From Tom Jones | Poynter <[email protected]>
Subject Margaret Brennan and Chuck Todd show their skills
Date January 30, 2023 12:30 PM
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Brennan and Todd used facts to press Kevin McCarthy and Jim Jordan in separate interviews on Sunday. Email not displaying correctly?
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** Face the press! Sunday morning moderators Margaret Brennan and Chuck Todd show their skills in contentious interviews
CBS “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan, right, interviewing House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Sunday. (Courtesy: CBS)

It’s not an easy job. They deal with uncooperative guests and often get nitpicked and slammed by media observers like, well, yours truly.

But the moderators of the Sunday morning news shows still are valuable when they are prepared and ready to challenge — like we saw, in particular, with two of this past Sunday’s shows.

Let’s start with CBS News’ Margaret Brennan and her interview with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy ([link removed]) .

Brennan pressed McCarthy on several of his committee assignments, starting by laying out some facts — a constant in her questions as moderator of “Face the Nation.”

“According to CBS records, 70% of the House GOP members denied the results of the 2020 election,” Brennan said. “You've put many of them on very key committees, Intelligence, Homeland Security, Oversight. Why are you elevating people who are denying reality like that?”

McCarthy said, “Well, if you look to the Democrats, their ranking member, (Jamie) Raskin, had the same thing, denied Trump — when Bush was in there. Bennie Thompson, who was the …”

In other words, McCarthy’s answer was full of whataboutism.

Brennan tried to interrupt, at one point saying, “I'm asking you, as leader of Kevin McCarthy’s House.”

But McCarthy kept bringing up what he said Democrats did, including more than 20 years ago.

Brennan then asked about naming Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene to the new subcommittee to investigate the origins of COVID-19.

Brennan said, “She compared mask requirements to the type of abuse Jews were subjected to during the Holocaust. She called for Fauci to be arrested and imprisoned, and she spread conspiracy theories. How is anyone supposed to take that work seriously and find that work credible?”

McCarthy, despite Brennan pushing back, said, “I think what the American public wants to see is an open dialogue in the process. This is a select committee where people can have all the questions they want, and you'll see the outcome.”

McCarthy mostly ducked her questions, but give Brennan credit for trying to get the speaker to talk about newly elected representative George Santos, who has been exposed for multiple lies about his past.

Brennan said, “So, you're just not going to answer the question I asked?” (That’s perfect.)

McCarthy said, “Well, no, I — no, you don't get a question whether I answer it. You asked a question. I'm trying to get you through that.”

Brennan fired back, “I don't think you've said the name George Santos, like, once. … I have asked you a few times.” (Again, perfect response.)

All in all, a good job by Brennan. McCarthy wasn’t going to answer her questions directly, but she asked several follow-ups, interrupted when she needed to and at least exposed McCarthy for some of his decisions that he really wouldn’t attempt to defend.

Meanwhile, Chuck Todd did a similar solid job on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” during his interview with Ohio Republican Congressman Jim Jordan ([link removed]) . Jordan accused the FBI of weaponizing a search on Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home prior to the 2022 midterms. But Todd came prepared.

He said, “There was nine months between the initial action. … The (NationalArchives) requested documents before they even turned it over to the Justice Department. The subpoena was issued 60 days before they actually executed a subpoena. And more importantly, the only time the public found out about it is because Donald Trump told the public about it. You paint it as a picture of the FBI did this, this and this within hours of each other, when it was actually a year and a half of Donald Trump not complying with any of the requests from National Archives. A year and a half! This is not some sort of proof that somehow they’ve been weaponized and playing politics.”

Again, great use of facts.

Jordan said. “They raided Trump’s home. They haven’t raided Biden’s home.”

And Todd snapped back, “Because Biden didn’t defy a subpoena, Congressman. (Trump) defied a subpoena.”

The Sunday shows have, unfortunately, become a game of moderators asking good questions and politicians ducking those questions in order to push their (or their own party’s) agenda. But it’s important for the moderators to ask questions as Brennan and Todd did on Sunday, if for nothing else than to hold to account the politicians who bother to show up for the interviews.

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** One more thing …

On the topic of “Face the Nation,” Brennan also had a solid (and rare) bipartisan conversation ([link removed]) with Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

They discussed documents discovered by former presidents and vice presidents, as well as the United States’ complicated relationship with China and what the future might hold.

** Robach and Holmes out at ABC
Former “GMA3” hosts Amy Robach and T.J. Holmes, shown here last May. (Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

It was a month ago that ABC News pulled “GMA3” co-hosts Amy Robach and T.J. Holmes off the air after there were media reports that the two married (but not to each other) personalities were having an affair. So you kind of figured it was headed to a scenario where the co-hosts exited the network.

That has now happened. ABC News president Kim Godwin announced in a memo Friday that Robach and Holmes are leaving ABC. Godwin wrote, “I know that this has been a distraction for so many of us, but let’s not forget all the great work that continues to make ABC News the #1 news network in America, and that’s because of you. I want to thank you again for your patience and professionalism during this time.”

Well, to be fair, it has been a distraction because ABC News dragged this out. What might have happened if ABC News simply put Robach and Holmes back on the air?

In a statement, an ABC News spokesperson said, “After several productive conversations with Amy Robach and T.J. Holmes about different options, we all agreed it’s best for everyone that they move on from ABC News. We recognize their talent and commitment over the years and are thankful for their contributions.”

I’m still trying to figure out how this all ended up in Robach and Holmes leaving the network. Many details are not known. And perhaps there is something that hasn’t been revealed publicly that made it impractical for the two to return to the air.

But two consenting adults — neither of whom reports to the other — in a relationship doesn’t seem like a fireable offense. Is it kind of shady behavior from Robach and Holmes? To some, it might be. Is it embarrassing for the network? Clearly, the network believes it is. But should the network be playing morality police? Is the network now in the business of deciding who can be in a relationship with whom?

Again, maybe there is more here than has been publicly revealed. Maybe Robach and Holmes wanted out after all this. Their exit package is probably a lucrative one. But if Robach and Holmes are out just because they were having an extramarital affair with one another, it sets an interesting precedent.

“GMA3” has used rotating co-hosts since Robach and Holmes have been off the air. No word yet on what ABC will do in terms of permanent co-hosts.

** Memphis media coverage

Media coverage of several Memphis police officers beating Tyre Nichols to death was absolutely necessary and important. The release of the video showing the beating was the biggest story in the country on Friday. The family of Nichols, and their legal representatives, spoke to the media and coverage of that was absolutely imperative.

So let me be clear, I’m not saying the story should not have been covered and covered thoroughly. But I must admit there were a few moments on Friday afternoon where I wondered if CNN’s hourslong and almost nonstop coverage prior to the video’s release was the right thing. (MSNBC had similar coverage.)

Veteran journalist Wesley Lowery tweeted ([link removed]) Friday afternoon, “​​I’m not sure what the right answer is, but there is something untoward/icky about the spectacle of counting down to the video release like this.”

Lowery was right. And I don’t know what the right answer was either.

Again, this is not to say CNN’s coverage wasn’t good or respectful or important. But the “countdown” aspect of it, as Lowery said, felt untoward and, I’ll add, it felt like it could build up even more outrage.

Here is more coverage following the release of the video:
* A New York Times visual investigation from Robin Stein, Alexander Cardia and Natalie Reneau: “71 Commands in 13 Minutes: Officers Gave Tyre Nichols Impossible Orders.” ([link removed])
* Also in The New York Times, Jesus Jiménez, Mark Walker, Steve Eder, Joseph Goldstein and Mike Baker with “Scorpion Unit Emerged as Memphis Pursued Get-Tough Strategy.” ([link removed])
* The Washington Post’s Robert Klemko, Silvia Foster-Frau and Emily Davies with “Black Memphis police spark dialogue on systemic racism in the U.S.” ([link removed])
* The Washington Post’s editorial board with “On violent policing, we say ‘never again’ but we get ‘once again.’” ([link removed])
* The Associated Press’ Aaron Morrison, Claudia Lauer and Adrian Sainz with “Tyre Nichols case revives calls for change in police culture.” ([link removed])
* CNN’s Jen Christensen with “To cope with release of violent videos, manage stress and know your own limits.” ([link removed])

** The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette violated federal labor law, judge rules

For this item, I turn it over to Poynter’s Angela Fu.

A judge for the National Labor Relations Board ruled ([link removed]) Thursday that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette violated federal labor law by failing to bargain in good faith with the union representing the paper’s journalists.

The Post-Gazette also illegally imposed working conditions on the journalists without their consent and unlawfully surveilled employees engaged in union activities, administrative law judge Geoffrey Carter found. He ordered the newspaper to restore the union’s contract that had expired in 2017 and to resume bargaining within 15 days of the union’s request. Carter also ordered the Post-Gazette to reimburse workers for lost earnings and benefits resulting from the working conditions it had imposed in 2020.

“This ruling undoes years of illegal behavior by the Post-Gazette and tells it loud and clear that when workers stand and fight together, they win,” Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh president Zack Tanner said in a press release.

The union has been on strike since Oct. 18 in part because the Post-Gazette, which is owned by Block Communications, has refused to negotiate a new contract. They have also objected to the company’s decision to terminate health insurance ([link removed]) for their colleagues in the advertising, production and distribution departments, who are also unionized and striking.

The workers will continue their work stoppage, which has surpassed 100 days. Tanner told the Pittsburgh Union Progress ([link removed]) , the strike paper created by Post-Gazette workers, that the ruling puts the union “closer to victory” but is not in place yet.

Post-Gazette spokesperson Allison Latcheran wrote in an emailed statement that the company will appeal: “We strongly disagree with the Administrative Law Judge’s decision and will appeal the decision to the NLRB in Washington and, if necessary, to the Court of Appeals.”

** Sad news
Longtime college basketball announcer Billy Packer, left, talking with former college basketball coach Bob Knight in 2009. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

Billy Packer, the longtime college basketball analyst who called the Final Four for 34 years, died last week. He was 82. His son, Brandt, said the cause was kidney failure.

Packer was, by far, the leading college basketball analyst for decades. He called every Final Four from 1975 to 2008, most of them (27 years) for CBS. In 1979 for NBC, along with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire, called the championship game between Magic Johnson’s Michigan State and Larry Bird’s Indiana State. That game remains the highest-rated college basketball game with a 24.1 Nielsen rating — meaning nearly a quarter of the country was tuned in.

Packer was known for his straightforward, no-nonsense (and some say cantankerous) commentary that often riled up passionate college hoops fans.

Longtime broadcast partner Jim Nantz told The New York Times’ Richard Sandomir ([link removed]) , “He had the ability to make every fan base feel he was against them, and he relished that role. He wore the black hat better than anyone I’d ever seen. … North Carolina thought he was in the bag for Duke. Duke thought he was pro-North Carolina. He loved it.”

Packer even took on his own network. In 1998, upset with “60 Minutes’” coverage of scandals in college basketball, Packer told the Los Angeles Times’ Larry Stewart ([link removed]) , “‘60 Minutes’ is a cancer in our organization, and you can quote me on that. I don’t care how much money they bring in.”

Packer played at Wake Forest and helped lead his team to the Final Four in 1962. But he is best known for being, arguably, the greatest college basketball analyst in history.

Sandomir added, “Mr. Packer said that broadcasting was a hobby for him, compared with his interests in real estate and golf course development and art collecting. He also pursued other paths: He hired a psychic to find the knife used in the murders of O.J. Simpson’s former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman in 1994. And he started a defense fund for Richard Jewell, the security guard who was wrongly suspected of planting a pipe bomb in Atlanta that killed one person and injured more than 100 during the 1996 Summer Olympics.”

** Hot type
* The Atlantic’s Jemele Hill with “The NHL Is Gutless.” ([link removed])
* The Washington Post’s Michael O'Sullivan with “The 22 movies we hated in 2022 — and how to watch them, if you must.” ([link removed])
* Now that we have our Super Bowl matchup, it’s never too early to start prepping for the Feb. 12 big game. The Wall Street Journal’s Pervaiz Shallwani with “One Big Super Bowl Party: Fresh Takes on Nachos, Dips and More.” ([link removed])

** More resources for journalists
* Time for a new job ([link removed]) ? Your future employer is looking for you on The Media Job Board — Powered by Poynter, Editor & Publisher and America’s Newspapers. Search now! ([link removed])
* Discover quality online information in a flash. Learn how in MediaWise’s free 7-day mobile course, Find Facts Fast ([link removed]) .
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* Lead With Influence ([link removed]) (Feb. 2023) (Seminar) — Registration ends today, Jan 30 ([link removed]) .

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