Joe Biden’s slip-ups get called ‘gaffes.’ Should we be calling them something else? Plus, Whoopi Goldberg defends Trump. Kind of.

Your Wednesday Poynter Report

September 4, 2019
Category: Newsletters

Good morning. Back in May, The New York Times called ABC’s “The View” the most important political TV show in America. Tuesday’s show had a must-see moment. But before I get to that, some thoughts on how the media covers Joe Biden.

Not your average Joe

Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden is known to slip up and say the wrong thing from time to time. Just last week, when trying to tell an emotional story about giving a U.S soldier a medal, Biden apparently combined several stories into one story that never happened.

Biden wants you to believe that’s no big deal. In an interview with the NPR Politics Podcast and Iowa Public Radio, Biden said such flubs have nothing to do with his ability to be president.

“The details are irrelevant in terms of decision-making,” Biden said. “That has nothing to do with judgment of whether or not you send troops to war, the judgment of whether you bring someone home, the judgement of whether you decide on health care policy.”

Is he right? Or is this an issue of character? Or might it be an issue of age?

That is, ultimately, for voters to decide.

But it is up to the media to call out Biden — or any candidate, for that matter — if he or she says something that just isn’t true, even if that mistake is an honest one or mere slip of the tongue.

When President Donald Trump says Alabama is in the path of Hurricane Dorian, which it clearly is not, the media should point that out. (And they did.) That is misinformation that could, potentially, be harmful to the public and cause undue panic. Perhaps that is more serious than embellishing a story about a soldier getting a medal years ago.

But, in a good point made by CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” just because Trump has lowered the bar on the truth does not mean the media can lower the standard for other politicians. Truth matters. Calling out falsehoods matters. The frequency or seriousness of Trump’s lies should not excuse even one lie by anyone else.

There’s nothing wrong with putting Biden’s gaffes in context. But his gaffes — or maybe we should just call them what they are: lies — should never be ignored. The media needs to report it and leave the consequences, if there are any, up to the voters.

A dangerous list

Actress and “The View” co-host Whoopi Goldberg speaks during the opening of the "Planet or Plastic?" exhibit, Tuesday, June 4, 2019, at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

In the Twitter feud between President Trump and actress Debra Messing, “The View” host Whoopi Goldberg has picked a side, and you might be surprised which side it is.

The backstory: Last week, The Hollywood Reporter wrote that Trump would be attending a fundraiser on Sept. 17 in Hollywood. Messing then tweeted a link to the story and asked THR to list all the attendees because “the public has a right to know.” Messing’s “Will and Grace” co-star Eric McCormack also tweeted that the THR should list the names so “the rest of us can be clear about who we don’t wanna work with.”

Trump fired back at Messing on Twitter, but it was Goldberg’s scolding of Messing and McCormack on Tuesday’s “The View” that was spot-on criticism.

A fiery Goldberg said:

“Listen, the last time people did this, people ended up killing themselves.

This is not a good idea, OK? Your idea of who you don’t want to work with is your personal business. Do not encourage people to print out lists because the next list that comes out, your name will be on it and then people will be coming after you.

“We had something called a blacklist and a lot of really good people were accused of stuff. Nobody cared whether it was true or not. They were accused. And they lost their right to work. … In this country, people can vote for who they want to. That is one of the great rights of this country.”

The lowdown on FOIA

If you work in the news business, you are familiar with the Freedom of Information Act. If you are a media consumer, you’ve probably heard a lot about FOIA, but you might not know exactly what it is. In a very general nutshell, it’s the law that requires full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by government agencies upon request.

OK, but how does it work?

New York Times lawyer David McCraw explains how the Times uses FOIA. He writes, “Whether it is helping our reporters as they go after documents in Washington and the Virgin Islands related to Jeffrey Epstein, or suing the CIA over its refusal to release information about the United States’ war efforts in Syria, we have made FOIA a centerpiece of our legal work at The Times.”

Check out McCraw’s primer on why FOIA is so important in the Times’ work and, thus, why it’s important in your community.

The countdown for Michelle Beadle

Michelle Beadle arrives at the ESPN Super Bowl XLIX Party in 2015. (Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP)

There’s a big shakeup at ESPN, according to New York Post sports media columnist Andrew Marchand. Michelle Beadle, long considered one of the faces of the network, is on her way out. She and ESPN are in negotiations for the network to buy out what’s remaining on her contract. Marchand reports Beadle is making $5 million a year with unknown multiple years left on her deal.

Beadle is the host of the ABC/ESPN NBA studio show, “NBA Countdown,” but it appears the network is pivoting to make Rachel Nichols (and her show “The Jump”) the focal point of the NBA studio coverage.

Just two years ago, Beadle joined Mike Greenberg as co-host of the new morning show “Get Up!” in addition to hosting “NBA Countdown.” But just five months into the show, Beadle left “Get Up!” There were reports that Beadle never wanted to be on the show to begin with, and it showed. She didn’t seem enthused about her role, and she and Greenberg just didn’t have on-air chemistry. She also seemed to purposefully sabotage her job there by saying she doesn’t watch football — the most talked-about topic on that show. Beadle eventually worked out a deal to leave “Get Up!” to focus mostly on the NBA.

Then came word that ESPN was making changes to “NBA Countdown,” and that Beadle would no longer host.

What’s next for Beadle? She could leave sports and go to an entertainment-style show. If she decides to stay in sports and wants to continue covering the NBA, her only other national network choice is TNT, and Marchand reported she is not a match there at this time. The other possibility in sports is DAZN, the subscription video streaming service which is gaining steam and run by Beadle’s former ESPN boss John Skipper. In addition, DAZN’s programming is headed up by Jamie Horowitz, who worked closely with Beadle at ESPN.

Pulling punches

ESPN insider Louis Riddick is seen at the NFL Pro Bowl football game, Sunday, January 27, 2019, in Orlando, FL. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch has an outstanding Q&A with ESPN football analyst Louis Riddick. (Note: The Athletic has a paywall.) Among the more interesting questions Deitsch asked was how much do former players and coaches pull punches when they are analyzing games on TV?

“I think a lot, quite honestly,” Riddick said. “You see how many coaches whether it be football, basketball or another sport have gone back into the profession of coaching because that is ultimately what they wanted to do. They were just using television as a stopover, a stepping stone, as a way to keep their name out there. They won’t let it all hang out and be as objective, as forthright and honest on how they feel about certain things because they do not want to tick people off or burn any bridges.”

Posting up

The Washington Post has created a new — and apparently, important — position: Vice President of Product and Design. Kat Downs Mulder, whose previous title was director of product, will now get her name on the Post’s masthead. She will oversee the Post’s product strategy.

The Post, along with The New York Times, is at the leading edge of introducing new platforms beyond the print and traditional-digital product. It’s true those two papers are playing in a different league with more money than most newspapers, but their innovation certainly can be an inspiration to others throughout the country. And by promoting Downs Mulder, it appears as if the Post is ready for more innovation.

“When you select us to be your news provider, we want you to have an exceptional experience no matter how you access our content,” Downs Mulder said in a statement. “Because our readers demand the best, our dynamic and growing team is powered by the best. There is no better place to innovate and experiment on what the future of news looks like than at The Washington Post.”

Oh, one more note: Since Fred Ryan became publisher in 2014, the Post has added 10 positions to the masthead, nine of whom are women. Axios’ Sara Fischer has more details on Downs Mulder’s hiring and what’s up next for the Post.

Dialing in

In Tuesday’s newsletter, while writing about Hurricane Dorian coverage, I mentioned how TV was better suited to cover severe storms than newspapers. Shana Teehan, VP of communications at the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, let me know (correctly, I should add) the importance of radio during storms.

“Radio is sometimes the only source once the electricity goes out,” she told me.

Radio and apps often are the only source of information folks can get during the storm. For example, the Florida Storms app allows you to listen to every Florida public radio station via the app and track the hurricane as it happens.

Hot type

Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan on the three results to expect from President Trump’s constant attacks on the media.

The war of words between over-sensitive New York Times columnist Bret Stephens and a getting-his-15-minutes university professor continues. This time, the professor (David Karpf) writes a rebuttal for Esquire.

Editor & Publisher has been sold to media consultant Mike Blinder.

Reminder: Despite calls by Andrew Yang to postpone because of Hurricane Dorian, CNN will have a climate town hall tonight with the Democratic presidential hopefuls. Might want to take a nap — the thing is expected to last at least seven hours. It’s scheduled to start at 5 p.m. Eastern.

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

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