November 20, 2019

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Busy day in media today. Impeachment hearings during the day. Democratic presidential debate tonight. Welcome to Wednesday. Today starts with an email I received from a reader.

A better way to divide the impeachment pie

Poynter Report reader Michael Ryan, a former vice president at the Arizona Republic who now runs a media consultant firm, asked me provocative question Tuesday.

Should the major networks — ABC, CBS, NBC — all broadcast the impeachment hearings at the same time? If the testimony is going to carry out over several weeks, wouldn’t it be better if the networks took turns showing it? After all, that’s what happens with the debates.

The cable news networks — specifically Fox News, CNN and MSNBC — are going to show impeachment proceedings, as will PBS and C-SPAN. Do we really need all three networks, too?

Impeachment of the president is a serious matter. Certainly, it’s more important than “The Price is Right” or “The Young and the Restless.” But showing it on just one network instead of three might be beneficial to the viewers and the networks.

After all, there are viewers who would rather watch Victor Newman or someone playing Plinko. The networks might prefer that, too. Viewership for “The View” on ABC can be 3 million on many days. “The Price is Right” and “The Young and the Restless” are often well above 4 million.

Compare that to impeachment viewership from Friday. CBS had 2 million viewers, followed by ABC (1.93 million) and NBC (1.83 million). Individually, none of the networks had the viewership it would normally get for regular programming. But if you were to combine the impeachment coverage of the three networks, that’s a viewership of about 5.6 million, which would be a good day for any network’s regular programming.

Good luck getting the fiercely competitive news divisions to go along with such an idea. And even better luck trying to get them to negotiate who would get which days. They want to be there for all the pre- and post-hearing coverage, which also could set up their morning show and evening news coverage.

The funny part of all this? While the networks are fighting for viewers on impeachment, it’s actually Fox News (2.72 million last Friday) and MSNBC (2.63 million) that are getting the most impeachment viewers.

Candidates want further NBC investigation 

Democratic presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders, left, and Elizabeth Warren. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Tonight’s Democratic debate will be on MSNBC. Ahead of the debate, at least four of the candidates are urging MSNBC’s parent company, Comcast, to conduct an independent investigation into sexual misconduct at NBC News. According to HuffPost’s Emily Peck, the four candidates are Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. They called the allegations of sexual misconduct at the company “deeply troubling” and wrote, in part:

“We, the undersigned candidates, are very concerned about the message it would send to sexual assault survivors if our next debate is sponsored by MSNBC without clear commitments from Comcast, the parent company of NBC and MSNBC, to conduct an independent investigation into the toxic culture that enabled abusers and silenced survivors.”

There have been many calls for an independent investigation (here is mine from last month) ever since Ronan Farrow’s book alleged NBC sat on his Harvey Weinstein story out of fear that Weinstein might reveal the alleged sexual misconduct of NBC’s Matt Lauer.

SI plans don’t rival the good old days

For many like me, Sports Illustrated wasn’t just a magazine, it was truly one of life’s joys. Each Thursday, you’d race to the mailbox to find the latest issue with incredible features written by the likes of Gary Smith, Frank Deford, Rick Reilly and my personal favorites, Michael Farber and Franz Lidz.

Those days are long gone. Times change. It has been reported that the magazine will print only once a month starting next year. An online product is fine, but Sports Illustrated was sold to Maven Media, which quickly laid off about 40% of the staff. Maven insists it still wants an elite product, but there isn’t much optimism about the future of the once-iconic brand.

Recode’s Rani Molla writes that Maven founder and CEO James Heckman, speaking at Code Media, said, “We bought the brand Sports Illustrated.”

Heckman added, “They’ve got a 1986 business model. We’re bringing in specialists — team, fantasy, gambling, backpacking. That’s the model of the future.”

Deadspin, before it imploded, wrote, “TheMaven wants to build out a network of SI-branded Maven ‘team communities’ that will drive traffic through a combination of cynical SEO ploys, news aggregation, and low-paid and unpaid labor.”

That’s one half of what SI likely will be. The other will still strive, or so they say, to be a site that provides some of sports’ best writing, analysis and news.

But it’s hard to imagine that it will ever come close to being the good old days of Sports Illustrated.

Taking their talents elsewhere

There were a couple of significant journalism moves Tuesday.

Joshua Johnson is stepping down as the host of national radio show “1A” to join MSNBC as an anchor. He will leave “1A” next month. WAMU, the station that produces the show, and NPR will work together to find a new host.

Meanwhile, Texas Tribune editor-in-chief Emily Ramshaw and chief audience officer Amanda Zamora are leaving the Tribune to launch a national nonprofit news organization aimed at giving women the facts, tools and information they need to be equal participants in democracy and civic life. In announcing the move, Texas Tribune CEO and founder Evan Smith wrote, “This is one of the saddest and happiest things I’ve had to write for this site in ten years.”

In a memo to staff, Ramshaw wrote, “As many of you know, the only thing I care about as much as informing and engaging with Texans on politics and policy is informing and engaging with women on politics and policy. And that’s what I’m devoting my next chapter to.”


Your readers are on mobile. Period.

 (AP Photo/Karly Domb Sadof)

Chances are, you reading this on a mobile device. The latest survey from Pew Research Center shows that Americans are more likely to get news through mobile devices than through desktop or laptop computers.

In a survey of 5,107 U.S. adults who are members of Pew’s American Trends Panel, 57% said they often get their news on mobile devices, compared to 30% who often do so on a desktop or laptop. The 57% is more than double the 21% from the first time Pew asked this question in 2013.


It’s official

Poynter media business analyst Rick Edmonds tells me, “The GateHouse/Gannett merger was completed Tuesday at 4:10 p.m. The new company will begin trading under the Gannett name and symbol this morning. CEO Mike Reed and his No. 2, Paul Bascobert, told The Wall Street Journal they think they can take 8% of costs out of the company in the next year with minimal newsroom cuts.”

Reed told The New York Times’ Marc Tracy, “I can’t give you an exact number, but almost nothing. I mean, just for context, there’s 24,000 employees in the two companies, and a significant portion of the cost reductions are going to come from things other than people. But, obviously, people’s a part of this as well. Out of 24,000 people in the company, there’s about 2,500 that are actually writing stories every day. So it’s a small number, relative to 24,000. So there’s so much opportunity beyond the newsroom for us to go get these efficiencies.”

The first newsroom cuts could come in areas where more than one Gannett paper is covering the same beat. Reed told the Times, “Do we need two people covering the (minor-league baseball) Rochester Red Wings? So that’s where we potentially redeploy assets.”

Late breaking news

This news broke Tuesday night. Again, here is Poynter business analyst Rick Edmonds:

“Alden Global Capital has bought former chairman Michael Ferro’s roughly 25% stake in Tribune Publishing, the company announced. Alden controls Digital First/News Media, notorious for its deep cuts to the Denver Post and others in the chain. More to follow, but this doesn’t look good — one more step in the increasing role hedge funds are assuming in public newspaper media companies.”


A stunning project three years in the making

Do not miss this stunningly good project by Newsday. Here’s the setup:

The paper had 25 undercover testers trained. They then went to 93 real estate agents and secretly record 240 hours worth of meetings. It involved more than 5,700 house listings. It took three years.

The result?

Widespread unequal treatment by Long Island real estate agents towards Asians, Hispanics and Blacks.

Essentially, what Newsday did was send potential home buyers from different races with similar financial profiles to real estate agents. All of it was recorded by hidden cameras. And the disparities are easily detected.

The project, led by editor Arthur Browne and journalists Ann Choi, Keith Herbert and Olivia Winslow, includes the hidden camera videos, as well as impressive graphics showing exact house listings and neighborhoods.

Newsday opened its paywall to allow readers to have access to the project.

Don Cherry lives to broadcast another way

Hockey analyst Don Cherry. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Don Cherry isn’t going away. The controversial analyst who was fired from “Hockey Night in Canada” after recent anti-immigrant remarks (just the latest in a career full of insensitive and bigoted comments) is starting a podcast. The Toronto Sun reported that the 85-year-old Cherry will do his podcast with his son, Tim, and his grandson, Del.


Hot type

Today’s Hot Type is about America’s school children. All three stories are extremely troubling, but important.

The next time you hear about “fake news” and the media being the “enemy of the people” and how awful the mainstream media is, think about these stories and ask: Who would do them if there was no media?

  • If the allegations in this story are true, this is one of the most disturbing examples of high school sports hazing ever. The Daily Beast’s Olivia Messer with this horrific read that includes coaches who allegedly turned a blind eye and are still coaching kids. (Warning: This story has graphic details.)
  • This is a sobering number: 114,000 students in New York City are homeless. New York Times writer Eliza Shapiro and photojournalist Brittainy Newman chronicle the daily lives of two of them. Superb reporting, sensational photographs — an important piece of journalism.
  • Children in Illinois are being locked away alone in rooms, perhaps even against the law. “The Quiet Room” is an investigative collaboration between ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune, written by Jennifer Smith Richards, Jodi S. Cohen and Lakeidra Chavis with photos from Zbigniew Bzdak.

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
Tom Jones

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