May 18, 2021

What will happen to CNN after the huge media deal announced Monday?

For now, probably nothing noticeable. These deals are complicated and it will take some time for things to sort out. But there’s this: It could mean CNN president Jeff Zucker, who has been expected to step away by year’s end, could be sticking around for a while.

First, the big deal: AT&T announced Monday a $43 billion deal that will merge its WarnerMedia group with rival Discovery. The result will be a powerhouse media company that will combine the likes of HBO, Warner Bros. studios, CNN and a bunch of other cable channels such as HGTV, The Food Network and OWN.

As The New York Times’ Edmund Lee and John Koblin wrote, “For consumers, this could mean even more shows to watch. But it’s unclear what it would mean for streaming subscription prices or traditional cable bills. WarnerMedia’s channels such as CNN and TNT and Discovery’s networks benefit from automatic rate increases paid by cable and satellite operators. Having more channels could give the new company even more leverage when negotiating those rates. Sports is another key component of the merger. WarnerMedia includes the sports-heavy cable networks TNT and TBS and Discovery has a large international sports business.”

(Check out the Times story for all the details, as well as Mae Anderson’s explainer for The Associated Press.)

For this newsletter, however, let’s address what this might mean for CNN.

Let’s start here: Axios’ Mike Allen reports that Zucker might put his exit plans on hold. He was expected to leave the network by the end of 2021. But, Allen writes, “I’m told that nothing has been decided. But absent this tectonic media shift, Zucker — who’s chairman, WarnerMedia News and Sports, and president of CNN Worldwide — was gone. Now, the door is open for him to stay.”

What else might this mean for CNN?

During an appearance on CNN on Monday morning, Discovery CEO David Zaslav was asked about his vision for CNN.

He praised CNN for being the country’s top cable news network and where people go for news. He then added that Discovery is in the news business in Eastern Europe and just invested in news in the United Kingdom, and that most people still care about the news when they get up each morning.

“This is right up the sweet spot for us,” Zaslav said. “It makes us really unique. This puts us in the position to be the No. 1 global news force in the world.”

He also said, “We’re not interested in selling it, and we’re going to invest in it.”

Zaslav mentioned Zucker’s name several times during the interview, which led CNN’s Poppy Harlow to ask Zaslav if he wanted Zucker to stay. Zaslav said he hasn’t talked to Zucker about it, but added, “Jeff is hugely, hugely talented and he and I got to talk about what he wants to do. And hoping that there will be an opportunity for Jeff to stay with us.”

And, for what it’s worth, in their story for the Times, Lee and Koblin wrote, “Mr. Zucker and Mr. Zaslav are also longtime golfing buddies.”

Story of the day


Absolutely stupendous work from The New York Times’ Jack Nicas, Raymond Zhong and Daisuke Wakabayashi with “Censorship, Surveillance and Profits: A Hard Bargain for Apple in China.”

The story reads, “Internal Apple documents reviewed by The New York Times, interviews with 17 current and former Apple employees and four security experts, and new filings made in a court case in the United States last week provide rare insight into the compromises (Apple CEO Tim) Cook has made to do business in China. They offer an extensive inside look — many aspects of which have never been reported before — at how Apple has given in to escalating demands from the Chinese authorities.”

Some of the takeaways from the piece:

  • Apple stores customer data on Chinese government servers.
  • Apple now shares customer data with the Chinese government.
  • Apple proactively removes apps to placate Chinese officials.
  • Apple banned apps from a Communist Party critic.
  • Tens of thousands of iPhone apps have disappeared in China.

Nicas, Zhong and Wakabayashi write, “Mr. Cook often talks about Apple’s commitment to civil liberties and privacy. But to stay on the right side of Chinese regulators, his company has put the data of its Chinese customers at risk and has aided government censorship in the Chinese version of its App Store. After Chinese employees complained, it even dropped the ‘Designed by Apple in California’ slogan from the backs of iPhones.”

In a statement to the Times, Apple said, in part, “We have never compromised the security of our users or their data in China or anywhere we operate.”

It’s quite the detailed story. Be sure to give it a read.

Stop that dog!

Juliana Mazza is a reporter for 7NEWS, a TV station in Boston. Earlier this month, she was doing a story about a man who broke into a car and stole a 13-month-old white German shorthaired pointer named Titus. A surveillance camera recorded the incident.

Mazza and a 7NEWS crew were filming from that location the next day when they saw a man walking by … with a white German shorthaired pointer! Turns out, it was the dog. She and her team started recording. She asked the man if she could pet the dog. She crouched down to pet it, but really wanted to see the name on the dog’s collar. It said “Titus.”

She then started questioning the man, who said the alleged theft was a misunderstanding, saying some mumbo jumbo about how he was supposed to be walking a dog and grabbed the wrong one. Mazza then called 911 while the man was standing there. Police arrived and arrested the man for larceny and breaking into a motor vehicle. The dog has been returned to his much-relieved owner.

Mazza told “Inside Edition,” “Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that I would be the one to find the dog.”

The dog’s owner told 7NEWS, “I’m just glad that the person came back and I’m just glad that you guys were there. If anyone ever sees this who questions the value of media, social media, broadcast media, this proves it.”


The Initiative in Reporting on Race and Criminal Justice at Columbia Lipman Center will provide grants from $30,000 to $45,000 and professional collaboration to four local news organizations for six-month reporting projects focusing on inequalities and abuses in the American criminal justice system. Apply now through June 20.

Facing facts

In Monday’s newsletter, I wrote about the testy exchange between “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd and Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.) during Sunday morning’s show. Todd pressed Crenshaw on how many of those in the Republican Party have helped — either through their vocal support or silence — Donald Trump push forth his baseless claim that the 2020 presidential election was rigged. When Todd kept pressing Crenshaw, the Republican lawmaker attacked the media, saying it was time to move on and that the media is “largely liberal.”

Eventually, it led to the best point Todd made during the exchange: “Why do we sit here and have a political party that is basically rallying around this bizarre lie and mythology that the former president is doing, and you guys just want to say, ‘Hey, pay no attention to this’ — that somehow we in the press are bringing that up? It’s the former president.”

I bring this up again because The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake weighed in with his piece, “A heated exchange with Dan Crenshaw epitomizes the GOP’s have-it-both-ways approach to Trump.”

In the interview, Crenshaw said constituents tell him they are not talking about the election, but about other issues, such as the border. Crenshaw added that if he had the chance, he would tell Trump to talk about things like the border. However, as Blake pointed out, Trump doesn’t seem to hear such pleas and his talk about the election has led the majority of Republicans to believe Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.

Blake wrote, “Perhaps at some point it might serve those who want to move on to settle this issue and say precisely what they think about what the former president is saying, rather than focusing on how they have said something more nuanced. Until then, this is going to linger. And that’s not because of the media; it’s because of the guy they’ve made clear remains the leader of their party.”

‘Jeopardy’ controversy or much ado about nothing?

Did a “Jeopardy” champion really flash a white supremacist sign? Or did a social media mob run wild with a conspiracy theory? Check out Ben Smith’s latest Media Equation column in The New York Times: “I’ll Take ‘White Supremacist Hand Gestures’ for $1,000.”

This also gives me a chance to say just how good Smith’s column is week-in and week-out. It’s always a must-read.

Bob Garfield fired as co-host of ‘On the Media’

New York Public Radio has fired Bob Garfield, co-host of “On the Media,” after an investigation determined he violated the organization’s anti-bullying policy.

NYPR’s statement said, “Bob was also the subject of an investigation in 2020, which also found that he had violated the policy, and which resulted in disciplinary action, a warning about the potential consequences if the behavior continued, and a meaningful opportunity to correct it.”

“On the Media” is a show about the news media and is heard on 421 public radio stations. NYPR said in its statement that co-host and managing editor Brooke Gladstone will continue to host the show. The statement added, “We recognize Bob’s contributions to our industry and our listeners. We also affirm NYPR’s commitment to providing an inclusive and respectful environment for our employees, guests and listeners.”

In an email to The New York Times’ Katie Robertson and Ben Smith, Garfield, who has co-hosted the show for 20 years, said he couldn’t give details, but defended his behavior as yelling in two meetings. He added, “In both cases, as will be clear eventually, the provocation was extraordinary and simply shocking.”

Garfield also wrote, “In time, the full story will emerge … and it is really scary. This is tragic.”

Cotton mocks Associated Press after building bombed

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. (Tom Williams/Pool via AP)

Over the weekend, an Israeli airstrike leveled a 12-story building in Gaza City that Israel claims was home to military assets belonging to Hamas, the Palestinian militant group. It also was home to, among other news outlets, The Associated Press, which had been in the building for 15 years. AP journalists had advance warning of the bombing and were able to exit without casualties. However, equipment and the place where they worked were destroyed.

On the Senate floor, Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton called the AP journalists “whiny reporters.”

In a speech defending Israel’s actions, Cotton said, “Why is The Associated Press sharing a building with Hamas? Surely these intrepid reporters knew who their neighbors were. Did they knowingly allow themselves to be used as human shields by a U.S.-designated terrorist organization? Did the AP pull its punches and decline to report for years on Hamas’ misdeeds? I submit that the AP has some uncomfortable questions to answer, yet the AP and its fellow journalists are in high dudgeon about Israel’s wholly appropriate airstrike. Leave it to whiny reporters to make themselves the story and the victim when terrorists are shooting missiles at innocent civilians.”

During an appearance on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources,” AP executive editor Sally Buzbee said AP was not aware it shared a building with Hamas.

Speaking at a news conference in Denmark on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he has yet to see evidence that Hamas was in the building that was destroyed.

A historic hire

ESPN has made a splashy hire ahead of taking over the National Hockey League TV rights next season. The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand reports ESPN has hired Leah Hextall to do play-by-play and other roles. Marchand reported the exact number of games she will broadcast is not known, but Hextall will become the first female play-by-play announcer to be a regular part of a national NHL TV package.

Hextall has been broadcasting hockey for 17 years and has play-by-play experience with SportsNet in Canada. She also has called college games for ESPN. Hextall’s cousin is Ron Hextall, a former NHL goalie who is currently the general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Her grandfather was Bryan Hextall, who played for the New York Rangers in the 1930s and 1940s and is in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Why he’s leaving

Kenny Mayne (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

In an exclusive piece for the Los Angeles Times, Kenny Mayne explained why he is leaving ESPN.

Mayne wrote, “I had no idea the end would play out the way it did. The last month in my contract has been a period during which I’m allowed to negotiate with outside parties while continuing to negotiate with ESPN. But this negotiation was short, almost abrupt: an offer, my rejection of the offer and an exit interview by phone. And that’s OK. Like I say sometimes during a back-‘em-down dunk NBA highlight, ‘It’s not personal, it’s just business.’”

Mayne told The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch that ESPN offered him a contract with a 61% pay cut.

But check out Mayne’s story for the Los Angeles Times. It’s so much more than the X’s and O’s of why he’s leaving. Like Mayne himself, the article an offbeat look at his ESPN career. Very entertaining.

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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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