June 25, 2021

Horrific story on Thursday as a high-rise condo building in Surfside, Florida, (near Miami) partially collapsed. Early reports were that at least one person was dead. It is feared that number will climb dramatically. Searchers were digging through the rubble to try and find nearly 100 people who were unaccounted for several hours after the building fell. This video on Miami’s NBC 6 website showed the 12-story building coming down. At least 35 had been rescued.

So many details remain unknown, including what exactly caused the collapse. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said, “The TV doesn’t do it justice.”

The Associated Press’ Wilfredo Lee, Terry Spencer and David Fischer reported, “On video footage captured from nearby, the center of the building appeared to fall first, with a section nearest the ocean teetering and coming down seconds later as a huge dust cloud swallowed the neighborhood.”

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told the AP, “The building is literally pancaked. That is heartbreaking because it doesn’t mean, to me, that we are going to be as successful as we wanted to be in finding people alive.”

As far as media coverage, the Miami Herald immediately produced detailed coverage, posting stories as the day unfolded. In the afternoon, the Herald put out a special e-edition with the giant headline: “DISASTER IN SURFSIDE.”

NBC’s Lester Holt and CBS’s Norah O’Donnell both anchored their evening news broadcasts from Surfside. ABC’s David Muir remained in New York, but ABC had a team of reporters on the scene. Both O’Donnell and Holt noted the first responders working to find survivors.

O’Donnell said on the air, “Even with the fear here that the danger may not be over, there are stories of people running towards danger, the brave men, women and canines who are doing whatever they can to make sure loved ones get answers.”

At the close of his newscast, Holt highlighted the men and women of Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue, saying, “They are trained to spring into action at a moment’s notice — America’s heroes, getting a shocking call. The men and women of Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue putting their lives on the line in the race to save others.”

Meanwhile, CBS News reporter Mark Strassmann talked to structural engineer Sinisa Kolar, who was in the building last year. Kolar said there must have been multiple failures, adding, “Buildings don’t collapse, especially not like this.”

Here’s more notable coverage:

How does this get on the air?

I debated whether or not to even share this item because it seems so dangerous and over the line. But, burying a head in the sand might be even more dangerous than exposing the threats and conspiracy theories that are being broadcast on millions of TVs.

One America News’ Pearson Sharp went on a fascist rant this week in which he appeared to call for mass executions of those he believes stole the 2020 election from former President Donald Trump.

Sharp said on the air, “How many people were involved in these efforts to undermine the election? Hundreds? Thousands? Tens of thousands? How many people does it take to carry out a coup against the presidency?”

Sharp went on to say, “… what happens to all these people who are responsible for overthrowing the election? What are the consequences for traitors who meddled with our sacred democratic process and tried to steal power by taking away the voices of the American people? What happens to them? Well, in the past, America had a very good solution for dealing with such traitors: Execution.”

Sharp continued on with talk of treason and executions.

Now, it would be easy to dismiss Sharp as some zealot whose theories are not based in reality. But Daily Beast politics editor Will Sommer tweeted, “I came across the clip because QAnon people … see it as proof that the mass executions are right around the corner. Lots of glee in the Q chat rooms, demands for how exactly their imagined executions will be carried out and complaints they had to wait too long.”

On Thursday, Sharp told Talking Points Memo’s Matt Shuham that he wasn’t calling for mass executions, but merely reporting what the law says about treason.

In an email, Sharp said, “No, neither myself, nor OAN is ‘embracing executing thousands of people.’ OAN is simply pointing out that if election fraud is proven, then it could very well constitute treason. And according to our laws, treason is punishable by death. If it is found that government officials coordinated with foreign countries to overthrow the election, then that would be the very definition of treason. Which, according to our nation’s laws, could result in execution.”

He rambled on and on about the law and then said, “Neither I, nor OAN, are suggesting anyone should be executed. That is for the appropriate law enforcement agencies to determine.”

Yeah, somehow that doesn’t make it much better. Which leads me to ask this question for the TV providers that carry OAN:


Can you not see the ridiculousness and danger in a network that allows this kind of talk?

Not only are they promoting a baseless fantasy that the election was stolen, but they are mentioning the word “execution” to impressionable viewers.


The 2022 duPont-Columbia Awards cycle is now open for submissions. The duPont Awards honor outstanding local and national audio and video journalism. Submit your best work done from July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021. Visit for more information and to submit.

The New York Times pushes back

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

The New York Times put out a strong rebuke Thursday, denying suggestions that it killed a story that was critical of Hollywood producer Scott Rudin because it was worried Rudin would pull $3 million in advertising. The Hollywood Reporter and New York Magazine published stories back in the spring about Rudin’s abusive behavior toward staff.

This week, The Hollywood Reporter’s Tatiana Siegel wrote a story about how Rudin’s behavior was kept under wraps and out of the public eye for decades. Siegel reported that two people who were sources in the original THR story said they also spoke to the Times as far back as early 2020. But the Times didn’t publish anything about Rudin’s abuses until after THR and New York Magazine wrote their stories.

Siegel wrote, “Multiple sources say a New York Times exposé was scheduled to run before the Feb. 20, 2020, opening of West Side Story at the Broadway Theatre. Publication was imminent for the weekend of the 2020 Oscars, which took place Feb. 9, but was held without explanation to those who had participated, leaving several feeling exposed.”

Then, Siegel wrote, “Sources familiar with the New York Times-Rudin relationship say he provided one of the biggest ad revenue streams for the newspaper’s Arts & Leisure section, totaling about $3 million a year.”

Several outlets, including The Daily Mail and Fox News, wrote stories that were based on Siegel’s story saying the Times “killed” a Rudin exposé. Again, the suggestion was that the Times feared repercussions.

In a tweet, the Times communications department wrote, “This assertion is utterly false. We don’t ‘kill’ stories because of pressure from advertisers or any other outside interests. We publish investigations when editors believe they are ready for publication. That has been the case for 170 years.”

It’s hard to imagine The New York Times would back off any story out of fear of losing advertisers. After all, this is the same publication that won a Pulitzer Prize for its investigation into powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. To even hint that the Times purposely “killed” a story out of intimidation or fear seems, at best, misguided.

Watch your language

There’s a very thoughtful piece up on Poynter from Dave Cantor about language regarding mental health.

Many writers carelessly throw out certain words to describe people or situations — words such as nuts, insane, crazy and bonkers.

Cantor writes, “Vernacular speech — as important as it might be in the realms of essay, literature and plain, daily conversation — and the casual use of words like ‘nuts’ might have an insidious effect on the perception of people dealing with mental health issues. It’s a kind of trivialization.”

Naveed Saleh, a science writer and author with a medical background who contributes to Psychology Today, told Cantor, “What it does is habituates the public into thinking that people with mental illness, their problems or experiences aren’t as important or severe as they are, because they’ve been exposed to the improper use of mental-illness terms and have lost sensitivity and relevance of the issue. I think the greater detriment would be if somebody would label someone who (is suspected of) a crime as ‘crazy’ or ‘insane’ without knowledge of that diagnosis. That’s a greater detriment, because it really makes people think that people with mental illness are criminals, and that’s really not the case. People with mental illness are more likely to be victims of crimes than criminals themselves.”

This is all food for thought not just for journalists, but everybody.

Media tidbits

(AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

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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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