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EXEC SUMMARY: Scroll down for the latest on NYT price hikes, Disney+ subscriptions, and this year's American Mosaic Journalism Prize winners, plus remembrances of Alice Mayhew and Gene Reynolds...


How SOTU is like cotton candy

I'm hitting send just before President Trump delivers his State of the Union address. Why not wait until afterward? Because "it's unlikely the televised speech will have much impact once the cameras go off," as the LAT's Eli Stokols observed in this story on Tuesday. 

He quoted GOP guru Kevin Madden: "We've seen from the last several State of the Union speeches, the effect that it has on the political universe is very temporary. The message is like cotton candy — it melts almost immediately on contact because the political atmosphere right now is so hot."

We'll all feel the heat on Wednesday afternoon when the Senate votes to acquit the president...

There are no more undecideds…

…Not as it pertains to President Trump. The newest Gallup poll illustrates it perfectly. Trump's job approval is at 49%, a new personal best in Gallup's database. 50% disapprove. Just 1% express no opinion. 1%! That's the part that stood out to me. Gallup noted that "the average percentage not having an opinion on Trump has been 5% throughout his presidency." Now, pretty much every single mind is made up...

Leaks from lunch

The White House followed through with its petty plan to exclude CNN from the annual pre-SOTU lunch with TV network anchors. After I reported the news on Monday night, dozens of you emailed me and said the other networks should boycott the event in solidarity with CNN. That did not happen. Anchors from ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, Fox News, OANN, C-SPAN, CBN, Univision, Telemundo, Sinclair, and Gray TV were all spotted coming or going from the West Wing.

The Daily Beast's Max Tani said he "reached out to several of these networks, asking why they were still participating despite the CNN snub," but "no one would speak about it on the record." There were, however, numerous leaks from the lunch. Here are the takeaways...

About the general election debates...

Per NYT's Michael Grynbaum, Trump told the anchors that he will participate "in this year's general election debates, despite his misgivings about the commission that oversees them." When asked, "the president said he had decided to participate, because he believed his debate performances helped him win support from voters in the 2016 campaign..."

About Rush...

Kaitlan Collins' scoop for CNN: Trump said he will "award Rush Limbaugh with the Medal of Freedom, one day after the prominent political radio host announced he has advanced lung cancer." No details on timing, but Trump said he wants it to happen in the coming months...

 >> Per Collins, Limbaugh is seated next to Melania Trump at the SOTU address. When he arrived at the Capitol, he said he is "feeling great..." Video...

About John Bolton's book...

Per WaPo's Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker, Trump said "he wanted to block Bolton's forthcoming book from being published, according to two people familiar with knowledge of the lunch. The White House has only said that the book has classified information and that Bolton needs to make changes to the book." More: "The president told the anchors that Bolton could have written the book once Trump left office but that doing it while Trump is still in office 'is not right.'"

About Iowa...

CNN's W.H. team reports that POTUS "repeatedly referred to the delay in results for the Iowa caucuses as a 'fiasco' during the meal with journalists, and spoke at some length about the candidates." Details: "Trump called Sen. Bernie Sanders 'nasty,' but despite Joe Biden's apparent floundering in Iowa, he remained fixated on the former vice president and his perceived misdeeds in Ukraine, despite the lack of evidence of wrongdoing..."

About CNN's absence...

Grynbaum and Baker's story says that Chuck Todd "told Mr. Trump at the lunch that he was asking a question on behalf of the CNN anchor Jake Tapper, according to another person familiar with the exchange. The president responded by saying that journalists from 'MSDNC' — his recently adopted nickname for MSNBC — were also absent, though Mr. Todd hosts a daily afternoon show for the cable network..."

About all the leaks...

The NYT asked Stephanie Grisham about the fact that so much material from the lunch leaked shortly after dessert was served. Grisham responded, "I actually have ethics so I’m not going to comment on an off-the-record lunch." Later in the day, she told Tucker Carlson that she was "very, very angry" about it, and warned that future off-the-record meetings might be curtailed.

Just as the lunch is a tradition, leaks from the lunch are also a tradition... And CNN, WaPo and the NYT all pointed out that because their journalists were not invited to the event, they were not bound by any off-the-record agreements.


 -- "Dan Rather said that he was disappointed that other networks didn't take a stand in favor of CNN," David Bauder wrote Tuesday, quoting Rather: "There's value in solidarity and not allowing this or any other president to pick off journalists or news organizations one at a time..." (AP)

 -- Hadas Gold writes: "An attempt to exclude select UK political reporters from an official briefing has led some journalists to accuse the British government of resorting to tactics" used by Trump... (CNN)


Spotify earnings before the bell... Fox Corp after the bell...

The Senate vote to acquit POTUS is slated for 4pm ET... CNN's special coverage will start at 3...

CNN's big night of NH town halls begins at 8pm ET...

"Buttigieg leads a tight race"

That's the headline on right now, based on the first wave of Iowa precinct results that were provided by the state Democratic party on Tuesday afternoon. The light green shade on this map represents widespread Pete Buttigieg support. Get the latest updates and data here...
The app meltdown spurred what was, in essence, a second full day of Iowa caucus coverage on cable news... Much of it centered around how this could have possibly gone so wrong.

Iowa news outlets weighed in as well -- The Gazette, based in Cedar Rapids, said in an editorial that "the Iowa caucuses are, at their core, unworkable." The Des Moines Register has numerous columns and op-eds about the state's black-eye...


Brian Lowry emails: The NYT has had some headaches with its op-ed columnists lately, but Frank Bruni isn't one of them, and he made an especially astute point in his latest -- namely, that the mess in Iowa stokes cynicism, and "cynicism is President Trump's lifeblood."


 -- "Social media was a cesspool of toxic Iowa conspiracy theories," and "it's only going to get worse," Margaret Sullivan warns... (WaPo)

 -- Iowa caucus B.S. served as a warning about the 2020 election: "Americans proved perfectly capable of spreading disinformation on their own..." (NBC)

 -- Michael Bloomberg's campaign is "doubling its spending on ads and ramping up its organizing..." (WSJ)

This is a first for the NYT...

...Bumping up the price of a digital subscription, from $15 every four weeks to $17. Details via CNN's Hannah Zhang: "The 13% increase will take effect on March 8, the company said on Tuesday. The discount rate for students and educators remains $1 per week."

Rich Greenfield pointed out that the rate hike timing "looks solid heading into Election interest." NYT shares rose more than 5% on the news...


Two winners of the American Mosaic Journalism Prize

Freelance journalists Rebecca Nagle and Darcy Courteau are the 2020 recipients of the American Mosaic Journalism Prize, established in 2018 to celebrate "long-form, narrative, or deep reporting on stories about underrepresented and/or misrepresented groups in the present American landscape."

Nagle, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, created Crooked Media's "This Land" podcast. Courteau wrote "Mireya’s Third Crossing" for The Atlantic. The prizes, presented by the Heising-Simons Foundation, will be formally announced on Wednesday. They come with an unrestricted cash prize of $100,000, "one of the largest dollar amounts given for a journalism award in the US..."


 -- You heard it here first: Jon Eiseman, most recently of G/O Media, is joining Vice News as Director of Audience Development. He starts on February 24...

 -- Jessica Mann, the woman who had a panic attack "while testifying in Harvey Weinstein's trial, returned to the witness stand Tuesday as defense attorneys dug into her years of communications with Weinstein." Here's a recap from CNN's team... (CNN)

 -- "A man in Arizona has been accused by federal authorities of threatening to kill Congressman Adam Schiff. He told investigators he made the threatening call after getting drunk and watching Fox News," Nick Martin reports... (The Informant)

"Fox agreed" to what? Update 👇 

On Monday, a new trove of FBI interviews from the Mueller probe revealed that Steve Bannon said Fox News agreed to cut a portion of Chris Wallace's December 2016 interview with Trump that "was embarrassing for Trump."

Is that true -- did Fox "agree" to omit something? I asked yesterday, and Fox PR didn't respond to requests for comment. On Tuesday, Wallace got on the phone with Mediaite and the NYT and said there was no such agreement. Wallace DID ask Trump about crazy tweets posted by Michael Flynn's son, but Trump claimed ignorance and said he'd look into it. "I just thought, 'That didn’t go anywhere, and I'm not going to use it,'" Wallace told the NYT.

Later, according to Wallace, Trump said "can you take that out?" but it was a moot point. "If the president had made even a scintilla of news on the subject, of course I would have run it and I wouldn't have cared what the president had said," Wallace said. His explanation is plausible -- but I find it odd that Fox didn't air every single minute of a Trump interview, especially at such a pivotal time, when he was president-elect...

Remembering Alice Mayhew

"Alice Mayhew, a widely admired editor who shepherded into print best sellers by a veritable who’s who of writers — along the way popularizing the Washington political narrative, beginning with 'All the President’s Men' in 1974 — died on Tuesday at her home in Manhattan. She was 87," the NYT's Anita Gates wrote.

 >> Incredible: "In 2014, when Simon & Schuster celebrated its 90th anniversary by having staff members vote for their 90 favorite titles over those years, almost one-third of the books (29) had been edited by Ms. Mayhew," Gates' obit noted...

 >> Jonathan Alter tweeted: "It's impossible to fully express my reverence for Alice Mayhew, who was at work editing my 4th book with her (a bio of another of her authors, Jimmy Carter). She was so devoted to her writers. Ailing, she called on a Saturday night last month with great edits."


By Kerry Flynn:

-- Mark Gurman and Gerry Smith report that Apple news app exec Liz Schimel is leaving after less than year as the product struggles... (Bloomberg)

-- Dotdash has acquired TreeHugger and Mother Nature Network, Sara Fischer reports... (Axios)

-- Julia Reinstein reports that Cosmopolitan has pulled a digital cover of "The Bachelor" contestant Victoria Fuller since Fuller previously modeled "White Lives Matter" apparel... (BuzzFeed News)

-- Jess Brammar has been named EIC of HuffPost UK... (Twitter)

-- Sahil Patel reports that TikTok is planning more big marketing campaigns. Coming up: March Madness and the Tokyo Olympics... (WSJ)

Disney+ comes in hot

Frank Pallotta writes: Disney projected that Disney+ would have 60 million to 90 million subscribers by 2025. After one quarter, it's already close to halfway there. Disney+ has nearly 28.6 million subscribers as of Monday, Bob Iger said in an earnings call on Tuesday.

Disney also provided new details about Hulu and ESPN+, its other streaming services. ESPN+ has 7.6 million subscribers and Hulu has 30.7 million. Both services likely saw a bump thanks to Disney's new $12.99 a month bundle.


When do we get more Baby Yoda?

Pallotta adds: Iger also announced that new Marvel series "Falcon and the Winter Solider" and "WandaVision" would launch in August and December.

--> Iger said that "The Mandalorian," which caught fire with audiences thanks to a cute character that resembles a baby version of Jedi master Yoda, will return for its second season in October...


Coronavirus impacting Disney's business

One more point from Pallotta: The other major topic of discussion on Disney's earnings call was how the company's businesses could be impacted by the coronavirus going forward. Execs said the company could take a $175 million hit due to its China theme parks being closed because of the virus, assuming the parks are closed for two months...


 -- Snap is down more than 10% in after-hours trading "after posting slightly weaker revenue growth for the final three months of 2019 than analysts expected," Kaya Yurieff reports. "The company said revenue rose 44% from the year prior to $561 million for the quarter, missing Wall Street's expectations." More here... (CNN)

 -- On Monday Alphabet said that YouTube generated $15 billion in revenue in 2019. On Tuesday Sarah Frier, the author of a forthcoming book about Instagram, shared this: Insta "brought in about $20 billion" in ad revenue in 2019... (Bloomberg)

 -- Correction: Last night I credited Deadline's Dade Hayes with the scoop about how much Disney paid for the "Hamilton" film. I mixed up two different Deadline stories -- it was actually Mike Fleming Jr who scooped the acquisition details. My apologies!

 -- And speaking of Fleming Jr, here's his latest: In a "fitting epitaph for a 2020 Sundance Film Festival acquisitions market dominated by streamers, Deadline hears that the fest's biggest sale title — the worldwide rights deal for Palm Springs — was actually worth substantially more than what was reported last week by winning bidders Hulu and NEON. Sources familiar with the heated multi-bidder auction said that the value of the deal was actually closer to $22 million, far and away the biggest Sundance deal of all-time." (Deadline)

The cost of an Oscar

Great illustration, above, for this smart R.T. Watson and Joe Flint story about Netflix's costly Oscars season campaigning. "The company’s aggressive and costly tactics have sparked an arms race with other studios that has rival awards strategists and executives reeling—and might even be backfiring against the streamer," they write.

Key graf: "Industry insiders estimate Netflix is spending well over $100 million... Netflix's head of original films, Scott Stuber, said that estimate is too high, and countered that the company’s awards spending has been 'very smart...'" I guess we'll see how smart it was on Sunday night.

No more Oscars "ratings thunder" ?

Megan Thomas emails: Need a break from politics? These way-too-predictable Oscar predictions from The Atlantic's David Sims are on point.

"You know an Oscar race has gotten boring when Brad Pitt starts using it to test out material for stand-up comedy," Sims writes... "For years, shows like the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards have stolen a little of the Oscars' ratings thunder by offering a preview of what’s to come. This year, those shows have taken the surprise out of everything, and unless something radical happens (on the level of Moonlight’s 2017 win or Olivia Colman's triumph last year), Hollywood's biggest night of the year will end with a whimper." Onward...


By Lisa Respers France:

 -- A decade after winning an Oscar, Mo'Nique is still doing it her way. I talked to the actress about her battles with Hollywood and why she believes she's now getting her just due.

 -- Lizzo is set to perform at RodeoHouston.

 -- Nick Lachey has responded to Jessica Simpson's new memoir.

 -- Safaree and Erica Mena of "Love & Hip Hop: New York" have welcomed their first child together, a daughter

Showtime's "fixer" is finished

Brian Lowry writes: In a surprise, TV Line's Michael Ausiello broke the news that "Ray Donovan" -- the show everybody loved to reference while Michael Cohen was in the news, regarding what a "fixer" does -- is finished at Showtime. The seventh-season finale marks the end of the program, which one might have thought the network would bring back if only to provide a clear element of closure. Notably, "Homeland" begins its eighth and final season this Sunday...

Remembering Gene Reynolds

The "M*A*S*H" co-creator and longtime TV producer Gene Reynolds died of heart failure Monday in Burbank. He was 96. Reynolds won multiple awards for his work on "M*A*S*H" and "also produced and directed such shows as 'Lou Grant,' 'Room 222,' 'My Three Sons,' 'Hogan's Heroes,' 'F Troop,' and 'Father of the Bride,'" CNN's David Daniel wrote...


Are the "Biggest" losers the viewers?

Brian Lowry writes: USA Today's Kelly Lawler has a new look at the recent return of "The Biggest Loser." She takes aim at the show's lamentable and potentially dangerous message: "Fat is bad, thin is good, and happiness and acceptance are achieved only by losing weight, at whatever cost." Read on...
Send me your feedback -- the good, the bad, the ugly -- by emailing me.

See you tomorrow...
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