March 8, 2019

The big news in media this week was the Democratic National Committee deciding to exclude Fox News from hosting any of its 12 presidential candidate debates.

On Thursday, I wrote that the DNC needs to reconsider. I stand by that, but a pulls-no-punches counterpoint by the Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan blasted away at Fox News. She said Fox News has “swiftly devolved into what often amounts to a propaganda network for a dishonest president and his allies.”

She closed her column by writing, “Fox News has become an American plague.”

There’s no question that Fox News often cuts corners and outright ignores journalistic standards, such as when it continually questioned Barack Obama’s birthplace, spread disinformation about immigrants and crime and allowed its personalities to openly support President Donald Trump.

Most of these examples come from Fox News’ primetime opinion shows, hosted by the likes of Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson and, once upon a time, Bill O’Reilly. There’s nothing wrong with such opinion shows supporting or criticizing any candidate or political party, but they should not use lies to support their arguments. This is the heart of the issue for those who believe the DNC is doing the right thing by stiff-arming Fox News.

Not everyone at Fox News is irresponsible. Chris Wallace, Bret Baier, Shepard Smith and Martha MacCallum all are excellent journalists. Sullivan wrote, “Chris Wallace is an exceptional interviewer and Shepard Smith and Bret Baier are reality-based news anchors.”

The question then becomes should the work of responsible journalists be dismissed because they work for a network that is not always journalistically responsible? Let’s use a sports analogy. Take baseball, a team sport that is based heavily on individual performances. Can’t we respect a really good player who plays the game well and fair, even if he plays for a team that doesn’t always play the right way?

Some might argue that if Wallace and his more responsible colleagues want to be respected they should move to a network that better adheres to the rules of journalism. In other words, go play for another team.

But if you have journalists who can be trusted to act responsibly, it’s prudent to work with those journalists.

Yes, dealing with Fox News likely leaves a sour taste in the mouths of the DNC. The Democrats obviously loathe the idea of legitimizing a network that constantly attacks them and often uses lies to do it. But here’s a fact: half the country believes Fox News is legitimate and more people watch Fox News than any other cable news network. Working with them one night, especially if a responsible journalist is asking the questions, is worth a bad taste that will quickly fade.

King Gayle, superstar

Gayle King in New York in 2018. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

It’s good to be King. Gayle King, that is. The “CBS This Morning’’ co-host is getting heaps of praise this week for her professionalism during an interview with an emotional R. Kelly. Now the Daily Beast makes a strong claim that King is CBS News’ biggest star and it couldn’t come at a better time for her: she’s negotiating a new contract. Page Six reports that King wants “George Stephanopoulus money,’ a reference to the $15 million to $18 million a year Stephanopoulus got to stay at ABC. King reportedly makes $6 million a year.

The Daily Beast writes that new CBS News president Susan Zirinsky is “laser-focused” on keeping King. Besides a hefty raise, King also could get an expanded role at CBS, including work on the iconic “60 Minutes.”

Feud of the day

There haven’t been many juicier media feuds in recent years than ESPN and former employee Bill Simmons, who is now a podcast superstar running his own ship at the The Ringer. Is there another chapter to add to the ESPN-Simmons feud?

ESPN’s morning show “Get Up” wanted to show an interesting comment that NBA commissioner Adam Silver made during an interview at a sports analytics conference. Here’s where it gets fun: Simmons was conducting the interview. When “Get Up” aired the clip on Wednesday, however, Simmons was somehow cut from the shot. This tweet does a good job showing ESPN’s editing work. Simmons noticed, tweeting out, in part: “They should have just replaced me with a hologram of Rachel Nichols.”

ESPN, however, gave this statement to Poynter: “There is absolutely nothing to this. It’s a non-story. We ran clips of Adam Silver with Bill Simmons on ESPN shows/platforms.”

To prove its point, ESPN sent this screen grab that aired on its NBA show “The Jump” that includes Simmons in the picture:

That still doesn’t explain what happened on “Get Up,’’ but whatever the reason, it does add a little spice to what has been an entertaining media feud that shows no signs of dying out anytime soon.

Journalism does good

Earlier this week, I spoke with NBC News’ Cynthia McFadden about her reporting from the Central African Republic, where 1.5 million children are on the brink of starvation. McFadden told me that a story like this isn’t about ratings, but about covering an important issue and raising awareness.

It certainly raised awareness. In a memo to his staff on Thursday, NBC News president Noah Oppenheim said UNICEF raised more than $900,000 in the 24 hours after McFadden’s reports aired on the “Today” show and “NBC Nightly News.”

Oppenheim wrote to his staff: “I hope this serves as a powerful reminder to everyone that our work every day makes a profound difference.”

Worth your time

Did you know there was a rise in folks renting Airbnbs for podcast studios? Also, as The Ringer’s Molly McHugh writes, another hot spot for podcast recordings: boutique hotels.

A dying man had one wish before he died: to talk to President Trump. CNN reports what happened next.

Time’s Charlie Campbell interviews the 14th Dalai Lama.

Each week, Poynter rounds up the best in local journalism. This week features an amazing interactive investigation from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a quick profile from the Oregonian on the guy who survived being trapped in his car by eating hot sauce packets, and a drill-down from the Texas Tribune on the issue of marijuana punishments.

Correction: Yesterday we misspelled the name of outgoing New York Magazine editor and soon-to-be Slate editor Jared Hohlt. We regret the error.

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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