Kanye West and Taylor Swift celebrate their VMA anniversary (via the Washington Post), plus NYTimes and Hearst Connecticut projects

Your Thursday Poynter Report

August 15, 2019
Category: Newsletters

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One of the things I do — and love — in my job as Poynter’s senior media writer is read stories. Lots and lots of stories from all over — in newspapers, from magazines and on digital outlets. And one thing that jumps out is just how much good journalism there is out there on a daily basis. So the top half of today’s newsletter celebrates some of the elite journalism of the past couple of days.

Setting the standard, every day

From climate change to the anniversary of a famous beef, The Washington Post nails it.

This is something we should remind ourselves often: The Washington Post produces remarkable journalism on a daily basis.

Each day in this newsletter, I try to point readers to the very best stories out there, usually in the Hot Type section at the bottom. And each day it’s a struggle to diversify and not include something from the Post.

The Post is often beat up by those lashing out at the so-called mainstream media. President Donald Trump runs down the Post all the time. Just the other day, presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders questioned the Post’s integrity by suggesting his criticism of Amazon, which is owned by Post owner Jeff Bezos, leads to unfavorable coverage.

But what the Post does daily is superb, churning out consistently good journalism that has much to do with inventiveness as execution. Below are two examples from just the past two days.

The first is an alarming and comprehensive piece about how extreme climate change has arrived in America. Rich photos — both current and historical — along with detailed charts and interactive maps complement in-depth reporting and crisp writing. It really is a stunning piece of work.

Then there was a completely different kind of must-read story Wednesday. Can you believe it’s been 10 years since the Kanye West-Taylor Swift incident at the MTV Video Music Awards?

What happened that night onstage? What happened backstage? What’s happened since then? Writer Emily Yahr and illustrator Klara Auerbach delivered the kind of story that you read while curling up with a bucket of popcorn.

Two really different stories. Two really well done stories. Just business as usual at The Washington Post. Many news organizations don’t have the workforce to produce such pieces, but give the Post credit for making the most of its manpower, resources and talent — every day.

Local papers break national sex abuse story

This morning, Hearst Connecticut Media Group published a blockbuster national investigative piece about sexual abuse within the Boys & Girls Club of America. The six-month investigation found 250 victims in 30 states who say they were sexually abused as children at the hands of employees, volunteers and other members of Boys & Girls Club affiliates.

The investigation was a result of examining thousands of criminal and civil court documents. Hearst Connecticut Media, which claims eight daily and 14 weekly newspapers, says this is believed to be the first comprehensive national accounting of abuse tied to that organization. The project also led to an interactive national database of abuse cases.

The project’s editor, Lisa Yanick Litwiller, explained in a statement: “When Hearst Connecticut Media wrote about a freshly filed lawsuit alleging past sexual abuse at the Boys & Girls Club in Greenwich earlier this year, reporter Hannah Dellinger asked what seemed like a simple question: Were there similar problems at other Boys & Girls Clubs, or had the nation’s largest youth development organization avoided the sexual abuse plague that had rocked other institutions serving children?”

The answer, clearly, was that there were similar problems all over.

The 400th anniversary of slavery in America


The cover of next Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. (Photo courtesy The New York Times.)

This Sunday, The New York Times Magazine will publish a special project recognizing the 400-year anniversary the first enslaved Africans’ arrival in what would become the United States. (The 1619 Project is already online.)

The special section was led by Nikole Hannah-Jones and includes work from journalists and scholars, as well as original poetry, fiction and artwork. The Times said, “This ambitious collection of work aims to reframe ideas about American history, placing the consequences of slavery, and the contributions of African Americans, at the center of the country’s national narrative.”

The Times said it will print and distribute hundreds of thousands of extra copies to ensure that it reaches as many people as possible. In addition, the project includes a multi-episode podcast that will launch Aug. 20 on the Times’ popular “The Daily” podcast, and continue with new episodes into September.

Brother, can you spare the big time?


Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) speaks at the Iowa State Fair this month. (AP Photo/John Locher)

In May, James Bennet, the editorial page editor of The New York Times, recused himself from any opinion coverage of the 2020 presidential election. That’s because his brother, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, announced he was running for president. James Bennet, by the way, is considered a contender to someday succeed Dean Baquet as executive editor, according to the story in the Times.

Stepping away from op-eds, columns, editorials and other opinion pieces related to the election was the right — and actually, only — decision Bennet could make. In fact, the Times likely would have made that decision for him. But that didn’t make Michael Bennet feel any better. In an interview Wednesday on AM to DM by BuzzFeed News, Michael was asked how he felt about his brother’s decision.

“I feel terrible about it,” he said. “That’s the worst thing you could’ve asked me about. … He was unenthusiastic about the prospect of my running. I think that if I could’ve been able to say to him, ‘James, I’m going to be president,’ he might have said, ‘OK, that’s all right.’ But for me to do this and him to be recused is probably not the best thing that ever happened.”

The most dedicated news consumers

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

The Pew Research Center is out with its latest report Wednesday, a surprising profile of avid local news consumers: They are more likely to be black than any other ethnicity, more likely to be old and more likely to have only a high school education or less. They prefer to get news from TV, and like all other groups, care most about weather as a topic.

So that means white, younger readers with more education are relatively less interested? Why is that? The Pew paper does not speculate but it is more than a wild guess that a younger, better educated population is on its way through town for a few years and cares more about national news. They also consume news in quick bites on digital platforms.

The findings were based on a survey of 35,000 adults, conducted last fall.

Skip Bayless: ‘I get angry at that notion’

I’ve never been a big fan of sports commentator Skip Bayless because of a style that seems arrogant, aggressive and fake. Yet there’s no question Bayless has figured out the game, making the successful transition from sports columnist to hot-take TV star. It has been reported that he is making more than $5 million a year for his work on the daily debate show “Undisputed” on Fox Sports 1. His previous work at ESPN helped create the “embrace debate” format that’s so popular in modern sports television.

But back to the part where Bayless fakes outrage and doesn’t truly believe what he says: for instance, he criticizes LeBron James. In a revealing piece written by Newsday’s Neil Best, Bayless insists nothing about his opinions are contrived.

“I’m not angry with you for asking that, but I get angry at that notion, because it is so false, and anyone who has been even remotely part of our process would laugh at that notion,” Bayless told Best. “We never, ever have tricked up a debate. We’ve never contrived a yin-yang debate, because it won’t work.”

Hot type

  • Whatever happened to Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s longtime associate and alleged accomplice? The Daily Mail found her.
  • Katelyn Davis was an 18-year-old college sophomore interning this summer as a sportswriter at The Washington Times. She died unexpectedly in her sleep last weekend. The Times’ sports editor and family friend David Eldridge wrote a lovely tribute.
  • My former sports editor at the Tampa Bay Times, Mike Sherman, and I had some heated exchanges over the years over the use of the em dash punctuation mark. You might call it the long dash and it looks like this: —. I love em dashes. Sherm does not. In an essay for The New York Times, Kate Mooney writes about, perhaps, the most polarizing punctuation mark.
  • BuzzFeed News’ Rosie Gray says The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman lost a big book deal because of colleague Glenn Thrush.

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

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