EXEC SUMMARY: Oliver Darcy here... Scroll down below for the latest on John Bolton's book, ABC's suspension of a reporter, Charlie Warzel's piece on newsrooms and the trolls, Warren Buffett's exit from the newspaper biz, BBC's cuts, Steve Bannon's doc, Kathryn Murdoch's podcast appearance, and more. But first...
The next seven days
Prepare to hit warp speed. Assignment editors are losing sleep as they plan for the next seven days. This is an incomplete list:
>> Thursday: The trial of President Trump continues.
>> Friday: A pivotal vote on witnesses?
>> Sunday: The 49ers versus the Chiefs meet for Super Bowl LIV!
>> Monday: The Iowa caucuses. Per RCP's average, Bernie Sanders is polling in the top spot, followed by Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg...
>> Tuesday: Trump is scheduled to deliver the annual State of the Union address...
And there's more...
The Harvey Weinstein trial is ongoing in NY. Mike Pompeo is on a multi-country trip. CNN and The Des Moines Register are releasing a final Iowa caucus poll on Saturday. And we are still awaiting details on a public memorial service for Kobe Bryant...
"Tremendous editorial pressures"
The sheer amount of planning and resources necessary to cover each of these events is remarkable. "These stories bring intense audience expectations, massive logistical challenges, and tremendous editorial pressures," explained Frank Sesno, former CNN Washington bureau chief and current director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University. "News organizations need to cover each story with appropriate detail, context and emotion. And emotion is running very high."
Sesno noted that the current information environment in which these events are taking place will certainly result in increased scrutiny. "Under the social media microscope this will be much tougher because most every viewer, reader, listener will be judging — many in real time," Sesno said. "It's a daunting news agenda, but the public is tuned in and amped up. News organizations will be judged quickly and harshly."
Brian Stelter emails: I'm interested to see how these big events and psuedoevents cross-pollinate. For example: POTUS will be talking about the trial in a Super Bowl Sunday interview with Sean Hannity. The hosts of "Fox & Friends" will be live in Miami for special weekend editions of the show. And Bloomberg News is holding a Super Bowl watch party for reporters who are in Iowa to cover the caucuses...
FOR THE RECORD, PART ONE
-- Congrats to Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig! "A Very Stable Genius" debuted at No. 1 on the NYT bestseller list. Debuting at No. 2 was "Profiles in Corruption" by Peter Schweizer, the author who has pushed discredited conspiracy theories against Clinton and Biden... (NYT)
-- I know I sound like a broken record, but it's worth (again) pointing out: Fox News was the only cable news network that did not carry proceedings from Trump's impeachment trial Wednesday night. Though, Sean Hannity briefly dipped into the trial when Trump lawyer Alan Dershowitz was presenting...
-- Speaking of Dersh: Esquire spent 21 hours with Dershowitz. He told the mag, "I got a lot of grief during the O.J. case. I defended that guy for murder, but it was nothing like this. This is much worse..." (Esquire)
-- Andrew Kaczynski pointed out that "Ted Cruz got 20K RTs on a claim that was quickly pointed out as false. He acknowledges his tweet is false in his follow up tweet but hasn't deleted it..." (Twitter)
The White House threatens Bolton over book
It appears the W.H. really does not want John Bolton to move forward with his book. Jake Tapper broke news Wednesday that the National Security Council issued a formal threat to Bolton to keep him from doing so. Specifically, in a letter to Bolton's lawyer, a top official said that the book "appears to contain significant amounts of classified information" and couldn't be published as written.
Bolton "preparing" for possibility of testifying
Bolton's attorney Charles Cooper released a Friday email he sent the NSC official. "As you are no doubt aware, the House Managers in the Senate impeachment trial have made clear their intention to seek Ambassador Bolton's testimony at trial, and although no one yet knows whether the Senate will subpoena him to testify, he is preparing for that possibility," Cooper wrote.
Cooper added that if Bolton is called to testify "it seems certain that he will be asked questions that will elicit much of the information contained in the chapter of his manuscript dealing with his involvement in matters relating to Ukraine." And in a separate statement, Cooper added that he had "received no response whatever to my urgent request for the NSC's immediate guidance" on the book. More here...
Dobbs unloads on "petty snarling Lilliputian" Bolton
Over on Fox, Lou Dobbs ruthlessly attacked Bolton. He said he told Bolton months ago to "go to hell." Dobbs referred to Bolton as a "turncoat." And he called him a "petty snarling Lilliputian." Mediaite has some of the video here...
>> Related: Keith Urbahn, Bolton's literary agent, weighed in on some of the attacks against his client: "The best is the 'writing and selling books is gross' critique from people who have personally pitched, pleaded and begged us to represent their books..."
NYT Page One
The top headline: "ATTACKING BOLTON, REPUBLICANS PUSH TO SWIFTLY ACQUIT..."
ABC suspends reporter over inaccurate statement after Kobe Bryant crash
ABC News chief national correspondent Matt Gutman has been suspended for making an inaccurate statement during the network's special report about Kobe Bryant's death. News of Gutman's suspension was first reported by the LAT's Stephen Battaglio.
>> "Gutman had erroneously reported on-air that all four of Bryant's children were on board the helicopter that crashed on a hillside in Calabasas, California, on Sunday," Kerry Flynn reported for CNN's story.
>> ABC's statement: "Reporting the facts accurately is the cornerstone of our journalism. As he acknowledged on Sunday, Matt Gutman's initial reporting was not accurate and failed to meet our editorial standards." ABC didn't say how long the suspension will last...
"Sanders or Warren? Why Not Both?"
The Nation editor D.D. Guttenplan will publish on Thursday morning a proposal for a progressive unity ticket: “Sanders or Warren? Why Not Both?” The piece will go live at 4am ET here...
"What if we could have both?" Guttenplan asks. "Sanders’s courage and consistency and deep understanding of what a rigged system does to the lives of the people it runs over and brands as failures. And Warren’s policy chops and personal warmth and cold intellectual fury at the same bankers and billionaires and predatory monopolists targeted by her rival."
Tim Alberta on this week's "Reliable" podcast
Brian Stelter emails: "I just don't think the media as an institution has done a great job keeping up with the pace of change, political and cultural and socioeconomic and otherwise," Politico's Tim Alberta says. That's why he is writing columns "to Washington from the rest of America," aiming to break the campaign coverage mold. Alberta joined me on this week's "Reliable Sources" podcast... We talked about "diner" cliches, voters' motivations, and news media blind spots. Alberta also points to a different "defining group of swing voters in 2020," offers tips for breaking out of broad-brush reporting tendencies, and more...
Listen to the pod via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, or your preferred app...
-- Verizon will report earnings before the bell...
-- The impeachment trial will resume in the Senate at 1pm ET with day two of the Q&A...
-- The World Health Organization will reconsider declaring the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency...
-- Roger Goodell will hold his annual State of the League presser...
-- Amazon will report earnings after the bell...
-- Trump will hold a prime time rally in Des Moines, Iowa...
-- NBC's "The Good Place" will air its 90-minute series finale. The cast will join Seth Meyers for "Late Night" afterward...
YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST...
Kirsten Powers launching "How To Do You"
The columnist and CNN commentator's very personal podcast "How To Do You" is about to launch... The first three episodes, with Jimmy Kimmel, Marianne Williamson and Yale's happiness expert Dr. Laurie Santos, will all be live on Thursday...
Kobe Bryant's 2018 visit to WaPo
For the last several days, Kobe Bryant has been the topic of WaPo's newsroom, due to Felicia Sonmez's tweets and the ensuing controversy. But as Rachel Abrams and Marc Tracy reported Wednesday, it wasn't the first time the NBA legend has sparked controversy at the newspaper. "This week, journalists at The Post recalled an earlier time when a disagreement concerning Mr. Bryant had divided the newsroom," the duo wrote.
According to Abrams and Tracy, "It happened in October 2018, when Mr. Bryant was given a welcome worthy of a V.I.P. at the paper’s Franklin Square headquarters in downtown Washington." After his visit, Amy Brittain drafted a letter to Marty Baron "expressing her discomfort with what she described as the 'spectacle' surrounding the N.B.A. star’s newsroom appearance." Brittain "shared the Google Doc with others at the paper," Abrams and Tracy reported. "More than 100 of her colleagues signed their names, according to two people with knowledge of the letter. But she ended up not sending it to Mr. Baron, opting to meet with him privately to share her concerns."
"Newsrooms still aren’t ready for the trolls"
That was Charlie Warzel's take on the events that have unfolded over the last several days at WaPo. "Why, after years of watching journalists, women and vulnerable individuals being trolled and abused by viral outrage online, are newsrooms still falling for the same Gamergate-style tactics?" Warzel asked.
Warzel also noted that the incident "raises headier questions." He pointed out, "Journalists who build followings online, in part by being incisive, combative, funny and omnipresent on Twitter, are often hired because of that exposure — because they’re a known quantity." And he also noted, "There’s also a double standard. While few publications would say it, it’s all but required for young journalists to jump into the culture war online. It’s a way to find stories. And in a volatile industry it gets you noticed."
Big blow at the BBC
Hadas Gold emails: The British Broadcasting Corporation announced Wednesday that 450 employees in the news division will be losing their jobs, as the network aims to save at least £40 million ($52 million) by 2022. The agency said the cuts are part of shifting its priorities to digital – saying they're spending too much on "traditional linear broadcasting and not enough on digital." The newsroom will also be reorganized around story topics that the agency said will help reduce redundancies.
>> Host Victoria Derbyshire, whose eponymous program is part of the cuts, blasted BBC leaders at an all-hands meeting, tweeting at the same time, "We were NEVER asked to grow the linear TV audience. Ever. We were asked to grow our digital audience — we did — our figures are huge (our successful digital figures appear to be an inconvenience to those making the decisions)."
>> The BBC is facing the same headwinds as every other media outlet, but it also faces a more political threat: The current British government is re-thinking the BBC license fee. More details in my story here...
Buffett exits the newspaper biz
Last year, Warren Buffett said the newspaper industry was "toast." He predicted newspapers were "going to disappear." On Wednesday, the billionaire investor's Berkshire Hathaway announced it will sell its 31 publications to Lee Enterprises for $140 million in cash.
The deal is expected to close in March, Daniela Sirtori-Cortina reported for CNN Business. It will bolster Lee's portfolio of daily newspapers from 50 to 81. But, as NYT's Michael J. de la Merced wrote in his story, "The deal ends Mr. Buffett’s dalliance with being a news mogul."
Not everyone is happy...
Buffett said in a statement that he was "confident that our newspapers will be in the right hands going forward." But not everyone agreed. As Sirtori-Cortina noted in her story, "Lee Enterprises has drawn criticism from employees for layoffs across its properties."
>> "We're profoundly disappointed in Warren Buffett," said Todd Cooper, a reporter at the Omaha World-Herald and the president of the newsroom's union. "He will be financing Lee Enterprises' dismantling of local newspapers." More here...
FOR THE RECORD, PART TWO
-- From the Fox News memo celebrating 18 years at No. 1 in the cable news race: "There is no other network in cable that can lay claim to this level of consistent dominance..." (Mediaite)
-- Knowing his audience: Doug Collins announced he is running for US Senate in Georgia while on "Fox & Friends" Wednesday morning... (Politico)
-- Rudy Giuliani released episode two of his podcast on Wednesday. You can check it out, if you so wish, on YouTube here... (YouTube)
-- Meghan McCain spoke with Andy Cohen about "The View" drama... (Daily Beast)
Pompeo takes another jab, says he hopes NPR host "finds peace"
"Mike Pompeo ... tripled down on his offensive against NPR’s All Things Considered host Mary Louise Kelly," Mediaite's Charlie Nash wrote Wednesday. On his trip, while aboard his plane, Pompeo spoke to reporters where he defended his actions in regards to Kelly. Pompeo claimed there was "a lot of history" with NPR, and that he "took a leap of faith" going on Kelly's show. Pompeo then concluded his remarks saying, "I hope she finds peace."
Steve Bannon is making a doc
Wondering what Steve Bannon has been up to? Outside his podcast covering impeachment, he has apparently been working on a new documentary that zeroes in on Chinese President Xi Jinping.
CNBC's Brian Schwartz reported Wednesday that Bannon is using millions of dollars in contributions to create the film. Bannon told CNBC, “This film will be a devastating takedown of the ‘myth of Chairman Xi’ including the Wall Street and corporatist faction that props the up the regime." More here...
House Ethics Committee issues warning to lawmakers on use of deep fakes
"Leading members of the House Ethics Committee warned congressional offices to avoid posting manipulated or deep fake videos on their social media accounts, saying the practice could violate House rules," CNN's Brian Fung reported on Wednesday. The lawmakers said staff should "exercise care" when using social platforms.
"Members have a duty, and a First Amendment right, to contribute to the public discourse, including through parody and satire,” the committee memo said. "However, manipulation of images and videos that are intended to mislead the public can harm that discourse and reflect discreditably on the House.”
FOR THE RECORD, PART THREE
-- Speaking of disinformation: Elizabeth Warren released a plan to tackle it... (Gizmodo)
-- A study examining YouTube behavior "found evidence that users who engaged with a middle ground of extreme right-wing content migrated to commenting on the most fringe far-right content...." (TechCrunch)
-- Twitter has adjusted its search prompt in "key countries" to "feature authoritative health sources when you search for terms related to novel #coronavirus..." (Twitter)
-- Here is part two in CNN's "On the Road" series: "Ranch girl, Caucus-chella and Klomentum: This is campaigning in Iowa..." (CNN)
-- CNN spox Emily Kuhn tweeted, "CNN Digital is closing out January 2020 with all-time record traffic highs, including 4 of the top 8 days in history, making it CNN Digital’s best month ever..." (Twitter)
The Guardian: We will no longer accept ads from fossil fuel companies
Hadas Gold emails: The Guardian newspaper says it will no longer accept advertising from fossil fuel companies. “Our decision is based on the decades-long efforts by many in that industry to prevent meaningful climate action by governments around the world,” the paper’s chief customer and chief revenue officers wrote in a post.
But the paper is not going so far as to ban all products with a significant carbon footprint, like cars or airlines, because “stopping those ads would be a severe financial blow, and might force us to make significant cuts to Guardian and Observer journalism around the world.”
>> Some context: The change comes after the Guardian also committed to using more “urgent language” when describing climate change...
Kathryn Murdoch: "I have a voice and I need to try to use it"
In a rare interview, Kathryn Murdoch spoke to Politico's Anna Palmer for a 23-minute podcast. The two discussed Murdoch's climate change work, among other things. Murdoch, who described herself as a "radical centrist," told Palmer, “I took a step back and have not been public at all. … This is the first time where I’ve really decided that I have a voice and I need to try to use it.” She also pledged, “We’re really excited to back whoever the nominee is, no matter what." More here...
Let that number sit with you for a minute. "On Wednesday, Facebook also said that it ended 2019 with 2.5 billion monthly users worldwide, an increase of 8% from the year prior, even as the company has continued to face public scrutiny and criticism," CNN's Kaya Yurieff wrote. "The company reported revenue of about $21 billion during the final three months of 2019, a 25% increase from the same period a year earlier. Facebook posted a $7.3 billion profit, representing single-digit percentage growth for the business."
FOR THE RECORD, PART FOUR
By Kerry Flynn:
-- Tom Dotan and Jessica Toonkel report Facebook is once again refining its Facebook Watch strategy, cutting back on original programming... (The Information)
-- Kaitlyn Jakola is joining Gizmodo as managing editor. She comes from Insider, where she’s assistant managing editor... (Twitter)
-- Gloria Oh has joined Medium's Marker as ideas editor. She was most recently a producer for AtlanticLIVE... (Twitter)
-- Scott Nover is joining Adweek to cover social media platforms... (Twitter)
Kerry Flynn emails: Knewz is out. Back in August, WSJ reported its owner News Corp was building a news aggregator called Knewz (with a silent “K”). On Wednesday, Knewz went live, with news about the coronavirus, impeachment trial and crime leading the site. The aggregator relies on human curators and tech. Observers were quick to liken Knewz to Vox (yellow) meets Drudge (words with hyperlinks, no photos).
Per the announcement, Knewz was “designed to let you consume news from a wide variety of sources, free of the bias bubbles and vacuous verticals that frustrate so many discerning readers and thoughtful publishers." As reported last summer, Knewz sources from both mainstream and conservative sites. Among the 400 publishers are Breitbart, The Daily Caller, The Blaze, Washington Free Beacon and Washington Examiner.
>> Flynn adds: I downloaded the app this AM and so far have been served two mobile notifications. A 1:30pm alert linked to editor’s picks for coverage on John Bolton's book, with CNN as the first source. We’ll see…
Headlines from AT&T's earnings
AT&T "reported fourth-quarter profit hit $2.39 billion, or 33 cents a share, down from $4.86 billion, or 66 cents a share, over the same period a year earlier," the WSJ's Drew FitzGerald wrote. "The latest results were weighed down by several one-time accounting write-offs, including the abandonment of legacy copper phone lines in some areas." AT&T shares fell nearly 4%.
>> More news from the earnings report: WarnerMedia "lost more than $1 billion in revenue due to investment in HBO Max... Basically, AT&T is taking a pretty big hit by not licensing a number of its WarnerMedia shows and movies to streaming competitors like Netflix and Hulu," The Verge's Julia Alexander wrote. "But company executives are mostly fine with a short-term loss if the long-term gain pays off."
FOR THE RECORD, PART FIVE
By Katie Pellico:
-- "House Democratic leaders have released a 'framework' — rather than a bill — for a five-year infrastructure investment that would include about $86 billion for high-speed broadband," from B+C's John Eggerton... (B+C)
-- Mike Caulfield explains why the Ctrl-F function is just "the sort of basic internet skill... that can stop someone from sharing fake news." Very smart piece about digital literacy... (NiemanLab)
-- Read about the Investigative Editing Corps, a project that "matches investigative editors to the local newsrooms that desperately need them..." (Poynter)
-- Vanessa Bryant posted lengthy message to Instagram: "There aren't enough words to describe our pain right now..." (ESPN)
The debate over whether to write up "trending" news
Brian Lowry emails: An interested thread by NYT's Erin McCann, asking the extent to which news orgs should let what’s trending be their assignment editors. The impetus was the news that a former child star was arrested, prompting McCann to note, "The line between 'well it's trending' and 'but do we need to spend time on this?' is a squishy one and I am ALL IN FAVOR of publishing rather than not in most cases. but to me this is a pretty clear case of, well, it's ok to pass. And I’m having a hard time seeing the other side.”
>> Bottom line from Lowry: It's a good debate to have, but when there's demonstrable interest in something, I suspect "it's OK to pass" is increasingly a losing if not entirely lost cause...
When hype doesn't always translate into ratings
Brian Lowry emails: Speaking of trending, a good example of how that doesn’t always equate to big audience from a TV perspective: The CW’s “Arrow” aired its series finale on Tuesday night, and the show was a hot trending topic. But the episode drew a relatively small audience of 723,000 viewers, down 20% from the penultimate hour, according to Variety.
FOR THE RECORD, PART SIX
By Lisa Respers France:
-- Here's some of what's streaming in February on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime...
-- In an interview David Schwimmer suggested a possible reboot of "Friends with an all black cast. People were more than happy to remind him about "Living Single..."
-- Juice Wrld's music to get posthumous release...
-- Fathers are honoring Kobe Bryant with #girldad..
-- My Chemical Romance announces first US tour in nine years...
"Arrow" finale looks to past, plants seeds for future
Beyond ending the show, the finale did plant some seeds for future DC-related programming, teasing a possible “Arrow” spinoff as well as a potential tie-in to an announced “Green Lantern” series for HBO Max. Check out Lowry's full review here...
FOR THE RECORD, PART SEVEN
-- Marisa Guthrie's must-read THR cover story on John Oliver dropped Wednesday... (THR)
-- MoviePass will shut down and liquidate in bankruptcy... (CNN)
-- Ahead of Thursday's series finale of NBC's "The Good Place," NYT's Jeremy Egner spoke with creator and showrunner Michael Schur... (NYT)
-- "China's state broadcaster CCTV is calling off its usual live red carpet coverage of the Oscars in response to the worsening coronavirus crisis, a source at the public television network said Wednesday..." (THR)
The latest in the Recording Academy fallout
Katie Pellico emails: Embattled Grammy chief Deborah Dugan has written a letter asking to be released from her arbitration agreement with the academy. "The public and the music industry have the right to know what is going on behind closed doors at the Academy," she wrote...
FOR THE RECORD, PART EIGHT
By Chloe Melas:
-- BTS debuts new single "Black Swan..."
-- Nikki Bella and Brie Bella are both pregnant...
-- Chris Stapleton is heading to a city near you...
Thank you for reading! I'll be back on Thursday. In the meantime, send me feedback via email (tips are good too). Or connect with me on Twitter. Until then...