By:
January 12, 2021

The first several minutes of Monday night’s national evening news broadcasts were simply stunning. There was:

  • Talk of the president of the United States being impeached for the second time.
  • Chilling video taken by a member of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s staff as insurrectionists pounded on a locked door while staffers huddled under a table.
  • Disturbing video inside the crowd as insurrectionists beat police officers, threw fire extinguishers and nearly crushed another officer against a door.
  • Arrest photos of the many who stormed the Capitol, destroyed property and called for the hanging of Vice President Mike Pence.
  • FBI photos of others who the bureau hopes to arrest.
  • Two police officers suspended while they are investigated for their roles in last Wednesday’s events.
  • Warnings of more violence in the coming days, not only in Washington but at state capitals across the country.
  • The president, isolated in the White House, banned from most social media platforms.
  • The president considering pardoning himself for his role in stirring up those who charged the Capitol, but hesitant to do so. Why? Because admitting he might have done something wrong might leave him open to civil suits because of the injuries and deaths on Wednesday.

Then we hear stories of journalists being threatened, their equipment destroyed and fearing for their safety, all while doing their important work.

Stop and really think about all that.

These aren’t reports from some far-away place, but right here in the United States. And it’s on full display on our national evening news.

These are horrific times for our country, but also a moment in which the media has shined. The reporting over the past week has been superb. It has been responsible, thorough and courageous.

But, in the end, what really stands out is what ABC’s “World News Tonight” showed to close its broadcast: somber images of fellow officers honoring U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick during his funeral procession, who died in last week’s insurrection.

What not to talk about on talk radio

Radio host Mark Levin speaks at the White House in October 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

After months of stoking the flames and firing up their conservative listeners about election fraud, many radio hosts are being told to tone down the rhetoric.

Cumulus Media — the talk radio company that has a lineup that includes staunchly conservative hosts such as Ben Shapiro, Mark Levin and Dan Bongino — has told its radio personalities to knock off the chatter about the election being stolen from President Donald Trump.

Inside Music Media was the first to report a memo that was sent out last Wednesday by Brian Philips, executive vice president of Cumulus.

In the memo, Philips said, “We need to help induce national calm NOW.  Cumulus and Westwood One will not tolerate any suggestion that the election has not ended. The election has resolved, there are no alternate acceptable ‘paths.’ Please inform your staffs that we have ZERO TOLERANCE for any suggestion otherwise. If you transgress this policy, you can expect to separate from the company immediately. There will be no dog-whistle talk about ‘stolen elections,’ ‘civil wars’ or any other language that infers violent public disobedience is warranted, ever.”

It ended with, “Through all of our communication channels, including social, we will work to urge restoration of PEACE AND ORDER.”

Clearly, it was strongly worded. However, one can’t help but point out that Cumulus hosts have been making baseless claims of election fraud for a while now. This late demand seems embarrassingly too late.

Last week, as The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi notes, Levin went on his radio show and said, “You think the framers of the Constitution … sat there and said, ‘Congress has no choice (but to accept the votes), even if there’s fraud, even if there’s some court order, even if some legislature has violated the Constitution?’”

On Jan. 2, Levin also tweeted that “massive fraud perpetrated against the president absolutely merit(s) a showdown in Congress on January 6th!”

The New York Times’ Tiffany Hsu notes that on his show, Bongino has talked about “irregularities” in the election.

Cumulus, which is based in Atlanta, owns 416 stations in nearly 90 markets across the country.

Big changes at Fox News

Fox News likes to brag about being fair and balanced and it likes to emphasize its news reporting. And yet the network made a big change Monday, placing an emphasis on opinion instead of news.

“The Story with Martha MacCallum,” considered a news program, is being shifted out of the 7 p.m. Eastern time slot to make room for a new opinion show called “Fox News Primetime,” which will be hosted by a rotating group until a permanent host is named at a later date. Brian Kilmeade from “Fox & Friends” will be the first host.

MacCallum’s show will now air at 3 p.m.

At first glace, you might look at this move and think it’s a reaction to Newsmax, the ultraconservative and heavily pro-Trump network that has gained some traction since the election by perpetuating the lie that the election was rigged. The 7 p.m. show on Newsmax hosted by Greg Kelly has been the network’s highest-profile program. However, Fox News hinted back in October that it might tinker with its lineup.

Also, to be clear, Fox News is still crushing Newsmax in the ratings — Fox News gets about 3 million in primetime, while Newsmax doesn’t even get a half million. Nevertheless, the move might help Fox News fend off any possible challenges from Newsmax, especially from Kelly at 7 p.m.

The new opinion show on Fox News will lead into Fox News’ primetime punditry of Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham.

Other changes to Fox News’ lineup: a new two-hour show, “America Reports With John Roberts & Sandra Smith,” will air from 1 to 3 p.m. Eastern. Bill Hemmer moves from his 3 p.m. Eastern solo show to join “America’s Newsroom” with Dana Perino from 9 to 11 a.m. Eastern. Harris Faulkner is moving to 11 a.m. Eastern with a show called “The Faulkner Focus.”

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Changes at CNN, too

CNN’s Jake Tapper. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

CNN made programming announcements on Monday — the most notable being that Dana Bash will now share hosting duties for “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper on Sunday mornings and Abby Phillip will anchor a Sunday morning show.

“Inside Politics Sunday with Abby Phillip” will air from 8 to 9 a.m. Eastern starting Jan. 24. Phillip also has been named the network’s senior political correspondent.

Bash and Tapper will each anchor “State of the Union” twice a month, also starting Jan. 24. Tapper’s weekday show, “The Lead with Jake Tapper” is being expanded from 4 to 6 p.m. Eastern.

White House reporter Jim Acosta will take on weekend anchoring responsibilities. Details of when will be announced soon. Also, Pamela Brown will begin anchoring “CNN Newsroom” on Saturdays and Sundays from 6 to 9 p.m. starting Jan. 23.

CNN also announced several other moves, including naming Kaitlan Collins as chief White House correspondent and Phil Mattingly as senior White House correspondent.

Big news at ‘CBS This Morning’

“CBS This Morning” has a new executive producer. It’s Shawna Thomas, who comes over from Quibi. Before that, Thomas was the Washington, D.C., bureau chief for Vice News and a senior producer for NBC’s “Meet the Press.” CBS News President Susan Zirinsky said, “Shawna Thomas is one of the top news minds in our field. She’s a hands-on storyteller, accomplished journalist and an inspiring leader. Shawna has consistently embraced new ways and platforms to deliver high-quality journalism to audiences everywhere.”

Send them to Gitmo

“The View” co-host Meghan McCain has a strong opinion on how to deal with those who stormed the Capitol last week. Here’s what she said on Monday’s “The View:”

“I just think we need to treat the domestic terrorists the way we do actual terrorists. I’m not against sending these people to Gitmo. That may sound extreme. These are domestic terrorists who attacked our own republic. They should be treated the same way we treat Al Qaeda.”

Dropping the Mike

NBC Sports announced its National Hockey League broadcasting team for the season, which begins Wednesday, and it does not include Mike Milbury, who had been with the network for 14 years. Milbury had a history of saying dumb things, but he finally crossed a line last season when commenting about the teams being put in a bubble to protect them from COVID-19. Milbury said, “Not even any women here to disrupt your concentration.”

The NHL condemned the comments, and Milbury apologized and decided to step away for the rest of the playoffs so as not to be a distraction. That turned out to be the final straw.

In a statement to Front Office Sports’ A.J. Perez, NBC Sports said, “We are grateful to Mike for all of his contributions to our coverage for 14 years, but he will not be returning to our NHL announce team. We wish him well.”

Media tidbits

“Jeopardy” guest host Ken Jennings. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

  • “Jeopardy” started a new era Monday night with the first episodes without host Alex Trebek, who hosted the show for 36 years. Trebek died in November. Ken Jennings, who holds the “Jeopardy” record for most consecutive wins, is the first of what is expected to be several guest hosts. He has taped 30 episodes, and The Los Angeles Times reported that Katie Couric will be another interim guest host until the show settles on a permanent host. The New York Times’ Julia Jacobs writes, “How Can ‘Jeopardy!’ Replace Alex Trebek? See Game-Show History.”
  • Janice Min has joined Time as a contributing editor. Min, the former co-president and chief creative officer at The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard and the editor-in-chief at US Weekly, will write occasional pieces and contribute to special projects. Here is Min’s first piece for Time: “The Hollywood Escape Economy Is Just Around the Corner.”
  • Last week, MSNBC drew 3.1 million total viewers, making it the highest-rated week in the history of that network.
  • First lady Melania Trump has released a statement about last week’s events. For details, check out CNN’s Betsy Klein and Kate Bennett with “Melania Trump Mourns Lost Lives But Doesn’t Blame the President for Capitol Riot.”
  • Sadly, because of all the drama in Washington involving Trump, COVID-19 hasn’t been at the forefront of the news in recent days. But there were developments Monday. Horrifically, the death toll in the U.S. now has surpassed 375,000. Meanwhile, President-elect Joe Biden went on camera to receive his second dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
  • This morning’s “Today” show on NBC will feature a taped Savannah Guthrie interview with Melinda Gates. They will talk about the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as social media platforms banning President Trump. Gates told Guthrie, “We need to reckon with the fact that this president incited this mob. That is not us as an American people, that is not us as a democracy. A protest is one thing, a mob is a different thing.”

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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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