The pundits put down their dukes for a respectful week, plus McClatchy financials look grim

Your Friday Poynter Report

August 9, 2019
Category: Newsletters

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Good Friday morning, and welcome to the end of a hectic week dominated by the aftermath of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. Expect more coverage of that over the weekend, particularly on the Sunday morning shows. But let’s start by looking back.

An introspective nation — and media

Perhaps out of respect for the 31 souls who died in the mass shootings, media coverage over the past week has been, for the most part, respectful.

Yes, there have been exceptions, such as Tucker Carlson’s ridiculous claim that white supremacy is a hoax or The New York Times’ misleading headline controversy.

And of course, as we’ve seen in all mass shootings, it didn’t take long for the talk to turn from tracing the timeline to honoring the victims to politicizing the issue. This week, arguments ranged from the usual topics (gun control, mental illness) to a new one: whether or not President Donald Trump’s rhetoric about immigration played a role in one of the shootings. Also as expected, the most biased conversations about these hot-button topics could be seen on the usual suspects — Fox News and MSNBC.

But for the most part, the rest of the media that typically drives the day’s news cycle — the major networks, CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post — did what responsible media should do. They provided facts. Context. Analysis. And they provided opinion, which is fine as long as that opinion is labelled as opinion and not dressed up as down-the-middle news.

The major networks spent more time listening to politicians, community leaders and citizens from all backgrounds and beliefs.

Regardless of your political leanings, we all can agree that what happened last weekend was horrendous, way too common and that we need to find solutions. This week’s coverage, even the stories that were rooted in opinion, was at its best when it was more subdued, less confrontational and more respectful than what we are used to seeing. In those moments, it seemed to lead to less yelling and more conversing. And best of all, more hope for solutions.


OK, how about this one?

Courtesy The Newseum

Those riled up by The New York Times headline earlier this week, which said that Trump spoke out against racism, surely liked this headline from Thursday’s online version:

Trump Uses a Day of Healing to Deepen the Nation’s Divisions

The print version’s (above, top right) read:



No surprise: We’re sick of politics on social

Sick and tired of reading political posts on social media? You’re not alone. The Pew Research Center’s latest survey finds that 46% of U.S. social media users say they are “worn out” by all the political talk. That’s a 9% increase from 2016 when Pew last asked that question.

Also of note: White social media users are more likely than anyone else to express fatigue about political talk. In addition, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are more likely than Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents to say they are worn out by political posts on social media.

Another Pew Research Center survey out this week shows that blacks (33%) are more likely than whites (27%) to have “a lot of trust” in local news. Blacks also are more likely to feel connected to their main source of news than whites, see the media’s watchdog role is as more of a necessary check than whites, and are less concerned about made-up news than other national issues.

A rare Trump regret

The Trump family siblings, with President Donald Trump seated next to his brother, Fred Jr. (standing). (Courtesy)

The must-read story of the day comes from The Washington Post’s Michael Kranish. It’s a revealing look at President Donald Trump’s brother, Fred Trump Jr., who was an alcoholic and died at the age of 42. Fred Jr. was often criticized by his father and brother for not wanting to go into the family’s real estate business.

The piece includes an exclusive interview with Trump, who told Kranish, “I do regret having put pressure on him.”

It’s a tremendous read and it includes compelling family photos.


‘I’m heart-broken and devastated’

Screenshot, Pacific Standard

More depressing journalism news: Pacific Standard, an online magazine that reports on issues of social and environmental justice, will shutter at the end of next week. In a Twitter thread, editor-in-chief Nicholas Jackson announced the news. He tweeted:

“Today is an extremely difficult day, the worst day—and I’m heart-broken and devastated. We learned this morning, without any warning, that our primary funder is cutting off all charitable giving and that our board is shutting down @PacificStand, effective next Friday.”

The magazine has been mostly supported by a foundation that’s part of an academic journal. Jackson told Nieman Lab, “What we were told today was Sage Publications, our primary funder — that organization and ours have the same founder — that they were in a position that they could no longer fund the magazine or many of their other charitable projects or projects they support.”

On Twitter, Jackson said Pacific Standard has published 20,929 articles since launching in 2008 and has worked with 2,729 freelance writers.

The news comes at the same time that Governing magazine announced it will shut down this fall after 32 years. The national monthly magazine based out of Washington, D.C., covers state and local government, including policy and management of government enterprises.


McClatchy says journalism is a bright spot amid grim financial reports

Little Saint James Island in the U. S. Virgin Islands, purchased by Jeffery Epstein. The Miami Herald, a McClatchy newspaper, has doggedly pursued Epstein’s story. (AP Photo/Gianfranco Gaglione)

For this item, I turn it over to Poynter media business analyst Rick Edmonds:

McClatchy wrapped up a week of second-quarter financial reports Thursday with a particularly tough set of results. Revenues were down 12.8% overall, and advertising down 20% year-to-year. Expenses were down 15%. The company, unlike its peers, operated at a net loss (though positive on a cash basis).

The company also could face a $120 million payment to its underfunded pension fund in September 2020, which would have “a material adverse effect on liquidity” (it would be unable to meet its obligations). McClatchy has asked for a waiver of the required payment from the Internal Revenue Service.

CEO Craig Forman said that McClatchy journalism was a bright spot — including the Miami Herald’s Jeffrey Epstein coverage, investigations at some of its other 30 papers, and an agreement with Google to start an online news outlet in Youngstown, Ohio, where The Vindicator is going out of business at the end of this month.

In cheerier financial news from across the sea, The Guardian, which has lost huge amounts of money over the last decade, reported that it operated at roughly break even for its most recent fiscal year.


Covering Toni Morrison’s death

Courtesy The New Yorker 

Above is a sneak peek at next week’s cover of The New Yorker honoring Toni Morrison, the Nobel laureate who died Monday at the age of 88.

The artwork is from Kara Walker, who tells The New Yorker in a Q&A, that “Through her work and words, she became something like a muse, teacher, mother, clairvoyant, and judge.”


Is The Athletic headed for the Hall of Fame?

I still can’t figure out what to make of a recent Bloomberg story about The Athletic — the ad-free, subscription-based sports website. In it, Athletic co-founder and CEO Alex Mather said the site, launched in 2016, recently passed the half-million mark in subscriptions and hopes to reach a million by year’s end. Those are exceptional numbers.

But are they profitable numbers?

Remember, all the numbers in the Bloomberg story are based on things Mather said and there’s no way to independently verify those numbers. A bunch of folks, including Deadspin’s Laura Wagner, are trying to do the math with fuzzy numbers to figure out if the company is making any money and has a future. In the meantime, the site keeps expanding with a recent big push into the United Kingdom to cover soccer.

The hope, of course, is that the site makes it. If you’re a sports fan, it’s a go-to place producing some of the very best sportswriting you can find. It’s becoming a modern-era Sports Illustrated. And any place that is keeping hundreds of journalists employed is a good thing. But websites are fickle and the price of doing this kind of journalism is risky.

As Wagner wrote in her Deadspin piece, “Given the numbers and expectations Mather shared with Bloomberg, it seems increasingly likely that The Athletic is going to hit a big payoff or collapse under a mountain of debt. Here’s hoping for the former.”


Hot type

  • A freelance writer says she has been cut loose by NPR because of her political views. Writing for the Columbia Journalism Review, Kim Kelly reveals which big-time TV personality called her out and helped lead to her services no longer being used.
  • Ever heard of something called “vehicle ranching?” The Seattle Times’ Vianna Davila writes about the underground market of renting RVs to the homeless.
  • From Poynter and the International Fact-Checking Network: Three things we learned about misinformation from the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings.
  • Will gender matter in the 2020 presidential election? The surprising results from FiveThirtyEight’s Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux.

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at

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