November 5, 2019

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Good morning and happy Tuesday. Today’s newsletter starts with a must-see moment from Fox News.

‘Are you kidding me?’

The accusation was stunning.

Fox News’ Steve Hilton accused a former spokesperson for former Secretary of State John Kerry of covering up corruption involving Kerry, Joe Biden and Ukraine. The part that made it so stunning was that the former spokesperson was sitting right next to Hilton — and she is a Fox News contributor. She’s Marie Harf.

During Monday’s “Outnumbered” on Fox News, Hilton was drawing a link between Kerry and Hunter Biden, whose father, Joe, was vice president at the time. Hilton said, “All of that needs to be investigated.”

To which Harf said, “There’s no evidence for anything you just said. I worked at the State Department then.”

Hilton then fired back, “So you’re covering up the corruption, too. You’re defending it. These are the facts.”

Harf seemed stunned, saying, “Are you kidding me? Steve, I’m on this couch with you, talking about the news. Please don’t accuse me of covering something up.”

But Hilton didn’t back down. He doubled down, saying, “You are, because you’re saying there’s no evidence. I’ve just given you the evidence.”

Harf said, “I was there, and there’s no evidence.”

The show was then saved by the bell. That’s to say it broke away to Rep. Adam Schiff talking on Capitol Hill.

Certainly, debate — even heated debate — has become a backbone of political television, as well as weekday sports TV where it’s often referred to as “embrace debate.” Such exchanges can make for entertaining and even thought-provoking television, even if they can be awkward at times.

But Hilton’s claims went beyond being the cringe-worthy effect that debate often produces. They crossed a line by having one Fox News contributor not only question the credibility of another, but accuse that colleague of covering up corruption. That’s a serious charge.

I reached out to Fox News for a comment on the exchange, but got no response.

Must-see TV: Trump Jr. on ‘The View’

Donald Trump Jr. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Get your DVR ready. In what could be explosive TV, Donald Trump Jr. is expected to appear on “The View” this Thursday. He is there to promote his book “Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us.” Trump Jr. is expected to appear with his girlfriend and former Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle. (He is slated to appear today on “CBS This Morning.”)

The panel of “The View” includes Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg, both of whom are fierce critics of President Donald Trump. In addition, the panel’s most conservative voice, Meghan McCain, could react negatively considering Donald Trump’s attacks on her late father, Sen. John McCain.

After Trump Jr.’s upcoming visit was announced on air last week, “The View” co-host Sunny Hostin said, “Everyone looks so shocked. We have everyone on here.”

That’s true, as “The View” executive producer Candi Carter said during a speaking event last month at the Poynter Institute. During her visit, Carter said the show would welcome Donald Trump.

“He has an open invitation,” Carter said.

‘That’s what we need to do — our jobs’

NBC News’ Lester Holt receiving the 2019 Walter Cronkite Award at Arizona State University on Monday. (Photo courtesy of NBC News)

NBC News’ Lester Holt received the 2019 Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism from Arizona State University on Monday.

During his acceptance speech, Holt talked about the assault on journalism.

“The low blow from the highest places are a threat to not only the First Amendment, a fundamental pillar of our democracy, but to journalism around the world,” Holt said. “Some of the tweets and tirades we so often hear are also being heard by, and in some cases, parroted by autocratic leaders around the world in justifying repression of independent journalism.

“But that said, I am of the mind that this is an amazing and important moment for American journalism. Yeah, we’re getting knocked around a little bit, called ‘enemies of the people,’ but this is important to remember: No one is preventing us from doing our jobs, so that’s what we need to do — do our jobs.”

Holt was awarded the Poynter Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism in 2018.

A legacy newspaper goes nonprofit

The Salt Lake Tribune newspaper is now a nonprofit. The Tribune reported that owner Paul Huntsman gives up his sole ownership and the paper will now be run by a board of directors with Huntsman as chairman.

I asked Poynter media business analyst Rick Edmonds to explain why this happened. He told me, “The Huntsman family bought the Salt Lake Tribune in 2016, promising to preserve an independent news voice in Utah’s capital. (The second paper in the city, the Deseret News, is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Losses were much more than expected, owner Paul Huntsman announced in 2018, and that ultimately led him to the alternative of switching to a non-profit structure.”

Huntsman told the Salt Lake Tribune, “The current business model for local newspapers is broken and beyond repair. We needed to find a way to sustain this vital community institution well beyond my ownership, and nonprofit status will help us do that. This is truly excellent news for all Utah residents and for local news organizations across the country.”

According to the paper, it will seek donations and couple them with advertising, subscriptions and a separate foundation.

One of the more interesting rules about becoming a non-profit is that it will prohibit the paper from endorsing political candidates. The Tribune, however, said it will be allowed to keep its sports reporting and restaurant reviews.

There are some papers that draw support from nonprofits. For example, Poynter (a non-profit) owns the Tampa Bay Times, but the Times remains a for-profit publication. The same goes for the for-profit Philadelphia Inquirer, which is owned by a nonprofit. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that no other legacy newspaper has made the full switch to nonprofit status.

A growing movement for removal

The internet can be an unforgiving place with a long memory. If you’ve ever been busted for a crime, even a minor one, it could show up on internet searches for years to come and ruin reputations long after the crimes have been committed and paid for.

Sympathetic, the Gazette newspaper in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has put a policy in place to remove stories from its website for those who committed minor crimes. Here are some of the details:

The request for removal must be made by the person accused of the criminal activity in the story. The case has to have been adjudicated by the courts. And any jail time must have been completed. There are other factors, such as public safety concerns, and removal of the articles will be done on a case-by-case basis.

Any case that resulted in death will not be removed. In addition, the Gazette said it will not consider removal requests from celebrities or elected officials.

In a statement to readers, the paper wrote, “While we can’t unprint the newspaper, its impact fades from public view and isn’t accessible worldwide. However, we can — and should — address this on our website.”

Shirley MacLaine: ‘I’m addicted’

Shirley MacLaine. (Photo by Phil McCarten/Invision/AP)

Actress Shirley MacLaine is a news junkie. David Marchese has a superb Q&A with the Academy Award-winning actress in The New York Times Magazine.

“I’m addicted,” MacLaine said about the news. “If I miss the evening news, I feel as though I haven’t eaten. I watched every instant of Watergate. That was such entertainment for me. But with today’s news, I keep asking myself, ‘What are we supposed to learn from all this?’ I think it’s a lesson on what we don’t understand about democracy and how much anger we’ve never recognized. I haven’t begun to understand the cyclical aspect of that anger.”

Gannett’s Q3 financials: more of the same

For this item, I turn it over to Poynter media business analyst Rick Edmonds.

Gannett reported its third quarter financial results Monday — an echo of those its merger partner, New Media Investment Group, announced last week. Print advertising revenues were down 18% year-to-year on a same property basis, while overall revenue was down 7.8%. The company did make a profit thanks to improved performance of some of its digital properties and expense reductions.

New Media, which operates as GateHouse, will acquire Gannett’s 110 dailies, assuming shareholders of both companies approve the deal at meetings Nov. 14. The new company will operate under the Gannett name, but Monday’s report will likely be the last for Gannett as an independent company after a 96-year run.

A national story best told locally

The McClatchy chain announced a plan today to cover the 2020 presidential race a bit differently. It says it will leverage local expertise to tell stories of voters and communities that will impact the election. Impact2020 will try to tell the national story through local reporting and give a look at the election from outside the Beltway.

Kristin Roberts,  McClatchy’s vice president of news, said, “McClatchy is better positioned than any single news organization to tell the real story about voter sentiment. It is a story the polls fail to capture. It is the story that parachute journalists from national media will likely overlook. It is the story of how the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination and the presidency will be won and lost.”

McClatchy announced reporters and editors in Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, California, Kansas and Missouri will contribute to McClatchy’s national political effort, along with its national political team based in Washington, D.C.

McClatchy also will offer a free, daily election-focused newsletter and its relaunched weekly politics podcast, “Beyond the Bubble.”

Hot type

  • The Athletic’s Katie Strang with what will it take for the first gay player to come out in the National Hockey League. (Note: The Athletic has a paywall.)
  • The reporter for the Des Moines Register who lost his job for old tweets after he mentioned the old tweets of someone he was profiling is speaking out about his firing. Aaron Calvin tells his side of the story in a first-person piece for the Columbia Journalism Review — including death threats and what happened to him in the days following the controversy.
  • Los Angeles Times columnist Frank Shyong asks why no one warned domestic workers about the Getty fire.

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones 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…
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