How a 17-year-old high school junior from St. Louis scooped Bill de Blasio’s presidential announcement, plus Gannett’s takeover battle

Your Friday news roundup

May 17, 2019
Category: Newsletters

Happy Friday morning. It has been a busy week in media with a pair of Democratic presidential nominees stiff-arming Fox News. But the announcement of another Democratic presidential nominee has my attention today. Actually, it’s not the announcement, but who broke the story.

That kicks off today’s newsletter, which also includes updates on Chelsea Manning, Norah O’Donnell’s morning show farewell and some top honors in business journalism. But let’s start with this unlikely scoop.

Scooping the big boys

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio got scooped on his own announcement that he is running for president. Who scooped him? Someone from The New York Times? The Washington Post? NBC or CNN? Nope.

It was a 17-year-old high school junior from St. Louis.

Gabe Fleisher, who writes a politics newsletter that reaches 50,000 people each weekday (yes, you read that right: 50,000), broke the story. He was reading a politics Facebook post after school. (How many 17-year-olds do that?) He saw that the Democratic Party in Sioux City, Iowa, invited members to see de Blasio on Friday for his “first stop on his Presidential announcement tour.”

And he thought: wait, what?

There were rumors that de Blasio might run, but he held the media at bay and had planned to make his announcement official on Thursday’s “Good Morning America.” On Wednesday, Fleisher tweeted out his scoop, even reaching out to de Blasio’s camp. Suddenly, news outlets were chasing Fleisher’s tweet and, sure enough, news organizations such as the New York Daily News and NBC confirmed Fleisher’s news within minutes.

Isaac Stanley-Becker profiled Fleisher for The Washington Post, noting that Fleisher’s interest in politics goes back to the 2008 election when he was only 7 years old. As far as his scoop, Fleisher told the Post, “It was exciting to watch it instantly get attention and trigger discussion.”

Gannett still fighting

FILE - In this Sept. 29, 2009 file photo, a USA Today newspaper box is shown outside a restaurant in Charlotte, N.C. Gannett Co., the largest U.S. newspaper publisher, said Monday, Feb. 1, 2010, it turned a profit in the fourth quarter, helped by a drop in one-time costs and a smaller ad decline.(AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

Gannett continues to fight a hostile takeover and scored what could be a key victory Thursday when shareholders voted to reject MNG Enterprises’ board nominees. That means the shareholders backed the eight Gannett board nominees who stood for reelection while the three nominees proposed by MNG failed to gain seats.

That doesn’t mean MNG won’t still try to acquire Gannett, but having no seats on the board appears to be a setback. MNG made an unsolicited offer to buy Gannett for $12 per share in January, but Gannett rejected the bid. It’s not known if MNG will continue its efforts to buy Gannett, but it criticized the company in the wake of this latest news.

“This is a win for an entrenched Gannett Board that has been unwilling to address the current realities of the newspaper business, and sadly a loss for Gannett and its shareholders,” MNG said in a statement.

Gannett, meanwhile, celebrated the news. In an email to employees, Gannett interim COO Barbara Wall wrote, “This outcome demonstrates that Gannett shareholders recognize the continued progress we have made toward our ongoing digital transformation and agree that our strategic plan is the best path to deliver value for all Gannett shareholders.”

Gannett owns USA Today and dozens of local newspapers across the country, including the Detroit Free Press, The Indianapolis Star and The Cincinnati Enquirer. MNG, also known as Digital First, owns about 200 publications across the country, including the Denver Post, Boston Herald and The Detroit News.

O’Donnell’s farewell

Norah O'Donnell attends the Matrix Awards at the Sheraton New York Times Square on Monday, May 6, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP)

Norah O’Donnell said goodbye to “CBS This Morning” on Thursday. After co-hosting the morning program since 2012, O’Donnell is moving on to anchor the “CBS Evening News” this summer.

The CBS News team put together an on-air tribute of clips that included some of O’Donnell’s more famous moments on the show as well as best wishes from fellow journalists and celebrities such as Billie Jean King, Margaret Brennan, Apple CEO Tim Cook, the ABC “Good Morning America” team and Anderson Cooper. Her new competition — evening news anchors Lester Holt of NBC and David Muir of ABC — also sent warm wishes, as did politicians Lindsey Graham and John Boehner.

Top business awards

Finalists for the 2019 Gerald Loeb Awards were announced Thursday. The UCLA Anderson School of Management hands out the awards for distinguished business and financial journalism. They were established in 1957 and categories include awards for audio, beat reporting, breaking news, commentary, explanatory, features, international, investigative, local, personal service, video and visual storytelling.

Winners will be honored June 27 in New York City. At that event, Martin Wolf, associated editor and chief economics commentator at the Financial Times, will receive the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Manning back behind bars

Former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning speaks with reporters, after arriving at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va., Thursday, May 16, 2019. Manning spoke about the federal court’s continued attempts to compel her to testify in front of a grand jury. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who was jailed for her role in WikiLeaks’ release of government documents, was ordered back to jail Thursday after she again refused to cooperate with a grand jury about the case. Manning was remanded and will be fined $500 after 30 days and $1,000 after 60 days.

She told the court, “I would rather starve to death than change my position in this regard.”

Manning has already spent 62 days in jail for refusing to testify in a previous trial. She was released earlier this month when that grand jury expired.

Last week, in an interview with CNN’s Brian Stelter on “Reliable Sources,” Manning said she thinks President Donald Trump’s administration will target journalists, saying, “I think that if the administration gets its way as it’s laid out in repeated statements — like, ‘the media is the enemy of the people’ kind of thing — you know, then I think that we’re going to see the national security journalists and a lot of disruptive, for this administration, press — we’re probably going to see indictments and charges.”

Hot type

William "Rick" Singer, founder of the Edge College & Career Network, departs federal court in Boston on Tuesday, March 12, 2019, after he pleaded guilty to charges in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

A wild story by Jahd Khalil in Deadspin: The mastermind behind the college admissions scandal used to be a crazy middle school basketball coach.

A couple of good reads at Poynter.org: Kristen Hare looks at how some local newsrooms and Mizzou grads will experiment on Instagram to reach young audiences. And in the latest Factually newsletter, Daniel Funke and Susan Benkelman write how Twitter has finally gone after misinformation about vaccinations.

Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan writes about the media’s role in amplifying nasty nicknames President Trump has for his foes.

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

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