By Brian Stelter & the CNNMoney Media team

Connecting the dots about distrust

Very rarely would I recommend a 16-minute-long Medium post to you. But today's the day. "The methods used to fund modern journalism simultaneously undermine trust in the news outlets," Sean Blanda writes in this essay that seeks to connect a lot of media dots.

He argues that the "economic incentives of news directly contribute to the divisiveness of our country." Blanda talks about sponsored content, programmatic advertising, the ad market, and "fake news." Check it out... And scroll down for some insights from Davos about distrust...

Inauguration week

"Trump Is Making Journalism Great Again"
Yesterday I featured Margaret Sullivan's column that said journalists in the Trump age "are in for the fight of their lives." This Jack Shafer column is equally important: "In his own way," he says "Trump has set us free."

Shafer: "Reporters must treat Inauguration Day as a kind of Liberation Day to explore news outside the usual Washington circles. [Trump] has been explicit in his disdain for the press and his dislike for press conferences, prickly to the nth degree about being challenged and known for his vindictive way with those who cross him. So, forget about the White House press room. It’s time to circle behind enemy lines." Here's what he means...
Time to be even more skeptical of Trumpland anonymous sources?
Brian Lowry emails with a related point: With some of the conflicting policy positions that have come from the Trump administration on various issues, a quick thought about sourcing: Given the hostility toward mainstream press and the President-elect's efforts to discredit them, should reporters exercise greater caution when dealing with officials on background? Put another way, if they're willing to pretty brazenly mislead on the record, does that call for heightened skepticism about what's said under the veil of anonymity?
CNN's defense of Jim Acosta
Incoming press secretary Sean Spicer has been calling for an apology from CNN correspondent Jim Acosta for Acosta's aggressive attempts to ask Trump a question at last week's press conference. An apology is not forthcoming. On Monday the network issued an unusually strong statement supporting Acosta:

"As we have learned many times, just because Sean Spicer says something doesn't make it true. Jim Acosta is a veteran reporter with the utmost integrity and extensive experience in covering both the White House and the President-elect. Being persistent and asking tough questions is his job, and he has our complete support."

Here's the backstory...
A sampling of Monday's headlines
  ·  Politico: "Trump, and the world, readies for a 'leap into the dark'"
  ·  CNN: "Tumult surrounds Trump days ahead of his presidency"
 ·  NYT: "As Trump era arrives, a sense of uncertainty grips the world"
Tuesday: Josh Earnest's final briefing
The outgoing press secretary will hold his final press briefing Tuesday at noon. Wonder if he'll say anything about the prospect of Sean Spicer moving the briefing room out of the West Wing?

Obama's final press conference will take place in the briefing room on Wednesday afternoon...
Wednesday: Trump on "Fox & Friends"
Joe Scarborough said he was at Mar a Lago on New Year's Eve to lobby for an inauguration week interview with Trump. Maybe it'll happen, but at the moment it seems unlikely. On Monday Fox News said that "Fox & Friends" co-host Ainsley Earhardt will sit down with Trump for an interview that will air on Wednesday's show...
Monica Crowley out
CNN's KFILE reported on January 7 that conservative author and Fox News commentator Monica Crowley had plagiarized extensive portions of her 2012 book. At first the Trump transition team indicated that her job was safe, falsely calling KFILE's reporting a "politically motivated attack."

But on Monday, she stepped away from her appointment to be the senior director of strategic communications for the National Security Council. The Washington Times broke the news. Andrew Kaczynski and Jim Acosta have the full story here...

-- KFILE editor Kyle Blaine tweets: "Anyway, I hope everyone enjoyed the week of 'does plagiarism matter anymore...'"
 -- CNN's John King on "AC360:" "At first, I'm told quietly, some transition people said, she was hanging in there, but then she stepped aside today, which is the right thing to do..."
Catch up on Sunday's "Reliable Sources"
Check out the podcast here... Watch the video clips on Or scroll down for some of the highlights...
For the record
 -- Bob Beckel is back at Fox News: After a brief time at CNN, Beckel is back on Fox's 5 p.m. talk show. Rupert Murdoch says "Bob was missed by many fans of 'The Five' and we're happy to welcome him back..." (Variety)

-- Nevada journalism heavyweight Jon Ralston is starting a "nonprofit, donation-based web site" to cover the state... (NYT)

-- Here's the Committee to Protect Journalists' safety advisory for reporters covering the inauguration... (CPJ)
Last year at Davos...
The annual meeting begins Tuesday in the Swiss Alps. "The predictions made here — known as the Davos consensus — have a tendency to be wrong," Andrew Ross Sorkin writes in Tuesday's NYT. "Mr. Trump, with very few exceptions, was largely written off last year as a bad joke."
This year at Davos...
This year, WSJ EIC Gerard Baker writes, "the tide of populist anger that swept the major economies in 2016... is lapping at the elegantly appointed front door of Davos Man." Marketing firm Edelman is in Davos talking about a "global trust crisis," and CEO Richard Edelman had some interesting things to say about the fourth estate. Via the AP: 

"People now view media as part of the elite. The result is a proclivity for self-referential media and reliance on peers..."
"Frontline" analyzes the "divided states"
Brian Lowry emails: In its latest deep dive into a dysfunctional political climate, "Frontline" devotes four hours to "Divided States of America," a look at the factors that helped lead to a Trump presidency. Part one is Tuesday night, part two is Wednesday night. Read Lowry's review here...
Quote of the day
"Elections no longer settle things."

--Dan Balz quoted in the new "Frontline" doc...
Blowout #'s for the Packers-Cowboys game
When Frank Pallotta said he thought the Packers-Cowboys game could hit 50 million viewers, I thought he was letting his Packers fandom get the best of him. But he was right -- quoting his story here -- "an average of 48.5 million people watched the game, according to Nielsen data. That makes it the most-watched NFL Divisional Playoff game ever on any network, according to Fox. The matchup was also the most-watched telecast of any kind since Super Bowl 50 last year..."

More: "NBC's broadcast of the Steelers' 18-16 win over the Chiefs brought in an average of 37.1 million viewers.."
"#1 NFL divisional playoff ever"
Fox Sports ratings guru Michael Mulvihill with the tweet of the day:
Last 3 months:

 - #1 MLB game in 25 years
 - #1 FOX NFL regular season game ever
 - #1 NFL divisional playoff ever

Reminder: TV is dead.
Trump and the media
Trump tops 20 million on Twitter
Trump has been climbing the Twitter charts recently, thanks in part to his frequent tweeting. Sometime on Monday he surpassed the 20 million mark. According to the measuring tool TwitterCounter, Trump is now the 68th-most-followed user on the site, just behind Canadian singer Avril Lavigne and right ahead of Indian actor Aamir Khan. Trump's aides had been keeping a close eye on the follower number, waiting for the account to reach 20 million, so I kept an eye out too... Here's my full story...

 -- ICYMI: "Trump disses and promotes CNN’s Ivanka special in 1 tweet," by Mediaite's Josh Feldman...
The entertainment desk 
What are the ethics of "digital recreation" in movies?
Brian Lowry emails: Lucasfilm's announcement last week that it wouldn't digitally recreate Carrie Fisher for future "Star Wars" movies -- ­batting down rumors to that effect -- was welcome news. But after years of movies doing just that, including the recent "Star Wars" prequel "Rogue One," there are still questions that need to be addressed regarding the etiquette and ethics of using technology to posthumously create performance...

Read Lowry's full column here -->
New cable series about O.J. 
Lisa France emails: "Is O.J. Innocent? The Missing Evidence," now airing on Investigation Discovery, is the latest TV series to reinvestigate a high profile case. It's also further proof that, more than 20 years later, we still can't get enough of the O.J. Simpson case...
Steve Harvey in the spotlight 
More from Lisa: Steve Harvey is not having a great time of it lately with people of color. There was backlash from the black community from his meeting with President-elect Trump, and now The Hollywood Reporter has this piece on "Fresh Off The Boat" author Eddie Huang responding to jokes Harvey made about Asian men...
Highlights from Sunday's "Reliable Sources"
Deny. Conflate. Confuse.
Here's my essay from Sunday's show about Team Trump's media tactics...
BuzzFeed's argument for publishing
Ben Smith has no regrets about publishing those unverified memos alleging that Russian operatives have compromising personal and financial information about Trump. "When you have a document in that kind of circulation among the country's elites at the center of an incredibly heated political battle, the argument for keeping it away from the American people has to be really, really strong," he said on Sunday's show. You can catch the entire back-and-forth on and on Twitter.

Jill Disis recapped the interview for CNN... And Tasneem Nashrulla recapped it for BuzzFeed News...
"Deep cultural symbolism"
"The optic" of moving the press corps "to some other, more distant part of the White House complex is just terrible," The Atlantic EIC Jeffrey Goldberg said later in the show. The Baltimore Sun's David Zurawik agreed and said "it's beyond optics, it's deep cultural symbolism, the representatives to the people moved literally off..."
Important reminder about how Trump's media feuds are perceived
On "Reliable Sources," MZ Hemingway channeled the POV of Trump voters who "are complaining that the media are unnecessarily hostile to them, their way of life, their views, the things they care about and value. And this is something that has been going on for decades. When they see Donald Trump fight back against the media, it makes them feel like he's fighting back for them. And that's why this whole conversation is happening in the context of a larger media environment that has been very unfair..."
Words to live by...
Words to report by 
I began Sunday's "Reliable Sources" with a 99-year-old quote from a former president: 

"The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else."

Who said it? Theodore Roosevelt. He wrote this in a letter to the Kansas City Star in 1918, prompted by what he felt was his successor Woodrow Wilson's efforts to tamp down on dissent. His overarching message was that free speech is a necessity. 

Of course, both "SNL" and the president-elect have a right to free speech...
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