July 20, 2022

Score one for Twitter in its legal showdown with world’s richest man Elon Musk.

On Tuesday, a judge in Delaware granted Twitter’s request for an expedited trial. Twitter wanted a trial in September. Musk wanted it to be in February. Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick, a Delaware Chancery Court judge, set a five-day trial for October. So the edge goes to Twitter.

So what’s the time dispute about?

The Washington Post’s Elizabeth Dwoskin and Gerrit De Vynck wrote, “Twitter had requested a September date — an effort to prevent Musk from causing further damage to the company through his firebrand Twitter account and his legal team’s plan to request reams of potentially damaging internal documents. Musk’s team had requested February, to allow ample time for discovery of those documents as well as internal data.”

McCormick, in her ruling, said, “The reality is the delay (requested by Musk) threatens irreparable harm to the sellers and to Twitter.” She added, “The longer the merger transaction remains in limbo, the larger a cloud of uncertainty is cast over the company.”

Twitter also believes that Musk tried to delay the trial in order to, ultimately, get out of buying the social media company altogether. Musk had agreed to buy the company for $44 billion, but now is trying to get out of the original deal because, in part, he thinks Twitter isn’t being clear about the number of bots on its site, as well as the amount of spam.

The New York Times’ Kate Conger wrote, “Twitter was trying to ‘shroud’ its bot figures, said Andy Rossman, a lawyer for Mr. Musk, ‘as long as necessary to get this deal railroaded through.’”

Speaking of Conger, here’s a passage from last week’s Times story she wrote with Mike Isaac: “Now, as Mr. Musk, a billionaire, tries to back out of the blockbuster deal, he is inexorably leaving Twitter worse off than it was when he said he would buy it. With each needling tweet and public taunt, Mr. Musk has eroded trust in the social media company, walloped employee morale, spooked potential advertisers, emphasized its financial difficulties and spread misinformation about how Twitter operates.”

They also wrote, “Mr. Musk, who has more than 100 million followers on Twitter, has also jackhammered the product, saying it is not as attractive as other apps. He has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that Twitter is overrun with more inauthentic accounts than it has disclosed; such accounts can be automated to pump out toxic or false content. (The company has said fewer than 5 percent of the accounts on its platform are fake.) His barbs about fake accounts have weakened trust in Twitter, just as the company prepares to moderate heated political discussions about an upcoming election in Brazil and the midterm elections this fall in the United States, misinformation experts said.”

White House shakeup

NBC News’ Mike Memoli and Carol E. Lee report that the White House “is considering a major overhaul of its press and communications shop in the coming weeks.”

The moves could come just as the campaigns for the midterm elections go into the final drive and President Joe Biden hopes to strengthen his messaging.

Memoli and Lee write, “The effort to revamp the White House press operation comes as Biden has expressed frustration that his message isn’t breaking through to Americans and his approval ratings continue to hit new lows, while his aides prepare for him to seek re-election.”

The first step is finding a new White House communications director to replace Kate Bedingfield, who is stepping down this week. The search is being led by one of Biden’s advisers, Anita Dunn. Memoli and Lee report that potential replacements for Bedingfield include Liz Allen, the assistant secretary of state for global public affairs; Kate Berner, the deputy communications director; and Elizabeth Alexander, communications director for first lady Jill Biden.

Dunn is also looking to fill the spot of principal deputy press secretary. That spot was held by Karine Jean-Pierre, who was promoted to replace Jen Psaki as White House press secretary.

Next, here are two items from my colleague Rick Edmonds, Poynter’s media business analyst. First …

Gannett launches an ad/editorial blitz

The front page of the July 19, 2022, edition of The Courier-Post of Cherry Hill, New Jersey. (Courtesy)

USA Today and Gannett’s network of 250 regional daily newspapers are this week rolling out a blitz of advertising and editorials in support of legislation aimed at getting newspapers compensation for their content from the big platform companies.

Regionals have been running front-page strip advertisements, and a separate flight of display ads are planned for inside pages. USA Today editorialized Tuesday under the headline: “A devastating trend: Local newspapers are shrinking or disappearing. Congress must act.”

The piece advocates the passage of the Journalism Competition and Protection Act, which would waive antitrust restrictions and allow the industry to bargain collectively with Google and Facebook to be paid for content that appears in their news feeds.

In addition, Gannett is pushing its regional papers to produce similar editorials or signed columns. In a memo obtained by Poynter, Amalie Nash, who directs news operations for the group, wrote, “With this legislation at a critical juncture, any opinion columns, editorials or guest columns in support will be extremely helpful. The more noise we can make, the better.”

It’s hardly unprecedented for news organizations to donate ad space or editorialize for their self-interest. But this directive comes after Gannett has told the regional papers to reduce space for opinion, minimize editorials telling readers what to think, and steer clear of most national topics. Except in this instance, apparently.

News/Media Alliance chief lobbyist Danielle Coffey told me in an email that the NMA hopes for at least a committee markup of the long-simmering bill in the next several weeks before Congress adjourns for the summer. NMA has enlisted other chains and independent papers in its effort to promote action.

Also from Rick Edmonds …

Trust in news gets worse

Can measures of trust in news media in the U.S. possibly get any worse? Well, yes they can.

Gallup released its annual survey on media confidence levels Monday. It shows only 16% of those surveyed expressed a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in newspapers. TV news fared even worse at 11%.

Both were record lows for the 50 years Gallup has done this polling. But perhaps more alarming was that the ratings for newspapers and TV each dropped 5 percentage points in a single year.

The survey also underscored a large partisan gap in perceptions. Among Democrats, 34% expressed confidence in newspapers, compared to 11% for independents and just 5% among Republicans.

The findings were consistent with two other Gallup polls on related trust and fairness questions and on the Oxford University Reuters Institute’s annual digital news report that found in both 2021 and 2022 that the U.S. ranked last in media trust among 46 countries measured.

The Captain

Former baseball star Derek Jeter. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

“The Captain” — a seven-part documentary about legendary New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter — debuted Monday night on ESPN with the first hourlong episode. Part two is Thursday.

Some are billing it as baseball’s version of “The Last Dance,” the 10-part documentary about basketball icon Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls that came out in 2020. Episode one of “The Captain,” which detailed Jeter’s upbringing and family life in Michigan and the early part of his pro career, was certainly good enough to keep viewers interested in sticking with it.

But it’s hard to imagine this documentary will be as compelling as the one about Jordan just because it seems unlikely that Jeter will be as open and honest. (Not that Jordan was completely transparent.) Jeter has carefully crafted his public image by being mostly private in his dealings with the media over the past 20 years. Jeter also admits in the documentary that he’s not going to be totally open about his life and career.

In her review of the series, Variety’s Caroline Framke writes, “And so with Jeter on alert for giving away too much, the series sometimes struggles to find much more to say about him than what we already know. But that reluctance is also what makes the moments when he cracks, even just a little, far more revealing. When Jeter allows himself to be a little petty, or smug, or a sorer loser than his carefully gracious post-match interviews would betray, ‘The Captain’ becomes that much more compelling, despite its subject’s best efforts.”

It also should be pointed out that both Jordan and Jeter were involved in the production of the documentaries so the assumption is viewers are getting a somewhat sanitized version of their lives and careers.

Washington Post sports columnist Candace Buckner writes, “‘The Captain’ remains Jeterian. It’s billed as candid, but it tells the story his way. For two decades, Jeter won five championships while controlling his narrative. Now he must think his legacy needs a postscript — so he has written that, too.”

Still, is it worth the watch? If you’re a baseball fan, yes. And if you’re a Jeter fan and Yankees diehard, absolutely.

A brutal takedown

Only subscribers can read the column, but Indianapolis Star sports columnist Gregg Doyel absolutely — and, in my opinion, fairly — crushes sports radio host and former college coach/player and ESPN commentator Dan Dakich in a devastating column.

Doyel writes, “He’s disintegrating, right before our eyes. This is the story I never wanted to write, because once upon a time I saw the best in Dakich. I don’t see it anymore. His best is gone, replaced by the caricature he created and has become, though he’s in the process of erasing it, and himself, one appalling act at a time.”

In another passage, Doyel writes, “Somewhere along the way Dakich, a humble and charming rascal when he coached little Bowling Green, fell in love with the sound of his voice on air. He loves his Twitter sycophants, retweeting the small handful of people who praise him — not seeing how transparently pathetic that is — and mistaking the enormous hatred he attracts as relevance. Is a cockroach on the countertop relevant? No, it’s disgusting and people react strongly.”

It’s quite the column. If you’re an IndyStar subscriber, it’s a must-read.

Dying to read

This is a really cool idea. This morning, Slate published “The 50 Greatest Fictional Deaths of All Time.” It’s a roundup of the most moving, most funny, most shocking, most influential scenes from books, movies, TV, theater, video games, and more. Best as one can tell, the list spans about 2,500 years — maybe longer.

It includes interviews with some of the fictional death’s creators, such as Stephen King, David Simon and George Pelecanos from “The Wire,” and many more.

Some authors weren’t available to be interviewed, such as William Shakespeare, Victor Hugo, Louisa May Alcott and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Slate’s Dan Kois writes, “We’ve made this list during a pandemic, as real-life death has stalked us all, more tangible than ever. After all, one of the many things art can do is to help us navigate the pitfalls of life, and there’s no deeper pitfall than the final one. Here are the scenes that have shown us all what the big goodbye might actually be like, when it comes.”

Notable journalism to check out

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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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