January 8, 2020

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That’s 303 days and counting

We might be on the verge of war. We might be on the verge of an impeachment trial. Know what we’re not on the verge of? An official White House press briefing from the official White House press secretary.

And, just thinking out loud here, but isn’t it time we have one? Isn’t now that time?

CNN’s Oliver Darcy pointed out that Monday marked 301 days without a formal White House press briefing. I’ll point out that today makes it 303 days. I also will point out that the current press secretary has never held an official press briefing.

As CNN’s Anderson Cooper said Monday night, “If you’re wondering ‘Who is Stephanie Grisham?’ you’re probably not a regular Fox News viewer. Because that channel is seemingly the one place she feels safe enough to regularly appear. And yes, your taxpayer dollars are indeed paying Miss Grisham to avoid you, ironically, like it’s her job.”

It is, indeed, true that Grisham does appear on Fox News, but let’s be real: She is not going to be pushed by anyone at Fox News. Her answers are going to go unchallenged and it’s not as if she is getting the hard-nosed, fastball questions to begin with.

This isn’t a right-left thing. This is an American thing. This is a crucial time in our country. We really could be on the doorstep of war and if that’s not the time for the administration to be asked questions, when is?

Yes, President Trump does talk to the media, but not in a formal setting where he can be asked the type of lengthy, complicated questions and pertinent follow-ups that this moment requires. And while we all should embrace ever-changing technology and ways to communicate, we all can agree that a tweet is not the proper platform to explain such critical topics as war and outside interference into our elections.

There are those who might argue that the previous press secretary, Sarah Sanders, wasn’t always upfront with the media, so what’s the point of press conferences anyway?

Well, here’s the point: It’s a chance for the media, representing the public, to ask questions and get the White House on the record. It’s the moment to get the White House’s official stance. And, at its most basic function, it’s when the president, through his appointed representative, tells the American people what the heck is going on — or at least a version we can listen to and make our decisions come November.

All Americans, not just those most critical of Trump, should be bothered by the lack of transparency.

It has now been 303 days … and counting.


And now for a word from our sponsors

Interesting story by Variety’s Brian Steinberg: according to research, viewers don’t think negatively about advertisers of news programs even if the hosts of those news programs have strong political leanings.

For example, whether the news is grim or being delivered by a right-leaning pundit such as Sean Hannity or a left-leaning one such as Rachel Maddow, advertisers won’t be punished by viewers. Laura Molen, president of NBCUniversal ad sales, told Steinberg that viewers, “without fail say they don’t penalize a brand for sponsoring something that the company may not stand for.”

What’s odd about this is some viewers threaten to boycott advertisers when a host says something controversial. And we’ve seen shows — Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” quickly comes to mind — where advertisers have pulled ads.

But Jeff Collins, executive vice president of ad sales for Fox News, told Steinberg that viewers “understand the distinction between editorial and advertising.”

Check out Steinberg’s story. Lots of useful and newsworthy information, including what all this means as we draw closer to the 2020 election.

The best season in sports

Baseball reporter Ken Rosenthal from The Athletic. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Who is having the best offseason in Major League Baseball? I’d say the website, The Athletic. In particular, The Athletic baseball writers Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich. There have been two big stories during the MLB offseason and both have involved cheating scandals. And both stories were broken by Rosenthal and Drellich.

In November, Rosenthal and Drellich broke the blockbuster story that the 2017 World Series champion Houston Astros used technology to steal catchers’ signs and, presumably, help their hitters know what kind of pitches were coming. Harsh penalties are expected to be handed down to the Astros in the coming weeks.

Then on Tuesday, the two reported that the Boston Red Sox might have used video to steal signs in 2018.

While it’s difficult to confirm financial numbers — subscribers, revenues, expenditures, company value, etc. — there’s no question that the journalism at The Athletic has been been superb. My experience as a reader is that the site mostly provides the kind of longform features that we are seeing less and less of in daily newspapers. However, breaking news often is what catches the attention of those who are not subscribers, and surely the scoops by Rosenthal and Drellich have been good for business.

Looking ahead to into 2020

If you love reading about the media (and if you’re reading this then I assume you do), be sure to check out this piece from the Columbia Journalism Review and GuardianUS. They talked to those in the media and many who cover the media about covering the 2020 election.

Among those who give their thoughts are New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet, MSNBC host Chris Hayes, Buzzfeed News editor-in-chief Ben Smith, Univision anchor Jorge Ramos and many more.

Among the more interesting comments came from Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan, who said, “One of the things we didn’t do well covering the presidential election last time was that we failed to distinguish between the serious and not so serious – the term false equivalency comes to mind. So Trump and his financial situation, sexual assault claims, business record, history of racism – all those things were made equal to Hillary Clinton’s emails. Today we’re calling it a little better. When things are ‘racist’ we’re willing sometimes to use that word. We’re willing to use the word ‘lie.’ We’ve come a ways in that sense, but I’m still not particularly positive about how we’re going to deal with 2020.”

There’s lots to unpack in the piece, and I don’t agree with some of the comments that come off as a little left-leaning and/or ax-grinding. But it is certainly worth the read.


‘Prozac Nation’ author dies

Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of her 1994 memoir, “Prozac Nation,” about clinical depression, died Tuesday from complications of breast cancer. She was 52.

The New York Times said her memoir “helped introduce an unsparing style of confessional writing that remains influential.” Times’ writer Neil Genzlinger noted that critics were divided about “Prozac Nation.”

Genzlinger wrote, “Writing about her final illness was a natural choice for Ms. Wurtzel, who had for a quarter-century scrutinized her life in relentless detail, becoming a hero to some, especially to many women of her generation and younger, but also drawing scorn. ‘Prozac Nation,’ her first book, published when she was 27, was unvarnished in its accounts of her student days at Harvard, her drug use, her extensive sex life and more.”

The Washington Post’s Harrison Smith wrote, “Ms. Wurtzel was alternately adored and reviled, described as an uninhibited feminist bomb-thrower and a self-obsessed narcissist.”

There is no doubt, however, about her influence. NPR’s Colin Dwyer wrote, “The widespread sales success of Wurtzel’s memoir helped inspire a publishing trend that has seen a spate of popular memoirs from other young writers continuing through the present day.”

Admitting to inappropriateness

Charlie Rose (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP)

Charlie Rose, ousted in 2017 from CBS after allegations of sexual misconduct, said in a November deposition that he had romantic relationships with women who worked for him and he called those relationships “inappropriate.” However, his lawyers stopped him from revealing details of those so-called relationships and whether or not he felt remorse.

(Credit to The Hollywood Reporter for reporting this story and you can read the full deposition here.)

Rose said the relationships were “inappropriate” in the workplace because, “there was power and balance, and you were in some cases the boss and you had a relationship that was defined within the workplace.”

Rose also admitted flirting with his “CBS This Morning” co-hosts Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell.

Hot type

  • Good gosh, this sounds like something from a spy movie. Reuters’ Maria Tsvetkova has this exclusive about a Russian clinic that treats mercenaries fighting in secret wars.
  • More espionage: the BBC with the story of a Jewish teenager who avoided death in occupied France during World War II by being hidden by a doctor in an Alpine ski resort.
  • Mark Puente and Richard Winton of the Los Angeles Times with this troubling report: Officers in the Los Angeles Police Department are being investigated to see if they falsified records to wrongly accuse innocent people of having gang ties.
  • The “Jeopardy Greatest of All-Time” tournament — featuring “Jeopardy” legends Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter and James Holzhauer — was taped in December and started airing Tuesday night. But was the winner already leaked because of some strange offshore betting on the event? ESPN’s David Purdum with the story.
  • If you’re a podcast fan, here’s a must-read: Nieman Lab’s Nicholas Quah looks at the big podcasting stories to follow this year.

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

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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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