February 19, 2018

Friday ended with a frenzy of news: New details in the Parkland school shooting, another alleged payout to a woman who said she had an affair with President Donald Trump, and then, in the early afternoon, the announcement of 13  indictments from special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s office.

We spent the weekend watching for developments and coverage of the Russian propaganda indictments, as well as the emotional and heated aftermath of the Parkland shooting. Here are the stories that resonated with us.


  • The New York Times’ Peter Baker had this expert analysis: Trump’s conspicuous silence leaves a struggle with Russia without a leader.
  • James Risen, at The Intercept, asked bluntly: Is Donald Trump a traitor? It was written and published BEFORE the indictment. (Part 2, he says, is coming soon.)
  • There’s a pretty good chance President Trump is being blackmailed, writes Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine. (Another piece written the morning before the indictments.)
  • Plenty of people were resurfacing this June 2015 New York Times Magazine piece about the Internet Research Agency, the Russia-based troll farm cited in Mueller’s investigation. An excerpt, recounting a fake chemical explosion in Louisiana: “The perpetrators didn’t just doctor screenshots from CNN; they also created fully functional clones of the websites of Louisiana TV stations and newspapers. The YouTube video of the man watching TV had been tailor-made for the project. A Wikipedia page was even created for the Columbian Chemicals disaster, which cited the fake YouTube video. As the virtual assault unfolded, it was complemented by text messages to actual residents in St. Mary Parish.”
  • From the Washington Post’s account of what life was like at the Russian agency behind the attacks: He wanted to get assigned to the “Facebook Department, but he didn’t bash Hillary hard enough.
  • Facebook’s role in all of this has increasingly come under scrutiny. The New York Times explored why: To sow discord in 2016, Russians turned most often to Facebook.
  • And finally, the Times’ Maggie Haberman and Katie Rogers have an annotation of Trump’s Twitter tirade over the weekend, where he lashed out over the investigation. … He wasn't finished for the day, though, as he bashed Oprah for this segment on 60 Minutes:

Oprah tweet


  • Watch the video everyone is talking about: an impassioned speech from student Emma Gonzalez, a senior at the school, who called out lawmakers and gun advocates. “We call BS!”
  • The South Florida Sun-Sentinel talked Saturday with the family who took in school shooter Nikolas Cruz just three months ago.
  • This story from Politico is becoming depressingly familiar: How white nationalists fooled the media about the Florida shooter.
  • Did you hear about the Florida senator who compared limiting AR-15 purchases to legislating controls of forks and spoons to fight obesity?
  • Gregory Gibson wrote a clear-eyed commentary for the New York Times. His son, Galen, was killed by a fellow student when he was 18. In a A message from the club no one wants to join, he writes: “I know of a survivor who has a crime-scene photograph of her daughter’s bullet-riddled corpse. When she speaks with politicians about gun laws, she shows them the photograph. I have a similar photograph of my son. Perhaps the time has come to use it.”
  • The emotional principal of Marjory Stoneman Douglas posted a video on Sunday promising. “I will hug each and every one of you as many times as you need and I will hold you as long as you need me to for all 3,300 of you and your families. And we will get through this together.”


SO IT DOESN’T GET LOST IN THE BARRAGE OF NEWS: We’re pointing you to this deep look at how the war on terror led to four soldiers' deaths in an African desert. The intro: “Reporting from the desert of Niger to a small town in Georgia, The New York Times reconstructed how four American soldiers lost their lives — and why they were in Africa to begin with.” … The Intercept also is investigating the Niger connection, and published this story Sunday: “A Massive U.S. Drone Base Could Destabilize Niger — and May Even Be Illegal Under Its Constitution.”

IMPEACHING CLARENCE THOMAS? Jill Abramson is out with a blockbuster New York Magazine piece in which she cites new evidence that Thomas lied under oath during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings. She finds another witness to Thomas’ sexually charged and porn-fueled “banter” with women, apart from seven witnesses never called to the Senate confirmation hearings. The idea of impeaching Thomas was broached in 2010 in a memo by David Brock to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a memo that was among the Clinton emails leaked in 2016.

THE READER WHO WAS ONTO SOMETHING: NPR has corrected a story that first ran nearly a half-dozen years ago, thanks to a listener and his 13,000-word blog on the topic. The listener complained in December to NPR ombud Elizabeth Jensen, who looked into it. So did NPR’s standards editor. The 2012 story on a man convicted of bank fraud ran on the Planet Money podcast and All Things Considered. The big lesson: Double check every “fact” someone gives you (particularly if they’ve been convicted of fraud).

BUT WHAT IF THE PERSON IS INFALLIBLE? Sorry, you have to fact-check the pope, too, says the AP’s standards editor. Three days of solid work by AP reporters on three continents found evidence that Pope Francis had information from victims of a Chilean bishop implicated in a broader sex-abuse scandal. That Francis had denied having the information is a stain that threatens the pope’s legacy, Time wrote.

TROLLS TRY TO DISRUPT ‘BLACK PANTHER’: Don't let trolls fool you with their false posts about assaults at the blockbuster Marvel movie. BuzzFeed’s Craig Silverman details the disruptive, bigoted campaign, which appropriates old photos of abuse victims. And here’s an easy way to detect such BS propaganda in your social feeds.

PEOPLE LIKE GOOD NEWS: That’s what the Guardian says, after experimenting with 150 stories on the positive in everything from micro-houses to (gasp!) dog doo-doo. “Reader numbers for this kind of journalism are on average almost 10 percent higher than for comparable general news pieces,” writes Mark Rice-Oxley. And nearly 1 in 10 readers share the story on social media.

ON POINT: "I lost track of some people’s pain," says public radio host Tom Ashbrook on his firing and the toxic work environment he created at the WBUR-produced, NPR-distributed weekday “On Point” show. Ashbrook spoke with Boston Globe columnist Shirley Leung.

TONIGHT: Recruiters and editors have long known how smart it is to improve journalism by developing and deepening ties with historically black colleges and universities. Key background is tonight’s PBS documentary, “Tell Them We Are Rising.” It tells the 150-year history of the colleges, which filmmaker Stanley Nelson calls “the engine that has driven the ascent from enslavement to the highest positions in business, government, education, science, technology and entertainment.” Check local PBS listings.

THE FUTURE: Google says it's email. Specifically, AMP for email, a way that a story, photo or video you click would expand on the same page, letting a newsletter reader, for example, go deeper, says Mark Wilson, a senior writer for Fast Company. Devin Coldeway of TechCrunch takes the opposite view. As simple and unadorned as email is, Coldeway writes, “No company owns it. It works reliably and as intended on every platform, every operating system, every device. That’s a rarity today and a hell of a valuable one.”

HIRED: Sara Sorcher, who runs White House coverage for USA Today, is moving to the Washington Post. She will be deputy editor of PowerPost, launching new tech and cybersecurity/defense newsletters in building the Post’s “202” franchise.Megan McCarthy begins tomorrow as executive editor of MIT Tech Review. McCarthy was founding editor of Mediagazer and deputy managing editor of Fortune.com. … ProPublica has hired award-winning investigative reporter David Armstrong to cover healthcare; Armstrong comes from the Boston Globe and most recently STAT, where his series on abuses in the addiction treatment industry is a finalist for a 2018 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.

FIRED: Chicago Reader editor Mark Konkol, after 10 days on the job, following a cover of the weekly widely criticized as racist and multiple staff complaints. “Ding dong the witch is dead!” tweeted the Reader’s official Twitter account, in announcing the departure.

New on poynter.org

  • It's time to close the diversity gap in the ranks of education journalists, says the Education Writers Association.
  • Great news: With a nudge from big foundations, donations to news sites have soared.

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