October 8, 2019

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Good Tuesday morning. The media buzz continues to be about who is speaking — or actually, not speaking — on behalf of the president. So let’s start there.

No one dared disturb the sound of silence

Today marks 211 days since the White House held an official press briefing. Sunday’s morning news shows on NBC, CBS, ABC and CNN had no representative from the White House. CNN’s Jake Tapper said no Republican Senate or House leader would appear on his “State of the Union” show.

What’s going on?

President Donald Trump’s message seems to be that he doesn’t need to get his word out beyond his actions, his tweets and the occasional Q&A’s underneath the whirling sounds of a helicopter. If he or someone in his camp is going to talk, it’s likely going to be to Fox News.

Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan weighed in on what could be the new norm of avoiding the mainstream media. She wrote, “Trump likes his message to go out raw: unfiltered and unquestioned. The voting public, though, knows the difference between journalism and advertising. Or at least, let’s hope they do.”

Do they?

Normally, having no official news conferences and snubbing the Sunday morning shows would create a backlash that a sitting president would not be able to withstand. But maybe Trump feels he doesn’t need to reach those beyond his base of regular Fox News viewers. That’s especially true if he sees so-called “traditional” interviews with the Sunday shows and official press briefings turning into the kind of arguing we saw during Chuck Todd’s controversial interview with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Sunday’s “Meet the Press.”

On that front, Sullivan wrote, “The result was a contentious shoutfest that went on for several minutes. And though it didn’t make for enjoyable television or helpful civil discourse, it was the right thing for Todd to do.”

Yes, Todd’s pushback might be the right thing to do for a media no longer willing to put up with guests constantly pivoting to other topics to avoid direct questions they would rather not answer. But that might lead to what we saw Sunday — no White House reps appearing on shows outside of Fox News. And that might be what Trump thinks is the right thing to do.

So where does that leave us?

Probably more of the same. That means fewer — if any — Trump advocates on Sunday morning networks and primetime cable outlets.

In an interview with Politico’s Michael Calderone, Tapper said said he doesn’t think it’s controversial to say that “using your political office to push foreign nations to dig up dirt on your political opponents” is wrong — which is what he asked Republicans to say on his show.

“This is a precedent that will destroy the concept of free and fair elections,” Tapper told Calderone. “It’s not really picking any sort of bold moral stance to say that you can’t have that. I don’t know why so few people are willing to say it.”

Maybe because someone inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue doesn’t want them to.


She’s everywhere you look

Katie Couric in January 2018. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

Katie Couric is seemingly everywhere these days: Instagram, Netflix, National Geographic and Twitter, where she tweets often to her 1.7 million followers. Later this week, she launches her podcast “Next Question.”

She will receive the 2019 Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism at the Poynter Institute’s annual Bowtie Ball in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Nov. 2.

Over the weekend, Couric was profiled by The New York Times’ Kate Dwyer. Couric’s instinct to embrace social media goes back to her days of anchoring the “CBS Evening News.”

“I remember when I was at CBS, during the Gulf oil spill, I wanted to take questions from Twitter on the evening newscast because sometimes, when you cover these stories every day, you lose sight of some very simple questions,” Couric told the Times. “And I suggested it, and I remember the vice president of the news division said it was ‘beneath the anchor of the CBS News to take questions from the Twitter,’ and I remember thinking, ‘If you have an ability to interact with real people — the viewers who you’re trying to serve — why wouldn’t you do that?’”

She remains as active as ever on as many social network platforms as possible.

“I don’t want to use the ‘relevant’ word, but it’s just wanting to continue to have a voice, and I think that’s what everybody really wants,” Couric said.

There’s plenty more to Dwyer’s piece in the Times, including Couric’s time at the “Today” show and the Matt Lauer controversy, so check it out.


Ronan Farrow’s book excerpts deliver

Another excerpt from Ronan Farrow’s upcoming book, “Catch and Kill,”  is out today on The New Yorker’s website. In this part, Farrow details how a private spy who manipulated actress Rose McGowan in service of Harvey Weinstein was unmasked.

The first excerpt, released on Monday, was a chilling account of how Farrow was stalked by two operatives working for the Israeli private-intelligence agency Black Cube while he was working on a story about Weinstein’s alleged sexual misconduct.

Part three of this series will be released Wednesday. Farrow’s book is due out Oct. 15, and early accounts say it’s a must-read.


All the newsletter that’s fit to print

I’ve already mentioned this a couple of times before, but I continue to be impressed with The New York Times’ special “Impeachment Briefing” newsletter. It typically comes out in the late afternoon or early evening. Not only does it link to Times stories, but it includes original reporting. For instance, Monday’s newsletter included newsletter writer Noah Weiland’s quick three-question Q&A with Lara Jakes, who covers the State Department, as well as linking to stories from other outlets.

It keeps you up to date on the latest impeachment doings in five minutes.


Good news for people who love news

Good news. One of the better TV news shows is being renewed.

Axios, DCTV and HBO have renewed “Axios on HBO” for 2020 and 2021 with 12 episodes for each season. The rest of Season 2 returns at 6 p.m. Oct. 20 for four consecutive Sundays on all HBO platforms.

Back in June, I spoke with the show’s directors/producers Perri Peltz and Matthew O’Neill.

“One of the things that drives ‘Axios on HBO’ is the reporters who are super experts, super interested in what they’re reporting on and deeply, deeply sourced and (have a) connection in a niche sort of way,” O’Neill told me. “We don’t have to do the generalities and tell people what they’re about to see, what they’re seeing and what they just saw. They can just jump right into it with these informed journalists.”

Hot type

Alex Trebek in May. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

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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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