NBC News says Washington Post is casting stones, plus newspaper execs lobby in D.C. and taco ’bout a journalism dream job!

Your Wednesday Poynter Report

September 11, 2019
Category: Newsletters

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Good morning. It’s Sept. 11 — the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. To mark the occasion, all the major networks are planning a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m.— the time when the first plane hit the Twin Towers. There will be special TV coverage throughout the day to remember one of the most shocking days in U.S. history.

Several outlets, including The New York Times, will live stream this morning’s anniversary ceremony.

Adriana Diaz of “CBS This Morning” will report from Stuyvesant High School, which is just three blocks from the original World Trade Center. She was a student there on 9/11 and will talk with classmates about the impact that day had on their lives. On the “CBS Evening News,” anchor Norah O’Donnell will interview families of military members who died fighting in Afghanistan following 9/11.

At NBC, the “Today” show will have reports from New York and the Pentagon, while “NBC Nightly News” will feature anchor Lester Holt talking to children who lost a parent in the attacks and are now joining the New York Fire Department. Holt also will interview a 9/11 first responder now dealing with cancer.

Also, look for special coverage on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and “World News Tonight.”

Now on with the rest of today’s newsletter.

Media fight: WaPo’s Wemple vs. NBC News

There was media dustup Tuesday night between NBC News and Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple. This all has to do with the story that broke earlier this week about the CIA extracting a spy out of Russia.

Wemple wrote a column criticizing NBC News and reporter Ken Dilanian for reporting that the possible former Russian spy was living in the Washington, D.C., area under U.S. government protection. In the NBC story, Dilanian found where the alleged spy was living, rang his doorbell and five minutes later, two men in an SUV showed up and parked across the street. Wemple’s point was that even though NBC didn’t reveal the spy’s name or location, the story wasn’t newsworthy. In fact, it could have put the alleged spy’s safety at risk if the Russians were looking for retribution. The headline on Wemple’s column said what NBC did was “really stupid” and Wemple used the word “dumb” in a tweet linking to his story.

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I agreed with Wemple — the NBC story only would have been worth publishing if the Russian had answered the door and spoke on the record about his activities. NBC merely pointing out that they knew where the alleged spy might be living really isn’t a story. To Wemple’s point, it felt like the kind of desperate, let’s-report-something story an outlet does when it’s trying to play catch-up on a scoop that was broken by someone else.

But here’s the rub: While Wemple was criticizing NBC, his paper had done exactly what NBC did. In fact, The Washington Post went even further. Not only did it show up at the alleged spy’s house, it printed his real name and the town he lived in. It even ran a video of the house along with an interview with a neighbor. (It appears the alleged spy is no longer living in that house.)

NBC spokesperson Richard Hudock tweeted Tuesday night:

“Perhaps Erik missed that his own paper reported the location and description of the house, interviews with the neighbors, and the individual’s true name and former position with the Russian government—all before his piece criticizing NBC was published.”

Wemple was not available for comment. For the record, I often link to Wemple’s reporting in my newsletter and, although I don’t know him personally, I like his work and he’s well respected in the media industry. And, as I said, I don’t disagree with his point about NBC’s report being somewhat irresponsible. But whatever is said about NBC’s story can — and should — be said about The Post’s story.

This all broke late Tuesday night, so more might shake out today. If so, I will follow up in Thursday’s Poynter Report.

Newspaper execs head to Capitol Hill


Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), shown here in June, was scheduled to meet with newspaper executives on Tuesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Newspapers are struggling. In an effort to do something about that, top newspaper executives were on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to lobby Congress for help. Specifically, they want Congress to reconsider the anti-trust safe harbor bill.

The bill is designed to allow newspapers to fight against giant tech companies such as Facebook and Google by allowing papers to work together to get a better share of digital advertising dollars.

According to Axios, senior leaders from the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune, Tribune Publishing Company, News Corp, (Minneapolis) Star Tribune, Gannett, The (Charleston, South Carolina) Post and Courier and Philadelphia Media Network met with lawmakers one on one, including Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), as well as Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Ted Lieu (D-Calif.).

Timothy Knight, CEO of Tribune Publishing Company, told Axios, “Our belief is that the current antitrust laws don’t allow us to work together. I view what we’re trying to do as rethinking how the game is played.”

Sara Fischer of Axios has more details on Tuesday’s lobbying efforts.

Local newspapers still outpace other outlets

Speaking of local news, Nieman Lab’s Philip Napoli and Jessica Mahone produced an interesting piece this week, in which their research showed “that despite the economic hardships that local newspapers have endured, they remain, by far, the most significant providers of journalism in their communities.”

Napoli and Mahone found that while local newspapers accounted for roughly 25% of the local media outlets in their sample, they accounted for nearly 50% of the original news stories in their database. They also wrote, “Local newspapers also accounted for nearly 60% of the local news stories in our database (again, while accounting for only 25% of the outlet in our sample). Essentially, local newspapers produced more of the local reporting in the communities we studied than television, radio, and online-only outlets combined.”

Taco ’bout a journalism dream job!


 (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Who has the best editing job in the world? Dean Baquet of The New York Times? Marty Baron at The Washington Post? Is it David Remnick at The New Yorker?

My vote goes to José R. Ralat. He has just been named by Texas Monthly as the editor of … tacos.

No kidding.

“Jose is one of the foremost experts on tacos in the state and the country,” Texas Monthly executive editor Kathy Blackwell said in a statement. “We are thrilled to have him join our growing editorial team, bringing a wealth of knowledge on the amazing variety of foods that can be tucked into a tortilla, as well as on the history and culture surrounding this beloved food.”

Ralat started covering tacos for the Dallas Observer in 2010 and has his own website, The Taco Trail, which covers taquerias, trucks, stalls and restaurants.

If anyone is interested in hiring an editor of cheeseburgers, I’m available.

It’s the battle of the morning shows


“Today” show co-anchors Savannah Guthrie, left, and Hoda Kotb in 2018. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

There’s a good battle brewing on morning TV between NBC’s “Today” show and ABC’s “Good Morning America.” As Variety’s Brian Steinberg points out, there are days when the difference in viewers is a mere 35,000, and the race is nearly as close in the key advertising demographic of adults between the ages of 25 and 54.

“GMA” had a good summer, although “Today” can point to co-host Hoda Kotb being out for much of the summer on maternity leave. But now Kotb is back and a recent carriage blackout between Nexstar Media and AT&T has been solved, meaning NBC numbers should pick up.

Meanwhile, “CBS This Morning” keeps churning out good shows, led by Gayle King. But “GMA” and “Today” continue to lead the pack. Steinberg writes, “Both morning shows may have to wake up to the fact that their ongoing fight for A.M. viewers is getting more intense, not less.”

‘She Said’ ripples still spreading

“She Said,” the book from The New York Times’ Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey about their reporting on Harvey Weinstein and the subsequent #MeToo movement, came out Tuesday. As I wrote in Monday’s newsletter, the book is getting rave reviews for its behind-the-scenes look at journalism as well as new revelations about the case. That includes how attorney Lisa Bloom tried to help Weinstein.

On Tuesday, with permission from the authors, HuffPost’s Yashir Ali tweeted Bloom’s original memo to Weinstein. Bloom has since apologized for working with Weinstein, but the memo is, well, troubling.

A smart take for ‘First Take’


(Photo courtesy of ESPN.)

Not everyone likes the style of ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith — often referred to by detractors as Screamin’ A. Smith. And not everyone likes the show he’s on, “First Take,” which is among the signature embrace debate shows known for hot takes and outrageous comments.

Yet this is worth watching: On Sept. 20, “First Take” will be live from 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington, Delaware, as part of Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week. The show will have special guest Magic Johnson, as well as a performance by the Delaware State Drumline. The event is free and available to the public.

“I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for the education and experience I had at an HBCU,” said Smith, who graduated from Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina.

Hot type


Tina Turner in 2017. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

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

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