October 11, 2019

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Good Friday morning. It has been a busy week in media and incredibly, not all of it has been about President Trump. Lots of news, notes, tidbits and nuggets to get to today. Enjoy your weekend.

NBC is under siege … from its own staff

NBC is getting pushback from inside the building following the startling accusations in an upcoming book by Ronan Farrow. The book details former “Today” show co-host Matt Lauer’s alleged sexual misconduct, including an allegation that he raped an NBC producer during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. (Lauer has denied the claim.) Farrow’s book also suggests that NBC sat on the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct story because Weinstein threatened to expose stories about Lauer.

Reportedly, NBC president Noah Oppenheim was grilled by NBC employees about the revelations in Farrow’s book. The Daily Beast’s Maxwell Tani and Lachlan Cartwright wrote:

“According to multiple employees present on the call, staffers demanded specific answers about when management knew about the Lauer misconduct claims, and confronted Oppenheim on why NBC decided against hiring an outside investigator. One employee declared to the boss that ‘we deserve answers from you.’”

After a Thursday morning editorial meeting at NBC, Fox News’ Brian Flood quoted one unnamed staffer as saying, “Noah sat there and lied to our faces again. He wants credit for taking our questions but is still dodging. I feel like he’s gaslighting us.”

Page Six quoted staffers as calling the Thursday meeting “heated” and “disastrous.”

It should be noted that NBC’s official stance is that it was unaware of Lauer’s behavior until the day before it fired him in 2017. Farrow’s book is due out next week. Speaking of which …

Ronan: a modern journalism samurai

Ronan Farrow. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Washington Post media writer Paul Farhi wrote about Farrow and his book, including how Farrow was believed to have been followed while working on it. A friend even told him to buy a gun.

Farrow told Farhi, “I don’t want this to sound like woe is me, but I’ll be honest. It’s really hard when you’re in those moments . . . when you wonder if you’re being followed, and it turns out you are, it’s frightening.”

As far as Farrow’s work, New Yorker editor David Remnick told Farhi, “I’ve seen a lot of investigative reporters, but I’ve never seen a situation where so much empathy was required. I saw his doggedness and the endless hours he put in, but I also had the opportunity to see him (interact) with the women who were treated so horribly by Weinstein, and it was quite something. There was sincerity. There was patience. It was empathy.”

By the way, Farrow is scheduled to appear on “CBS This Morning” on Monday.

Daily podcast landscape gets more crowded

It works for The New York Times, so maybe it can work for ESPN. The sports network is launching a daily podcast called “ESPN Daily.” It sounds very similar to the Times’ “The Daily” podcast.

“ESPN Daily,” which debuts Oct. 21, will run about 20 minutes long and focus on one big sports story of the day. It will air Monday through Friday and should be up each day in time for the East Coast morning commute.

ESPN personality Mina Kimes will host — a really good choice because she’s smart, funny, charismatic and has shown on various ESPN platforms that she can talk about anything sports-related, including social issues.

Kimes told The Washington Post’s Ben Strauss, “First and foremost this is about sports and sports are fun and sports are exciting. They can be serious and they delve into social and cultural issues — we’re going to do investigative stories — but there should be room for joy and passion and I think that’s what makes sports different generally, and also the podcast.”

Just … no.

Television station KTVU in the San Francisco-Oakland area tried to be cute with the news that the St. Louis Cardinals had eliminated the Atlanta Braves in the baseball playoffs. It was a big swing-and-a-miss.

A graphic on screen during the news broadcast read “Braves Scalped.”

On Thursday, a news anchor read the following statement on air:

“We had a story about the Atlanta Braves that included a phrase that was racially insensitive toward Native Americans. It was not our intention to offend anyone and we want to express our deepest apologies for the use of that phrase.”

This is not the first time KTVU has slipped up. Back in 2013, the station was reporting on a plane crash and was somehow duped into running fake names of the pilots. The names — as you can see here — were obviously not real.

Pulling Splinter out of G/O Media

Splinter is no more. The political news website run by G/O Media shut down abruptly Thursday, citing low readership numbers. In an email to staff, G/O Media’s editorial director Paul Maidment wrote, “Despite the hard work of everyone on that staff, which has produced much outstanding journalism and great scoops, establishing a steady and sustainable audience for a relatively young site has proved challenging in a fiercely competitive sector.”

Maidment wrote that the hope was Splinter’s seven staffers would be able to move on to one of G/O Media’s other sites, which includes Deadspin, Gizmodo, Jezebel and Jalopnik. However, Splinter deputy editor Jack Mirkinson tweeted that staffers had been laid off.

‘I actually hate the word content’

TIME’s Karl Vick has a profile on how New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger is leading the Times into the future.

Vick writes, “The American landscape is littered with the husks of news outlets desiccated by the migration of life-giving attention from a page that folds to a page that glows. Worse, people tell pollsters they don’t even believe most of what they read on their news feeds. Yet in this forbidding new world the country’s stuffiest, most remote and self-important newspaper somehow became a relatable, nimble and savvy digital vehicle for what on many days is the best journalism in the world.”

Sulzberger, whose family has controlled the Times for more than 100 years, told Vick, “I grew up in a family that had a lot of pride in this place and a lot of love for this place. And some of the bravest and most important moves made to protect this place were actually made by folks who never worked a day here, for whom the strength of this institution, particularly the strength of the newsroom, was the priority that we should always put first.”

Oh, don’t use the word “content” around Sulzberger.

“I actually hate the word content,” he told Vick. “It’s a word for junk … the junk you shovel into Facebook. What we do is journalism.”

NBA/China tensions continue

The Houston Rockets’ Russell Westbrook attends a news conference after the team’s NBA preseason game near Tokyo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

This NBA-China story is getting messier and more complicated. It started with Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey sending out a tweet supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. That angered the Chinese government and now relations between the NBA and China are at a crossroads.

The Rockets played in Japan on Thursday and their stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook were made available to the media. But when CNN’s Christina Macfarlane attempted to ask about the NBA players speaking out on social issues, she was shut down by a Rockets spokesperson who said the players would only answer “basketball-related questions.” Making it worse, when Macfarlane said it was a legitimate question, the spokesperson replied, “It’s not.”

The NBA has since apologized for the incident. In a statement, it said:

“A team representative inappropriately interjected to prevent CNN’s Christina Macfarlane from receiving an answer to her question. We’ve apologized to Ms. Macfarlane as this was inconsistent with how the NBA conducts media events.”

Considering all the controversy of the past few days, it’s a good bet that the NBA, the Rockets and the players on the podium were relieved and quite pleased that the spokesperson cut off the question — regardless of the NBA’s apology.

This and that

  • The Fresno Bee is the latest McClatchy paper that will eliminate the Saturday print product. The Bee will go to a digital-only Saturday product (and expanded Friday and Sunday print editions) starting Jan. 11. The Bee joins a list of nearly a dozen other digital-only Saturday papers in the McClatchy chain.
  • The New York Times has hired Alex Hardiman as the company’s head of product. Axios’ Sara Fischer writes that Hardiman’s task is to raise the number of subscribers. The Times claims that 150 million visit its website each month, but it only has 4.7 million digital subscribers.
  • Financial Times reports that James Murdoch, son of News Corp. founder Rupert Murdoch, is buying a minority stake in Vice Media Group as he looks to “make his own mark in media after the break-up of his family’s entertainment empire.” The story says Murdoch’s stake is small, but he’s looking to distance himself from his father’s conservative outlets, which includes Fox News.
  • Journalists at the Arizona Republic voted to unionize Thursday night. The vote was 68% in favor (64 yes and 30 no). The vote to unionize comes as the Republic’s owner, Gannett, is expected to merge with GateHouse Media and perhaps start cutting budgets and payroll. In a statement, Arizona Republic staff writer Rebekah Sanders said, “This is a historic decision to protect local journalism. We have sent a powerful message to Gannett that we expect dignified layoff severance, fair wages and a voice in the decisions that affect our future.”

Hot type

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

I guess it’s Jeff Bezos Day …

  • “Is Amazon unstoppable?” Writing a cover story for The New Yorker, Charles Duhigg looks at owner Jeff Bezos and his fight against regulators.
  • And guess who The Atlantic’s latest cover story is about? Jeff Bezos. Franklin Foer writes about Bezos’ “Master Plan.”

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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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