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Media news and perspective, from Steve Krakauer.
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November 22, 2020

Dateline: The week we said hello to Sidney Powell, and then, tonight, said goodbye
Watching this week...
  • National media amplifies unverified Twitter tale
  • Religious blind spot leads to poor coverage of Cawthorn
  • BCC Interview: Fox News' Pete Hegseth
  • Joe Biden press secretary power rankings
  • CNN somehow "survived" the 2020 election
Disagree with me? FourthWatch@TheFirstTV.com. If you're liking this, please share this link on social media and help spread the word to others.

A nurse trashes her patients on CNN - but was she even telling the truth?


There are many negative side effects to the outsized role Twitter has taken on in programming our national media conversation. From cable news to digital media outlets (or the digital output of print publications), what is said on Twitter is an easy way to grab a "man on the street" point of view, or get a sense of what is supposedly important (if it's "trending"). Twitter, though, is of course not real life. And just because something is posted on Twitter and gets a few thousand RTs, doesn't mean it's important.

But there's another danger of Twitter. Just because something is posted on Twitter and seems true, doesn't mean it is. An ER nurse in South Dakota posted on Twitter that patients of hers refused to believe COVID was real - because they had been fed that by right-wing media and Trump, of course - and that even as they were dying, they held out that it was all a hoax. Jodi Doering, the nurse, ended up a few days later on CNN - to tell this story from her late night tweets to a national TV audience. "Their last dying words are, ‘This can’t be happening. It’s not real,'" Doering said. "It just makes you sad, and mad, and frustrated, and then you know you're going to come back and do it all over again."
Let's put aside the fact that Doering is choosing to go on national TV and share the private dying words of her patients. It's not a literal violation, it's just sort of generally gross. She laughed her way through the interview with CNN's Alisyn Camerota for more than six minutes. Even if the nurse wanted to do this, why would CNN want to give a platform to this awful, inhumane treatment of dying Americans?

The story was written up in The Washington Post, USA Today and others. Elizabeth Warren quote-tweeted it. But... was it real?

National Review and Wired Magazine each looked into the claims made by Doering, who, as a nurse in South Dakota, is not encountering the sheer massive number of patients that exist in other states. Doering is a traveling nurse, but one of the facilities she works at is Huron Regional Medical Center. Wired found that the facility has seen a total of six total COVID deaths.

Multiple spokespeople and nurses each publication talked to said they had not heard of a single instance of "COVID denial" among patients at their facilities. And keep in mind what Doering said on CNN: "It wasn't one particular patient, it was just a culmination of so many people." It wasn't a single incident that stuck with Doering, it was "so many." Really? (Red State dug in further and uncovered some more peculiar circumstances.)

It's a combination of two things that caused this journalistic malpractice - a reliance on Twitter, combined with a passive attack on Trump that ends up being too good to check by CNN and other outlets. Had they done any journalistic legwork, like Wired and National Review did, Doering would likely still be getting Twitter traction to tell what appears to be, at the least, a massive exaggeration... but not a national TV spotlight.
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Media's religious blind spot leads to poor coverage of Cawthorn's "Jewish" comments


The Acela Media has been anxious to cover any negative storyline related to new Congressman Madison Cawthorn since before he was elected and tweeted "Cry more, libs." He's a 25-year-old, wheelchair-bound, conservative Trump supporter - he could, theoretically, become a political superstar.

An interview he did with Jewish Insider has been getting a lot of attention this week - for some comments he made about religion. The Daily Beast said he "has tried to convert Jews to Christianity." MSNBC's Chris Hayes took it quite a bit further on Twitter, writing, "In all seriousness, this is a really anti-Semitic thing to say. It's like the original anti-Semitic thing to say and doesn't rely on any codes or tropes. And the entire GOP should condemn it. But of course they won't, and I'm willing to bet it gets 1/20th of the coverage of Omar's tweet? And this speaks to something pretty profound about how the two parties are viewed and whose ‘extremism’ gets attention."

So what did Cawthorn say? In the context of describing proselytizing Muslims to Christianity, he said he has been less successful with Jews: "I have switched a lot of, uh, you know, I guess, culturally Jewish people. But being a practicing Jew, like, people who are religious about it, they are very difficult. I’ve had a hard time connecting with them in that way."

This is not particularly remarkable, and certainly not anti-Semitic in any way. As David Harsanyi of National Review, who, like me, is Jewish, writes, "As a Jew, I’ve had a number of Christian friends try to turn me toward Jesus — Lutherans, Catholics, and Evangelicals. Though denominations seem to adopt different philosophies on how best to proselytize in a secular world, they have all been exceptionally polite about it."

I have too. Jews, generally, don't proselytize, and religious Jews are comfortable in their religion not to be particularly offended by a Christian proselytizing. Religious Jews, are, as Cawthorn says, "difficult" to sway to the side of Christianity. Nowhere does Cawthorn say anything about hatred of or prejudice toward Jews, which is the definition of anti-Semitism. The reaction to his comments is as much about an instinctual push to turn against Cawthorn as it is about an ignorance of religion in general.

On the 2020 election, veterans and the media - BCC Interview with Fox News' Pete Hegseth


This week’s BCC Interview is with Fox and Friends Weekend co-host Pete Hegseth. Hegseth is also the author of the new book, “Modern Warriors, Real Stories from Real Heroes,” and is hosting this year’s Patriot Awards, which originated on FOX Nation and re-airs on Fox News at 10pmET.

We emailed about Trump, the 2020 election, and where things stand now, the media coverage over the past four years, veterans and the military and more. And then, with all BCC Interviews, I published the full email exchange here.

We talked Trump's legacy ("It’s only just beginning, because what he did more than anything is expose the depth of leftist take over in all of our institutions. It is the left that wants to talk about you being woke but it is actually conservatives and Republicans that have been woke by Trump to what we are up against."), the media's military blindspot ("East Coast, journalism schools, Ivy League schools and that’s not the same crop usually as you get in the military, which is unfortunate. And as a result, you get a lot of people in the media who have not only no experience, but very little connection or understanding or even family history in the media."), the status of Trump's legal challenges (" I don’t think it’s imperative on the president at all at this point to concede or give in on his attempt to make sure he exposes any fraud that does exist."), others doing it right in the industry ("I like the guys at Outkick that are taking sort of a conservative approach to sports media and media in general. I think there is a huge gap there with all of the politicization of sports.") and more...

Read the full interview here.

Who in the media will join Joe? Joe Biden press secretary power rankings


Joe Biden has already started naming his White House "senior staff" - made up of all the usual suspects. But one key position which will have an interest for the media specifically is that of press secretary. Previously, we've seen media members jump ship to comms positions, like Jay Carney leaving Time magazine to work for the Obama administration. If that were to be the case again - which, let's be honest, is more likely than not - who could fill that role? Here's my power rankings:

5. Katy Tur - The keys I'm looking for would be someone who has journalism experience, some degree of inter-industry respect, but not too high of a position where they'd have difficulty coming back to their role after they leave the White House. For example, it couldn't really be Rachel Maddow (plus - too big of a pay cut!). Katy Tur fits perfectly. 

4. Jim Acosta - Acosta has been gunning for a prime time gig since Donald Trump stepped foot in the White House. If he's not rewarded with that by CNN, could he jump ship to the other side? One problem - he's not particularly, uh, sophisticated, in appearing to practice journalism.

3. David Gregory - Gregory has been relegated to the role of a pundit on CNN - a big fall for someone who at one time was the moderator of Meet The Press. Maybe it's time for something different for Gregory, who certainly has the respect of his colleagues.

2. Brianna Keilar - Keilar has turned from unremarkable but fine news anchor into Democratic talking point regurgitater on CNN, so finding a home in a Biden administration would feel comfortable. Plus, she's already in D.C. 

1. Jim Scuitto - Staying with CNN, I think Scuitto makes the most sense. He's someone who has already been on the other side - he previously had a gig in the Obama administration - and, while he's a host on CNN, he's not in a prime slot where leaving would be a major step down. 

Who do you think might be a media member to join the Biden administration? Let me know at FourthWatch@TheFirstTV.com.

CNN somehow "survived" the 2020 election, and Esquire was there to cover it


We can't end the week without spending some time wading through the most tone-deaf bit of self-satisfied media-on-media love I've seen in awhile. Esquire delivered an "oral history" of CNN's Election Week, interviewing a variety of hosts, contributors and executives. The initial headline, shared by some at CNN before Esquire changed it, was "An Oral History of How CNN Journalists Survived Election 2020."

How did they "survive" you ask? Let's see...

Van Jones thought things looked bad for the Democrats on Tuesday night - luckily, he survived this way: "Tuesday night was devastating. The polling had been suggesting that there would be just a wipe out of Trump. And the fact that it wasn't a wipe out was crushing. They sent us home around 3 or 4 in the morning. We had drivers."

Well, at least he had a car service to drive him home. There was a lot of talk about coffee. Wolf Blitzer, for example, survived, despite, not having Starbucks: "I was hoping somebody would go to Starbucks. We do have an excellent coffee machine that makes Starbucks black coffee, and you put some milk in it with one Splenda, and it may not be a Venti Skim Latte, but it's very good."

John King spent a lot of time at his Magic Wall. Luckily, he did get in some showers: "The American people should know that I bathe every day. I promise. I took a shower every day and changed my suit every day. I keep a couple of extra shirts in my office."

Look, I was directly involved in a shorter but still lengthy Election 2012 at CNN - it involved a lot of people that work hard, often long hours, and do a great job (including the three people mentioned above!). But...maybe the self-serving oral history about how you "survived" isn't a great look.
WATCH IT... One of the best parts of "Rising" on TheHill TV is the way they break down a Twitter fight for people who don't want to go on Twitter and see it happen (or can't figure it out). This was a great segment about AOC vs. Nikki Haley over pandemic economics.

HEAR IT... Anytime you get two legends of their platforms together, it's a must-listen (or watch, or read). It took more than two hours of a Joe Rogan podcast for Dave Chappelle to show up, but then he does, and it was so fantastic for an hour.

READ IT... Matthew Yglesias has a great piece at his recently-launched Substack publication, "Slow Boring" asking, simply, "what's wrong with the media?" Yglesias, essentially, surmises that the over-politicization of culture in the Trump Era has made the media weirder, and worse.

QUICK HITS


- BuzzFeed is buying HuffPost in a bid for each digital publication to make it through this time in media. I'll be writing more about this next week.

- Now Ezra Klein, co-founder of Vox, is leaving the publication too. He's not going to Substack, he's headed to the New York Times.

- Conan O'Brien is leaving TV and heading to streaming - a major development in the world of late night, although something that feels like a long-time coming for the host who has increasingly seemed disenchanted with the constraints of traditional TV.

- The New York Times digs into what they describe as a rightward drift for popular site RealClearPolitics.

- Al Franken has begun his post-#MeToo comeback, with recent appearances on CNN and MSNBC.

- What are some ways a Trump media property could go? Alex Weprin of The Hollywood Reporter detailed several possible paths.

- ESPN's Katie Nolan has signed a new contract... just as her long-time producer was one of the hundreds who were fired as part of massive layoffs.

- CNN's Bill Weir is writing a new book that is described as a "love letter, and apology, to his son for the planet he's inheriting"... if you're into that sort of thing.
⏪ REWIND // FAST FORWARD: Social Media Edition ⏩

 Social media companies are trying to be like other social media companies. Twitter has looked back to what Instagram and Snapchat are doing with "stories," and have launched "Fleets."

⏩ Meanwhile, over at Instagram, they are looking to the future with their new "Reels" feature...and potentially paying publishers.

A QUICK WORD ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER


As I've mentioned several times, I don't believe it's inappropriate to call Joe Biden the "president-elect" or to say that Donald Trump lost this election. There are many people who read this newsletter who are disappointed by the results of the presidential election. (And there are many people who read this newsletter who are happy to see Trump lose.) I am biased myself - I'm biased in that I am not personally invested one way or the other. It's a bias nonetheless. I'm biased in favor of the American people. Trump or Biden, or anyone, Americans will be ok. We're strong and we're resilient and we'll be great.

Now, I have kept an open mind during the past two weeks to the possibility of uncovering election-overturning levels of voter fraud. I haven't seen anything. And while there's still time for this to be uncovered or brought to light between now and December 14, I believe it's fair to say it's not there.

If it materializes, I'll say I was wrong. But until then - it's over. Donald Trump over-performed the polls, made great progress in seeing better vote percentages among Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, women... but he lost. 

This newsletter is based on truth, not on trying to tiptoe around reality. I'll likely write at some point about the ways elements of right-wing media have embraced the theories about voter fraud and a Trump victory - theories that are becoming conspiracy theories. But it is true to say that Joe Biden is the president-elect, and that is how I'll be portraying it going forward.

GREAT MOMENTS IN JOURNALISM

The Washington Post has a scoop - Melania Trump loves her husband. Seriously, what is the media going to do when Trump is gone?
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Thanks for reading, back soon...

- Steve Krakauer

@SteveKrak
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