By:
October 22, 2021

Here are my Poynter Power Rankings: a look at those people, places and things that ad a big impact on the media. They were the movers, shakers and influencers of the week.

Donald Trump

Let’s see, we have Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey and … Donald Trump? Saying he would “stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech,” the former president is starting his own social media network. Trump is putting a new twist on an old saying: If you can’t join them, try to beat them. Already booted off Facebook and Twitter, Trump is cranking up something called Truth Social. It will open to invited guests next month and then plans a nationwide rollout in early 2022. But there are already problems. Washington Post tech writer Drew Harwell wrote, “Pranksters have already defaced Trump’s new social network.” And even when (if) the kinks are worked out, there seems to be lots of skepticism that Trump’s social network is actually going to be successful. Check out these pieces: Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman with “Why Trump’s pathetic social media platform is probably doomed” and CNN’s Chris Cillizza with “3 reasons why Donald Trump’s new social media company is doomed to fail.”

Ben Smith

Piece of advice: If the media columnist for The New York Times calls you, think twice about picking up. I mentioned him in the power ranking just a couple of weeks ago when he wrote about the mess at Ozy Media. This week, he wrote about Axel Springer — the German media company that has bought Politico. In that column, he centered on a high-level editor at one of Axel Springer’s other publications and allegations that the editor used his position to pursue sexual relationships with women who worked for him. A day later, that editor, Julian Reichelt, was let go by Axel Springer. It was another big week for Smith. Columbia Journalism Review’s Jon Allsop wrote, “since he started at the Times last year, his scoopy weekly columns have frequently set the media-industry agenda.”

Climate change coverage

This week featured major climate change coverage. On Thursday, The Washington Post’s Louisa Loveluck and Mustafa Salim (with photos from Emilienne Malfatto) came out with: “From cradle to grave. Where civilization emerged between the Tigris and Euphrates, climate change is poisoning the land and emptying the villages.” Earlier this week, the BBC’s Justin Rowlatt and Tom Gerken saw leaked documents that “shows how countries are trying to change a crucial scientific report on how to tackle climate change.” And on the topic of leaked documents, Unearthed’s Lawrence Carter and Crispin Dowler wrote: “Leaked documents reveal the fossil fuel and meat producing countries lobbying against climate action.” There’s this from The New York Times’ Christopher Flavelle, Julian E. Barnes, Eileen Sullivan and Jennifer Steinhauer: “Climate Change Poses a Widening Threat to National Security”; And, finally, be sure to check out the visually stunning photos from Reuters’ Lisi Niesner and a well-done piece by Ellen Francis in The Washington Post: “A hike through ice caves under Austria’s melting glaciers shows ‘decays’ from climate change.”

John King and Neil Cavuto

The two cable news anchors both have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. We’ve known about Cavuto, from Fox News and Fox Business Network, for a while, but CNN’s King just opened up publicly for the first time this week. He was diagnosed 13 years ago, but says the symptoms started back in the 1990s. He brought it up during a segment urging people to get the COVID-19 vaccine to help protect those who are immunocompromised like himself. Then, the next day, Cavuto revealed that he has tested positive for COVID-19. And, he too, used that moment to advocate for vaccines, saying in a statement, “I hope anyone and everyone gets that message loud and clear. Get vaccinated, for yourself and everyone around you.”

Pardon the Interruption

ESPN’s afternoon debate show is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month. One could make the case that the show featuring one-time Washington Post columnists Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon is the best studio sports show in the history of TV. Its style — just two extremely knowledgeable and entertaining journalists discussing the topics du jour — is the sports version of “Siskel and Ebert” and it laid the groundwork for many of the debate shows that followed. But while it’s often imitated, it hasn’t been duplicated. Yes, it features staples we had never seen before — a clock showing how long a topic will be discussed, an on-screen list of what other topics are coming up and even a correction segment at the end of the program — but truly what makes this show work is the on-air chemistry between longtime friends Kornheiser and Wilbon. The ESPN Daily podcast is running a four-part series this month on the history of the show.

Colin Powell coverage

The trailblazing military and political force Colin Powell died this week from complications of COVID-19. He was vaccinated, but immunocompromised due to multiple myeloma. Other than a few of the usual suspects in conversative media who used Powell’s death to push their lame-brain conspiracies about the effectiveness of vaccines, the coverage of his death was fitting of this distinguished gentleman. Some of the more notable pieces of the past couple of days include a guest essay in The New York Times from retired Navy commander Theodore R. Johnson: “The Paradox of Colin Powell”; The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward with “‘Don’t feel sorry for me,’ Powell said as the end approached”; and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in an opinion piece for The Washington Post: “Colin Powell’s greatest legacy is in the people he inspired.”

Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen

CBS News’ Anthony Mason, left, interviews Bruce Springsteen and former President Barack Obama. (Courtesy: CBS News)

The former president and rock icon gave their first interview together with Anthony Mason for “CBS Sunday Morning.” A preview of the interview will air on today’s “CBS Mornings” with the full interview running this Sunday (between 9 and 10:30 a.m. Eastern). The two talk about the podcast they did together and their new book of the same name, “Renegades: Born in the USA.” Springsteen tells Mason, “What I do on any given evening, when I’m doing my job well, is I create a space of common values and shared narrative. For three hours, we create that place. It exists somewhere.” Obama added, “And that power of storytelling is, you know, at its best, what good politics does well, right? It says, ‘Here’s who we are. Here’s a common story we share.’”

Kara Swisher

Why is Swisher in the power rankings this week? Because she should be in the power rankings EVERY week. Her “Sway” podcast for The New York Times is as good of a podcast as there is out there. Always highly engaging and timely. This week, she spoke with veteran tech journalist Walt Mossberg as news and controversy swirled around Facebook. Then came her conversation with Nobel Peace Prize-winning journalist Maria Ressa. That, too, includes a conversation about social media and Facebook. And if that wasn’t enough, Swisher also is doing a weekly podcast that follows each new episode from season three of HBO’s addictive black comedy “Succession.” Speaking of which …

Succession

If you have not seen this HBO show of wealth, power, greed, media, family and the dysfunction of all of it … well, you are truly missing out. Is it based on the Murdoch family? Some think so. But this fictional Roy family is both enviable and loathsome at the same time. The dark comedy is hilarious and yet compelling like a cliffhanging drama. The writing is spectacular, the acting is first-rate and the show is pretty close to perfect. Season three started last Sunday and it did not disappoint thirsty viewers who have waited more than two years since the end of season two. And speaking of HBO …

HBO Sports

Roy Johnson, former coach of a high school football team called Bishop Sycamore. (Courtesy: HBO)

HBO Sports announced it will air a documentary — produced by Michael Strahan and Adam McKay — about the high school football scandal involving a supposed school from Columbus, Ohio, called Bishop Sycamore. That “school” played prep powerhouse IMG Academy on ESPN earlier this year and lost 58-0. It was such an embarrassment that reporters from all over started to investigate just how legitimate the school and football program were. How did this essentially made-up program land on national television? It’s a fascinating story and HBO will air the documentary sometime in 2022.

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…
Tom Jones

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