April 18, 2018

Hannity, Trump and Cohen: The secrets we discover

We never would have known.

Fox News commentator Sean Hannity could have kept blasting the FBI and defending Trump’s “Mr. Fixit” without significant criticism. At least, until his secret tie to the Trump lawyer came to light.

And how did that secret get revealed? Five news organizations fought for public access to the court proceedings on Monday where the Hannity-Trump tie was disclosed.

The courtroom fight turned out to be over when a client of lawyer Michael Cohen had the right to keep his name under wraps. Lawyers for the Associated Press, ABC News, CNN, Newsday and the New York Times argued it was a matter of public record to name the client. The judge agreed.


There was a gasp and some laughter as Hannity’s name was disclosed — and reporters Shep Smith and Juan Williams of Fox News couldn’t believe that Hannity had knowingly covered and criticized the FBI raid on Cohen’s office and homes without telling his viewers that Cohen had represented him, as well.

The little-known legal efforts by media companies play a big role in protecting America’s freedoms. Kathleen Carroll, former editor of the AP and now board chair of the Committee to Protect Journalists, advised citizens: “Thank your newsrooms. And thank your newsrooms’ lawyers.”

The big question now is whether Fox News will discipline its star commentator and restore some credibility to the network, says the Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan. “At any other news organization,” Sullivan writes, “this would be a fireable offense.”

In a statement Tuesday, the network said it had been “unaware” of the tie previously, when Hannity slammed raids on Trump’s lawyer without telling Fox viewers it was his lawyer, too.

“We have reviewed this matter,” Fov News said in a statement, “and spoken to Sean and he continues to have our full support.”

In the spirit of disclosure, here are other stories that may be revealing today.

Quick hits

REMEMBERING BARBARA BUSH: “The widely admired wife of one president and the fiercely loyal mother of another.” That’s how the New York Times described Barbara Bush, who died Tuesday in Houston. The Washington Post said her “embrace of her image as America’s warm-hearted grandmother belied her influence and mettle.” The Boston Globe’s Mark Feeney wrote that Bush, popular for her lack of vanity, “wore her wrinkles with pride, once joking after seeing herself on a pair of magazine covers that ‘it looks as though I had forgotten to iron my face.’” “While she was unpretentious, plainspoken and down-to-earth,” the Los Angeles Times wrote, “Bush was also a Northeastern blueblood who was strong-willed, politically shrewd, always blunt and occasionally caustic.”

WEANING US FROM POLLS: New guidance from the AP discourages making polls the top of a story, says the AP’s David Scott. The money phrase from the new AP Stylebook:  "Poll results that seek to preview the outcome of an election must never be the lead, headline or single subject of any story.” Why? “The 2016 election was a reminder that polls aren’t perfect,” Scott says. “They’re unquestionably a piece of the story, but never the whole story.”

SPEAKING OF: Polling and data-driven site FiveThirtyEight is moving from one part of Disney to another. Nate Silver’s site will go from being overseen by the ESPN unit to ABC News, with appearances on the network, Variety reported. Financial terms were not disclosed.  FiveThirtyEight is expected to continue providing  “data-driven sports coverage” as well that can be utilized by ESPN.

HELP US: Another Digital First executive pleads with the public to support ownership that takes a long-term view and understands the public service role of journalism. The column by Frank Pine, executive editor of the Southern California Newspaper Group, follows pleas by leaders at Denver, Boulder and Northern California properties owned by the cost-cutting hedge fund Alden Global Capital. Pine, who oversees 11 dailies and more than 20 weeklies, wrote: “If the Fourth Estate as we know it is to survive, it will require ownership that is invested in its long-term success and a strategy that prizes purpose over profit.” (Hat tip: Ivan Lajara)

LINES, DRAWN: The Pulitzer choice for editorial cartooning has divided the comics community, the Washington Post’s Michael Cavna reports. Jurors for the first time chose two people — a writer and an illustrator — for the award, which went to the New York Times, which does not have an editorial cartoonist on staff. The award, some cartoonists say, shines a light on freelancers when fewer cartoonists have staff jobs.

HOW KENDRICK LAMAR WON: The jury for the Pulitzer’s music prize made an unprecedented recommendation, and the 17 members of the Pulitzer board unanimously accepted it, giving the award for the first time to a non-classical, non-jazz musician. “We’re very proud of it,” Pulitzer administrator Dana Canedy tells Journal-ism’s Richard Prince. A 2007 Pulitzer winner, Mei Fong, noted it took the board 71 years to get from Margaret Mitchell’s nostalgic slave-era novel “Gone With The Wind” (big line: “I don’t give a damn”) to “Damn,” Lamar’s stunning and probing latest release. The celebrations started right after the ceremony.

What we’re reading

HERO: The engine exploded in midair and a woman was being sucked out of the cabin. Pilot Tammie Jo Shults, one of the Navy's first female fighter pilots and first to fly a supersonic F/A-18, kept her cool, helping safely land a Boeing 737 Southwest Airlines jetliner with 148 people aboard. In tower communications obtained by NBC Philadelphia, she calmly informed them that she’d be coming in for an emergency landing. “We have a part of the aircraft missing, so we’re going to need to slow down a bit,” she can be heard saying. AP reported that after the landing, she walked through the aisle and spoke with passengers to make sure they were okay.

(Screenshot from “Mercury 13”/Netflix)

HIDDEN ASTRONAUTS: The passed the tests. They would help America in space. But the secret program for female astronauts was canceled in 1961, the subject of congressional hearings the following year and “Mercury 13,” a Netflix film out Friday. “I was rarin’ to go,” says one of the 13 female astronaut candidates interviewed. It would be a dozen years before women could train for space. Here’s the trailer.

THE STARBUCKS STOPS HERE: The coffee purveyor announced it would be closing 8,000 stores for racial-bias training following an arrest of a black customer in Philadelphia that prompted outrage. The closing May 29 will provide training to 175,000 workers, the company said. (Hat tip: Gregory H. Lee Jr.)

HOW RACHEL KAADZI GHANSAH DOES IT: The feature subjects the 2018 Pulitzer winner “has often chosen — among them Dave Chappelle, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison and Beyoncé — have been arbiters of black excellence, geniuses who, in Ghansah’s work, exist not in a vacuum, not as exceptions, but in a community that has incubated the genius.” That’s from Danielle Jackson’s profile of the master profile writer for Longreads.

MERCY: “It’s about time,” wrote the San Francisco Chronicle’s Aiden Yaziri, “we properly worshiped Beyoncé. The latest opportunity? The city’s Grace Cathedral has announced a special Episcopal Mass on April 25 dedicated to Queen Bey’s music and accomplishments. The event is part of a series that began with a program on Mary Magdalene called “The Original Nasty Woman.”

What we’re listening to

‘IMAGINE A MAN OF MY STATURE … BEING GIVEN AWAY AS A PRIZE’: The death of longtime NPR Morning Edition news anchor Carl Kasell has been leavened with the joy and zaniness he exhibited in his late-career work on the NPR game show “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.” This NPR remembrance highlights five “away messages” he recorded for winners on the show (“Wait Wait” had such a limited budget that Kasell’s voice on a recorded phone message was the draw.) “I’m your boogie man,” Kasell intones in news delivery fashion on one message. “That’s what I am.”

BEAT IT: On the Vox daily news podcast “Today, Explained,” a 55-second parody of a Michael Jackson tune delivers this take on America’s EPA chief. “He’s got a super-secret silent phone booth … He’s got security to watch his every move … They hit the Rose Bowl, went to Disneyland, too … He’s Pruitt. Scott Pruitt.” The podcast, known for sharp takeaways on current events, has run parody before, such as a AC/DC flavored angle on political gerrymandering.

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