Joe Scarborough calls Kellyanne Conway a liar

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The Tuesday morning news shows were dominated by word that Michael Flynn is out as national security adviser. "Stunning" was the call by the Trump home team at "Fox & Friends."

It proceeded to quote its usual media pinatas in their reporting that then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned the White House that Flynn was "vulnerable to Russian blackmail" and that Flynn lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his Russian contacts.

But over at "Morning Joe" on MSNBC, the topic of Glenn Close, oops, we mean Kellyanne Conway, came up (that very creepy, over-the-top "Fatal Attraction" spoof of her was on my mind). And that put co-host Joe Scarborough, who has for many weeks postured himself as a Trump Whisperer, into high dudgeon.

Yesterday, she said Flynn had the "full confidence" of Trump but was soon pre-empted by Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who said Trump was "re-evaluating the situation."

Scarborough suggested that, her high profile aside, Conway's actually been "out of the loop" for months. As co-host Mika Brzezinski put it with succinct acidity, interviews "are her chance to one-up and suck-up" (to Trump).

When Scarborough called for far greater care and premeditation in White House messaging, show regular Willie Geist inserted that "Kellyanne is not booking herself on these shows."

"How do you know that?" asked the Trump Whisperer, now admonishing. "Kellyanne is a free agent and they have complained." Then came this rhetorical paroxysm:

"Everybody in the White House but Donald Trump has complained for months that she's a free agent...now she will lie, as she does every time the truth comes out, she will say she's being victimized...she will then go in and get a picture with the president, then she will get the president to tweet something and then her staff, his staff will have to clean this all up, over and over again."

Meanwhile, as "Fox & Friends" co-host Ainsley Earhardt was trying to downplay matters by focusing on what she said was the line-up of great Americans who were in line to replace Flynn, CNN's "New Day" included David Gregory asserting that this also all proves that the new guys "leak like a sieve," just like many old guys.

But, co-host Chris Cuomo wondered, does the assumption of Flynn "lying" lets folks in a Trump inner circle, who might well have known what was up with Flynn's Russia dealings, off the hook? After all, it's no secret that Trump himself would like to loosen sanctions against Vladimir Putin.

Perhaps. But, on this morning, you could imagine a new reprise of "Fatal Attraction." But instead of "SNL's" Kate McKinnon (Conway) going after Beck Bennett (as CNN's Jake Tapper), you'd have the Trump Whisperer (Scarborough) easing his pain by taking out the real Conway.

Imagine a countdown clock for that one.

Fact-checking Coles' pay

There was initially a Fortune report that Joanna Coles, the chief content officer at Hearst, got stiffed, relatively speaking, as a board member at Snap. No, not really, as the new Axios put together, and Recode now underscores.

Coles gets $35,000 cash annually for board commitments and a stock grant of 52,736 shares that vest over three years. It's not a tale of gender-based inequity.

Fighting fire with images (cont.)

Pete Souza is not simply basking in the glory of his beloved New England Patriots. My former colleague is unloading on Trump by juxtaposing Trump actions with photos of Barack Obama, whom he served all eight years as chief photographer (which means he saw more of him on the job, up close and personal, than anyone, probably including Joe Biden or Michelle Obama.

He "took yet another implicit shot" (CNN) via a shot of Obama speaking in a cordoned off area in Sal Salvador, El Salvador, in 2011 after he and aides had a conference call with Obama's national security team (which meant leaving their smartphones outside the room for security reasons).

CNN wrote, "The post was seemingly a direct response to Trump poring over information about a North Korean missile launch Saturday night alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a dining room at his Mar-a-lago resort, fully in view of other diners."

Seemingly? Well, it's clear what's up but my friend says he'll let his images and captions speak for themselves.

Headline of day

"Is Apple Over?" (Ad Age)

Ta-Nehisi Coates on why he got hooked on journalism

Ta-Nehisi Coates does a nifty, brief video interview with The Atlantic, where he's an esteemed national correspondent, about his entry into and love of journalism. (The Atlantic)

At age 20 he got an internship at the alternative City Paper in Washington and worked for the late then-editor David Carr, later a New York Times media writer. He was nervous about the work, scared about the act of conceptualizing stories.

He speaks with great admiration for Carr, "a recovering alcohol and drug addict" whose legacy for him was simple: He was a teacher and editor and when it came to stories and facts, a "best friend if you got it right, worst enemy if you got it wrong."

He recalls hearing a rumor about homeless people being hired to actually evict others. It led Coates to a homeless shelter.

He recalls asking, "Excuse me, do you evict people?" The fellow responded, "No, I don't evict people, but that guy over there does."

"And the story just opened up." It was a lesson that fears are often just inside your head. He had the courage to ask a tough question and did. "Journalism has taught me I was a lot tougher than he thought I was."

Quote of day

"For the price [the owner] is asking, some out-of-stater is probably going to come in knocking it down and putting up a bunch of condos." (Bangor Daily News)

That's the owner of the Griffin Club, a bar in South Portland, Maine "that served many of New England’s sports greats over its nearly 50 years in business" but whose building is now on the market.

Report on the rise in freelancing

A United Kingdom report concludes, "The level of self-employment has been rising across the UK, and the extent of freelance journalism is also increasing. From 2000 to 2015, the numbers of freelance journalists increased from 15,000 to 25,000 (an increase of 67 per cent), with the proportion of journalists who categorize themselves as being freelance increasing from 25 to 35 per cent." (National Council for the Training of Journalists in the United Kingdom)

Are they mostly being pushed? Apparently not.

"This particular report exclusively polled freelancers (I.E., no employers), and a higher percentage of freelancers responded that they were 'pulled' to freelancing rather than 'pushed,'which is quite interesting within the context of the rapidly changing media industry," I'm told by Michelle Lewis, a digital journalist for Fast Company and News Deeply who consults for the council, the accreditation body for the UK journalism industry.

Managing the press

MSNBC's Brian Williams hit a nail on the head moments after Trump's press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ended:

"The news out of this gathering is not anything either leader said," Williams intoned. "It was exactly what wasn't said because it wasn't asked."

"There is no shortage of superb coverage coming out of this White House press corps," he noted. But, alas, none of those who could be assumed to ask either tough or decidedly relevant questions were called up.

It's not that such occasions are ever venues for rigorous interrogations, especially with no real follow-ups. And they may not get very far because a president is really smart, self-confident and evasive (as Barack Obama could be) or just evasive (Trump). (Poynter)

The latest on local news

It's natural that since the very modest number of outlets with the resources to cover media tend to be bigger and national, they cover (seemingly) bigger and (definitely) national stuff. So there's over-coverage of every personnel move on cable news channels, zilch about the very local TV and radio stations from which a vastly greater number get their news and information.

Still, local news' future remains as paramount as its business models are fragile. So it's a smart idea that Poynter's Kristen Hare will now cover transformation in local news. You may remember that Hare visited newsrooms around the country last year, and there she spotted trends that we later saw some national news outlets attempting. You can read more about her newsletter here and sign up here.

Facebook playing nice

"Last week, Facebook visited journalists in Atlanta and Dallas in what looks like the start of a more reciprocal relationship between the social media giant and local newsrooms...until now, Facebook's attention has largely been on national news organizations. The visits are part of the Facebook Journalism Project, which Poynter is part of." (Poynter)

So does the notion of building partnerships mean that Facebook will one day fork a relative pittance of its mountainous lucre to some desperately struggling organizations whose business models may be wishful thinking and handouts?

Alan Mutter, a industry analyst in San Francisco, suggests to me that Facebook is seeking to look more responsible in the aftermath of its fake news problems. "I don’t think there is much downside for publishers who want to share content on the Facebook platform. In fact, most already do so."

And coughing up actual dollars? "It would be nice if FB were willing to pay publishers for their efforts but I don’t think that is part of the plan."

Whilst you may be freelancing for different reasons

There's a good opening at Stanford as managing director/editorial and operations (No. 2 spot) in the John S. Knight (JSK) Journalism Fellowships.

If you're not cognizant of it, JSK "is an ambitious, international program at Stanford University that champions innovators, entrepreneurs, and leaders as they re-invent journalism." (JSK)

So if you're hankering for change, and perhaps tend to stare at snow in the winter, it might well be worth considering.

White House kerfuffle

"(Omarosa) Manigault, who is now a communications official in the Trump administration, got into a heated argument with a White House reporter just steps from the Oval Office last week, according to witnesses. The reporter, April Ryan, said Manigault 'physically intimidated' her in a manner that could have warranted intervention by the Secret Service." (The Washington Post)

Ah, let's see. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports 1,229 journalists killed since 1992, a TV cameraman just murdered in Pakistan, two journalists just assaulted in Jakarta and the editor of an independent paper just arrested by the Kazakh regime on likely bogus charges of money laundering.

I'll take the White House, assuming Omarosa isn't packing heat.

Media clean-up

Former NFL quarterback star Steve Young left a mess after a Bloomberg profile in which he suggested he was going through the motions as an ESPN analyst, given his day job in private equity. As it was phrased by Bloomberg:

"Young says he may have quit ESPN years ago if not for his private equity partners, who like him to keep a high profile. When he works a Monday Night game for the network, he spends no more than an hour or two at the stadium preparing his commentary, he says; the rest of the time, he’s holed up in HGGC’s suite, cramming for deals. Once the game starts, he barely watches the action. A couple of transactions, he notes, have even been agreed to with handshakes in the suites."

“'My wife hates football, and my kids don’t really care,' Young says. “I see myself as a deal guy first. I’ve put football behind me. Roger Staubach once told me — and I’ll never forget it: ‘When you retire, run. Never look back.’”

Oops. Well, now he goes on Bloomberg TV with a private equity partner to say, oh, no, he loves ESPN and private equity. (Bloomberg)

Trump's intellectual curiosity

Fine, he doesn't read books. Fine, his attention span verges on that of a third-grader. Fine, he stares at a lot of TV. But now get this:

"Telling reporters they were working hard to provide important national security updates to the new commander-in-chief in a manner he found most useful and actionable, intelligence officials confirmed Monday they have been struggling to condense President Donald Trump’s briefings down to a single word."

So, ah, that means what? "Nukes?" "Earthquake?" "CrazyNorthKorean?" "Famine?" "MassMurder?" "HannityPraise?" "Apocalypse?"

If you can't confirm this through The New York Times, just try The Onion.

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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