September 23, 2020

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Another depressing and soul-searching milestone has been passed.


That’s officially the number of deaths in the United States from the coronavirus.

It’s not just a number. It cannot be just a number. These are people with children, with friends, people who made a difference in the world, struck down by a virus that continues to rage on with no real end in sight.


Let’s put that number into perspective.

ABC News’ Emily Shapiro notes that 58,220 Americans died in Vietnam and 36,574 died in Korea. In 2018, there were 39,740 gun deaths in the United States and 67,376 deaths from drug overdoses.

Now add up all those numbers and you get 201,910 — a number that the coronavirus will surely pass in this county in a matter of days. A recent CDC forecast predicts 250,000 deaths by mid-October. Other models think the number will reach 300,000 by year’s end.

Again, these can’t be just numbers. That’s why it’s important when news outlets tell the stories of the individuals taken away by this virus. As NBC News reports in this powerful piece: “Each a life. Each a tragedy.”

More perspective: the NBC News story points out that the death toll could fill Madison Square Garden 10 times over. Only heart disease (nearly 647,500) and cancer (just more than 599,000) have killed more people than COVID-19 in the U.S. this year.

Consider this: The coronavirus has claimed 1 in 1,651 Americans. And this number is stunning: According to the NBC News report, 1 in 351 New York City residents (as of Sept. 17) has died.

“Do you know 351 people?” the report asks.

Again, these are real people.

“Not only are these real people, but these are families that are suffering because they’ve lost loved ones, or they’re dealing with a loved one that has long-term health issues because of COVID-19,” Dr. Syra Madad, senior director of the systemwide special pathogens program at New York City Health + Hospitals, told CNBC’s Will Feuer. “We’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. We’re only nine months into this pandemic.”

Stop and reflect on the number: 200,000. And then remember that it’s more than just a number.

Poynter to honor Chris Wallace

Chris Wallace -Poynter

Photo courtesy of Fox News.

Poynter has a big announcement today. It has named Fox News’ Chris Wallace as the recipient of the Poynter Medal of Lifetime Achievement in Journalism. According to Poynter, the award honors “those whose journalism careers have made a significant impact on democracy and its institutions.” Past recipients include Katie Couric, Lester Holt, Judy Woodruff, Tom Brokaw and Bob Schieffer.

Typically, the award is handed out at a Bowtie Ball gala in St. Petersburg, Florida, where Poynter is located, but because of COVID-19, Wallace will be honored through a special online celebration sometime after the Nov. 3 election.

Wallace has been in journalism for more than 50 years, including long and distinguished stints at NBC News, ABC News and Fox News, where he has been since 2003. And he continues to be a major force in journalism. He ably moderates “Fox News Sunday,” recently had a no-holds-barred interview with President Donald Trump and he will moderate the first presidential debate next week.

Poynter President Neil Brown said, “We are honored to celebrate the outstanding career of Chris Wallace and the incredible vitality and honesty of his journalism. Chris’ record of balanced reporting across the years makes him among the most respected journalists in America today, even in these strikingly polarized times.”

In a statement to Poynter, Wallace said, “The Poynter Institute has been promoting and teaching solid journalism for almost half a century. At a time when traditional standards of fairness and accuracy are being questioned — both in and outside the industry — Poynter is a keeper of the flame for our profession. I am proud to receive the Poynter Medal. My only quibble is about ‘Lifetime Achievement.’ I am just getting started.”



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A good start

ESPN insider Louis Riddick on the field before an NFL game in 2019. (AP Photo/Craig Lassig)

After a couple of years of bumbling and stumbling around because of its announcing crew, has ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” finally found the winning formula with Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick? It has only been two weeks, but so far, reviews from critics (and Twitterverse, which is the harshest judge of all) have been mostly positive.

Andrew Marchand, sports media columnist at The New York Post, writes that, hey, at least these guys are better than the past crew of Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland. He wrote, “As compliments go, this is not the greatest one. But it is something.”

My take: Levy is solid. Griese is solid. And Riddick is outstanding. Put it all together and you have an above-average crew that, so far, has made the game the focal point of the broadcast. Maybe that’s why they’ve been so well received so far.

An alternate alternative

Alt-publications in local markets tend to lean left politically. As Philadelphia magazine’s Victor Fiorillo explains, Philadelphia used to have two alt-weekly newspapers that were liberal: City Paper and Philadelphia Weekly. That dropped to one when City Paper stopped publishing in 2015. And now the remaining alt-weekly is re-thinking what it means to truly be alternative.

As Fiorillo writes, “But just what is an alt-weekly in a city filled with a bunch of ‘liberal rags.’ as people like to call us? … With all of these ‘silenced’ conservative voices and the proliferation of liberal ones, could it be that the ‘alt’ perspective that needs to be served by an alt-weekly is now … a conservative one?”

Fiorillo reports the Philadelphia Weekly might be going conservative. In a Kickstarter campaign, Philadelphia Weekly chief revenue officer Ed Lynes wrote, “Being ‘alt’ in 2020 is different than it was years ago. Conservatives are the ones who no longer have a voice — especially here in Philly. People enraged by an inept and ineffectual city government are routinely rejected by the powers-that-be. If you oppose a socialist and intrusive government, your views are rejected by the city’s mainstream media.”

Lynes told Fiorillo that the Philadelphia Weekly is only considering a switch.

“(We) do need to see if there are enough conservative, mad-as-hell, fed-up-with-City-Hall people to ensure this would be a sustainable model moving forward, both in terms of reader interaction and support, and also to attract advertising dollars,” Lynes told Fiorillo.

Keep an eye on this. If Philadelphia Weekly makes the switch and it is successful, could other alt-publications around the country follow?

The rating game

What a year it has been for ABC’s “World News Tonight.” For the first time in 24 years, the broadcast was the No. 1 evening newscast for the 2019-20 TV season in all key target demos: total viewers (9.385 million), adults 25-54 (1.877 million) and adults 18-49 (1.268 million), all according to Nielsen.

But, really, all the network evening newscasts are doing well. Last week, for example, “World News Tonight”  averaged 9 million viewers, NBC’s “Nightly News” averaged 7 million and the “CBS Evening News” had 5.1 million. CBS’s numbers are up for the first time in four years.

Some other noteworthy TV rating numbers for the 2019-20 season:

Sunday morning political news was won by “Meet the Press” in all demos, including total viewers, with an average of 3.461 million. (Although, as an aside, CBS’s “Face the Nation” did well this past Sunday with guests Bill Clinton and Sen. Cory Booker, among others, drawing 3.14 million viewers.)

“CBS Sunday Morning,” maybe the best pound-for-pound show on TV, had a great season, delivering its best numbers in four years with 5.88 million viewers.

Helping the vote

NBC News officials have something cool and helpful coming out today. They are making their deep amount of data on polling, early voting results, voter turnout and more available to the public with easy-to-consume interactives. It includes things such as the NBC News National Polling Average; the Early Vote, which looks at mail-in voting and compares 2016 to 2020; Swing the Election, which looks at how various demographic groups could shift the Electoral College; and Plan Your Vote, which helps citizens to vote with state-by-state guides to voting.

Your voice, your vote

Speaking of the election, ABC News Live — the network’s streaming service available on Hulu, The Roku Channel, YouTube and other various outlets — will announce today that it is adding the program “Your Voice Your Vote: The Breakdown” to its afternoon lineup. Hosted by Diane Macedo and Terry Moran, the new 30-minute program will feature the issues voters are contemplating heading into the election. It will also feature ABC News correspondents and contributions from FiveThirtyEight.

In a statement, executive producer David Hatcher said, “From reopening schools to the rent crisis to rules of engagement for police, the issues in America right now are more than just political, they’re cultural too. This program will be straightforward when breaking down these important issues and provide the context and analysis voters should be armed with to help them when they cast their vote.”

The show premiers next Monday (Sept. 28) from 3-3:30 p.m. Eastern.

Hot type

In 2003, Rolling Stone came out with its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. They tinkered with it in 2012. And now they’ve completely updated it and there’s a new No. 1. So, here is Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

And on the topic of lists, this is freshly out: Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people of 2020.

Kara Swisher’s “Sway” podcast for The New York Times launched this week. The first episode is an interview with Nancy Pelosi.

Love this piece by Alyssa Bereznak on The Ringer: “Ten Years Later, Mark Zuckerberg Is Still Trying To Overcome ‘The Social Network.’”

More resources for journalists

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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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