The case for replacing Scott Pelley with a female anchor

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CBS News President David Rhodes has plenty of unsolicited help in figuring out with whom he should replace Scott Pelley — an extremely talented, accomplished, ambitious (and occasionally petulant) star — as the anchor of “CBS Evening News.”

It's not totally unexpected since the early punditry (present company included) speculated mostly about White males as the successor to Pelley, jettisoned as the host amid declining ratings.

What about, say, Norah O'Donnell, among others? It’s not a bad idea. The H.R. department has her number.

The Women's Media Center issued a plea urging that a woman be picked. It recalled the relevant history, including Katie Couric (a failure) and Diane Sawyer (by and large a success) serving as nightly newscast solo anchors and with Barbara Walters, Connie Chung and Carole Simpson as co-anchors on the traditional big shows (with mixed success). It notes, too, how Maria Elena Salinas is co-anchor for Noticiero Univision.

Related Training: Reporting on Gender

"However, men still dominate media across all platforms — television, newspapers, online and wires — with change coming only incrementally. Women are not equal partners in telling the story, nor are they equal partners in sourcing and interpreting what and who is important in the story."

"Right now, only 32 percent of CBS Nightly News’ anchors, field reporters, and correspondents are women. In The Status of Women in U.S. Media in 2017, the Women’s Media Center found that female anchored news shows hire more women for these positions than their male led counterparts. Judy Woodruff's NewsHour on PBS, which she co-anchored with Gwen Ifill prior to Ifill's death last year, leads evening news broadcasts in producing the work of female news correspondents."

Bottom line: the three newscasts are big dinosaurs that still make real money — and have been male-dominated (unlike the tradition in local newscasts). It's unlikely any can grab appreciable new viewers, as opposed to stealing share from competitors and perhaps firming up their news brands.

So unless you roll the dice and blow up the format — with something more akin to what the networks do in their politics and fluff-filled morning shows or cable news does at night — there's basically one way to go: get a smart, authoritative and polished host.

Which is nothing that Rhodes doesn't know. If it makes you more diverse, all the better. It is curious that there's no dominant female national news anchor on broadcast (one former CBS executive friend points me the big pro-Trump vote among women as a yellow cautionary light, but that doesn't seem persuasive). Amid the legions of lunkheads men who survive quite well in the role nationwide, there are surely lots of superior women — even if they wouldn't reverse a clear trend.

Says Jean Gaddy Wilson, a consultant who ran a media think tank, New Directions for News: "The lady has left the building. Too bad. She drives about 90 percent of all consumer spending, holds more than 50 percent of all management and professional occupations, shapes online commerce."

"Whether a person, a company or an industry, assuring your future happens one way: recognizing and adapting to forces already reshaping today. Hard to imagine how one or two female anchors in such a hidebound tradition could lift televised news from its decline."

Unhappy tech honchos

"The decision by President Donald Trump to withdraw the United States from a major international climate pact threatened to reopen the White House’s long-simmering political feud with the tech industry, which had mobilized to defend the Paris agreement in recent months." (Recode)

Apple, Facebook, Google, Intel, Microsoft and Salesforce were among those who'd lobbied to stay in the accord. Elon Musk quit as an unpaid Trump business adviser amid the news.

A tragic collision

"Downloading a Nightmare: When autism, child pornography and the courts collide" is a disturbing and nervy new effort by the Marshall Project, a superior nonprofit on the criminal justice system. IT's about a "troubling and complex collision between the justice system and a developmental disability that, despite its prevalence, remains largely misunderstood in courts across the country."

That would be autism, with one byproduct for criminal defendants, including those who download child pornography, a judicial system "that clinicians say confuses autistic behavior with criminal intent and assumes, without hard evidence, that looking at images could be the precursor to illicit and dangerous contact with kids."

This turns on interview with families with adult autistic sons who were caught in child porn probes, along with experts in the field, who are not unanimous on several related issues.

With candor, this concedes early that it's "unclear whether their stories point to a larger trend, or if people with autism are overrepresented among those prosecuted for downloading child pornography."

"But their cases throw into question some of our assumptions about men who are caught with images and videos of child exploitation, and shed light on the ways in which the criminal justice system is struggling to understand autistic defendants."

Cannabis breaking news

"High Times, one of the oldest cannabis-centric media companies, was acquired by a group of investors including Damian Marley." (Business Insider)

"Venture capitalist Adam Levin led the $70 million acquisition through his new firm, Oreva Capital, partnering with Damian Marley's newly public company Stony Hill, Ean Seeb, the founder of Denver Relief Consulting, a Colorado dispensary, and 17 other partners in the cannabis, real estate, and technology space."

Tired of journalism? You could try the Cannabis space, which Levin elaborated on in a Cheddar interview.

The morning babble

"Fox & Friends" co-host Abby Huntsman subbed for Ainsley Earhardt who was at the White House for an exclusive interview with Mike Pence (you thought he'd give it to Rachel Maddow?). There was some ACLU bashing and, of course, praise of his Paris decision while "everywhere else they are in hysterics," said Huntsman.

"He was always going do this. The question is why it makes so much sense for him," said CNN "New Day" co-host Chris Cuomo. Pundit Errol Louis responded it might be "political gold" for his base, while CNN's London-based Clarissa Ward felt it "speaks to a crisis of global leadership...quite a sobering awakening" and the New York Times' David Sanger underscored big business' support of the treaty.

MSNBC's "Morning Joe" mulled former FBI Director James Comey's upcoming Senate testimony, a topic only briefly derailed by the climate deal announcement. Then it was back to the "grave diplomatic damage" done to the U.S. diplomatically and, "more disturbingly," said Joe Scarborough, "This proves that Donald Trump doesn't give a damn about the world...He cares about his core 38 percent. This is the Steve Bannon effect: the short-sighted stupidity...And welcome to Nancy Pelosi being Speaker of the House."

The internet and food reporting

We know how the net has changed, say, political reporting. What about restaurant reporting? Karen Brooks, a veteran Portland, Oregon critic who just won the James Beard Foundation’s Craig Claiborne Distinguished Restaurant Review Award, says this:

"The internet democratized writing, providing a platform for anyone to share their opinions about food. While this created more interest in food, the “instant demand” news cycle put a lot of pressure on food writers."

"I always believed a place benefits from time — time to find its voice and footing. That’s not always easy now. The food media didn’t focus so much on restaurant previews before the internet. Now it’s a major part of food news." (Eater)

The media's image problem

Daniel Henninger writes in The Wall Street Journal:

"Swaths of the media do have a credibility problem with much of the public. But that no longer matters, because many media platforms have decided to set aside nominal standards of objectivity and turn partisanship and resistance into a business model, pitching their coverage to half the electorate and ignoring the rest as commercially irrelevant."

"Mr. Trump keeps saying they should thank him because he’s building their audiences. This misapprehends what is taking place now. They are turning the angry Trump tweets and indeed Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation into pure political entertainment for their customers. They will make Donald Trump their tweeting dancing bear, if he lets them.”

Provocative but here's one hole: simply terrific reporting being done by many, including at least two pinatas for the right, namely The New York Times and The Washington Post. And, too, The Journal. The resources being devoted are admirable and setting a news agenda, whether it be via genuine enterprise or a cascade of leaks. The argument's a bit too facile.

The right's take on Trump's Paris pullout

National Review: "President Donald Trump has decided to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord. The United States never should have been in it in the first place, and it’s not even entirely clear that it ever was. In choosing American interests over Davos pieties — in the face of resistance from some within his own administration — the president here has made good on his promise to put America first."

Ann Coulter: "Trump's decision on Paris accord has lefties everywhere shitting bricks. Now if they could just sh*t some rebar, we could build the wall!"

As for the Weather Channel, National Geographic

The Weather Channel was running a story on the New Jersey Pine Barrens: "How sea level rise, salt water and sprawl are dooming a wilderness."

But a far more extensive array of climate change stories dominate the home page of National Geographic, with the simple header, "climate change Is real — and dangerous."

And "Vice News Tonight" on HBO eviscerated the Trump campaign argument that pulling out would help folks in coal country. In part, it noted how the last coal-fired plant in New England will close next week and two more are going in Adams County, Ohio, a Trump political stronghold.

Line of the day

Conservative analyst John Podhoretz: "No wonder Trump is a paranoid lunatic. Everybody who works for him has a reporter on speed dial."

Round 1 for the Warriors

As the NBA Finals opened last night with the Kevin Durant-led Warriors smashing the defending champ Cavaliers and LeBron James, The Undefeated assesses how the two "have become a cultural phenomenon — and the rivalry of the decade."

Attempt to ease sanctions on Russia

Brian Williams’ late-night MSNBC show led with a tale by longtime Washington investigative reporter Michael Isikoff, now with Yahoo, on how "In the early weeks of the Trump administration, former Obama administration officials and State Department staffers fought an intense, behind-the-scenes battle to head off efforts by incoming officials to normalize relations with Russia, according to multiple sources familiar with the events." (Yahoo)

Bring on Melissa McCarthy!

"Urging the assembled reporters to move things along, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced at a press conference Thursday that there was only enough time left in his career for a couple more questions. 'We’re going to have to wrap this up soon, folks,' said Spicer, adding that he could only call on three or four more journalists before being forced to tender his resignation or summarily dismissed."

Oh, Sean, don't be so self-pitying and self-critical. It was only The Onion.

I hereby tender the week's last newsletter. We've got a baseball lesson, a baseball practice, two baseball games, two soccer games, one birthday party and, yes, U2 in town. In the Name of Love, have a good weekend.

Corrections? Tips? Please email me: jwarren@poynter.org. Would you like to get this roundup emailed to you every morning? Sign up here.

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    James Warren

    New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S. News & World Report. Former managing editor and Washington Bureau Chief, Chicago Tribune.

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