February 12, 2020

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Wait, weren’t we supposed to get a break?

After last week’s jam-packed news cycle of impeachment and State of the Union and Iowa caucuses and debates and town halls, this week was supposed to be a little more laid back, wasn’t it? A time to exhale.

Forget that.

Tuesday ramped back up again. The New Hampshire primary produced some surprising results (good for Pete Buttigieg, not so good for Elizabeth Warren). Here’s The Washington Post’s excellent recap inside the numbers.

And there was controversy at the Department of Justice. Four federal prosecutors withdrew in protest from the Roger Stone case after their recommendation for a stiff prison sentence will seemingly be ignored. There are now questions about whether President Donald Trump influenced the Justice Department’s decision to seek a lighter sentence for Stone, who was found guilty in November of lying to Congress and obstructing the Russian investigation. He is due to be sentenced next week. CNN’s Stephen Collinson has a solid analysis of the controversy.

And there was plenty of media news Tuesday, including an arrest in the murder of a journalist, a media member running for office and details of The Ringer’s sale to Spotify.

But let’s start with a jaw-dropping incident in a university journalism class.

J-school prof drops racial slur in class

A journalism professor at the University of Oklahoma used a racial slur during a class Tuesday morning.

The campus newspaper reported that Peter Gade — director of graduate studies who teaches Journalism, Ethics and Democracy — was discussing changes to journalism technology and eventually called on a student who said journalists have to keep up with younger generations. Gade said the student’s comment was like saying, “OK, boomer.”

Students laughed, but then Gade added, “Calling someone a boomer is like calling someone a (n-word).” To be clear, Gade actually said the word.

This story was first reported by Jordan Miller — the news managing editor of the OU Daily. In addition, there were several staffers from the OU Daily in the class at the time. Miller reported that Gade told students he was sorry if anyone was offended.

Interim OU president Joseph Harroz said in a statement that Gade’s words were “fundamentally offensive and wrong.” He also said, “The use of the most offensive word, by a person in a position of authority, hurt and minimized those in the classroom and beyond. Our university must serve as an example to our society of both freedom of expression and understanding and tolerance. His words today failed to meet this standard. #WeAre speaks for our community; his words today do not.”

OU is expected to continue gathering information, but several students told the OU Daily that they will not attend the class as long as Gade is teaching it.

Janae Reeves, a broadcast journalism major who is black, told the OU Daily, “It was shocking to everybody in that class because we weren’t on the topic of race or discrimination or anything like that, or anything historical for that matter.”

Questioning the use of mugshots

Some people don’t like to have their picture taken. But there’s one photo that no one ever wants taken: a mugshot. For years and years, newspapers have run mugshots with their police stories. Then, about a decade ago, some news outlets began running mugshots online. Not just certain mugshots with certain stories, but all mugshots of everyone arrested in that area.

Now newsrooms are rethinking their use of mugshots, writes Keri Blakinger in a story co-published by Poynter and The Marshall Project.

Blakinger says, “… faced with questions about the lasting impact of putting these photos on the internet, where they live forever, media outlets are increasingly doing away with the galleries of people on the worst days of their lives.”

Blakinger’s story raises an interesting point. One one hand, mugshots are public records detailing the fact that someone was arrested. On the other hand, arrested doesn’t mean convicted. And even if a person is ultimately convicted, it doesn’t necessarily mean that photo should be online forever.

Newspapers originally started running mugshots because, let’s face it, they got clicks. But some news outlets handled the duties somewhat responsibly. As Blakinger wrote, the Poynter-owned Tampa Bay Times eliminates the photos after 60 days and “blocked Google from indexing the page, meaning it wouldn’t be the first thing to pop up in search results.”

Blakinger’s story is a worthwhile read, especially because she has firsthand experience with this topic.


From TV to politics — not the other way

Michelle Caruso-Cabrera. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

It’s not unusual to see politicians make the switch from politics to television. But what about the other way around? Former CNBC anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera is going to give it a go. She says she will challenge Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) in the Democratic primary.

Caruso-Cabrera has been a journalist most of her adult life, working as a producer at Univision and then as a reporter at WTSP-TV in St. Petersburg, Florida. She joined CNBC in 1998 and served mostly as an anchor on business news shows, including “Power Lunch” and “Worldwide Exchange.” She left CNBC in 2018, but has continued to appear as a contributor. She will no longer appear as a contributor while she is running for office.

In a statement, she said, “I am the daughter and granddaughter of working class Italian and Cuban immigrants. I am so lucky to have had such a wonderful career and I want everybody to have the opportunity that I’ve had. That’s why I’m running.”

A surprising twist, worthy of ‘Succession’

Elisabeth Murdoch. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, Pool, File)

Elisabeth Murdoch, daughter of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, supposedly had emerged as the “surprise candidate” to become general director of the BBC. But according to The Guardian’s Jim Waterson, she has no interest in the job.

Some thought the pairing seemed odd to begin with. As i’s Adam Sherwin wrote, “the prospect of a member of the Murdoch family, which has waged a consistent campaign against the license-fee-funded BBC through its newspapers, running the broadcaster will strike fear into many at the beleaguered corporation.”

However, Elisabeth Murdoch has never shared her family’s attitudes toward the BBC. Because of that, oddsmakers made Murdoch a 1-to-2 favorite for the post. (Man, you can gamble on anything these days, eh?)

She does have broadcasting experience (she is launching her own production company) and the BBC is reportedly looking for a female to replace Tony Hall, who is stepping down this summer.

So if not Murdoch, then who? The Daily Mail’s Chantalle Edmunds reports a list of contenders that includes BBC director of content Charlotte Moore, Channel 4 chief executive Alex Mahon and former BBC1 head Jay Hunt.

Speaking of the Murdochs, many compare the family in the HBO show “Succession” to them. And some have hinted that the character of Siobhan “Shiv” Roy is based on Elisabeth Murdoch.

“Succession” star Brian Cox said his character is not based on Rupert Murdoch. However, Cox said last year that he was approached by a man at a London cafe who told Cox that he and his wife loved the show “even if my wife finds it rough to watch.”

That man who approached Cox was Keith Tyson. And Tyson’s wife? Elisabeth Murdoch.

Following up on a chilling story

Last year, I linked to an absolutely chilling story by Ezra Marcus and James D. Walsh in New York magazine about the father of a Sarah Lawrence College student who showed up at her dorm room and started conducting “therapy sessions” with her friends. That was just the start of a bizarre cult-like story. If you haven’t read it, do so because it is a must-read.

When you’re done, The New York Times’ Benjamin Weiser and William K. Rashbaum have an update to this disturbing case.

Another update

Last year, journalist Lyra McKee was shot and killed by terrorists as she covered riots in Northern Ireland. The New IRA dissident Republic group admitted responsibility for McKee’s death, but said it was an accident and apologized. Nevertheless, four men — ages 20, 27, 29 and 52 — were arrested Wednesday for her killing.

More details on The Ringer’s sale

The Ringer founder Bill Simmons. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw has the details on Spotify buying The Ringer. The price is $250 million — $200 million upfront and then $50 million at a later date. The other interesting tidbit is how The Ringer founder Bill Simmons was The Ringer’s largest shareholder and HBO owned a 10% stake.

A big concern for many employees of The Ringer is what happens next. Spotify is, obviously, interested in The Ringer’s stable of 30-some podcasts, but most of The Ringer’s 90 employees write for the website. The site is expected to continue, although Shaw’s story quoted a source saying, “The deal requires Simmons to keep working at Spotify for some time, and also includes protections to ensure Spotify doesn’t cut much of his staff.”

Doesn’t cut “much of his staff?” That’s not the same as saying “all of his staff,” but there is optimism The Ringer will remain intact.

New look, new funding for New Republic

MediaPost’s Sara Guaglione reports that The New Republic will soon debut a new look, as well as a new politics-focused podcast and a metered paywall. The magazine will have a new logo, typography, layout and art starting with the March issue.

Guaglione writes that the paywall will have a soft launch in the next week or so. Visitors to the site can read up to three articles for free and then three more if they sign up for a New Republic newsletter. After that, a subscription will be $20 for the year or $30 for a print and digital bundle in the United States. Numbers might be adjusted according to reader behavior, New Republic publisher Kerrie Gillis told MediaPost.

Three more thoughts

  1. My Poynter colleague Ren LaForme actually tipped me off to this in his latest “Try This!” digital tools newsletter: this web design from Audubon is the coolest I’ve seen in a long time.

  2. I spent part of Tuesday evening in my car, meaning I followed some of the New Hampshire primary on NPR — whose coverage (which included live reports from throughout the state, timely interviews and excellent analysis) was outstanding.

  3. Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet has dropped out of the presidential race. Does that mean his brother James Bennet, the New York Times’ editorials editor, can start weighing in again on presidential election issues? Please, can it mean that? While his brother was in the race, James recused himself from all presidential matters, including the Times’ head-scratching decision to endorse TWO Democratic presidential candidates.

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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…
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