July 9, 2019

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July 9, 2019

Good Tuesday morning as we continue to look back at the Jeffrey Epstein case. The Miami Herald and reporter Julie K. Brown are being credited (and rightfully so) for their tireless efforts that sparked the latest charges against the billionaire. But we’re also learning more information about Epstein that was never published.

‘Some excellent investigative journalism.’

Vanity Fair’s hindsight about an earlier Epstein profile may be 20/20, but the Miami Herald and Julie K. Brown are getting major credit.

Did Vanity Fair hide details about Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged sexual assault years ago? Yes it did, according to the woman who wrote a profile of Epstein for the magazine back in 2003.

These revelations are not new, but they are back in the news in the wake of Epstein being charged with sex trafficking “dozens” of underage girls.

In 2003, Vicky Ward profiled Epstein in Vanity Fair, but she repeated in a series of tweets on Monday that references to Epstein’s alleged sexual misconduct were edited out of the story by then-Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. Ward tweeted:

“After I filed the piece, I was told that Graydon Carter was cutting the testimony of Maria Farmer, her mother, and her sister from the piece, erasing all mention of these brave women who had come forward with their stories of abuse.

“I confronted Graydon, asking why he was doing something that seemed so clear to me to be so wrong. ‘He’s sensitive about the young women’ was his answer.”

Ward wrote a story for The Daily Beast in 2015 recalling what happened with her original Epstein story and explaining further why Carter edited the story the way he did. In that piece, Ward wrote:

“Many years later I know that Graydon made the call that seemed right to him then — and though the episode still deeply rankles me I don’t blame him. He sits in different shoes from me: editors are faced with these sorts of decisions all the time, and disaster can strike if they don’t err on the side of caution.”

In 2015, a Vanity Fair spokeswoman said, “Epstein denied the charges at the time and since the claims were unsubstantiated and no criminal investigation had been initiated, we decided not to include them in what was a financial story.”

Appearing on Dan Abrams’ SiriusXM Radio show on Monday, Ward used a troubling phrase when she said Carter “cut a deal” with Epstein to leave the allegations out of the Vanity Fair story.

However, Carter defended his editing on Monday, according to Politico’s Michael Calderone. In a statement, Carter said, “In the end, we didn’t have confidence in Ward’s reporting. We were not in the habit of running away from a fight. But she simply didn’t have the goods.”

While it’s easy to second-guess Carter and Vanity Fair now (and it certainly is not a good look for Carter considering what has come to light), what this story does emphasize is just how courageous the Miami Herald and reporter Julie K. Brown were in writing a three-part series revealing Epstein’s disturbing behavior.

As I wrote in Monday’s newsletter, Brown’s dogged investigation in the Epstein story helped lead to the billionaire’s arrest Monday on sex trafficking charges. But don’t take my word for it. Manhattan U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman said Monday, “We were assisted by some excellent investigative journalism.”


ProPublica offers Youngstown relief

ProPublica Editor-in-Chief Stephen Engelberg in 2015. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision for PEN Center USA/AP Images)

The Vindicator — the newspaper in Youngstown, Ohio — will close at the end of next month, leaving a void in that community. But there is a sliver of good news. ProPublica will try to fill some of that void. It announced Monday that it is opening up a spot in its Local Reporting Network for someone to cover accountability issues in Youngstown.

Here’s how it works: ProPublica pays the salary and stipend for benefits so a news organization can devote a full-time reporter to work on an accountability project in Youngstown for one year, until June of 2020. ProPublica also will offer editing support, as well as data, research, engagement, audience and production/design assistance. The Local Reporting Network already works with 20 news partners across the country.

In a statement, ProPublica Editor-in-Chief Stephen Engelberg said, “What’s going on in Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley cries out for solid investigative reporting. We created the Local Reporting Network to fill that critically important need.”

News organizations and reporters interested in applying for the Youngstown reporting spot can fill out a form and describe what they plan to investigate. Freelancers are eligible to apply, but they must find an Ohio-based news outlet willing to run their work. The application deadline is July 22.


CBS Evening News is ready to launch

Caroline Kennedy attends the Statue of Liberty Museum opening celebration at Battery Park in May 2019 in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

The new “CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell” will debut Monday and include interviews with Jeff Bezos and Caroline Kennedy. The interviews will launch the network’s coverage of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. The interview with Kennedy will include discussing the space travel legacy of her father, President John F. Kennedy.

The next day, O’Donnell will anchor the evening news from the Kennedy Space Center and will host a special called “Man on the Moon” at 10 p.m. Eastern that night.

Poynter’s Al Tompkins reminded me that JFK was interviewed by Walter Cronkite on Sept. 2, 1963, which was Cronkite’s first night anchoring a half-hour version of CBS’s evening news. Before then, the evening news was 15 minutes.


Fox & Friends & Family

Fox News’ Ed Henry in 2012. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

“Fox & Friends” had an emotional moment Sunday and it had nothing to do with politics. Chief national correspondent Ed Henry announced he will be taking time off so he can donate part of his liver to his sister. The surgery is scheduled for today.

Henry didn’t get into many details other than to say his sister’s condition is hereditary, but that he didn’t share the condition.


Research: Media matters

A new study out today by the Knight Foundation shows that a majority of young adults are concerned about the media’s impact on democracy in the United States. The Knight Foundation surveyed 1,660 adults between the ages of 18 and 34. Among the findings:

  • About 45% say their most-liked news source is neither liberal nor conservative, but 42% say it is liberal and 13% say it is conservative.

  • About 31% say that people of their race, or issues that affect people of their race, are rarely covered by their most-liked news sources; 47% say the same about their least-liked news sources.

  • Only 45% of African-Americans and 40% of Hispanics say their most-liked source accurately portrays them.

  • More than 60% use their favorite news source to decide which policies to support and more than 50% do the same when deciding who to vote for.


Celtics, Sox, Bruins and … Watchdogs?

Two media companies have combined forces to create a new team. The New England Center for Investigative Reporting (a nonprofit based at Boston University) and WGBH News (Boston’s local NPR, TV and digital reporting outlet) have joined together to produce investigative reports and train emerging journalists. WGBH said it plans on adding to its investigative staff.

“This is a perfect scenario for NECIR, ensuring their work in investigative journalism will continue,” Tom Fiedler, dean of BU’s College of Communication, said in a statement. “At the same time, it offers a greater number of learning opportunities for our students, exposing them to award-winning journalism at one of the most trusted platforms in the city.”

The two organizations have collaborated in the past, producing such stories as “Out of the Shadows,” a series about children dying in the state foster care system; “Jailhouse Suicides,” a series about the epidemic of prison suicides that led to major reforms; and “The Shackles That Remain,” a series about a wrongly-convicted man who spent 38 years in prison.


Hot type

A man reads a book while waiting on a subway platform in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

  • Even if you don’t live in New York City and even if you’ve never ridden the subway, this New York Times report on subway commutes is a master class in using data that services the reader. It’s also a reminder that news outlets provide so much more than stories about Trump and politics.
  • A school district in Massachusetts used prisoners to help fix auditorium seats at a cost of $101,800. In an incredibly detailed report, a news outlet asked: Should public schools use prison labor? That news outlet: the student newspaper.
  • Maybe I’m biased because I’ve known her for a long time, but The Washington Post’s Sally Jenkins is the best sports columnist in the country and she proves it again with her column about the U.S. World Cup-winning women’s soccer team.
  • The California coast is disappearing, says The Los Angeles Times. This dazzling project, led by reporter Rosanna Xia, includes graphics, video, photos and even a game (yes, an interactive game) to see if you can save a town.

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…
Tom Jones

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