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June 14, 2019
Happy Friday. The week was coming to a quiet close until the big news Thursday afternoon that Sarah Sanders was stepping down as White House press secretary. It marks the end of a controversial era for one of the most high-profile jobs in American politics. We start today by looking back at the era.
So long, Sarah
Sarah Sanders’ time in the White House was marked by her fierce loyalty to the president and an often tense relationship with the press.
President Donald Trump broke the blockbuster news Thursday afternoon: Press secretary Sarah Sanders is leaving her job.
Sanders’ tenure likely will be remembered for two things: her fierce loyalty to the president and, because of that loyalty, a serious credibility issue that led to an adversarial relationship with the press.
Then again, should we even care about her departure? She hasn’t held an official press briefing in 95 days. Before that, she had stretches of 41 and 42 days between official press briefings. To be fair, Sanders did often meet with the media outside the White House briefing room, such as on the White House lawn or outside her office.
CNN’s Brian Stelter wrote, “Sarah Sanders’ primary legacy as White House press secretary was the death of the daily press briefing.”
It’s not unusual for press secretaries and the media to be at odds, but the Sanders vs. media feud was fueled because the press didn’t always believe her. Even in the Mueller report, she was caught in a lie (she called it a “slip of the tongue”) when she said she had heard from “countless” FBI agents that they had lost confidence in former FBI Director James Comey.
Her relationship with the media also was strained when she time and time againrefused to say the media was not the “enemy of the people.”
She had well-publicized run-ins with CNN reporter Jim Acosta, including when the White House revoked Acosta’s credentials in November. That happened because White House officials claimed Acosta put his hands on an intern during a Trump briefing when the intern tried to take a microphone from Acosta. Sanders tweeted out what appeared to be a doctored video making it seem as if Acosta was more aggressive than he really was.
Because of the strained relationship with the press, Sanders became a frequent target of the media. Newsweek columnist Seth Abramson once tweeted:
“I think Sarah Huckabee Sanders may be living the world’s saddest life right now, knowing daily that the only thing she will *ever* be remembered for is that she lied for the worst, most illegitimate, and most criminal president in American history until the *bitter end*”
It wasn’t just the media that was critical of Sanders. A year ago, she was asked to leave a restaurant in Virginia when the owner said she didn’t want to serve “Trump’s mouthpiece.” She also was the target of a savage roasting from comedienne Michelle Wolf at the 2018 White House Correspondents Association dinner. That led the Trump White House to boycott the event and the White House correspondents to change formats, switching out comics for speakers.
When asked by Politico’s Eliana Johnson in December 2018’s Women Rule Summit what she hoped her legacy would be, Sanders said, “I hope that it will be that I showed up every day and I did the very best job that I could to put forward the president’s message, to do the best job that I could to answer questions, to be transparent and honest throughout that process and do everything I could to make America a little better that day than it was the day before.”
No replacement has been named, but The New York Times astutely notes that the “next press secretary will take over just as Mr. Trump is heading into the thick of a re-election campaign that will determine the fate of his presidency.”
Trump’s White House also has been without a communications director since Bill Shine left in early March.
Sanders has not immediately revealed what’s next for her. Trump suggested she run for governor of Arkansas like her father, Mike Huckabee, who held the office from 1996 to 2007. She likely will be wooed by TV news, especially Fox News. (CNN has already said it is not interested, according to The New York Times.) Either way, it’s the end of an era for one of the most polarizing press secretaries in U.S. history.
Really getting the Blues
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch sportswriter covering the team’s Stanley Cup win used some old some tricks to get in before deadline.
The St. Louis Blues celebrate their win over the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
As a former hockey writer myself, I can tell you that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jim Thomas wrote one heck of a game story as the St. Louis Blues captured their first-ever Stanley Cup on Wednesday night. (By the way, this gets the Post-Dispatch off the hook for accidentally running an ad congratulating the Blues for winning the cup before they actually did.)
Thomas’ work on deadline was masterful, and the key was writing about the game before the game was even played.
“The dummy lede is one of the oldest tricks in the book in sportswriting, and so before most playoff games I would write a Blues’ win and Blues’ lose lede,” Thomas, who’s been at the Post-Dispatch since 1975, told me in an email. “General big picture thoughts of what each outcome would mean to the Blues. Obviously, it’s not hard to write big picture when it’s Game 7 of the Stanley Cup. You’re either champions or not.”
The Post-Dispatch’s first print deadline is usually a half-hour or so after the game ends. Then there’s about 60 to 90 minutes to rewrite for final print edition. Thomas said about a quarter of the Game 7 story was the dummy lead that had already been written. By final edition, he had tinkered with it and shortened it. Then he polished it with game details.
He said he also had a chance to do some extra polishing because he actually started writing his Game 7 win story before Game 6 on Sunday night. After all, had the Blues won Game 6, they would have won the Cup. But they lost.
Thomas, in his second season covering the Blues, said he doesn’t remember all the details of his “Blues lose” story. He deleted it once the game was over.
Turns out we’re all a bunch of hypocrites when it comes to our news consumption.
What kind of news do consumers want?
The New Yorker claims it’s “slower, better news.”
But a thought-provoking poll from Axios/SurveyMonkey using data provided by Parse.ly sends a mixed message: What we read and what we want to read are two different things.
The data says we mostly read about national security, politics and sports even though those three topics rank 5th, 10th and 14th, respectively, in topics we actually want covered. Meanwhile, readers say they want more coverage of, in order, health care, climate change and education, even though those topics rank 7th, 5th and 11th, respectively, in what we do read.
A hashtag trending in New York City on Thursday seemed designed to help the homeless TV show find a new broadcast partner.
The hashtag #ThisIsViceNewsTonight trended for a while in New York City on Thursday. Staffers from the TV show “Vice News Tonight” touted all the great work they and their colleagues have done the past three years as the show enters an uncertain stage with no home after September. HBO announced last week that it wasn’t renewing the show, and Vice News is shopping for a new home. Thursday’s Twitter blast appeared to be an attempt to stir up some buzz.
“Vice News Tonight” climate and science reporter Arielle Duhaime-Ross tweeted:
“So HBO is cancelling VICE News Tonight. But we aren’t done yet!! … There’s no other show like this.”
And the winners are …
The Mirror Awards, handed out Thursday, honor the best coverage of our favorite topic: the news media.
Ronan Farrow speaks with reporters at Associated Press headquarters in New York in 2018. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)
The Mirror Awards were handed out Thursday. Established in 2006 by Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, the Mirror Awards recognize the best in media industry reporting. This year’s winners:
Best single article/story: “Face The Racist Nation” by WNYC Radio and Guardian US.
Best profile: “James O’Keefe Can’t Get No Respect” by Tim Alberta of Politico.
Best commentary: “The Great Remove” by Sarah Jones of Columbia Journalism Review.
Best story on journalists or journalism in peril: “How Duterte Used Facebook To Fuel The Philippine Drug War” by Davey Alba of BuzzFeed News.
CNN boss Jeff Zucker was awarded the Fred Dressler Leadership Award and, in his speech, said, “There has never been a more important time in our lives and in our careers.” (Zucker also earned some groans from the audience when he made an off-color joke about one of CNN’s anchors.)
But the quote of the day from the Mirror Awards came from Farrow, who said, “I see some people here who have lied to protect power in the way we’re all decrying today. People who lied to The New Yorker.”
Watch and learn
News junkies can get their fill of journalism and documentaries on Sunday night.
Sunday night is becoming quite the night for news television. “Axios on HBO” (6 p.m. Eastern/Pacific) still has a couple of episodes left this season and The New York Times’ “The Weekly” (10 p.m. on FX) will air its third episode, this one about immigration.
In addition, MSNBC will air a special about the 1969 Stonewall riots. “Rebellion! Stonewall!” airs at 10 p.m. and will be narrated by Lester Holt. It looks back at demonstrations by the gay community over a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The show features interviews with LGBTQ voices, including presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg and Sharice Davids, a Democratic congresswoman from Kansas.
The University of Florida plans to gives its independent college newspaper $200,000 over the next two years — no strings attached.
Florida mascot Albert the Alligator on the field at the University of Florida in 2010. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
The University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications is giving the student newspaper, The Independent Florida Alligator, $100,000 each of the next two years. The money is coming from the Office of the Provost and it’s the first money the university has given to the paper since 1973 when it became independent from the school.
Diane McFarlin, dean of the CJC, told the Alligator that the agreement is clear in that the newspaper’s independence will not be impacted.
McFarlin said the paper is experiencing the same financial troubles as many newspapers and, because the paper is free to students, it cannot rely on revenue from subscriptions.
A list of great journalism and intriguing media.
- A really bizarre story (see photo above) on how BuzzFeed News discovered GQ had photoshopped two women into a photo of 15 tech men during an outing in Italy.
- There are many vaccination stories out there, but you would be hard-pressed to find a more compelling read than this one by the (Poynter owned) Tampa Bay Times’ Justin Griffin.
- The Arizona Republic published the salaries of 154,000 Arizona state employees. Why? The paper explains.
- Seniors are facing foreclosure after an allegedly risk-free retirement with reverse mortgages. USA Today’s Nick Penzenstadler and Jeff Kelly Lowenstein with the disturbing investigative story of lives that have been ruined.
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upcoming Poynter training:
- Leadership Academy for Diversity in Digital Media (seminar). Deadline: Today!
- Media Innovation Tour (D.C. and NYC). Early bird deadline: Monday, June 17.
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Correction: This article has been updated to correct a typo in the title of the Mirror Award-winning piece to “How Duterte Used Facebook To Fuel The Philippine Drug War.”