The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, click here.
Good morning. The most interesting TV news clip from Tuesday technically never made it on air. That’s where we start today.
Hot mic moment leads to bombshell
Did ABC sit on a blockbuster Jeffrey Epstein story three years ago? Was it a story that also involved Prince Andrew and Bill Clinton?
That’s what ABC News’ anchor Amy Robach claimed in a tape released by a group called Project Veritas on Tuesday. The clip, which was during a hot mic moment when Robach was not actually on the air, shows Robach sitting at a news desk and complaining to colleagues. She said she had Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre on the record. But ABC News wouldn’t run the story, she said.
“First of all, I was told, ‘Who’s Jeffrey Epstein?’” Robach says on the tape. She adds that the network was worried such a story that mentioned Prince Andrew would prevent ABC from interviewing Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Robach continued by saying, “It was unbelievable what we had. Clinton — we had everything. I tried for three years to get it on to no avail and now it’s all coming out and it’s like these new revelations. And I freaking had all of it. I’m so pissed right now. Every day I get more and more pissed. … What we had was unreal.”
ABC News is denying it squashed the story. In a statement, ABC News said, “At the time, not all of our reporting met our standards to air, but we have never stopped investigating the story. Ever since we’ve had a team on this investigation and substantial resources dedicated to it.”
ABC News said all that work has led to a two-hour documentary and six-part podcast that will air next year. The head of investigations for ABC News, Chris Vlasto, told NPR’s David Folkenflik, “We would have never run away from (that story.)”
Meanwhile, Robach said in a statement that the tape showed a “private moment of frustration.” It is believed to have been from August.
“I was upset that an important interview I had conducted with Virginia Roberts didn’t air because we could not obtain sufficient corroborating evidence to meet ABC’s editorial standards about her allegations,” Robach said. “My comments about Prince Andrew and her allegation that she had seen Bill Clinton on Epstein’s private island were in reference to what Virginia Roberts said in that interview in 2015. I was referencing her allegations — not what ABC News had verified through our reporting.”
Robach went on to say that she was never told to stop reporting on the story.
How did Project Veritas get the tape? James O’Keefe, who runs Project Veritas, told The Hollywood Reporter’s Jeremy Barr that it was provided by “an ABC insider” who still works at the network.
What does it all mean?
What is there to make of the Robach tape? It certainly doesn’t make ABC look good. That’s because, from all appearances, the overall Epstein story turned out to be true. It’s similar to what NBC is facing with Ronan Farrow’s allegations that it sat on the Harvey Weinstein story.
Robach is considered a top-notch journalist, and there’s an argument to be made that a veteran TV anchor such as Robach should know that any time you’re in front of a camera and wearing a microphone that anything you say might become public.
Whether it was truly a “private moment” or not, it cannot be viewed the same as an actual news report. In addition, all we have is the tape. We don’t know the details of the reporting and whether they would have met the threshold for air.
The issues ABC must deal with moving forward: Should it have aired the story as Robach seemed to suggest and if not, was enough done to finish the work to get the story to air? It was a huge story, Robach claimed ABC had it, it never ran and other news outlets (most notably the Miami Herald) broke the Epstein story. Why didn’t ABC?
Blowing the whistle on the whistleblower?
President Donald Trump and his supporters are calling on media outlets to name the whistleblower of the Ukraine story that sparked the impeachment inquiry.
But media outlets are hesitant to out the whistleblower. Politico’s Michael Calderone points out that several media outlets — including The New York Times, CNN, Axios, The Washington Post and USA Today — seem to be against revealing the name even if they knew it.
Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi added the Associated Press and NBC to that list.
New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet told Farhi, “I’m not convinced his identity is important at this point, or at least important enough to put him at any risk, or to unmask someone who doesn’t want to be identified. Pretty much everything has now been discussed or confirmed on the record, multiple times, by others in the administration. So I’m not sure I see the point of unmasking someone who wants to remain anonymous.”
Because why would a library carry news?
The Citrus County (Florida) Commission has decided the county should not spend about $2,700 to buy digital subscriptions to The New York Times for the 70,000 library card holders in that county.
Why? Because the commissioners don’t like the New York Times. One commissioner — Scott Carnahan — said, “I don’t want The New York Times in this county. I don’t agree with it, I don’t like ‘em, it’s fake news and I’m voting no. They can take that money and do something else with it. … I support Donald Trump.”
Another commissioner, Brian Coleman, said, “I support President Trump. I would say they put stuff in there that’s not necessarily verified.”
But the Citrus County Chronicle’s Mike Wright reports that the decision didn’t go over well with many Citrus County residents and now Coleman is backing up. He told Wright, “Do I think I made a mistake? Yes. Our decision should have been impartial, instead of having it become a personal thing.”
The commission is expected to take up the issue again later this month.
The Tampa Bay Times’ Zach Sampson and Josh Fiallo have an excellent look at the story. There’s this, too.
‘We’re telling the story of Don’s life’
The following is quoted directly from the Arizona Republic because it introduces a new podcast better than I, or anyone, could possibly write it:
“Don Bolles was an investigative reporter for The Arizona Republic in the 1960s and ‘70s. After years of reporting on corruption in the racing industry, he was killed in a car bomb in 1976. Decades later, we found cassette tapes of his phone calls from the ‘70s. With those tapes, we’re telling the story of Don’s life using his voice. It’s a story of his quarrels with the Mafia before his death and how his spirit was crushed long before his murder.”
“Rediscovering: Don Bolles, a murdered journalist” launched on Tuesday.
Reasons to think Deadspin isn’t quite dead
More Deadspin drama. Paul Maidment, the editorial director of G/O Media who sparked the mass exodus at Deadspin with his memo telling staff to stick to sports, resigned Tuesday. In a memo to staff, Maidment said he was pursuing an “entrepreneurial opportunity.”
Last week, Maidment told Deadspin staff to stay away from any topics such as politics and pop culture unless they intersected with sports. The next day, editor-in-chief Barry Petchesky was fired for not following the directive. That led to the entire writing staff resigning.
Deadspin still is publishing stories, but no writers are taking credit for the stories, likely out of fear of being labeled a scab or traitor. The bylines simply say, “Deadspin staff.” (There was a report from Mediaite that Maidment had been running the site.)
What does Maidment’s resignation mean? It could mean that G/O Media will have a change of heart and ask the Deadspin writers to return and run the website as they see fit. Or it could mean nothing. While no one is commenting, one would guess the Deadspin staff has been approached by outside companies about starting a new site that would allow them to write whatever they wanted.
Either way, don’t be surprised if Deadspin is not quite dead yet.
The following content is graphic
Cover of a new graphic book by The Washington Post about the Mueller Report. (Photo courtesy of The Washington Post)
Have you avoided reading the Mueller report because it seemed too complicated and, well, boring? The Washington Post and Scribner are trying to fix that. On Dec. 3, they will release a graphic non-fiction book called “The Mueller Report Illustrated: The Obstruction Investigation.” It also will be available as an e-book. The Post will release a digital version with audio and animation on its website.
This book is drawn directly from Volume II of the report, which centered on whether or not Trump obstructed the Russia investigation.
President Donald Trump reacts as Washington Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki wears a Make America Great Again hat at the White House on Monday. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
- A Washington Nationals player wore a MAGA hat at the White House this week. He didn’t “stick to sports” and that’s OK. In fact, it’s OK if no one sticks to sports, writes Yahoo! Sports’ Jay Busbee.
- For The New Yorker, Louisa Thomas writes about “The Ham-Handed, Money Mangling of Sports Illustrated and Deadspin.”
- A California jail increased isolation to stop suicides. What happened? More people killed themselves. The Sacramento Bee’s Jason Pohl and ProPublica’s Ryan Gabrielson with the disturbing story.
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upcoming Poynter training:
- ACES In-Depth Editing (online seminar). Starts Nov. 10.
- How Any Journalist Can Earn Trust (workshop). Deadline: Nov. 29.
Want to get this briefing in your inbox? Sign up here.