December 4, 2019

The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, click here.

The media saw Kamala Harris’ exit coming

Kamala Harris is no longer running for president. The Democratic senator from California dropped out of the race Tuesday in an announcement that really should come as no surprise.

Maybe the timing caught some off guard. After all, we’re still two months before the Iowa caucus, she was coming off a relatively decent performance in the last debate and had already qualified for the next debate later this month.

But The New York Times just last week hinted that Harris’ campaign was on its last legs. The story by Jonathan Martin, Astead W. Herndon and Alexander Burns painted Harris’ campaign as disorganized, disunified and aimless. Most of all, it emphasized Harris’ dire financial situation, which she said Tuesday was the central reason she was dropping out. The story even had sources saying she was being advised to drop out by the end of this month to save her senate seat in 2022.

I point this out now just to show you how in tune the Times was on this story.

In fact, it’s interesting now to look back at the stories about Harris’ struggling campaign that were written before — in some cases, well before — her announcement Tuesday.

Last week, The Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes had a story with the headline “Kamala Harris Faces Uphill Climb Amid Questions About Who She Is.” Janes wrote, “… her candidacy is now teetering, weighed down by indecision within her campaign, her limits as a candidate and dwindling funds that have forced her to retreat in some places at a moment she expected to be surging.”

In early October, FiveThirtyEight’s Perry Bacon Jr. wrote a piece titled “What Happened to the Kamala Harris Campaign?” In it, Bacon wrote several prophetic theories, including that 2020 was never going to be her year in the first place, that Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren were too strong, that she wasn’t running a good campaign (a preview of the Times’ story) and that a woman of color was going to have trouble getting elected.

Bacon Jr. wrote, “A lot would have to happen for Harris to pull off such a comeback. Right now, she seems more likely to finish behind Andrew Yang than to win the Democratic nomination.”

Turns out, he was right. And Tuesday’s announcement proved to be more expected than surprising.

We ❤️ Sally Field, but her character is flawed

Actress Sally Field at the 1982 Berlin Film Festival talking about “Absence of Malice.” (AP Photo/Elke Bruhn-Hoffmann)

Back in April, I listed the 25 best journalism movies of all time. Actually, the list was the best movies that involved journalism, which is why movies such as “Citizen Kane,” “Network” and “Reds” made the cut. (“All the President’s Men” was No. 1, of course.) It’s also why “Absence of Malice” was on the list. It’s a great move even though Sally Field’s character is not a very good journalist. She got a big story wrong and, worse, slept with a source.

Which brings me to this:

Last week, The Ringer’s Kate Knibbs published an addictively fun list as she ranked movie journalists. Knibbs’ list is about the journalism. Does the character get the story? Are they competent? Are they ethical (i.e., do they sleep with sources)? How believable are they as a journalist?

So on Knibbs’ list, Sally Field’s character in “Absence of Malice” comes in at No. 42 because she, well, isn’t competent or ethical.

I don’t want to spoil Knibbs’ hard work by revealing who is at the top of her list. Read it for yourself, but it’s hard to argue with her top five.

Another cool list came out Tuesday with its 30 under 30 media list. The list includes a couple of my must-read writers such as Axios’ Sara Fischer and New York Times’ national correspondent Jose Del Real.

Moving to D.C. looks good on CBS

“CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell. (Photo by Jason Mendez/Invision/AP)

Good news for the “CBS Evening News.” Monday’s broadcast, the first since it moved to Washington, D.C., from New York City, resulted in the most-watched broadcast since Norah O’Donnell took over as anchor July 15. According to Variety’s Brian Steinberg, the broadcast had 6.8 million viewers and 1.4 million in the 25-54 age bracket. That’s an increase of 25% and 41%, respectively.

“CBS Evening News” could use a bit of good news. Ratings have generally declined since O’Donnell took over and CBS runs in third place behind ABC and NBC. It’s a good time to be in Washington, D.C., with impeachment proceedings ongoing and a presidential election less than a year away.

Curious about Bellingcat? Here’s a deep dive

The New York Times’ Marc Tracy has a good profile of open-source news project Bellingcat, which is based in London. Bellingcat relies on public data, rather than sources, to report stories.

Aliaume Leroy, a journalist for BBC’s Africa Eye team, said, “If the BBC tells you they’ve got a source that proves this, the BBC is the middleman and the source is behind it — you can’t see it. But if you’ve got the visual evidence, there is no middleman. You connect directly to the evidence.”

Bellingcat was founded in 2014 by Eliot Higgins, a blogger who covered the war in Syria from his apartment in England. Tracy reports that the project now has roughly a dozen staffers and that Higgins “attributed his skill not to any special knowledge of international conflicts or digital data, but to the hours he had spent playing video games, which, he said, gave him the idea that any mystery can be cracked.”

The site might be best known for coverage of the 2014 Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash during the war between Russia-backed separatists and Ukraine.

‘We will come back together again’

A decade ago, Andy Serwer wrote a cover story for Time magazine called “Decade from Hell.” And now, as editor-in-chief of Yahoo Finance, Serwer has written about the decade that’s about to end. This one is about a decade divided. Serwer looks into Donald Trump, Barack Obama and, of interest for readers of this newsletter, media bias.

He writes, “Even an assessment itself of the decade must be, well, mixed — and also oh-so carefully considered. Every sentence of this story I write has the potential to be politically charged in a way that wouldn’t have been the case previously. I know from experience. While there were all manner of tough calls to make when it came to assessing a pretty ugly decade, in no way did I feel the pressure of the piece being judged on a partisan basis that I feel today.”

And if you’re looking for hope, Serwer talked to Warren Buffett, who recently told him, “We fought the Civil War and I would say we were more divided up in the Vietnam era too, but we came back together and we will come back together again this time, too.”

Nussbaum expands role; LAT adds M.E.s

Emily Nussbaum, the Pulitzer Prize-winning TV critic from The New Yorker, is expanding her role at the magazine. She will now write profiles, reported pieces and essays. Before doing that, she will take a year’s leave to work on a book about early reality TV, according to a memo to staff from New Yorker editor David Remnick. Hmm, that sounds intriguing. Doreen St. Felix, who writes for the magazine and web site, will be The New Yorker’s new TV critic.

Also worth noting

The Los Angeles Times announced Tuesday night that Amy King is joining the paper as assistant managing editor in charge of Travel, Image and Saturday sections, as well as Features design. King was the founder of The Lily, a publication from The Washington Post that focuses on millennial women.

Here’s what else makes this noteworthy: The L.A. Times masthead will soon have — count ‘em — 11 journalists considered some form of a managing editor.

Hot type

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

Upcoming Poynter training:

Want to get this briefing in your inbox? Sign up here.

Follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.



Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
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

More News

Back to News