August 29, 2019

Greetings from Florida, where we are anxiously awaiting to see where Hurricane Dorian is headed. While we wait, here’s the latest media news and analysis.

Trump is 💔, but Fox News is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

This probably seems like a bigger deal than it is, but it’s still worth noting: President Donald Trump is mad at Fox News. He blasted away at what we thought was his BFF cable network in a series of tweets on Wednesday. The most damning one:

“I don’t want to Win for myself, I only want to Win for the people. The New@FoxNews is letting millions of GREAT people down! We have to start looking for a new News Outlet. Fox isn’t working for us anymore!”

Notice the use of the word “us.” Then again, that tweet merely confirms what we already know: that Trump and Fox News have long had a sympatico relationship. Fox News, especially in the mornings and during primetime, has pushed the president’s agendas. For Trump to now turn against the network that gives him the most favorable coverage is either a calculated tactic for more favorable coverage or an emotional spur-of-the-moment response to the network interviewing Democratic National Committee’s communications director Xochitl Hinojosa.

Either way, what happens next likely won’t be needle-moving. Trump’s suggestion that viewers start shopping for another news outlet is pointless. What outlet that’s as big as Fox News is going to provide the kind of pro-Trump news that pro-Trump viewers want?

As far how Fox News reacts, there likely won’t be much difference there either.

“I’m not sure anything is going to change here,” CNN’s Oliver Darcy said.“Probably, though, he’s making things a little more difficult for the anchors who are trying to report the facts on air because they know if they report something slightly critical of the president that they could be on the receiving end of a Trump tweet.”

However, that never seemed to bother the likes of Fox News’ Shepard Smith and Chris Wallace. Brit Hume immediately tweeted back at the president:

“Fox News isn’t supposed to work for you.”

In the meantime, the “Fox & Friends” morning show hosts as well as Trump’s primetime buddies — Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham — almost certainly will continue to back the president no matter what, and remain in Trump’s good graces.

Beto’s Breitbart misstep

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke campaigning in June. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke and his campaign are not apologizing for having a Breitbart reporter removed from an O’Rourke event Tuesday night. In a statement Wednesday, the campaign said Breitbart, “walks the line between being news and a perpetrator of hate speech.” Vox’s Aaron Rupar has more of the details of why O’Rourke’s campaign had the reporter removed.

However, the campaign also told CNN that it wouldn’t restrict access in the future.

Regardless of your opinion of Breitbart, O’Rourke and his camp were wrong — wrong to ban the reporter and wrong to not apologize for it. If Trump is (justifiably) criticized for attacking the media by calling it “fake news” and “enemy of the people,” then O’Rourke should be equally criticized for censoring anyone in the media, especially when those media members are not doing anything to disrupt a speech or event. There was no indication that the Breitbart reporter on Tuesday was doing anything disruptive.

A major mistake

Television host Lawrence O’Donnell in April. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

It was a blockbuster story, indeed. MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell went on the air Tuesday night and said that Trump received loans from Deutsche Bank that had been co-signed by Russian billionaires with ties to Vladimir Putin. O’Donnell’s report was based on what he was told by a source.

On Wednesday, O’Donnell said the story was wrong and he apologized for it. He tweeted:

“Last night I made an error in judgment by reporting an item about the president’s finances that didn’t go through our rigorous verification and standards process. I shouldn’t have reported it and I was wrong to discuss it on the air. I will address the issue on my show tonight.”

O’Donnell also apologized and retracted the story on his show Wednesday night.

I’m not here to call for anyone’s job or even suggest any kind of suspension or punishment for O’Donnell. But this was a major mistake by O’Donnell, and damaging to not only him, but MSNBC.


The miseducation of America’s students

Has anything left a more lasting mark on the United States than slavery? The country still struggles with its ramifications. Part of the problem is we, as a nation, haven’t been able to properly teach our children about it.

The Washington Post’s project, The Dawn Of American Slavery, tackles this issue. The most recent piece, Teaching America’s Truth, looks at how slavery is taught in the United States. The Post interviewed more than 100 students, teachers, administrators and historians from all over the country and attended middle and high school classes in Birmingham, Alabama; Fort Dodge, Iowa; Germantown, Maryland; Concord, Massachusetts; Broken Arrow, Oklahoma; and Washington, D.C.

The Post’s Joe Heim wrote, “… telling the truth about slavery in American public schools has long been a failing proposition. Many teachers feel ill-prepared, and textbooks rarely do more than skim the surface. There is too much pain to explore. Too much guilt, ignorance, denial.

“And yet as issues of race and prejudice and privilege continue to roil America, an understanding of how slavery forged the country seems all the more necessary.”

TV news, by the numbers

Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity in 2018. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

Fox News remains the king of cable news, although CNN was primetime’s most-watched cable news network in August. CNN’s primetime victory in August was boosted by airing the Democratic presidential debates on back-to-back nights. However, Fox News remained the overall most-watched basic cable network for the 38th consecutive month and the most-watched cable news network for the 212th consecutive month, according to TVNewser.

The battle for viewership on the morning shows and evening news continues to be a good one. ABC’s “Good Morning America” and NBC’s “Today” show are running neck-and-neck, with “GMA” stringing together back-to-back weeks in first place.

ABC’s “World News Tonight” had the largest total audience last week, but NBC’s “Nightly News” had the largest audience in the coveted 25-54 age demographic.

Still waiting …

171: The number of days since the last official White House press briefing. The last one was March 11 when Sarah Sanders was press secretary.

CNN’s Chris Cillizza wrote, “And this isn’t a new development. Prior to that March 11 briefing, it had been 41 days since the previous briefing on January 28. Before that January 28 briefing, Sanders hadn’t done a press briefing in 40 days. So, yeah.”

Insert dog pun here

If you’re collecting names of the absolute best newspaper feature writers in the country, The Washington Post’s Jessica Contrera should be there. Her story on the brother of the accused Parkland school shooter is among the best reads of the year, as was her piece on four high school kids whose senior prank turned into a hate crime.

The topic of her latest story isn’t quite as serious, but it’s just as well done as she looks at a dog park that has a rich neighborhood divided. It’s full of so many good lines and quotes, including one park regular talking about a dog by calling it, “a certain standard poodle whose name should be withheld.”

Richly reported and superbly written, Contrera again delivers a top-notch story.

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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…
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