This is particularly bad
“Ugh, so much grim media news today.” Laura J. Nelson is tweeting about several stories, but we’ll start with Gannett, which laid off journalists across the country, and “The cuts were not minor,” writes Poynter’s Tom Jones. Tweets Holly Zachariah, “More gutting, more jobs lost, more good people losing it all in an industry to which they had dedicated a career to just wanting to make a difference and write stories that matter to people.” And Megan Cassidy notes, “My former office faced its share of layoffs in recent years but this one is particularly brutal. Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Steve Benson is among its casualties.”
It’s not clear whether the cuts had anything to do with a possible sale of Gannett to Digital First Media, but in a statement to Poynter, Bernie Lunzer, president of The NewsGuild-CWA, wrote, “Gannett is choosing the low road here — a direct result of the hostile efforts at a takeover by Digital First Media...Newsrooms that could be preserved are being decimated for Wall Street when there are productive paths forward.”
And here’s the reason Matt Wells and the rest of us are “Waking up to more depressing news for digital media.” CNN’s Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy report that BuzzFeed is laying off 15% of its staff. On Twitter, Stelter notes, “BuzzFeed staffers have been bracing for bad news for days. But this is particularly bad. About 220 of the company’s 1,450 employees will be out.”
Lukas Alpert and Benjamin Mullin are following the BuzzFeed layoffs at The Wall Street Journal, BuzzFeed to Cut 15% of Its Workforce. As Aaron Pressman puts it, “Tough times in media land continue. Blech.” Mullin shares the memo from BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti on Twitter.
In his story for The New York Times, Edmund Lee explains that, while the company generated more than $300 million in revenue in 2018 — a more than 15 percent increase from the previous year — it still loses money. “So now new media cos. are struggling. Folks, we can’t have democracy without an informed electorate,” Stephanie Strom points out.
Meanwhile, Seth Fiegerman of CNN Business reports that Verizon will cut 7% of staff from its media division. Verizon Media Group is the portfolio of media brands that includes Yahoo, AOL and The Huffington Post.
The Fyre Festival of digital media
In other grim media news, Gawker 2.0 implodes as its only reporters quit just two weeks after coming on board, reports Maxwell Tani of The Daily Beast. Former Vanity Fair writer Maya Kosoff and former Cosmopolitan writer Anna Breslaw announced in a statement to The Daily Beast that they resigned after Bustle Digital Group refused to oust editorial director Carson Griffith, who made offensive remarks about everything from race to penis size. Felix Salmon offers “Many to @mekosoff who voluntarily gave up severance $$$ she could really use so that she could tell the world about what was going on at BDG.” As Kim Bhasin says, “Gawker 2.0 is quickly becoming the Fyre Festival of digital media.” Hamilton Nolan adds that it’s a “Great time to reiterate that if you work for Bustle, New Gawker, or any other Bryan Goldberg media property, we are ready to help you unionize. Please DM me or one of your thousand other media union peers today!”
After all of this, we can only hope that students still want to pursue careers in journalism, and the good news is, if you’re a student, ProPublica Wants to Pay for You to Attend a Journalism Conference in 2019. ProPublica’s Lena Groeger has details and application links for the 20 scholarships available to help students attend journalism conferences like NABJ, ONA and IRE.
Vanity Fair has published an excerpt from Cliff Sims’ new tell-all, “Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House,” focusing specifically on what made Kellyanne Conway such a formidable player in the White House. That’s called, “She Was a Cartoon Villain Brought to Life”: A Former Trump Aide Recalls Conway’s Leaking Tactics in the West Wing Viper’s Nest. A lot of people are admiring this line: “She seemed to be perennially cloaked in an invisible fur coat, casting an all-knowing smile, as if she’d collected 98 Dalmatians with only 3 more to go.”
Kyle Griffin notes, “Ex-W.H. aide Cliff Sims says that he once watched Kellyanne Conway iMessage no fewer than a half-dozen reporters over the course of 20 minutes to, among other things, bash Kushner, Priebus, Bannon, and Spicer. All by name.” And Benjamin Landy highlights, “WOW, this Kellyanne Conway statement to VF on Cliff Sims: ‘The real leakers, past and present, get much more positive press than I do. While it’s rare, I prefer to knife people from the front, so they see it coming.’”
Overall, says Philip Bump, it’s “Perhaps as unflattering a portrait of any White House staffer as I’ve ever seen, regardless of White House.”
It gets worse
Moving on, this does not seem like a good sign. Damian Paletta and Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post report that the White House is seeking a list of programs that would be hurt if the shutdown lasts into March (30,000+ shares). As Kai Ryssdal puts it, “This is about 8 zillion kinds of bad.”
Also not giving us any comfort, the new joint statement from the air traffic controllers, pilots and flight attendants unions: Air Traffic Controllers, Pilots, Flight Attendants Detail Serious Safety Concerns Due to Shutdown. The short version, via Ben White, “Air traffic controllers and pilots are warning us that they have no idea when people may begin dying en masse because of this shutdown. If that bothers you.”
People seem to be bothered. Another poll, this one from AP-NORC, finds the shutdown dragging Trump’s approval to a yearlong low, as Emily Swanson reports for AP. In this poll, Trump’s approval has dropped to 34%, and a “strong majority” blame him for the shutdown.
Meanwhile, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross doesn’t understand why furloughed federal workers need food banks, reports Roll Call’s Niels Lesniewski, referring to Ross’s comments to CNBC. Put another way, “Commerce Secretary Marie Antoinette baffled that furloughed federal workers need food banks,” tweets Steve Silberman. Oh, “And it got worse from there,” as Staci D. Kramer points out. This is “When having billionaires in charge is a major problem,” as Patricia Murphy says.
Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner’s spokesman told the Denver Post’s Editorial Board that he will break with Republicans on Trump’s wall, and the Board writes that it’s the right thing to do, and that this shutdown “should stand as the last time our politicians abuse federal workers as though they are disposable pawns in a grander game of political chess.”
The happily ignorant rich
Back to billionaires, it turns out the billionaires in Davos hate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 70 percent tax on the rich, reports Hamza Shaban of The Washington Post. When Michael Dell was asked what he thought about it, “the audience for a Davos panel about tech and global inequality burst into laughter before he could answer.” Rashmee Roshan Lall highlights this part: “Billionaire chief exec Michael Dell on why he isn't supportive of @AOC's proposal to tax millionaires at a 70%: ‘Name a country where that’s worked — ever.’ #Davos2019 Co-panelist & MIT professor Erik Brynjolfsson jumped in: ‘the United States.’” Boom. As Don Moynihan tweets, “One thing the @aoc-led discussion of marginal tax rates has revealed is that how happily ignorant many rich people are of US economic history.”
Also happening at Davos, Wall Street Embraces Saudi Bid for Rehabilitation at Davos, report Javier Blas and Sridhar Natarajan of Bloomberg. Blas calls it “The power of the petro-dollar: barely four months after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, Wall Street moves on.”
A few Thursday must-reads
New from Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg, Republican Senator Joni Ernst Says She Was Raped in College by someone she knew and that her ex-husband physically abused her. She shared her story with Bloomberg News after divorce records that were meant to be sealed became public. Jacobs notes that Ernst, who has supported both Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh, “drew a sharp distinction between her personal experience and her political decisions.” Tweets Seema Mehta, “Whoa - a heartbreaking and incredibly brave interview from @joniernst deftly written by @JenniferJJacobs.” Francis Wilkinson’s take: “This is a stark, painful interview with Sen Joni Ernst. Hard to square with her support of a serial predator/groper and misogynist thug president. But her support of Trump is no more reprehensible than her colleagues’ support of him.”
Here’s how Andrew Roth breaks this one to us: “The bad news is Our Guys in Salisbury the board game really does exist and there are 5,000 copies on sale. There is no good news. I asked whether they would make Ukraine game: ‘There are victims there, it would be stupid to use it in a commercial project.’” Read about that in his piece for The Guardian, Novichok attack board game ‘Our Guys in Salisbury’ on sale in Russia. The game features the same cities in Europe visited by the GRU agents accused of carrying out last year’s nerve agent attack.
ESPN’s Seth Wickersham goes Inside the Cleveland Browns front office, where hope and history collide. He says it’s “My look inside the dysfunction that has defined the Browns—from Hue telling Haslam to get ‘the f— out of my office,’ to Haslam nicknaming Sashi Brown ‘Obama,’ to porn accidentally projecting in the facility—and if it’ll redefine what Mayfield can transcend.” Jimmy Traina says, “This is a must-read story on the Browns dysfunction by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham, highlighted by a hilarious ‘DP’ mix up.” Adds Ryan McGee, “Fascinating stuff from @SethWickersham on the Browns, and my Tennessee/SEC folks will be interested in the peek at the Haslams.”
The daily rhythms of this here website
And finally today, “Hello, I am here on Twitter to tell you that @fmanjoo's article about the pernicious effects of being on Twitter is very smart,” Alex Koppelman tells us. He’s talking about Farhad Manjoo’s new column for The New York Times (“My column on Covington, because it’s the law to have one”), in which he offers this advice to the media: Never Tweet. “This is the correct take,” says Mike Hogan, but not everyone thinks so. Jay Rosen, for example, wonders, “Is it really that hard to keep yourself from declaring an opinion on some blow-up that is still in motion?” And Gady Epstein tweets, “Disagree on this. On any politically charged story there are bad-faith actors highly motivated to achieve narrative supremacy, operating w/ impunity on open platforms. That’s an information challenge that journalists can't ignore.” But Manjoo thinks (tweets), “The media are just too invested in the daily rhythms of this here website. Now I will go do something else for a while while you all @ me.”