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EXEC SUMMARY: Scroll down for C-SPAN's request, Fortune mag's next cover, Business Insider's new goals, NYT's "Great Read," Peacock's plans, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's inductees, "Bad Boys For Life," and more...
 

The feedback loop


As impeachment proceedings return to the forefront, so does the influence of right-wing, pro-Trump media. President Trump is hearing that he and his voters are victims of villainous Democrats. He is hearing (from fans like Lou Dobbs) that he is the greatest president of all time. And he is hearing (from Rudy Giuliani and other figures) that the "Biden crime family" is the real scandal.

Trump has been MISinformed every step of the way. So have his allies. They don't call it an "echo chamber" for nothing.

"I'm struck by the media feedback loop in these messages from Lev Parnas," the LAT's Chris Meregian tweeted Wednesday. "Everyone is sharing tweets by Charlie Kirk, clips of Sean Hannity, articles in The Hill."

Meregian is right. The documents from Parnas -- one of Giuliani's indicted associates -- revealed more about how Trumpworld "sought to meet with the Ukrainian President and members of his government as they sought dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden, worked to oust US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch from her post and even apparently conducted surveillance of her in Kiev," as CNN's Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb wrote.

The headline on their CNN.com story poses a key question: "Democrats have new evidence in impeachment case, but do Republicans want to hear it?"
 

Parnas sits down with Maddow

"President Trump knew exactly what was going on" vis a vis the Ukraine pressure campaign, Parnas told Rachel Maddow in a taped interview on Wednesday. "He was aware of all my movements. I wouldn't do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president."

Parnas brought up John Solomon, formerly of The Hill, currently of Fox News -- repeatedly. Here is NBC's full story about the interview...
 

How the echo chamber works


Newly released messages show Parnas texting with Joseph Ahearn of the pro-Trump America First Action PAC... In March 2019, when Ahearn asked "what should I send don to tweet," apparently meaning Donald Trump Jr., Parnas sent links from Hannity, Laura Ingraham, The Hill, The Daily Wire, and other outlets. "Have jr retweet it," Parnas said. On March 24, Parnas sent a link to a Daily Wire story titled "Calls Grow To Remove Obama's U.S. Ambassador To Ukraine," i.e. Marie Yovanovitch. "That's a good article," Ahearn replied two minutes later. Another ten minutes later, Jr. tweeted out the story and said "We need more ⁦@RichardGrenell's and less of these jokers as ambassadors."

 >> Jr. was on Hannity's show Wednesday night, but Hannity did not ask a single Q about Parnas...

 >> Other texts from Parnas included content from the aforementioned John Solomon, Fox talking head Dan Bongino, OANN personalities, etc...

 >> What's next: Anderson Cooper's interview with Parnas will air on CNN on Thursday...
 

BuzzFeed's new story about Hannity


This is brand new from Emma Loop and Jason Leopold, looking at how often Sean Hannity came up during the Mueller probe: The Fox host "is mentioned more than a dozen times in documents BuzzFeed News has obtained from the Mueller investigation so far." Hannity, who loves to claim that "journalism is dead," told the reporters that "I stand by my incredible investigative team and our great sources and reporting.”
 

Thursday's front pages


Here are WaPo and NYT's Page One displays with the walk through the Capitol Rotunda:
"This is a very big night," Chris Cuomo said on CNN Wednesday night. "We've watched the impeachment articles literally be handed over, walked over, to the Senate. This impeachment has now set into motion a removal trial. The big question is, what about all of this new evidence emerging of clear wrongdoing? Can the Senate really choose to ignore it? And will the White House continue this 'did nothing wrong' argument?"
 

THURSDAY PLANNER

The Senate will formally receive the Articles of Impeachment around noon ET...

Around 2pm, Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the oath to all 100 senators...

It's Peacock Day... Scroll down for a full preview...

"Doolittle" opens in theaters...
 
 

Ahead of the trial, concerns mount over press access


Oliver Darcy emails: There are growing concerns that the Capitol Hill press corps' access to the Senate impeachment trial will be severely impeded. On Tuesday the Standing Committee of Correspondents went public about the matter, telling Senate leadership that it "vigorously objects to restrictions being considered on press access." Those restrictions, according to the committee, include placing reporters in pens that prohibit them from "freely accessing Senators as they come to and from the chamber" as they normally do.

On Wednesday I reached out to the offices of Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer... I also reached out repeatedly to a spokesperson for the Sergeant of Arms... No one provided a comment yet. It's worth noting that the rules regarding press access have NOT been finalized yet...

 

"Huge mistake"


Darcy adds: Outside leadership, senators voiced support for press access on a bipartisan level, Politico's Marianne Levine and Burgess Everett reported Wednesday. Republican Sen. John Kennedy noted it would send the "wrong message," calling the potential restrictions a "huge mistake." Republican Sen. Mike Braun added, "I don't think you guys should ever be restricted." And Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who is a ranking member on the Senate Rules Committee, said she does not support the restrictions and thinks it is "a big mistake." 
 

What about the TV coverage?


C-SPAN and other TV networks usually have to rely on a video feed provided by the Senate Recording Studio. The Senate calls the shots -- something that's been a point of contention for years. As Fox's Chad Pergram put it in 2011, "imagine a baseball game where the TV cameras only captured the pitcher and batter." That's what it is like in both the Senate and the House.

C-SPAN wrote to McConnell on December 19 asking that its cameras be allowed to cover the impeachment proceedings. The letter was shared publicly on Wednesday. "ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News and CNN backed C-SPAN's request in their own joint letter on Jan. 10, noting that the feed would be important for their coverage," the LAT's Stephen Battaglio wrote. The networks have not heard back yet...
 

FOR THE RECORD, PART ONE

 -- "Robert Hyde lashed out at Lev Parnas in a bizarre, rambling, and expletive-filled interview with Sinclair TV's Eric Bolling, denying that he participated in a surveillance campaign" of Yovanovitch, Reed Richardson wrote. "During the five-minute phone interview, Hyde was at times evasive and incredibly vague when directly asked about the latest bombshell claims..." (Mediaite)

 -- "A Very Stable Genius," by Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, shot to No. 3 on Amazon Wednesday after The Guardian and WaPo published previews of the book... "Genius" comes out next Tuesday... (WaPo)
 
 -- HuffPost senior W.H. correspondent S.V. Date says Trump's falsehoods are "the defining feature of this White House." In this long-gestating piece, Date says "I've been a journalist for 33 years... In all of that time, I have never encountered a public official, a candidate for office, a bureaucrat, a defense lawyer or, frankly, an actual criminal who is as regularly and aggressively dishonest as the current president of the United States." (HuffPost)

 -- Fox's Lou Dobbs had a front and center seat at the US-China trade deal signing ceremony. Trump praised Dobbs for praising him; called Dobbs' show "very important;" and said it has a "tremendous audience." He went on to praise Rupert Murdoch... (LAT)

 -- Dobbs turned around and aired Trump's praise for him on Wednesday's edition of "Lou Dobbs Tonight..." (Mediaite)
 
 

When you're wearing a mic...


...Others are listening. That's one of the first rules of television. But Elizabeth Warren accused Bernie Sanders of calling her a liar on national TV while both their mics were still on.

The tense exchange was seen, but not heard, at the end of Tuesday's debate. CNN found and aired the audio on Wednesday evening's "AC360." The NYT's Michael Grynbaum tweeted: "I'm told CNN spent several hours today digging thru files to see if audio from the exchange existed. As of last night, several CNN execs did not believe there was any recording to find."

That's my understanding, as well. CNN's story explains the circumstances this way: "The conversation was not captured on the primary audio feed from the candidates' podiums. After the debate, CNN did an inventory of the audio equipment that was used and found two backup recordings from the microphones Sanders and Warren were wearing." The rationalization for airing it: "The conversation played out on the debate stage, in public view, and occurred before Sanders and Warren's clip-on microphones were removed."
 

Debate averages 7.8 million viewers


Tuesday night's face-off on CNN put an end to the recent trend of ratings declines for Dem debates. More than 7.8 million people tuned in, according to Nielsen TV ratings and digital streaming data. The vast majority of those viewers — about 7.4 million — watched on cable TV. An average of 467,000 people streamed the debate on CNN.com and other platforms. Bottom line: These #'s are solid, but not off the charts. Here's my full story...
 

FIRST LOOK


Fortune's next cover


Kerry Flynn writes: Fortune says it is done featuring business execs on its magazine covers... and instead will use illustrations. Here's the first look at the cover for its February issue...
The magazine is also dropping from monthly to 10 times per year, investing in bigger issues and its digital content. Fortune unveiled a redesign of its website on Wednesday and shared more details on its new subscription tiers. Fortune.com will add a paywall sometime next month, with digital-only access costing $49 per year. Getting the magazine, too, costs $99 per year. The Premium costs $199 per year and offers videos from Fortune’s conference. Read more via the NYPost's Keith J. Kelly...
 


NYT: Bolton book will address Ukraine 


Oliver Darcy emails: It's unclear whether the American people will hear John Bolton testify before the Senate, but everyone will have a chance to read at least some of the insight he has to share on Ukraine in his forthcoming book. That's according to Maggie Haberman, who reported Wednesday, citing sources, that the book will "expand on at least some of what he saw regarding Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukrainian officials into announcing an investigation into Hunter Biden." The book, Haberman reported, is almost finished and will be on sale ahead of the conventions this summer...
 


Suggestion for journos on background briefing calls


Oliver Darcy emails: Despite the President repeatedly telling the American people not to trust information from unnamed sources, the W.H. and Trump admin continue to hold sanctioned briefing calls on background. In other words, the information is attributable to the person's position (i.e. "senior administration official), but not their name. I again asked White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham on Wednesday why the White House continues this practice, given what Trump has said, but did not hear back. 

But wouldn't it be interesting if reporters started asking that very question at the start of background briefing calls? Here's an idea for a question: "The President has told the American people not to believe any information from unnamed sources. Can you explain why this briefing isn't on the record?"
 

HBO announced its first half 2020 documentary slate on Wednesday, and...
 

🔌: I'm a producer of this documentary about disinfo


I've been working on this project for a couple of years. "After Truth: Disinformation And The Cost of Fake News" will premiere on HBO TV and online this March. "After Truth" is directed by Andrew Rossi, who filmed me in the NYT newsroom 10 years ago for his documentary "Page One." Now we're back together, but this time I'm behind the scenes as the executive producer. We can't wait for you to see the finished product! Full description here...
 

FOR THE RECORD, PART TWO

 -- Also on Wednesday, HBO announced the focus of Ronan Farrow's first project for the company: "Farrow will team with Oscar-nominated directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Jesus Camp) for a documentary focused on how governments, corporations, and other institutions of power threaten journalists who seek to expose corruption and abuse..." (VF)

 -- In other film news, SXSW announced its premiere slate, kicking off "with its opening night film," Judd Apatow's "The King of Staten Island," starring Pete Davidson... (Deadline)

 -- "The Outpost," the film based on Jake Tapper's book of the same name, will have its world premiere at the film festival... (SXSW)


FOR THE RECORD, PART THREE

By Kerry Flynn:

 -- "The fight pitting Hearst Magazines President Troy Young against the editorial union is getting nastier, with the Writers Guild of America, East now accusing the company of illegal surveillance and pressuring employees to withdraw their union authorization cards..." (NYPost)

 -- Taylor Lorenz reports on podcast fans connecting via Facebook Groups... (NYT)

 -- Tim McDonnell is joining Quartz as an energy and climate reporter in DC. He comes from NPR... (Quartz)

 -- The Nation named Elie Mystal as justice correspondent and Ken Klippenstein as DC correspondent... (The Nation)
 
 

Business Insider's next decade


Kerry Flynn writes: Poynter's Rick Edmonds spoke with Henry Blodget about Business Insider's future. Blodget's "1" goals for the next five years:

 -- 1 million paid subscribers (about 200,000 currently) 

 -- 1 billion unique visitors per month (about 375 million currently) 

 -- 1,000 journalists and analysts (double the current size of its newsroom) 

Blodget said Insider has hit its target for revenue diversification: 1/3 ads, 1/3 subscriptions, 1/3 data and research. Read on...
 
 

South Bend Tribune's union


Kerry Flynn writes: Employees at the South Bend Tribune announced their intention to unionize with the NewsGuild on Wednesday. The union would represent about 30 workers in editorial. They’re asking for a seat at the table, fair wages and benefits and better protections. In January 2019, the Tribune was acquired by GateHouse, which merged with Gannett last year. Gannett did not respond to a request for comment...
 

FOR THE RECORD, PART FOUR

By Katie Pellico:

 -- Jon Allsop reflects on Cory Booker's exit this week, writing that the "media's obsession with Iowa deepens the Democrats' whiteness problem..." (Guardian

 -- Philip Bump examines how Fox News clung to the results of a cancel culture poll, capitalizing on its schismatic implications, despite its being one of the "least useful poll results of the past few years..." (WaPo)

 -- ICYMI: NYT's Aisha Harris had to explain "cancel culture" to Bernie Sanders during a recent interview, in what appeared to be his first encounter with the term... (NYT)

 -- Bloomberg's Kurt Wagner spoke with Vijaya Gadde, Twitter's top lawyer who is "the end of the line when it comes to account enforcement" -- even when it comes to the president's account. She says she "usually" instructs CEO Jack Dorsey, "'This is what's going to happen...'" (Bloomberg)

 -- Jessica J. González is becoming co-CEO of Free Press and Free Press Action, joining Craig Aaron, who becomes co-CEO... (Free Press)
 


Dish is doomed as a wireless carrier, New York AG says


CNN's Clare Duffy emails: Sprint and T-Mobile want to merge to form a third national wireless behemoth about the size of Verizon and AT&T. More than a dozen state attorneys general claim that the merger would make wireless service and prices worse for Americans. The companies say they need to merge in order to quickly roll out 5G, and that new market entrant Dish will provide necessary competition for the industry. The two sides were in court Wednesday to present closing arguments in the states' suit to block the merger. Read the full report here...
 
 

The media system for "shameless figures"


Jonathan Mahler's essay "The Fog of Rudy" is the cover story in this week's NYT Mag. The full thing is well worth reading, but I wanted to highlight this part:

It’s a state of mind that he shares not only with Trump but also with a growing number of blatantly dishonest, nakedly opportunistic political figures. What creates the conditions in which such truly shameless figures can thrive? In 2020, the obvious answer is the rise of an all-consuming media ecosystem in which truth is no longer meaningfully litigated. The foundation of that system is partisan media outlets, which allow political leaders — whether Trump on Fox News, Boris Johnson in The Daily Mail or Jair Bolsonaro on the Brazilian network Record TV — to spread disinformation to their supporters with almost no pushback. But it’s also enabled by more politically-neutral media organizations, which struggle with how to present the daily onslaught of false claims from public figures. Combine that with the ubiquity of social media, which makes no distinctions between truth and lies, and what you end up with is a political conversation without consequences that favors the most outrageous voices. If you reliably make over-the-top claims, you will be rewarded with attention, and Giuliani never fails to make over-the-top claims..."
 

FOR THE RECORD, PART FIVE

 -- On Wednesday the NYT started "a new daily feature called 'The Great Read.' It's a particularly sparkling piece of writing that will be prominently displayed," Marc Lacey said. Here's the debut... (NYT)

 -- Missed this yesterday: The paid podcast platform Luminary is adjusting its prices, per Nicholas Quah. "The standard monthly price in the US is now $4.99 — down from $7.99, a fairly big dip." At the risk of stating the obvious, this seems like a bad sign... (Hot Pod)

 -- This wise Drew Harwell piece demonstrates how disinformation has become par for the course for politicians. Doctored images, specifically, "can help anyone turn a political opponent into a caricature... leaving only the emotion behind," and few repercussions... (WaPo)
 
 

Aaron Hernandez documentaries struggle with the "why" of the NFL star's story


Brian Lowry writes: The tragic story of Aaron Hernandez is getting analyzed in two three-part documentaries, the first having just dropped on Netflix, the latter coming in a few days on Investigation Discovery. Both pore over the multiple storylines surrounding the NFL star’s scandalous life and death, but neither can answer why he would throw away such a promising future amid multiple factors, the most significant seemingly being football-related CTE brain damage. Read on...
 
 

Cheeks to CBS


NBCUniversal Content Studios vice chairman George Cheeks suddenly resigned on Tuesday.

Then came Joe Flint's Tuesday night scoop for the WSJ telling us why: Cheeks "is headed to ViacomCBS Inc. in a senior role at CBS, where he could ultimately succeed Joe Ianniello as head of the network, according to people familiar with the matter."

Flint added, "It is unclear when Mr. Cheeks would join ViacomCBS as his contract with NBCUniversal still has many months left on it..."
 

Is Peacock ready to fly?


Frank Pallotta writes: Will Peacock have a content library and a price point colorful enough to stand out among its streaming rivals? We're about to find out. NBCUniversal will showcase its new service at a media event starting at 4pm ET on Thursday. The company is going all out for the event holding it at Studio 8H — the home of "SNL" — and even constructing a giant topiary in the shape of peacock outside of 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

NBCU is keeping a tight lid on what exactly the event will reveal, but if it follows in line with the presentations for Disney+ and HBO Max, it should give consumers and investors a better idea of when the service will launch (it's scheduled for April) and what it'll have to offer in terms of pricing and content...

 >> Peter Kafka's headline: "Peacock, NBC’s new streaming service, won't have Baby Yoda. But it will have ads..."
 

FOR THE RECORD, PART SIX

By Katie Pellico:

 -- "Hollywood assistants, who have led a campaign to improve their pay and working conditions, are getting more money" from CAA... (LAT)

 -- For February's cover of WIRED, Arielle Pardes spoke with Chris Evans about his upcoming platform, "A Starting Point," which he has called a "civics engagement project..." (WIRED)

 -- In LAT's "Rare In-Depth Interview With the Keepers of James Bond," longtime producer Barbara Broccoli clarified that while 007 can be "of any color," he is decidedly male... (LAT)
 
 

Lowry reviews "Bad Boys for Life"


Brian Lowry writes: "Bad Boys for Life" is pretty much what you would expect, reuniting Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in a buddy action-comedy franchise 25 years after the original. Still, the nostalgia factor could make it a success, and after the tepid returns for "Gemini Man," Smith could probably use one. 
 
 

"Skywalker" crosses a billion


Via Frank Pallotta: The bad news for Disney: "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" is likely going to make less than "The Force Awakens" and "The Last Jedi." The good news for Disney: it still made a billion dollars.

"Rise of Skywalker," the ninth and final installment of the Skywalker saga, hit $1 billion at the worldwide box office, Disney announced on Wednesday. The space adventure film became the seventh Disney movie that was released in 2019 to make more than $1 billion
 

FOR THE RECORD, PART SEVEN

By Lisa Respers France:

 -- Spike Lee has made Cannes Film Festival history as the first black jury president...

 -- The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2020 inductees are Depeche Mode, The Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Nine Inch Nails, The Notorious B.I.G. and T-Rex. Jon Landau and Irving Azoff are the recipients of the Ahmet Ertegun Award...

 -- "Jeopardy!" genius Ken Jennings is the "Greatest of All Time..."
 
 

So much news from WarnerMedia...


Wednesday was a very busy day at the TCA Press Tour. Just a few of the headlines:

 -- Casey Bloys says Damon Lindelof's breakout drama "Watchmen" "is not likely to continue without him," per THR's Lesley Goldberg...

 -- "HBO Max has given a green light to The Uninhabitable Earth, a climate change anthology series inspired by David Wallace-Wells' global best-selling book and New York Magazine article of the same name, from Oscar- and Emmy-winning writer Adam McKay..."

 -- A "Friends" reunion is "still a maybe," with "interest all the way around," but "we can't get interest all aligned to push the button on it," Kevin Reilly said...

 -- Reilly said HBO Max will help shows that are "struggling to find a linear audience" and "put them on a platform where we can really see them grow..."

 -- I'm personally happy to hear this: "American Dad" has been renewed by TBS for two more seasons....
 
 

David Simon's HBO miniseries "The Plot Against America" scheduled for March 16


Brian Lowry writes: Keep an eye on "The Plot Against America," David Simon’s upcoming adaptation of Philip Roth’s alternative-history novel, which explores the rise of fascism and antisemitism in the United States in 1940. In the book, which was published in 2004, Charles Lindbergh rides his celebrity into the White House on an “America First” platform. Asked at TCA about the timeliness of the material, Simon said, "The forces that are now in play politically, the piece is incredibly relevant." Here's the story from THR's Michael O'Connell...
 
Thank you for reading! Send your feedback via email... See you tomorrow...
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