By:
March 30, 2021

Fox News can’t get enough of the Trump family.

Aside from interviewing former President Donald Trump every chance it gets, and talking to Eric Trump over the weekend, now Fox News is putting a Trump on the payroll.

It was only a matter of time, right?

It was announced Monday that Lara Trump — Eric’s wife and Donald’s daughter-in-law — will be a Fox News contributor.

But there’s something a bit messy about this news: Lara Trump is considering a run for U.S. Senate in North Carolina. Appearing on Newsmax over the weekend, she said that she is “strongly considering” a Senate run and hopes to have a decision “very soon.”

So if you’re Fox News, why not wait until she makes a decision before bringing her on board? Don’t you have to at least pretend you care about a conflict of interest?

Lara Trump, who worked as a senior adviser on President Trump’s reelection campaign, certainly will bring a pro-Trump, conservative opinion to her commentary, and it’s not as if Fox News has ever shown a propensity to be fair and balanced. This merely confirms that Fox News’ propaganda arm remains flexed. Still, with Lara Trump contemplating a Senate run, you would think Fox News might hold off before bringing her into the fold.

In the past, Fox News has cut ties with analysts who mounted campaigns to run for public office, such as former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who is running for governor of Arkansas. So you would guess they’ll do the same if Lara Trump officially throws her hat in the ring.

It’s not unusual for former (or future) political candidates or officials to work at any network. All networks do it. But by bringing in someone named Trump who is contemplating a Senate run shows Fox News is more interested in ratings, pleasing its hardcore audience and getting out a particular message than considering the journalistic ramifications of such a move.

Sonmez-Post update

In Monday’s newsletter, I wrote about the situation at The Washington Post involving reporter Felicia Sonmez. A recent town hall meeting at the Post featured Sonmez calling out an editor who didn’t support her last year when she faced online bullying and death threats. After basketball star Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash, Sonmez was briefly suspended after tweeting out a reminder that Bryant was once accused of sexual assault. Sonmez, who has been public about being a sexual assault survivor, had her suspension retracted after fellow staffers supported her, but the Post banned her from covering issues involving sexual assault and the #MeToo movement.

Sonmez wrote a lengthy Twitter thread on Sunday recounting all that has happened and how the Post’s decision to limit her reporting has impacted her. That generated plenty of conversation — and support for Sonmez — online.

On Monday, the Post reversed course and will not keep Sonmez from covering sexual assault issues.

In a tweet, Sonmez wrote:

“Hi all. I’ve been told by my editors that the Post is rescinding its ban. This is good news, but it’s unfortunate that it had to come at such a high emotional toll, and after my distress was dismissed for years. I’m taking time to rest and process. Thank you for your support.”

Better late than never, but the Post’s decision to ban her in the first place was a misguided one.

In a statement Monday, the Post said, “Following a newsroom discussion two weeks ago, editors began re-evaluating limitations on the scope of Felicia’s work as a breaking-news reporter. They have concluded such limitations are unnecessary.”

The Chauvin trial

In this image from video, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell, left, speaks while defense attorney Eric Nelson, right, listens during opening statements in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. (Court TV via AP, Pool)

The murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd by kneeling on his neck, is underway. Opening statements and testimony began Monday, and the trial is expected to last about a month.

All the national and cable TV news networks are devoting special coverage to the trial.

An especially insightful way to watch the trial is to go to The New York Times’ website, which is showing live coverage while its reporters — both in Minneapolis and New York — offer instant analysis.

For example, during Monday’s testimony, the Times’ Timothy Arango in Minneapolis wrote, “Handling this next witness for the state is Steve Schleicher, another of the prosecution’s outside lawyers working pro-bono. Mr. Schleicher, a former prosecutor who worked on organized crime and racketeering cases, handled jury selection for the state, often smiling and talking in a friendly, conversational manner.”

At another point, the Times’ Shaila Dewan reported, “Over the break we learned from the pool reporters in the courtroom that Philonise Floyd, George’s brother, is in the Floyd family seat in court. The seat reserved for a family member of Mr. Chauvin is unoccupied, as it was throughout jury selection.”

And it even included this observation from Dewan: “Are all Midwestern trials like this? I haven’t heard a single objection today. There was maybe one during jury selection. Everyone is incredibly civil.”

These kinds of details during the trial add extra perspective and insight and it’s something the Times has perfected on other stories, such as presidential debates.

Meanwhile, cameras are allowed in the courtroom during the trial, which led SiriusXM POTUS host Michael Smerconish to tweet, “With the caveat that it is only Day 1, unlike the impact of cameras on OJ trial, this is what it looks like in courtrooms across the country every day. All biz.  Straightforward. No theatrics. We are all fortunate to be able to watch. Cameras should always be permitted.”

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A big-time investment

In a story broken by The Wall Street Journal’s Lukas I. Alpert, a Florida investor named Mason Slaine might be interested in joining hotel magnate Stewart Bainum Jr. in the effort to acquire Tribune Publishing and keep it away from Alden Global Capital. Slaine, who owns a 3.4% stake in Tribune, said he is willing to put up $100 million in Bainum’s bid in order to acquire two of the Tribune’s newspapers in Florida: the Orlando Sentinel and the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale.

In an email to a group of reporters in Orlando and obtained by Alpert, Slaine wrote, “I am a Florida resident and I believe heartily in strong investigative journalism as a necessary part of creating a safe and honest society.”

Terrific piece

I neglected to put this in Monday’s newsletter, but if you missed the “60 Minutes” piece on legendary sportswriter Dave Kindred, you really need to watch it. (You can view it here.)

Kindred, 79, had a remarkable career as a columnist, covering more than 40 Super Bowls and World Series and 52 Masters golf tournaments, as well as numerous Olympics and other events. He was named winner of the Red Smith Award, generally regarded as sportswriting’s highest honor. His career included stops at The Washington Post, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Sporting News.

And while he may be retired as a newspaper columnist, he is far from done as a sports journalist. In fact, he says the most fulfilling work of his career is what he is doing now: writing about girls high school basketball in central Illinois.

It’s a touching piece, made even better by the excellent reporting of another really good sportswriter: Jon Wertheim.

Honoring Holt

Tonight, “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt will receive the Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. Holt was supposed to receive the award last year, but it was postponed because of COVID-19.

In 2018, Holt was awarded the Poynter Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism.

MyPillowSpace

MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, right, speaks as President Donald Trump listens during a briefing about the coronavirus at the White House in March 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Mike Lindell continues to ride the crazy train. Appearing on Steve Bannon’s podcast, the MyPillow CEO, Trump supporter and conspiracy theorist says he’s whipping up a social media site that is like YouTube with a Twitter feature and that it will be able to handle up to 1 billion users. Yeah, you read that right: 1 billion. (For the record, Twitter has about 190 million users.)

Lindell needs a combined YouTube and Twitter because he has been banned from both platforms because he kept pushing baseless claims of voter fraud. Perhaps the billion he should be worried about is the $1.3 billion he’s being sued for by Dominion Voting Systems for defamation after claiming Dominion helped rig the election for Joe Biden.

By the way, Lindell also claims that he’s collecting evidence about voter fraud to take to the Supreme Court and that he expects Trump to be back in the White House as president by August.

More lawsuits

Speaking of lawsuits, Axios’ Dan Primack reports that Dominion might sue more media companies than just Fox News. Last week, Dominion officially filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News over its coverage of the 2020 presidential election.

During an appearance on the Axios Re:Cap podcast, Dominion attorney Thomas Clare said, “We’re looking at other media outlets, and making sure we can meet all of the elements of defamation. There were other outlets that played a similar role to Fox in spreading these lies. I expect that we’re going to be holding them accountable as well.”

A notable hire

News in the journalism world as Robert J. Lopez, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former journalist at The Los Angeles Times, is returning to the Times as accountability reporter in Los Angeles, focusing on underserved communities. After two decades at the Times, Lopez left in 2014 to become director of communications at Cal State Los Angeles. Lopez was part of a team that won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for public service for stories that uncovered alleged corruption in the city of Bell, California.

Hot type

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

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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