By:
May 5, 2021

Today’s the big day.

Facebook will announce whether or not Donald Trump’s ban from its platform will continue or be lifted. More on that in a moment.

After all, it might not even matter. Trump has decided to start his own website.

Then again, it’s not exactly Facebook.

In fact, it’s pretty basic stuff. Kind of like Twitter for One. Or how about Only MySpace?

“From the Desk of Donald J. Trump” essentially allows Trump to communicate to his followers and, well, that’s about it. Fox News’ Brooke Singman broke the story and a source told her, “This is just a one-way communication. This system allows Trump to communicate with his followers.”

One-way communication is a good way to put it. Trump can post statements (i.e. tweets). He can post videos, including videos of himself talking to the camera. He can put up photos. He can do all these things — just like Facebook or Twitter. The big difference, however, is readers cannot respond to Trump’s posts or engage with other readers — at least for now.

However, readers can repost Trump’s messages to Facebook and Twitter.

Politico’s Nick Niedzwiadek wrote, “As such, they’re closer to a blog or collection of past news releases that many politicians have on their official websites than a true rival to the Big Tech giants Trump and his allies frequently rail against.”

In other words, I’m guessing Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey aren’t overly concerned about Trump cutting into their businesses.

Not long after Trump was banned by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and others following the insurrection on Jan. 6, there were rumors that Trump was going to start his own social media site. And while this website allows Trump to scratch his itch of commenting anytime he feels like it, just like he used to tweet obsessively, it’s still pretty much just a rudimentary blog.

But, it should be noted that Trump adviser Jason Miller tweeted, “President Trump’s website is a great resource to find his latest statements and highlights from his first term in office, but this is not a new social media platform. We’ll have additional information coming on that front in the very near future.”

Whatever this is, you would guess his followers will play along with him. And I think the timing of the website’s launch is a preemptive move to save face should Facebook decide to extend his ban. Either way, Trump can say, “Who cares about Facebook? I got my own website.”

Now, about the Facebook ban. It’s anybody’s guess what will happen. Personally, and based on nothing but a gut feeling, I expect Facebook to allow Trump back in.

NPR’s Rachel Martin, Jason Breslow and Shannon Bond wrote, “The Trump case is the biggest test so far of the board’s legitimacy: whether it’s seen as independent from the company that created and funds it, or whether it’s seen as a cover to let Facebook duck responsibility. The decision is also expected to set a precedent for how Facebook will treat the accounts of other world leaders and politicians. And it could be a model for other tech platforms grappling with the question of control over free speech.”

Adam Conner, vice president of technology policy for the Center for American Progress, wrote for NBC News that “Trump’s Facebook account should never be reinstated because we know what he’d use it for.”

“In fact,” Conner wrote, “it first needs to recommend the permanent and formal suspension of Trump, to which Facebook should acquiesce. And then Facebook should move onto the necessary work of releasing a full set of data to the public about his platform activity, so that the American public can begin to understand the true scope of the damage he inflicted on our democracy using their platform.”

Taking a stand

If many Republicans are going to push the Big Lie — or refuse to push back against it — then why put them on TV? That’s what one prominent CNN anchor said on Tuesday.

During an appearance on Tuesday’s “New Day” on CNN, anchor Jake Tapper said he’s had it with anyone who perpetuates the idea that the election was stolen from Donald Trump or pushes any other conspiracy theories. He especially called out Reps. Kevin McCarthy of California and Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

“The lie about the election on its own is anti-democracy, and it is sowing seeds of ignorance in the populace, and obviously has the potential to incite violence,” Tapper said. “But beyond that … if you’re willing to lie about that, what are you not willing to lie about? And that’s where we are when it comes to the House Republican leadership, McCarthy and Scalise, and where we are with too many leaders of the Republican party. They’re not willing to tell their voters the truth. What does that say about them?”

Tapper said the country “needs a strong, thriving, healthy, fact-based Republican party” and that it’s important to have lawmakers from both sides of the aisle on TV to discuss policies that shape the country.

“We need those debates happening,” Tapper said. “But we can’t have those debates if one side of the argument is not willing to stick to standards and facts — for a whole host of reasons. One of them is, how am I supposed to believe anything they say? If they’re willing to lie about Joe Biden wanting to steal your hamburgers, and QAnon and the Big Lie about the election, what are they not willing to lie about? Why should I put any of them on TV?”

For the clip, check out Joe DePaolo’s story for Mediaite.

Yamiche Alcindor takes over “Washington Week”

Yamiche Alcindor, the new host of “Washington Week” on PBS (Photo by Scott Suchman and courtesy of PBS)

This hire seemed like a no-brainer, but it’s still welcomed by those of us who enjoy “Washington Week” on PBS. Yamiche Alcindor has been named the show’s new moderator. Alcindor — the White House correspondent for “PBS NewsHour” and a political contributor for NBC News and MSNBC — will start her job as moderator this Friday (8 p.m. on most PBS stations).

Alcindor becomes the ninth moderator in “Washington Week’s” 54-year history. Gwen Ifill was probably the most notable, having moderated the show from 1999 until her death in 2016. Robert Costa was moderator from 2017 until Jan. 1 of this year. He left to work on other projects, including a book with famed Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward.

“Washington Week” has used guest moderators the past few months. Alcindor served as one of the guest hosts.

In a statement, Alcindor said, “I am incredibly honored and grateful to take the helm of ‘Washington Week.’ This show has an amazing legacy, and I am thrilled to step into it. I hope to build on it, to expand it and to bring this show forward distinctively into these times of challenge and controversy. In doing so, my guiding light will be serving our audiences and not shying away from the hard conversations about power and politics.”

Twitter, Scroll and Nuzzel

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

Less than 18 months after its launch, Scroll, a digital subscription service, has been sold to Twitter. The creation of Chartbeat founder Tony Haile, Scroll allows for the lightning-fast display of ad-free content from a range of publications.

Twitter has been promising investors since December to supplement its ad-supported main product with a new suite of paid offerings as a revenue growth strategy. That makes Scroll a match.

Haile and his team of 13 become Twitter employees. Scroll will serve existing subscribers but not onboard new ones as it heads into what Haile described as a “private beta” while getting integrated into Twitter.

In a blog post, Haile wrote that journalism is “deeply intertwined” in Twitter in a way it is not at other platform companies. He wrote, “The mission we’ve been given by (CEO) Jack (Dorsey) and the Twitter team is simple: take the model and platform that Scroll has built and scale it so that everyone who uses Twitter has the opportunity to experience an internet without friction and frustration, a great gathering of people who love the news and pay to sustainably support it.”

The transaction comes with a downside for fans of Nuzzel, an aggregation/recommendation service that Scroll acquired in 2018 while its own product was still in development. Nuzzel goes dark Thursday with some hope that its features can be replicated as Twitter builds out its offerings. Based on a 2012 technology, Haile wrote, Nuzzel could not be scaled and never turned the corner as a business.

Spreading the sun

The Colorado Sun is a news site that was founded in 2018 by former editors and reporters of The Denver Post. The mission was to cover local news at a time when local news is taking its lumps because of cutbacks, layoffs and dwindling resources. The Denver Post, while continuing to produce excellent journalism because of its outstanding staff, is an example of a paper that has seen cuts over the past decade under the ownership of the hedge fund Alden Global Capital.

Now the Sun is making even more of an impact. It announced Monday that it has acquired a family-owned chain of 24 suburban newspapers.

Colorado Sun editor-in-chief Larry Ryckman told NPR’s David Folkenflik, “These are the folks who are covering school boards, city councils, county commissions that no one else is covering. They provide unique local coverage. And we’re doing this so that we can preserve those voices.”

Folkenflik has more details about the Sun and the new acquisition.

From Texas Monthly to TV

Actress Elizabeth Olsen (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

HBO Max has ordered a limited series called “Love and Death.” It’s a true story about a Texas housewife, Candy Montgomery, who murdered a church friend with an ax in 1980. Elizabeth Olsen will play Montgomery. Nicole Kidman and David E. Kelley have signed on to produce.

And the series is based on articles written by Jim Atkinson and John Bloom that appeared in Texas Monthly in 1984, which you can read here and here.

In an email, Texas Monthly president Scott Brown said, “For the last two years we have been focused on translating Texas Monthly’s unrivaled, 50-year archive of stories into terrific film and television as part of our overall audience growth plans. We have over 20 projects in development and could not be more thrilled that ‘Love and Death’ is the first of those projects to be green lighted.”

Making a difference

Last November, the Tampa Bay Times’ Neil Bedi and Kathleen McGrory reported something disturbing in a project called “Targeted”: The sheriff department in Pasco County (just outside of Tampa Bay) kept a secret list of kids it thought might be prone to a life of crime based on factors such as being abused or getting bad grades in school. More than 400 kids were on the list and neither the kids nor their parents were aware they were on it. At the time, experts in law enforcement and student privacy questioned whether or not this violated the rights of students. In addition, was it OK for the sheriff’s department to focus on students before they had done anything illegal?

Now comes this news on Tuesday, according to the Tampa Bay Times’ Romy Ellenbogen: “Pasco County’s school resource officers will no longer have access to student data, including children’s grades and discipline histories, after the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office and School Board revised their data-sharing agreement.”

Some records could still be used to help in emergency situations, such as child abductions.

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco complained about the media in a statement, saying the agreement between his department and the Pasco County School Board was made to “ease any anxiety that parents may have as a result of misinformation perpetuated by media reports.”

In actuality, however, the Tampa Bay Times’ report was solid, and exposed something that needed to be changed. And now it has been.

Media tidbits

  • Washington Post sports media columnist Ben Strauss writes about Meadowlark, the new media venture founded by a couple of former ESPN staffers in “John Skipper and Dan Le Batard’s ESPN exits led to a friendship — and a new media challenger.”
  • Slate is launching another advice column today. This one is called “Pay Dirt” and will focus on personal finance and the social aspects of money issues. The first issue is out today and it will be run by Elizabeth Spiers of Gawker and The New York Observer and Athena Valentine, the founder of Money Smart Latina.
  • Have you checked out the project called “Inheritance” by The Atlantic? It’s quite good and it focuses on American history and Black life. Check out this line in the latest chapter from historian William Sturkey: “Active racism, exclusion, and environmental injustice have systematically destroyed or buried whole sections of Black history. Many of those who gripe about ‘erasing history’ of Confederate monuments and other symbols in the South have no idea how much history has already been erased.”
  • Rick Santorum was back on CNN this week. The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple wrote about it in “Santorum flails and fails in CNN appearance following comments on Native American culture.”

Hot type

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

Correction: This article has been updated to clarify that Slate’s “Pay Dirt” is a new advice column, not a podcast.

More resources for journalists

The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, sign up here.

Follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Donate
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…
More by Tom Jones

More News

Back to News