EXEC SUMMARY: The Chiefs won the Super Bowl. POTUS congratulated the wrong state. Google won the ad bowl IMHO. Scroll down for other opinions about the ads, plus our media week ahead calendar and so much more...
Time to vote
Up until now the impending Iowa caucuses have been almost completely overshadowed by the impeachment drama, or non-drama, in DC.
But Iowa will be the lead story on Monday as voters prepare to caucus in the evening.
News outlets have been attempting a "balancing act," Alexi McCammond of Axios said on Sunday's "Reliable Sources."
This data from Andrew Tyndall tells the story. In 2016, the ABC, CBS and NBC nightly newscasts devoted 86 minutes of airtime to campaign coverage in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses. This year? About 10 minutes. Impeachment had a clear impact.
But has it affected candidates and voters? Hard to say. Despite all the national news coverage centered in DC, "the Iowa Democrat is very aware of their responsibility come Monday night," the NYT's Astead Herndon told me...
FOR THE RECORD, PART ONE
-- Saturday night's surprise: The CNN/Des Moines Register's highly anticipated pre-caucus poll was scrapped "because of concerns about irregularities in the methodology..." (NYT)
-- On "Reliable," Art Cullen of the Storm Lake Times newspaper said the decision "raises my estimation of CNN and the Des Moines Register as outlets that strive for accuracy..." (CNN)
-- "This is the sixth straight set of caucuses that I have covered, and the atmosphere is noticeably different from any I have ever seen," Karen Tumulty writes... (WaPo)
The caucuses begin at 7pm CT. Note, all the following times are ET:
-- "America's Choice 2020: The Iowa Caucus" will begin on CNN at 4pm, and will continue into Tuesday morning.
-- MSNBC's special coverage begins at 6pm.
-- On Fox, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum will co-anchor pre-caucus coverage from 6 til 8pm; Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity will have their usual shows; then Baier/MacCallum will come back from 10pm til 12am. Shannon Bream will anchor til 2am.
-- The broadcast networks will cut into prime time for special reports with results.
-- Chuck Todd will anchor an election special on the NBC News NOW streaming service.
DNC's counter-disinfo unit is hard at work
Donie O'Sullivan emails from Des Moines: "It's like algorithmic wars here, it's kind of crazy," that’s what a DNC cyber official told me this weekend. The Democrats have set up their own counter disinformation unit and Monday's Iowa caucus is going to be one of its first big tests of the campaign cycle. I had a look at the systems they are using to detect bots, trolls, and misinformation and how they are trying to get ahead of it all... Read on...
>> The Dems have help from some former Facebook employees, including Nell Thomas, the DNC's new CTO, who said FB's focus on engagement numbers creates "blind spots" for FB staff when thinking of the long-term effects of their platforms...
>> On refusing to fact-check politicians' ads and leaving the doctored Pelosi video on its platform, Robby Mook, Hillary Clinton's former campaign manager, said FB is like a "polluter who wants to dump toxic waste in a river and is happy to take home a profit but thinks they don't have to pay for cleanup..."
"The most powerful person in the country is a disinformation agent"
Donie adds: But as much work the Democrats can do in fighting bots and trolls, one official here acknowledged to me the bigger problem is in the White House. "The most powerful person in the country is a disinformation agent," he said, exasperated...
FOR THE RECORD, PART TWO
-- After interviewing Pete Buttigieg on "SOTU," Jake Tapper pointed out that Joe Biden "has yet to do a Sunday show interview..." (Mediaite)
-- Savannah Guthrie sat down with Joe Biden on Sunday night in Iowa... Highlights will air Monday on "Today..."
-- Via Vox's Andrew Prokop: "How the Iowa caucus results will actually work — and why 2020’s could be more confusing than ever..." (Vox)
-- Here are Chris Cillizza's predictions for 5 possible "winners" from Iowa... (CNN)
"Being Gay on the Campaign Trail With Pete Buttigieg"
"The first openly gay presidential candidate has attracted an equally pioneering press corps," Adam Wren wrote in this Politico Mag profile of the LGBTQ journalists who routinely travel with Pete Buttigieg. "For some, it's just coincidence; they had editors assign them to the campaign. For others, it's intentional: They put their hands up, fascinated by the chance to cover the first openly gay top tier presidential candidate." Here's why it matters...
The headline that stood out to me on Monday's WaPo front page: "An anxious and divided nation casts its first votes." Read Marc Fisher's story here...
Week ahead calendar
Monday: ABC is relaunching/expanding its ABC News Live streaming service...
Monday: Alphabet earnings after the close...
Tuesday: Disney earnings after the close...
Tuesday: State of the Union...
Wednesday: The expected final vote to acquit Trump...
Wednesday and Thursday: CNN town halls with Dem candidates in NH. Here's the schedule...
Friday: ABC, WMUR and Apple's #DemDebate in NH...
Friday: "Birds of Prey" hits theaters...
Sunday: The Oscars!
Also on Sunday night: "Homeland" begins its final season...
FOR THE RECORD, PART THREE
-- Important inside-the-WH reporting from Jonathan Swan: Trump and his entire inner circle is conveying "supreme self-confidence, bordering on a sense of invincibility..." (Axios)
-- Perfect for Groundhog Day: Pollster Jeff Horwitt summing up the latest NBC/WSJ survey: "We've been through an impeachment inquiry in the House, a trial in the Senate, and America’s attitudes about Donald Trump have hardly budged." Peter Hart added: "Same as it always was..." (NBC)
-- The first excerpts from Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng's forthcoming book "Sinking in the Swamp" are about "Trump's petty, relentless rants about the media..." (Beast)
Impeachment reinforces two competing info-universes
My lead on Sunday: Trump's trial is a reminder that two Americas are coexisting, uneasily, in two totally different information universes. What you learned about Trump and Biden depended on what you read and watched.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy had this to say to the NYT: "This trial in so many ways crystallized the completely diametrically opposed threats that Democrats and Republicans see to the country. We perceive Donald Trump and his corruption to be an existential threat to the country. They perceive the deep state and the liberal media to be an existential threat to the country. That dichotomy, that contrast, has been growing over the last three years, but this trial really crystallized that difference. We were just speaking different languages, fundamentally different languages when it came to what this trial was about. They thought it was about the deep state and the media conspiracy. We thought it was about the president's crimes."
Highlights from Sunday's "Reliable Sources"
-- "Yes, both sides fear something," but "those fears are not equally legitimate," Jill Filipovic said...
-- Julian Zelizer said the Senate "shut down the information-gathering process" during Trump's trial, but the scoops published by journalists were a reminder "that the press still plays that Watergate era role, and we shouldn't forget it."
-- "Nancy Pelosi was right" months ago when she resisted an impeachment inquiry, Sam Donaldson said. "Let's have an election and put all the effort into that," he said, channeling her POV...
Pompeo v. NPR update
Nearly one week after NPR's Michele Kelemen was booted from Mike Pompeo's plane, the news outlet is still awaiting answers from the State Department. On Sunday's "Reliable," I noted that NPR has not received a response to the formal letter that was sent to Pompeo. Kelemen's removal has all the hallmarks of retaliation -- for Mary Louise Kelly's completely fair interview with Pompeo -- but State has not fessed up or otherwise commented.
Pompeo took another dig at NPR while in Kazakhstan on Sunday -- he said that "with respect to who travels with me, I always bring a big press contingent, but we ask for certain sets of behaviors. And that's simply telling the truth and being honest, and when they'll do that, they get to participate. And if they don't, it's just not appropriate — frankly, it's not fair to the rest of the journalists."
>> Of note, Kelemen continues to have access to the State Department with her press credential. But she wasn't allowed on this current trip. What about the next trip?
Scariest story I read over the weekend...
As the new coronavirus spread, China's old habits delayed the fight, according to the NYT's team in the country: "At critical turning points, Chinese authorities put secrecy and order ahead of openly confronting the growing crisis and risking public alarm or political embarrassment." Read on...
FOR THE RECORD, PART FOUR
-- "Trump congratulated the Missouri-based Kansas City Chiefs for representing the state of Kansas after they won the Super Bowl Sunday night." He deleted the tweet 12 minutes later... (Kansas City Star)
-- "It's a minor error, in the scope of history, but it won't shore up public trust in Trump’s capacity," Alex Howard wrote... (Twitter)
-- Speaking of errors: Newly released emails from NOAA, obtained through FOIA requests, "show outrage and panic over Trump's false claims on Hurricane Dorian..." (CNN)
CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale, who watches all of Trump's interviews, said Sean Hannity's sit-down with Trump was "truly dreadful," but hey, at least "it was short." About eight minutes of chit-chat aired on the Fox broadcast network's pre-game show. Other portions will air on Hannity's Fox News show Monday night.
The Q&A was exactly what people expected -- softball questions, rambling answers, no accountability. Trump rattled off nicknames and insults at his rivals and critics. "The Fox Broadcasting Co. is currently giving the likely GOP nominee for president airtime to just slander prominent Democrats running against him, with zero pushback from Hannity. It's basically a campaign donation from Murdoch," Joe Adalian commented.
Fox chose to release a clip of Trump mocking Michael Bloomberg's height ahead of time -- and Bloomberg national press secretary Julie Wood hit back by saying, "The president is lying. He is a pathological liar who lies about everything: his fake hair, his obesity, and his spray-on tan."
After I read that statement aloud on CNN, Julian Zelizer said Trump's disparagement shouldn't be under-estimated. "That's what he's going to do between now and November," Zelizer said. "That's something Democrats are going to have to figure out" how to handle. The Bloomberg campaign's strategy, on Sunday, was to show that the former mayor is a New Yorker who "won't back down from a tabloid style fight," Wood said...
Trump seems to be seeing Bloomberg's ads...
...Because Trump tweeted about the candidate three times on Saturday and made those comments to Hannity. CNN's Cristina Alesci told me: "The Bloomberg campaign had been trying to figure out how to shoehorn its way into getting some coverage in the midst of the Iowa frenzy for days now. Then Trump handed the press a reason to cover Bloomberg..."
--> BTW: After the interview, Hannity hung out at the "Trumpettes" party at Mar-a-Lago Saturday night, per Jennifer Jacobs...
FOR THE RECORD, SUPER BOWL EDITION
-- Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch were both at the game along with numerous Fox Corp board members, Fox Sports CEO Erik Shanks, and Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier...
-- Lisa Respers France says "Jennifer Lopez and Shakira's halftime show was everything you hoped it would be..."
-- The halftime show was "a pretty good counterpoint to Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric," Garrett Graff remarked...
-- The Kobe Bryant tribute during the halftime show was brief... Lisa has the details here...
The ad bowl
Brian Lowry writes: As if collectively responding to a moment of partisan politics and unsettling news, the bulk of this year’s Super Bowl LIV commercials leaned heavily toward the playful and silly. Was there a commercial that people will still be talking about years from now, like Apple’s "1984" ad or Coke’s Mean Joe Greene commercial? Probably not. Still, several played well in the moment, and generally speaking, most avoided the missteps that have characterized some past disasters. In terms of top honors, Jeep's "Groundhog Day"-themed ad wins Groundhog Day, but Google probably struck the deepest emotional nerve. The Google ad, named "Loretta," is viewable here...
All about the ads
-- "Quirky, not jerky, wins the night," Brian Steinberg says...
-- This was Facebook's first time running a Super Bowl ad... Promoting FB Groups... (BI)
-- Great landing page: "Watch all the Super Bowl commercials right here..." (CNBC)
-- Here's the Disney+ spot with sneak peeks at several Marvel Studios projects... (AdWeek)
-- Suzanne Vranica has the backstory about Tom Brady's ad for Hulu... (WSJ)
-- Per Megan Graham, "the Genesis ad with Chrissy Teigen and John Legend originally had a helicopter in the first 2 seconds. The brand edited out the helicopter last week" in the wake of Kobe Bryant's death... (CNBC)
-- Such a smart feature: "What would it cost to buy every product advertised during the Super Bowl?" Slate did the math... (Slate)
FOR THE RECORD, PART FIVE
-- ICYMI: "Roku and Fox reached a distribution deal late Friday, avoiding a blackout that would have seen the service's users deprived of the Super Bowl..." (Deadline)
-- "What can you learn from studying The Washington Post’s death notices? A lot, as one avid reader found out..." (WaPo)
-- Stephen King has quit Facebook after voicing concerns about false information and privacy. He announced the decision on... wait for it... Twitter! (CNN)
At the WGA Awards...
Brian Lowry writes: "Jojo Rabbit" and "Parasite" were the big winners at the Writers Guild Awards on Saturday, with the movie honors actually being handed out first so the nominees could board planes for the BAFTA Awards in London – a good sign of this crazy, crunched awards season. It was also a big night for HBO, with wins for "Succession," "Watchmen," "Chernobyl," "Barry," and the documentary "The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley."
Meanwhile, WGA president David Goodman addressed the concerns that the guild would be going on strike over the question of revenue from streaming, primarily, by saying that while it was far too early to know that a strike will happen – as many are assuming – it would be “dangerously naïve to think that a strike is never necessary.” As for the dispute with the talent agencies, Goodman said the endgame remained “all of our representatives unconflicted, working for their clients.”
At the BAFTAs...
Lowry adds: As for the aforementioned BAFTAs, "1917" was the big winner, including best picture and director honors for Sam Mendes. Full list here via Lisa Respers France...
"Joaquin Phoenix urged the film industry to dismantle a 'system of oppression' in an acceptance speech at the British Academy Film Awards," CNN's Toyin Owoseje reports. "Phoenix, who won the award for best leading actor for 'Joker,' criticized the lack of diversity among the nominated creators and performers this awards season, saying the issue could no longer be ignored." Read on...
FOR THE RECORD, PART SIX
-- Bobby Finger writes: With a total of 15 Academy Award nominations, including one this year for his work on "1917," composer Thomas Newman "may finally win..." (Vulture)
-- Don't miss Borys Kit's post-mortem on "Dolittle," the first big bomb of the year... (THR)
-- "Pamela Anderson and Jon Peters are calling it quits after just 12 days of marriage..." (CNN)
LAST BUT NOT LEAST...
Bezos and Lizzo
While Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez partied in Miami, Sanchez's brother sought press for a lawsuit he filed against Bezos... The NYT has a recap here.
During the big game, Bezos posted a picture with Lizzo: "I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100% @lizzo's biggest fan..." (Twitter)
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See you tomorrow...