Good morning. Today, I offer up some recommendations for your weekend reading, watching and listening. But before that, a few media news updates.
First, what in the heck is going on with Twitter and Elon Musk?
The on-again, off-again sale of Twitter to Musk appeared to be back on again earlier this week when Musk said he would buy the company for the originally agreed-upon price of $54.20 a share, or $44 billion. But on Thursday, it seemed to be off again for a bit and then back on and now … who the heck knows?
Musk’s lawyers said early Thursday that Twitter is refusing to accept the deal and wanted Delaware court to postpone a trial set to begin later this month. Twitter is suing Musk for backing out of the deal he agreed to in April.
So let’s get this straight. Musk agreed to buy Twitter. Musk backed out. Twitter sued. Musk then agreed to the original deal, but now Twitter won’t accept it?
Then came word Thursday evening that the trial will indeed be delayed to give Musk more time to line up his financing.
The Wall Street Journal’s Cara Lombardo and Alexa Corse wrote, “The surprise ruling, granting a request by Mr. Musk, effectively ends negotiations for a settlement that would allow the parties to quickly close the deal. Mr. Musk now has until Oct. 28 to do so. Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick said if the deal doesn’t close by that date, the parties should contact her to schedule a November trial.”
Lombardo and Corse added, “Late Thursday, the dispute spilled into public view with Mr. Musk’s filing, which said he expected to have the financing in place to close the deal around Oct. 28. Twitter responded by calling his request an ‘invitation to further mischief and delay.’ Mr. Musk in his filing said the financing banks are working to fund the deal so it can close. He argued that proceeding with the litigation for now, as Twitter prefers, could keep the deal in limbo longer.”
CNN’s Clare Duffy wrote, “The back-and-forth offers the clearest indication yet that Musk’s financing may now be the central issue in the dispute between the Tesla CEO and Twitter over halting the legal proceedings and completing the deal. Musk has previously said he would pay for the acquisition through a mix of debt commitments from financial institutions, equity financing from investors and his own assets. But legal experts have raised concerns that debt financiers may now want to pull out of the deal in light of recent changes to the debt market and declines in value of social media companies. Twitter, according to experts, would likely want to maintain the litigation as pressure on Musk unless he agrees to close the deal with or without the debt financing.”
As they say in the business … stay tuned.
Chicago Sun-Times makes its content free to readers
For this item, I turn it over to Poynter media business analyst Rick Edmonds.
The Chicago Sun-Times dropped its paywall Thursday and made all content free to readers. The Sun-Times will shift to membership drives to gather financial support.
The moves come exactly a year after Chicago Public Media and its radio station WBEZ announced their intent to acquire the Sun-Times. The deal closed this January with $61 million in backing from foundations and individual donors.
The shift had been expected. Public broadcast outlets offer their content for free, as do most in the growing sector of nonprofit digital news startups. The nonprofit structure allows foundations and individuals to contribute tax-free, and Chicago Public Media brings long experience with managing membership and philanthropic sponsors.
“Our journalists care about your community because it’s our community, too,” The Sun-Times wrote in an editorial. “And we strongly believe that everyone in the Chicago area should have access to the news, features and investigations we produce, regardless of their ability to pay. … A membership program connects our revenue model more closely to how well we serve our community, holding us accountable to you, our readers. We think that’s a good thing, because if we’re not serving you, we’re not doing our jobs. So we’re taking a leap of faith and putting our trust in you.”
For free access, users are asked to provide an email address, which allows the Sun-Times to make pitches for support. The editorial also invites readers to submit story suggestions, describing “a moment that has made you feel especially proud of your community, or a moment that brought your community together.”
Chicago Public Media executives have said that details about merging the two newsrooms and their reports will come later as the two are fully integrated.
Jennifer Kho, who had earlier stints as an editor at HuffPost and The Guardian US, joined the Sun-Times as executive editor in June.
The Sun-Times, long the second paper in Chicago, had been through several ownership changes in recent years. Its rival, the Chicago Tribune, is the flagship of Tribune Publishing, which was acquired by hedge fund Alden Global Capital in summer 2021.
One more media tidbit: Alden Global Capital — the second-largest newspaper publisher in the country with about 200 papers, including the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News and The Denver Post — will no longer endorse political candidates in its opinion pages.
Readers are expected to learn of the move in an editorial that could run in Alden papers as soon as today. According to a copy of the editorial acquired by Robertson, it will say, “Unfortunately, as the public discourse has become increasingly acrimonious, common ground has become a no man’s land between the clashing forces of the culture wars. At the same time, with misinformation and disinformation on the rise, readers are often confused, especially online, about the differences between news stories, opinion pieces and editorials.”
Newspapers have a long history of endorsing political candidates and many still do, although some have stopped the practice.
Meanwhile, Robertson writes, “Three Alden newspapers — The Baltimore Sun, The Chicago Tribune and The Denver Post — will be allowed to continue with their endorsements this season because of how far along in the process they are and because they are viewed as state newspapers of record, the person said. Those newspapers will announce after this election cycle that they will end the practice, according to the person with knowledge of the company’s plan.”
And now some recommended journalism for your weekend …
- This report from The Washington Post’s Amy Gardner has the most disturbing headline I’ve read in quite some time: “A majority of GOP nominees — 299 in all — deny the 2020 election results.” Gardner writes, “Although some are running in heavily Democratic areas and are expected to lose, most of the election deniers nominated are likely to win: Of the nearly 300 on the ballot, 174 are running for safely Republican seats. Another 51 will appear on the ballot in tightly contested races.” And, Gardner adds, “The implications will be lasting: If Republicans take control of the House, as many political forecasters predict, election deniers would hold enormous sway over the choice of the nation’s next speaker, who in turn could preside over the House in a future contested presidential election.”
- There’s more to that Post story. Adrian Blanco and Amy Gardner have “Where Republican election deniers are on the ballot near you.”
- And yet one more from the Post: Sarah Ellison with “How a Las Vegas newsroom set out to solve a colleague’s killing.”
- Superb video investigative work from The New York Times’ Muyi Xiao, Isabelle Qian, Tracy Wen Liu, Drew Jordan and Jeff Bernier in “Inside the Final Days of the Doctor China Tried to Silence.”
- For CNN, Shimon Prokupecz, Matthew J. Friedman and Rachel Clarke with “Uvalde school district fires officer after CNN identifies her as trooper under investigation for her response to massacre.”
- New York Magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi interviews New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman about Haberman’s new book about Donald Trump in “Maggie Haberman on How She Covers Trump Without Losing Her Mind.” In the interview, Haberman says there’s nothing Trump could do that would surprise her. “There isn’t,” Haberman said. “In the sense that I think he’s capable of a great number of things. But when I found out, in reporting the last year, that he actually was telling people he was not going to leave the White House. He was not kidding. And it was very alarming to people at the time who heard it.”
- My colleague Al Tompkins touched on this topic earlier this week, but here’s The Los Angeles Times’ Jenny Jarvie with “After Hurricane Ian, a low-lying Florida city starts to rebuild. Should it?”
- The New York Times’ Justin Scheck with “She’s a Doctor. He Was a Limo Driver. They Pitched a $30 Million Arms Deal.”
- Washington Post media reporter Jeremy Barr with “Journalists want to know: Can we use your disaster photo, please?”
- This story starts with a man saying he didn’t think late comedian Norm Macdonald was funny. This was back when Macdonald was still alive. Now the rest of the story. The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona with “Internet Trolls Have Tormented This Sci-Fi Writer for Years — and He Can’t Stop Them.”
- Thought-provoking piece by Matt Brennan — deputy editor for entertainment and arts for the Los Angeles Times — with “The real lesson of ‘Bros’: It’s OK to let gay art bomb.”
- Variety with “Who Should Be the Next James Bond? 34 Picks for the New 007.”
- French writer Annie Ernaux has been awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. The Associated Press’ Jeffrey Schaeffer, David Keyton and Jill Lawless have more. And The New York Times’ Joumana Khatib with “Here is a guide to Ernaux’s most essential work.”
- Speaking of awards, here the American Journalism Online Awards – 2022 Winners.
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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