PBS to critics: It’s not 1973 | Don Cherry is out | The Atlantic gets a major facelift

November 12, 2019
Category: Newsletters

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Good morning. It’s Tuesday — or the day before the televised impeachment hearings. Are you going to watch? Where? A longtime journalist weighs in on how the proceedings should be televised, so I’ll start there. Read on for a big media dismissal that we all saw coming.

Impeachment or ‘Nova’?

When Richard Nixon’s impeachment hearings began in 1973, PBS not only showed them live during the day, but again on tape delay during primetime. It was perfect for those who had day jobs and could not watch the live coverage. And, quite frankly, it was captivating television that could be found nowhere else in primetime back then. Of course, that was back in the days when most folks got only a handful of TV stations.

Now some want PBS to repeat its 1973 performance. Last week, former PBS (and other outlets) journalist Bill Moyers and his colleague, Michael Winship, took out a full-page ad in the New York Times asking that PBS replay the hearings in primetime “for the sake of the nation.” On his website, Moyers wrote, “How in the world — no pun intended — does it serve democracy to hide the hearings from people who come home from work to see them but don’t have cable, satellite, and internet access? If PBS were truly an alternative to corporate networks, it would repeat the hearings in prime time for the mass audience. Period.”

But PBS already has announced it will not be replaying the hearings in full in primetime. Instead, it will make gavel-to-gavel replay coverage available on its digital platforms and its digital station (PBS World). While Moyers’ and Winship’s wish is a noble one, it can’t reasonably be expected to be granted. While ratings don’t drive PBS’s business model, they can’t be ignored, either. Preempting regularly scheduled shows to air hearings that can easily be accessed elsewhere is not smart. Plus, PBS will still recap the day’s events on its news shows.

As a PBS spokesperson said, “We live in a vastly different media universe than we did 45-plus years ago. In today’s on-demand world, we will ensure that Americans have access to the replay of the hearings when and how they want to view them.”

Moyers’ and Winship’s argument centers around what happens to those without access to on-demand or cable or internet. But that’s like saying the hearings should be replayed on radio for those who don’t have televisions. PBS is right. This isn’t 1973.

Those who want access to the hearings should have no trouble finding them. In fact, the hearings and pertinent coverage will be almost impossible to avoid.

We interrupt this program …


(Photo courtesy of NBC News)

Speaking of the impeachment on TV, all the major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS) plus cable outlets CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and C-SPAN are expected to set aside scheduled programming this week to cover the House’s open impeachment hearings on President Donald Trump.

NBC News announced it will air a special report starting at 10 a.m. Wednesday led by “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt, “Today” co-host Savannah Guthrie and “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd. Over on MSNBC, Brian Williams and Nicolle Wallace will anchor the coverage beginning at 9 a.m.

Meanwhile, looking for full, uninterrupted and unfiltered coverage? Your best bet might be C-SPAN3, C-SPAN Radio and C-SPAN.org. C-SPAN also is offering a special impeachment inquiry web resource.

Don Cherry is out


Hockey commentator Don Cherry, center, drops the ceremonial first puck on a faceoff in 2010. (AP Photo/Charlie Krupa)

It’s the end of an era. Don Cherry, the iconic star of “Hockey Night in Canada,” stepped down Monday, just two days after making insensitive remarks about immigrants. On the air during his wildly popular “Coach’s Corner” segment, Cherry, 85, referred to those he believed were immigrants as “you people” and criticized them for not wearing poppy flowers in memory of those who lost their lives in battle, as is tradition among many Canadians this month.

In a statement Monday, Sportsnet president Bart Yabsley said:

“Sports bring people together — it unites us, not divides us. Following further discussions with Don Cherry after Saturday night’s broadcast, it has been decided it is the right time for him to immediately step down. During the broadcast, he made divisive remarks that do not represent our values or what we stand for. Don is synonymous with hockey and has played an integral role in growing the game over the past 40 years. We would like to thank Don for his contributions to hockey and sports broadcasting in Canada.”

Based on that statement, specifically the part about “following further discussions with Don Cherry,” you have to wonder if Sportsnet asked Cherry to apologize and he refused.

Sportsnet forcing Cherry out, if that is indeed what happened, does not feel like an overreaction, especially considering Cherry’s history of making controversial remarks. But reaction in Canada is split. Cherry is a legendary figure with a huge following. He has been on the air for four decades. Many agree with his views, including what he said Saturday. There will be a backlash. There will be those who claim that Cherry was fired for merely exercising his freedom of speech.

But his comments were hurtful and divisive. They were wrong, and Sportsnet did the right thing. The network deserves credit for not putting up with someone who has gotten away with such talk for far too long.

Sadly, this feels like a fitting end to Cherry’s time on “Hockey Night in Canada.” Those of us who have watched him over the years, deep down, knew his time on TV likely was going to end this way.

246 days and counting


White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham listens as President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Friday. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

It seems like old news by now, but it’s still an important issue. Stephanie Grisham took over as White House press secretary in late June and she has yet to hold an official White House press briefing. In fact, the last White House press briefing was 246 days ago.

But CNN’s Oliver Darcy notes that Grisham has been on Fox News or Fox Business Network at least 13 times. In addition, she has granted interviews to other conservative TV outlets such as Sinclair and One America News Network.

When might she hold a press briefing? She emailed Darcy saying she would hold one when Trump wanted her to hold one.

“That is ultimately his decision,” Grisham said. “The briefings, which are meant to inform the public, were becoming a spectacle. In addition, the President himself answers questions on a weekly basis, as do I and my entire team. We’ve also had briefings at the podium with subject matter experts, and to be honest many (in the) press have told me that is more helpful.”

The Atlantic’s new look


The cover of the very first issue of The Atlantic in 1857 compared to the new-look Atlantic. (Photos courtesy of The Atlantic)

The Atlantic is changing its look. With a new logo, a complete redesign of the print magazine and the launch of an iOS app, The Atlantic said it’s the most dramatic remaking of its look in its 162-year history.

It all starts with its December issue, which centers around the theme of “How to Stop a Civil War.” It includes essays from writers and contributors about American unity and how to repair the divisiveness. Editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg writes, “We don’t believe that the conditions in the United States today resemble those of 1850s America. But we worry that the ties that bind us are fraying at alarming speed — we are becoming contemptuous of each other in ways that are both dire and possibly irreversible.”

O’Donnell features ‘Profiles in Service’


CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell, right, in her new “CBS Evening News” feature dedicated to those who serve. (Photo courtesy of CBS News)

“The CBS Evening News” started a feature Monday night that will continue each night this week and appear regularly on the newscast. “Profiles in Service” will highlight everyday Americans, first responders and U.S. military service members.

Anchor and managing editor Norah O’Donnell said in a statement, “There is valor and selflessness at the heart of each one of these stories, featuring people who make our world a better, safer place. Being part of a proud military family, I’ve seen the commitment and sacrifice required of the people who serve. They are the backbone of this country, and it is important we tell their stories.”

O’Donnell actually created this feature in 2017 when she was co-host of “CBS This Morning.”

Is a ‘First Take’ reunion likely?

Here’s a hot scoop from Front Office Sports’ Michael McCarthy: ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith could be reunited on ESPN with his old “First Take” partner Skip Bayless when Bayless’ contract with Fox Sports expires next year. A source told McCarthy, “They both want to make it happen. I’m just not sure ESPN will hit Fox’s number.”

A Bayless-Smith reunion would not only boost ESPN, but also put a dent in Fox Sports 1. Bayless’ debate show with former NFL star Shannon Sharpe, “Undisputed,” doesn’t get great ratings, but it is the centerpiece of Fox Sports 1 daytime programming, along with Colin Cowherd’s talk show. ESPN’s “First Take,” with Smith and Max Kellerman, draws about a half million viewers a day, which is more than double “Undisputed”’s viewership.

Bayless is currently on the four-year, $25-million deal he signed at Fox Sports to leave ESPN and “First Take.” Smith just signed an extension at ESPN believed to be worth $8 million a year. McCarthy writes that Fox might be looking to keep costs down, while ESPN is still willing to spend big money for stars who move the needle. It might see Bayless as one of those kinds of stars.

Hot type

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

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