From the death of Queen Elizabeth II to the Little League World Series, Beat the Press has you Covered

Beat the Press

On this episode of Beat the Press, former NECN anchor Mike Nikitas fills in for Emily Rooney to discuss the ongoing changes at CNN, the murder of Las Vegas investigative reporter Jeff German, the media coverage of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and how a hot mic at the ESPN Little League World Series shows how far distrust of the media has gone. Joining Mike on this episode are media consultant Susie Banikarim, Joanna Weiss of Experience Magazine, and Dan Kennedy of Northeastern University.

By Matthew McGuirk

Episode 16 of Beat the Press with Emily Rooney

Change after change at CNN — where is the network heading now? 

The changes that Chris Licht promised months ago have started to come to fruition in recent weeks, starting with the cancellation of Brian Stelter’s media watch show Reliable Sources in August. Just a few weeks after this cancellation — which also included Stelter departing the network — longtime CNN reporter John Harwood announced on Twitter that he was leaving the network. In his last stand-up, Harwood referred to former President Trump as a “dishonest demagogue.” These moves come as CNN’s new ownership, Warner Bros. Discovery, pushes for the network to return to the middle. 

 

In this segment, the Beat the Press panelists discuss these ongoing changes to try and figure out where CNN may be headed next.

 

Mike: “The quote that was widely disseminated, he said after he fried Brian Stelter, [that] ‘there will be more changes and you might not like it or understand it.’ I think we all saw that. Now I'm okay with the management saying ‘you might not like the changes,’ but telling employees ‘you might not understand the changes,’ to me, smacks of arrogance to some degree and also shows me a lack of leadership.”

Susie: “Chris Licht came to this job, you know, his biggest job to date had been running the Colbert Report, which is, let's say, 150-200 people tops. Now he runs a news organization of four thousand people — an international news organization of four thousand other people. That's a huge learning curve. The thing that's getting the most notice is the editorial piece, but just in general he must be swimming in the number of things he needs to grasp and understand.”

Dan: “You know, if you want less talk and more news, you don't do it by axing a Sunday morning show which is all about talk. And the idea that CNN would walk away from media coverage by canceling their longest running show, something that was hosted by Bernard Kalb, by Howard Kurtz, and then by Brian Stelter, that just makes no sense whatsoever. The media are a major institution that deserves coverage and scrutiny.”

Joanna: “I think Brian Stelter was a victim of something that CNN is struggling with, and that's something that, frankly, a lot of mainstream media outlets are struggling with at this moment, which is that during the Trump era, all of these outlets could not figure out exactly how to cover someone who was so outside the norms of expected political behavior. He really did say things that were blatantly untrue.”

 

An investigative reporter is murdered — what does this mean for the safety of journalists?

A Las Vegas investigative reporter named Jeff German was murdered at the beginning of the month, and local authorities have charged a public administrator by the name of Robert Telles with the killing. Telles was the subject of an article that German was working on the week he was murdered, according to German’s paper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

 

In this segment, the Beat the Press panelists discuss German’s murder and what it means for the future of journalists, considering threats against the media have increased in recent years.

 

Mike: “I think you can, you know, dismiss this murder by saying, well, ‘It's Las Vegas and Las Vegas is Las Vegas, or it's due to very specific circumstances.’ But you can also say this is a chilling re-escalation of the backlash against journalists in this country, because this is specifically retribution, allegedly for his reporting.”

Susie: “I just want to take a moment to really celebrate the work of Jeff German. I mean, this is a guy who's doing the kind of local reporting the communities really need. And you know, we talk a lot about local journalism being endangered, usually we mean from budget cuts and from layoffs, not, you know, physical danger. And so to see someone like this who is still doing this really important investigative public accountability work, when so few newspapers are still investing in that kind of work, and to see it come to a tragic end like this feels like a real gut punch and I think it's a real loss.”

Dan: “I would caution against thinking that this is something that's growing out at the present moment. I mean, journalists have been attacked throughout history. Famously, Ida B. Wells was unable to go back to her newspaper in Memphis after a mob destroyed her paper there because she dared to speak out against racism and lynching in that area. Investigative reporters and editors grew out of the murder of Don Bolles, who covered organized crime for the Arizona Republic… We've seen TV reporting teams shot down on live Internet video, and then, of course, there was the Capital Gazette killings a few years ago. Journalism can be a dangerous field at times … But fundamentally I think that we always need to keep in mind that there are some reporters who put their lives on the line and occasionally they pay for it.”

Joanna: “I think, sadly, it's a piece of what we were just talking about, this phenomenon of outside the norm's rhetoric that has become very common over the last four or five years, where the press is the enemy, where people are out to get you. I mean, not to bring Trump into everything, but at those Trump rallies they would point to the media and say ‘those people are the enemy, they're the enemy of the people.’ So… again this politician was democratic, so this isn't a completely partisan problem, but I think it is a problem of creating a mistrust against anyone in the media, not respecting the watchdog role — the constitutional watchdog role of the media — and instead imagining individual vendetta's.”

 

Queen Elizabeth II dies at 96, and the U.S. media dropped everything to cover the story — what stood out about the coverage? 

After 70 years on the British throne, Queen Elizabeth II died on Sept. 8 at Balmoral Castle, the royal family’s Scottish estate, and news outlets all across the U.S. began covering the story. In this segment, the Beat the Press panelists discuss the media coverage and the future of the monarchy.

 

Mike: “Here's another lead… The Republican trend is moving in only one direction. It's just a matter of when. For example, Barbados became a republic, Jamaica soon. I talked to my daughter who is a longtime citizen of Australia with two grandchildren, and they are ready to move on and become a Republic and get the queen off their money and a lot of other things as well.”

Susie: “I mean the coverage has been, as expected, extremely laudatory. We in this country, but [also] all over the world, there's this tendency when someone dies to brush over the more complicated parts of their history and just do this outpouring of positive reporting. But one thing that's been interesting for me to watch is there's been a real controversy about that on Twitter from people of color who have rightfully pointed out that, you know, she oversaw this monarchy that has a really complicated history of colonialism. For a lot of people of color, she wasn’t this beloved monarch, but someone who represented a certain oppression for them.”

Dan: “More broadly, I guess I would agree with Susie that some of the more skeptical reporting that ought to be done about the monarchy has really not made its way onto television. But I've seen a fair amount of it in the New York Times, which is pretty much where I've been getting most of my news about this, and you do really see a sense that maybe the monarchy is just never going to be the same again after Elizabeth moves on. I think a lot of people have just been holding their breath and now that she's departed from the scene and Charles is the king, people can ask some tough questions about, you know, why do we have this institution?”

Joanna: “It is a fascinating story and I think, yes, there will be an initial respect for the deceased and an initial bow to all of that pageantry, and then will come the reckoning and it's going to be fascinating to watch. And as an American we've been dealing with that with our own history. I went a year ago or so to Monticello, which was fascinating, and what they are doing at that institution, you know, you tour [Thomas Jefferson’s] house, you honor his contributions. But then there's a whole new exhibit about slavery at Monticello, about Sally Hemings, and the idea is, if you're going to experience this, you're going to hear the entire story, and I suspect that over time that's what's going to happen with the monarchy as well.”

 

A hot mic captures one little leaguer’s claim that ESPN was rigging the Little League World Series — a moment of frustration, or a sign that distrust of media has extended more than we thought? 

During the popular Little League World Series in August, one moment caught social media by storm when a player from Iowa was caught on a hot mic saying that a walk was granted to the opposing team from Washington because ESPN said so. The coach calmed the kids down, and Iowa did go on to win the game, but this moment reveals how media distrust and conspiratorial thinking has made its way all the way down to the Little League World Series. 

 

Mike: “I don't want to make too much out of this, but it seemed to me a tiny example of just how much distrust of media has trickled down these days.”

Susie: “I mean, look, I am not a big sports fan, but who among us has not been watching a game and … has not thought to themselves, ‘Oh, they're going to have this go another round because it'll be good for ESPN to have more content?’ Like it's just like a normal human thought to have these conspiracy theories and it's just so funny to see a little kid caught on a hot mic saying that.”

Dan: “I'm gonna express a possibly unpopular opinion and say that little league games shouldn't be on television. I don't think it contributes to the psychological health of these kids to be lauded over as if they were eighteen, nineteen, twenty year old athletes at the age of eleven and twelve.”

Joanna: “Well, as a little league parent, I was just the other day at Babe Ruth Baseball Tryout, so I have more thoughts than anyone probably should about this. First of all, I will say there are bad calls. Some of these kids have small strike zones. It’s a difficult job being an ump in one of these games.” 

 

Listen to Beat the Press here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/beat-the-press/id1610334235 

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Ira Rosen: Modern Day Cable News Reinforcing Consumers’ Ideas, Not Expanding Them

Beat the Press

On this special episode of Beat the Press, host Emily Rooney is joined by former 60 Minutes producer Ira Rosen, whose new book Ticking Clock takes readers behind the scenes of the highly successful CBS program.

By Matthew McGuirk

Episode 15 of Beat the Pres

Ira Rosen: Modern Day Cable News Reinforcing Consumers’ Ideas, Not Expanding Them

Former 60 Minutes producer Ira Rosen said during his appearance on Beat the Press that he prefers the traditional ways of journalism over the partisan and opinionated programming that fills much of our media landscape today. A cable news recording headquarters with a professional style camera

 

“Today it’s, ‘Here’s what you need to believe. This is what you should believe. This is the view.’ And there’s no margin for the back-and-forth. People are watching cable, for example, I think, to have their ideas reinforced, not to have their ideas expanded, or their opinions expanded. You want it to be reinforced. I don’t like that direction. I kind of like the old way, where the show gave you a story and allowed you to make your own mind up,” Rosen said. 

 

60 Minutes Lacking the End of Show Boost that Andy Rooney Provided, Says Former Producer Ira Rosen

When asked if he still watches 60 Minutes, Ira Rosen told Beat the Press host Emily Rooney that although he understands how shows evolve in the news business, he still misses the old times. As an example, Rosen pointed out the flair that Andy Rooney — who, yes, is the father of Emily — brought to the broadcast when he came on at the end of episodes. 

“You may know him,” Rosen said. “A guy named Andy Rooney. When he ended the broadcast, there’s something called minutes by minutes in TV, which you know about. When the minute by minutes hit at the 52-mark of the show when Andy came on it went straight up. What happens is in the audience, it normally drops at the back end of a broadcast, and what you want to do is you want to create a lead-in for the rest of the night, for the eight o’clock hour, for the nine o’clock hour. Andy was able to do that. The audience actually grew at the end. Now, I look at the show and there’s no reason to watch the show for the last 10 minutes of the show. There’s just nothing there.”

 

Former 60 Minutes Producer Ira Rosen Says Mike Wallace Saved ‘Many Lives’ by Disclosing His Depression 

60 Minutes on a ClockLong-time 60 Minutes producer Ira Rosen recounted his days working with Mike Wallace, and told Beat the Press host Emily Rooney why he thinks Wallace’s decision to come forward with his depression had a positive effect on many people.

“Mike had always wanted his stories to help change the world, to make it a better place, [and] to have people have more understanding,” Rosen said. “And I don’t think he ever thought and realized that his illness of depression and by going public about it would become one of the most important things he did in his career. It gave a lot of people the power to suddenly now get treated for it, [to] come out and reveal their depression, and to talk about it… By Mike coming out and talking about it — he would show me the letters he would get from other people who suffered from it — he really, I think, saved many, many lives.”

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Michele Tafoya Joins Beat the Press

Beat the Press

On Beat the Press, host Emily Rooney is joined by a panel of media critics to take you behind the scenes of the world's biggest and most influential media outlets featuring unusual moments that capture the public's opinion.

By Matthew McGuirk

Episode 13 of Beat the Press

On this special episode of Beat the Press, host Emily Rooney is joined by longtime Sunday Night Football sideline reporter Michele Tafoya, who departed the sports world to launch a career in politics and commentary. 

Michele Tafoya Reflects on Leaving Sunday Night Football Role 

Michele Tafoya left her position as the sideline reporter for NBC’s Sunday Night Football broadcasts earlier this year to launch a career in the political world, and she discussed what went into the decision and why it was the right move on Beat the Press. A football in black and white

“People have said, ‘You're crazy, Michele,’” Tafoya said. “But you know what, I had done it for so long, the better part of thirty years spent in sports broadcasting, and I knew I wasn't going to have forever to, as you put it, reimagine myself. So I had to do it sooner than later.”

 

America in a ‘Terrifying Spot’ as People Fear Expressing Beliefs, Says Michele Tafoya 

Following what Michele Tafoya described as an “ambush” on the Dan Le Batard Show, she addressed how certain members of society shy away from sharing things that resemble their beliefs for fear of being rejected. 

“I see my friends on Facebook,” Tafoya said. “I talk to people all over the place who, no matter which direction they lean, are sometimes really afraid to repost an article or to repost any kind of stance that reflects their values. And they're afraid because they don't want to lose friends, they don't want to lose family members, they don't want to lose their jobs. We are in a terrifying spot in America if that is a fear felt by so many, and I believe it is. I just want to sort of be out there for those people and speaking on their behalf or, better yet, encouraging them to speak with me.”

 

Michele Tafoya Points Out ‘Huge Gap’ in Thinking Regarding Abortion in America

Michele Tafoya recently spent time working on the campaign for Kendall Qualls, a Republican gubernatorial candidate who was running in Minnesota, and her position as a self-described “pro-choice libertarian” conflicted with the views of Qualls, who supports restricting access to abortion. Tafoya explained her stance on the matter, saying she is “pro-choice, with exceptions,” then addressed how polarized our country is on this topic. 

Protesters holding signs at a Pro Choice rally“I've really listened on this one because it is such a hot-button topic,” Tafoya said. “I wonder how we are so divided and it's caused so much heat in this country, this topic. But I think that a lot of it is because, again, we've only done the first stage thinking, and that is, you know, ‘no, abortion should never be allowed,’ or on the other side, ‘it's my right, don't you even come touch my reproductive rights.’ There's a huge gap there in thinking. So when is abortion okay? When should it not be okay? Are there exceptions? What are the exceptions? When are the exceptions? When do we start to recognize that that little human in your belly, yes, actually is a human, that is a viable life?”

 

Listen to Michele Tafoya on Beat the Press now!

 

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The New Yorker, CNN, and Elon Musk – Beat the Press with Emily Rooney

Beat the Press

On Beat the Press, host Emily Rooney is joined by a panel of media critics to take you behind the scenes of the world's biggest and most influential media outlets featuring unusual moments that capture the public's opinion.

This week's panel of guests includes Lylah Alphonse of The Boston Globe, Jon Keller of WBZ-TV, and former NECN anchor Mike Nikitas.

By Matthew McGuirk

Episode 13 of Beat the Press

On this episode, Emily is joined by Lylah Alphonse of The Boston Globe, Jon Keller of WBZ-TV, and former NECN anchor Mike Nikitas to discuss the viability of startup outlets claiming to be “unbiased,” Erin Overbey’s dismissal from the New Yorker, and the latest news from CNN’s rebuild and Twitter’s battle with Elon Musk.

NewsNation and Semafor — Are these startup outlets really viable in the long term? 

Former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo made headlines when he announced on Dan Abrams’ NewsNation show that he will be joining the network in a primetime role this fall. In this segment, the Beat the Press panelists discuss this news, as well as the viability of outlets like NewsNation and the digital startup Semafor, which had a less-than-stellar prelaunch event in July that was headlined by Tucker Carlson.  

 

Emily: “Dan Abrams and his staff have been saying in these ads that have been running on various other cable outlets that this is a straightforward news organization, but that does not appear to be the case. In fact, they largely have, I would say, a right-leaning tendency, but now with Chris Cuomo, that’s going to balance that out. But why even bother to say that if it’s not factually accurate?”

Mike: “It was a lose-lose situation. I just don’t understand why [Semafor] thought it was a good idea to have [Carlson] on for an interview. He ran circles around Ben Smith.”

Lylah: “A lot of people who lean farther to the left skew to MSNBC. You know a lot of people who lean farther to the right skew to Fox News. And people are kind of disillusioned with CNN. So there is a deliberate push to create a product that could appeal to people who still consider themselves to be in the middle. But, as you know, that middle? It’s really, really slim.”

Jon: “If there is research that the people bankrolling NewsNation came up with that suggests there’s a really large audience of people just fed up with slant and partisanship and just want something straight down the middle, I’d like to see that. I doubt it. I think if they do have such research it’s the result of a lot of people lying to them.”

 

Erin Overbey fired by The New Yorker — was bringing her grievances to social media to blame? 

The New Yorker Headquarters in New York CityAfter raising concerns about the magazine’s lack of diversity, New Yorker archivist Erin Overbey was put on a performance review, which led to accusations of self-plagiarism and error-filled pieces, and was later fired. In a massive Twitter thread, Overbey addressed her firing and also charged magazine editor David Remnick with inserting the errors. In this segment, the panelists discuss the situation and recognize that this is another scenario in which social media becomes a platform for airing grievances.

Emily: “I came away from this feeling like she was probably about every issue and concern she raised, but it was the way she went about it. It reminded me of a discussion we had here some time ago about Felicia Sonmez from the Washington Post, who also raised some legitimate concerns about a colleague who retweeted a sexist joke, but then she took it public and she was admonishing other people at the [paper]. She ends up getting fired. This is another example to me of that while she was probably factually correct … it was the way she went about it.” 

Mike: “I think that we do not know the whole story of her employment there over 17 years. She’s probably right about lack of diversity [and] sexism. The one particular complaint she raised that resonated with me [was] she says she was paid 20 percent less than the person she replaced, and that person had no experience as an archivist. If true, that sounds to me like a legitimate labor concern, but the question once again is, ‘How do you raise them?’”

Lylah: “I think the undying hope is that the institution will change its ways, but more likely, what happens is that the problem is eliminated. I think that’s in part what we have here. It’s really noteworthy, I think, that she points out that the New Yorker has not disputed any of her charges. They have not offered any evidence saying that what she’s done is wrong. Instead, they’ve created new charges that they’re trying to shift the focus to.” 

Jon: “The whole concept of diplomacy is in retreat, not just in journalism but in workplaces everywhere. [It’s been] replaced by a tsunami of self-righteousness and vindictiveness. In this New Yorker case, it’s possible that this person was pursuing a reasonably valid set of grievances but did it in a way that rubbed her employers raw and now she’s the target of the vindictive backlash.”

 

Chris Licht and CNN’s rebuild — What’s going on with this situation? 

New CNN CEO Chris Licht has taken on the major task of rebuilding the network amid a rough year for the network, and here the panelists discuss what his changes might mean for the future of CNN and where things still need to be improved. CNN Breaking News

Emily: “I’m a big CNN consumer. That’s basically where I go at night. I find the 9 o’clock hour has become unwatchable. I was a fan of Chris Cuomo. I never watch that morning show. I think if they want viewers in the morning, I hate to say it [but] they’ve got to get big names.”

Mike: “I do watch CNN a lot … and I have noticed some differences, maybe I was keyed into them by reading about the changes that Chris Licht had made. I think trying to reach out to members of Congress was smart. I think doing away with the ‘Big Lie’ phrase was helpful. I think doing away with or at least limiting the amount of ‘breaking news’ banners and phraseology was helpful. I think there are so many more things that need to be done.”  

Lylah: “I applaud the attempt to regain the middle ground and reach people, but I’ve told my students, I’ve told reporters a million times that once you lose trust from your audience, it’s really hard to get it back. To put it in non-media terms, if you had a favorite restaurant and all of a sudden they changed their menu, took off all the things you liked and what was left was done poorly … you stop going there right?”

Jon: “The notion that Chris Licht is running around sucking up to members of Congress — what the hell does that have to do with journalism or with CNN’s success going forward? What are those men and women going to do to help you?”

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Natalie Jacobson on Beat the Press

Beat the Press

On Beat the Press, host Emily Rooney is joined by a panel of media critics to take you behind the scenes of the world's biggest and most influential media outlets featuring unusual moments that capture the public's opinion.

On this special episode of Beat the Press, host Emily Rooney is joined by former WCVB anchor Natalie Jacobson to discuss her new book, the glory days of local Boston news, the future of the news, and much more.

By Matthew McGuirk

Episode 13 of Beat the Press

Natalie Jacobson Joins Beat the Press

Public trust in online information concerning for former WCVB anchor Natalie Jacobson

“I’m afraid for us that too many people accept whatever they read on the web. The standard should be, your information is only as good as your source. I urge people all the time, they’ll tell me something and I’ll say, ‘Gee, how do you know that?’ [They say,] ‘Well, I read it online.’ Well, what did you read online? Who said that? Are you sure? How do you know it’s true? Usually you get blank stares. People don’t check.” 

cameraman holding his professional camcorder in the street. Operator in social environment, filming, news outlet, motion-picture cameraman

News outlets prioritizing the wrong thing, according to former WCVB anchor Natalie Jacobson 

“We used to ask the question, ‘What is it, of all the things we could tell people today, that the people really need to know?’ That question changed to, ‘What will they watch?’” 

Good journalism hard to find, according to former WCVB anchor Natalie Jacobson

“You could argue there is not a lot of original reporting going on. There’s a lot of copying — the Post said that, the Times said that, the Journal said. You could copy it if it fits you, if it suits you, meaning if it is of your opinion. That’s a very big issue. Who cares [what] your opinion [is] if you’re a reporter? People aren’t reporters so much anymore. On cable especially, they’re personalities. We’ve seen that with Fox, we see it with CNN, and we see it with MSNBC. It’s very hard to find good journalism.”

 

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Bill O’Reilly Joins Beat the Press

Beat the Press

On this special episode of Beat the Press, host Emily Rooney is joined by longtime Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly to discuss the state of the news business.

By Matthew McGuirk

Episode 11

Listen to the full episode now on Muddhouse Media.

Bill O’Reilly criticizes modern media outlets, claims the news excludes important stories

Bill O'Reilly“Our job was to assemble information and back up that information with factual verification. That’s what our job was. That’s not what is happening now in any spectrum of the electronic news media. Therefore, you’re not getting a fair presentation but even worse, Emily, Americans are missing very important stories.”

Fox News, other cable outlets declining in a ‘preach to the choir’ era, says Bill O’Reilly

“Fox News is in tremendous decline if you look at their daily numbers. And the reason is… they’re basically trying to please a certain segment of their viewership. When I was there, and you know my record and my ratings, [there were] far more viewers and they were spread out over a wide spectrum of political beliefs because we did research; we knew who was watching. But that’s been abandoned because it is a lot easier to preach to the choir, to just tell people what they want to hear. That’s what all television news agencies are doing, not just Fox, and that has led to a diminishment of audience.”

Echo chambers have led to a ‘social civil war,’ according to Bill O’Reilly  

“The key thing is: people believe what they want to believe. Very few Americans are actually seeking ‘the truth,’ or valid information from sources that are based upon facts. They’re seeking information that they already believe and they want it reinforced. And that’s why we have the social civil war in this country where people can’t come to any consensus about anything because they’re all in their own spheres believing what they want to believe.”

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From Wimbledon to Nashville, catch up with MuddHouse Media in June 2022!

The MuddHouse Media Logo on the Glen Campbell Museum in Nashville, TN during CMA Fest 2022

From banning Russian athletes at Wimbledon to CMA Fest in Nashville, find out what the hosts and partners of MuddHouse Media have been up to this June!

By Matthew McGuirk

The MuddHouse Media Logo on the Glen Campbell Museum in Nashville, TN during CMA Fest 2022

MuddHouse Media on Broadway in Nashville

MuddHouse was featured at the CMA Fest in Nashville earlier this month when Country Music Success Stories hosts Candy O’Terry, and Jacy Dawn Valeras hosted live interviews with top country talent. 

 

 

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“It is an honor to see MuddHouse Media’s visibility on the iconic street of Broadway in Nashville for CMA Fest this year,” said MuddHouse Media CEO Kris Meyer. “Candy and Jacy are two best in class podcast hosts and partners to MuddHouse.”

Patrick McEnroe Headed to Wimbledon

Holding Court host Patrick McEnroe headed to the Wimbledon tennis tournament in London, where he’s covering the event for ESPN from June 27 to July 10. 

 

McEnroe penned an opinion piece for CNN, where he argued against Wimbledon's decision to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from the event.

Beat the Press Addresses Important Questions about Mass Shooting Coverage

Following the tragic shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, Beat the Press dedicated an entire episode to discussing the role of the media in covering these mass shootings. Host Emily Rooney was joined by Lylah Alphonse of The Boston GlobeDan Kennedy of Northeastern University, and Joanna Weiss of Experience Magazine as they addressed the media contagion effect, covering the shooter, releasing photographs of the deceased, and the politics of guns. 

 

 

Rooney and her panel made the decision to record this single-themed episode to foster an important conversation about covering this recurring problem in the U.S.

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A Deep Dive into the Coverage of the January 6th Hearings

Beat the Press

On Beat the Press, host Emily Rooney is joined by a panel of media critics to take you behind the scenes of the world's biggest and most influential media outlets featuring unusual moments that capture the public's opinion.

This week's panel of guests includes media consultant Susie Banikarim, former NECN anchor Mike Nikitas, and Jon Keller from WBZ-TV.

By Matthew McGuirk

Episode 8 (3)

On Beat the Press, host Emily Rooney is joined by a panel of media critics to take you behind the scenes of the world's biggest and most influential media outlets, featuring unusual moments that capture the public's opinion. On this episode, Emily is joined by media consultant Susie Banikarim, former NECN anchor Mike Nikitas, and Jon Keller of WBZ TV to discuss the January 6th hearings, the 50th anniversary of Watergate, and the recent Twitter showdown at the Washington Post.

January 6th Hearings — How was the story told on Fox News?

On the first night of the January 6th hearings, Fox News relegated its coverage to the lesser-watched Fox Business Channel and kept its primetime programming in place on the main channel. In this segment, the Beat the Press panelists discuss Fox’s decision to hide its viewers from the committee’s presentation and also touch on the testimony provided by Chris Stirewalt, a former Fox News political editor who was fired for calling Arizona for Joe Biden in the 2020 Election.  

Emily: “I actually worked at Fox for about two years, I guess it was when Roger Ailes was in charge. I can relate to what happened to this Chris Stirewalt because we were all always intimidated. Like, if you didn’t go along with the party line, somehow they were going to get you. They did get me, by the way. But here he is, doing something that was bold and, turns out, accurate … and then they end up firing the guy. It’s just stunning.”

Mike: “Fox not playing the first [hearing] in its entirety or just playing it in the background, to me that was really, really telling while Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity talked about it. You know, ‘We don’t think you are smart enough to be shown and decide for yourself.’ It made a mockery once again of their old slogan, ‘We report, you decide.’”

Susie: “I think what’s really depressing here is that they went a step further, which is they counterprogrammed it. They killed all their commercial breaks that night just to make it so that if they had viewers who were just even willing to flip over and catch a few minutes of it, they couldn’t do that because there [were] never any breaks.”

Jon: “Fox’s decision to do what they did that night [will not] cost them. They’ve made a lot of money, and they continue to top the ratings by creating this alternative reality for their audience, which is this warm bath of grievance and far-right conservatism. Tucker Carlson has made a fortune doing the same thing. Remember when he was sued? The defense was, ‘Well, he makes stuff up. This isn’t news.’ It works. It makes money. It gets ratings. They’re going to stick with it.”

Watergate and January 6th — Are the situations comparable? 

Recording just days after the 50th anniversary of the Watergate scandal, the Beat the Press panelists acknowledge the event’s impact on American journalism and also debate whether former president Richard Nixon’s actions are comparable to Donald Trump’s on January 6, 2021. 

the United States Capital BuildingEmily: “I think people have their own versions of reality, and they’re seeking the outlets that give that to them. They don’t think what happened on January 6th was a big deal. They’re certainly not going to compare what Trump did to Watergate because Richard Nixon was taken down, and Donald Trump will not be.”

Mike: “It’s so different now. I mean, [what] Richard Nixon did at that time looks to me like petty theft compared to Donald Trump. At least Nixon resigned. Trump committed and is still committing sedition and treason with every Truth Social post and every speech.”

Susie: “We just have this media ecosystem that’s so different from what it was back then. It’s so fractured. There’s so many different versions of reality that are being presented to readers and viewers … I think Nixon might have survived in this post truth world where we have competing truths. It’s really hard to present one version of reality because there’s always someone willing to present this totally alternate version of reality.”

Jon: “I think that the political media landscape is a lot tougher now than it was then… Nowadays, the scrutiny is much more intense. The landscape is much more harsh. The fact is I don’t think people like to be lied to and stolen and cheated by their power brokers any more than they did then.”

To Tweet or Not to Tweet — What can we learn from the recent Twitter debacle at the Washington Post?

Following a tweet storm from then Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez, which came in response to a sexist tweet from currently-suspended reporter David Weigel, Sonmez was fired by the paper for her public feud with colleagues and leadership. The incident has raised two thought-provoking questions in which the Beat the Press panelists discuss. First, how much tweeting should a reporter actually be doing? And second, is there a “correct” way to handle these situations?

Emily: “The shocking thing about all of this was that rather than sending text messages or internal emails to each other, this whole thing played out publicly online. The joke was not funny, and it’s immature. David Weigel started this, and he got what he deserved if you ask me, a minor [one month] suspension. The idea that you would take this public, I find that shocking that a reporter at a major newspaper like the Washington Post would do that.”Old Post Office building with Benjamin Franklin Statue, Washington DC, United States

Mike: “First off, the retweet was sexist, and it was stupid, let’s just say that. Twitter, in my mind, is not a conflict resolution tool, and that includes Felicia Sonmez. There’s an old saying in news about not getting into a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel full. We all remember that, right? Well, don’t get involved then in a Twitter war with someone who not only buys it by the barrel full but also happens to be your employer.” 

Susie: “Clearly, the environment for Felicia was not healthy, and she expressed that in a way that was not productive. The fact that she went online and immediately called out Dave, it’s not how I would have handled it. But the other challenge here is that it’s easy for us to [say] ‘don’t tweet’, but for a really long time in these newsrooms, reporters were told they had to tweet. Part of the way they had to maintain their jobs was to be really public on Twitter … There just doesn’t feel like there was an easy way to handle this.”

Jon: “I’ll tell you what the policy should be: ‘Never tweet. Never. If you want to work here, no tweeting.’ That’s it. That’s actually good advice for any young aspiring journalist listening to this podcast.”

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The Media and Mass Shootings: The Contagion Effect, Covering the Shooter, Photographs, and Politics — Beat the Press with Emily Rooney

Beat the Press

On Beat the Press, host Emily Rooney is joined by a panel of media critics to take you behind the scenes of the world's biggest and most influential media outlets featuring unusual moments that capture the public's opinion.

This week's panel of guests includes Lylah Alphonse of The Boston Globe, Joanna Weiss of Experience Magazine, and Dan Kennedy of Northeastern University

By Matthew McGuirk

Episode 8 (2)

The Media and Mass Shootings: The Contagion Effect, Covering the Shooter, Photographs, and Politics — Beat the Press with Emily Rooney

On Beat the Press, host Emily Rooney is joined by a panel of media critics to take you behind the scenes of the world's biggest and most influential media outlets featuring unusual moments that capture the public's opinion. On this episode, Emily is joined by Lylah Alphonse of The Boston Globe, Joanna Weiss of Experience Magazine, and Dan Kennedy of Northeastern University to discuss the role of the media in covering mass shootings in the aftermath of shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas.

Media Contagion — Does the press contribute to shooting contagion?

Between academic studies and TED Talks, the idea of a contagion effect has been connected with media coverage of mass shootings. Given the prevalence of shootings in the United States, the Beat the Press panelists discuss the media's responsibility in covering these events and whether or not the coverage motivates future shooters.

A news conference about the begin with a camera pointing at a news anchorEmily: "I think there is a contagious effect. And by the way, I think that we don't do enough to separate out the types of mass shootings. Over the weekend, there were reported dozens and dozens of mass shootings. They're different genres … And I do, however, agree that this idea that by reporting all this stuff, we're suggesting, 'Hey, why doesn't somebody try to kill more than 19 people in an elementary school?'" 

Dan: "It's not the sort of thing that we can't report, so I think that what we need to think about is, 'How do we report it?' I think that the worst thing we can do—and yet it's what we see from cable news — is to just go live and stay there on and on and on again … I do think that studies show that this saturation coverage of mass shootings is possibly leading to more of them, and I think that we have to step back and say, 'How can we do this in a better way?'"

Lylah: "I don't think you can only blame the media for a contagion effect. I think that when you talk about the media, people are usually talking about the big cable news stations. But people are also getting this information, this wall-to-wall coverage, from social media, from Twitter threads where people are just spinning off on their own about their own theories, [and] from blogs and Facebook groups where people talk about conspiracy theories. And I think all of that together is where the contagion is coming from, not just the traditional media." 

Joanna: "The events that have transpired since the mass shooting at the school in Texas have proven why it's important to have media coverage. That is because the party line, the line that came from law enforcement from the moment it happened, turned out to be, in many ways, misleading and wrong. You have to have that media watchdog group … and in that sense, the more, the better. The more watchdog coverage, the more people are holding public officials to account after these events, the more you get to the truth."

Naming the shooter — Should the media report the shooter's name?

Whenever these incidents occur, some reporters and anchors simply refuse to name the shooter in an attempt to deny them whatever glory they may have been seeking. CNN's Anderson Cooper is known for following this policy, for instance. This leads the Beat the Press panelists to discuss the effects of this technique and whether or not it is a good standard to follow when reporting the news. 

Emily: "I would challenge almost anybody to come up with the names of most of these people. Most people can do Newtown, Adam Lanza. I can do Parkland, Nikolas Cruz. I couldn't tell you the Orlando nightclub guy's name. I could not tell you the Las Vegas [shooter's name]. Those people killed more than 50 people … I come down on the side of it's a point of information. You got to report the name. But I agree with Lylah, it doesn't have to make them a big media star."  

Dan: "One of the guidelines that I look at is a group called NoNotoriety, which grew up after one of the terrible shootings … The point that they made is exactly the point that we're making. Initially, you have to report the name of the shooter. But after that, you don't need to keep repeating it. And I have to say, I think that most news outlets have been going along with that. I've seen very few invocations of the names of the shooters in Buffalo or in Uvalde. It seems to me that the media are doing what they've been asked to do, and again I don't know if it's making any difference." 

Lylah: "I'm torn. I think that when the name is released when the name is discovered, that's news. That is a point of fact. I think people want to know who did it … But once it's been reported once initially, I don't think it needs to be brought up over and over and over again. I don't think we need to do the old-fashioned print [news] thing of recapping every point that we've come up with before in every story going forward. I would be in favor of reporting the name when it's released and then just referring to them as 'the shooter' after that and not calling more attention to that person." 

Joanna: "Most of the coverage that I've read has mentioned the name of the shooter once and then referred to him as 'the gunman' through the rest of the story. It has not diminished the impact of anything or my understanding of the event, and I think if that is the new media standard, that's terrific."

Photographs — Should the photographs of murdered children be released?

Despite the frequency of mass shootings, lawmakers are often criticized for their failure to effectively address the political issues at hand, such as gun control. CNN's Jake Tapper recently suggested that maybe releasing the photographs of the slaughtered children would force our politicians to step up, and this prompts the Beat the Press panelists to discuss the value of such an idea. 

Emily: "I come down on the side of this that the photographs should be released, not to change the course of legislation [but] because it's part of the news cycle. It's what happened. I've been very consistent about this my entire life. 

Dan: "I am coming down on the side of not publishing the pictures. I don't see that it would do any positive good, and I think it could do a great deal of harm. The kinds of people who are turned on by this might be inspired to do more. The gorier the pictures, the better, for their twisted purposes."

Lylah: "No matter what photos are released or aren't released, you're going to have a segment of the population that believes these are crisis actors and none of this really happened, or that it's a red flag operation and it was staged. You will not be able to reach those people no matter what you do."

Joanna: "I think it's part of the story of what these AR-15 weapons can do. It's part of what needs to be a public understanding about how these weapons work."

The politics of guns — Is it ever too soon to bring the politics of guns into media coverage following a shooting?

In virtually all mass shootings, people who immediately voice their support for gun control legislation are criticized for "politicizing" a tragedy. In this segment, the Beat the Press panelists debate this belief and discuss if it is ever "too soon" to address the political issues surrounding mass shootings. No Firearms Allowed Sign, An red road sign with handgun icon and not symbol with blue sky background

Emily: "I would argue, once again, that it's never too soon to bring it up. Even while Uvalde was unfolding, I was flipping around, but I was mostly on CNN. They were bringing up the issue of gun legislation. They were saying that it didn't make any difference in Sandy Hook, it didn't make any difference in Parkland, [and] it's unlikely to make any difference this time. You kind of want to hear that … There was so much other misinformation coming out that day, [so] why not discuss something else that we know is a real underlying theme to all of these shootings?"

Dan: "It's not politicizing the issue to immediately start asking, 'How can horrible events like this be prevented in the future?' One of the possible pieces of legislation that's being discussed is an expansion of red flag laws. Well, how do we make that work the way they're intended? One of the most shocking aspects of the Buffalo shooting was that the shooter had apparently threatened to shoot up his school, and the police questioned him under the red flags, and he was somehow able to convince them that he was joking. Well, how did that happen? It's a horrifying thing to hear, but it's also an important public policy question." 

Lylah: "Talking about how did the shooter get an AR-15-type weapon, how do we prevent people from getting their hands on this weapon in general, why does anyone need this weapon, [and] what ways are there to prevent the spread of these weapons, all of those are legitimate things that there is never a good time to talk about other than right when it's happening, right when you need to know. Otherwise, it gets shoved to the background until there's another incident and people don't want to talk about it."

Joanna: "Legislation is part of the story because legislation is how people get access to these weapons in many cases. It certainly was in the case of Uvalde, Texas, where this was an 18-year-old who, the day he turned 18, was able to walk into a store and, with no background check and with no questions asked, was able to purchase these weapons and this ammunition … Access to guns is part of the story, and so the laws that create that access to guns are part of the story." 

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Great Replacement Theory, Roe v. Wade Leak Blame Game – Beat the Press with Emily Rooney

Beat the Press

On Beat the Press, host Emily Rooney is joined by a panel of media critics to take you behind the scenes of the world's biggest and most influential media outlets featuring unusual moments that capture the public's opinion.

This week's panel of guests includes media consultant Susie Banikarim, former NECN anchor Mike Nikitas, and Dan Kennedy from Northeastern University.

By Matthew McGuirk

Episode 8

Great Replacement Theory — What is it, and do believers care about the facts?

Following the Buffalo, N.Y. shooting, the Beat the Press panelists discuss Fox News and Tucker Carlson’s mainstreaming of “Great Replacement Theory” while also pointing out the broader implications that come with it. 

Emily: “It is easy to look at Tucker Carlson because he is mainstream media. He’s got a platform that millions watch. But it’s the underground element of this, that the connections through things like 4chan, 8chan, Discord—whatever these things are—memes, jokes, and it’s all about feeling threatened. So it’s not even a bigger thing; it’s nothing they can point to specifically. So how can we, the media, tap into something like that and stop somebody like the Buffalo shooter? My guess is he doesn’t watch Tucker Carlson; he doesn’t even know who he is.”

Dan: “What Tucker Carlson’s role is in this, and by the way, it was interesting that he said, ‘I don’t know what replacement theory is,’ and then he went on to describe it perfectly. His role in this is the mainstreaming of it. This is actually becoming a fairly prominent thread in Republican discourse... We have this continuum of the really dark, crazy stuff that you can find if you go looking for it, up to what actually has become a mainstream show like Tucker Carlson, up to Republican politics.”

Mike: “I think Tucker Carlson himself said that this 18-year-old was mentally ill. I agree with him. I also believe that without Tucker Carlson and the environment that he has helped to mainstream, this might not have happened. There are plenty of mentally ill people teetering on the fence of acting out. Tucker Carlson, and his ilk, help to push them over, in my belief.”

Susie: “The audience that’s watching Tucker Carlson is mostly older Americans in the middle of the country. But what is really important is that politicians watch his show, right? We know there’s this pipeline of these ideas that are considered fringe that the Fox News hosts bring into the mainstream and then give GOP politicians the green light to be able to embrace in a way that they may not feel comfortable doing if they didn’t see those ideas mainstreamed.”

The Blame Game: Who leaked the Supreme Court’s Roe v Wade decision and why?

Following the leaking of a potential Supreme Court decision to overturn the Roe versus Wade decision, the Beat the Press panelists discuss the situation and wonder what matters more: discovering who leaked it or covering the consequences of this decision. 

Emily: “Isn’t the bigger issue the leak itself? It seems like we’ve gotten into this whole discussion about the ‘whodunit,’ which, once again, I have to say, it can’t be that hard to figure out who did it.”

Lady Justice outside the Front Columns of the Supreme Court

Dan: “I have to depart somewhat from some of my progressive friends who are blasting the media for focusing on the leak because the Republicans want the focus to be on the leak. So, therefore, ‘Oh, you’re playing into Republican hands.’ No, I think who leaked it is very important, and I also think it’s important to know what the political motivations were.”  

Mike: “I also think we could be overthinking this — why it was leaked and who leaked it. It could have just been a clerk with ego who did it in a fit of anger. But again, to me, it doesn’t matter in the final analysis who leaked it. The horse is now out of the barn, we’re dealing with the implications, and states are changing their laws, and that’s what we should be focusing on.”

Susie: “Obviously, this is the kind of story the media loves, right? They love a whodunit and a palace intrigue, and I think because this is unusual for the Supreme Court, people really want to focus on that. But I tend to be on the side that this doesn’t matter. If you’re a woman in Texas, and you’re trying to figure out if you can still get an abortion one state over... you don’t care who leaked this memo or this draft opinion. You just don’t care. What you care about is how this is going to impact your life and how soon and what it means, and that’s a story we’re not as interested in because it doesn’t feel appealing to our sense of a good story.”

"Trump Backed" Candidate

Given the repeated use of the phrase “Trump-backed” in media coverage of the midterm elections, the Beat the Press panelists discuss the value of this kind of reporting. 

Emily: “Other than Mehmet Oz, no one knows who any of these candidates are. It’s just that they are the ‘Trump-backed’ thing. I guess what I’m saying is the media is playing a role in that by reemphasizing and reinforcing this idea that the other guy, not the Democrat, is the Trump-endorsed candidate, thereby giving him or her this artificial boost. It’s a fact that the candidate is Trump-endorsed, but is that the most important thing? Apparently so.”

Dan: “There’s more to this. Trump-backed candidates are doing well in some places. They are losing in other places. Maybe that means that Trump’s influence isn’t really that important? I don’t know. And we’re also not necessarily learning everything we need to know about who some of these people are.”

Mike: “The Trump playbook is pretty well known and the kinds of things he stands for and the kinds of things the candidates he endorses stand for. Certainly, we would have to maybe dig a little deeper, and perhaps local media in those local elections [and] state elections are doing that. But again, I think he is a huge part of the calculus of this election cycle; he is the biggest part of it. And I don’t think we can ignore it.”

Susie: “Of course, it is still important to evaluate how much Trump is still a factor in the GOP because that is going to matter now, it’s going to matter in the midterms. But I do think this is an example of the flattening that happens in political coverage in this country that I just generally think is bad practice because it’s part of trying to turn everything into a horse race. If you don’t want to actually do the work of explaining the differences between these candidates, it’s just much easier to refer to them as the Trump-backed candidate.”

UAP or UFO? 

Here the panelists discuss the Department of Defense’s efforts to change “unidentified flying objects” to “unidentified aerial phenomena.” 

Emily: “Listen, I predict that term won’t fly with the public or the media. What exactly is the government trying to do here? On one point, they’re actually admitting what people have been saying all these years that there are unidentified flying objects... it’s almost like they’re going to create a greater conspiracy theory.”

A courthouse in Washington D.C.

Dan: “Of course, it’s not going to catch on, and I think the government is fully aware that the public is going to continue to refer to these as ‘UFOs.’” 

Mike: “I have often said that the two greatest gets in the history of journalism will be the first interview with an alien and the first interview with a ghost. Until that happens, I am a doubting Thomas.”

Susie: “I get there are some things serious here, and it needs to be looked at, and maybe they can do a short, closed-door session. But doesn’t this feel like something they want to do because it’s more fun than addressing all of the myriads of problems they could actually be trying to sort out in this country?”

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