Remembering Cokie Roberts, plus more on Kavanaugh/New York Times and ‘The Daily’ hits 1 billion downloads

September 18, 2019
Category: Newsletters

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Good Wednesday morning. Thanks for reading, and we start today with the passing of an iconic journalist.

‘A constant over 40 years’

A legendary journalist has died.

Cokie Roberts, an expert on Washington politics who joined NPR in 1978 and went on to become a regular at ABC News, died Tuesday due to complications from breast cancer. She was 75.

There are plenty of glowing tributes to the classy political commentator, including from NPRThe New York Times, and The Washington Post. The most touching, however, came from her colleague Nina Totenberg.

Totenberg wrote, “The country knew her as this always polite political reporter, willing to ask the impolitic question if necessary — this funny, wise, smart woman, who could write circles around most reporters.”

Barack and Michelle Obama, in a statement, called Roberts, “a trailblazing figure; a role model to young women at a time when the profession was still dominated by men; a constant over forty years of a shifting media landscape and changing world, informing voters about the issues of our time and mentoring young journalists every step of the way.”

In an interview earlier this year, Roberts told The Post, “I’m the only person in my original nuclear family who didn’t run for Congress. … I have always felt semi-guilty about it. But I’ve sort of assuaged my guilt by writing about it and feeling like I’m educating people about the government and how to be good voters and good citizens.”

She did just that.

Another journalistic legend dies

Sander Vanocur, the last surviving journalist who questioned John Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960 in the very first presidential debate to ever be televised, died Tuesday from complications of dementia. He was 91.

Vanocur was known for his tough debate questions, as well as his coverage of the White House. He covered politics from NBC from 1957 to 1971 before stints at PBS and The Washington Post as a TV columnist. He then returned to network TV at ABC.

The New York Times’ Douglas Martin has an outstanding obit that looks back at Vanocur’s career, including some of his most memorable debate moments and being on the receiving end of Nixon’s wrath.

That’s ‘billion,’ with a B


Michael Barbaro, host of “The Daily” podcast, in April. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

You knew it was special the first time you heard it. And the formula was so simple.

The New York Times started a podcast, calling upon its journalists stationed around the world, to tell the most newsworthy stories of the day. They tapped the perfect voice, Michael Barbaro, to host. They kept it short, usually around 20 minutes, to be respectful of the listeners’ time. Smart stories, creative production and perceptive editing — along with a catchy theme song — all led to one of the most popular podcasts ever: “The Daily.”

On Tuesday, “The Daily” announced it had reached an incredible milestone: one billion downloads since its debut in early 2017. On many mornings, the show is downloaded 2 million times, making it the most popular news podcast in the country.

“The Daily” has featured 224 Times journalists from 30 countries over 691 episodes.

A backstory that seems never-ending


Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. (Win McNamee/Pool Photo via AP)

Politico’s Michael Calderone had an interesting little nugget in a story about the controversial New York Times essay involving allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh when he was in college. Calderone reported that an offensive tweet from The New York Times’ Opinion Twitter account that seemed to minimize sexual harassment at a college party by referring to it as “harmless fun” was written by one of the authors of the essay, Robin Pogrebin.

Calderone wrote, “According to a Times insider familiar with the matter, Pogrebin wrote the offensive tweet, which should have been vetted before it was posted.”

Pogrebin later admitted to writing the tweet.

Pogrebin and the other writer of the essay, Kate Kelly, blamed Times’ editors for not originally including the fact that an alleged victim of Kavanaugh told friends that she didn’t recall the incident, Calderone also reported. That was later added to the online version of the essay, causing quite the backlash.

During an interview on MSNBC, Pogrebin said, “It was just sort of … in the haste of the editing process” that the reference was removed.

Here’s more from Calderone: “On MSNBC, Pogrebin said that she and Kelly named the female classmate involved in the new allegation in their book, though the Times doesn’t usually include an alleged victim’s name. So when Times editors removed the woman’s name, they also removed the reference to her not recalling the Yale incident, according to Pogrebin.”

One more thing …

It also should be noted that during a radio appearance on WMAL in Washington, D.C., Pogrebin defended the reporting about the allegation, as well as the decision to not put the new allegation on the front page of the Times as many, including myself, suggested.

“We did not put a news story on the front of The New York Times saying, ‘Another Allegation Against Kavanaugh,’” Pogrebin said. “That was our decision. That is not the thrust of our book, that there’s a new allegation. That’s what the takeaway is right now because no one has had the book and has seen its totality. But actually, if you see it, it’s two paragraphs in an almost 300-page book. We did not make a lot of this. The world is making a lot of this.”

A sexual harassment allegation against a Supreme Court Justice? Yes, of course the world is making “a lot of this.” Why? Well, maybe it wasn’t the thrust of the book, but such an allegation is a very big deal. The question is why Pogrebin doesn’t think it is.

CBS correspondent turns to a ‘Life of Crime’


Photo courtesy of CBS News.

Here’s another binge-worthy podcast: correspondent Erin Moriarty’s “My Life of Crime” comes from the producers of CBS’s “48 Hours.” In the six-part series, Moriarty delivers what CBS calls “an immerse, intimate and sometimes irreverent take on true-crime cases.”

Moriarty takes listeners along with her on investigations to the scene of the crime and behind prison walls. She also goes deep into her own personal horror story. (Don’t worry, CBS says, it ends well.)

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

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