Mexican asylum-seeking journalist fears for his life; Tampa Bay Times is all in on this trial; Donna Brazile headed to Fox News

Your Tuesday news roundup

March 19, 2019
Category: Newsletters

Good morning. Today, I encourage you to read my story about Emilio Gutiérrez Soto — a case that is as disturbing as it is baffling and important. He is the Mexican journalist who has been denied asylum in the United States even though he and his supporters are confident his life is in danger if he is deported to Mexico.

Gutiérrez claims his life has been threatened after his reports on the drug cartel and corruption inside the military. He and his then-15-year-old son fled to the United States in 2008 and have been tangled up in the immigration system for a decade. But his time could be running out now that his most recent appeal for asylum has been denied.

Alexandra Ellerbeck, the North American program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, told me, “He has gone through hell with his prolonged detention … and has some real fears about going back to Mexico. The government of Mexico cannot guarantee his safety.”

This seems like a no-brainer, so why can’t Gutiérrez find asylum? Ellerbeck notes that asylum denials are common, yet she isn’t sure why U.S. judges don’t believe Gutiérrez’s claims that his life would be in danger back in Mexico.

His attorney has filed another appeal and several press advocacy groups are working on his behalf, but he is running out of options.

Mexican journalist Emilio Gutiérrez Soto, top right, and attorney Carlos Spector, left, meet with journalists following his release from detention in this file photo taken in 2009 in El Paso, Texas. Gutiérrez was released from an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detention center after seven months imprisonment. Gutierrez and his then-15-year-old son fled to the U.S. border at El Paso to attempt to be granted asylum. (AP Photo/The El Paso Times, Victor Calzada)

Covering a tragedy

John Jonchuck appears before Judge Chris Helinger during the first day of jury selection on Monday, March 18, 2019, at the Pinellas County Criminal Justice Center in Clearwater., Fla. Helinger asked Jonchuck how he would characterize his mental health issues. Jonchuck says he was told at the North Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center that he suffers from schizoaffective disorder. (Scott Keeler/Tampa Bay Times)

Early in the morning on Jan. 8, 2015, a 5-year-old named Phoebe Jonchuck was thrown more than 60 feet off a bridge into Tampa Bay and died. On Monday, her father, John Jonchuck, went on trial for killing her. The Tampa Bay Times has been all over this story and will follow the trial closely with four journalists in the courtroom, including Pulitzer Prize-winning features writer Lane DeGregory. In addition, it will livestream the trial on its website ( and publish daily live blogs.

Why is the Times devoting so much attention to this case? Amy Hollyfield, the Times’ senior deputy editor/news, writes in a piece for the Times:

“First, because of that January morning. We’ve reported too many times on parents who have killed their children, but Phoebe’s death — so public and so heinous — rattled our region and drew national attention.

Four years later, we’re still looking for answers.

From what we know, many people had many chances to save Phoebe. But the one person who was supposed to love her the most, who held her life in his hands, let her go?


The Times recently started an occasional “Inside the Newsroom” column written by either Hollyfield or executive editor Mark Katches. It takes readers behind the scenes of Times’ coverage and editorial decisions.

Hollyfield told me Monday, “Specifically for Jonchuck, we wanted to explain our coverage plans, because they’re very different than most trials, especially these days, with fewer court reporters. But we also felt like we needed to explain why. Explain why we were going to be throwing all this resource in one direction — because we haven’t had a court case like this in some time.”

Brazile joins Fox News

Then-Democratic National Committee Vice Chair Donna Brazile speaks during the second day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July 2016. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

File this under “Wait, what?’’: former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Donna Brazile is joining Fox News as a contributor. She said she knows she’s going to get pushback. In her statement from Fox News, Brazile wrote, “I know I’m going to get criticized from my friends in the progressive movement for being on Fox News. My response is that, if we’ve learned anything from the 2016 election, it is that we can’t have a country where we don’t talk to those who disagree with our political views. There’s an audience on Fox News that doesn’t hear enough from Democrats.”

Brazile resigned as a CNN contributor in 2016 after WikiLeaks revealed she gave Hillary Clinton’s campaign questions before a town hall event. In a piece written for Fox News’ website, Brazile wrote:

“Will I agree with my fellow commentators at Fox News? Probably not. But I will listen. Will I question some of their assertions about hard-working Americans, low-income people and issues like climate change? Absolutely. But I will do so with civility and respect.”

Check it out

CBS’s Gayle King is getting lots of buzz these days following her interview with R. Kelly. But King is more that Oprah’s BFF. She has been a star for a while, says Time magazine’s Belinda Luscombe.

This is the golden age of podcasts, writes Adam Sternbergh for Vulture.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof on Tanitoluwa Adewumi, an 8-year-old Nigerian refugee who lives in a Manhattan homeless shelter and is a New York State chess champion.

What is push journalism? Pull journalism? Poynter’s Ren LaForme writes about it in his latest Try This! newsletter.

Need help with your NCAA men’s basketball tournament bracket? USA Today’s Scott Gleeson is here to help.

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.