October 23, 2019

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Good Wednesday morning. I used to be a sportswriter. Along the way, I became friends with dozens of female sportswriters. Based on conversations with them over 30-some years, I believe they were treated fairly and professionally most of the time. But not all the time. I know they faced sexist and uncomfortable moments as they just tried to do their jobs. You would hope that a professional locker room would be a safe workplace in 2019, but sadly, we are reminded yet again of the ugliness that occurs there.

Poor judgment? Astro-lutely.

We should be enjoying the World Series, which got underway Tuesday night. After all, a report in The New York Times says baseball remains very popular.

However, the buzz in baseball is a controversy involving an executive for the Houston Astros and a reporter for Sports Illustrated. As the Astros were celebrating winning the American League pennant and advancing to the World Series on Saturday, Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman turned to three female reporters, including one who was wearing a domestic violence awareness bracelet, and yelled several times, “Thank God we got Osuna! I’m so (expletive) glad we got Osuna.”

Taubman was referring to relief pitcher Roberto Osuna, who once served a 75-game suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy. The Astros have been criticized for acquiring Osuna in 2018. One of the three female reporters, Stephanie Apstein of Sports Illustrated, wrote about Taubman’s comments. (And NPR is reporting that Taubman’s comments might have been directed at the reporter wearing the bracelet, who has tweeted out about domestic violence in the past.)

The Astros declined to comment for Apstein’s story. In fact, Apstein held off writing the story for two days in hopes of getting a comment from the Astros. Only after it was published did the Astros put out a statement saying the story was “misleading and completely irresponsible.” It also said, “We are extremely disappointed in Sports Illustrated’s attempt to fabricate a story where one does not exist.”

But apparently it did exist. Three eyewitnesses, including two Houston Chronicle reporters, confirmed Apstein’s version of events. That’s when the Astros went into damage control mode and somehow managed to create even more damage. Taubman put out a statement Tuesday apologizing for “inappropriate language” and saying his comments were “unprofessional and inappropriate.” He then went on to say that his comments did not reflect his values and concluded with the not-really-an-apology: “I am sorry if anyone was offended by my actions.” He never did apologize directly to the reporters, nor admit the context of his comments.

Astros owner Jim Crane put out a statement that didn’t address the specific incident at all, but touted the Astros’ charitable work against domestic violence.

Talk about a swing and a miss. Now Major League Baseball is going to investigate the matter.

Taubman’s comments were unacceptable. Just as unacceptable: the Astros’ response. Let’s review. They refused to comment for Apstein’s original story and only after realizing they were about to get hit with an avalanche of criticism, they played the “fake news” card.

For Apstein and her fellow sportswriters to be subjected to Taubman’s arrogant, coldhearted and mocking comments about domestic violence is reprehensible. But for the Astros then to essentially call Apstein a liar is unforgivable.

Bret Baier’s revealing Fox News comments

Sen. Bernie Sanders shakes hands with Bret Baier during a Fox News town-hall style event in April. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Even though he is promoting a new book, it was a tad surprising to see Fox News’ Bret Baier appear on Tuesday’s “CBS This Morning.” But it was a good appearance because the morning crew asked excellent questions about President Donald Trump and Fox News, and Baier gave revealing answers.

First, what about this whole “enemy of the people” mantra that Trump repeats?

“I think it’s a problem,” Baier said. “I don’t love — that’s a bad phrase. We’re all trying to do our job.”

Baier said he was surprised Shepard Smith left Fox News, and admitted that Smith’s parting remarks of “the truth will always matter” was a shot at Fox News.

“He’s concerned about journalistic coverage,” Baier said. “I think he was proud of the news division at Fox. There’s always an opinion side, too. And he made a choice to leave. I’m happy that the show is going to be all news, and we’ll be in the circle.”

On finding Pierre Delecto

Andrew Beaujon has a terrific Q&A in the Washingtonian with Slate’s Ashley Feinberg on how she found Mitt Romney’s secret twitter account. Feinberg said she only started digging into it on Sunday after she realized, “I had to do this or I was gonna hate myself.”

Beaujon asked where she got her internet sleuthing skills and Feinberg said, “Honestly a lot of this started in college and high school trying to find embarrassing things about my friends, which was a very fun pastime. It was just sort of overtime figuring out the quickest ways to find things that people usually suppress.”

You mean they hadn’t already?

President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Looks like the newspaper delivery folks for The New York Times and The Washington Post can cross off 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue from their morning routes. During an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Monday night, President Donald Trump said the Times was a “fake newspaper” and said he no longer wants to see it in the White House.

“We’re going to probably terminate that and The Washington Post,” Trump said, meaning canceling subscriptions to those papers.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told Politico’s Michael Calderone on Tuesday that, indeed, the White House will not be renewing subscriptions to the Times and Post. Neither paper had a comment.

Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi tweeted::

“Two reactions: 1. Thanks for subscribing in the first place; and 2. He’s just getting around to cancelling now?”

Tom Jones’ rant. Or, Jones’s rant?

Time for a you-kids-get-off-my-lawn rant. The AP Stylebook sent out this tweet Tuesday:

“We are considering changing to use ‘s when making a name that ends in S possessive: Mavis Staples’s album, Martha Reeves’s concert. We want your input.”

Here’s my input: This is the dumbest thing I’ve seen this year and I’ve seen plenty of dumb stuff this year. It has always been S followed by an apostrophe and that’s it — such as, “Tom Jones’ opinion on this is absolutely correct.” Why are we thinking about changing this now?

Who do they make out the royalty checks to?

Remember that anonymous op-ed written in The New York Times in September of 2018,  “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration?” It was written by a “senior Trump administration official” who painted the Trump White House as a dysfunctional mess, writing “That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”

Now comes word that the author of that op-ed has written a tell-all book that will be published next month. The book will be called “A Warning,” and it’s being described as “an unprecedented behind-the-scenes portrait of the Trump presidency from the anonymous senior official whose first words of warning about the president rocked the nation’s capital.”

Big changes for ‘Outside the Lines’

ESPN announced Tuesday that it’s cancelling the daily version of its investigative and news show “Outside the Lines.” The daily show will end Dec. 20. That seems like bad news as “OTL” is one of the network’s most respected brands. But “OTL” isn’t going away entirely. Starting in January, ESPN will launch an hour-long Saturday morning “OTL,” as well as produce an undetermined number of primetime specials. ESPN also will produce “OTL”-branded segments for shows such as “SportsCenter,” “E:60” and

Perhaps it isn’t bad news after all if ESPN is committed to in-depth projects for a jam-packed one-hour weekly show, as well as worthwhile segments on other platforms. The show debuted in 1990 and didn’t go to a daily format until 2003. Still, Saturday morning is not exactly a prime viewing time, even for sports fans. Norby Williamson — ESPN executive vice president, event and studio production, and executive editor  — said he believes the “OTL” will reach a bigger audience under this format than the daily half-hour show.

He told Sports Business Daily’s John Ourand, “Everything has to evolve. Consumer habits are changing.”

This and that

Sunday’s cover of The New York Times Magazine. (Photo courtesy of The New York Times)

Weekend preview: Sunday’s cover story for The New York Times Magazine is Ferris Jabr’s piece, “Can You Really Be Addicted To Video Games?”

Contract extension: The Big Lead’s Ryan Glasspiegel and Bobby Burack are reporting that commentator Stephen A. Smith is nearing a blockbuster contract extension with ESPN. The report says the extension would go through 2025 and could be worth “tens of millions of dollars.” The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand reports that, as part of the new deal, Smith will leave his ESPN Radio show. Marchand said two names to watch as possible radio replacements for Smith are Mina Kimes and Max Kellerman. Marchand also has been reporting for some time now that Smith and ESPN are working on an extension that would pay Smith $10 million a year.

In memory of GwenThe U.S. Postal Service is honoring the late “PBS NewsHour” anchor Gwen Ifill with a commemorative Forever stamp. It will have Ifill’s photo with her name and the words “Black Heritage.” Ifill was at “NewsHour” for 17 years, as well as the moderator of “Washington Week.” She died in 2016 from complications of cancer. She was 61.

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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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  • The Astros don’t seem to be calling Apstein a liar. Their statement (at least the one I read) does not deny the incident occurred. It suggests a different motive for the GM’s rant than what was perceived by Apstein and others. That would not be an accusation of a lie, but a misunderstanding.