October 17, 2019

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Good Thursday morning. Let’s dive right into today’s media news, which includes a couple of hot rumors.

What would it take to outfox Fox News?

I mentioned this in Wednesday’s newsletter, but here are some more thoughts on the most intriguing media rumor of the week.

The Hollywood Reporter writes that media mogul Shari Redstone is thinking about creating a conservative-leaning news network to go up against Fox News. A Viacom spokesperson said that Viacom has “no intention of launching a TV news channel, conservative or otherwise.”

Redstone reportedly met with former Fox News star Megyn Kelly. And this may or may not mean anything, but she also recently met with President Donald Trump. All this raises questions.

First, is Fox News even vulnerable to being challenged, considering its stranglehold on cable news, especially among viewers who lean right?

And if there is an opening for another conservative news outlet, where is that niche? Would a new network be for viewers who are conservative but don’t necessarily like Trump? Or has Trump’s recent criticism of Fox News left some viewers looking for a network that would be even more of an advocate for the president?

I have no scientific evidence or polling to back this up, but if I was starting a network to rival Fox News, I’d target conservative viewers who are not in complete step with Trump. If there even is a crack in Fox News, that’s where it might be. Based on viewership numbers, Fox News viewers love the “Fox & Friends” morning show and the primetime lineup of Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. All that programming is, for the most part, very pro-Trump. So it might be hard to out-Fox Fox.

If I started a network to compete with Fox News, my first call would be to Shepard Smith, the Fox News anchor who stepped away last week over growing dissatisfaction. I’d also put out feelers to any other Fox News staff who might be frustrated with its direction. And then I would go about putting together programming that wouldn’t necessarily disagree with or antagonize the president, but wouldn’t be afraid to challenge him, either.

One final thought. When you’re talking about launching networks, it can’t be about just right now and it can’t just be about Trump. This has to be about the long term because at some point — whether it’s 15 months or five years from now — Trump will no longer be president. But his presidency has changed things politically in this country. Viewing habits and political views born out of the past three years likely will remain long after Trump stops being president. That suggests there is room for another conservative network — now and in the future.

Hey, who knows? Trump might even be the key figure in that network.

Sunsetting the nation’s newspaper

(AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

Not all that long ago, USA Today — the actual newspaper, that is — was everywhere. Outside hotel rooms. Interstate rest stops. Coffee shops. Everywhere.

Could the day come when the print product is nowhere? Literally, nowhere? Are we moving toward a day when the USA Today print produce will no longer exist?

Poynter media business analyst Rick Edmonds writes that signs point to that very possibility. Edmonds, talking to two knowledge sources, writes: “a move away from USA Today in print is part of the calculations” for when GateHouse’s parent company, New Media Investment Group, acquires Gannett, which owns USA Today.

The acquisition isn’t expected to close for at least another month and Edmonds writes that winding down the USA Today print product could take several years. Gannett is saying it ain’t so.

Maribel Perez Wadsworth, USA Today publisher, told Edmonds in an email, “Gannett has no plans to discontinue the print edition of USA TODAY, which remains an important part of our business.”

Edmonds also wrote, “In its latest audited circulation report earlier this year, USA Today reported individually paid circulation of 178,000 with another 342,000 of hotel distribution (for which the hotel chains pay a substantially reduced rate). That 520,000 is a long fall from the more than 2,289,000 USA Today claimed in 2007, when it was running neck-and-neck with the Wall Street Journal as tops in paid circulation.”

‘People have seen through the spin’

Man, this Ronan Farrow story still has strong legs. His book “Catch and Kill” continues to be a major topic in the media world. The book was released Tuesday and he continues making media rounds, usually generating news wherever he stops. Much of it centers around his allegation that NBC sat on his Harvey Weinstein story because it was afraid Weinstein would reveal Matt Lauer’s alleged sexual misconduct. NBC has denied this.

Farrow was on NPR’s “Fresh Air” with host Terry Gross. She asked him about the backlash he has received from the book, including defiant criticism from senior executives at NBC News.

“… all I can say is I’ve been immensely heartened, Terry, by the way in which fellow reporters have rallied around the journalism in this book and defended it and independently corroborated,” Farrow said. “And the reaction has been pretty uniform. Just like with the Harvey Weinstein story, I think people have seen through the spin and I think that they have correctly pulled out of this book the important themes — which is there are systems still in place at some of the top institutions in this country that aid and abet and protect people accused of serious crimes and silence accusers and shut down reporting.”

Farrow also discussed his book on Fox News on Wednesday with Bret Baier.

Students stand up to the PR machine

George Bush. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

On Oct. 9, former President George W. Bush was interviewed on stage at an event at Chapman University, a private institution in Orange, California. But the school paper, The Panther, refused to cover the event after its student staff was told that anything they wrote would have to be approved by Bush’s office. No other news outlet was even allowed into the event.

In an editorial, the paper explained why it did not attend:

“Words cannot begin to describe how unethical this is. It goes against everything we swear to uphold. Free press means it comes directly from the hands of journalists to the eyes of the readers. It doesn’t go through a third-party PR source that modifies it to comply with their demands. It goes straight to the people. That’s what free press is all about.”

Louisa Marshall, editor-in-chief of The Panther who wrote the editorial after consulting with staff, told me that the first editorial of the school year was about journalism ethics and integrity and how it was going to set the agenda for the school year. That’s why the decision to bow out of covering the Bush event wasn’t difficult.

“You can’t talk the talk if you’re not going to walk the walk,” Marshall told me. “We felt strongly about this.”

In a statement to Poynter, Jamie S. Ceman, vice president of strategic marketing and communications for Chapman University, said:

“Chapman University had the honor of hosting President George W. Bush to Chapman University in honor of the 20th anniversary of the naming of the George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics. The event raised $15 million toward the Argyros School’s endowment—including a generous $10 million gift from the Argyros family.

In planning for this milestone visit, we agreed the event would be closed to the media and any press materials would be shared with President Bush’s office before it was released to the public.

President Bush was our guest and a friend of our longtime donors – the two individuals being recognized that night – and we were being respectful of his desire not to have any press in the room. Therefore, we held The Panther to the same standard we are holding ourselves.”

LA Times makes union deal

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Late Wednesday, The Los Angeles Times reached a tentative labor agreement with a union that represents about 475 members of the newsroom — a deal that has been more than a year in the making. The proposed three-year agreement would provide immediate pay raises of at least 5% after years of no raises. The second and third years of the deal would see 2.5% pay raises.

“We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved together,” Carolina A. Miranda, co-chair of the L.A. Times Guild, said in a statement. “It’s a difficult time in the industry, but we’ve landed significant pay increases and a broad safety net of job protections that are some of the best in the industry.”

The L.A. Times Guild was formed in January of 2018 amid tension with its former owner — Chicago-based Tribune Publishing, formerly called Tronc. Since then, the paper was sold to entrepreneur Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, who has invested heavily into the newsroom, adding more than 150 journalists.

Earlier this month, journalists at the Miami Herald and the Arizona Republic made moves to start unions.

🎵 Who run the world?🎶

National Geographic announced Wednesday its first-ever magazine edition written and photographed exclusively by women. The issue kicks off a year of coverage across all National Geographic platforms (print, digital, broadcast) that will explore the lives of women and the changes underway for girls and women around the world.

National Geographic describes this issue as “how women around the world are finding their voices and rising up to demand civil, personal, and professional rights.”

Hot type

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Today’s newsletter is sponsored by Georgetown University. For information on sponsoring The Poynter Report, contact Wendy Wallace at

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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…
Tom Jones

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