June 13, 2019

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June 13, 2019

Good morning. There’s plenty of fallout from yesterday’s newsletter and comments I made about NBC News’ decision to name Rachel Maddow as one of its moderators for the upcoming Democratic presidential primary debates. I’ll get into some of that pushback, but to start, there’s another story that indirectly involves Maddow. So let’s use that as a jumping-off point for today.

On the menu: beef

The leaders of The New York Times and MSNBC break bread but continue to disagree about the nuances of cable news.

Here’s a juicy scoop by CNN’s Brian Stelter: New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet and MSNBC president Phil Griffin had a lengthy lunch meeting last week to hammer out some philosophical differences, but the two remain at odds on a couple of issues. One is whether or not Times reporters should appear on Rachel Maddow’s show and the other is a much larger issue: Is cable news too often straying away from news to opinion?

The Times recently pulled a reporter from Maddow’s show and Stelter wrote that Maddow is not happy that Times reporters are not appearing on her show, especially because she has a reputation for supporting journalists and touting their work. The Times continues to sort through which shows are OK and which ones aren’t for its reporters to make appearances. Baquet recently told the Daily Beast, “It’s the most sharply opinionated shows that give me pause. I’m not sure which shows we will avoid.”

The Times/MSNBC story raises a couple of thoughts. First, I recently wrote that Baquet should trust his reporters to go on any show and conduct themselves in ways that wouldn’t compromise the Times. But Baquet’s uneasiness is certainly understandable. At the end of the day, it’s his paper (and his paper’s reputation) that’s his priority.

Meantime, my Poynter colleague Roy Peter Clark raises an interesting notion: while it might have been an unintended consequence, Baquet’s decision to keep his reporters away from opinionated shows hosted by pundits might actually benefit local news outlets throughout the country, such as newspapers that strive for neutrality in their coverage. While local papers don’t necessarily always cover national politics or the president, their reputation as being trustworthy could be tied to the rest of what people consider to be the mainstream media, including The New York Times.


More on Maddow

Readers of this newsletter took issue with me lumping Rachel Maddow in with Fox News pundits.

MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow in 2017. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Twitter and my email inbox pushed back on my idea that NBC News should not have named Maddow a debate moderator because she is a pundit who hosts an opinion-based show. One line that seemed to bother folks is when I suggested that Maddow moderating would be no different that Fox News’ Tucker Carlson or Laura Ingraham moderating.

New York University professor and media critic Jay Rosen had a tweet that included:

“Alt view: Maddow is very unlike Ingraham, so …”

(There’s more to the Twitter thread, and you can read what Rosen and others had to say about the topic of Maddow and media objectivity, including this 2013 column from Rosen.)

The comparison I was making between Maddow and Ingraham isn’t about their credentials, experience or on-air styles. It’s about how they are perceived. Both are viewed as pundits and, therefore, that should disqualify them from moderating a debate where they could ever be accused of having a rooting interest in the outcome of that debate or ensuing election.

Wouldn’t it make more sense for Maddow to be a part of MSNBC’s post-debate coverage when she could offer her analysis? After all, isn’t that her strength?

Pushback on CJR’s public editors

Some wondered why Fox News didn’t make the list.

News Corp. headquarters in Midtown Manhattan. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Here’s a follow-up to Tuesday’s news that the Columbia Journalism Review had named public editors to cover The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC. There was a question as to why CJR didn’t assign someone to cover Fox News, seeing as how it has the most primetime viewers of the cable news networks.

Kyle Pope, CJR’s editor-in-chief and publisher, addressed that question in a tweet:

“One answer is that our resources are limited so we have to pick our shots. But I also think Fox is a different beast, operating outside the norms of journalism, and I’m dubious this would matter much to them or their viewers. We may reconsider down the road.”


Sexual harassment alleged

A Fox Nation host accused a former cohost; Fox News says the matter was investigated and resolved.

Fox Nation’s Britt McHenry in 2015, when she was a reporter for ESPN. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

On Tuesday, The Daily Beast reported that Fox Nation host Britt McHenry accused her former co-host, the one-time wrestler Tyrus (real name: George Murdoch), of sexual harassment. On Wednesday, Fox News said the matter has been investigated and resolved. (Fox Nation is a streaming service owned by Fox News that features programming separate from Fox News.)

Fox News’ full statement:

“While we are not at liberty to discuss the details of any employee matter, we follow strict protocols when matters such as these are brought to our attention, and we make no exceptions. The process works because of the extensive systems and measures we have instituted. This situation was independently investigated and we consider the matter resolved. We respect the confidentiality of all involved.”

Tyrus, who has contributed to Fox News, used to host a streaming show called “UN-PC” with McHenry. But he left the show and debuted his own show, “Nuff Said,” Tuesday on Fox Nation. When The Hollywood Reporter asked last month why he was no longer on “UN-PC,” Tyrus said, “I wanted my own show.”

When THR asked on Twitter if he left “UN-PC” because of anything to do with McHenry, Tyrus wrote, “No comment and don’t message me again.” Then he blocked the THR reporter.


Passings: Jim Siegel and Frank Barrows

Siegel was a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch; Barrows was the former managing editor of the Charlotte Observer.

Jim Siegel, who covered the Statehouse for the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, died Tuesday. He was 46. The Dispatch collected tributes to Siegel, including Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who said, “Jim was one of the most respected members of the Statehouse news corp. Jim had a gift for explaining the complexities of state government and the legislative process to all his readers. I will miss his insight and his reporting.”

On Wednesday, former Charlotte (North Carolina) Observer managing editor Frank Barrows died. He was 72. He spent more than 30 years at the Observer, including 11 as the managing editor. From his obituary in the Observer: “Mark Ethridge, who preceded Barrows as managing editor, called him ‘one of the most brilliant editors and great writers who I ever knew. He was a genius. He could conceptualize stories. Stories are about what happened to people, and he could understand the character arc of any story better than anybody I ever knew.'”


Binge alert!

A new podcast about the Golden State Killer is the latest from the team that brought us ‘Dirty John.’

The Los Angeles Times and Wondery are out with another superb investigative podcast that goes along with a haunting series by Times reporter Paige St. John. The six-part podcast is called “Man in the Window,” about the Golden State Killer. The first two episodes have already dropped and the Times’ written series is up on its website. A print special section of the story will run Sunday.

St. John, who won a 2011 Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting while working for the Sarasota Herald Tribune, narrates the podcast. The Times and Wondery also produced the wildly popular podcast “Dirty John,” which had more than 10 million downloads in its first six weeks in 2017 and led to a TV series on Bravo starring Connie Britton and Eric Bana.


Hot type

A list of great journalism and intriguing media.

Screenshots from Instagram account of Bethany Clough, the Fresno (California) Bee’s restaurant and retail reporter.

  • Lots of insightful reads on, including Kristen Hare looking at howThe Fresno (California) Bee’s experiment with food coverage helped raise digital subscriptions. Any newspaper looking to increase its digital audience should read Kristen’s latest newsletter. Also, check out Ren LaForme’s Try This! digital tools newsletter, including a cool look at Google Earth Studio.
  • Nieman Lab’s deputy editor Laura Hazard Owen has an all-encompassing breakdown of a Reuters Institute’s study about digital news consumers. One big takeaway: Even those who don’t mind paying for news typically buy just one subscription.
  • Projects and Investigations has a story of a woman who “fled violence in Mexico and then got a second chance to be reunited with the daughter she thought she’d never see again.”
  • This headline is something: “How Alabama sheriffs undermine their successors after losing reelection.” The story, by’s Conor Sheets (in partnership with the ProPublica Local Reporting Network) is reallysomething.
  • One final note: On tonight’s “NBC Nightly News,” Andrea Mitchell interviews Anita Hill. It will be Hill’s first broadcast interview since Joe Biden announced he is running for president.

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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