July 7, 2017 Last Updated 1:20 pm

NYT copy desk editors told to accept buyout offers; Gannett to take over printing of Cox Media Group Ohio newspapers

Morning Brief: CNN finds itself in another mess of its own creation, a sign that the cable news network would be better off without its current president, Jeffrey Zucker

This has already been a big day in media M&A, at least in the UK, where Future plc announced it has acquired Centaur Media plc’s Home Interest division, and Dennis announced it had acquired MoneyWeek from Agora Publishing.

As someone who has been in the media mergers and acquisitions game, I know that sometimes that deals are bittersweet, with the acquiring company often letting go some or all of the staff of the property they are acquiring. Small companies sell to big ones, making the industry less diverse and interesting. It is why, when I had the change, I returned to being a publisher. M&A can be lucrative, but also depressing (if you actually care about the industry, which I find most in M&A really don’t).

But the deals in the UK look like they won’t effect many jobs. The same can’t said for what is happening today in the US.


This morning the Dayton Daily News announced that Gannett Publishing Service has been contracted to begin printing the Cox Media Group Ohio newspapers at its Indianapolis facility. The papers in the group are the Dayton Daily News, the Springfield News-Sun and the Journal-News.

Rob Rohr, Ohio market vice president and general manager of Cox Media Group Ohio, said that “for the overwhelming majority of our customers, there will be no changes,” but the papers also said that about 75 full-time and 60 part-time employees will be effected by the change.

Yesterday, it appears, was D-Day for copy desk editors at The New York Times, as the paper began to implement their announced plan to streamline editing.

As copy desk editors were pulled into HR meetings, they were told that they should accept buyouts, a sign that there would be no future job for them at the paper. Of the 100 or so positions that had existed, around 50 to 55 will remain.

“We’re really outraged by the coldness and the way this whole process has gone,” Grant Glickson, the president of the New York NewsGuild, told Poynter’s Ben Mullin.

After last week’s brief, symbolic walkout by union staff, the hope was that the NYT would listen to their editorial people and not implement, or at least scale back the plan. In the end, the way the paper chose to roll out its staff reduction has people a bit perturbed.

Poynter, Ben Mullin:

New York Times copy editors are being encouraged to take buyouts today

“People here are baffled and bitter, in part because there was some confusion at first about what the people summoned in to meet with senior editors today were being called for,” a source told Poynter. “At first, some thought it was for the promised second interview that was part of the application process for editors whose jobs are ending. It gradually became clear that this was not the case.”

Some editors continued to do their jobs as they waited for their meetings even though they knew what was about to happen, the source said. At least one emerged from his meeting and sat back down at his desk.

How exactly does CNN’s president, Jeffrey Zucker, continue to keep his job. He comes off as the slimiest of characters, hiring the worst of the worst in order to boost ratings, setting up standards then breaking them just as quickly.

Last week, the cable news network seemed to move awfully quick to react to a situation where a story that was single-sourced went sour. Three CNN employees resigned over the matter.

But then this week we have the network getting itself into trouble by adding a line to a story written by Andrew Kaczynski. His story involved him finding the dope who created the Trump wrestling GIF, a troll named “HanAssholeSolo” who had a history of posting anti-semitic material. Kaczynski did not out the man, who seemed rather scared that his identity would be discovered, and who posted an extensive apology on Reddit, though he later deleted it.

Someone at CNN decided to add a line that some felt was a threat, that the network would reserve the right to out the man at a later time should be return to posting anti-Semitic and other offensive remarks.

The awkward addition has led to trolls and others harassing Kaczynski and his family.

Zucker, who has had no problem hiring those who he knows have major conflicts of interests, such as Corey Lewandowski, is allowing his reporter to take the brunt of his network’s stupidity.

Zucker needs to go.


The Daily Beast, Lloyd Grove:

High Anxiety at CNN Amid Attacks From Trump and His Trolls

The parents and wife of Andrew Kaczynski, author of the GIF story and leader of CNN’s investigative K-File team, had received around 50 harassing phone calls each by Wednesday while other K-File team members had ugly messages—apparently from Trump supporters—left at their homes.

“The only thing I worry about is somebody getting hurt,” a CNN insider told The Daily Beast, speaking on condition of anonymity because this person is not authorized to discuss internal network operations. “These far-right trolls are really threatening people and coming after people. Somebody’s gonna do something stupid at some point.

“People really, really worry about the safety of all the prominent people who represent us on the air, and the people who are breaking news they don’t like, or people in senior management…I fear for all of them.”

The Washington Post, Erik Wemple:

Hey, CNN, what happened to those all-important standards?

CNN granted “Han” anonymity in its treatment of the whole shebang. Whereas CNN usually grants such a privilege to sources “because of the sensitivity of the matter” or “because of the sensitive nature of the visit” or “because this person works with the White House,” this time, the news outlet mustered a far more baroque explanation for the move:

CNN is not publishing “HanA**holeSolo’s” name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same.

CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.

Rarely have three sentences provided so much fodder for media criticism. The long-winded explanation for anonymity establishes one heck of a precedent. Private doers of misdeeds can rejoice; if they can convince CNN that they are making appropriate amends and striving to become a role model in some way or another, then hey, the network will keep their names out of the news. Right?

One other reason Zucker needs to go is that no one can trust him to deal with a situation that looks to be coming at the network fast.

The president appears to be blackmailing the cable news network, threatening to hold up a merger its parent company wants in order to get CNN to be silent.

CNN is owned by Turner Broadcasting System, which is owned by Time Warner. Time Warner wants to merge with AT&T and would need the Department of Justice to sign off on the deal. It’s a deal that could run into trouble with any administration, so a rejection of the merger could easily be justified by the Trump administration without it being obvious why they are doing so.

If CNN is to function as a real news outlet it would help to have someone steady at the helm.

(HuffPost is taking a bizarre angle on the story, claiming that Trump would want Zucker out in order to approve the deal. Seems the opposite is more accurate as Zucker has acted as Trump’s man at the network. In any case, I am not linking to the HuffPost story as the site is a mess of auto-play video and pop-ups.)

The New York Times, Michael M. Grynbaum:

The Network Against the Leader of the Free World

…CNN’s troubles have been compounded by a series of recent self-inflicted wounds — not least a high-profile retraction of a sensitive article about one of Mr. Trump’s close allies, which last week led to the forced resignations of three veteran journalists…

…White House advisers have discussed a potential point of leverage over their adversary, a senior administration official said: a pending merger between CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, and AT&T. Mr. Trump’s Justice Department will decide whether to approve the merger, and while analysts say there is little to stop the deal from moving forward, the president’s animus toward CNN remains a wild card.

Mr. Zucker, who was ousted as chief executive of NBCUniversal after that company merged with Comcast, declined to comment on the pending deal, except to say that the merger had not affected his journalistic or management choices. “It’s not something I think about,” he said, adding that he had not discussed the proposed acquisition by AT&T with Jeffrey Bewkes, the chief executive of Time Warner.

New York magazine, Eric Levitz:

White House Warns CNN That Critical Coverage Could Cost Time Warner Its Merger

It’s worth noting that CNN has already allowed the desire to appease Trump (and his voters) to undermine its journalistic integrity. The network literally pays Trump associates Corey Lewandowski and Jeffrey Lord to lie to its audience on the president’s behalf — even as it cut ties with Reza Aslan for profanely criticizing the president on social media.

While this is the first time the administration has publicly declared its interest in using the Justice Department as a tool for stifling dissent, Trump has been encouraging Time Warner to discipline its news network for months now. In February, the Wall Street Journal reported that senior White House adviser (and Trump son-in-law) Jared Kushner “complained to Gary Ginsberg, executive vice-president of corporate marketing and communications at CNN’s parent Time Warner, about what Mr. Kushner feels is unfair coverage slanted against the president.”

On the campaign trail, Trump vowed to block Time Warner’s desired merger “because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.”

Did you see The Rachel Maddow Show last night? Me neither. I still have jet lag. By 8pm CT my body still thinks it is 3am in Rome. I went to bed.

But I missed a big segment that you really need to see. It is long, but worth viewing. Of course, Maddow stretches the story as usual, it drives me crazy, but a lot of people love the way she makes a five minute story into 20 minutes. Still, it’s worth watching.

Note: There are parts of Maddow’s segment that may have been proven incorrect (concerning the timing of the documents), but the premise, that there are those interested in spreading bogus stories so as to discredit journalists, remains an important point to be considered.

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