From Tom Jones | Poynter <[email protected]>
Subject WH to news outlets: Ramp up impeachment scrutiny
Date September 14, 2023 11:30 AM
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The letter, sent to prominent newsroom executives, notes that House Republicans have produced no evidence of a crime. Email not displaying correctly?
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** White House to news outlets: Ramp up scrutiny of unfounded impeachment inquiry
The Capitol is seen under dark clouds in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023. Earlier in the day, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., announced to reporters that he is directing a House committee to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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The White House sent a letter to executives at The New York Times, The Associated Press, CNN, Fox News, CBS News and others Wednesday, urging them to “ramp up” scrutiny of House Republicans’ impeachment inquiry of President Joe Biden.

The letter notes that House Republicans and Speaker Kevin McCarthy have produced no evidence of a crime and said that should “set off alarm bells for news organizations.”

“Impeachment is grave, rare, and historic,” says the letter ([link removed]) , from Ian Sams, special assistant to the president and senior adviser and spokesman for White House Counsel’s Office. “The Constitution requires ‘treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.’ But House Republicans are publicly stating they have uncovered none of these things.”

McCarthy, under pressure from far-right members of the House, asked three House committees to begin the inquiry Tuesday.

“While news organizations have published innumerable fact checks on the matter,” CNN’s Oliver Darcy reports ([link removed]) , “they have also often failed to robustly call out the mis- and disinformation peddled by Republicans in their coverage, frustrating officials in the Biden White House who believe that the news media should be doing more to dispel lies that saturate the public discourse.”

While news leaders have likely taken notice of a letter from the White House, it’s possible that the letter’s intent is less about influencing media coverage and more about making an argument that the media isn’t being tough enough on House Republicans’ unfounded inquiry in a public way.

Instead, the intended target for the message may be the public, to get them to question the coverage they see. President Donald Trump’s media bashing worked similarly; his barrage of accusations about bias and unfairness likely did little to influence coverage of his presidency, but it was popular with his base and heightened Republicans’ distrust in news media.

Then again, Axios media reporter Sara Fischer suggests ([link removed]) that the “messaging could backfire, since news outlets that point out the weakness of the GOP case will now look like they're kowtowing to White House pressure.”

By Ren LaForme, managing editor

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** Harness the power of your voice

The Power of Diverse Voices is a transformative, four-day seminar that helps journalists of color find their voices and build skills for writing opinion pieces and personal essays.

With the support of expert instructors and fellow journalists of color, you’ll develop the confidence and skills to share your unique perspective in persuasive writing.

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** Troubling news for global press freedom
In this Monday, Aug. 10, 2015 file photo, Galina Timchenko, Russian editor of the news site Meduza, speaks to The Associated Press in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

Potent spyware was discovered on the phone of Galina Timchenko, owner of the news outlet Meduza, an independent Russian news outlet headquartered in Latvia. The Washington Post’s Tim Starks reports ([link removed]) that it’s the “first known case of the powerful eavesdropping tool being used against a significant Russian target.”

The spyware, called Pegasus, can be secretly and remotely installed on a phone without any action from the phone’s owner. It can monitor the phone’s microphone and camera and access contacts, photos, notes and more. Its use is ostensibly outlawed for U.S. companies without a special license.

NSO Group, its creator, says it only licenses the spyware to governments. Starks reports, “A person familiar with NSO operations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter, said the Russian government is not a client.”

Apple notified Meduza that Timchenko’s phone had possibly been hacked when she was meeting with other Russian journalists in Germany in February, just weeks after Russia had labeled Meduza an “undesirable organization” for its reporting on Ukraine, among other topics.

Timchenko told Starks that she was most worried that whoever hacked her phone had accessed her contacts.

The Russian journalist issued a statement ([link removed]) on Meduza’s website: “Sometimes we become the heroes of our own stories: it's a rather strange experience to turn from the subject into the object. In my case, first as the object of an attack, and then as the object of an investigation. But it's at precisely these moments that you realize what good people you have in your corner: fellow journalists, developers, security specialists, and most importantly, readers. Millions of people in Russia who haven't give up, despite enormous pressure. Hundreds of thousands around the world who understand the value of freedom of speech.”

By Ren LaForme, managing editor

** Bob Boilen, known for NPR’s ‘Tiny Desk’ concerts, will retire

Bob Boilen, the creator and host of NPR’s “All Songs Considered” and NPR’s Tiny Desk concerts, will retire Oct. 2 after 35 years.

Boilen shared on X ([link removed]) , “After 35 years, I am leaving NPR. I've had the thrill of creating Tiny Desk Concerts, All Songs Considered, directing All Things Considered for 18 years and so much more. I love the people I've worked with, but it's time to find new challenges. thank you for listening/watching.”

I spoke with Boilen in April 2023 ([link removed]) , not long after the pandemic shut down most offices and the Tiny Desks became Tiny Desks at Home. He shared some of what he loves about the concerts.

“It is a true joy to hear musicians in a small room without the normal amplification that you usually hear, and to see them adapt to an odd situation, which is an office in the daytime,” he said. “It’s nerve-wracking for the most well-known as well as the most unknown musicians. It’s a building at NPR that’s full of people doing news stuff and stressed out and it’s a time where many of us, if we can break away, gather and share 15 minutes of the day.”

He also offered a couple of Tiny Desk recommendations: Superorganism ([link removed]) , Moon Hooch ([link removed]) and, of course, John Prine ([link removed]) .

By Ren LaForme, managing editor

** Media tidbits and links
* “60 Minutes” won’t change its name to “90 Minutes,” though it will gain a half hour during some programs this fall. The Associated Press’ David Bauder reports ([link removed]) that six episodes will get the extra time due to the Hollywood strikes. Bauder reports that the long shows will generally have two extra pieces, often leaning in the feature or “adventure” direction.
* DallasNews Corporation, owner of the Dallas Morning News, announced Wednesday morning that it is offering buyouts that could eliminate as many as 40 full-time and part-time jobs — a 6% reduction in head count. Poynter’s Angela Fu has more ([link removed]) .
* New York City’s Pension Funds sued Fox Corp. for neglecting its duty to shareholders by opening itself up to defamation lawsuits by repeatedly broadcasting false statements about the 2020 election. The New York Times’ Katie Robertson has more ([link removed]) .
* CNN continues to roll back changes made during Chris Licht’s tumultuous 13 months of leadership. This time, it’s something small but visible: the faux brick on the “CNN This Morning” set ([link removed]) .
* Rolling Stone published an excerpt ([link removed]) from technology journalist Taylor Lorenz’ upcoming book, “Extremely Online: The Untold Story of Fame, Influence, and Power on the Internet.” The excerpt focuses on Julia Allison, who was an influencer in the mid-2000s, before the word existed. The book comes out Oct. 3.
* Wednesday marked the debut of the online nonprofit news site The Examination ([link removed]) , which bills itself as offering “fearless health journalism” and investigative coverage of “big tobacco, big food, pollution and more.” Founder and executive director Ben Hallman ([link removed]) wrote that the site aims to fill gaps ([link removed]) in important health coverage left by industry cutbacks. On launch day, The Examination teamed up with The Washington Post to publish “The food industry pays ‘influencer’ dietitians to shape your eating habits.”
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** More resources for journalists
* Meet Anderson Cooper at Poynter’s annual Bowtie Ball in Tampa, Florida, on Saturday, Nov. 18. Tickets are selling fast. Get yours today. ([link removed])
* Power of Diverse Voices: Writing Workshop for Journalists of Color ([link removed]) (Nov. 15-18) (Seminar) — Apply by Sept. 15 ([link removed]) .
* Poynter ACES Introductory Certificate in Editing (Online) — Enroll now ([link removed]) .
* Subscribe ([link removed]) to Poynter’s Friday newsletter, Open Tabs ([link removed]) with Poynter managing editor Ren LaForme, and get behind-the-scenes stories only available to subscribers.

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