Would a Trump loss in November be bad for the media business?

The New York Times is not going anywhere. Fox News will motor along. The news will carry on regardless of who lives in the White House.

August 11, 2020
Category: Newsletters

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Early in his presidency, Donald Trump insisted that he was the best thing that could happen to The New York Times and other media outlets. Since then, he has often repeated that when he is done being president — whether that’s in January or four years from now — the media will miss him and they will suffer without his presence.

Trump certainly creates plenty of news, but make no mistake, the media will carry on regardless of who is president come next year. Journalism, particularly local journalism, will continue its commitment to being a watchdog for its audience. Despite what you might think, that really hasn’t changed with Trump in the White House and it won’t change no matter who wins the election.

And The New York Times most certainly is not going anywhere.

But what about some of the national political outlets? What about CNN and MSNBC and Fox News, especially their primetime punditry programming?

Would a Joe Biden victory in November be bad for business?

In a story by Digiday’s Steven Perlberg, former CNN president Jonathan Klein said. “What would go away is the bad guy in the story. There’s no antagonist. So what are we tuning in for? Grandpa is a nice guy. Everybody might be relieved to not watch as much cable news anymore and go find a book to read, a garden to plant, or a socially-distanced walk to take.”

I’m not sure that is true. For starters, Fox News will continue to motor along. It’s already the most-watched cable news station with Trump in the White House. Without Trump, it will have a target to criticize nightly in Biden. Meantime, the other networks won’t be obsessing over Trump, but there will still be news. Plus, there’s a chance that viewers currently suffering Trump fatigue might be more engaged in the news again.

But there’s also a good possibility that if Biden does become president, there won’t be nightly conversations about the president’s latest tweet. There might not be a daily question of, “Did you see what the president did today?”

One reporter who currently has a TV deal with one of the networks told Perlberg, “There isn’t going to be an arms race for Joe Biden TV analysts.”

But speaking of Trump fatigue, when Jeremy Barr, now with The Washington Post, was still with The Hollywood Reporter last May, he wrote a story talking to some media about what it would be like to cover a Trump second term.

A senior CNN producer told Barr, “I don’t know anybody who wants to do another four years of this news cycle.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean the media is rooting against Trump because of his politics.

The producer told Barr, “As journalists, I don’t think anybody cares about what party the president of the United States is. What they care about is being able to live their lives normally again. I think there’s mental exhaustion around this presidency, and I don’t know anybody who is enjoying it.”

Could the same be said of the audience?

Either way, the news will carry on regardless of who lives in the White House.

The future of college football

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence in last season’s national championship game. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Is the college football season going to get canceled or what?

Monday was a dizzying cycle of news. Nationally syndicated sports radio host Dan Patrick said he heard from a source that the Big Ten and Pac-12 were going to cancel their seasons as early as today. Then a massive pushback by college football players and some coaches gathered steam as the day went on and it appeared as if other conferences — the SEC, Big 12 and ACC — were leaning toward playing. Then came word that the Big Ten and Pac-12 hadn’t decided anything, with some reports suggesting that the season might not be canceled, but postponed until spring.

President Trump weighed in with several tweets. First, he retweeted a tweet from Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and wrote, “The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled. #WeWantToPlay.” Then, later, he simply tweeted, “Play College Football!” Then came another: a video supporting #WeWantToPlay.

Particularly noticeable, especially on Twitter, was the number of media members advocating for college football to go on as scheduled, regardless of the risks. The sentiment: Let’s plow ahead because there’s danger in everything and, doggone it, we want our football.

My theory on this push to play even though it seems incredibly risky and unnecessary: People badly want it because they desperately need to feel some sense of normalcy and they see college football as hope — that things are OK. By not playing, it’s an admission that we are NOT OK, that things are NOT normal. And that’s a tough pill to swallow.

Fauci speaks

Dr. Anthony Fauci. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP)

A tweet went viral last week — a photo taken inside a Georgia high school. It showed students packed in a hallway, most not wearing masks. The student who took the photo was, at first, suspended, and then that suspension was rescinded. Now, at least nine students/staff members at the school have tested positive for the coronavirus.

That image was, apparently, in the mind of Dr. Anthony Fauci during an interview with David Muir that aired on ABC’s “World News Tonight.”

“There should be universal wearing of masks,” Fauci said when asked about reopening schools. “It is disturbing to me.”

As far as President Trump’s assertion that the virus is disappearing, Fauci told Muir, “No, it’s not. … I mean, all you’ve got to do is look at the data, David. The virus is telling us what it can and will do if we don’t confront it properly.”

Fauci also told Muir that we might have a “very difficult time” this fall and winter, but that “we can turn that around.”

It was good to see Fauci on a major network and being interviewed on what has been the most-watched news broadcast on TV — and, in many weeks, the most-watched show on all of TV.

Tweet of the day

CNN Trump fact-checker Daniel Dale tweeted this following Trump’s Monday press conference:

“They’re all at least pretty bad, but that was one of the worst Trump press conferences in a while from a truth standpoint. Fast and furious lying.”

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Podcast of the day

If you’re looking for a podcast, check out the return of The Washington Post’s “Presidential.” Hosted by Lillian Cunningham, the pod is back with special episodes leading up to the November election. The latest episode looks back on Walter Mondale’s decision in 1984 to pick Geraldine Ferraro as the first female running mate for a major U.S. party. The episode features an interview with Mondale and his decision’s lasting impact — which is particularly noteworthy now that Joe Biden is on the verge of selecting a woman as his running mate.

McClatchy CEO

For this item, I turn it over to Poynter media business analyst Rick Edmonds.

Chatham Asset Management has tapped a veteran Tribune executive as CEO when it takes over McClatchy next month. Tony Hunter was the Chicago Tribune publisher, then advanced to Tribune Publishing CEO as the company was emerging from bankruptcy in the early 2010s and later split from its local broadcast division. He left after entrepreneur Michael Ferro took control of the company, renamed it Tronc and installed his own CEO. Hunter was also chairman of the Newspaper Association of America, the predecessor industry organization to the News Media Alliance, in 2016.

Chatham will name a board of directors later. A press release Friday, like earlier announcements, signaled that Chatham will aim for continuity as the company emerges from bankruptcy — keeping all 30 newspapers and honoring contracts.

Sidelight: Hunter temporarily exited his news career a year ago to become chairman of Revolutionary Enterprises, a Chicago-based cannabis company. He told Cheddar in an interview that there was more similarity in the businesses than one might suppose: “I came from one of the biggest mission-based industries there is, and, lo and behold, I found another one that’s really focused on social and economic and doing well for consumers.”

They’re baaack

Lynnette Hardaway, left, and Rochelle Richardson, a.k.a. Diamond and Silk in 2018. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)

Remember “Diamond & Silk?” They were the duo whose views on COVID-19 were so out of whack that even Fox Nation, Fox News’ streaming service, thought they were dangerous and fired them.

Well, they’re back. They’re on something called Newsmax TV. Mediaite’s Zachary Petrizzo reports that “Diamond and Silk Crystal Clear” made its debut last Saturday and will air each Saturday. They talked about their show on a YouTube video, and took a couple of subtle shots at their former employer.

Paying for journalism

Starting Wednesday, for the first time ever, the Detroit Free Press is launching a paywall. It won’t be a full paywall. (This story explains how it will work.)

Editor Peter Bhatia wrote to readers in a Free Press story, “‘Subscriber-only’ stories will be the unique, revelatory, in-depth stories that are not available elsewhere.”

Bhatia wrote that many, many newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, have partial or full paywalls. He also noted that the coronavirus pandemic “demonstrated that quality, verified journalism has never been more important” and that the Free Press set audience records in March, April and May.

He also wrote:

“We are in this to make a difference, for you, for Detroit, for the greater metro area, for Michigan. We look forward to detailing and explaining the fall election season. We will continue to investigate issues that matter to you. We will tell the stories of the extraordinary people who define Detroit and Michigan. And we are launching soon a new initiative to dive deeper into the neighborhoods of Detroit. We are dedicated to this place and improving the work we do.”

A strike looms in Pittsburgh

The newsroom staff of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette voted 88-31 Monday to authorize union leaders to call a strike at the paper. The vote now must be approved by the executive council of the local union, NewsGuild. Approval would then move the matter onto Communications Workers of America president Christopher M. Shelton, who has the final authorization.

The union said it has been attempting to negotiate a new contract for the past three and a half years.

Guild president Michael Fuoco, a reporter at the P-G for 36 years, said in a statement, “We want nothing more than to negotiate a mutually agreed upon settlement. Should the company refuse to rescind the illegal changes to our working conditions, return to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair contract for both sides, we are prepared to withhold our talent from the Post-Gazette, to effectively remove the newspaper’s heart and soul.”

(Sports) media tidbits

  • The Seattle Kraken, the expansion team set to join the National Hockey League for the 2021-22 season, has hired Everett Fitzhugh to be its play-by-play announcer. Fitzhugh is believed to be the first full-time Black team broadcaster in NHL history.
  • ESPN’s coverage of the PGA Championship — the first major golf tournament of the year because of the coronavirus — drew huge viewership numbers. ESPN’s coverage from noon to 3 p.m. (which didn’t even include most of the leaders) drew 1.965 million viewers — up 60% from TNT’s same coverage in 2019. This appears to be another sign that viewers are embracing television sports after going several months without. Then again, Sportico’s Anthony Crupi writes that there are signs viewers aren’t all that riled up about the return of sports.
  • As I already reported, ESPN/ABC has settled on a new “Monday Night Football” broadcasting team of Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick. There was talk that if the college football season was canceled then maybe the top college football broadcasting team of Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit would jump into the “MNF” booth. But New York Post sports media columnist Andrew Marchand reports that ESPN/ABC will stick with Levy, Griese and Riddick if college football is canceled. However, if the college season is wiped out or pushed back to spring, ESPN might try to acquire some NFL games to show on Saturdays and Fowler and Herbstreit could call those games.
  • Awful Announcing’s Ben Koo reported that HBO Sports president Peter Nelson is leaving the company. Koo reports that Nelson is leaving on his own terms. Koo wrote, “However the popular conjecture is that Nelson and HBO’s motivation for the parting may boil down to the fact that HBO Sports’s internal significance and ambitions have been trending down for the past decade.”

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Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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