By:
January 13, 2021

It’s going to be a long week, isn’t it?

Joe Biden’s inauguration is exactly one week away, but the country remains as divided and as on edge as ever. And the next week could make it worse.

I’ll dig into some thoughts about the inauguration in a bit, but first, President Donald Trump spoke to reporters and gave a live speech Tuesday for the first time since last week’s insurrection at the Capitol. Let’s start there.

Trump speaks

Before his trip to Alamo, Texas, on Tuesday, President Trump took a moment to speak to reporters — his first comments directly to the media since last week’s violent and deadly break-in at the Capitol.

Chuck Todd, host of “MTP Daily” on MSNBC, told viewers, “We, of course, are not going to play his comments due to concerns that he will be used as a rallying cry for bad actors to support him and his name. But the president, as you’d expect, was defiant and some might wonder if he was a bit deranged.”

CNN, however, did play a portion of Trump’s comments, in which he took no responsibility for inciting the crowd to storm the Capitol. He said his speech has been analyzed in the media and that “people” thought it was “totally appropriate.” Trump then said comments made by other politicians during what Trump called “riots” over the summer were a “real problem.”

CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin said, “So, to recap here, taking accountability? Nope. Continuing to sow division? Yep. Deflecting blame? Check.”

At his speech in Texas, Trump stuck mostly to immigration. However, he did say, “I’d like to briefly address the events of last week. Millions of our citizens watched on Wednesday as a mob stormed the Capitol and trashed the halls of government. As I have consistently said throughout my administration, we believe in respecting America’s history and traditions, not tearing them down.”

But then he complained about being muted by social media, saying, “Free speech is under assault,” and said that he was not worried about the 25th Amendment while attacking Joe Biden.

Interestingly, his speech was at the same time the FBI was giving an update on its investigation into what happened at the Capitol last week. CNN, MSNBC and Fox News aired the FBI news conference, while Newsmax aired the Trump speech.

Disturbing tweet of the day

Check out this tweet by Washington Post reporter Katie Mettler:

“Yesterday I went shopping for a new winter coat that would fit over a bulletproof vest so I can safely (and warmly) cover the inauguration of the next president of the United States. What an absolutely absurd sentence to write.”

What about the inauguration?

After what happened last week, and the chatter online and elsewhere that authorities are tracking, there is a fear that there could be more violence next week during Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Should the inauguration go forward exactly as it has in the past — on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol, where all the problems were last week?

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss said, “I say safety first. If we have to inaugurate Biden and Harris in an underground cavern that’s guarded to be safe, let’s do that. Let’s not take any risks with our incoming president and vice president just for the sake of symbolism.”

Calling out the media

Mehdi Hasan, MSNBC political analyst and host of “The Mehdi Hasan Show” on Peacock, called out the media for enabling President Trump during his four years in office.

Hasan said, “It was clear from day one that a Trump presidency would be authoritarian, bigoted, serially dishonest, outside the bounds of any previous modern presidency. It was clear that we shouldn’t normalize him. But we did.”

Oh yeah, there’s this, too

A sign covers the back window of a car in Denver this week. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Normally, the impeachment of a president would be the biggest news story in the world. It’s still a big deal, but it’s just one of what feels like a dozen stories overwhelming us at the moment.

Here are some thoughts from around the country.

Politico’s Sarah Ferris and Heather Caygle with “Inside Pelosi’s Push to Impeach Trump: This Time It’s Personal.”

The New York Times editorial board with “Impeach Trump Again.”

Washington Post opinion columnist Marc A. Thiessen with “Pelosi is Playing Politics with Impeachment, but Trump Committed an Impeachable Offense.”

CNN’s Zachary B. Wolf with “How Trump’s Second Impeachment Will Be Different From The First.”

Powerful moment

This is a tough video to watch, but check out a very real and heartbreaking moment as CNN’s Sara Sidner breaks down while reporting on the coronavirus from a hospital in California.

“This is the 10th hospital that I’ve been in …” Sidner says as she begins to cry.

After apologizing and starting over a couple of times, Sidner continues crying and says, “To see these families have to live after this and the heartache that goes so far and so wide … it’s really hard to take.”

She apologized again to CNN host Alisyn Camerota, who told Sidner, “No apology needed.”

There’s much more to this. Please watch. It’s powerful stuff.

Sticking up for photojournalists

The National Press Photographers Association released a statement condemning the attacks at the Capitol last week, saying, “The NPPA calls on authorities to investigate and prosecute the threats, harassment and physical assaults against journalists as well as the destruction and theft of their equipment that occurred on January 6, 2021.”

During an FBI press conference about the insurrection last week, acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin said, “Some of those rioters specifically targeted members of the media and assaulted them.” He added that specific prosecutors have been assigned to those cases.

Back to the NPPA statement. It also said, “To do our jobs, photojournalists must be on the front lines to record the news. The threats, violence and aggression toward visual journalists are unconscionable acts that erode our democracy and our country’s First Amendment rights.”

Freelance photographer Amanda Andrade-Rhoades, who was on the scene, told the NPPA, “I had three different people threaten to shoot me over the course of the day. They weren’t armed as far as I could tell. I saw people with knives and pepper spray. If they had guns, I couldn’t see them. But I did see people in flak jackets and bulletproof vests, so clearly ready for armed combat. At one point, a guy leaned over to me and said, ‘I’m coming back with a gun tomorrow and I’m coming for you.’”

That’s just one of several examples of photojournalists and other media members being threatened or attacked last week by the mob.

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Business news roundup

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

As the fallout from the Capitol invasion continues to dominate the news cycle, media business happenings haven’t stopped. Here are three that caught my attention.

  • A new and timely Pew Research study advances the picture of where social media users get their news. No surprise, Facebook is dominant — 68% of a large survey sample use the site and 38% get some news there. The picture gets more complicated with some other well-known platforms. About a quarter of the sample used Twitter and a quarter used LinkedIn. However, 60% of the Twitter users got news there while only 16% of the LinkedIn users did. YouTube was the second biggest news source in the survey.
  • The Adelson family’s ownership of the Las Vegas Review-Journal rated only a couple of paragraphs in obituaries of 87-year-old billionaire Sheldon Adelson. His rags-to-riches business empire and kingmaking Republican political contributions were by far the bigger story. I don’t look for big changes at the paper. The family, rather than Adelson himself, bought the paper, and it has been run, with a light hand, by his son-in-law. On the downside, the sale in late 2015 was a public relations and journalistic disaster as the Adelsons tried, with no success, to conceal their identity; then ran off their own reporters and editors who exposed it. Adelson tended to champion Israel and favorite candidates in editorials. But he also invested in growing the Review-Journal’s staff and, according to publisher Keith Moyer, he and other family members never ventured into the newsroom.
  • Votebeat, the 90-day pop-up nonprofit news site, will keep going at least through the 2022 election cycle, according to a tweet from founder Elizabeth Green. Green hinted as much in an interview I did with her on the venture last month. The idea had garnered $1 million in philanthropic funding. It will be run from Green’s original education site, Chalkbeat, and operate on the Chalkbeat model with affiliates covering the nuts and bolts of registration and tallying the vote in various local markets.

Before and after the Vogue cover controversy

This is Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour in art designed for The New York Times’ podcast “Sway.” (Courtesy: The New York Times)

Vogue is taking lots of heat for its February print cover of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Harris’ team claims the photo chosen — Harris in a black blazer, black slacks and her Converse Chuck Taylor shoes — was not the cover agreed upon. They thought it would feature a photo that ran online with Harris in a powder blue power suit. The cover that Vogue chose was criticized by some as having a sloppy background, being washed out and below not only Vogue’s standards, but unbecoming for the future VP.

Interestingly, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour taped an interview with Kara Swisher for The New York Times’ “Sway” podcast one day before the Vogue cover was leaked.

In that interview, Wintour told Swisher, “What’s amazing about the February cover to me is that it is just so joyful and optimistic. And I cannot imagine that there’s anyone that really is going to find this cover anything but that, and positive, and an image of a woman in control of her life who is going to bring us with the president-elect the leadership that we so need.”

So clearly, Wintour didn’t see the criticism coming. After the cover was leaked, Wintour offered up this statement to “Sway:”

“Obviously we have heard and understood the reaction to the print cover and I just want to reiterate that it was absolutely not our intention to, in any way, diminish the importance of the Vice President-Elect’s incredible victory.”

The statement also said, “There was no formal agreement about what the choice of the cover would be. And when the two images arrived at Vogue, all of us felt very, very strongly that the less formal portrait of the Vice President-Elect really reflected the moment that we were living in which we are all in the midst — as we still are  — of the most appalling pandemic that is taking lives by the minute. And we felt to reflect this tragic moment in global history, a much less formal picture, something that was very, very accessible and approachable and real, really reflected the hallmark of the Biden-Harris campaign and everything that they are trying to, and I’m sure will, achieve.”

More fallout from The New York Times’ ‘Caliphate’ podcast

In a strongly-worded letter, a group of public radio stations — more than 20 in all — are complaining about how The New York Times handled addressing the problems associated with its “Caliphate” podcast.

Just to review, the Times had to acknowledge that its podcast about the Islamic State partly relied on a source who is now believed to have been a fabricator.

The issue that the public radio stations had was not with the podcast’s actual problems, but how the Times handled it. (The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple tweeted out the letter sent by the stations to the Times.)

In acknowledging the flaws of “Caliphate,” the Times decided to air a special podcast hosted by Michael Barbaro, the star host of the Times’ popular “The Daily” podcast. In it, Barbaro questioned Times executive editor Dean Baquet about the “Caliphate” podcast.

That’s where the problems started, according to critics.

For starters, the letter from the Public Radio Program Directors Association claims that Barbaro had reached out to several in the media, including NPR’s David Folkenflik, to “attempt to influence their coverage” of the “Caliphate” story. In addition, the Times did not reveal that Barbaro is engaged to Lisa Tobin, the executive producer of “Caliphate.”

The complaint from the public radio directors said, “How are we to trust that difficult questions would be asked, answers would be demanded, and the truth would be sought?”

The Times published a response by New York Times assistant managing editor Sam Dolnick. In his letter to Abby Goldstein, the president and executive director of the Public Radio Program Directors Association, Dolnick wrote, “We believe we’ve handled what was a significant journalistic lapse with accountability.”

As far as Barbaro’s relationship with Tobin, Dolnick wrote, “This was an audio version of our editors’ note, not an accountability interview, which Dean had already given to NPR. With that understanding, we did not see a need to make reference to Michael’s relationship with Lisa Tobin, the Executive Producer of the Audio team.”

And as far as Barbaro reaching out to certain media reporters, Dolnick wrote, “After the ‘Caliphate’ editors’ note, Michael sent private messages through social media that may have made recipients feel that their criticism was unwelcome. Michael deeply regrets that.”

For more, here’s Folkenflik’s story for NPR.

Turns out, you CAN do that on television

CBS’s experiment to put a kid-focused NFL playoff game — Sunday’s Bears-Saints matchup — on Nickelodeon turned out to be a genius move. Did you catch any of it? It was a blast. The announcing team geared their commentary toward young viewers and there were cool graphics, including appearances from SpongeBob SquarePants. And check out this video, which showed Nick’s famed green slime covering the end zone after touchdowns. Kevin Draper wrote about the broadcast for The New York Times and ESPN’s Tim Keown called it “the most fun broadcast of the year.”

Turns out, the numbers were solid. The CBS broadcast drew 28.59 million viewers, while the broadcast on Nickelodeon, which is owned by CBS, drew a very respectable 2.061 million. That’s better than what CBS was hoping for and was the most-viewed show on Nickelodeon in nearly four years.

Media tidbits

  • CBS News correspondent Wesley Lowery, who was part of The Washington Post team that won a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2016, has joined The Marshall Project as a contributing editor. In a statement, The Marshall Project said, “Lowery will help us brainstorm how best to rethink local criminal justice reporting and reach audiences not served by traditional news media, as well as serve as a mentor to Marshall Project reporters.”
  • Condé Nast launched three podcasts in 2020 and had big plans for a podcast network. But by the end of the year, most of the people who worked on those podcasts are no longer at the company. What happened? The Verge’s Ashley Carman has the details.
  • CNN president Jeff Zucker announced Tuesday that CNN is shutting down the CNN Airport Network on March 31. In a statement, Zucker said, “The steep decline in airport traffic because of COVID-19, coupled with all of the new ways that people are consuming content on their personal devices, has lessened the need for the CNN Airport Network and we had to make the very difficult decision to end its operation.” The network, which launched in 1991, airs in nearly 60 airports across the country, showing mostly news and features produced by CNN.

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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