Morning Mediawire: Can I get a little privacy here?

Under the microscope, Zuck faces possible regulation, promises changes.

"Would you be comfortable sharing with us the name of the hotel you stayed in last night?"

"Um." Mark Zuckerberg paused while he considered the question by Sen. Dick Durbin. "No."

"If you messaged anybody this week, would you share with us the names of the people you've messaged?" the Illinois Democrat asked him.

"Senator, no, I would probably not choose to do that publicly here," Zuckerberg responded.

"I think that might be what this is all about," Durbin told Zuckerberg on Tuesday afternoon in Congress. "Your right to privacy, the limits of your right to privacy, and how much you'd give away in modern America."

Indeed, privacy was the main topic before the Facebook CEO — privacy protections for customers, children and, not least, democracy. Asked if Facebook should get clear permission from customers before selling their data elsewhere, Zuckerberg replied: “We don’t sell information.” Under questioning from Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, he also said he would support a law requiring such clear permission from customers.

Zuckerberg also said the most important issue to him is to make sure bad actors do not attempt to use Facebook to influence any elections in 2018 worldwide. He apologized for slowness to recognize the Russian threat to the 2016 presidential election.

Contrition and promises aren’t enough, said senators such as Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Bill Nelson of Florida and John Kennedy of Louisiana. Traditionally, Hassan noted pointedly, when companies can’t regulate themselves, the government has to step in.

Here’s a breakdown from the hearings and related reads.

The hearings:

Related reads:

Daily News

Quick hits

THE SECOND TIME: Last June, Trump tried to kill the Russian investigation. Now we find out he tried again in December to shut it down and fire special prosecutor Robert Mueller, the NYT’s Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt report.

SERVICE: In an interview, the Sinclair Broadcasting chairman said that his 2016 offer to Trump was "to deliver your message. Period." David Smith said that he made the same offer to the Clinton camp.

SINCLAIR PUNCHES BACK: Under heavy criticism for the corporate statement that local news anchors were required to read on air, the broadcasting giant posted a video on YouTube attacking CNN. Then it had its member stations link to it. Headlined “Did CNN Attack Sinclair For Doing Exactly What CNN Has Done For Years?” the video notes several times when CNN’s media reporter, Brian Stelter, warned his viewers about fake news. Then it juxtaposed its own script. Here’s a screengrab of the link on Seattle’s KOMO.

STELTER’S REPLY: In a statement, the CNN media reporter dismissed the Sinclair attack. “There's a huge difference between my coverage and Sinclair's mandatory promos. No one tells me what to say. But these anchors were told exactly what to say. These promos became a story because Sinclair staffers spoke up and said they were uncomfortable. They said they'd never seen anything like this before.”

BEYOND THE DENVER POST: The editor of another strapped set of Alden Global Capital-owned newspapers acknowledged the same type of crippling layoffs the Denver paper is struggling through. Neil Chase, of the Mercury News and the East Bay News, praised the public stance that Denver Post editorial leaders have taken toward their hedge-fund owners. Chase said citizens have recommended possible nonprofit avenues and interested citizens for the Northern California properties. “We’re now having fascinating conversations with people who care deeply about the future of journalism,” Chase wrote.

‘IT’S A DEATH SPIRAL’: What it’s like for the journalists left at the Denver Post. The newsroom will soon be down to one copy editor.

BOUGHT: The New Orleans news and entertainment weekly, Gambit, by the Advocate, Louisiana’s largest newspaper.

SOLD: Cleveland company buys Tampa Bay alt-weekly, fires longtime editor. "I had the hubris to think, well, they won’t want to kick me to the curb now. Not with all this achievement, right?" writes Creative Loafing editor David Warner in his goodbye note.

CHARLIE ROSE WATCH: The Washington Post is said to be close to publishing an expose of the former news anchor, and that has CBS executives freaked out, reports the New York Post. CBS is trying to tamp down the story by enforcing NDAs, Page Six says.

RISING AT FOX?: AP’s David Bauder says Dana Perino’s profile is increasing at Fox News, citing high-profile recent assignments such as her recent talk with Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. Bauder called the former Bush White House press secretary “a Bush Republican in a Trump world.” Perino said “my nature is to try to show people that we may actually agree on things more than we think.”

(AP photo)

What we’re reading

IF IT WALKS LIKE A DUCK: On a 20-mile stretch of U.S.-Mexico border, everybody knows it’s a fence. The product itself is called "fencing." You can see through it. But these days, to please the president (and perhaps to fool him), authorities are suppressing their giggles and trying to say, as seriously as possible, that it’s a wall. By Alfredo Corchado.

ANOTHER TAKE ON NEWS DESERTS AND TRUMP: Investigative reporter Mollie Bryant believes there’s some kind of link between low local news engagement and support for Trump. She just doesn’t buy Politico’s analysis of it. Here’s her take, in which she concludes that “the blame for a national election doesn’t lie with circulation numbers for local newspapers that don’t actually cover national news.”

NO, DONALD: The private company of America’s president sought to influence Panama’s government in a hotel dispute. Panama responded harshly, with one official calling the Trump Organization pressure  “a great impropriety and an act outside of moral foundation.” By Fast Company’s Marcus Baram.

THE OXYCONTIN FAMILY: This branch of the billionaire Sackler family decries what the family business — the addictive, crippling opioid Oxycontin — has done to America. They also, ProPublica’s David Armstrong reports, profit from it.

A FAILURE: So why are we still wasting dollars on less-efficient, more dangerous private prisons? Timothy Williams, who detailed a horrid Mississippi facility, and Richard A. Oppel Jr. look at inertia and possible bribery as why governments would keep doing the wrong thing.

WHY’D THEY CREATE A JOURNALISM STARTUP?: Two motivations, says current Stanford JSK fellow Phillip Smith in a new study: Inspiration — or desperation.

IS THERE ROOM FOR REDEMPTION?: That’s the question asked by Tom Ashbrook. He isn’t asking for a friend. The longtime NPR and WBUR “On Point” host was fired after an investigation into workplace misconduct. “Can we talk some more?” he asks in a column in the Boston Globe.

MAKE AMERICA BETTER: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose dad came to the United States at 13 with no fortune nor English skills, joyously administered the oath of citizenship to new Americans from 59 nations on Tuesday, urging them to work to improve this nation. “We are a nation made strong by people like you,” Ginsburg said. Yusif Abubakari, 42, born in Ghana, was struck by Justice Ginsburg’s “humbleness,” he told the NYT’s Liz Robbins. “She is supposed to be at home but she came because of me, because of us, and that makes me feel so special today.”

Justice Ginsburg, administering the oath of citizenship to 200 new Americans on Tuesday. Photo: Chang W Lee/The New York Times

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