This NYTimes/WSJ/WaPo battle over Whistleblower Gate is every journalism junkie’s dream, plus why Bill Belichick and Wyoming are both cool on the media

September 23, 2019
Category: Newsletters

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Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, right, shakes hands with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres during the Youth Climate Summit at United Nations headquarters Saturday. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

Good Monday morning. This is a big day for our world and climate. Today is the U.N. Climate Action Summit. Vox’s Umair Irfan has what we should watch for from the summit. For climate coverage, a good place to start is Covering Climate Now, a project co-founded by the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation. Led by The Guardian, more than 300 news outlets are now a part of the project. Last week, after a week of climate coverage, The Nation’s Mark Hertsgaard and CJR editor in chief Kyle Pope wrote a piece about what they learned during that week.

Additionally, Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network has organized 31 fact-checkers from 17 countries to fact-check the U.N. this week.

That’s what’s happening today, but now let’s look back at the big stories of the weekend, including the whistleblower story.

News junkies delight in whistleblower story

If you’re a journalism junkie like me, then you’ve been in awe of the extraordinary work and competitive battle as The New York TimesThe Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal have all broken big stories on the whistleblower complaint involving President Donald Trump. It has been journalism at its finest.

These are not easy stories to track down, as Shane Harris, intelligence and national security reporter for The Washington Post, told CNN “Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter on Sunday.

“It’s always hard on a national security story to get pieces out and they often will come out as pieces of a puzzle that you have to put together,” Harris said. “But what we’ve been trying to do is really dig in as much as we can on what is the substance of this whistleblower complaint. … But this has really been difficult particularly because this individual whistleblower obviously has not gone public … and I don’t imagine he anticipated it might become this explosive story that it has.”

If you’re looking for analysis that really brings this story into perspective, check out Dan Balz’s excellent piece in The Washington Post.

‘If we don’t show integrity … they will do it’

Another guest Sunday was Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik, who always has something interesting to say when he is on TV. About Trump’s constant attacks of the media, Zurawik said, “The idea is to do to the press what Trump and his team have managed to do pretty much to the Democratic House of Representatives in mocking them.”

He added, “If they can do that to the press, if they can mock us to the point that people don’t take us seriously and we don’t back up our effort, if we don’t show integrity, if we don’t have some teeth in our reporting, they will do it. And we are the last, best hope between Trump and an imperial presidency.”

Trump had plenty of attacks on the media this weekend, calling it fake and corrupt. But the most head-scratching tweet was Trump writing:

“The LameStream Media had a very bad week. They pushed numerous phony stories and got caught, especially The Failing New York Times, which has lost more money over the last 10 years than any paper in history, and The Amazon Washington Post. They are The Enemy of the People!”

Not sure where Trump is getting his info on the Times losing money. Over the past decade, the Times has made more than $599 million in profits, according to SEC filings.

Lewandowski thinks CNN is playing pretend


Corey Lewandowski, former campaign manager for President Donald Trump, testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Last week, during Congressional testimony, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said he had “no obligation” to be truthful with the media. Appearing on Sunday’s “MediaBuzz” on Fox News, Lewandowski didn’t walk back his comments when given the chance by host Howard Kurtz. However, Lewandowski did say, “I regret the fact that I should have explained it better and specifically as it related to my tenure in front of the special counsel, but I did that out of respect for the special counsel and the investigative process and at the advice of counsel, so we didn’t spend countless hours answering these questions in the public while the investigation continued.”

When asked about his contentious interview with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota, in which he, among other things, quoted the Mueller report before admitting he never even read the report, Lewandowski pointed fingers at Camerota, saying she was pretending to be a journalist but not dealing in facts.

Kurtz said, “Well, I worked with Alisyn Camerota when she was here at Fox. I certainly don’t think she’s pretending to be a journalist.”

Mistrust of the media in Wyoming

Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan has an excellent column looking at the Casper Project. What’s that? The Society of Professional Journalists gathered media people and 36 citizens from in and around Casper, Wyoming, to figure out why there is such a mistrust of media in that state. A 2017 Gallup poll found that only 25% of those from Wyoming had a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media — the worst percentage in the country.

The six-month project hoped to not only find answers, but solutions to the mistrust. In the end, however, the attitudes didn’t change much. One of the big complaints from citizens wasn’t necessarily what is aired or printed, but what is not. Many feel conservative viewpoints are ignored or slanted.

Sullivan wrote, “As the news media heads into a fiery election year, there’s no solution in sight. But you have to give the Casper Project and its participants credit for trying, against the odds, to make progress. Or at least to show the intractability of the problem.”

More Cokie Roberts remembrances


Cokie Roberts in 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

ABC’s “This Week” invited Sam Donaldson and George Will on to its Sunday program to look back at the life, career and impact of Cokie Roberts, who died last week at the age of 75.

“She changed the business,” Donaldson said, referring to her blazing a trail for female journalists.

“Cokie was from another Washington,” Will said. “Washington before tribalism swallowed civility, Washington before constant hysteria.”

The frozen tundra of Bill Belichick’s stare


New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

The big NFL news over the weekend was that the New England Patriots released controversial wide receiver Antonio Brown. Last week, Sports Illustrated’s Robert Klemko had a blockbuster story with more sexual assault allegations involving Brown. Soon after, Klemko had another story in which one of Brown’s accusers said Brown sent her intimidating text messages.

It was outstanding work by Klemko, but it didn’t go over well with some Patriots fans who were upset to see Brown let go. Klemko posted some of the messages he received from those fans. (Warning: graphic language.) One told him to watch his back, while more than one wished something bad happen to Klemko.

Another part of this story needs to be mentioned. CBS Sports’ reporter Dana Jacobson interviewed Patriots coach Bill Belichick on Sunday and correctly said she would be remiss if she didn’t ask what was the final straw that led the Patriots to let go of Brown. Belichick didn’t answer the question, and instead said he was only thinking about the upcoming game. Then he shot Jacobson a cold stare as she thanked him for his time.

Great job by Jacobson to ask the question that any journalist worth her salt would ask. As far as Belichick? If you don’t want reporters asking you about troublemakers, perhaps you shouldn’t invite those troublemakers onto your team. At the very least, you can’t get upset when you’re asked about it.

Should be an interesting book tour

Bill O’Reilly has a new book coming out this week — “The United States of Trump: How the President Really Sees America.” CNN’s Brian Stelter asks an interesting question: “I’m curious to see what networks he will appear on.”

Hot type

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

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