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EXEC SUMMARY: Here's the latest from Staples Center to the State Department... from Sundance to the Super Bowl... from The AP to Variety... from John Bolton to Hillary Clinton...

What country is this?

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seems to be escalating his criticism of NPR — this time not just with words but with actions. On Monday NPR reporter Michele Kelemen was notified that she was being removed from the press pool that will travel with Pompeo to the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. "She was not given a reason," an NPR spokeswoman told me. But this is one of those situations when 2 + 2 clearly equals 4.

The first 2: NPR's Mary Louise Kelly asked Pompeo a series of pertinent Q's about Ukraine. He objected. According to Kelly, he shouted and cursed at her after the interview ended. Then, the next day, he called her a "liar" and accused her of violating an off-the-record agreement. Kelly and NPR said she did not do that, and dozens of journalists came to her defense.

The second 2: Pompeo's department takes action against Kelemen. The State Department Correspondents' Association went public with it on Monday evening, announcing that it "protests the decision" to remove her from the plane. "We can only conclude that the State Department is retaliating against National Public Radio as a result of this exchange," the association's president Shaun Tandon said

And I'm left wondering: What country is this? Because this is not the behavior that Americans expect from their Secretary of State.

"Bullying and retaliation against the press" is "what we denounce in other countries," NBC's Andrea Mitchell wrote.

"Journalists are accustomed to dealing with petty despots. But usually they’re in Congo or China, not running the State Department," the NYT's Nick Kristof tweeted.

State has not responded to CNN's requests for comment on this matter...

The defense doesn't rest

Trump's legal team wrapped up for the night around 9pm ET. Notably, CNN and MSNBC carried all of the presentations while Fox News dipped in and out, mostly out, starting at 5pm.

"We'll continue with our presentations tomorrow," Pat Cipollone said. Sources had told CNN that, before the John Bolton news hit, the president's legal team had only planned to present for two days. WaPo's Tuesday headline reflects this new reality: "Bolton revelations roil GOP senators."

Bolton's book is in the top ten

On Sunday evening, "The Room Where It Happened" wasn't even publicly advertised on Amazon yet. When the page went up on Sunday night, people started pre-ordering... And as of 9pm ET, it has cracked the top ten on Amazon's constantly updated best-selling books chart. The NYT is out with more info from the "unpublished manuscript..." The headline: "Bolton Was Concerned That Trump Did Favors for Autocratic Leaders, Book Says."

What will Bolton do next?

Bolton’s camp submitted his book for exec branch review, but now believes that process has been "breached," so Bolton is "assessing his options," a source told me Monday afternoon. This means he could choose to speak publicly some way, somehow, well before the scheduled March 17 release of his book. Nothing has been decided. According to the source, there have been no discussions about a TV interview. But it is not out of the question, either. And Bolton has repeatedly said that he will testify if subpoenaed...

 --> As for the book title, no comment from Lin-Manuel Miranda yet...

Bolton and Fox...

Something to remember about Bolton: He was a paid contributor to Fox News for 11 years. He only left the job in order to join the Trump admin. He continues to have friendly relationships with some of his former colleagues. So that makes the network's coverage -- and criticism -- of Bolton even more noteworthy. Numerous Fox personalities are questioning Bolton's motives and accusing him of trying to cash in on his time with Trump. (I was amused by some of the accusations about Bolton trying to sell a book since Fox stars are book-selling experts.)

 -- As Chris Wallace memorably said on Fox, "if you want a sense of how big" the Bolton news is, just listen to the Trump supporters who are "spinning like crazy that it isn't big news..."

 -- Fox screamer Dan Bongino tweeted that "nobody cares" about what Bolton has to say. Trump retweeted the message...

 -- Lou Dobbs called Bolton a "TOOL FOR THE LEFT," then accused Bolton of having "ties to Comey" because both men hired the same literary agency, Javelin.

 -- Javelin partner Matt Latimer tweeted to Dobbs, pointing out that "you forgot to list some other notable Javelin clients: Don Rumsfeld, Tucker [Carlson], numerous GOP officeholders, Michael Pillsbury, conservative organizations, oh, and you! Are you part of the conspiracy? 🤫"


 -- 🔌: I'll have more about Fox and Bolton on "CNN Tonight with Don Lemon" in the 11pm hour...

 -- Fox posted its "highest trial ratings to date" when Trump's defense began its case on Saturday, Mark Joyella reports... (Forbes)

 -- Greg Sargent writes: "It has long been obvious that Republicans would ultimately converge on this final defense of President Trump: Even if he did everything he has been accused of doing, and perhaps a lot more that we don’t know about, it's absolutely fine!" (WaPo)

 -- "C-SPAN Is So Hot Right Now" -- but, Kathy Gilsinan writes, "the irony of this being C-SPAN's moment is that its cameras aren't actually in the Senate chamber right now, and neither are any other news-media cameras..." (The Atlantic)


Trump's defense team will continue to deliver opening arguments...

T-minus one week to the Iowa caucuses...

Kim Ghattas comes out with "Black Wave" and Ezra Klein comes out with "Why We're Polarized..."

Apple earnings arrive after the bell... CNBC says "China and Apple's TV service will be under the spotlight..."

Media world mourns for Kobe

 -- Tuesday's Lakers versus Clippers game has been postponed.

 -- Radio stations across L.A. "held a moment of silence Monday at noon." One minute and eight seconds.

 -- ESPN re-aired Kobe's final game on Monday evening.
 -- LA Times publisher Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong shared a series of photos of the LAT HQ lit up with Kobe's silhouette on Monday night. "Gigi and Kobe in the heavens and stars together forever," he wrote. The LAT has been producing outstanding work about Kobe and what his death means to the city. Worth noting, too, that Soon-Shiong has a stake in the Lakers...

 -- Per SI, "Media Night for the Super Bowl started out with a moment of silence for Kobe... then turned into 'Kobe' chants."

 -- The LAT's Josh Rottenberg has a report from "inside the Oscar nominees luncheon, where Hollywood’s elite paid tribute to Kobe."

 -- ESPN's Ramona Shelburne says he was "basketball's greatest storyteller."

 -- "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel," which was already scheduled to have its season premiere on Tuesday, "will now include a retrospective segment" on Kobe, HBO says.

NBA on TNT's special program

Leading up to the Miami-Boston game at 8pm ET Tuesday, "NBA on TNT will pay tribute to Kobe Bryant during an hour-long pregame show tomorrow from Staples Center at 7pm ET," the network says. It will take place live "inside the Staples Center with Inside the NBA's Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith joined by Dwyane Wade, Candace Parker and Steve Nash," THR notes...

Coverage notes and media critiques

 -- There was huge audience interest on Sunday, per SBJ's John Ourand's subscription newsletter: "Early figures show that ESPN2’s ratings grew 758% in the hour after Bryant’s death became public. NBA TV ratings grew by 560% in that same time period."

 -- Dan Gillmor writes: "More than a decade ago I begged journalists and sharers of breaking news to employ a 'slow news' approach. The Kobe Bryant story demonstrates that need more than ever..."

 -- "If the media world were ruled by thoughtfulness, rigor and ethics, TMZ wouldn't have broken the news" about Kobe "before all the families were notified," Margaret Sullivan says. And POTUS "would not have tweeted out inaccurate information about the number of people killed." Yes, let's not forget, that did happen...


 -- Lisa Respers France took an in-depth look at Kobe's personal life, troubles and all: "Vanessa Bryant and his daughters were Kobe Bryant's great loves..." (CNN)

 -- At the time of Kobe's death, "his production company, Granity Studios, was in the process of ramping up multiple projects. A series he created for ESPN Plus, 'Detail,' premiered last year on the streaming service. The status of that series and other projects from Granity is, for now, unclear," Daniel Holloway reports... (Variety)

 -- In other news... The NYT launched a revamped On Politics weekday morning newsletter on Monday... (NYT)

 -- "Sinclair Broadcast Group has settled the lawsuit stemming from its failed $3.9 billion takeover of Tribune Media..." (THR)

Widespread criticism of WaPo

The Washington Post is coming under blistering criticism for placing reporter Felicia Sonmez "on administrative leave after she generated controversy for a series of tweets posted in the wake of Kobe Bryant's death," Oliver Darcy reports.

 --> Get caught up on this controversy by reading WaPo media critic Erik Wemple's admirable piece criticizing his own institution, and Rachel Abrams' NYT story that includes a copy of Marty Baron's email to Sonmez...

The AP holds town halls after 'terrible mistake'

A 'terrible mistake' in cropping an African climate activist out of a photo sent to customers of The Associated Press prompted soul-searching and some tense staff conversations over issues of racism and inclusion Monday at the news organization," the AP's David Bauder reports. "The AP acknowledged that it aggravated the error through its initial response on Friday, and that it will expand diversity training worldwide as a result."

Exec editor Sally Buzbee held three town hall meetings with staffers on Monday. AP CEO Gary Pruitt, who attended the first town hall, told Bauder that "our values are to cover the world — not the white world, but the whole world. And we need to do it.” Pruitt said he continues to have “complete confidence” in the AP management.

 --> Bauder's story adds: "No disciplinary actions against the journalists involved have been announced..."


"Fiasco's Season Two Tackles Iran-Contra Right on Time"

That's the headline on Rachel Dodes' story for VF about season two of Leon Neyfakh's "Fiasco" podcast, which "untangles over the course of eight episodes the convoluted and largely forgotten 1980s scandal known as the Iran-contra affair." Dodes says the new season "bears striking similarities to the Ukrainian escapade that has led to Donald Trump’s impeachment." For newsletter readers only, here's a first look at the trailer for the new season, which will land on February 6 on Luminary...

Soft launch of The 19th

"Emily Ramshaw and Amanda Zamora — formerly the editor-in-chief and chief audience officer of The Texas Tribune, respectively — on Monday announced the soft launch of and more details about The 19th, their previously teased national news nonprofit," NiemanLab's Laura Hazard Owen writes. "It is nonpartisan and will cover 'the intersection of gender, politics and policy.'" WaPo "will be publishing The 19th’s content until the site fully launches in August." The Post's Sarah Ellison has more here... 


By Kerry Flynn:

 -- The NYT's Jose Del Real is rejoining WaPo on the national political enterprise and investigations team... (Twitter)

 -- Shalini Sharma is joining NBC News as editorial director for digital video. She previously led the digital video teams at Thrive Global and Fast Company...

 -- Per Sarah Perez, child-safe ad tech company SuperAwesome has raised $17M, led by Microsoft's venture fund... (TechCrunch)

 -- Robert Allbritton announced Politico's new subscription product AgencyIQ, providing analysis on regulatory policy starting with the FDA... (Politico)

 -- And speaking of Politico, Melissa Cooke has been promoted to comms director. The company is now searching for a new TV/radio booker...


Variety's A.M. TV cover story

Variety's next cover story is about one of my favorite subjects. "Rough Morning: TV's A.M. news mainstays are grappling with forces beyond their control," by Brian Steinberg, will be out on Tuesday morning... Steinberg interviewed more than a dozen network and cable hosts for the feature...


 -- CBS All Access is crediting "Star Trek: Picard" with "helping it to achieve a new record for subscriber sign-ups in a given month..." (TechCrunch)

 -- "This year ESPN plans to air more than 500 live original shows across its own digital properties and platforms including YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook," up from 400+ in 2019... (Digiday)

 -- Fox Nation is getting 20 seconds of national ad time during the Super Bowl. Here's a preview... (TheWrap)

 -- Diana Pearl reports behind the scenes of Olay's Super Bowl ad, where 2/3 of the staff involved are women... (AdWeek)

Planters 'pauses' pre-Super Bowl ad campaign rollout

Brian Lowry emails: While one can understand exercising an abundance of caution, at first blush the decision by Planters to pause its Super Bowl ad campaign — featuring the death of mascot Mr. Peanut — as a sign of sensitivity regarding the Kobe Bryant tragedy looks a little absurd.

 >. "At this point," Planters says, "the pause impacts only paid advertising (on channels like Twitter and YouTube), and some other outreach in the immediate wake of this tragedy. No change has been made to our plans for Super Bowl Sunday..."

This year's Oscar class photo

Via Deadline: "The nominees for the 92nd Oscars gathered at the Roy Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood on Monday for the annual Oscar Nominees Luncheon. Turnout was strong as usual for the event." Closeup shots here...


Glass half empty, or half full?

I'm a glass half full kind of guy. Maybe Brian Lowry is too! He emails: Grammy ratings were down 6% — to 18.7 million viewers — but the awards show still ranks first among all entertainment shows televised this season, per CBS. That’s a sign of the gravity dragging at broadcast audiences (with the notable exception of sports/football). The network also cited a record number of streams via CBS All Access, without (shades of Netflix) divulging how many...

Headlines from Park City...

I'm feeling some serious FOMO as the Sundance Film Festival continues in Park City, Utah. Here are a few of the newsy developments from the festival...

-- Tatiana Siegel's scoop: "Apple and A24 have acquired worldwide rights to the documentary Boys State, a political coming-of-age story which examines the health of American democracy. A source pegged the deal at $10 million. A24 will release the film theatrically..." (THR)

 -- "Amazon Studios has picked up Alan Ball's family drama Uncle Frank" for a reported $12 million... (THR)

 -- Mike Fleming Jr. reports that "the next big movie to go in a sale will be Palm Springs, the Max Barbakow-directed comedy... Sources said that Neon and Hulu are in advance talks to team on a world rights deal worth around $15 million..." (Deadline)

 -- Here's Alissa Wilkinson on "how Sundance films are probing the mushy nature of truth and fiction in 2020." She says "this year’s unofficial festival theme is reality — and how we obscure it..." (Vox)

 -- Hillary Clinton "has been a regular presence" at the festival, in part to promote the "Hillary" documentary... But she also "attended the premiere of the Jamal Khasshoggi documentary 'The Dissident,' which she calls terrific," per the AP's Jake Coyle... (AP)

 -- And here's a fun read from EW's Mary Sollosi about "the biggest films from weekend 1" of the festival... (EW)


Celebrating "Cheer"

Have you watched "Cheer" on Netflix yet? The hype is well-deserved, according to my wife, who's hooked on the docuseries. The other day CNN's Sandra Gonzalez wrote that the series "will make you cry, smile, grimace and, yes, cheer." And on Monday CNN's Brandon Tensley wrote that it "invites you to unlearn what you think you know about cheerleading." Read his full story here...
Thank you for reading! Email me feedback anytime...
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