Death of a newspaper, plus debate records shattered and a sport sites’ firing

July 1, 2019
Category: Newsletters

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July 1, 2019

Welcome to a short week with the Fourth of July on Thursday. But this is not a good morning for journalism, particularly in Ohio, as a legendary paper is about to be shuttered.

‘This is heartbreaking’

After celebrating 150 years serving its community, a newspaper in Ohio will shutter for good in just a few weeks.

Screenshot of The Vindicator newspaper logo.

Just last week, The Vindicator newspaper in Youngstown, Ohio celebrated its 150th birthday. There will not be a 151st. The paper announced on Friday that the final edition will be Aug. 31.

While it might seem like no big deal —  just a small paper in a little community — this news is, as Ohio Congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Tim Ryan tweeted, “heartbreaking.”

The Vindicator reaches 100,000 readers a day online and in print. It serves a community twice that size. Soon there will be a void, and we’re left to ask: Who will cover possible corruption in city hall? Who will make sure the school board is treating teachers and students well? Who will be the watchdog keeping an eye on the police, district attorneys and other government agencies?

Who will be the voice of a community?

The story is a familiar one. The paper wrote that “great financial hardships” led it to look for a buyer, but, “That search has been unsuccessful.”

The newspaper has been in the Maag-Brown family since William F. Maag Sr. acquired the paper in 1887. In a letter signed by publisher Betty Brown Jagnow and general manager Mark Brown, the announcement concluded with: “It is with broken hearts that we say goodbye and a final thank you.”

TV station WFMJ (also owned by the same family that owns The Vindicator) reported that 144 employees and about 250 carriers will lose their jobs.

Reporter Kalea Hall told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “I can’t explain how difficult it is to see this happen, but I understand given the conditions of the newspaper industry. I beg people to support local journalism. It’s essential to democracy. I only hope that someone, somewhere picks up the slack and continues to ask the hard questions like The Vindicator reporters did for years and get the news out there that people need to know.”

Appearing on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday, Ryan said, “It builds culture. That’s what you lose when you lose the local newspaper. You lose that culture that really pulls you together and at this moment in history and our country’s history, it’s really a big body blow to lose that local newspaper because so much is pulling us apart and those local papers pulled us together.”

Ryan said The Vindicator has occasionally written stories about him that he didn’t like, but he added, “What’s the alternative? Having a state-run paper like in China? Or like in Russia? That’s not good, at the end of the day. So even though there’s that criticism that sometimes people on my side of the camera don’t always like, it’s essential to our democracy.”

Debate viewership record smashed

Democratic presidential candidates during the Democratic primary debate. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Night two (Thursday) of the Democratic debates brought in record viewership for NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo. Approximately 18.1 million viewers tuned in, making it the most watched Democratic primary debate ever, topping the 15.5 million who watched Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders on Oct. 23, 2015. Wednesday’s first night of the debates drew 15.3 million.

The 18.1 million, which does not include streaming, is a huge number when you consider only 30 million voted in the 2016 Democratic primary.

Barstool Sports writer fired following a post about missing a student, now assumed dead

Barstool Sports is one of the more controversial sports websites on the internet. The highly successful site has a devout, almost cult-like following among its fans (called “Stoolies”) as well as podcasts that rake in millions a year. Yet it is criticized by many (and you can understand why) for being misogynistic and abusive to anyone who criticizes it. Much of that criticism is directed at the site’s founder Dave Portnoy. HBO’s “Real Sports” just did a segment on the site.

But even Portnoy admits the site crossed a line Friday. That’s why he fired one of his writers over a since-deleted blog post about a woman who had gone missing and is now believed to be dead. The writer, Francis Ellis, inexplicably wrote a light-hearted post about missing University of Utah student Mackenzie Lueck. The post was deleted, but Deadspin has the details. Ellis has since written in a tweetthat when he wrote the post, he mistakenly thought Lueck was going to be found alive and OK. She is now believed to have been murdered.

Ellis wrote in his apology, “It was a horrific mistake and I am deeply sorry to the Lueck family for their unfathomable loss. I cannot imagine what they are going through. The last thing they need is some fool on the internet offering thoughts on their ordeal.”

It’s still not clear how such a post could get through an editing process and actually make it online, but in a video Portnoy said Ellis has been fired.

Pushing for press access

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Only time will tell if new White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham will have a better relationship with the media than her predecessor Sarah Sanders, but she deserves some credit for fighting (literally) for press access on Sunday. During President Donald Trump’s visit to North Korea, Grisham can be seen pushing North Korean officials out of the way and telling the media to “Go! Go!” as they rushed to get into position to cover Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong Un.

The Washington Post reported that Grisham was “bruised” in the tussle. Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Jacobs wrote, “The North Korean security was a little overzealous, at times trying to block U.S. reporters’ view,” and added that the clash “came to body blows.”

Stelter writes the book on the media — literally

CNN’s top media analyst is writing a book about cable news’ top primetime network. And, no, it’s not about CNN. It’s about Fox News. Axios first broke the story that Brian Stelter has already begun a book about Fox News in the age of Donald Trump. The book, as of yet untitled, is due out next year.

The publisher, One Signal, says the book will go “behind the scenes of a TV network and a White House merging in unprecedented fashion.”

Cartoon goes viral; artist’s contract terminated

cartoonist has been let go from his freelance contract after he posted a controversial cartoon about President Trump on Twitter. Michael de Adder’s contract with a publishing company in Canada was not renewed after he posted the cartoon, depicting Trump holding a golf club and looking down at the drowned father-daughter migrants whose photo was in the news last week. In the cartoon, Trump asks, “Do you mind if I play through?”

However, Brunswick News Inc. said in a statement that the cartoon had nothing to do with de Adder’s termination. The company said, “This is a false narrative which has emerged carelessly and recklessly on social media. In fact BNI was not even offered this cartoon by Mr. de Adder. The decision to bring back reader favourite Greg Perry was made long before this cartoon, and negotiations had been ongoing for weeks.”

So did the release have anything to do with Trump or not? Absolutely, Wes Tyrell, president of the Association of Canadian Cartoonists, told The Washington Post.

“They can stand behind their statement, but it is clear with the last few cartoons that (de Adder) … was revisiting Trump after taking a break,” Tyrell said. “Maybe these were the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Tyrel went further, saying Trump is a taboo topic for cartoon satire in the Brunswick News.

Sunday press show highlights

Joe Biden, speaks during the Democratic primary debate hosted. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The Sunday morning shows were all in on the Democratic candidates. NBC’s “Meet the Press” had Cory Booker. ABC’s “This Week” had Bernie Sanders and Julian Castro. CBS’s “Face the Nation” had Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke.

And yet the candidate most talked about was Joe Biden, who took quite the hammering on “Meet the Press.”

On “MTP,” Booker said, “Whoever our nominee is going to be — whoever the next president is going to be — really needs to be someone who can talk openly and honestly about race with vulnerability. Because none of us are perfect. But really call this country to common ground to reconciliation. I’m not sure if Vice President Biden is up to that task, given the way these last three weeks have played out.”

During a panel discussion, Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher told host Chuck Todd, “I fear that Joe Biden is Hillary 2.0,” adding that young people “are not going to make the binary choice of the lesser of two evils.”

In the meantime, Kamala Harris got plenty of praise on “Face the Nation” from an unlikely source: South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. After defending Biden by saying “there’s not a racist bone in his body,” Graham complimented Harris by saying, “She’s got game. She’s very talented. She’s very smart, and she’s be a force to be reckoned with.”

On Poynter.org:

Hot type

  • Just out this morning: The New Yorker’s Adam Entous profiles Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. The piece looks the younger Biden’s struggles with alcohol and drug abuse, his business dealings and his relationship with his late brother’s widow.
  • Teenage girls were cyberstalked. Then they fought back as described in this terrific piece by Stephanie Clifford for Wired.
  • A young mom and her son were murdered. Years go by —one dead end after another. Then, a surprising lead. The Seattle Times’ Lewis Kamb has “In the Dark.”

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

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