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A once-in-a-hundred-year pandemic. A frightening economic crisis. Nationwide protests about race. A debate about wearing masks. A polarizing president. An upcoming presidential election that figures to be just as polarizing. Senate hearings.
Can you ever remember a time when there has been this much news?
And consumption of that news is at a record-setting pace.
Every Tuesday, TV ratings come out. Then each of the networks and cable news stations sends out releases talking about those ratings. They brag about how viewership is up for their Sunday morning shows and how their primetime hosts are putting up unprecedented numbers. It happened again yesterday.
Sometimes, it’s easy to gloss over such numbers because they all start to run together and look the same. Such as when ABC once again points out that its nightly news broadcast, “World News Tonight,” is the most-watched show on TV. It has been that way for eight straight weeks, and for much of the past few months when the coronavirus took hold as a major news story.
But just because it has become a familiar storyline shouldn’t mean that we gloss over it.
Let me repeat: the most-watched show on TV.
Not the most-watched news show. The most-watched show on TV — more watched than “The Masked Singer” and “The Bachelor” and “Survivor” and anything else. Last week, it attracted 8.822 million viewers.
And while “World News Tonight” leads the way, the other major network news broadcasts — “NBC Nightly News” and “CBS Evening News” — are also putting up big numbers. Three days last week, the “CBS Evening News” was the most-watched show on CBS.
NBC’s “Meet the Press” typically draws more than 3 million viewers a week. Cable news networks are setting records, including Fox News (which I detail a little more below).
All this is to point out that Americans — despite this narrative that no one trusts the media and they are nothing but “fake news” and the “enemy of the people” — really do crave the news.
Last month, ABC “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir told me, “Viewers have an expectation that we will, with steadiness and great care, guide them through. I do hope the facts, the truth, no matter how dire, will in some small way, reduce some of the anxiety. Perhaps we can be one of the few constants in an unsteady time. That’s my hope.”
It would appear his hope is a reality, and Americans are responding to that mission.
Twitter temporarily restricts Trump Jr.
Donald Trump Jr. had his tweeting privileges temporarily banned by Twitter after he tweeted a video late Monday that was published by Breitbart News and went viral. It featured a doctor making false claims about the coronavirus, including that masks are unnecessary. Twitter said the content violated its policy on misinformation related to the coronavirus. The doctor also touted hydroxychloroquine as a cure.
President Donald Trump retweeted the video as well, but he was not restricted by Twitter because he retweeted the video instead of uploading it, as his son did.
During his coronavirus press conference Tuesday, President Trump was asked about the doctor in the video. He said, “I thought her voice was an important voice, but I know nothing about her.”
When CNN’s Kaitlan Collins tried to follow up and press Trump on the topic, he abruptly ended his press conference.
Former Deadspin staffers start new site
Deadspin is back. Well, a new Deadspin. Except it won’t be called Deadspin. Because there already is a Deadspin. Confused? Let me explain.
Last year, the entire staff of Deadspin, the snarky sports and pop culture website, walked away in protest after ownership, G/O Media, essentially told them to stick to sports. A few months later, Deadspin reemerged with a new staff. It hasn’t been nearly as good as the old Deadspin — especially when it was clear that they were trying way too hard to be relevant with eye-rolling headlines like “Tom Brady is the Most Overrated QB in History” and tweets like, “Yes, Derek Jeter is overrated.” Lately, the site has picked up a bit.
However, plans for a new website with the former Deadspin staffers emerged Tuesday. Of the 20 or so staffers who walked away from the old Deadspin, 18 are coming together to start a site called “Defector.” The site will go live in September and a podcast is planned to start in August.
The first thing you notice? This will be a pay site. According to what’s up online now, subscribers will be asked to pay $69 a year, or $8 a month. (There are also other pay tiers with other benefits.)
The founders of the site told The New York Times’ Marc Tracy that they have no outside investors and that each employee has about a 5% stake in the company.
Kelsey McKinney, a former Deadspin writer, told Tracy, “If you’re going to take a moonshot, you may well do it exactly the way you want to.”
Deadspin built up a loyal following, but how loyal? The question, of course, will be if old Deadspin readers are willing to pay for content that they used to get for free. Former Deadspin features editor Tom Ley told Tracy, “A lot of us felt adrift. If we felt that way, it’s likely there are pretty significant numbers of former readers who felt that way and would be willing to pay money to have that kind of publication come back.”
History at The Washington Post
The Washington Post has named its first-ever managing editor for diversity and inclusion. It’s Post Style section editor Krissah Thompson, a veteran editor and reporter with nearly 20 years of experience at the paper. The new position was created to help the newsroom recruit, hire, promote and mentor staff members in an effort to expand diversity. The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi reports that Thompson is the first African American woman to become a managing editor in the Post’s 143-year history.
Thompson told Farhi, “A diverse staff makes our reporting better. We’re better when we have more perspectives and we can cover communities as deeply and widely as possible.”
In a statement, Post executive editor Marty Baron said, “Krissah’s vision is to have The Post become the most diverse and inclusive newsroom in the country — a place that is recognized for fostering talent, where all people feel supported and challenged, and where our journalism fully benefits from the perspectives of staffers who come from a wide variety of backgrounds and life experiences. We share her vision along with a determination to make it happen.”
The Post has some work to do. According to Farhi’s story, 71% of the Post’s newsroom staff last year was white, including 79% of its top managers.
For more, check out the Post’s video Q&A with Thompson.
Partnering to make a difference
Here’s some smart thinking by The Dallas Morning News that other news outlets should consider. The Morning News is partnering with Texas Metro News, a Black-owned publication that covers Dallas’ Black community. According to the Morning News’ Charles Scudder, the agreement will allow Texas Metro News to publish Morning News stories at no charge, while The Morning News will pay a consulting fee for Texas Metro News journalists to “help with sourcing, story idea generation and more.”
In a Morning News story, Morning News editor Mike Wilson admitted the paper isn’t covering some communities and issues as well as it needs to. He said, “We came to that with a full awareness that we haven’t been around those communities as well as we could have through the years. We’re coming into it humbly.”
Cheryl Smith, the editor and publisher of Texas Metro News, told the Morning News that she saw it as a chance for both publications to improve their journalism. She said, “Our team knew it wasn’t a light decision; it wasn’t tokenism. The Morning News wanted journalism.”
- July was another big month for Fox News. In fact, it was the best July in the network’s history. The day parts had 1.631 million total viewers, up 19% from a year ago. Primetime had 3.218 million, up 32% from July 2019. Many of Fox News’ top shows — “Hannity,” “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” “The Ingraham Angle” and “The Five” — are seeing some of the best ratings in their histories. And last Sunday, Chris Wallace’s “Fox News Sunday” had nearly 4 million viewers if you include the re-airs on Fox News Channel.
- CNN also had its best July ever. Those who closely follow the media and media coverage might be interested to know that Brian Stelter’s “Reliable Sources” Sunday morning show about the media topped Howard Kurtz’s “MediaBuzz,” which airs at the same time on Fox News.
- BuzzFeed News and Embassy Row are launching a podcast next week that might be worth checking out. It’s called “Not Great.” Hosted by BuzzFeed News’ culture writer Scaachi Koul, the weekly comedy and interview pod will look at politics, pop culture and society as it breaks down what makes all so miserable these days — and maybe where we can find a few bright spots. The pod will premier Aug. 4. Here’s a trailer and here’s where you can find the premiere episode. New episodes will be released each Tuesday.
- Maurice “Reese” Schonfeld, the first president of CNN, has died. He was 88. Schonfeld is considered a key visionary behind the cable news channel started by Ted Turner in 1979. Schonfeld was eventually fired by Tuner in 1982. He then went on to work in local news and co-founded The Food Network. In a story by CNN’s Brian Stelter, Tom Johnson, one of Schonfeld’s successors, said, “There might not be a CNN today if Ted Turner had not recruited Reese Schonfeld as its founding president.”
- Bloomberg Media announced this morning that Bloomberg Television, the 24-hour global business and financial news network, is now available on Hulu.
- Writing for Poynter, Mark Lieberman with “A Growing Group of Journalists Has Cut Back on Twitter, or Abandoned It Entirely.”
- New York Times’ opinion columnist Paul Krugman writes about wearing a mask in “The Cult of Selfishness is Killing America.”
- Back in May, California’s San Quentin State Prison had no coronavirus cases. Now it has one of the biggest outbreaks in the country. The BBC’s Holly Honderich and Shrai Popat explain how it happened.
- A nice story about pro golfer and new mother Michelle Wie West from one of my favorite sportswriters — New York Times golf writer Karen Crouse. By the way, you should check out Crouse’s book, “Norwich,” published in 2018 about a little town in Vermont that has a relaxed view of kids’ sports and yet has produced an uncanny number of Olympic athletes.
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at email@example.com.
More resources for journalists
- Subscribe to Alma Matters – Poynter’s new newsletter for college journalism educators
- Writing About the World in 2020: Dignity and Precision in Language — Today, July 29 at noon Eastern, Poynter
- Will Work for Impact: Investigative Journalism (Online Group Seminar) — August 4-25, Poynter
- Keeping Public Records Public: Strategies for Getting Access During the Pandemic — Aug. 5 at 11:30 a.m. Eastern, Journalism Institute, National Press Club
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