April 13, 2021

Much of the nation’s attention and anxiousness already was focused on Minneapolis at the Derek Chauvin trial when more horrific news about a police officer killing a Black man came down Sunday.

Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was shot and killed by police after being pulled over in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center.

Ironically and sadly, national media already are in Minneapolis for the Chauvin trial, and now have turned their attention to this latest shooting and subsequent news conferences and protests.

While national outlets such as the major networks, CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today have all provided detailed and impressive coverage, it’s the local papers — The Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press — that have provided audiences with extensive and quality reporting.

From the latest shooting to coverage of the Chauvin trial, The Star Tribune and Pioneer Press have provided the type of coverage that only local newspapers can because they are part of the community. Those who produce The Star Tribune and Pioneer Press live there, work there, raise their children there. They are the Twin Cities, and offer reporting that speaks not only to readers, but to neighbors and friends and family.

They tell stories that even the best national outlets cannot tell.

As far as Monday, protests continued as the nation watched. Here’s a powerful clip from Star Tribune photographer Carlos Gonzalez, who was pepper-sprayed while covering the scene outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department.

In real time, cable news offers the most up-to-date and compelling coverage, and this is where CNN, in particular, outshines all other news outlets with live reports from Minneapolis.

Among the most gripping Monday night was this exchange between CNN’s Sara Sidner and a man on the street. The language was R-rated, and yet credit CNN for staying with the interview. Most networks would have dumped out after someone started repeating expletives, but CNN wisely hung in there because it felt as if the man had something important to say. Sidner did a good job keeping the interview going and allowing the man to say what he wanted to say.

After the interview, Sidner tweeted, “I’m not going anywhere. I love Minneapolis, it’s surrounding suburbs including #BrooklynCenter, and it’s people. I get that people are mad. It’s normal. I take no offense. Emotions are understandably high after the killing of #DanteWright.”

In addition, Sidner told host Chris Cuomo on air, “I’m not moving out of here. I’m a reporter. I have been in Minneapolis for years covering stories and I feel like this is also my community. So I’m not going anywhere.”

At another point, Sidner said, “This is the strongest tear gas that I have ever faced at a protest.” CNN crime and justice correspondent Shimon Prokupecz also had strong reporting from the scene.

In another compelling and heartbreaking moment during Monday night’s coverage, CNN’s Don Lemon did a phone interview with Daunte Wright’s aunt, Naisha Wright, who was in her car driving from Alabama to Minnesota.

MSNBC also aired live coverage from the streets of Brooklyn Center with journalist Ron Allen’s excellent reporting in the middle of protests. However, it is notable that during an Allen interview with protestors, MSNBC did cut away and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow said, “We’re just gonna cut in because we have a responsibility in terms of the language, and I’m sorry to have to cut in on you there, Ron, but there’s certain things that we can broadcast and certain things we can’t. We do apologize for the language that you just heard there.” (Credit to Mediaite for posting that clip.) Maddow did acknowledge the “rawness and anger” that people in Minnesota are feeling.

Meanwhile, three professional sports teams in the Twin Cities — MLB’s Twins, the NBA’s Timberwolves and NHL’s Wild — all were scheduled to play at home on Monday. All three teams postponed their games. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale gave his thoughts on this with “For Twins and others in Minneapolis, emotions are raw after another senseless killing.”

Most outlets have made the smart decision to air (or publish) the police bodycam footage of the shooting. While difficult to watch, it was critical in telling the story. News outlets choosing to show the disturbing video is the right call.

More on Carlson

As I wrote in Monday’s newsletter, Tucker Carlson’s commentary on his Fox News prime-time show has grown more disturbing. The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson weighed in on Carlson with his latest column: “How Tucker Carlson’s racist rhetoric gives new life to Trumpism.”

Carlson’s latest controversy is for comments he made on air last week about “replacement theory” — the racist conspiracy theory that says white people are being replaced by immigrants.

Gerson wrote, “This is what modern, poll-tested, shrink-wrapped, mass-marketed racism looks like. Carlson is providing his audience with sophisticated rationales for their worst, most prejudicial instincts. And the brilliance of Carlson’s business model is to reinterpret moral criticism of his bigotry as an attack by elites on his viewers. Public outrage is thus recycled into fuel for MAGA victimhood. And so the Fox News machine runs on and on.”

Gerson went on to write, “Each day, Carlson gives a pure, accurate depiction of Trumpism. This viewpoint is not focused on the working-class economic dislocation caused by globalization, or even the moral panic resulting from rapidly changing cultural norms. It is an argument in favor of cultural purity, of social hygiene.”

Fox News enables Carlson

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

If you think Fox News is going to do anything about Carlson’s incendiary commentary, think again.

Fox Corporation chief executive Lachlan Murdoch dismissed calls from the Anti-Defamation League to fire Carlson, according to a report by CNN’s Oliver Darcy. Not that anyone expected Fox News to actually fire Carlson, but Murdoch actually defended Carlson’s replacement theory comments. The ADL called for Carlson’s dismissal in a letter last week.

In a response letter to ADL chief executive Jonathan Greenblatt, Murdoch said he shared Greenblatt’s values and that he abhorred anti-Semitism, white supremacy and racism of any kind.

“Concerning the segment of ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’ on April 8th, however, we respectfully disagree,” Murdoch wrote. “A full review of the guest interview indicates that Mr. Carlson decried and rejected replacement theory. As Mr. Carlson himself stated during the guest interview: ‘White replacement theory? No, no, this is a voting rights question.’”

It’s disheartening, although not at all surprising, that Murdoch bought into Carlson’s typical I’m-not-saying-what-you-think-I’m-saying defense. Murdoch also mentioned how the ADL honored his father, Rupert, a decade ago

In a letter back to Murdoch, Greenblatt wrote, “As you noted in your letter, ADL honored your father over a decade ago, but let me be clear that we would not do so today, and it does not absolve you, him, the network, or its board from the moral failure of not taking action against Mr. Carlson.”

Greenblatt also wrote he’s not buying Carlson’s defense that this was a voting rights question.

“In fact,” Greenblatt wrote, “it’s worse, because he’s using a straw man — voting rights — to give an underhanded endorsement of white supremacist beliefs while ironically suggesting it’s not really white supremacism. While your response references a ‘full review’ of the interview, it seems the reviewers missed the essential point here.”

Houston Chronicle writer fired for radio comments

Catching up on this story from last week: A Houston Chronicle reporter who covered the Houston Texans football team has left the paper following comments he made on a Boston radio station. Aaron Wilson, who had covered the Texans at the Chronicle since 2015, was appearing on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show” to discuss the situation involving Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. More than 20 women have filed civil suits against Watson, alleging sexual assault and harassment.

Wilson was asked if this was a “money grab” — that the women were trying to extort money from Watson? Wilson said, “In his case, you know, it’s kind of you don’t negotiate with terrorists. People are demanding money, they’re asking for money. It kept escalating, it kept going up and up and up. You’re talking about more and more funds, I’m not going to say how much it got to, but my understanding is, you know, that there was an admission that, it was, you know, something, you know just that this was, you know, just a money grab.”

Awful Announcing’s Sean Keeley points out that Wilson made more comments, including he was “skeptical” of the allegations, and passed along that the women “haven’t put their name on it.” (That’s a trope that suggests the victims aren’t credible.) As Keeley wrote, “Wilson, who mentioned that he had spoken to Watson’s lawyer the night before, really just seemed to be passing along his legal strategy and talking points, eventually pairing the idea of paying the accusers to negotiate with ‘terrorists.’”

Defector’s Diana Moskovitz and Kalyn Kahler were the first to report that Wilson was no longer working for the Chronicle. They also obtained a memo that Chronicle executive editor Steve Riley sent to the newsroom. It said, in part:

The sexual assault allegations against Deshaun Watson bring those standards front and center. This note serves as a reminder that as we report, analyze and describe those allegations, those who bring them, and the person they are brought against, we must approach the story with fairness and care toward all involved. Given the frequency of content we are creating, on a growing number of print and digital channels, our editors must also be more vigilant with our oversight of coverage on all platforms. … Facts are good. Analysis is OK. Opinion, speculation, or baseless assertions are not. We won’t tolerate that sort of commentary.

Wilson eventually posted a statement on Twitter, saying he made a “mistake” and “did not choose” his words “carefully enough.” He wrote, “My efforts to convey perspectives on the situation clearly demonstrated an unintentional lack of sensitivity to the serious nature of these type of allegations, and I sincerely apologize for my remarks.”

For more about the Watson case, check out John Barr’s work on ESPN: “Examining the dual narratives around Deshaun Watson’s many massages.”

Google it

(zz/John Nacion/STAR MAX/IPx)

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

One of several hot media stories over the weekend was a Wall Street Journal exposé of how Google has been secretly directing ad sales back to itself. “Project Bernanke” has harvested data from publishing partners and used that to influence automated ad exchanges that control many placements. The disclosures were in a Texas antitrust suit on behalf of a number of states. The suit also revealed new details of another secret deal, this one code-named “Jedi Blue,” where Google collaborated with Facebook to send ad placements their way.

David Chavern, president of the News Media Alliance and a persistent critic of how the big platform companies have devastated publishing business models, had particularly strong criticism in a statement Sunday:

Google rigged the ad market so that their ‘house’ always wins — and they did it to the immediate detriment of local news publishers. Let’s drop any pretense about there actually being any fair competition for digital ad dollars. Google and Facebook are the regulators of the digital ad market and have been regulators of local news for years. Lawmakers who refuse to act to support local news are just voluntarily giving-in to the ultimate power and authority of the tech platforms.

Grim news

Some depressing newspaper news on Monday.

Nine people were laid off at The Roanoke Times, which is owned by Lee Enterprises. In a statement, Alison Graham, an investigative reporter and the Timesland News Guild vice chair, said, “These layoffs mark another difficult day for The Roanoke Times and its continued survival in Southwest Virginia. Our corporate owners have once again put short-sighted profit goals over both long-term solutions and the newspaper’s mission to deliver vital local news.”

The Guild said the newsroom staff has been slashed by more than 25% since Lee Enterprises took over in early 2020.

Meanwhile, The Courier-Journal is putting its downtown Louisville building up for sale. It has been home to Courier-Journal journalists for more than seven decades.

In a story by The Courier-Journal’s Billy Kobin, executive editor Mary Irby-Jones said the news outlet will explore other office options. She said, “We are committed to Louisville and Kentucky, and the sale of the building will not change how we cover our communities, region and state.”

If you haven’t seen it, Poynter’s Kristen Hare has been tracking all the newsroom layoffs, furloughs and closures that have happened during the coronavirus pandemic.

Good news

In the previous item, I mentioned Courier-Journal executive editor Mary Irby-Jones, who was the former executive editor at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi. On Monday, her replacement was named. It is Marlon A. Walker. He was named executive editor of The Clarion-Ledger, as well as the Mississippi state editor for the USA Today Network, which includes the Hattiesburg American.

Walker joined The Clarion-Ledger as a senior editor last August. Before that, he was a reporter at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His resume also includes stops at the Tampa Bay Times; The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina; The Associated Press; The Telegraph in Macon, Georgia; the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Detroit Free Press.

The Clarion-Ledger’s Justin Vicory has more on Walker’s promotion.

Meanwhile, Reuters News reports it is set to name Alessandra Galloni as its next editor-in-chief. She will be the first woman to lead Reuters News in its 170-year history. Galloni will replace Stephen J. Adler, who is retiring.

Reuters News writes, “A speaker of four languages, and with broad experience covering business and political news at Reuters and previously at the Wall Street Journal, Galloni takes the helm as the news agency faces an array of challenges. Some of these are common to all news media. Others are specific to the organization’s complexity: With a worldwide staff of some 2,450 journalists, Reuters serves a range of divergent customers and is also a unit in a much larger information-services business.”

American Insurrection

Tonight’s “Frontline” on PBS (10 p.m. Eastern on most PBS stations) will air a new investigation in collaboration with ProPublica and the UC Berkeley Investigative Reporting Program. The program is called “ American Insurrection” and is from journalist A.C. Thompson and the team that made “Documenting Hate: New American Nazis” and “Documenting Hate: Charlottesville.”

“American Insurrection” examines the far-right groups and leaders responsible for recent threats and violence around the country. Here’s the chilling trailer.

Hot type

(Courtesy: The Washington Post)

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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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