By:
February 17, 2021

Brooke Baldwin is one of CNN’s most familiar faces. But not for much longer.

During her CNN daytime show on Tuesday, Baldwin made a surprise announcement. She’s stepping away from the network in April.

Judging by her on-air statement, it sounds like leaving is completely her choice, although she said she has no job lined up.

“The next chapter of my life will be focused on what I love the most about my work: amplifying the lives of extraordinary Americans,” Baldwin said. “There is just more I need to do — outside the walls of this place, a place I have been privileged to call home for 13 years. Yep, we’re still in a pandemic. No, I don’t have a job I’m jumping right into. Yes, I’m feeling very vulnerable.”

Baldwin said she has been working on a book for the past two years. The book — titled “Huddle: How Women Unlock Their Collective Power” — will be published by HarperCollins in April.

In her announcement, she praised and thanked CNN, including CNN president Jeff Zucker.

She said, “For a decade I’ve never taken for granted the enormous responsibility and privilege I’ve had to work with some of the most talented producers and photojournalists and correspondents and anchors out there as we have covered our era’s most urgent and important stories, conflicts, terrorism, environmental and natural disasters, the wrath of gun violence, royal weddings, my American Woman series, the social justice movements that define our culture and a pandemic that changed the world and politics — lots of politics.”

Baldwin has been with CNN since 2008 and has anchored a two-hour midday show since 2016. She was one of the first notable journalists to come down with COVID-19, which she chronicled for CNN.

HuffPost and New York magazine contributor Yashar Ali tweeted that sources told him that Ana Cabrera and Victor Blackwell are “set to take over Brooke Baldwin’s slot at CNN with their own programs.”

A very big deal

In a deal worth $630 million, Alden Global Capital has agreed to acquire Tribune Publishing, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, the New York Daily News, The Hartford Courant and many other major newspapers.

The deal, announced after the stock market closed on Tuesday, would create one of the largest newspaper operations in the United States. Tribune Publishing announced that Alden, which already owns 32% of Tribune Publishing, would buy the remaining shares for $17.25 a piece.

The possible deal is already causing great concern for many in the media industry because Alden is a hedge fund known for deep cost-cutting measures at other newspapers it has purchased.

However, there is one piece of optimistic news out of this. As a part of the deal, The Tribune-owned Baltimore Sun will be acquired by a nonprofit formed by businessman and philanthropist Stewart Bainum Jr. According to The Baltimore Sun’s Christopher Dinsmore, the nonprofit Sunlight for All Institute would acquire The Baltimore Sun, Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Carroll County Times and several other Baltimore-area weeklies and magazines, as well as their online operations.

In a memo acquired by Poynter, Tribune CEO Terry Jimenez told Tribune staff, “Today’s announcement is the first step of a process that will take several months. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2021 and is subject to regulatory review, the approval of holders of two-thirds of Tribune common stock not owned by Alden, and other customary closing conditions. Upon completion of the transaction Tribune will become a privately held company, and its common stock will no longer be listed on any public market. We will remain focused on our journalistic mission throughout this process and I will be working closely with the Alden team to ensure a smooth transition across the organization.”

There is one thing that could hold up the sale: Los Angeles Times owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong has to sign off on the deal. As Poynter media business analyst Rick Edmonds wrote on Tuesday, Soon-Shiong “in  essence … has veto power.” Soon-Shiong owns about 24% of Tribune Publishing.

However, Edmonds wrote he expects the deal to happen.

Edmonds wrote, “Look for all or nearly all Tribune properties to join Alden’s MediaNews Group family — once also widely known as Digital First Media — by later this year. Those holdings include The Denver Post, The Orange County Register, Boston Herald and groups of dailies in the Los Angeles and San Francisco metro areas. Then look for Alden to run its new conquests the same way it has its old ones.”

New boss at Vox

Swati Sharma (Courtesy: Vox Media)

Swati Sharma, managing editor at The Atlantic, is taking on a new job. She has been named editor-in-chief at Vox.com.

Sharma has been with The Atlantic since January 2018. Before that, Sharma worked at The Washington Post and The Boston Globe. She starts her new job at Vox next month.

Sharma told The New York Times’ Marc Tracy, “Vox provides clarity. That’s the most important thing we need in our industry and that we can provide readers. The work I want to do at Vox with the team in place is figure out how to keep sharpening it, making it more distinctive.”

Vox Media co-founder and publisher Melissa Bell said, “Throughout her career, Swati has combined a deep respect for great journalism with a profound understanding for audience needs. I’m so excited to have Swati working with Vox during this incredible moment of change for both us and our audiences. She brings an appreciation of Vox’s distinctive journalistic mission and proven experience leading teams to consistently produce their best work.”

Sharma takes over for Lauren Williams, who is starting a nonprofit news organization aimed at Black communities called Capital B.

A disheartening sight

Workers remove a copy of the First Amendment from the front of the building that was formerly the Newseum, along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

One of the cool things about Poynter’s beautiful offices in St. Petersburg, Florida, is something you see just before you step into the building. On the sidewalk, embedded in marble, is the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The First Amendment also had a prominent place on another building. It was embedded on a giant wall at the Newseum — the interactive museum in Washington, D.C., that celebrated the media, the freedom of the press and expression and the First Amendment. But the Newseum closed to the public at the end of 2019.

And now, in a heartbreaking symbol, the First Amendment on the Newseum building is being dismantled. A troubling reminder of how many Americans now view the media and the freedom of the press, wouldn’t you say?

No announcement has been made, but there is hope it will be reassembled at another location.

Here’s a little more information on the First Amendment wall by the company that built it.

Who will be the next editor of the Los Angeles Times?

The media world is still waiting on the answer to that question. Allen Salkin and Brittany Martin break down the odds in a piece for Los Angeles Magazine.

They say more than 30 candidates have been “vying for the paper’s top job” since Norman Pearlstine announced he was stepping down last October.

Some of the names they mention are:

  • Kevin Merida, senior vice president, ESPN and editor-in-chief of The Undefeated
  • Janice Min, former editorial director of The Hollywood Reporter
  • Julia Turner, deputy managing editor for entertainment, audio and strategy, Los Angeles Times
  • New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet
  • New York Times deputy managing editor Carolyn Ryan
  • Los Angeles Times editorial page editor Sewell Chan
  • Los Angeles Times managing editor Kimi Yoshino
  • Anne Kornblut, head of curation for Facebook
  • Shani O. Hilton, deputy managing editor of news at the Los Angeles Times
  • Los Angeles Times columnist Gustavo Arellano

Merida is listed as having the best odds at 2-to-1, although his name also has come up in the rumor mill to replace Marty Baron as executive editor of The Washington Post.

Another Strang report

Alex Meruelo, owner of the National Hockey League’s Arizona Coyotes. (AP Photo/W.A. Harewood)

This isn’t the first time I’ve pointed out a blockbuster story in The Athletic from Katie Strang and I’m sure it won’t be the last. In fact, I lauded Strang’s work just this month here in the newsletter as she, along with Brittany Ghiroli, detailed how five women accused Los Angeles Angels pitching coach and former New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway of lewd behavior and of inappropriately pursuing them.

Her latest piece is about the National Hockey League’s Arizona Coyotes in “Dysfunction in the Desert: Finger-pointing, Fear and Financial Woes Roil the Coyotes Organization.” (Reading stories on The Athletic requires a subscription.)

Strang’s work is always well reported, well written and well done. And it often shines a light on troubling behavior in the sports world. That applies here, as well.

For this story on the Coyotes and owner Alex Meruelo, Deadspin’s Sam Fels wrote, “masterful work as always by Strang.” The Athletic editor-in-chief of the NHL-U.S. Craig Custance tweeted, “Not sure I’ve ever read a story that detailed NHL franchise dysfunction to the level that @KatieJStrang’s Coyotes story reaches.”

The Coyotes turned down Strang’s requests for comments for her story. Strang wrote, “Presented with a list of questions about the organization and management, a league representative and one from the team reiterated that they would not be providing comments for this story.”

But then, after the story was published online, the Coyotes put out a lengthy statement, which included a claim that The Athletic “for several months, has condoned a harassment campaign against” Coyote ownership, front office and employees.

That didn’t go over well with many in media circles, who — perhaps quite fairly — pointed out that the Coyotes had their chance to comment, refused, and then attacked Strang and The Athletic after the story ran.

ESPN hockey writer Greg Wyshynski tweeted, “Refusing to work with an exceptional journalist like @KatieJStrang and then trying to criticize her reporting is bush league.”

Jeff Schultz, the outstanding Atlanta columnist for The Athletic, tweeted, “If Alex Meruelo or the @ArizonaCoyotes want to wage a credibility battle against someone, they need to aim far lower than @KatieJStrang. Because they’re not even remotely on the same level as her. Proud to be on the same team with her.”

A troubling message

Lexington police are investigating vandalism that targeted four media outlets — seemingly for their coverage of COVID-19.

For example, in the wee hours of Monday morning, someone spray-painted messages on the front entrance of WKYT-TV studios that said things such as “COVID-19 is an inside job” and “stop the lies” and “choose your side.”

Two other TV stations — WLEX and WTVQ — and iHeart Media group in Lexington reported similar incidents.

In a story on WKYT’s website, WKYT vice president and general manager Jeff Anderson said, “We are assisting police with their investigation. I am proud of the work we do each day to cover the stories impacting Kentuckians.”

Media tidbits

  • ESPN executive Rosetta Ellis-Pilie has been named ESPN Vice President, Talent Development and Negotiations. In that role, Ellis-Pilie will lead ESPN’s Talent Office, which is responsible for hiring, developing and guiding ESPN’s commentator team, negotiating contracts, and collaborating with many ESPN departments and external contacts on all matters related to commentator roles and responsibilities.
  • The NPR podcast “Embedded” is releasing a new series on Thursday about the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland. It was June 2018 when five staffers of the Gazette were killed by a gunman in the deadliest attack on journalists in U.S. history. For more than two years, producer Chris Benderev followed the surviving members of the attack. Here’s the trailer for the series.
  • The latest round of dangerous winter weather has impacted much of the country, including various news outlets. The Houston Chronicle and the Austin American-Statesman did not have print editions Tuesday because of power outages. The Chronicle pointed out that even during Hurricane Harvey, the paper continued to print. Poynter’s Amaris Castillo checked in with some of the newspapers in Oklahoma and Texas. Be sure to check out her story. Also, Poynter’s Al Tompkins writes, “As deadly winter weather engulfs the US, journalists are in the eye of the storm.”
  • The Washington Post has kicked off a five-part look at wellness that will focus on the increasing role personal technology plays in the health industry. The first part looks at sanitizing cell phones.
  • Axios is launching a daily afternoon business newsletter. Axios Closer, written by business reporter Courtenay Brown, will launch Feb. 22.
  • NBCUniversal News Group has launched a $1 million multiyear scholarship fund at Columbia Journalism School to support students from underrepresented populations who seek careers in journalism. In a statement, Cesar Conde, NBCUniversal News Group chairman, said, “It makes a real and lasting impact when newsrooms are filled with journalists who represent our diverse society and can tell stories that matter to their communities. Building an inclusive future starts with the younger generation, and we are proud to partner with Columbia Journalism School to elevate and develop talented students from all backgrounds.”

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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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