February 25, 2019

Getting to the real story

Last week, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was charged with soliciting sex at a massage parlor in Jupiter, Florida. The charges came after authorities conducted a six-month investigation targeting massage parlors for sex trafficking.

The Kraft story made headlines across the country. It led national newscasts. New York Daily News columnist Jane McManus wrote that the NFL should ban Kraft if the charges are true. There were plenty of jokes, too.

But was the coverage warranted? Did the media go too far on this story when you consider that Kraft is charged with two misdemeanors? (Kraft, by the way, has denied the charges.) Boston’s WGBH had an excellent discussion about the coverage.

While the initial reports focused on Kraft, another story quickly emerged and the media should be commended that it has concentrated on the right part of this story. It’s less about a famous 77-year-old rich guy being accused of soliciting prostitution and more about raising awareness about sex trafficking as Jenavieve Hatch wrote for HuffPost.

Hatch writes: “The real story is the vulnerable women targeted by powerful men.”

The New York Times also weighed in on that part of the story.

Sometimes it takes a famous figure such as Kraft to draw attention to a subject that needs more scrutiny. Perhaps we will continue to see more stories such as Politico’s How To Fight Sex Trafficking than simple pot shots at Kraft, whether he deserves it or not.

This seems to be one viral story where the media shifted its focus and then kept that focus pointed in the right direction.

Most interesting quote of the weekend

The news cycle in the past few days has been dominated by the anticipation of the Mueller report and fallout of the Jussie Smollett story. One story that seems under-played is the arrest of Coast Guard Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson, a self-described white supremacist who allegedly had a hit list of prominent Democrats and journalists from CNN and MSNBC.

That led to this quote from former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Sunday’s “Meet the Press:”

“The civility in our dialogue is deviating downward such that individuals like this Coast Guard lieutenant feel emboldened and perhaps even entitled to take matters into his own hands.”

Maybe something for all of us, including journalists, to think about as we voice our political opinions.

The election’s fallout

Lydia Polgreen used to be a foreign correspondent and director of NYT Global at The New York Times. Now she’s the editor in chief at HuffPost. In an interview with the Longform podcast (credit to Nieman Lab for digging this up), Polgreen wonders what would have happened if Hillary Clinton had defeated Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

“Like a lot of people, I think I went a little bit crazy after Donald Trump got elected,” Polgreen said. “If Hillary Clinton had won the election, I have a feeling that I would still be a mid-level manager at The New York Times. But after the election, I really started to think about journalism, about my role in it, about who journalism was serving and who it was for, and I just became really enamored with this idea that you could create a news organization that was less about people who are left out of the political and economic power equations, but actually for them.”

Baquet pushes back against Trump

New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet in New York, 2018. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Last week, New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger wrote an editorial response to President Donald Trump calling the Times a “true enemy of the people.” That wasn’t the only Times response. Executive Editor Dean Baquet also pushed back against the president while accepting the 2019 Larry Foster Award for integrity in public communication at the third annual Arthur W. Page Center Awards.

Baquet said he changed his acceptance speech upon reading Trump’s tweet. In his speech, he asked the president how it’s against the interest of the people when the Times broke the Harvey Weinstein story that started the #MeToo movement or when reporters risk their lives covering wars, among other examples.

“’Enemy of the people’ is not just a tossed-off line that sounds good in a tweet,” Baquet said. “It is a particularly pernicious phrase with a deep history. … No president has ever uttered those words in public.”

Check it out

This column by Indy Star sports columnist Gregg Doyel will make you angry, but you should read it.

The Washington Post profiles 12-year-old journalist Hilde Lysiak and now I want to be her when I grow up.

“American Pie” singer Don McLean has threatened a weekly newspaper for writing about his ex-wife’s exhibition of photos about domestic violence, including her own.

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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…
Tom Jones

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