A Modesto Bee editor gets the last word, plus an update on Matt Lauer rumors and Brian Williams’ comeback

May 14, 2019
Category: Newsletters

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Standing up for his paper — and people

A Modesto Bee editor took up for the newspaper after it was criticized for writing about recent awards.

Last week, the Modesto Bee won several California Journalism Awards, including second place in overall general excellence. The Bee, as papers often do in such instances, wrote about some of its successes. And as Bee editor Brian Clark predicted, the story touting the paper’s work was met with criticism and sarcasm from some readers. One Facebook comment, for example, was, “LMAO oh come on … who were your competitors? 6th graders?”

So Clark decided to write about that and stand up for his paper and local journalism. He wrote, “Fact is, we aren’t liberal — or conservative — or dying. Our reporters, who all live and work in and around Stanislaus County, don’t write about Washington or the current holder of the Oval Office. They write about things happening that affect you — our readers.”

In his lengthy opinion piece about what the Bee offers and its importance in the community, Clark added, “Like us or not, I would encourage everyone to try us – or try a local newspaper in your area. We do so much more in our communities than people know – and do it well, despite what social commenters say. Our community is better for us. And, we’re better having you onboard and engaged.”

I reached out to Clark on Monday and asked him what prompted him to write. He said he wanted to give the readers a perspective that illustrated the impact the paper was having on the community.

“Our readers would not get that perspective unless we wrote specifically about it,” Clark told me via email. “I also do feel that many residents, especially those in smaller markets, equate us with a print edition that has shrunk over the last decade. We need to tell our digital story, the fact that there is a robust and growing side to the business of delivering our content. That was the gist behind it, and explaining some things that were coming up.”

And the reaction to what he wrote?

“The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive – both among peers and readers via email and phone calls,” Clark said. “We have a few people who said they’d subscribe, or resubscribe, and reassured us that we’re an important part of the community. It’s good for the staff to hear and see that.”

No to one, yes to another

Matt Lauer is not heading to CNN, despite rumors, but Brian Williams is making a comeback at NBC.

Matt Lauer on the set of the “Today” show in this 2013 file photo. (Photo by Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx)

Page Six is reporting that CNN boss Jeff Zucker has told employees to not believe the rumors that former “Today” show host Matt Lauer is coming to CNN. The rumors started because of another Page Six story. Last month, Page Six reported that Lauer, who has been laying low since being fired by NBC in 2017 for sexual misconduct allegations, came out of seclusion last month to attend Zucker’s 54th birthday party. Zucker produced the “Today” show when Lauer was host and went to run NBC. The two have remained friends.

But file this next item under redemption stories …

Brian Williams in 2012. (AP Photo/Starpix, Andrew Toth, File)

What Brian Williams did to get booted off NBC for a while wasn’t nearly as vulgar as what Lauer was accused of. Williams was suspended and lost his “NBC Nightly News” anchor spot for exaggerating his experiences while covering war overseas. But, as I mentioned in a newsletter last month, Williams has resuscitated his career at MSNBC. He was in the lead role during the network’s midterm election coverage, as well as when the Mueller report was released to the public.

On Monday, his comeback took another big step as he was included on stage during NBC’s upfronts. (Upfronts are when major TV networks preview their upcoming shows for advertisers and the media.) Don’t underestimate the significance of this. NBC is essentially saying Williams is, once again, one of the faces of the network.

Let the Sun shine in south Florida

A judge sided with the Pulitzer Prize-winning South Florida Sun-Sentinel against a school board in an unusual open records case.

Parkland school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz in March 2019. (Taimy Alvarez/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

Last year, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel published redacted material about the educational background of Nikolas Cruz, the accused shooter in the Parkland school massacre. The Broward County School Board asked that the paper be held in contempt for publishing the material, which it said was redacted to protect Cruz’s privacy.

But a judge dismissed that request Monday. The paper, which won a Pulitzer Prize for its Parkland coverage, argued that the district failed to properly redact the material and that anyone could view it with Microsoft Word. The report indicated that Cruz didn’t get mental health treatment before the shooting.


Survey says …

A Pew study shows that older whites with education and money are most likely to serve as sources for local journalists.

Who talks to local journalists? Most likely it’s white, older, more educated Americans. Those are the findings from a study by the Pew Research Center.

The survey, based on interviews with nearly 35,000 U.S. adults, found that about 21% of Americans say they have ever spoken with or been interviewed by a local journalist. Among those who have, about 23 percent were white, compared to 19 percent who were black and 14 percent who were Hispanic.

They also were most likely to be over 65, have a college education and make more than $75,000 a year.

Equal opportunity television

A women’s advocacy group is pushing TV networks for racial and gender balance in 2020 election coverage.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

UltraViolet Action, a women’s advocacy group, will send a letter today to TV networks covering the 2020 presidential primaries asking them to practice unbiased reporting that provides “accurate, fair and equal attention to every candidate in a way that does not further sexist or racist stereotypes.” The letter is being sent to ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, Univision, Telemundo and PBS. The letter has been signed by more than 20 women’s rights groups.

The letter asks three things:

  • Ensure that at least 50 percent of town hall and debate moderators are women and that 50 percent are people of color.

  • Ask male candidates about issues that impact women, including sexism, maternal health and mortality, abortion access and sexual assault/violence.

  • Cover women candidates as seriously as they cover men.

In a statement, UltraViolet Action co-founder and executive director Shaunna Thomas said, “Our country has seen what can happen as a result of inequitable media coverage of presidential candidates. This cannot be our reality in 2020.”

Hot type

A curated list of great journalism and intriguing media.

The Ames Stradivarius violin in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

  • “PBS Newshour” special correspondent Christopher Livesay reports from the Italian Alps about a catastrophic storm that recently wiped out a million trees in the forest where the great Antonio Stradivari found his lumber for his prized instruments.
  • CBS News is reporting that colleagues of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi — including one in the United States — have received threats from Saudi Arabia for continuing Khashoggi’s work.
  • On Poynter.org, Kathleen Bartzen Culver writes that there are three nurses for every doctor in the United States but that nurses appear as sources in only 2% of health care stories.
  • The Buffalo News is starting an online column about Buffalo written by people from Buffalo who love to talk about Buffalo. The first one is from longtime sportswriter and former Buffalo Evening News paperboy Erik Brady.

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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