By:
December 9, 2020

Is most of the media that covers national politics happy that Joe Biden won the presidential election? If so, are they actually happy that Biden won or would it be more accurate to suggest that they are happy that Donald Trump did not?

There’s a difference.

After years of lying to the press and denigrating the media by calling it “fake news” and “the enemy of the people,” Trump and many in his administration (read: his press secretaries) won’t be missed by most of the news media.

And if that is true, it seems logical to predict that Biden will have a honeymoon period with the media simply because the new president isn’t the old president.

However, there’s this headline on the latest piece from Politico’s Jack Shafer: “The Biden Honeymoon Won’t Last.” Shafer says the rule of thumb when it comes to a presidential honeymoon is that it lasts about 100 days. For Biden, the fact that the media will be dealing with someone (anyone) other than Trump might buy him some more time. Then again, with the country in a tumultuous state because of COVID-19, the economy, racial tensions and political divisiveness, the honeymoon might end quickly.

Shafer writes, “It’s not that the press isn’t willing to take shots at a new administration, it’s that they’re busy lining up the shots they might want to take. Busy compiling dossiers on the president’s team and developing sources in the new administrations, reporters can’t devote as much time to scrutinize him as directly as they’d like. Besides, they just got done doing that during the campaign. We caught a glimpse of Biden’s poor press management skills at the end of the campaign as he snapped at being asked legitimate questions about court-packing and again when the subject was the New York Post piece on his son Hunter. Reporters don’t mind politicians with short fuses or being abused because that’s all part of the job, but at some point, the payback always comes.”

Biden is a political veteran, so he might be a bit more shrewd in how he deals with the press. But as Shafer alluded to, Biden has shown, at times, to be a little thin-skinned, short-tempered and occasionally secretive when dealing with the press.

Shafer writes, “As an administration matures, presidential staffers share forbidden information with reporters in attempts to win the internecine battles inside the White House. Inevitably, the honeymoon winds down, and trench warfare between the press and the president returns.”

Biden’s media diet

We all know what President Trump’s media diet is because he tweets what he digests. He watches One America News (OAN), Newsmax and Fox News and he reads conservative outlets. But what about Joe Biden? What does Biden consume as far as the media?

CNN’s Brian Stelter recently asked that of new CNN contributor Evan Osnos, a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of “Joe Biden: The Life, The Run, and What Matters Now.”

Osnos told Stelter, “The president-elect’s media diet is what we would call the classics. He relies on things like The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal. He reads some of The Economist and The New Yorker. A lot of it in print. He also relies on Apple News to help him get headlines from other reputable media sources. What he is not doing, of course, is reading things like Newsmax, he’s not watching One America News Network.”

Osnos also said that Biden reads columnists, mentioning The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman by name.

Meanwhile, Politico’s Daniel Lippman also chronicled Biden’s media consumption. Jay Carney, who was communications director to Biden when Biden was vice president, told Lippman, “Biden reads a lot, but doesn’t watch a lot of TV news. Can’t remember him ever watching TV in his office when I worked for him.”

However, Lippman reports that Biden does watch some TV, such as MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” as he gets ready for work. He also checks in on how Fox News covers him, and even tracks some of the viral late-night TV moments. And he will watch CNN occasionally.

Lippman also writes, “Like many other politicians, Biden gets a clips package at 9 a.m. On a busy day, it can run up to 50 pages. On a slower day, it is more in the 15- to 20-page range.”

Trump’s favorite outlets

One America News’ Chanel Rion, left, asks a question of President Donald Trump during a briefing earlier this year. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

A survey this week by Gallup and the Knight Foundation shows Newsmax and OAN are picking up some momentum — you would think largely in part to Trump trumpeting their coverage. The survey shows there has been an increase in those who list Newsmax and OAN among news sources they most rely upon.

The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake writes, “Many more still reference Fox News, but Newsmax in particular has risen significantly in the consciousness of American news consumers.”

That’s just one noticeable shift toward more conservative news outlets among many. Blake also writes, “Combined, Newsmax and OAN gained 11 total mentions per 100 people — up from just one combined in that July 2019 survey. Fox was mentioned by 27 out of 100 people, which is its second-lowest rate in 11 surveys, although not significantly different from previous ones. Other conservative outlets, including the Daily Wire, Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh’s show and the Blaze were also mentioned as much or more than in previous surveys. If you combine them with Newsmax and OAN, they’ve risen from six mentions per 100 people in July 2019 and early 2020 to 19 in 100 people today.”

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Stern stays

Howard Stern. (Michael Zorn/Invision/AP, File)

Howard Stern — for my money the best modern-day radio personality and one of the most influential media figures of any generation — is not going anywhere. Despite speculation that Stern was getting close to hanging up his microphone, Stern announced a five-year extension with SiriusXM on Tuesday. In addition, SiriusXM will hold the rights to Stern’s audio and video archives for an additional seven years.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but the buzz was the deal could be worth as much as $120 million a year. He is believed to be making in the $90-$100 million a year under his current deal.

Hard to believe, but Stern has been with SiriusXM for 15 years now. Originally, it was a stunning and risky move for Stern to go from terrestrial radio to satellite and SiriusXM. But, just like most every decision in Stern’s career, it has turned out to be a brilliant move. He reportedly has nearly 40 million subscribers.

In a statement, Stern, who turns 66 next month, said, “Despite the naysayers and the ridicule, we have persevered, and are thriving. I’ve been proven right about satellite radio over and over again. With this contract renewal, I can’t wait to see what else I’ll be right about. … Plus, now that I can work from home, I simply don’t have an excuse to quit.”

Meanwhile, on air earlier this week, Stern had harsh criticism for President Trump for focusing on trying to overturn the presidential election instead of focusing on the coronavirus.

“This is treasonous, what’s going on right now,” Stern said. “Telling people to run around, go to rallies. … You’ve got a guy in charge who doesn’t know about hard work. Let’s face it.”

Tweet of the day

In the wake of the Supreme Court rejecting an effort by Republican candidates in Pennsylvania to block the state’s election results Tuesday, pretty much knocking down Trump’s last Hail Mary attempt, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver tweeted, “‘SCOTUS will steal the election for Trump’ is one of those takes that was popular (for different reasons) both among a certain type of liberal and on the Trumpy right and obviously doesn’t look too good in retrospect.”

When CNN’s Wolf Blitzer announced the news on Tuesday, he said to the network’s White House reporter, Jim Acosta, “The Supreme Court just dealt the president a huge setback. It looks again and again like it’s completely over for the president. He’s going to have no choice but to accept reality.”

Acosta said, “It’s been over for weeks, Wolf, and it’s over again — if that’s a good way to describe it.”

A shot in the arm

Margaret Keenan, the first patient in the UK to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, administered by nurse May Parsons at University Hospital, Coventry, England on Tuesday Dec. 8, 2020. (Jacob King/Pool via AP)

Perhaps the biggest news of the day Tuesday was the United Kingdom launching the West’s first mass coronavirus vaccination. Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 next week, was the first to get the shot. She told the Associated Press’ Danica Kirka, “I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against COVID-19. It’s the best early birthday present I could wish for because it means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the New Year after being on my own for most of the year.”

Next up? An 81-year-old man named whose name is — check it out — William Shakespeare. And this William Shakespeare comes from Warwickshire, the same county where the world’s most famous bard was from.

Also vaccinated Tuesday was 91-year-old Martin Kenyon. In a charming interview, Kenyon told CNN’s Cyril Vanier that he simply called up the hospital and they told him to come on in. “It didn’t hurt at all,” Kenyon said. “I didn’t know the needle had gone in until it had come out. It was painless.”

Now that he has received the vaccine, Kenyon said he can hug his grandchildren.

“No point in dying now when I have lived this long, is there?” Kenyon said.

An interesting comparison

Cable news stations like to brag about their TV ratings. For example, Fox News touts that Tucker Carlson drew an average of 3.4 million viewers last week. And that’s a healthy number … for cable news.

But consider this: According to Sports Business Daily’s Austin Karp, last week’s Pittsburgh Steelers-Baltimore Ravens NFL game, played on a Wednesday afternoon of all times, drew 10.8 million on NBC.

A sad anniversary

Photos, flowers and candles are left at Strawberry Fields in New York’s Central Park on Tuesday to remember John Lennon, the former Beatle who was shot to death on Dec. 8, 1980. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Tuesday was the 40th anniversary of when John Lennon was shot and killed outside of his apartment building in New York City. Many people first learned of the horrific news from famed sportscaster Howard Cosell. Click here if you’ve never seen the clip of the “Monday Night Football” game when Cosell informed viewers that Lennon was shot and rushed to a hospital where he was, Cosell said grimly, “dead on arrival.” And here’s another clip from ESPN on how it was decided that Cosell would break the news.

Mediaite’s Leia Idliby has an excellent recap of how the various networks covered the news of Lennon’s death.

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

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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