From Tom Jones | Poynter <[email protected]>
Subject Elon Musk’s latest petty move targeted news sites
Date August 16, 2023 11:30 AM
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** Elon Musk’s latest petty move targeted The New York Times and others
X owner Elon Musk, shown here in January. (AP Photo/ Benjamin Fanjoy, File)

Earlier this week, I was on X (the social media site formerly known as Twitter) and I saw a tweet from The New York Times. It was a link to a story, something regarding the Trump indictment in Georgia. Interested in the story, I clicked on the link.

Then, there was a delay — a few seconds — before the story popped up on my screen. For the briefest moment, I thought there might have been something going on with my computer or my Wi-Fi, but once the story appeared on my screen, I forgot all about it.

Until, later in the day, it happened again. Again, it was a New York Times story that took a few seconds to load after I clicked on a link in a tweet.

And to be honest, all this really didn’t register with me until I saw this story in The Washington Post on Tuesday: “Elon Musk’s X is throttling traffic to news and websites he dislikes.” ([link removed])

Post reporters Jeremy B. Merrill and Drew Harwell wrote that X “has begun slowing the speed with which users can access links to the New York Times, Facebook and other news organizations and online competitors, a move that appears targeted at companies that have drawn the ire of owner Elon Musk.”

Other organizations that appeared to be impacted besides the Times and Facebook included Instagram, Reuters, Bluesky and Substack. Many other news sites — The Washington Post, Fox News, the major networks and even NPR, which Musk has criticized in the past — don’t appear to be affected.

Besides being incredibly petty on Musk’s part, and being an annoyance for readers, does this mean anything at all?

Well, the Post wrote, “The delay affects the domain, a link-shortening service that X uses to process every link posted to the website. Traffic is routed through the middleman service, allowing X to track — and in this case throttle — activity to the target website, potentially taking away traffic and ad revenue from businesses Musk personally dislikes.”

** And now for the rest of the story …

Not long after the Post story appeared online, the delays calling up stories for The New York Times and the others disappeared.

Harwell, one of the reporters on the story, tweeted ([link removed]) , “And just like that, hours after our story first published, X has started reversing the throttling on some of the sites, including NYT’s. Here’s what it looks like.” He then posted a chart showing how the response time significantly dropped.

The Post updated its story with the change, although neither X nor Musk responded to requests for comment from the Post.

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** Kansas update

Less than a week after police raided the offices of a small-town Kansas newspaper and the home of its co-owner and publisher, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation has begun a criminal probe into the raid.

But, as of Tuesday, it wasn’t clear if the bureau was looking into those who conducted the raid, or into the reporters and owners of the newspaper, the Marion County Record.

According to The Kansas City Star’s Natalie Wallington ([link removed]) , a KBI spokesperson said ​​the agency will “review prior steps taken and work to determine how best to proceed with the case.”

(If you’re unfamiliar with what has happened, check out my newsletter from Monday ([link removed]) .)

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said she supports further investigation. She didn’t take sides in the matter, but put out a statement that said, “I want to make sure that in the state of Kansas, that we are not violating either individuals’ or press’s constitutional right to free speech. We look forward to getting all of the facts out so we know what kind of issue we have.”

Meanwhile, in a letter, Marion County Record attorney Bernie Rhodes demanded that authorities not look at the documents and materials they seized in the raid.

Rhodes wrote, “The computers, cell phones and other items you illegally seized contain the identity of confidential sources, as well as information provided by those confidential sources. This information is protected by both federal and state law.”

** Trump stuff

As a response to being indicted by a Georgia grand jury on Monday night, Donald Trump is going to hold a press conference next Monday. That will come just days before the Aug. 25 date when he and the other co-defendants in the case are expected to surrender.

Also, Fox Business Network’s Larry Kudlow is scheduled to interview Trump on Thursday at 4 p.m. They are supposed to talk about the economy and economic policy, but we shall see if they venture into Trump’s legal messes.

There are plenty of good stories out there about the latest Trump indictment. Here are a few:
* For her 5-Minute Fix newsletter ([link removed]) , The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips writes about why the Georgia indictment is so big.
* And here’s the Post’s Aaron Blake with “4 things revealed by Trump’s Georgia indictment.” ([link removed])
* The Daily Beast’s William Bredderman, Matt Young and Brett Bachman with “Everyone Indicted With Donald Trump in Georgia.” ([link removed])
* The Wall Street Journal’s Alex Leary, Eliza Collins and John McCormick with “Trump Fuses 2024 Election and Criminal Cases Into One Campaign.” ([link removed])
* The New York Times’ Charlie Savage with “Comparing the Four Criminal Cases Against Donald Trump.” ([link removed])
* Amy Sherman of Poynter’s PolitiFact with “8 Pants on Fire statements by Donald Trump about Georgia 2020 election.” ([link removed])

** Women in charge

After CBS News had a major shakeup of its leadership team this week, a notable trend continued to emerge. Women are running TV news.

CBS News’ changes this week ended with Wendy McMahon being named president and chief executive officer of CBS News and Stations and CBS Media Ventures, and Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews being named president of CBS News.

Meanwhile, look around at the rest of the cable and network news landscape. Kimberly Godwin is president of ABC News. Rebecca Blumenstein is NBC News president (she reports to Cesar Conde, chairman of the NBCUniversal News Group). Rashida Jones is president of MSNBC. Suzanne Scott is CEO of Fox News. And CNN’s four-person leadership team that, for now, is taking over for the recently fired Chris Licht includes Amy Entelis and Virginia Moseley.

And over at PBS, Sara Just is senior executive producer of PBS’s biggest news shows: “PBS NewsHour,” “PBS News Weekend” and “Washington Week.”

** Steele leaves ESPN
Sage Steele, in a photo from 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

After settling a lawsuit with ESPN, Sage Steele announced Tuesday that she has left the network. In a tweet ([link removed]) , Steele wrote, “Life update. Having successfully settled my case with ESPN/Disney, I have decided to leave so I can exercise my first amendment rights more freely. I am grateful for so many wonderful experiences over the past 16 years and am excited for my next chapter!”

So what’s this free speech stuff all about? During a 2021 podcast with former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler, Steele made comments about the network’s COVID-19 vaccination policy, saying, “To mandate it is sick, and it’s scary to me.”

She also talked about being biracial and then questioned Barack Obama identifying as Black in the census, saying, “I’m like, ‘Well, congratulations to the president.’ That’s his thing. I think that’s fascinating considering his Black dad was nowhere to be found, but his white mom and grandma raised him, but hey, you do you. I’m going to do me.”

She also made comments about how some female sports reporters present themselves in public and on the air.

Steele apologized for her comments, but said she was suspended for saying them. ESPN insists she was never suspended.

Then, last year, Steele filed a lawsuit against ESPN, claiming that she was forced to apologize and that her First Amendment rights were violated. There were reports that Steele turned down an offer of $501,000 to settle the case out of court back in June. The terms of the settlement are not publicly known. Steele joined the network in 2007 and is best known for anchoring “SportsCenter” and hosting the NBA pregame show.

So where does she go now? Based on many of her past comments and stances, and her nod to First Amendment rights in her tweet, don’t be surprised if she lands at Fox News or OutKick, where she is free to share her conservative viewpoints.

Meanwhile, Deadspin’s DJ Dunson wrote ([link removed]) , “Steele paved the way for this end result long before today. In Steele’s early years at ESPN, she was the awkward-but-professional third-string ‘SportsCenter’ anchor given B-List assignments here and there before getting elevated to the head of ‘ESPN on NBA’ studio shows. After a more prominent role at the network, Steele’s ego blew up and imploded her career.”

Dunson doesn’t hold back in his criticism of Steele. It’s worth the read.

** Speaking her mind

Former U.S. soccer star Carli Lloyd took some heat after her critical comments about the U.S. soccer team during the Women’s World Cup. After an uninspiring tie against Portugal, U.S. players posed for selfies and were seen dancing on the field after the game. (The tie did allow them to qualify for the knockout stage.)

While working for Fox Sports, Lloyd said on air, “I have never witnessed something like that. There’s a difference between being respectful of the fans and saying hello to your family. But to be dancing, to be smiling — I mean, the player of that match was that post. You’re lucky to not be going home right now.”

Lloyd received praise for calling it like she saw it, but also took some criticism, including from U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski, who called Lloyd’s quotes “insane.”

The U.S. was eliminated in its next game, making for its earliest World Cup exit ever.

Lloyd now tells The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch ([link removed]) , “This wasn’t anything that was scripted. This was a reaction to what I was seeing, what I was feeling, what came from my heart.”

She reiterated her criticism of the team, calling it “disjointed … not a unit, and the coaching was not what this team needed.”

As far as her initial comments, Lloyd told Deitsch, “So I think maybe I was the only one brave enough to say it how it is. I’ve always been somebody that is blunt, that’s honest, that maybe comes across to the media as being selfish, arrogant, all these words that I’ve heard about me. And that’s been pretty wild to hear because it’s really not true. I think there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, and I just saw this team go in a direction where the values that were built and instilled in this team is not what was displayed out at this World Cup.”

Check out Deitsch’s story for more from Lloyd.

** Media tidbits
* The New York Times’ Jeremy W. Peters with “Report on Anti-Gay Slur Could Put Local News Site Out of Business.” ([link removed])
* Veteran journalist Geraldo Rivera was interviewed by Mediaite editor-in-chief Aidan McLaughlin and senior reporter Diana Falzone for this week’s episode of “The Interview” podcast ([link removed]) . He talked about his recent departure from Fox News, saying he should left have long before he did. About Tucker Carlson’s theory that Jan. 6 was a false flag — an inside job by the government, Rivera said, “I was nauseous over Tucker Carlson’s premise that Jan. 6 was an inside job. I was shocked and outraged.” Mediaite’s Payton Selby has more ([link removed]) .
* NBC News has named Gabe Gutierrez as senior White House correspondent. He had been a correspondent for NBC News based out of New York. Gutierrez moves into the new role as Kristen Welker moves from covering the White House to moderator of “Meet the Press.”
* Selina Wang has joined ABC News as a senior White House correspondent. Wang was most recently at CNN, where she was based in the Beijing bureau.
* ABC News also announced that Rachael Bade and Asma Khalid are joining its political team as a contributing political correspondent and a contributor, respectively. Bade is a Washington correspondent at Politico and a co-author of Politico’s “Playbook.” Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-host of the “NPR Politics Podcast.”
* The 19th’s Candice Norwood with “How ‘Meghann Thee Reporter’ became the go-to source for information on the Tory Lanez trial.” ([link removed])

** Hot type
* The Texas Tribune’s Robert Downen with “Gen Z influencers, quietly recruited by a company with deep GOP ties, rally to impeached Ken Paxton’s aid.” ([link removed])
* For New York Magazine, Jen Wieczner with “Is David Solomon Too Big a Jerk to Run Goldman Sachs?” ([link removed])
* The Associated Press’ Janie McCauley with “Some athletes with a fear of flying are leaning on greater resources than their predecessors.” ([link removed])

** More resources for journalists
* Poynter will honor Anderson Cooper at the Bowtie Ball ([link removed]) in Tampa, Florida, on Nov. 18. Learn how to get first dibs on tickets ([link removed]) during a donor pre-sale event Sept. 5-10.
* Poynter Leadership Academy for Women in Media ([link removed]) (Mar., May & Sept. 2024) — Apply by Sept. 8, 2023 ([link removed]) .
* Power of Diverse Voices: Writing Workshop for Journalists of Color ([link removed]) (Nov. 15-18) (Seminar) — Apply by Sept. 15 ([link removed]) .

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at [email protected] (mailto:[email protected]) .
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