COMMENTARY BY MARGARET SULLIVAN

Bad News For Journalists. But There’s Hope

A new study, “A New Way of Looking at Trust in Media,”from the Media Insight Project, a collaboration between API and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, finds that only one of five core values touted by journalists also shares the support of a majority of Americans. Support for these values does not break cleanly along party, demographic or ideological lines but rather seems to be driven by “moral instincts.” Given that trust in the news media has fallen from about 70% in the early 1970s to about 40% now, according to Gallup — it seems worth viewing this report with an open mind.

COMMENTARY BY MARGARET SULLIVAN

Right-Wing Media Uses Coded Slur On Floyd

Some in the right-wing media keep doing their utmost to make the trial of Derek Chaubin for killing George Floyd about Floyd’s drug use and troubled life, in what seems like an attempt to absolve Chauvin long before the jury reaches a verdict. In effect, they are putting Floyd on trial. The “no angel” narrative, and its variations, are racist smears. Unlike George Floyd, they deserve to die.

COMMENTARY BY MARGARET SULLIVAN

Lawsuits Against Fox News Could End Up Being Bad News For Other Media

If defamation suits, even valid ones, are successful, long-standing First Amendment protections could be weakened; aggrieved subjects of news stories, especially those with deep pockets, may be encouraged to go after media companies of all kinds, not just hyperpartisan ones. And long, expensive court battles could put them out of business.

COMMENTARY BY MARGARET SULLIVAN

Media Must Be Wary Of Initial Police Statements

It’s inevitable that reporters will have to rely heavily on law enforcement sources in the first hours after a horrific crime. Amid chaos and wild speculation, the police may be the only ones with any hard information at that point. But sometimes their information is flawed. And sometimes the way they tell it reflects a damaging bias.

COMMENTARY BY MARGARET SULLIVAN

For Women In Media, A Rising Toll From Trolls

Margaret Sullivan: Misogyny, often racist misogyny, is at the heart of recent attacks on female journalists. And it’s happening all over the world. Sadly, there is a chilling effect on journalism itself. Reporters may decide to pull back to protect themselves, asking whether a particular article is really worth the abuse it will bring. They may decide to leave the profession altogether.

COMMENTARY BY MARGARET SULLIVAN

Oprah Proved She Is Greatest Celebrity Interviewer Of All Time

Margaret Sullivan: “With her relentless follow-up questions, compassionate demeanor and focused skill in eliciting bombshell after bombshell, Oprah proved herself the best celebrity interviewer ever. Oprah best displayed her interviewing chops by relentlessly circling back to emotional or news-making comments like a heat-seeking missile. Yet, unlike many an aggressive interviewer, she didn’t make the classic error of interrupting at the wrong time. She was able to let silence gather. She didn’t jump in to ruin a dramatic moment. It paid off time after time.”

COMMENTARY BY MARGARET SULLIVAN

Cuomo Bros. Act Was Just A Sideshow. Until It Wasn’t

Margaret Sullivan: “For years, CNN had a sensible policy about whether Chris Cuomo could interview his older brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Simply put: He couldn’t. But then came the unprecedented events of last spring, as the coronavirus pandemic roiled the world and as New York City became its scary epicenter. All bets were off. These days, CNN’s ban is back and in full force. With the governor under career-threatening fire over recent sexual harassment claims and with the apparent mishandling of some parts of his administration’s covid-19 response in the news, the brother act is over.”

COMMENTARY BY MARGARET SULLIVAN

Make No Mistake, Alden Is Bad News

Margaret Sullivan: “When Alden Global Capital announced Tuesday that it was positioned to buy the Chicago Tribune and several other major newspapers, its statement might have sounded promising. But only if you knew nothing about how this hedge fund has sucked much of the life out of the newspapers it already owns in places like Denver and San Jose.”

COMMENTARY BY MARGARET SULLIVAN

CNN Chief’s Ratings Lust Helped Give Us Trump

As the 45th president’s second impeachment trial arrives on Tuesday, CNN viewers might want to recall how Trump’s presidency came about in the first place. It was in no small part the work of CNN chief Jeff Zucker, who announced last week that he will leave the network at the end of 2021. It started with Trump’s celebrity breakout on The Apprentice two decades ago. Zucker was the NBC executive who used Trump to boost the network’s troubled ratings. In the process, he made Trump himself a household name.

COMMENTARY BY MARGARET SULLIVAN

Norms Have Returned. Complacency Should Not.

The first official words by President Biden’s spokeswoman included truth and transparency. Wednesday night’s session with reporters, the first of the Biden administration, was so normal — so weirdly normal — that you could be forgiven for thinking that you had mistakenly put on an old episode of The West Wing. This return to norms is wonderfully welcome after the horrors of the past four years. It’s also potentially dangerous.

COMMENTARY BY MARGARET SULLIVAN

Three Ways The Media Can Vanquish The Big Lie

COMMENTARY BY MARGARET SULLIVAN

Reflecting On The Media’s Handling Of Trump

Margaret Sullivan: “What’s happened in the journalism sphere is complicated. Tragically, crucial sources of local news have withered, while the toxic media of the radical right thrives. The reality-based national press, though flawed and stuck for too long in outdated conventions, has managed to do its job — with dedication and with bravery, given the dangers created by Trump’s antipathy to what he calls ‘the enemy of the people.’ ”

COMMENTARY BY MARGARET SULLIVAN

Fox News, Accessory Before And After The Fact

Margaret Sullivan: “Fair and balanced” was the original Fox News lie, one of the rotten planks that built the foundation for Wednesday’s democratic disaster. In the Trump era, the network — now out of favor for not being quite as shameless as the president demands — was his best friend and promoter. So to put it bluntly: The mob that stormed and desecrated the Capitol on Wednesday could not have existed in a country that hadn’t been radicalized by the likes of Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, and swayed by biased news coverage.

COMMENTARY BY MARGARET SULLIVAN

There Are Flickers Of Hope For Local Journalism. But Not Nearly Enough

Despite some flickers of good news, local journalism remains in a state of emergency. Increasingly under the control of corporate chains backed by private equity firms, far too many American newsrooms are hemorrhaging staff. Fifty-five news outlets have closed for good since the pandemic began — and that’s on top of more than 2,000 newspapers that have folded since 2004. Thousands of local journalists have been fired or furloughed.

COMMENTARY BY MARGARET SULLIVAN

Journalists, It’s Time For A Cold-Turkey Breakup With Trump

Margaret Sullivan: The media should not allow Donald Trump “to become a self-styled president in exile, the golf-cart version of Napoleon on Elba. Do not set up a Mar-a-Lago bureau. Don’t have entire reporting beats dedicated to what he and his family members are up to. And for God’s sake, stop writing about his unhinged tweets.”

COMMENTARY BY MARGARET SULLIVAN

Fox News Needs To Reinvent Itself

Margaret Sullivan: “For a long time, Fox News has ruled the cable-news roost. With its rabidly right-wing prime-time hosts and news shows that too often gave a showcase to crackpot ideas, it had a formula that worked beautifully — for ratings, and profits, if not for democracy. But now, with the political tectonic plates shifting, Fox is feeling some new pressure.”

COMMENTARY BY MARGARET SULLIVAN

Media Has A Big Post-Trump Task Ahead

The disinformation system that Trump unleashed will outlast him. Here’s what reality-based journalists must do about it.

COMMENTARY BY MARGARET SULLIVAN

What Obama Gets Right — And Very Wrong — About The Media

Everybody’s a media critic these days — and Barack Obama is an astute one. But for those who remember certain aspects of his presidency, he’s got a bit of a credibility problem.

COMMENTARY BY MARGARET SULLIVAN

A Flawed Media May Have Saved Democracy

Over the past four or five years, I’ve been sharply critical of the media, including that subset I like to call the “reality-based press.” My continuing complaint has been that mainstream journalism never quite figured out how to cover President Trump, the master of distraction and insult who craved media attention and knew exactly how to get it, regardless of what it meant for the good of the nation. The mainstream media, however flawed, has managed to tell us who Trump is. And although I’ve had my doubts at times about the effectiveness of fact-checking, that exhausting work has been invaluable, too. Without the reality-based press, whatever its flaws and shortcomings, we would be utterly lost.

COMMENTARY BY MARGARET SULLIVAN

We Still Don’t Know Much About This Election — Except That The Media And Pollsters Blew It Again

y early morning Wednesday, there was a lot that millions of anxious Americans didn’t know. Mainly, they didn’t know who the president-elect is. That, in itself, wasn’t unexpected, nor is it terrible. But after consuming hours of news on Tuesday night, and observing the election results thus far, there are a few things that we can be certain of.

COMMENTARY BY MARGARET SULLIVAN

What Kristen Welker Can Learn From Savannah Guthrie

Margaret Sullivan: “Savannah Guthrie brought her A game to last week’s NBC town hall with President Trump. As Thursday’s final debate between Trump and Joe Biden approaches, Guthrie’s NBC colleague, White House correspondent Kristen Welker, needs to have the best night of her career, too — but in a very different way. To make this debate something that serves the public interest rather than being the disastrous circus that it could be, she needs to be in control.”

COMMENTARY BY MARGARET SULLIVAN

White House Can’t Be Trusted To Be Truthful About Trump’s Health

Margaret Sullivan: “With President Trump apparently struck by covid-19 a month before a critical election and after 200,000 American deaths from the disease, what we really need right now is an entirely credible, fact-based voice from the White House. Good luck with that.”

COMMENTARY

Fact-Checking An Increasingly Fruitless Task

More and more, fact-checkers seem to be trying to bail out an ancient, rusty and sinking freighter with the energetic use of measuring cups and thimbles.

COMMENTARY

Journalists Enabled Kellyanne Conway

Margaret Sullivan: “Perhaps more than any other Trump official, she has undermined the entire notion that truthful information should be expected from the White House and that public officials at the highest level should be held accountable for their words and deeds. Yet she kept being invited on the air, she continued being a key source for reporters, and she schmoozed her way through every problem.”

Q&A

Saving Local News — One Expert Weighs In

Is it possible that local TV newsrooms could, in fact, play a key role in saving local journalism and restoring its critical place in civic life? This discussion with the Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan touches on several areas of opportunity for local TV news.

COMMENTARY

NBC’s Mea Culpa Can’t Undo The Damage Done

Margaret Sullivan: “Some corrections are almost pointless, such as the one that prompted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to light into NBC on Wednesday morning. Her complaint identifies one of the problems with corrections by news organizations: They rarely — and maybe never — can undo the damage caused by the original error.”

COMMENTARY

Media Coverage Of The 2016 Campaign Was Disastrous. Now’s The Chance To Get 2020 Right

Margaret Sullivan: Here we are, roughly three months out from Tuesday, Nov. 3. Whatever the lost opportunities of the last cycle, there’s one last chance to get it right — or at least closer to right. Here are some ideas about how the media can use this crucial time to best serve the public good so that election night 2020 doesn’t amount to another epic journalistic failure.

COMMENTARY

Carlson’s Insults To Senator Are Sadly Predictable

Margaret Sullivan: “For those who haven’t completely lost their ability to be appalled, Tucker Carlson’s smears this week of Illinois senator Tammy Duckworth can fairly be described as shocking. Carlson, who has never served in the military, called this veteran, who lost both of her legs fighting in the Iraq War, a fraud, a vandal and — maybe most remarkably — a coward.”

COMMENTARY

Studies: Fox News Misled Viewers On COVID-19

Margaret Sullivan: “Three serious research efforts have put numerical weight — yes, data-driven evidence — behind what many suspected all along: Americans who relied on Fox News, or similar right-wing sources, were duped as the coronavirus began its deadly spread. Dangerously duped.”

Know Your Rights When Filming Law Enforcement

COMMENTARY

The Mission Must Drive Journalists’ Questions

Margaret Sullivan: Journalism is a mess these days. But it’s the kind of mess that American journalists could come out of stronger and better if they — and the American people they serve — grapple with some difficult questions.

COMMENTARY

Journalists Under Assault From Police, Protesters

COMMENTARY

’60 Minutes’ Is Having A Moment. Here’s Why

Early this month, with the 60 Minutes season nearly ready to wrap production for the summer, executive producer Bill Owens took a heartfelt pitch to his boss, CBS News President Susan Zirinsky. “We can’t stop,” he told her. Zirinsky agreed, despite the fact that the labor-intensive Sunday-night newsmagazine show weighs heavily on the network budget, and took the plan to the corporate honchos. Remarkably, they got on board, too. As a result, instead of ending the season last weekend, new episodes will continue until at least June 28.

COMMENTARY

Media Must Not Aid In Normalizing Virus Deaths

Margaret Sullivan: Trump wants America to ‘normalize’ coronavirus deaths. It’s the media’s job not to play along.

COMMENTARY

Right Now, We Need Science, Not Silence

Margaret Sullivan: The Trump administration is muzzling government scientists. It’s essential to let them speak candidly to the press again.

COMMENTARY

What It Really Means When Trump Calls A Story ‘Fake News’

COMMENTARY

Have The Cuomos Crossed An Ethical Line?

Margaret Sullivan: “A month ago, it would have seemed unlikely — ridiculous, even — that the most riveting duo in America would be the Empire State’s combative governor and his kid brother, the wide-eyed cable-news host. But here we are. Sometimes comical, sometimes somber, sometimes emotional, their joint TV appearances have become one of the strangest outgrowths of the coronavirus pandemic.”

COMMENTARY

Local News Needs Coronavirus Stimulus Plan, Too

In an apocalyptic advertising downturn, ideas that would have been unthinkable weeks ago deserve immediate consideration.

COMMENTARY

Sullivan: Stop Live Broadcasting Trump Briefings

Margaret Sullivan says President Trump has begun using his daily press briefings on the coronavirus pandemic as a substitute for his sidelined campaign rallies rather than the critical venues for public information they should be. In response, she says news organizations should stop taking the briefings as live feeds and instead cover the news within them with context and fact checking at every step.

COMMENTARY

Murdoch Should Cure Fox News’s Distortion

Margaret Sullivan: “The mind-meld of Fox News and President Trump is potentially lethal as Trump plays down the seriousness of the coronavirus and, hearing nothing but applause from his favorite information source for doing so, sees little reason to change. There’s one person who could transform all that in an instant: Fox founder Rupert Murdoch, the Australian-born media mogul who, at 89, still exerts his influence on the leading cable network — and thus on the president himself.”