August 4, 2017 Last Updated 8:29 am

Post and WSJ get major scoops on Thursday, so NYT gets snippy and pretends it never happened

Morning Brief: Rodale bids were due on Thursday and several expected bidders have decided to pass, as magazine publishers are finding it increasingly hard to get the big deals completed

The summer may finally be arriving — the news cycle summer, that is. One assumes July and August will be light on big news as the Congress takes its recess in late July, and much of Europe heads out of town in August. But thanks to the new president, this summer has been unusual.

Today, however, the president heads to his country club in New Jersey where he begins a 17 day vacation. This will pretty much even up the time he has spent at the White House, which Alan Shipnuck, who writes for Sports Illustrated and GOLF magazines, claims he called “a dump”, and his own properties, which can bill the government the rooms and entertainment. Being president has certainly been a shot in the arm for his resort business.

Yesterday The Wall Street Journal (paywall) reported that a grand jury has been impaneled in Washington DC has part of Robert Mueller’s investigation into the president and his campaign. This story, along with the Post’s publishing of transcripts of the president’s conversations with the leaders of Mexico and Australia, made Thursday yet another news filled, crazy day.

But grand juries work quietly, and though one will hear reports of White House staffers and others being led in and out of the court house to testify, likely little news will come out of the process… until major news comes out. Maybe, just maybe, we will get a more normal August news month now. We’ll see.

That the two big stories yesterday — the grand jury and phone transcripts — were broken by two of The New York Times‘s rivals must have driven Times editors nuts. How they react in these situations is interesting. Try finding a report on the grand jury inside the NYT today. It’s not there. The NYT doesn’t like to report the news of its crosstown rivals if he can’t get independent confirmation of the story. They are a bit sensitive about being scooped. How this serves the interests of their readers is unknown.

The Post, too, decided to leave the grand jury story off its front page, though it later fessed up to being scooped and is now featuring it prominently on its website.

Its excuse may have been that it had their own big scoop — the transcripts.

The Washington Post, Greg Miller, Julie Vitkovskaya and Reuben Fischer-Baum:

‘This deal will make me look terrible’: Full transcripts of Trump’s calls with Mexico and Australia

Peña Nieto: This is what I suggest, Mr. President – let us stop talking about the wall. I have recognized the right of any government to protect its borders as it deems necessary and convenient. But my position has been and will continue to be very firm saying that Mexico cannot pay for that wall.

Donald Trump: But you cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that and I cannot live with that. You cannot say that to the press because I cannot negotiate under those circumstances…


Donald Trump: I think it is a horrible deal, a disgusting deal that I would have never made. It is an embarrassment to the United States of America and you can say it just the way I said it. I will say it just that way. As far as I am concerned that is enough Malcom [sic]. I have had it. I have been making these calls all day and this is the most unpleasant call all day. Putin was a pleasant call. This is ridiculous.

Malcolm Turnbull: Do you want to talk about Syria and DPRK?

Trump: [inaudible] this is crazy.

Slate, Michelle Goldberg:

“You and I Against the World” — Trump’s phone call transcripts show how hard it is to make deals with world leaders when you’re an extreme narcissist

It has long been obvious to everyone but the most credulous rubes that Mexico was not going to pay for Donald Trump’s border wall. The leaked transcript of Trump’s Jan. 27 phone call with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto—published Thursday by the Washington Post, along with a leaked transcript of a call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull—shows that this was obvious to Trump as well.

Throughout his bombastic campaign, Trump presented himself as a tough and skilled negotiator who could extract concessions from recalcitrant foreigners. Many Americans who knew Trump from The Apprentice and who mistook reality TV for reality believed him. But once Trump got on the phone with Peña Nieto, he neither made demands nor offered an ingenious deal that the Mexican president couldn’t refuse. Instead, he wheedled for help in getting better press coverage, which has always been what he cares about most.



Yesterday was the deadline for publishers and others to submit a bid if they are interested in acquiring Rodale, publisher of Men’s Health, Runner’s World and other brands. Keith Kelly of the NY Post reports that Bonnier Corp. and Ziff Davis won’t be among the bidders for the company.

The two companies most media observers would be interested would be Meredith and Hearst, with American Media Inc. possibly interested, as well.

The problem, as Time Inc. discover recently is that having a decent sized portfolio of titles isn’t a positive in these circumstances as most publishers really only covet a few titles. For instance, I’m sure that if Time Inc. were to put Southern Living up for sale a number of the company’s rivals would express interest. American Media Inc., to give another example, is said to only be interested in Men’s Health.

The problem is that it would be hard to sell off titles piecemeal and end up where you want to be.

Reed Business Information, in 2009, began to sell off its titles, but was left having to shutter many others when buyers couldn’t be found. Later, RBI sold off some of their shuttered titles for pennies on the dollar just to get something out of it.

Rodale’s portfolio isn’t huge, compared to its rivals, so it should be able to package it whole to someone. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of the bidders end up being a private equity firm, one that really just wants to buy low and then sell off the titles one by one, hoping it can make more money this way.

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