'Spotlight' Oscar stunner brings hope amid newspaper decline

Good morning.

  1. What might it mean?
    In winning Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars, "Spotlight" was the most sparsely awarded Best Picture winner since 1952’s "The Greatest Show On Earth." (The Associated Press) Even if its win really was a surprise (Variety), what might it mean, if anything, for investigative reporting?

    Says Marty Kaiser, former editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "I think many publishers know big stories and well-done investigations are good for the news organization, but it also takes editors and reporters who know how to do real investigations that make a difference — not just something you whip together in a few weeks or the crap that so many local TV stations call investigative reporting. I think the pressure is on editors to give up day-to-day BS stories and create an investigative culture. The problem in the end however is resources. If companies keep cutting staff, the owners and publishers can talk all they want about investigative journalism, but you have to give editors resources i.e. time and people. The future must also come from nonprofits like ProPublica, The Intercept, Fusion and regional nonprofits and even the BuzzFeeds of the world."

    Industry analyst Ken Doctor says, "Given the ever-tighter newsroom budgets we're seeing, some journalists will cite 'Spotlight' as a way to re-engage readers. They're right, but so far, that's a tough, shorter-term argument to make. In a perfect world, the halo effect of 'Spotlight' — like 'All the President's Men' of an earlier generation — will spark new millennial interest in the craft of aggressive, meaningful journalism. Best scenario? Spotlight spawns Spotlight teams from coast to coast."

    As for Marty Baron, The Washington Post editor whose Boston Globe tenure helped inspired the movie, he says, "People ask us, 'Can news organizations afford investigative reporting?' It's odd because when you go to these red carpet events, you look around at all the press there, and you can only come to the conclusion that yes, news organizations can.” (CNN) If they desire.

  2. A sudden departure
    Melissa Harris-Perry went public with frustration over her weekend MSNBC show being pre-empted a lot due to campaign coverage. "Our show was taken — without comment or discussion or notice — in the midst of an election season,” she told colleagues in an email. (The New York Times) Now she and the network are negotiating a severance, not a reconciliation. All in all, it seems a lose-lose for both sides as a smart host, and one of its few black hosts, departs. (CNN)
  3. A chagrined Christie supporter
    Joe McQuaid, publisher of The Union Leader in New Hampshire, was a big Chris Christie supporter and gave the paper's endorsement to him. He also was no fan of Donald Trump. So he is pissed that Christie is now backing Trump. (POLITICO)
  4. Wanna toss a newspaper at Warren Buffett?
    Bloomberg offers a dandy example of smart digital thinking as it annotates the incomparable annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders from Chairman Warren Buffett. (Bloomberg) For those who've not heard, 40,000 people pack an Omaha, Nebraska arena for its annual meeting that will also include his fifth International Newspaper Tossing Challenge on Saturday morning, April 30. "Our target will again be a Clayton Home porch, located precisely 35 feet from the throwing line. When I was a teenager (in my one brief flirtation with honest labor) I delivered about 500,000 papers. So I think I'm pretty good at this game. Challenge me! Humiliate me! Knock me down a peg! The papers will run 36 to 42 pages, and you must fold them yourself (no rubber bands allowed)." Youngsters get a prize, regardless, while oldsters have to actually beat Buffett, 85, to get anything.
  5. Rupert critiques a Times Libya story
    "NYT fawning story about Hillary and Libya fails to mention resulting state of country today and rise of ISIS there," Murdoch, our favorite octogenarian serial tweeter tweeted yesterday. (@rupertmurdoch) Yes, Sunday's long page one effort did make the case that a thoughtful and tough-minded Secretary of State was critical to convincing President Obama to join a military campaign to bomb Libya. But, Rupert, there's this paragraph rather high up you might have missed: "The consequences would be more far-reaching than anyone imagined, leaving Libya a failed state and a terrorist haven, a place where the direst answers to Mrs. Clinton’s questions have come to pass." To put it mildly. (The New York Times)
  6. Returning to Business Insider
    Josh Barro is exiting The New York Times' policy-driven operation, The Upshot, and headed back to Business Insider to run its commentary operation and write columns. "He said he realized it’s strange to leave an institution such as the New York Times but he wanted to move past the firewall between news and opinions." (POLITICO)
  7. Trump on libel
    Trump says he wants to "open up" libel laws if he's elected to make it easier to sue the press. (Poynter) Where to start on this one? "It's pointless," constitutional expert Geoffrey Stone of the University of Chicago tells me. "Although he seems not to know it, even now he could sue the NYT for making a defamatory and false statement about him if the NYT acts with knowledge of falsehood or reckless disregard for the truth." But, hey, why should he waste his time, right, given his gratuitous statement yesterday about The New York Times: "Here’s the good news — it's losing its shirt. It's gonna be out of business soon." (@PhilipRucker)
  8. Inside the panel on secrecy
    Speaking of Stone, he was part of a five-person panel picked by President Obama in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations. The members included Richard Clarke, head of counterterrorism and cyber security under President Clinton and, briefly, President George W. Bush. Its aim was to study the complex issues involving keeping secrets and whether reforms were needed at the National Security Agency. Fred Kaplan takes readers inside their labors, with one anecdote worth the price of admission. It's about the panel showing at FBI headquarters for what proved to be totally canned presentations. "Clarke stood up and said, 'This is bullshit. We’re out of here.' He walked out of the room; the other four sheepishly followed, while the FBI officials sat in shock." (TIME)
  9. Blame the shooters
    Have you noticed the Trump tactic of asking photographers and cameramen to pan a crowd (perhaps to show a protester) and then deride them when they don't? (Poynter) It's all very much part of his bullying ways that can have a distinctly nasty undercurrent.
  10. So what does one do with the New Republic?
    Win McCormack, an Oregon publisher of the literary quarterly Tin House, will try his hand after buying it from Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. (The Wall Street Journal) Jacob Weisberg, the boss of Slate and a former New Republic stalwart, told me Sunday, "I’m afraid it’s all over there. I don’t think TNR can come back."
  11. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin
    Josh Barro will be a senior editor at Business Insider. He is a writer for The Upshot. (POLITICO) | Job of the day: AJ+ is looking for an executive producer of stories. Get your resumes in! (Journalism Jobs) | 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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