By:
April 20, 2021

“What a day.”

That’s what CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said as Monday’s trial of Derek Chauvin went to the jury.

The prosecution delivered its closing arguments. The defense gave its (very long) closing arguments. The prosecution gave its rebuttal. That took all day. And then the jury went into their deliberations.

But then came some last-minute drama as defense attorney Eric Nelson threw a Hail Mary by asking for a mistrial because of comments made by California Congresswoman Maxine Waters at a Black Lives Matter protest in Minnesota over the weekend.

Waters told reporters, “I hope we get a verdict that says guilty, guilty, guilty. And if we don’t, we cannot go away. We’ve got to stay on the street. We get more active, we’ve got to get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.”

Nelson said those could prejudice the jury, who were not sequestered until Monday. After jurors had left the courtroom, Judge Peter Cahill listened to the defense’s comments about Waters and said, “I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case, especially in a manner that is disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch and our function. I think if they want to give their opinions, they should do so in a respectful (manner) and in a manner that is consistent with their oath to the Constitution. … Their failure to do so is abhorrent.”

However, Cahill said he didn’t think any comments prejudiced the jury and added, “A congresswoman’s opinion really doesn’t matter a whole lot.”

CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams said, “Come on, this story has been front-page news for the greater part of a year. Movie stars, members of Congress, presidents of the United States have commented on this trial. The idea that one member of Congress’ statement a few days ago before the jury started deliberating is somehow going to prejudice the jury is nonsense.”

Before that last-minute controversy, one of the more fascinating moments during Monday’s closing arguments was when Judge Cahill interrupted the closing arguments of defense attorney Nelson in order to let the jury have lunch.

And a much-needed break.

Nelson’s closing arguments had dragged on for about two-and-a-half hours. This after prosecution presented its closing arguments for more than 90 minutes.

CNN legal analyst and attorney Areva Martin said it might have benefitted the defense to give the jury a break.

“Let’s face it, these are individuals and they’ve been sitting in this courtroom now for almost four-and-a-half hours listening to testimony,” Martin said. “And as riveting as this testimony may be to us as journalists and as legal analysts, to the everyday person called to jury duty, this is grueling.”

CNN legal analyst Elie Honig, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, criticized Nelson and said, “There’s no science, but there’s certainly common sense. You have to read the room. Juries have very limited attention spans. There have been studies that show juries lose attention after 40, 45 minutes. He’s going too long. If you as a viewer are finding yourself going, ‘When does this end? Where is he going?’ I guarantee you the jurors are thinking the same thing.”

And now we wait. As the jury deliberates, the nation holds its breath, especially in Minnesota.

CNN senior correspondent Miguel Marquez said, “It feels a little like Minneapolis is in the path of a Category 5 hurricane. They’re just not sure if it’s going to hit, where it’s going to hit or if it’s going to be a glancing blow or direct.”

Facebook watching Chauvin trial

(zz/STRF/STAR MAX/IPx)

Facebook announced Monday that it would limit posts that contain misinformation and hate speech as it relates to the Chauvin trial.

In a blog post, Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice president for content policy, wrote, “We know this trial has been painful for many people. We want to strike the right balance between allowing people to speak about the trial and what the verdict means, while still doing our part to protect everyone’s safety. We will allow people to discuss, critique and criticize the trial and the attorneys involved.”

Bickert also wrote, “Our teams are working around the clock to look for potential threats both on and off of Facebook and Instagram so we can protect peaceful protests and limit content that could lead to civil unrest or violence. This includes identifying and removing calls to bring arms to areas in Minneapolis, which we have temporarily deemed to be a high-risk location.”

She later repeated how the trial has been difficult for many, adding, “But we also realize that being able to discuss what is happening and what it means with friends and loved ones is important. As the trial comes to a close, we will continue doing our part to help people safely connect and share what they are experiencing.”

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Parler is back

Parler is the social media platform that attracted many conservatives, especially the far right, because users believed it offered a free speech platform that alternatives such as Facebook and Twitter did not.

But following the insurrection on Jan. 6, Parler was booted off Apple’s and Google’s app stores, as well as Amazon Web Services, and pretty much the entire internet. The reason? The tech companies believed violent speech on Parler contributed to the violence on Jan. 6. Apple, for instance, said Parler had “not taken adequate measures to address the proliferation of these threats to people’s safety.”

Now, Apple is allowing Parler back on its app store after Parler made improvements to better detect and moderate hate speech and the incitement of violence.

Following Parler’s ban in January, a pair of power Republicans — Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado — fired off a letter to the tech giants about whether Parler was being treated unfairly. On Monday, Apple sent a letter to Lee and Buck that said, “Apple anticipates that the updated Parler app will become available immediately upon Parler releasing it.”

CNN’s Brian Fung has more details.

No looking back

Outgoing CBS News president Susan Zirinsky (Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Now that Susan Zirinsky is on her way out as CBS News president — apparently, it’s her choice — after two years, how will her tenure be viewed? And how does she view it?

CBS News was a distant third to ABC and NBC in the ratings and the culture was troubling following several harassment scandals inside the news division when Zirinsky took over in 2019.

In an interview with The New York Times’ Michael M. Grynbaum and John Koblin, Zirinsky said, “The morale was at an all-time low, the shows were messy. What I feel like I’ve achieved in these two years is something that for me, philosophically, journalistically, feels like I righted the ship. I feel I have given my entire soul into rebuilding this organization.”

CBS News’ two signature newscasts — the “CBS Evening News” and “CBS This Morning” — still trail ABC and NBC in the ratings, although both broadcasts have gained viewers under Zirinsky’s watch. Zirinsky does appear to have improved the culture, and she made a major move by shifting the “CBS Evening News” from New York to Washington.

Now Zirinsky exits to take another role in production at CBS as two CBS outsiders — Hearst’s Neeraj Khemlani and Wendy McMahon, the former head of ABC’s local stations group — replace her. So, did she leave it in better shape than she found it? Yeah, it’s fair to say that she did.

Even as she heads out the door, Zirinsky said she would do it all over again. “This is setting us up for the future,” she told The Times. “I don’t look in the rear view mirror. I look forward.”

Goldberg out at HBO’s “Real Sports”

In a move that actually happened in February but didn’t come to light until now, Bernard Goldberg has left HBO’s “Real Sports” after more than 20 years and eight Emmy awards with the show.

Awful Announcing’s Ben Koo has a solid and detailed timeline of how this all appeared to have gone down. It includes Goldberg writing a column for The Hill last September that took a conservative approach to athletes using their platforms to protest. He wrote that he tuned into a hockey game on TV where a player said that racism is everywhere. Goldberg wrote, “I don’t believe racism is everywhere. I don’t believe it’s systemic. I don’t believe it’s in the DNA of our country. And I didn’t tune into the game to get a lecture about how racist America is. So I changed the channel.”

Later that month, “Real Sports” pulled a planned feature Goldberg did on transgender athletes. Outsports’ Dawn Ennis, who saw a screener of the feature, wrote that she interviewed Goldberg and “raised serious questions” about the piece. Her issues included Goldberg asking leading questions, the people Goldberg interviewed for the piece and deadnaming, which means using a transgender person’s previous name. When Ennis interviewed Goldberg about problems in the piece, Ennis reported Goldberg grew irritated.

Finally, in a year-end episode that featured a roundtable discussion with all the “Real Sports” correspondents and host Bryant Gumbel, the topic of race and activism in sports came up. Goldberg essentially repeated his Hill column looking for a separation of sports and activism.

Koo wrote, “Goldberg’s arguments got little to no traction and received ample pushback by the other correspondents, as well as from the host, Bryant Gumbel. Throughout the roundtable, Goldberg was often visually disengaged from the conversation and had several awkward moments where he had no reaction to some of the show’s lighter moments. It’s not hard to rewatch now and sense the relationship was almost fully frayed at this point.”

In February, on Patreon, Goldberg wrote, “From time to time some of you have commented on my work on the HBO program Real Sports. I just quit the show after 22 years working there as a correspondent. There are more than a few reasons for my decision, but for now, let’s just say I lost interest in the work. I may have more to say in the future.”

HBO Sports told Koo in a statement, “Earlier this year, Bernie made the decision to leave Real Sports. Over the course of two decades, his investigative reporting produced some of the most impactful stories in the show’s history. We thank him for his contributions and wish him all the best.”

Check out Koo’s story, which has many more details.

Insider to unionize

Journalists at Insider, which used to be known as Business Insider, have announced plans to start a union and join the NewsGuild of New York. The union would represent more than 300 journalists and editorial workers across multiple departments, on both web and video. They now are seeking recognition from management and hope to begin negotiations on a first contract.

In a statement, Insider producer Nico Reyes said, “My colleagues and I deserve to have our voices heard and recognized. We’re uniting to demand a seat at the table to bargain for a fair contract and better workplace. I’m so proud of the work that has been done so far and can’t wait to see where we go from here.”

Dominick Reuter, a senior reporter, said in the same statement, “In my view, unionizing the newsroom is the ultimate sign of our respect for Insider. It shows that we believe in the mission of this company, and that we want to be a part of its long-term success. Negotiating a contract with us will show that our respect is reciprocated.”

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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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