Murdoch embraces liberal approach to curb Facebook, Google

Rupert Murdoch is aligning himself with some strange bedfellows — ivy tower academics and policy wonks — in calling for strong regulation of companies like Facebook and Google.

Murdoch is famous for his conservative views on regulation, but as the owner of Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and many other publications, he has frequently criticized social-media companies for not adequately compensating news publishers, even as the platforms benefit from their content.

Robert Thomson, the CEO of Murdoch’s company, News Corp., took a step beyond criticism last week in an investor call, when he advocated the creation of an “algorithm review board,” which would essentially regulate the secret formulas platforms use to determine, among other things, what news is shown to which people.

“I find myself surprisingly applauding them for calling for this kind of accountability,” said Mike Ananny, a professor of communication at the University of Southern California Continue reading “Murdoch embraces liberal approach to curb Facebook, Google”

Fox News appoints first female CEO

Fox News named Suzanne Scott as its new CEO on Thursday, marking the first time a woman has led the cable news network. Scott, who as president of programming oversaw the opinion side of Fox’s lineup, will also run Fox Business Network.

Scott’s appointment comes after a string of sexual harassment complaints cost the network its founding chairman and CEO, Roger Ailes, and its most visible personality, Bill O’Reilly. It also marks a potential victory for the network’s opinion hosts, who dominate cable ratings at night with their largely pro-Trump views, but who have clashed at times with the network’s news side.

The move was announced by Lachlan Murdoch, who one day earlier was named as chairman and CEO of the new Fox company that will emerge, should Disney’s deal for several major 21st Century Fox assets go through. Rupert Murdoch, his father, will serve as co-chairman of the Continue reading “Fox News appoints first female CEO”

Sinclair circling Sean Hannity

Sinclair Broadcasting is zeroing in on Sean Hannity’s team.

As its executive chairman David Smith prepares to launch a competitor to Fox News, he has met in the last few months with the executive producer of Hannity’s top-rated show on Fox, Porter Berry, according to two people familiar with the meeting.

Berry is not the only person connected to Hannity who Smith has gone after. The Sinclair boss has also been wooing Sean Compton, a Tribune Media programming executive who is close friends with the Fox host.

Meanwhile, Smith has been meeting with other potential future employees, including several current and former Fox News on- and off-air staff, such as Greta Van Susteren and Trump favorite Jeanine Pirro. But targeting the top producer linked to Fox News’ number one talent represents a major shot across the bow.

Fox News and Sinclair did not respond to requests for comment.

Smith Continue reading “Sinclair circling Sean Hannity”

Avenatti threatens conservative outlet

On Sunday, a national news outlet published a report about a high-profile public figure who allegedly failed to pay his bills, has a past marked by legal conflict, and, according to a juicy anonymous quote, is a voracious self-promoter who craves attention. On Monday, the aggrieved subject threatened to sue the reporters.

If that sounds like it could be a story about President Donald Trump, it turns out that the subject was actually his number one public antagonist, Michael Avenatti.

The report, published by the conservative Daily Caller News Foundation, included the allegation that Avenatti, when he owned a coffee chain, stiffed a wholesale roaster on $160,000 in bills. It also cited a March complaint to the California State Bar by vendors accusing Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, of running a “pump and dump scheme,” and quoted from a 2013 lawsuit affidavit from Avenatti’s business partner, the actor Continue reading “Avenatti threatens conservative outlet”

Fox, Sinclair vie for executive with ties to Hannity

As Sinclair Broadcast Group ramps up its plans to build a competitor to Fox News, the two companies are both interested in the services of a programming executive with a very notable distinction: close friend to Sean Hannity.

Sinclair executive chairman David Smith has had multiple conversations with Sean Compton, president of strategic programming and acquisitions for Tribune Media, including one at SW Steakhouse in Las Vegas in April, during a conference for the National Association of Broadcasters, according to a person familiar with the meeting. Over their meal, Smith and Compton discussed show development for a three-hour block of news-opinion programming, according to the person. Sinclair’s proposed $3.9 billion deal for Tribune, Compton’s current company, is currently awaiting approval before the Federal Communications Commission.

Many Tribune Media executives will be released from their contracts if the merger does go through, and Compton has also held talks with high-up Continue reading “Fox, Sinclair vie for executive with ties to Hannity”

Trump blindsides Sanders — again

“We give the very best information that we have at the time.”

That was White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ response when ABC reporter Jonathan Karl asked her during Thursday’s press briefing how the American people could trust a president and White House that “show what appears to be a blatant disregard for the truth.”

It was a line she repeated again and again in her 17 minutes of taking questions from reporters in the briefing, the first since it was revealed that President Donald Trump had repaid Michael Cohen the $130,000 in hush money the lawyer delivered to porn star Stormy Daniels — knowledge of which both Trump and Sanders had previously denied.

Not just in Thursday’s briefing, but overall, “the best information we have at the time” has become something of a go-to line for Sanders — her version of apparently throwing up her arms Continue reading “Trump blindsides Sanders — again”

Sinclair preps to challenge Fox News

Sinclair Broadcast Group, which for months has denied any interest in challenging Fox News while awaiting approval of a merger with Tribune Co., is gearing up to do just that.

Sinclair executive chairman David Smith has been holding meetings with potential future employees, including former Fox News staff members, and laying out a vision for an evening block of opinion and news programming that would compete with Fox’s top-rated lineup, according to a person familiar with the meetings.

Sinclair currently owns the Tennis Channel, and, as part of the $3.9 billion Tribune deal pending before the Federal Communications Commission, would acquire WGN America, a cable network that currently reaches 80 million homes.

Smith, who has been personally involved in at least some of the meetings, still appears to be working through several aspects of the plan, including which of those networks would house his news and opinion programming. Continue reading “Sinclair preps to challenge Fox News”

Baby Breitbarts to pop up across the country?

In March, Congresswoman Diane Black, a top candidate for governor in Tennessee, put out a campaign ad that seemed at first glance to be utterly textbook: a scene of President Donald Trump embracing her played while a quote from a local news outlet is displayed in the foreground: “President Trump to Rep Diane Black: ‘You Came Through’ on Tax Reform,” it read, citing a headline from the Tennessee Star.

Close watchers may have had just one question: What is the Tennessee Star?

Visitors to its website would have had a hard time figuring that out. Though it looks like a normal newspaper site, many — if not most — Star stories lack a byline, and at the time the ad debuted the site had no masthead nor information explaining who owns or runs it. A click on the “Contact Us” tab revealed a phone number, a couple of email addresses, Continue reading “Baby Breitbarts to pop up across the country?”

The Puzzle of Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is best known to the American public for running the White House daily briefing, a televised performance in which, without so much as raising her voice, the president’s press secretary manages to deflect questions, flatly contradict facts and generally throw wet blankets over the countless fires burning around the administration of Donald Trump. But the most Sandersesque moment yet may be one that happened away from the West Wing, at a little-publicized February event in downtown Washington. She was appearing alongside Mike McCurry, who had held the same position under Bill Clinton, on a panel about the job. McCurry was letting her have it.

“You have got to have an administration that’s committed to respect the role of the free press,” McCurry said. “You cannot have a president who declares them to be the enemy and goes out and describes them as fake news every day.”

Continue reading “The Puzzle of Sarah Huckabee Sanders”

MSNBC’s surging ratings fuel Democratic optimism

Democratic strategists are seeing a new reason for optimism about the midterms: soaring ratings for liberal-leaning MSNBC.

Fox News and CNN both lost viewers from the first quarter of 2017 to the first quarter of 2018 — dropping 16 percent and 13 percent, respectively — as did pretty much every major cable network, according to Nielsen. MSNBC, on the other hand, surged to a 30 percent gain in the same period.

While Fox News held its standing as cable TV’s No. 1 network both for total day and prime time, MSNBC finished second in both categories, enthusing Democrats who see the rise of the network — powered by the liberal commentary of star host Rachel Maddow — not just as a reflection of energy within their base, but as a tool to help candidates in the coming elections.

“You saw all the money that Doug Jones was able to raise Continue reading “MSNBC’s surging ratings fuel Democratic optimism”

Sinclair CEO says ‘extremists’ trying to bully company

Sinclair Broadcast Group CEO Chris Ripley apologized to employees Tuesday for having to endure what he called “politically motivated attacks” over the right-leaning media company’s recent promos, which drew widespread criticism for echoing President Trump’s attacks on the “fake” news media.

In a memo sent to staff, Ripley defended the scripts that anchors at more than 60 Sinclair stations were compelled to read, telling staff that the practice “is not unique to Sinclair, however, the blowback we received for doing so certainly is.”

“For having to field nasty calls, threats, personal confrontations and trolling on social media, I am truly sorry you had to endure such an experience,” Ripley wrote. “However, as an organization it is important that we do not let extremists on any side of the political fence bully us because they do not like what they hear or see.”

A Sinclair spokesperson did not immediately Continue reading “Sinclair CEO says ‘extremists’ trying to bully company”

Wall Street Journal staffers accuse editor of suppressing story

Wall Street Journal staff members circulated an anonymously written email on Thursday accusing “a senior editor” – which some later identified as editor-in-chief Gerry Baker — of suppressing a story and accompanying graphic because they were too liberal.

The email urged staffers to begin tweeting the graphics-heavy story at noon, which many did. The story and graphics detailed the country’s recovery from the 2008 financial crisis but also included information on how economic inequality had increased.

A Journal spokesman denied that the editor had suppressed the story.

“This project first published Tuesday morning and has been online ever since,” a Journal spokesman said in a statement to POLITICO. “The team will be adding additional reporting and analysis on the crisis and its aftermath.”

It’s that “additional reporting and analysis” that apparently caused the tension in the Journal newsroom that spilled out publicly Thursday afternoon.

One person familiar with the Continue reading “Wall Street Journal staffers accuse editor of suppressing story”

Ben Shapiro to take his podcast to radio

Ben Shapiro, the conservative firebrand whose clashes with liberal academia have helped him attract a huge social media following, will be taking his podcast to old-fashioned radio.

Starting on April 2, Westwood One will be syndicating the podcast, called The Ben Shapiro Show, as a one-hour program in several major markets, including New York, Washington, and Los Angeles.

The move will bring the 34-year-old Shapiro, often seen as a leading voice of young conservatives, into the same arena as the older generation of conservative talk radio standard-bearers, like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. With his 1.27 million Twitter followers and, according to Westwood One, 15 million podcast downloads per month, some observers can see Shapiro rising quickly through the ranks of conservative radio.

“He certainly has big potential and, unlike some of these other guys, he has more staying power because he has attracted a younger audience,” said Brian Continue reading “Ben Shapiro to take his podcast to radio”

Conservative outlets take on Facebook

Add another item to Facebook’s growing list of headaches: Conservative publishers are complaining that the social media network has unfairly targeted their traffic.

In January, Facebook announced that it would be changing the algorithm for its newsfeed, reducing the overall amount of posts users see from publishers, and prioritizing, in CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s words, “news that is trustworthy, informative, and local.”

While news outlets across the board have been hurt by the change, there is a growing feeling in the conservative news world that sites that tilt right have been hit particularly hard.

“Facebook is not a neutral host, it has a political agenda,” Fox News host Tucker Carlson said on his show last week, taking up the issue. “It’s an act of ideological warfare, and it’s far more worrying than anything that Cambridge Analytica has done, or is accused of doing.”

Several conservative outlets have certainly experienced Continue reading “Conservative outlets take on Facebook”

Breitbart’s readership plunges

Breitbart, the alt-right news site whose executive chairman Steve Bannon was pushed out in January after feuding with President Donald Trump, has lost about half its readership according to comScore, raising questions about its future.

The site dropped from 15 million unique visitors in October, per comScore, to 13.7 million in November, 9.9 million in December, 8.5 million in January and 7.8 million in February.

Its comScore figure for January was down 51 percent from the same month a year earlier, and the February number was down 49 percent from 2017. Last month was the site’s least trafficked since February 2015, four months before Donald Trump declared his candidacy for president.

There are several potential causes for Breitbart’s troubles, including changes to Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm, amped up investment in digital by Fox News, and the shifting status of Bannon. Once Trump’s campaign chairman, White House strategist, Continue reading “Breitbart’s readership plunges”

CNN draws raves for emotional town hall

CNN’s town-hall format — often maligned for feeling like canned or manufactured for TV – came alive Wednesday night as parents and survivors of last week’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, produced two hours of riveting, emotional television that may actually have moved the nation’s dialogue on guns.

It seemed to mark a breakthrough for the network, which has struggled to present itself an independent arbiter of moments of national crisis, while competitors Fox and MSNBC achieved greater ratings growth by pushing more hours of opinion-host programming.

“I had never been able to get over the suffused phoniness of the ‘town hall’ format. But last night on @CNN proved me wrong. Extraordinary event,” tweeted New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen.

The network did 23 town halls in 2017, according to its own count, and another two so far in 2018, on topics ranging from Continue reading “CNN draws raves for emotional town hall”

Russia pushes more “deep state” hashtags

After the success of the viral #ReleaseTheMemo campaign, Russian-influenced Twitter accounts are test-running other hashtags designed to stoke anger, particularly among supporters of President Donald Trump, against “deep state” forces, according to analysts at Hamilton 68, a website that tracks Russian influenced Twitter accounts.

Last weekend, a host of new hashtags trended in the network of accounts monitored by Hamilton 68, including #fisagate, #obamadeepstate, #wethepeopledemandjustice, #thememorevealsthecoup and even #obamaslegacyisobamagate.

None of those have taken hold, but the flurry of new efforts indicated to Bret Schafer, an analyst for the Alliance for Security Democracy, which runs Hamilton 68, that the Russians would continue to push issues related to the “deep state.”

“There’s still a ton of activity,” Schafer said. “It does look like they’re looking for the next hashtag… They’re clearly looking for the next step in this process.”

Some of the hashtags tied former President Barack Obama Continue reading “Russia pushes more “deep state” hashtags”

GOP voters trust CNN, N.Y. Times over Breitbart, InfoWars

Led by President Donald Trump, Republicans have railed repeatedly against The New York Times, Washington Post and CNN — but, as a group, they trust mainstream sites like those more than “fake news” sites or even highly partisan outlets like Breitbart and InfoWars, according to a Yale study that directly mirrored the methodology being used by Facebook to identify “trusted” sites.

By the same token, Democrats hold a definitively dim view of Fox News, but still rate it as more trustworthy than most fake and hyperpartisan sites.

The Yale study, published on Tuesday, suggests that as Facebook conducts its own surveys, designed to help the massive social network rank its own news feeds, mainstream media organizations could get a boost over fake and highly partisan sites.

The authors of the study — psychologists David Rand and Gordon Pennycook—said their findings suggest that Facebook may have developed a highly effective tool Continue reading “GOP voters trust CNN, N.Y. Times over Breitbart, InfoWars”

Conservative media get a jump on memo’s release

Fox News had it first, then the right-leaning Washington Examiner. Conservative outlets were the first in the media to see the Republican-written FISA memo on Friday, leading some to allege that the apparently selective leaking of the document only amped up its partisan stakes.

The memo officially posted on the House website at 12:12 p.m. on Friday.

But nearly 30 minutes earlier, at 11:45 a.m., Fox News reporter Catherine Herridge appeared on air and reported, “Fox News can now confirm that the four-page memo has been declassified.”

Herridge then provided viewers with highlights from the memo.

In addition, the Washington Examiner’s Byron York started tweeting about the memo’s contents at 11:48 a.m., the same time that a story on it went up on the Examiner’s website.

The Federalist was the first site to post the full memo, with co-founder Sean Davis tweeting at 12:16 Continue reading “Conservative media get a jump on memo’s release”

Trump more presidential? Pundits say no

In the run-up to President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union, the White House billed the speech as conciliatory and unifying, leading many to believe that pundits would follow suit, with hosannas about Trump’s “presidential” delivery—similar to what was offered a year ago, after Trump addressed a joint session of Congress.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the TV set. Trump delivered a speech that hit on many divisive themes—particularly around immigration—leading to a much more cautious appraisal by the chattering class.

On CNN and MSNBC, pundits even avoided saying “presidential” immediately after the speech—a word that became loaded in the days before the speech.

On CNN, Jake Tapper said that Trump had one hand “reaching out” to Democrats, but “the other hand holding up a fist."

"This really is the mystery of Donald Trump, the riddle of Donald Trump, the enigma that he will Continue reading “Trump more presidential? Pundits say no”