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Prime time special reports about Syria strikes 

Journalists sensed that U.S. air strikes in Syria were imminent on Thursday night. There were telltale signs: Pentagon officials stayed at work late. VP Mike Pence came back to the White House after dinner. And the press pool with President Trump at Mar a Lago was advised to stick around after the Chinese delegation left for the night.

At 9:12pm, NBC and MSNBC were the first news organizations to report that the strikes had occurred. CBS, Fox News, CNN, and ABC all followed within six minutes. All of the networks noted how POTUS was moved by recent videos and photos from Syria. "Just three days ago, the president [was] saying this is not our fight," ABC's George Stephanopoulos said.

Yes, but "as soon as he saw those pictures, as soon as he saw those images from that chemical attack, he wanted action," Martha Raddatz said. "I think this is the single fastest punishing strike I have ever seen."

"Operational reasons" 

"We did know this was in the works," and for "operational reasons" we "could not go on the air and report what we knew when we knew it," Fox's Jennifer Griffin told Shep Smith in the 11pm hour...

"I saw it on television"

Quoting from the NYT's Wednesday interview with Trump:
HABERMAN: Did you see the images out of Syria? What do you think watching that as a president —
TRUMP: I think it's a disgrace. I think it's an affront to humanity. Inconceivable that somebody could do that. Those kids were so beautiful. To look at those scenes of those beautiful children being carried out.
HABERMAN: Where were you when you found out about it?
TRUMP: I was here. I saw it on television. 

Pentagon video

Two hours after the strikes, there were new images: Pentagon footage of Tomahawk cruise missile launches. "I mean this with all due respect: the sales department at the Pentagon... is very effective," Brian Williams said on MSNBC. "Very powerful videos," historian Michael Beschloss responded. "They certainly are intended, I assume, to get a lot of support for this action tonight..."

A test of the president's credibility

Vox GM Andrew Golis tweets: "Now we find out what it's like to have a President who often lies to us explain a complicated and deadly attack he's just launched to us."

Critics of Trump and the media coverage

Lots of "wag the dog" references all across Twitter...

-- Gregg Mitchell: "Pentagon reporters & anchors saying 'we took out' this and that -- with no way of knowing if military and officials telling the truth..."

-- Linda Sarsour‏: "Media outlets 👋🏽: Make sure you bring on Syrian Americans to respond. Much needed voices at this time..."

 -- Jared Yates Sexton: "War changes entire conversation and narrative. Always has, always will... War wipes the slate clean, changes all attention..."

Heads up about a new conspiracy theory 

Media critiques were not limited to the left on Thursday. On the far right, pro-Trump web sites and twitterers are "falsely claiming that the chemical attack in Syria was a hoax," as BuzzFeed explains here. Organized around the hashtag #SyriaHoax, it's a twisted new use of the term "fake news." This stuff gets more oxygen than it would have, say, ten years ago because of social media amplification. 

 -- Related story: The Daily Beast's Ben Collins notes that some of these figures are parroting Russian talking points...

Now back to reality

Fareed Zakaria on "CNN Tonight:" "This is one of the most complicated international crises I've ever seen in my life..."


Bloomberg's David Gura tweets: "Somewhere in Palm Beach, Florida, President Xi Jinping is watching cable news like the rest of us."

Podcast with Arwa Damon

Hours before the airstrikes, I taped a conversation with CNN's Arwa Damon, who left me almost speechless as she reflected on years of Syrian war coverage. 

"I think a lot of us who have reported Syria, we carry a lot of guilt and a sense of failure," she said, "like we must have somehow failed the story of Syria because it has been going on for six years in the public eye, and nothing has changed." Listen to her Q's... and her views about journalism... in this week's "Reliable Sources Livecast," streaming here...

"No-spin zone" becoming the "no-ad zone?"

Bill O'Reilly's show on Monday night had 31 ads. Thursday night? Just 7 ads.

Tom Kludt's latest story: The ad load was "tangible evidence that a widening advertising boycott against the top-rated program has taken effect."

Kludt notes that the ad count would have been a bit higher if Fox hadn't pre-empted the final fifteen minutes of the "Factor." Shep Smith interrupted at 8:45... it was billed as breaking news, but it was really a summary of the day's news about Syria... an unusual choice by Fox, to be sure... 

Ad boycott update

Tom Kludt emails: The list is currently up to 57. But O'Reilly's top advertiser -- gold company Rosland Capital -- is staying, Paul R. La Monica reports..

Fox's strategy: "Say as little as possible"

WashPost's Paul Farhi says Fox and O'Reilly "appear to have developed a strategy," which is to "say as little as possible." Proving the point, Fox News declined to comment on the situation when Farhi asked on Thursday, and the parent company 21st Century Fox didn't respond at all...

 >> Two possible explanations for the silence. One: The Murdochs are keeping their options open and no one knows if O'Reilly's job is safe. Two: Everybody's 100% united behind the scenes and just waiting for this to blow over...

 >> Farhi notes: "Fox News has all but ignored any reporting about it in its broadcasts and on its website; its one acknowledgment was a 25-second summary on its 'Media Buzz' program on Sunday. It has not mentioned the advertiser reaction..."

Carlson: "In 2017, every damn woman still has a story"

CNNMoney's Ahiza Garcia reports from Tina Brown's summit: Gretchen Carlson "did not address the O'Reilly or Ailes matters directly, but she said workplace sexual harassment remains pervasive. 'In 2017, every damn woman still has a story,' she said." She recommended that harassment victims "document and gather as much evidence as they can..."

Women speaking out via the #DropOReilly hashtag

"Droves of women have shared their own experiences with workplace sexual harassment on social media this week, spurred by claims against Bill O’Reilly," the NYT notes. The hashtag #DropOReilly "morphed into a meeting place for women..."

Adequate disclosures?

CNNMoney's Chris Isidore asks experts: "Did Fox have a duty to disclose O'Reilly settlements?" He says "it's not just about the size of a given payout -- it's also a question of whether a given settlement or investigation is big enough to affect the entire enterprise..."

Notes and quotes

 -- Julia Horowitz bought O'Reilly's new book "Old School" and read it from cover to cover... here's what she found...

 -- I missed Sarah Ellison's column on Wednesday, describing how "the younger Murdochs appear prepared to follow their father’s playbook..."

-- The Hill says "Fox News and CNN are at war." This story reminded of the Marty Baron line about Trump's war against the media: we're not at war, "we're at work..." 

 -- Susan Chira writing about the allegations against Trump and O'Reilly: "The symmetry is almost mind-boggling..."

For the record, part one

 -- Want to get up to speed on Tronc's war of words with one of its top investors? Ken Doctor has you covered... (TheStreet)

 -- More Russian media meddling? "A network of Russian language news sites based in the Baltics is secretly owned by the Kremlin-owned holding that runs Russia Today and Sputnik, an investigation by Re:Baltica, a Latvian outlet, has found..." (BuzzFeed)

 -- The CBS network is going to air some "CBSN Originals" documentaries over the summer... (Variety)

Woodward and Bernstein at WHCA dinner 

Poynter's Ben Mullin writes: "Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein will reunite this year at the annual White House Correspondents' Association Dinner to give a speech defending "a free and independent press,' the association announced Thursday..." They'll also present awards to this year's WHCA winners, Greg Jaffe, David Fahrenthold, and Edward Issac-Dovere

And what about a performer? Larry Wilmore wasn't a huge hit last year. Cecily Strong was the evening's entertainer back in 2015. When Mullin asked about this year, WHCA president Jeff Mason "said the association hasn't yet announced an entertainer but hinted more news on that front was forthcoming..."

Your Facebook news feed will have an "educational tool" about fake news

My latest: Does Facebook really care whether the stories at the top of your news feed are accurate? The company is trying to convince skeptics that the answer is yes. Its latest step is an "educational tool" that will pop up at the top of the news feed for a few days. The company announced it on Thursday... Here's my full story...

Sunday on "Reliable Sources"

An early look at our lineup: Emily Steel, Jane Hall, Michael Wolff, and Lisa Bloom...

Trump and the media
"Kushner and Bannon Battle..."

Inside the Beltway, the day's dominant narrative was about Jared Kushner v. Steve Bannon. A sampling of the headlines:

The Daily Beast: "Steve Bannon Calls Jared Kushner a ‘Cuck’ and ‘Globalist’ Behind His Back"
The Atlantic: "Kushner and Bannon Battle for the Soul of the Trump White House"
NYT: "In Battle for Trump’s Heart and Mind, It’s Bannon vs. Kushner"
CNN: "Inside the White House, paranoia and unrest among top staff"

Gallup's new #'s about perceptions of media bias 

CNN's Chris Cillizza writes: "New polling from Gallup" shows that "more than six in 10 people (62%) say that the media 'favors one party over the other.' That's a significant increase from the 48% who said the media favors one side over the other when Gallup last asked the question in 2003. And that change is almost entirely attributable to Republicans growing more and more convinced that the media is biased; 79% of self-identified Republicans now describe the media as biased, as compared to 59% who said the same in 2003." Read more...

For the record, part two

 -- With the help of Paul Rudd, Jake Tapper has a new health and wellness routine... among other motivators, "I think it’s fair to say this job has gotten a little bit more intense in the last year, and it’s good to be at the top of my game physically so that I can be at the top of my game intellectually..." (The Cut)

 -- Mike Shields' latest: "Amazon's new NFL deal could be a chance to bring TV advertising to the digital age. That is, if the company even wants to..." (WSJ)

 -- A helpful Recode feature: "Which internet TV bundle is right for you?" (Recode)

Comcast announces "Xfinity Mobile"

Comcast's "newly branded Xfinity Mobile service leverages Verizon Wireless' network and launches mid-year," USA Today's Edward C. Baig reports. It will be confined to Comcast customers. "Whenever possible, Xfinity Mobile will tap Comcast's more than 16 million Wi-Fi hotspots..."

The entertainment desk
Don Rickles, 1926-2017 

Lisa France emails: It was an honor to be insulted by Don Rickles. The man who turned dealing with hecklers into a legendary career died Thursday at the age of 90.

Read Lisa's obituary... plus Sandra Gonzalez's look back at some of Rickles' best celeb insults...

HBO's next documentary 

Brian Lowry emails: Don Rickles worked virtually until his death at age 90, which makes the documentary that HBO announced today particularly timely: "If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast" will be hosted by 95-year-old Carl Reiner, and feature other Hollywood nonagenarians and centenarians, including Mel Brooks, Dick Van Dyke, Norman Lear, Betty White and Kirk Douglas...

MTV's Movie + TV Awards plan

Sandra Gonzalez emails: MTV is sharing more details about its forthcoming MTV Movie and TV Awards. As you'll recall, this will be the first year that MTV will honor TV shows alongside films. But on Thursday, the network announced other changes, too, including the addition of some categories that combine TV and movie honorees and five new categories, one of which reimagines the iconic Best Fight category as Best Fight Against the System.

MTV also said that all categories will, for the first time, be non-gendered. According to MTV president Chris McCarthy, the decision was made because viewers don't see gender lines "in the way that generations in the past have." (It's worth noting that this is a unique move that only the likes of MTV could pull off because the show's nominees are decided by MTV, not a voting body. So they can ensure diverse and balanced nominees.) More on all the changes here...

'Kentucky Fried Movie' reunion served up at TCM Festival

Brian Lowry emails: Turner Classic Movies (CNN's sister channel) kicked off its annual film festival on Thursday, but what caught my attention was a 40th anniversary reunion of "The Kentucky Fried Movie." Not only did the film provide the foundation that helped its creators launch "Airplane!," but it also represented a sort of last gasp for sketch comedy in theaters before TV swallowed the form...

 >> Read Lowry's full column here...

For the record, part three

By Lisa France:

-- Madonna knows a little something about having a soda commercial bubble up into controversy and then fizzle. Here's why the pop superstar is drinking in the Pepsi controversy...

 -- We've gotten our first look at the 'Dirty Dancing' remake...

 -- And check this out: A teen in Phoenix re-created the 'La La Land' opening to ask Emma Stone to prom....

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