By:
July 16, 2021

Earlier this week, the lead item of my newsletter was about three books looking at the final year and days of Donald Trump’s presidency. In fact, I’ve written many times about Trump since he left the White House.

After my recent newsletter about Trump, I received several emails from Poynter Report readers — just like I do every time I mention Trump.

“Enough!” one reader wrote to me.

“Will you please stop writing about Trump? He’s not the president any longer,” another one said.

And another wrote: “No more Trump! I’m begging you.”

The pushback is valid, or at least worth considering. Many see his false claims about the 2020 election and his combative rhetoric to be dangerous to the country.

Why give his words and ideas oxygen? After all, it’s true, he is not the president.

But that doesn’t mean he no longer has power.

He still has millions of devoted supporters. He still wields clout over those serving in the House and Senate, including some of the country’s most powerful lawmakers. He remains the most influential figure in the Republican Party. He will have a heavy hand over the 2022 midterm elections.

And, most of all, he could run again for president in 2024.

His past behavior as president needs to be dissected. His current commentary on politics needs to be scrutinized. His future role needs to be considered.

Maybe much of what he says and much of who he is might, indeed, be dangerous. But ignoring him might even be more dangerous.

Many ignored Trump or didn’t take him seriously before the 2016 election. Many dismissed the idea that he might become president. Many believed that he would never gain the support needed to actually win the election.

And what happened?

It would seem that using the same tactic this time around — ignoring him, dismissing him, not taking him seriously — might produce the same results as 2016. And he clearly has not gone away.

But covering Trump does come with a caveat: It needs to be newsworthy. It can’t be the same old repeated and untrue complaints of a stolen election and revisionist history about COVID-19 and Jan. 6 and so forth.

PolitiFact’s Miriam Valverde has a new piece out: “Suspended from social media, Donald Trump turns to traditional media avenues to push falsehoods.”

Trump has been kicked off Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms, mostly because of the events of Jan. 6. Valverde writes, “Since his exit from the White House, Trump has headlined political conferences, hosted rallies, held a press conference, given media interviews, made appearances with political allies, and issued written statements (often several a day).”

So, how should Trump be covered? Well, it all comes down to news value.

Aly Colón, a media ethics professor at Washington and Lee University and a former Poynter faculty member, told PolitiFact’s Valverde, “If there is not a news value, they see no reason to be a megaphone for someone who may not be advancing anything or advancing things that are not accurate, possibly untrue.”

When covering Trump, it’s critical that the media calls out Trump when he lies.

Jane E. Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota, told Valverde, “Being complicit in lies is not the proper role of the news media, and journalists should push back against falsehoods and unsubstantiated statements.”

This isn’t to suggest that every Trump rally be broadcast, or that everything he says gets amplified. But the media can’t just act as if the past four years didn’t happen and that Trump is gone for good just because he lost in 2020.

These new books are important history lessons on Trump’s presidency, and perhaps insight into what the future might hold. Keeping tabs on what Trump is saying now — and how it’s impacting his supporters, his party and conservative lawmakers — is essential.

TV networks, newspapers, websites and all other forms of media should not just hand Trump a megaphone. But they shouldn’t completely turn their back on him either. The answer is somewhere in between.

Rolling Stone’s new editor-in-chief

Noah Shachtman, the top editor at The Daily Beast, is moving over to Rolling Stone to become its editor-in-chief. Shachtman told The New York Times’ Marc Tracy that he’s going to bring his approach from The Daily Beast (news and emphasis on the web) to his new job at Rolling Stone.

“It’s got to be faster, louder, harder,” he told Tracy. “We’ve got to be out getting scoops, taking people backstage, showing them parts of the world they don’t get to see every day.”

Shachtman will start his new job in September. He takes over for Jason Fine, who is now overseeing Rolling Stone’s podcasts and documentaries after being editor-in-chief for five years. Shachtman has been The Daily Beast’s top editor since 2018.

Tracy reported that Tracy Connor, The Daily Beast’s executive editor, will be interim editor-in-chief after Shachtman departs next month.

On Twitter, Shachtman wrote, “Rolling Stone changed my life. Its music journalism helped push me to play in bands for real. Its conflict reporting gave me a north star to aim for when I was a national security reporter. I can’t (expletive) wait to help this incredible team write its next chapter.”

He added, “Y’all know how much I love The Beast. I’ve never had a job so fulfilling, so fun, and that delivered such an impact. I’ve never had colleagues more dedicated to their mission. Tracy Connor is the best journalist I know. She’s going to do an amazing job with this crew.”

‘The Talk’s’ new co-host

CBS’s “The Talk” has finally replaced Sharon Osbourne and her replacement is a bit of a surprise. Actor Jerry O’Connell has permanently joined the show, becoming the first male co-host in the show’s 11-year history.

Then again, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. O’Connell has been guest hosting for the past few months.

O’Connell told his fellow panelists, “First of all, I want to say, you ladies have been so welcoming to me. I mean, I came here as a guest months ago, and just from the moment I walked in, you’re just gracious, you’re kind, you’re fun, and it worked. And here we are. We’re going to have a lot of fun, we really are.”

Osbourne left the show in March after an on-air spat with co-host Sheryl Underwood and subsequent reports that Osbourne had made other insensitive, racist and homophobic comments in the past. The exchange with Underwood started when Osbourne defended British TV host Piers Morgan, who was critical of Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. Especially Meghan.

O’Connell first became widely known as a child actor when he played Vern Tessio in the 1986 film “Stand by Me.” He went to play roles in movies such as “Jerry Maguire” and “Kangaroo Jack,” as well as the TV show “Crossing Jordan.”

O’Connell said on air, “​​It’s something new, you know, I don’t want to say it’s scary, but it’s new so it’s a change. And change is good. You have to do things that scare you, that shake it up a bit, and this is definitely shaking it up.”

Interview of the day

Tucker Carlson. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Another day, another Tucker Carlson piece. Time Magazine’s Charlotte Alter has “Talking With Tucker Carlson, the Most Powerful Conservative in America.”

Some of Carlson’s comments:

  • On the Republican Party: “First of all, they’re inept and bad at governing. The party is much more effective as an oppositional force than it is as a governing party.”
  • On whether or not he believed Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election: “He did win the election. Do I think the election was fair? Obviously it wasn’t.”
  • On running for president someday: “That seems like the unhappiest job you could have. I just don’t have any ambitions like that. I have zero interest in being loved by people I don’t know.”

There’s plenty more if you’re interested. Alter writes, “… he sanitizes and legitimizes right-wing conspiratorial thinking, dodges when you try to nail him down on the specifics, then wraps it all in an argument about censorship and free speech. He has a way of talking about culture and politics that is rooted in defiance: defiance of elites, defiance of the federal government, defiance of scientific consensus. And it has won him the loyalty of millions of Americans who are already suspicious of everything he questions.”

Journalists at The Buffalo News launch byline strike

For this item, I turn it over to my Poynter colleague Angela Fu.

Starting today, stories and photos produced by union members at The Buffalo News will run without bylines. Workers are participating in this “open-ended byline strike” to protest the company’s attempts to outsource jobs and eliminate layoff protections.

The journalists’ union, the Buffalo Newspaper Guild, has been bargaining its first contract with Lee Enterprises since February. Lee bought the paper from Berkshire Hathaway in January 2020, along with BH Media Group’s publications.

At stake are three key contract proposals that the union says will hurt workers. The first aims to outsource work done by page designers, copy editors, customer service representatives and members of the accounting department to out-of-state Lee hubs. The second makes it easier for the company to lay off workers. The third gives Lee the right to freeze union members’ pension plans.

In addition to launching a byline strike — a method journalists sometimes use to signal to readers dissatisfaction with their management’s conduct — the union is circulating a petition, which has already garnered more than 1,100 signatures.

“We are united in our voice to the company and to this community that we’re going to stand up for what’s right,” Buffalo Newspaper Guild president Sandra Tan said at a Thursday press conference. “And if it takes removing our bylines from the print paper so that people don’t see our names — even though we take our names as a personal source of pride for everything that we produce — then that’s what we’re going to do.”

Lee Enterprises spokesperson Charles Arms declined to comment.

Media tidbits

Chrissy Teigen. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

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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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