October 14, 2019

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Good Monday morning. The media world is still buzzing with the surprising announcement on Friday that Shepard Smith was leaving Fox News after 23 years. Many are calling this a severe blow to Fox News. Is it? Let’s start there.

Shepard Smith’s departure: What’s next?

A big deal has been made over veteran news anchor Shepard Smith abruptly stepping away from Fox News on Friday. That’s because Smith was seen as someone more concerned with facts than opinions, with accuracy over ratings. President Donald Trump said recently that he would rather watch “fake news CNN” than Smith. And The New York Times’ Michael M. Grynbaum and Maggie Haberman wrote that Trump reached out to Fox News to complain about coverage, including that of Smith.

In announcing his departure, Smith said, “Even in our currently polarized nation, it’s my hope that the facts will win the day. That the truth will always matter. That journalism and journalists will thrive.”

It was an obvious criticism of Fox News as well as the primetime Fox News pundits with whom he has clashed over the past several months.

Carl Cameron, a former Fox News reporter, told The New York Times that Smith stayed “in the war longer than anybody should have.” He added, “We both would reassure ourselves that authentic, factual news was a way to distinguish ourselves in a what was becoming an increasingly more and more partisan network.”

The reaction, especially among those who cover the media, was that Smith’s departure is bad for Fox News.

“That’s one of the ways Fox management getting into bed with Trump hurts the network long term,” Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik told CNN’s “Reliable Sources. “This is a severe blow to its credibility when you lose Shep.”

He pointed out why Smith was important to Fox News.

“It isn’t all news during the day,” Zurawik said. “A lot of those shows look like news shows, but they’re stacked with people who replicate the talking points of the White House or right wing point of view. He didn’t do that. … His show didn’t have right wing ringers on it giving talking points. And if they did, he went after them.”

For now, Smith leaving Fox News is bad for the network only if you believe Smith had credibility with Fox News’ hardcore viewers. If those viewers put more stock into the opinions of Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity than Smith’s reporting, then his departure is likely welcomed. Smith already had gone from the evening to the afternoons and his ratings were considered low by Fox News standards. That should tell you what the network and viewers thought of him compared to other on-air talent. And I would argue that TV viewers who did respect Smith’s journalism aren’t avid Fox News viewers.

While some wondered if Smith was forced out, that doesn’t appear to be the case. CNN’s Brian Stelter, who has been working on a book about Fox News, told viewers of “Reliable Sources” that a meeting between News Corp founder Rupert Murdoch and Attorney General Bill Barr last week had nothing to do with Smith leaving, and that Smith has been contemplating his departure for weeks.

For now, a rotating set of anchors will fill in. Stelter reports that Trace Gallagher will be in the chair today.

In an interview with Time magazine last year, Smith said, “I wonder, if I stopped delivering the facts, what would go in its place in this place that is most watched, most listened, most viewed, most trusted? I don’t know.”

We’re about to find out.

‘The View’ from here

The View co-host Whoopi Goldberg. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

In May, The New York Times Magazine called ABC’s “The View” the most important political TV show in America. Politicians and presidential candidates visit the show regularly. Political debates between the co-hosts often go viral.

“We’re the only (network) show in daytime to attack (political) topics,” said Candi Carter, executive producer of the “The View.” “If (presidential candidates) want to talk to women, they need to come on ‘The View.’”

Carter made the comments during a community conversation Sunday night at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The show debuted in 1997, but seems re-energized in recent years. It discusses the news of the day and right now, most of that news is political and polarizing. Carter is quick to point out that the show falls under ABC News, but is most definitely an opinion show. Carter said the show has made a point of returning to the original vision of Barbara Walters, who was a co-host from its debut to 2014: It’s five women with different backgrounds and different views.

“We have a very unique perspective at our table,” Carter said.

Carter addressed some myths Sunday night. No, the debates on the show are not scripted. No, the women on the show don’t hate each other. Yes, they absolutely get along even when they disagree. Yes, everything you see is real.

“It’s passion, what you’re seeing,” Carter said. “If they all agreed, we’d all be asleep.”

And what does she think when “Saturday Night Live” spoofs “The View?”

“I’ll take that,” Carter said. “The only reason it’s on SNL is that everyone is familiar with what it is.”

“The View” will continue inviting presidential candidates to come on, as well as President Donald Trump.

“He has an open invitation,” Carter said.

Fake video being denounced

A video of a fake Trump shooting, stabbing and assaulting members of the media and his political opponents was shown at a conference of his supporters at his Miami resort last week. The New York Times’ Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman have the details. You can find the video online if you choose. I have seen it and it is indeed disturbing and disgusting.

In a statement, CNN called on Trump to denounce the video: “The images depicted are vile and horrific. The president and his family, the White House, and the Trump campaign need to denounce it immediately in the strongest possible terms. Anything less equates to a tacit endorsement of violence and should not be tolerated by anyone.”

The Times reported that Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said he didn’t know about the video, that it was not produced by the campaign, and that the campaign doesn’t condone violence.

ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, also issued a statement that said in part, “All Americans should condemn this depiction of violence directed toward journalists and the President’s political opponents. We have previously told the President his rhetoric could incite violence. Now we call on him and everybody associated with this conference to denounce this video and affirm that violence has no place in our society.”

The character arc of Rudy Giuliani

(Photo courtesy of The New York Times)

Best feature of the weekend: The New York Times’ “The Weekly” profiled former New York mayor and current (we think) Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani. The show asks, “What happened to this guy?” The story was told through the words of Times reporters who have covered Giuliani, including metro columnist Jim Dwyer, columnist Dan Barry and current White House (and former New York City city hall) reporter Maggie Haberman.

“The Weekly” produced a fascinating look at Giuliani’s rise from prosecutor to the mayor of New York City, whose appeal was starting to fade when the attacks of Sept. 11 occurred. His leadership made him “America’s mayor” and led to a failed presidential bid. From there, it appeared he would disappear from public life. But he found a second act as an ally of longtime New York buddy Donald Trump. And that leads to Giuliani’s role in the situation with Ukraine.

The episode also reveals a long-standing bitterness toward Joe Biden that goes back to the 2008 election when Biden blasted Giuliani as unqualified, saying, “There’s only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun, a verb and 9/11.”

In “The Weekly” piece, Haberman says, “It’s hard for me to ignore the fact that Biden hit Giuliani at a point that Giuliani considers a pride point with his line about a noun, a verb and 9/11. It’s hard for me to disconnect that from the fact that Giuliani has been so singularly focused on the Bidens for the last two years.”

The episode, well worth your time, can be streamed on Hulu.

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Correction: This story has been updated to correct wording in a statement from the White House Correspondents’ Association. 

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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…
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