The Hill reviews John Solomon work | Dean Baquet’s long view | More on that Prince Andrew interview

November 19, 2019
Category: Newsletters

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Good Tuesday morning. Impeachment hearings continue today, there’s a debate this week and a big vote in Miami. Lots to get to in the newsletter. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

The wisdom of Solomon?

John Solomon is a former columnist at The Hill. His pro-Trump ramblings are well documented and now some of what he wrote is popping up during the impeachment inquiry. That’s why, according to Politico’s Michael Calderone, The Hill is reviewing Solomon’s work there.

In a memo obtained by Calderone, The Hill editor-in-chief Bob Cusack told staff, “Because of our dedication to accurate, non-partisan reporting and standards, we are reviewing, updating, annotating, and when appropriate, correcting any opinion pieces referenced during the ongoing congressional inquiry.”

Wait a second. Now it is fact-checking?

Here’s an example: Former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch had denied claims made by Solomon that she gave Ukraine’s then-top prosecutor a list of who not to prosecute. As Calderone points out, “Solomon’s pieces in The Hill were amplified through his dozens of appearances on Fox News and promoted by President Donald Trump and his allies on Twitter.”

This comes after Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) refused to talk to The Hill because of what she called The Hill’s “reprehensible” decision to run Solomon’s columns. Solomon told Calderone that he stands by “each and every one of the columns that I wrote” and that those pieces were vetted and edited.

Eventually, Solomon’s work at The Hill was moved to the opinion section. It wasn’t just Solomon’s opinions that were the issue, however — it was throwing out what many believe are baseless allegations. That can’t happen, even within columns.

Is it admirable now that The Hill is going back and checking Solomon’s columns? Perhaps, but where was that commitment to the truth and accuracy before Solomon’s work was actually published? Some believe the memo is nothing more than a tactic to subdue an internal uprising at The Hill. Calderone noted that some journalists at The Hill complained to management about Solomon’s work. Solomon left The Hill in September and was hired to be a Fox News contributor.

Turns out there is even more to this story, as CNN’s Oliver Darcy and Brian Stelter wrote in a story published Monday night. Their story centers on Jimmy Finkelstein, owner of The Hill. Darcy and Stelter write that Finkelstein was “Solomon’s direct supervisor at The Hill and created the conditions which permitted Solomon to publish his conspiratorial stories without the traditional oversight implemented at news outlets. And he has kept a watchful eye on the newspaper’s coverage to ensure it is not too critical of the president.”

Darcy and Stelter talked to more than a dozen current and former Hill employees, as well as others, in a story that explains the culture there under Finkelstein and how Solomon was able to write freely.

Playing — and teaching — the long game


New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet. (Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

In a revealing interview with The Guardian’s Jim Waterson, New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet talked about the Times’ coverage of Trump, but his most interesting comments were about younger staffers at the Times, as well as some readers.

“They probably want a more political New York Times than I’m willing to give them,” Baquet said. “I hope they will learn over time that a New York Times that plays it straight has much more power and much more longevity.”

Baquet told Waterson that it was the Times’ job to “cover the world with tremendous curiosity” rather than to oppose Trump. I would strongly agree, although Waterson points out “many readers and some of his own staff” would rather see the Times “take a more directly critical approach to Trump.”

If the Queen said it was OK …


BBC anchor Emily Maitlis appearing on Monday’s “CBS This Morning.” (Photo courtesy of CBS News)

BBC’s Emily Maitlis joined “CBS This Morning” on Monday to talk about her controversial interview with Prince Andrew, who discussed his relationship with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and denied allegations that he had sex with a 17-year-old. Prince Andrew’s performance did not go over well in England.

Maitlis said, “Well I think to be fair, what we got from Prince Andrew was authenticity. And there are many figures that come on to the television and give interviews to the press that tend to be PR’ed to distraction. Everything is very carefully worded and there is no wiggle room with anything they say to ask anything else. This was a different kind of interview. We saw an authentic side to the Duke of York. There were words that I’m guessing he may want to have rephrased. … But this was essentially a man who was engaging with every single question that we put to him.”

Maitlis was asked if Prince Andrew sought approval from the Queen before agreeing to the interview.

“What we do know is that he sought approval from higher up,” Maitlis said. “Now he didn’t say to me directly that was the Queen, but it’s hard to think who is higher up whose approval he would need.”

Ask and ye shall receive … maybe

Given all the dire news involving newspapers these days, it’s hard to imagine that Americans don’t realize the industry is in trouble. Yet according to a new report published Monday by the Knight Foundation and Gallup, more than half of Americans believe local news organizations are doing well financially.

If they are told outlets aren’t doing well financially, many would be willing to support those local outlets.

More than 2,700 adults were surveyed. About 56% think their local news outlets are in good shape financially. And 63% think outlets outside their area are doing well financially. It’s true that big newspapers such as The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal are doing well, but many local outlets are struggling. News is expected to get more grim in the coming weeks with the Gannett-GateHouse merger, which likely will lead to layoffs, and financial woes involving the McClatchy chain, as Poynter business analyst Rick Edmonds wrote about last week.

Those surveyed in the Knight-Gallup poll were asked how likely they would be to subscribe or give money to the local newspaper if they knew it was failing. About 42% said they were very or somewhat likely to do so.

Another debate, already?


The moderators for Wednesday’s Democratic debate, from left to right: Andrea Mitchell, Rachel Maddow, Kristen Welker and Ashley Parker. (Photo courtesy of NBC News)

There’s a Democratic presidential debate this week. (Wow, that snuck up, didn’t it?) MSNBC and The Washington Post will host the debate Wednesday at 9 p.m. Eastern from Atlanta. It will be moderated by MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker and Washington Post White House reporter Ashley Parker.

MSNBC will offer pre-debate coverage hosted by Brian Williams and Chris Matthews starting at 7 p.m. Eastern. The Post will offer special coverage on its website (washingtonpost.com) and across all Post mobile apps starting at 8 p.m. You also can follow along with a team of reporters providing coverage and analysis.

Must-watch reporting

Cynthia McFadden’s disturbing story about children mining the mineral mica ran on Monday’s “Today” show as well as the “NBC Nightly News.” The “Today” show feature was nine minutes — uncommonly long for a morning show. In case you missed it, you can (and should) watch it here.

‘The Weekly’ is now even easier to access


Photo courtesy of The New York Times.

If you’re a New York Times subscriber, you can now watch full episodes of its TV show “The Weekly” on NYTimes.com. The show regularly appears on Sunday night on FX and then is streamed the next day on Hulu.

Now subscribers of the Times can watch new episodes within days of their Sunday debuts. Subscribers also can go back and watch old episodes of the show on NYTimes.com.

Have you seen “The Weekly?” It’s absolutely terrific, arguably the best news show on TV. Some of the features have included the youngest known child to be separated from his family at the U.S.-Mexico border and a Facebook love scam that targets U.S. Marines and unsuspecting older Americans. (The latter story had a shocking conclusion.)

A good get for Fox Nation


Lara Logan. (Photo courtesy of Fox Nation)

Former “60 Minutes” correspondent Lara Logan is returning to news, joining Fox Nation — the on demand, subscription-based streaming service. She will be the host of “No Agenda with Lara Logan,” a series that will consist of 16 investigative episodes focused on four subjects: media bias, immigration, socialism and veterans. The show is scheduled to launch in January.

In a statement, Logan said, “This series is what American people tell me they want everywhere I go — honest, independent  journalism that will not bow to propagandists and political operatives who use the media as a weapon to silence, punish and bully.”

Who knows if Logan had other options to return to journalism, but it’s a decent get for Fox Nation, which debuted nearly a year ago with the idea that Fox viewers would pay for additional programming. This series sounds like one of the more high-profile programs Fox Nation would have.

Yet another paper considers unionization

This is a big week at The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald. On Wednesday, the newsrooms will vote on whether or not to unionize. At the last minute, there’s controversy. The Miami New Times’ Manuel Madrid reports that Herald management is trying to exclude five from union protection. That includes Herald columnists Leonard Pitts and Carl Hiaasen. Management claims the five excluded are either part of management or the editorial board.

But Pitts, Hiaasen and Nuevo Herald online editor Douglas Rojas-Sosa wrote an online letter saying, “We are not nor have we ever been part of the Editorial Board in any working sense, and have no more role in establishing the Miami Herald or el Nuevo Herald’s public image than any other Editorial staff member. None of us have ever participated in any way in McClatchy’s editorial decisions.”

Speaking as a former newspaper columnist myself, I can tell you that I cannot imagine a scenario in which Pitts and Hiaasen are considered part of management or the editorial board. They absolutely should be a part of any union.

The vote is expected to be at 2 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday. At least 50% approval is needed. If the five excluded employees don’t get permission to vote, the One Herald Guild is expected to file a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board.

Hot type

  • This is a ton of fun: Slate.com has its list of the 50 best nonfiction books of the past 25 years.
  • Vice’s Maddie Stone with a captivating profile of a woman who can bring phones back to life — including one soaked in the blood of a murder victim.
  • It does seem as if Soledad O’Brien spends an inordinate amount of time and energy railing against the media on Twitter. Then again, it’s her time and energy and she’s certainly entitled to her opinions. She explains why she is so critical of much of the journalism she sees in this profile by The Daily Beast’s editor at large Lloyd Grove. (By the way, it also includes a testy response from CNN.)
  • Watch alert: PBS’s “Frontline” has the U.S. premiere of “For Sama” tonight on most PBS stations. It’s the story of Waad al-Kateab and her life over five years in the rebel-held Aleppo, Syria. She falls in love, gets married and gives birth to Sama all while filming the horror around them. (Warning: Contains graphic images of war.)

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

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