2021. (AP Photo/Sara Cline, File)

  • Nicholas Kristof left his job as New York Times columnist last year and planned to run for governor of Oregon. But now state officials are saying Kristof isn’t eligible to run because he does not meet a three-year residency requirement. Kristof is expected to appeal the decision in court. Politico’s Zach Montellaro and Christopher Cadelago have more.
  • Here’s another whopper of a story from Poynter’s Angela Fu: “Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Toledo Blade union members left unable to access health insurance.”
  • The Washington Post has named Steven Ginsberg as managing editor overseeing Metro, National and Sports. Ginsberg has been with the Post for nearly 30 years and has been the National editor since 2017.
  • Audie Cornish had a lengthy Twitter thread about her departure from NPR.
  • What is “The Great Resignation?” “60 Minutes” looks into that this Sunday in a feature from correspondent Bill Whitaker.
  • Fox News’ Steve Doocy, CNBC’s Shepard Smith and the “Today” show’s Hoda Kotb all announced they have tested positive for COVID-19.

Hot type

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify the sentence “We don’t know if The Times will look to enhance The Athletic’s bottom line by making cuts.” The original sentence said, “We don’t know if The Times will look to slash The Athletic’s bottom line by making cuts.”

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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