A flummoxed media mulls the Trump-less debate

Good morning.

  1. The elephant not in the elephants room

    Yes, the media suffered separation anxiety. But it was a substantively tame GOP affair in Des Moines, Iowa, well-run by Fox. It was devoid of personal insults and offered few references to the absent Donald Trump.

    Charles Krauthammer argued that it was Jeb Bush's best showing so far (Ted Cruz got the most Facebook mentions). Bush was clearly a lot better than Fox's focus group run by Frank Luntz, which claimed a strong Cruz performance. That was very debatable.

    So what really happened? Cruz and Marco Rubio traded "ferocious attacks" on immigration (The New York Times). Unless you found it "a staid, policy-heavy contest." (The Associated Press) Of course, you could have discerned a "brutal grilling" that the candidates faced (MSNBC) and how they were freed "to pummel one another." (The Los Angeles Times) Or how acerbic, dour Cruz became the primary target. (POLITICO) But maybe you found it "a fascinating glimpse" of what a Trump-less race would have resembled (National Review), if you were into meaningless speculation, of what "the race that might have been." (The Atlantic). "The Daily Show" dumped on them all in a post-debate video. But perhaps Trump dominated "even in absentia," as he led his untidy sour grapes pro-military rally nearby. (Bloomberg) Whatever.

    It assured that, absent a North Korean nuclear attack or a second blizzard in Washington and New York, Friday brings daylong chatter on what his absence means on voting next week. It's all quite uncharted.

  2. Facebook's video potency

    This fact is found in Facebook's fourth quarter 2015 earnings report: It gets about 100 million video views each and every day. (Adweek)

  3. Big exits at POLITICO

    If The Washington Post had been smart a decade ago, there'd be no POLITICO. It passed on the concept when presented by then-staffers John Harris and Jim VandeHei. They found the heir to a banking and media fortune to bankroll them and were off to the races. It's become journalism crack for many in the D.C.-centered political universe (even Bernie Sanders once told to me he found it both dispiriting and unavoidable). Now a shakeout based on strategic differences seems to be playing out with VandeHei, company COO Kim Kingsley and high-profile political and gossip columnist Mike Allen among those exiting amid clashes between VandeHei and POLITICO owner-publisher Robert Allbritton. (CNN Money)

    It doesn't take much to hyperbolically rattle the Washington media echo chamber but this, we're told, constitutes "what can be described only as a cataclysm in Beltway media." (The Washington Post) There was no hint of discord over new challenges (including social media ones) in a long letter to the world from Allbritton. Ditto with a VandeHei memo.

    It's impressive that the hierarchy has been in place this long. But it will be interesting to see how it navigates the new perils of media maturity in a fragmented universe with shrewd, well-fueled competitors like BuzzFeed, VICE and Vox.

  4. Is fighting Facebook like 'fighting gravity?'

    Nick Denton, the boss of digital media badass Gawker, once figured it was best to keep Facebook at arm's length. Now he suggests that's like "fighting gravity." At a conference, he conceded, “Who is best positioned in this world to target ads against categories of users?” Denton asked. “Who knows the most about those users? Who can supply the most relevant ads in a way that doesn’t degrade the experience? I think Facebook is, in contrast to much of the ad tech ecosystem, a coherent strategy, and I think they can provide a better experience.” (Re/code)

  5. New ethics strategy for media nonprofits

    The estimable Nicholas Lemann suggests that if moving to nonprofit status is a bonafide trend, those enterprises need to devise new ethical norms involving advertising and editorial. "That will be a struggle, too, but it will build trust with readers and media critics and protection from editorial meddling." Yes, he says, it's fine to tell funders there's a wall between sales and the newsroom. But journalism is too big, too disorganized to exist well under current nonprofit laws. "It’s time to create a structure to go along with that development, lest the editorial independence that’s the whole point here be diminished." (The New Yorker)

  6. Trump's amazing impact

    Is there anybody in our public life who has so played the media as has Donald Trump? A few hours before the Trump-less debate, I checked out The Washington Post website and there were seven Trump-driven stories out front. Count 'em: One, two, three, four, five, six and seven.

  7. Glenn Greenwald on BuzzFeed

    Is the decline of old media bringing the demise of investigative journalism? Glenn Greenwald, occasional aide de camp of Edward Snowden, says, "If you look at what a lot of new organizations are doing — and I think BuzzFeed is probably the best example, just because they were reputed for so long to be the epitome of all the worst things about new media journalism — they devote a lot of money to a lot of great journalists who go around the world and report on really complex, deep stories in a really substantiate way. A lot of them don’t produce anything for weeks or even a couple months at a time. That’s the leisure that they have because of how well-funded they are and how well they’re doing." (Business 2 Community)

  8. Putting news first (supposedly)

    Slidejoy, a startup that "rewards users for putting news and advertising on their Android lock screens," now claims a more comprehensive news reading experience. If you were checking out news on it, you saw one article at a time from a dozen publishers. Now it will pull stories from more than 500 sites and let you check out stories in a given category; essentially pointing you to somebody else's Web page. You can also just decide to check stories from specific media sources. (TechCrunch)

  9. Swagger and swearing at The Post

    The Washington Post dedicated its new building, replete with appearances from Secretary of State John Kerry and just-freed correspondent Jason Rezaian. But owner Jeff Bezos, the Amazon revolutionary, heralded how "there is a little more swagger, there is a tiny bit of badassness here at The Post. That's pretty special." (The Washington Post)

    Badassness at an ink and newsprint product filled with college-bred sons and daughters of the middle class? Take that Gawker! Or, ironically, POLITICO.

  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin

    Emily Blake is joining Mashable as a music reporter. Previously, she was a staff editor at Entertainment Weekly. (Email) | Robert Allbritton will be CEO of POLITICO. Previously, he was publisher there. John Harris will be publisher of POLITICO. He is its editor in chief. (Poynter) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org.

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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