August 31, 2020

During his 70-minute speech Thursday night, President Donald Trump did not mention the name Jacob Blake — the Black man shot in the back seven times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. But this week, Trump is planning to go to the town where Blake was shot, and where two other men were shot and killed — allegedly by a 17-year-old vigilante carrying a military-style semi-automatic rifle.

This figures to be the major media story of the week. In fact, it was already a major topic on Sunday.

During an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, told Dana Bash, “Oh, I think his visit has one purpose, and one purpose only. And that is to agitate things and to make things worse. What also happened in Portland, too, you saw a parade of Trump supporters actually actively shooting paintballs at peaceful protesters. And the president, in my opinion, encourages that. He actually retweeted the people firing paint guns. So, I think he only means to agitate things. He is campaigning. It is clear his campaign is all about law and order. It is a throwback to the past. And he’s going to do everything to disrupt law and order in this time period.”

Law and order is a theme the president has focused on. He has tweeted the phrase “Law & Order” time and time again in recent months, particularly since the protests following George Floyd’s killing by police in Minneapolis. In fact, Trump tweeted “LAW & ORDER!!!” first thing Sunday morning. He followed that later in the day with more tweets criticizing Democratic mayors for violence in their cities.

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was repeatedly asked by moderator Chuck Todd whether Trump would try to de-escalate tensions between his supporters and protesters. Meadows stuck with the theme. “The president is on the side of law enforcement and the rule of law and he’s been very consistent in that,” Meadows said.

Meadows also echoed the Trump theme of blaming Democrats, saying, “Most of Donald Trump’s America is peaceful. It is a Democrat-led city in Portland that we are talking about this morning that just yesterday denied help from the federal government.”

But, on “Fox News Sunday,” Joe Biden’s deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, blamed Trump for the violence.

“He’s had every opportunity to speak as a leader to this nation, to speak to people who are in trouble but also people who are looking around and are afraid, who see chaos,” Bedingfield said. “He has encouraged his supporters to go out, to be aggressive.”

So will Trump lower the temperature this week in Kenosha? During a panel discussion on “Meet the Press,” NBC’s Hallie Jackson said she expects to see Trump continue this theme of “law and order” right up until the election.

“That is the framing you’re going to see when the president goes to Kenosha on Tuesday,” Jackson said. “The campaign, and administration officials that I’ve talked to, think that this is a positive for the president in the sense that they think it is effective to people who are feeling fearful to, frankly, the people in President Trump’s base. So (expect that) instead of going out and … trying to talk about building bridges to members of the Black community, who … have been a part of this institution of systemic racism. President Trump has not done that in the last three-and-a-half years. There’s no indication that’s going to change on Tuesday when he goes to Kenosha. Instead the framing is going to be about that thin blue line that you’ve heard him, the vice president and other members of the campaign talk about. And nobody is backing away from those remarks.”

So how should the media cover this week’s events?

The headline on Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin’s latest column is “It’s Time to Challenge the Cockeyed Reaction to Violence.”

Rubin writes that Trump has leaned into notions that have stoked racial tensions: “This phenomenon — reveling in violence from racial divisions they stoke — is part of the white supremacist playbook, specifically the phenomenon known as ‘accelerationism.’”

She then adds, “Naturally then, the news media is holding Trump accountable for violence, insisting that he condemn police excesses and … no, that is not happening. Instead, they amplify Trump’s demand that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden do something about the violence.”

Media covering Trump’s visit to Kenosha obviously should report on what the president says and does while he is there. But they also need to recount what Trump has said and done up until now.

Tracking Kyle Rittenhouse

Speaking of the 17-year-old who has been charged with shooting and killing two men during protests in Kenosha, The New York Times has put together a must-read piece of work.

The Times’ Haley Willis, Muyi Xiao, Christiaan Triebert, Christoph Koettl, Stella Cooper, David Botti, John Ismay and Ainara Tiefenthäler deeply reported Rittenhouse’s movements that fateful night for their story: “Tracking the Suspect in the Fatal Kenosha Shootings.”

Great work.

New kid on the block

A new national primetime news show will hit the airwaves this week. “NewsNation” from Chicago TV superstation WGN America will debut Tuesday.

The news program will air nightly for three hours beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern, with its own team of anchors and reporters. But it also will rely heavily on journalists and reporting from the 114 local newsrooms across the country in the Nexstar television chain. “NewsNation” insists the broadcasts will not have a political leaning.

Executive vice president of WGN America Sean Compton has been quoted as saying that when the idea to start a national news broadcast was first thought of, “We called it Project Neutral because we’re so sick of the polarization of news.”

“NewsNation” hopes to compete with the big guys — CNN, Fox News and MSNBC — and it might be able to carve out a niche with a team of reporters literally all over the country.

“We have boots on the ground everywhere,” Compton told the Chicago Tribune’s Robert Channick. “This makes sense because we’re in Sioux Falls, and we’re in Los Angeles and Chicago. CNN doesn’t have people in Fort Wayne.”

Channick reported “NewsNation” will be heavy on weather — a smart move because weather is always a hit with viewers, and the network, again, can rely on local reporters wherever there are newsworthy weather stories. That and its nonpartisanship could give “NewsNation” a chance.

“I think we’ll draw a lot of viewers from the other cable news networks,” Compton told Channick. “Because people think they go there to get news now, and they’re really getting political talk programming. We’re just trying to report the facts.”

For more, check out this documentary on “NewsNation.”

The timetable for a vaccine

Dr. Scott Gottlieb in 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

So when might come the time when you can go to your local drugstore and get a vaccine for COVID-19? President Trump said during his speech at the Republican National Convention that we would have a vaccine by the end of the year. In an interview with the Financial Times, current Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn suggested he might fast-track approval of the vaccine before all trial phases are complete.

But, during his appearance on Sunday’s “Face the Nation,” former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb thinks the vaccine is not going to be available to the general public until next year.

“We’re likely to see a stepwise progression of authorization of this vaccine for certain select populations that are at higher risk of either contracting it or having a bad outcome before we see a full approval for the general population,” Gottlieb said. “I think, again, full approval for the general population, where people can go to CVS and get a shot — that’s really a 2021 event, maybe the first quarter of 2021, probably more likely the first half.”

Gottlieb, by the way, is a strong voice of expertise and context during CBS’s coverage of the coronavirus. When I spoke to “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan earlier this year, she told me her show relies heavily on the information provided by Gottlieb, who has been remarkably consistent and accurate with his commentary.


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The sporting life

Sports are back. Really back. This is a big week coming up.

The NBA and NHL playoffs, after a brief stoppage to raise awareness for racial inequities, are back in full swing. Baseball chugs along. The U.S. Open tennis tournament begins today. Cycling’s Tour de France started Saturday.

And the biggie is football. There were a couple of college football games over the weekend, but more games will be played this week. The NFL cranks up Sept. 10.

As far as college football, three of the big conferences — the SEC, Big 12 and ACC — are all going ahead pretty much as scheduled. The two other major conferences — the Big Ten and Pac-12 — have postponed their seasons. One can’t help but notice that most of the teams in the conferences that are playing come from the South and traditionally conservative states, while most of the teams in the conferences not playing come from northern and western locales and typically more liberal states.

The New York Times editorial board weighed in with “College Football is Not Essential.”

The board wrote, “Never has the inaccuracy of the term ‘student-athlete’ been put in starker relief than in the misguided and dangerous attempt by the Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference to press forward with a nearly full season of football games beginning next month —  as nonathlete classmates are sent home for their safety.”

How did it rate?

Final TV numbers are in for the conventions. Now, mind you, these are just the TV numbers, according to Nielsen. This does not include streaming or individual online views of various convention speeches and videos.

First, the main speeches. Joe Biden’s acceptance speech during the Democratic National Convention drew 24.6 million viewers, while President Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention drew 23.4 million. The Democratic convention also drew more viewers overall than the Republican convention: 21.6 million average for the four nights compared to 19.4 million. This did not sit well with the president.

On Saturday, Trump tweeted, “Wow! Despite the Democrats views across TV and online lie (Con!), we had 147.9 million, the Republican National Convention blew the Democrat National Convention AWAY. Not even close! Just like their lies on Russia, Football (PLAY!) and everything else! NOVEMBER 3rd.”

Where did he get that 147.9 million number? That’s apparently the number of TV and online viewers, according to what a Trump “senior campaign official” told Fox News. But there is no accurate way to quantify online and streaming numbers.

Remembering Chadwick Boseman

A photo of actor Chadwick Boseman is displayed on a screen before an NBA playoff game on Sunday in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Stunning news over the weekend with the passing of actor Chadwick Boseman, best known for playing the title roles of “Black Panther” and Jackie Robinson in the movie “42.” He had been battling colon cancer since 2016 and died Friday at the age of 43.

Here are some reflections of Boseman:

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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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