February 14, 2020

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A rough day at McClatchy

It’s not as if we should be surprised by Thursday’s news that McClatchy filed for bankruptcy.

Poynter business analyst Rick Edmonds and others have seen warning signs about McClatchy for a while. Edmonds wrote several stories at the end of last year about McClatchy’s financial woes and even suggested that Chatham Asset Management, a hedge fund, would take over McClatchy — and that’s now expected to happen.

Still, when you see the words in the same sentence — McClatchy and bankruptcy — it feels like yet another body blow for an already wobbly newspaper industry. This is the second-largest newspaper chain in the country. The chain includes the likes of the Miami Herald, The Charlotte Observer, The Kansas City Star, The Sacramento Bee and Fort Worth Star-Telegram. So, yes, this is a big deal.

When you think about all that has happened in recent months — the troubles at Gannett/GateHouse, Warren Buffett getting out of the newspaper business and now the McClatchy news — it shows the continuation of the seismic shift in an industry that seemingly never recovered from the 2008 recession.

You can read Edmonds’ story on to get the lowdown on the business aspect of this story. But I wanted to take a moment to recognize the actual journalists across the country who continue to do excellent work, even though so many are working with less resources, fewer colleagues, little or no pay raises for years and other setbacks that not only take a tangible toll, but a mental one

This is one of those times when I feel the urge to stick up for the journalists who go to work each day and produce important work. An impassioned Twitter thread by Kristin Roberts, McClatchy’s vice president of news, showed the determination of journalists in the face of these tough times.

Roberts tweeted, “McClatchy is committed to our mission of journalism that serves the public. I am committed to fighting for our newsrooms so that they can fight for you. I’m so deeply lucky to work with these ambitious, caring, thoughtful and dedicated people. #ReadLocal

She continued by writing, “So please, yes, let’s talk about the financial challenges of the local news industry. Understand them beyond the headlines. Especially today. Because by all means we must keep this journalism going, keep these reporters reporting and editors editing.”

Then Roberts laid out just a few examples of the kind of work that continues to be done across the country at McClatchy. Such as:

Roads and taxes in South Carolina; The Charlotte Observer’s remarkable podcast about former NFL football player Rae Carruth, who had his girlfriend murdered; the Lexington (Kentucky) Herald Leader’s analysis on elections and impeachment; the Centre (Pennsylvania) Daily Times’ reporting about mental health; investigative work at The Sacramento Bee; and, the biggest story of all, Julie K. Brown’s dogged work at the Miami Herald on the Jeffrey Epstein case.

Roberts also mentioned several other projects and stories.

So, it’s a rough day at McClatchy, a rough day for journalism and newspapers. Uncertain times are ahead. But Roberts says her team presses on:

“ … our reporters and newsrooms across @mcclatchy are delivering some of the best journalism in the country: Journalism that is urgent, fearless and credible, that’s connected to our communities and focused on solutions as well as problems. Journalism that is essential.”

Podcast of the day

Geraldo Rivera. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Geraldo Rivera scored a big interview for his “Roadkill with Geraldo” podcast: President Donald Trump.

When Rivera asked him about the personal toll that the impeachment took on him, Trump called it a “terrible thing” and said he is reminded of impeachment whenever he passes Richard Nixon’s portrait in the White House.

“I would always think, well, every time in the White House, I pass this beautiful portrait of various presidents, right?” Trump said. “But the portrait of Richard Nixon, I sort of — I don’t know. It’s a little bit of a different feeling than I get from looking at the other portraits of presidents.”

Trump called Nixon’s time in the White House a “very dark period” and a “horror show.”

By the way, wondering where Rivera got the name of that podcast, “Roadkill with Geraldo?” According to the show’s page, former Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes once told Rivera that the only thing in the middle of the road was roadkill. Rivera, however, contends that there is more than roadkill in the middle and the country needs a balance between far left and far right.

The right call

NBC made the right call dismissing hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick for sexist remarks he made about coworkers. As a guest on a podcast last December, Roenick made a joke about having a threesome with NBC hockey studio anchor Kathryn Tappen. He also made a comment about the physical appearances of fellow analysts Patrick Sharp and Anson Carter. But it was the comment about Tappen that likely got him in trouble.

Roenick was talking about a vacation he went on with both his wife and Tappan and said, “I play it off like we’re going to bed together every night, the three of us. If it really came to fruition, that would really be good, but it’s never going to happen.”

Initially, Roenick, a former NHL star who was hired by NBC in 2010, was suspended.

At the time, Tappen released a statement that said, “While Jeremy and I continue to be good friends, what he said was unacceptable, especially among workplace colleagues. I do not condone his comments.”

Roenick apologized on Twitter last month, but NBC confirmed this week that he was no longer with the company. He put out another statement on Twitter Wednesday titled “What a joke!” and said he was “very disappointed and angry” that he was not returning, but “grateful” for the opportunity he had. He said he would come back better than ever.

NBC was already dealing with controversy following sexual assault accusations leveled against former “Today” show host Matt Lauer in 2017. Regardless of that, Roenick’s comments are certainly a fireable offense. He made a joke about having sex with a coworker. That is completely over the line.

Everyone gets an endorsement

Democratic presidential hopefuls Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

See what you started, New York Times editorial board?

Just like last month when the Times editorial board endorsed not one, but two candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, the free, alternative weekly newspaper Las Vegas Weekly has endorsed two candidates just ahead of the Nevada caucus. The Weekly endorsed Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar.

“We’re confident each of these candidates can beat the divisive and destructive incumbent in November, which is why we’re making a rare two-candidate endorsement,” it wrote.

If it wasn’t silly enough to endorse two candidates, the editorial snuck in what read like a third — wait, make that a third and fourth — endorsement when it said, “Tom Steyer is a candidate no one should discount.” And “The nation also deserves a leader like Elizabeth Warren.”

In fact, the only candidate the paper dismissed was Bernie Sanders. Why not just pull a name out of a hat?

Rush to judgment

Rush Limbaugh at last week’s State of the Union address. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

A week after he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh is under criticism for remarks he made about Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s sexual orientation. On his show Wednesday, Limbaugh said, “A gay guy, 37 years old, loves kissing his husband on debate stages. Can you see Trump having fun with that?”

Limbaugh said that “despite all the great progress and despite all the great wokeness, and despite all the great ground that’s been covered, America’s still not ready to elect a gay guy kissing his husband on the debate stage president.”

Limbaugh also said that Democrats must be wondering, “How’s this going to look: 37-year-old gay guy kissing his husband on stage next to Mr. Man Donald Trump?”

In a story by Alan Fram for the Associated Press, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said. “It’s a miscalculation as to where the country is at. I think the country is not going to disqualify somebody because of their sexual orientation.”

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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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