April 3, 2020

Alarm, Denial, Blame: The Pro-Trump Media’s Coronavirus Distortion

In the weeks that followed, thousands would die from the virus around the world, thousands more would be sickened across Europe and the first cases would emerge in the United States. But the tone of the coverage from Fox, talk radio and the commentators who make up the president’s zealous online army remained dismissive.

Talk show hosts and prominent right-wing writers criticized other conservatives who took the threat seriously. “Drudge has a screaming headline,” Rush Limbaugh announced on Feb. 26, referring to Matt Drudge and his website. “Flight attendant working L.A.X. tests positive. Oh, my God, 58 cases! Oh, my God. Oh, my God.” For years, Mr. Limbaugh has encouraged his audience to be suspicious of science as one of his so-called Four Corners of Deceit, which also include government, academia and media.

On Feb. 27, Mr. Hannity opened his show in a rage. “The apocalypse is imminent and you’re going to all die, all of you in the next 48 hours. And it’s all President Trump’s fault,” he said, adding, “Or at least that’s what the media mob and the Democratic extreme radical socialist party would like you to think.” His program would be one of many platforms with large audiences of conservatives — 5.6 million people watched Mr. Hannity interview the president on Fox last week — to misleadingly highlight statistics on deaths from the seasonal flu as a comparison.

On Feb. 28, Mr. Limbaugh read from an article from The Western Journal, a website that was blacklisted by Apple News last year for promoting articles Apple determined were “overwhelmingly rejected by the scientific community.” The coronavirus, Mr. Limbaugh said, “appears far less deadly” than the flu, but the government and the media “keep promoting panic.”

Joel Pollak, an editor at Breitbart News whose work on the virus has been cited by Mr. Hannity, published several articles in February and early March that highlighted the least severe symptoms and best possible outcomes. On Feb. 28, he urged people to “chill out.”

The first of more than 4,500 American deaths to date would occur the next day. Two days later, Mr. Pollak wrote another article criticizing a doctor from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who warned that the coronavirus was likely to spread. The doctor was the sister of Rod Rosenstein, the former deputy attorney general, he noted, “who was once suspected of trying to help remove the president from office.” He assured his readers that he saw “no conspiracy” — only “the ordinary problem of scientists not being very good at communicating to the public.”

Mr. Pollak, whose articles were breezier in tone than much of the coverage elsewhere on Breitbart, declined to comment.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/01/us/politics/hannity-limbaugh-trump-coronavirus.html

When All the Zingers Were Fit to Print

Rusty Unger, 74, former film executive columnist for The Village Voice I was talking to my friend Chris Cerf, saying it would be so great to do a parody of The New York Times while it was on strike. He said, “My friend Tony Hendra [an editor at National Lampoon magazine] and I were just talking about the same thing.”

Christopher Cerf, 78, former songwriter for “Sesame Street” I remember I’d been thinking of Victor Navasky’s parodies of The New York Post and The Daily News ever since they came out. He took advantage of an opportunity that the world handed him of a newspaper strike [in the early ’60s]. I always thought that was brilliant, and I just filed that fact away. I remember Victor saying that they couldn’t do The Times because they couldn’t match the typeface.

As we talked about this, we got quite excited. We thought, “I wonder if we could get some of our friends, writers that we know, involved.”

Unger Between the three of us, we probably knew every writer in New York — and, you know, all the funny people.

Frances FitzGerald, 79, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Rusty would call people up and say, “We don’t know what we’re doing exactly, but come help us.”

Cerf The real fun was when we began to find that all the people from The Times wanted to do it.

Steven Crist, 63, former Times horse racing writer I graduated in June of ’78 and went to work at The Times as a copy boy, which was the lowest rung, entry-level job. After the paper went on strike, I started going to the racetrack and tried to make a living betting on the horses. And then along came Not The New York Times.

Richard Yeend, 75, former Times designer I had no food at the time. I figured this might be an opportunity to have a free meal. I learned that was exactly what this was.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/01/reader-center/times-satire-history.html

Former Hulu Boss Will Lead WarnerMedia, Home of HBO and CNN

In his 20 months at the WarnerMedia helm, Mr. Stankey refashioned the division to focus on streaming. He invested heavily in HBO Max and made it his mission to dissolve the borders between WarnerMedia’s separate units.

Tensions between Mr. Stankey and his new charges arose shortly after the merger, at a June 2018 town hall for HBO employees in New York. At the meeting, the new boss sat on a stage with Richard Plepler, a gregarious entertainment executive who had led the cable network to 160 Emmys. Mr. Stankey warned of a “a tough year” ahead that would require significant changes. He also mentioned that HBO did not make enough money. Those were fighting words, given that Mr. Plepler had repeatedly said the best thing for the network home of “The Sopranos” and “Game of Thrones” was to maintain its independence.

People familiar with Mr. Plepler’s thinking said that he found he had less autonomy in his short run as an ATT employee. In January, nearly a year after his departure, Mr. Plepler signed an exclusive, five-year deal to produce films and shows for the Apple TV Plus streaming platform.

On Mr. Stankey’s watch, WarnerMedia also lost David Levy, who resigned as president of Turner Broadcasting, the division that includes TBS and TNT. In addition, Kevin Tsujihara, the former head of Warner Bros. studio, stepped down after accusations that he had tried to arrange TV and film roles for a woman with whom he had a sexual relationship.

The leadership team installed by Mr. Stankey includes Mr. Greenblatt, the former chairman of NBC entertainment. Mr. Zucker, the CNN head, has assumed responsibility for sports programming.

The executive who will replace Mr. Stankey is perhaps best known in Hollywood for a 2011 blog post. To many readers, Mr. Kilar’s piece came across as a blistering critique of Hulu’s corporate ownership, as well as a manifesto on the future of entertainment.

Since removed from Hulu’s corporate site, the post panned traditional TV for running far too many commercials. Mr. Kilar also blasted cable, predicting that viewers would eventually drop expensive packages.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/01/business/media/warner-media-jason-kilar-john-stankey.html

T-Mobile Closes Merger With Sprint, and a Wireless Giant Is Born

The suit was brought in June after regulators at the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission approved the merger plan. The states argued that the combination of T-Mobile and Sprint would reduce competition, lead to higher cellphone bills and place a financial burden on lower-income customers.

Letitia James, the New York attorney general, a key plaintiff in the case, had argued that the merger would cost subscribers at least $4.5 billion annually. She called the February ruling in favor of the deal “a loss for every American who relies on their cellphone for work, to care for a family member and to communicate with friends.”

With the completion of the merger, the number of major carriers in the United States stands at three — for now. To obtain regulatory approval, T-Mobile and Sprint agreed to sell off certain assets, including Sprint’s prepaid wireless business, to the satellite TV service Dish. The pay-TV operator hopes to become a new fourth carrier, in place of Sprint.

The fight for customers among the major carriers has driven subscription prices downward. The average monthly wireless bill has fallen by over 25 percent in the past decade, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Wireless carriers still enjoy fat profits, but they have flattened or declined in recent years.

The T-Mobile deal technically faces one more hurdle. The California Public Utilities Commission, which governs telecommunications services in the state, has yet to sign off on the merger.

The companies closed the deal Wednesday after Sprint made a clever technical maneuver. The company withdrew its application to the California agency after changing how it delivered voice calls. Last week, the carrier switched to an internet-based system for phone calls, meaning Sprint no longer makes use of landlines. That effectively nullified the commission’s authority over the deal, according to the company.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/01/business/media/tmobile-closes-sprint-merger.html

Cuomo Is a Media Hero in the Pandemic. De Blasio Is a Scapegoat.

And Mr. de Blasio? He was somewhere in the middle, like most of the media that is now keeping score. His painfully public three-day Hamlet act over closing schools ended with Mr. Cuomo announcing that they’d be closed just minutes before Mr. de Blasio’s planned announcement — both of them days behind some other school systems around the country. Ms. Breed had her city “shelter in place” March 16; Mr. de Blasio aired that idea March 17, to be immediately rebuked by Cuomo, who then put in a similar statewide order four days later. Today, Mr. Cuomo overrode the mayor to close playgrounds. The two have tiptoed around one another, and on Tuesday held news conferences at the same hospital ship, an hour apart.

Mr. de Blasio told me his hesitation to shut schools and, effectively, the city was focused on the city as he saw it. “The vast majority of New Yorkers are working-class people, are lower income folks, who have no option but to stand and fight,” he said. “They can’t go any place else, they don’t have an alternative to child care, they don’t have a nanny.”

And he blamed the media for overlooking those groups to focus on the more affluent classes. “Our discourse is inherently about a small subset of our people.”

The problem with his argument, of course, is that the poor get sick, too. People close to Mr. de Blasio say he erred in taking a reflexively ideological approach to a fast-moving health crisis. One former aide worried that the mayor filtered the pandemic through “a social justice lens’’ that does not work for this moment.

Mr. de Blasio rejects the criticism that he let his preoccupation with inequality overwhelm his more universal obligations. But he says the emerging story of the crisis will be about the old inequalities as much as about the new disease. The city has released largely useless data about where the coronavirus is hitting hardest. New data is nearly ready, he said, and when it’s released later this week, it will show that clearly.

“We’re going to be able to put out much more true data that will show this tracking with the health disparities that are historically known,” he said. “Coronavirus is equal opportunity, and we have to save and protect everyone — but it’s increasingly clear where we’re losing lots of people and how it connects back to historic disparities.”

Mr. de Blasio’s hair has cooled off as the briefings have gone on; he continues to drive his aides crazy by refusing to trust information, as The New York Times’ Jeffery C. Mays and Joseph Goldstein reported, until he has “processed it himself.” He’s scrambling like other executives to get supplies for the city; he was on the phone Monday, he said, with the chief executive of a Swedish ventilator company, pleading New York’s case. He’s now under fire from the right for releasing inmates from city jails.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/01/business/media/deblasio-coronavirus-response.html

CNN’s Chris Cuomo, Brother of Governor, Tests Positive for Coronavirus

“I have been exposed to people in recent days who have subsequently tested positive and I had fever, chills, and shortness of breath,” Chris Cuomo said in a Twitter post on Tuesday, adding that he was hopeful he had not passed on the illness to his wife and children. He joked that “the rest of the family seem pleased” by his isolation in their basement, writing, “We will all beat this by being smart and tough and united!”

Governor Cuomo was in the midst of a nationally televised coronavirus briefing when news of his brother’s diagnosis became public. The governor said that he had learned of Chris Cuomo’s illness on Tuesday morning, and that his brother “is going to be fine.”

“He’s young, in good shape, strong — not as strong as he thinks — but he will be fine,” the governor said, wryly. (The Cuomos often engage in on-air brotherly teasing.)

But Governor Cuomo continued at length about the more serious implications of his brother’s diagnosis, including his relief that their 88-year-old mother, Matilda Cuomo, had not moved into Chris Cuomo’s home. The governor said he had told his brother that such a move would be “a mistake.”

“You bring her to your house, you expose her to a lot of things,” the governor said. “She would have been doing what she wanted to do, he would have been doing what he wanted to do; it would have seemed great and harmless. But now we have a much different situation. Because if he was exposed, chances are she may very well have been exposed, and then we would be looking at a different situation than just my brother sitting in his basement for two weeks.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/31/business/media/chris-cuomo-coronavirus.html

The Medical News Site That Saw the Coronavirus Coming Months Ago

Stat is operated separately from The Globe, but the two split some back-office functions, occasionally run each other’s articles and share a headquarters on Exchange Place. The site’s main source of revenue is subscriptions, starting at $35 a month with discounts available. Stat also publishes sponsored content in its newsletters and has started soliciting donations.

Before it attracted a wider readership through its pandemic coverage, Stat drew praise for its investigations of the marketing and prescribing of OxyContin; IBM’s efforts to harness artificial intelligence to cure cancer, which, Stat found, fell short of the hype; and how groupthink may have stymied an Alzheimer’s cure.

With articles written in a straightforward style, Stat is meant for a general audience. But it wants to win over specialists, too — readers like William Hanage, a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, who praised the site’s coverage as “accessible” yet “still rigorous.”

“There is no single place on the internet that I would go to better update myself on the diversity of views that are out and circulating,” he said.

Dr. Hanage added that Ms. Branswell’s reporting on the coronavirus had made her “a godlike figure to people who are infectious-disease epidemiologists.”

Ms. Branswell, who has published about 50 articles on the pandemic, was a health reporter at The Canadian Press before taking on the infectious-disease beat at Stat in 2015. In October, she profiled the World Health Organization’s head of health emergencies, Mike Ryan.

“We’re not ready,” Dr. Ryan told her. “If we can’t stop Ebola, what hope do we have of stopping … Disease X?”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/30/business/media/stat-news-boston-coronavirus.html

Tech Giants Prepared for 2016-Style Meddling. But the Threat Has Changed.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, ordered a “lockdown” for hundreds of employees late last year.

A lockdown is Facebook-speak for a period of intense, focused effort on a high-priority project. The workers, who included engineers and policy employees, were ordered to drop other projects and build tools to prevent interference in the 2020 election, said two people with knowledge of the instructions.

For Mr. Zuckerberg, who once delegated the messy business of politics to his lieutenants, November’s election has become a personal fixation. In 2017, after the extent of Russia’s manipulation of the social network became clear, he vowed to prevent it from happening again.

“We won’t catch everyone immediately, but we can make it harder to try to interfere,” he said.

Facebook has since required anyone running U.S. political ads to submit proof of an American mailing address, and included their ads in a publicly searchable database. It has invested billions to moderate content, drawn up new policies against misinformation and manipulated media, and hired tens of thousands of safety and security workers.

In the 2018 midterm elections, those efforts resulted in a relatively scandal-free Election Day. But 2020 is presenting different challenges.

Last year, lawmakers blasted Mr. Zuckerberg for refusing to fact-check Facebook posts or take down false ads placed by political candidates; he said it would be an affront to free speech. The laissez-faire approach has been embraced by some Republicans, including President Trump, but has made Facebook unpopular among Democrats and civil rights groups.

Still, Facebook’s rank-and-file workers are cautiously optimistic. In late January, just before the Iowa caucuses, a group of employees gathered at the company’s headquarters for a party to celebrate the end of the lockdown.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/29/technology/facebook-google-twitter-november-election.html

Bail Out Journalists. Let Newspaper Chains Die.

The time is now to make a painful but necessary shift: Abandon most for-profit local newspapers, whose business model no longer works, and move as fast as possible to a national network of nimble new online newsrooms. That way, we can rescue the only thing worth saving about America’s gutted, largely mismanaged local newspaper companies — the journalists.

“We need to accept that what local news is today is already dying,” said Ms. Green, 35.

She had that realization 12 years ago when she was a local education reporter. Her newspaper, The New York Sun, went under, and she created a new nonprofit organization to stay on the beat she loved. Now, her vision has expanded. She has co-founded the American Journalism Project, which aims to create a huge network of nonprofit outlets, some organized around subjects like education or criminal justice, others focused on covering a town, a city or a state. She wants to replace the hundreds of local newspapers now owned by hedge funds that are slowly being bled dry.

“We need to keep the values, keep the people, keep the lessons learned — and get rid of the shareholders and get a better business model,” she said.

Ms. Green has been working to expand one obviously needed coverage area, public health, to all 50 states, working with the nonprofit news service Kaiser Health News.

And on the local level, she and John Thornton, the other founder of the American Journalism Project, are working on a new project: backing a nonprofit outlet in West Virginia. It will be led by Greg Moore, a former Charleston Gazette-Mail executive editor, and Ken Ward, a reporter at the paper who won a MacArthur “Genius” grant for his coverage of damage done by the coal and gas industries to people’s lives. The not-yet-named new outlet (candidates include “Mountain State Muckraker”) will begin with a staff of about 10, seven of them journalists, a news team on the same scale as the diminished local paper.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/29/business/coronavirus-journalists-newspapers.html

Facebook, Google and Twitter Struggle to Handle November’s Election

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, ordered a “lockdown” for hundreds of employees late last year.

A lockdown is Facebook-speak for a period of intense, focused effort on a high-priority project. The workers, who included engineers and policy employees, were ordered to drop other projects and build tools to prevent interference in the 2020 election, said two people with knowledge of the instructions.

For Mr. Zuckerberg, who once delegated the messy business of politics to his lieutenants, November’s election has become a personal fixation. In 2017, after the extent of Russia’s manipulation of the social network became clear, he vowed to prevent it from happening again.

“We won’t catch everyone immediately, but we can make it harder to try to interfere,” he said.

Facebook has since required anyone running U.S. political ads to submit proof of an American mailing address, and included their ads in a publicly searchable database. It has invested billions to moderate content, drawn up new policies against misinformation and manipulated media, and hired tens of thousands of safety and security workers.

In the 2018 midterm elections, those efforts resulted in a relatively scandal-free Election Day. But 2020 is presenting different challenges.

Last year, lawmakers blasted Mr. Zuckerberg for refusing to fact-check Facebook posts or take down false ads placed by political candidates; he said it would be an affront to free speech. The laissez-faire approach has been embraced by some Republicans, including President Trump, but has made Facebook unpopular among Democrats and civil rights groups.

Still, Facebook’s rank-and-file workers are cautiously optimistic. In late January, just before the Iowa caucuses, a group of employees gathered at the company’s headquarters for a party to celebrate the end of the lockdown.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/29/technology/facebook-google-twitter-november-election.html