February 14, 2022

He is no longer in the White House. But he is still in the news.

Donald Trump.

A new book has just come out. Another big one is due out later this year.

And many, especially liberals and those who just can’t stand Trump, keep asking: Why are we still talking about this guy? He’s no longer the president. Why give him attention?

I’ll get to the answer to that in a moment — because it is an important question with a worthwhile answer. But first, let’s talk about those books.

The New York Times’ Jeremy W. Peters has a new book out called “Insurgency: How Republicans Lost Their Party and Got Everything They Ever Wanted.”

Washington Post book critic Carlos Lozada wrote, “Peters does not dwell on the excuses of the GOP establishment, nor does he plumb the debates over conservative orthodoxy. Instead, he emphasizes the activists, the operatives and particularly the right-wing media figures who helped mold the party into its Trump-ready state. It is a partial history, and it is not always obvious that its protagonists and scenes carry the influence that the author imagines. But ‘Insurgency’ is persuasive in suggesting that the long-term transformation of the Republican Party is one in which a style of politics has overpowered, and then suffocated, any remnant of its substance.”

Lozada goes on to write, “The Trump era in American politics can feel uniquely disruptive, but Peters highlights earlier episodes that, put together, leave Trump looking like an inevitable outcome rather than an unlikely outlier.”

The Guardian’s Lloyd Green writes, “(Peters) captures the grievance of the Republican base, its devotion to the 45th president and its varied voices. He repeatedly delivers quotable quotes, painstakingly sourced. This is highly readable reporting.”

Peters appeared on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources” on CNN to talk about a variety of topics. He did talk about Trump’s rise to power and how he gained popularity.

“He understood that it was about the enemies almost as much if not more than it was about who his allies were,” Peters said.

In other words, people gravitate to Trump because they dislike and distrust many of the things Trump claims to dislike and distrust, including the media.

So now let’s get to that question that so often comes up.

“Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter smartly asked it on his show Sunday: Why are we still talking about Trump? He’s no longer president. Why continue to cover him?

Peters said, “We’re supposed to ignore the guy who is very likely to be the next Republican nominee and possibly our next president? I’m not making any predictions about who wins in 2024, but I will say having interviewed Trump several times for this book, I could hear him getting angrier and angrier over the course of our interviews and more and more detached from reality. He seems to believe, genuinely, that this was stolen from him, that there was this crime perpetrated against him. And he wants vengeance. That is driving him and I think that’s what we have to take into account when we consider whether or not he’s really going to be in our lives and a part of our news coverage for the next two or three years.”


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Book it for later?

Speaking of Peters’ appearance on “Reliable Sources,” Stelter brought up another topic that has come up quite often involving newspaper reporters who write books about the topics they cover. We heard a lot about it when The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward wrote books about Trump, as well as in the past week or so when a few details about Maggie Haberman’s book on Trump became public. Now, mind you, Haberman’s book doesn’t come out until October. But many on social media seemed angry that Haberman, as well as past book authors, might hold onto something for a book as opposed to publishing it in their newspapers.

One of the stories that came out last week that Haberman learned while reporting her book was that Trump allegedly flushed papers down the toilet in the White House.

Appearing on CNN’s “Inside Politics” last week, Haberman said, “I did not know this was happening while he was president. I’m not known for sitting on scoops if I have information, number one. Number two, I found this out in the course of reporting for the book, well after Trump had left the White House.”

Haberman added, “I would not want someone thinking that I knew this in real time because I didn’t.”

And the fact of the matter is, this information has come out well before her book will come out.

Stelter asked Peters how to handle such situations of reporting for the Times in real time or saving information for his book.

“It’s something that you always kind of wrestle with,” Peters said. “But ultimately, at the end of the day, I tried to keep everything for the book because you dribble this stuff out and I think people eventually lose interest. What I do think is unfair is people who don’t know how the newsgathering process works, criticizing a fact that they can’t possibly know all the details behind the scenes and how it came together.”

Selling Trump

Interesting story in The New York Times as Shane Goldmacher and Eric Lipton write, “Selling Trump: A Profitable Post-Presidency Like No Other.”

Goldmacher and Lipton write, “For Mr. Trump, the monetization of his post-presidency represents a return to his roots. He expertly leveraged his celebrity as the host of ‘The Apprentice’ and his image as a decisive businessman to build credibility when he first entered politics. Now, he is executing the same playbook, only in reverse: converting a political following that provided hundreds of millions of dollars in small campaign contributions into a base of consumers for all things branded Trump.”

NBC’s Super Bowl coverage

NBC Sports’ Mike Tirico on the set during Sunday’s Super Bowl coverage. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Sunday was the Super Bowl as the Rams beat the Bengals, 23-20. Here’s a quick recap of NBC’s coverage. I’ll have more in Tuesday’s newsletter, looking back at the ratings and other reactions to the game, the coverage, the halftime show and the commercials.

  • Yes, Sunday was a day to celebrate the most popular sport in America. Super Bowl Sunday has become something of an unofficial holiday in the U.S. But credit NBC for tackling the biggest issue facing the NFL at the moment: the lack of Black head coaches. NBC’s Super Bowl host, Mike Tirico, led a frank and in-depth discussion on the topic. That was followed by comments from NBC analyst and former NFL coach Tony Dungy, who is Black. Dungy said, “The process is broken right now. For minority hiring, yes, but for coaching in general.” The segment ran for more than nine minutes — an unusually long time to spend on any one topic even during a five-hour pregame show. But this topic deserves it, and NBC handled it well.
  • Speaking of which, in a solid Super Bowl pregame interview taped last Thursday and conducted by “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt, President Joe Biden blasted the NFL for its lack of diversity among head coaches. Biden told Holt, “The whole idea that a league that is made up of so many athletes of color, as well as so diverse, that there’s not enough African American qualified coaches to manage these NFL teams, it just seems to me that it’s a standard that they’d want to live up to. It’s not a requirement of law, but it’s a requirement, I think, of just some generic decency.”
  • Was the Super Bowl the last game for Al Michaels at NBC Sports? He’s still, for my money, the best football play-by-play announcer in the business. But his contract is up at NBC and the word is NBC is ready to hand over the “Sunday Night Football” play-by-play duties to Tirico. Michaels is reportedly being wooed by Amazon, which will have a “Thursday Night Football” package next season and might offer Michaels up to $11 million a year. Sunday was Michaels’ 11th Super Bowl, tying him with the late Pat Summerall for most all time. And his call on Sunday was spot-on … as you would expect. It also was also the final game for sideline reporter Michele Tafoya, who announced earlier this season that she was leaving to pursue other opportunities.
  • On the topic of Tirico, what a week. He was just in Beijing as prime-time Olympics host and then he jetted back to Los Angeles to host the Super Bowl. The Washington Post’s Sam Fortier reported that Tirico ended up traveling 12,000 miles to pull off the double duty. Tirico will host the rest of the Olympics from NBC’s studios in Stamford, Connecticut.
  • I get the hype for the Super Bowl, and that’s as much of a show as a football game at this point. But after the teams coming on the field and Mickey Guyton’s superb rendition of the national anthem and the coin toss with legend Billie Jean King, didn’t The Rock’s over-the-top final introduction just before kickoff seem a bit … much?
  • The best part of the actual game broadcast, including the work of analyst Cris Collinsworth, was NBC treating it for what it was — a football game. Casual fans are going to watch, partly for the game, but partly for everything else, including the commercials. The diehard fans, of course, are going to watch, too. But you don’t want to insult them by dummying down the broadcast. Treat it like a football game, call it like you do during the season, and you’re going to end up with a solid broadcast. That’s what Michaels, Collinsworth and the entire NBC team did.
  • The halftime show was tremendous. There’s always a recency bias with these things, but the show featuring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar and 50 Cent is already being touted as one of the best ever — well, at least behind Prince’s 2007 performance. And did you notice Eminem kneeling? It was an obvious nod to NFL players, including Colin Kaepernick, who have kneeled in protest over racial inequality and other injustices.

And the jury finds …

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin outside of federal court in New York on Friday. (AP Photo/Jeenah Moon)

We could get a verdict today in Sarah Palin’s defamation trial against The New York Times. The former vice presidential candidate and governor of Alaska is suing the Times over a 2017 editorial that incorrectly linked the 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords to a map circulated by Palin’s PAC that showed certain electoral districts under crosshairs. The Times corrected the editorial about 12 hours after it was published online.

Going into the trial, most journalism and legal experts thought Palin had little chance of winning her case. She needed to prove that the Times had “actual malice” or “reckless disregard” when it printed the editorial. And those are standards extremely difficult to prove.

But this is a jury trial and there’s no telling which way it could go.

The Washington Post’s ​​Elahe Izadi and Sarah Ellison wrote, “Even if Palin loses, the case could move to higher courts on appeal, where it could find a different climate than the one that prompted the Supreme Court to set such high standards for libel and journalists, starting with its 1964 New York Times v. Sullivan ruling. Two justices, Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch, have previously indicated a willingness to reassess those standards as they apply to public figures.”

Times lawyer David Axelrod (not the former adviser to President Barack Obama and CNN commentator) said in court, “At stake here is the right of free expression and the right of the free press.” He said if Palin wins, it could have a “chilling effect” on all news publications.

Stop the presses

Late last week, the staffers at Texas A&M’s student newspaper, The Battalion, received disturbing news. School president M. Katherine Banks demanded that the 129-year old student publication cease printing weekly editions, effective immediately. The paper would continue to publish online, but not in print.

The students were stunned, especially because The Battalion’s leadership, instructors and professionals were not included in the decision. Banks told The Battalion that it was “a decision made by university leadership.”

Then, on Friday, Banks said the paper could continue to print until the end of the spring semester. In a statement, Banks said, “Times have changed and we want The Battalion and others interested in journalism as a profession to be at the forefront when they graduate.”

But can’t students be at the forefront of online journalism while still publishing a print edition that also is an effective tool to reach readers on campus?

According to The Texas Tribune’s Kate McGee, Banks’ statement also said that eliminating the print version would be in line with a more digitally focused journalism department, which Banks plans to resurrect.

Myranda Campanella, the paper’s editor-in-chief, told McGee, “We’re still going to look into the merits of the administration being able to stop us from printing at all, but now we have a little more time before they want to implement that.”

Back to work

New York Times media reporter Katie Robertson tweeted that The Washington Post has told staffers that managers must report back to office March 1 and all employees should be back by March 15. Post staffers can work on a hybrid schedule with up to two days a week working from home.

Meanwhile, because of what it calls a “rapid decline” in COVID-19 cases in New York City, The New York Times said staffers can voluntarily return to the office. Times chief human resources officer Jacqui Welch wrote to staff, “I personally look forward to seeing (really seeing) many of you as we ease back to an office routine.”

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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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