July 24, 2019

This is the Poynter Institute’s daily newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, click here

July 24, 2019

It’s Wednesday morning and the calm before the storm. Special counsel Robert Mueller is scheduled to testify today. Then again, maybe this is the calm before the … more calm? There’s a chance that today produces very few notable headlines.

Once again, it’s Mueller Time

Today’s hearings promise to provide entertainment — at least for the partisan pundits filling the airwaves in wall-to-wall coverage.

Special counsel Robert Mueller will testify at two House hearings today. The New York Times’ Adam Goldman and Nicholas Fandos have a comprehensive guide of what you can expect, including what will be discussed, and what success looks like for both Democrats and Republicans. And for Mueller, too.

If you would rather watch than read, Politico has a five-minute video discussionwith senior White House reporter Darren Samuelsohn, national security reporter Natasha Bertrand and senior legal affairs reporter Josh Gerstein on what they expect to see.

If Mueller is going to be grilled, PBS’s “Frontline” has five things Congress might press him on.

Finally, CNN legal analyst Elie Honig writes not about what Mueller might say, but what he should say.

Honig wrote, “It’s time for Robert Mueller to lose the mystery, drop the double-speak and stop the riddling. He needs to tell the American public where he stands — straight, clear and in plain English.”

Then what?

The guess is however you feel about President Donald Trump and possible collusion with the Russian government and/or obstruction of justice, today’s hearings will only confirm those beliefs. Same with the TV coverage. Analysts who are pro-Trump likely will say today’s hearings confirmed no collusion or obstruction. Pundits who are critical of the president likely will point to various Mueller remarks as proof that Trump acted improperly, and will demand impeachment hearings.

RELATED: PolitiFact’s Mueller Report Book Club Live Chat


Viewers who support the president likely will take their cues from Fox News and those who are against the president will turn elsewhere, perhaps MSNBC. But there will be plenty of choices.

All the major networks, plus PBS, most of the cable news stations and C-Span will provide wall-to-wall coverage. The Washington Post also will have live stream coverage. As I mentioned above, there’s a chance we won’t hear much new today, but that won’t stop a conga line of analysts from putting their spin on the testimony to fill time on that non-stop coverage. With all that time to fill, the analysis might make for more entertaining — yet less substantive — TV than the actual hearings.


Trump envisions 100% approval rating

President Donald Trump gestures while speaking at Turning Point USA Teen Student Action Summit at the Marriott Marquis in Washington on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Donald Trump kept up his attacks against the media on Tuesday, this time in an address to a group of conservative teenagers. Speaking at the Turning Point USA Teen Student Action Summit in Washington, D.C., Trump asked the crowd to imagine how he would be polling at “100%” if it weren’t for the “liars” in the news media.

Trump said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if, think of it, what would be if we had an honest — I don’t want a media that’s for me — I just want an honest media. So we have our best poll numbers today that we’ve ever had. Can you imagine how good our poll numbers, with all the things we’ve done, how good our poll numbers would be if we had a fair media?”

The crowd cheered Trump and booed the media.



Political news cycle is ‘uniquely ill-equipped’

Former Senator Al Franken in 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Have you read Jane Mayer’s piece in The New Yorker about former senator Al Franken? After reading it, you might change your opinion on whether or not Franken should have resigned as senator following allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct. Or you might not. Or you might go back and forth as you’re reading it. Either way, it’s a fascinating read.

The Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery made a great point with this tweet:

“No matter what you think of Franken/the allegations that prompted his resignation, the depth of reporting here underscores how uniquely ill-equipped the daily political news cycle is to litigate complicated or sensitive matters /anything requiring nuance.”


David Muir is a ‘total nerd’

ABC News anchor David Muir in 2018. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

David Muir, anchor of ABC’s evening newscast, calls himself a “total nerd” in an Q&A with KK Ottesen in The Washington Post Magazine. He said that when he was a kid and his buddies were playing outside, he would race inside to watch Peter Jennings.

Among Muir’s most interesting comments is admitting that he pays attention to the ratings. He told Ottesen, “The thing it does for me is to reinforce the responsibility we have every night if they’re choosing to come to us to break through the noise — they’re bombarded all day long with tweets or abbreviated forms of news — and try to help them decipher what matters.”

On air and playing nice — but will it last?

The Ringer founder and former ESPN personality Bill Simmons, here in 2018, doesn’t think Dan Le Batard will be at ESPN much longer. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Dan Le Batard was back on his radio show Tuesday. He decided to sit out Monday’s show after a weekend of discussions with ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro over breaking the network’s policy of talking about politics outside the context of sports. Le Batard’s show Tuesday started with the song “Rebel, Rebel,” and he said he was nervous. But he did not talk about his comments of last week when he criticized President Donald Trump for dividing the country and ESPN for shying away from political talk.

The Ringer founder and former ESPN talent Bill Simmons, no stranger to running afoul of the big bosses at ESPN, doesn’t see Le Batard at ESPN much longer.

On his podcast, Simmons said, “ … now any time he says anything, it’s going to be blog posts and news stories, all that stuff. I just think he’s not one of those guys who’s going to be like, ‘I’m not saying anything.’ Especially, you have an election coming next year and I just don’t see him backing off.”

If Le Batard does leave, The Big Lead already has a few ideas of where he could end up, including SiriusXM Radio or DAZN, which is being run by former ESPN president John Skipper — a friend of Le Batard.

One other sports note: The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand broke the newsTuesday that Mark Sanchez — he of the legendary “Butt Fumble” — is retiring as an NFL quarterback and joining ABC/ESPN as a college football analyst. He likely will work in the studio.

Pew’s latest audience numbers

“PBS NewsHour” anchor Judy Woodruff in 2018. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

In the United States, 96% of adults get at least some of their news online. That seems like an incredibly (in fact, hard to believe) number, but that’s what the Pew Research Center reports in its latest survey about digital news.

It’s estimated that 13,500 people worked as reporters, editors, photographers or videographers in newsrooms of digital-native outlets in 2018. The median annual wage for reporters was $62,00 and $63,000 for editors.

Pew’s latest study also looked at public broadcasting. Among its findings are that the top 20 NPR-affiliated public radio stations had on average a total weekly listenership of about 11 million in 2018. That’s about the same as 2017. In addition, “PBS NewsHour” on PBS television attracted about 1.1 million nightly viewers in 2018. That’s down 6% from 2017.

Hot type

Former baseball star David Ortiz in 2017 when his No. 34 was retired by the Red Sox. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

  • Former Red Sox slugger David Ortiz is one of baseball’s most beloved figures. So why would someone want to shoot him? Writing for Sports Illustrated, Danny Gold goes to the Dominican Republic looking for answers.
  • Mic was once the hip digital news startup that connected with millennials because of sharp headlines and undercovered topics. Then it all went wrong. HuffPost senior reporter Maxwell Strachan has the rise and fall of Mic.
  • MSNBC guests keep saying Fox News will not show the Mueller testimony and that’s simply not true. Mediaite’s Morgan Phillips has the details.

Exciting changes are coming soon to this newsletter. Be sure to keep reading in the coming days for a special announcement.

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

Upcoming Poynter training:

Want to get this briefing in your inbox? Sign up here.

Follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
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…
More by Tom Jones

More News

Back to News