Omarosa "Unhinged;" Tronc and Tribune news; Dorsey speaks; Time's next cover; NYT is "failing at failing;" Oscars overhaul; Hollywood backlash

By Brian Stelter and CNN's media team
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Exec summary: Thursday is Tribune's decision day... And Tronc earnings day... Plus, scroll down to see Time mag's next cover... And to see how Fox News Photoshopped my face... How's that for a tease?

Who's "Unhinged?"

Is former "Apprentice" star Omarosa Manigault-Newman a reliable source of info about the Trump White House? Buckle up for debates about that in the coming week. Because she's about to betray Trump in a new tell-all book.

Omarosa's recap of her time in the administration, "Unhinged," comes out next week... And on Wednesday we found out what the press rollout will look like. Her first interview will be on "Meet the Press" this Sunday. Then she'll be on "Today" Monday morning.

The Daily Beast reported on Wednesday that she "secretly recorded conversations with the president..." And she "leveraged" the tapes while shopping the book.

A source who has read "Unhinged" confirmed to me that "she has tapes documenting what she details in the book." So, I asked, is Omarosa planning on sharing the tapes during her NBC interviews? The source said no...

Here's my theory about the tapes 

The Beast said the tapes are just "anodyne, everyday chatter" between Manigault-Newman and Trump. Nothing dramatic. But the tapes may prop up her tenuous credibility.

Think about it: The W.H. has already criticized her... Saying "she had limited contact with the president while here..." So if Trumpworld attacks her when the book comes out... perhaps by downplaying her relationship with Trump... she'll be able to point to the tapes as proof that she WAS in the room with him...

 >> REALITY CHECK: Above and beyond the NBC rollout, this book is going to get tons of attention from entertainment media outlets...

Tribune's decision day

Is the Sinclair-Tribune deal about to die? It sure looks that way. As Hadas Gold and I reported here, the deal between the two companies allows either side to break up, as of 12:01am ET on Thursday. With Sinclair stuck in regulatory limbo, sources at both companies believe Tribune is likely to walk away.

Tribune has scheduled a conference call for 8am ET Thursday, so we'll know more then...

Remember the context for this...

Until recently, it seemed like the FCC, chaired by Trump appointee Ajit Pai, was clearing the way for the merger. In fact, Democratic lawmakers and other critics had assailed Pai for making changes to FCC rules that benefited Sinclair. It looked, to them, like back-scratching: Sinclair had boosted the Trump admin and the admin returned the favor.

But then the FCC's inspector general got involved. The NYT reported in February that the IG was examining whether Pai and his aides "had improperly pushed for the rule changes and whether they had timed them to benefit Sinclair." We don't know what the IG has found. But last month Pai surprised many observers by saying that he had "serious concerns" about how Sinclair planned to sell off certain stations to comply with regulations. Pai said the company may have shown a "lack of candor" in their dealings with the FCC, essentially dooming the deal to a lengthy hearing process. So Tribune is poised to find another buyer...

Tribune, of course, spun off its papers in 2014... The publishing division became known as Tronc...

Who's bidding for Tronc?

There was something poignant about the Chicago Tribune breaking this story on Wednesday. The Tribune's parent company, Tronc, is "weighing an offer to sell" all of its newspapers "to a private equity firm, sources close to the company said Wednesday."

The Trib's Robert Channick had the sources. "A bid of between $19 and $20 per share is on the table," he wrote... "That represents about a one-third premium to the stock's $14.77 per share closing price Tuesday, and a total offer that could be upward of $700 million for the entire company..."

SO: Which private equity firm is it?

FLASHBACK: Politico reported on a similar bid last month...

THURSDAY: Tronc will report Q2 earnings after the bell...
THE WAR OVER INFOWARS

Downloading Alex Jones

"Just days after Google, Facebook and Apple purged videos and podcasts from the right-wing conspiracy site Infowars from their sites, the Infowars app has become one of the hottest in the country," the NYT's Jack Nicas reports. "On Wednesday, Infowars was the No. 1 overall 'trending' app on the Google Play store, a metric that reflects its sudden momentum... And the app stood at No. 66 overall on Google, excluding game apps, while on Apple it reached No. 49, above popular apps like LinkedIn, Google Docs and eBay."

Just a temporary blip, or something more? Read on...

Jack Dorsey speaks

"Facing mounting scrutiny for allowing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to remain on the platform, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey gave an exclusive radio interview to Fox News host Sean Hannity on Wednesday, explaining how such decisions are made," Time's Katie Reilly writes.

Dorsey's call with Hannity was actually scheduled before this Jones controversy erupted... And Dorsey will be doing more interviews soon...

There's more to come...

Normally I wouldn't talk about this until it's taped... But hey, now it's public...

Dorsey "is planning to speak with NBC's Lester Holt on Nightly News next week and CNN's Brian Stelter on Reliable Sources next Sunday," David McCabe of Axios reported Wednesday, citing "sources familiar with the sit-downs."

McCabe: "The interviews, which sources say were in the works before Hannity's show, come as Dorsey defends his status as the last CEO of a major online platform company not to take down content associated with Jones and InfoWars..."
FIRST LOOK

This week's TIME cover

Spike Lee is on the cover of this week's mag, out Thursday, one day before "BlacKkKlansman" opens nationwide. Rembert Browne's cover story says the film "will change the way you think about racism."

TIME will also have a fresh look at "fake news..." Katy Steinmetz spoke with psychologists and other experts about why folks become fooled by bogus info, and how to fight it... She quotes Alan Miller, head of the News Literacy Project, saying we're facing "the equivalent of a public-health crisis..."
For the record, part one 
 -- My guest on this week's "Reliable" podcast: Harry Enten. Any Q's for him about polling, the midterms, etc? Email me...

 -- The banner on Wednesday's "CNN Tonight," reacting to the indictment of GOP congressman Chris Collins: "Donald Trump's Washington is Swampier Than Ever" (CNN)
 
 -- Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity, both at 9pm, are usually the highest-rated programs of the day on MSNBC and Fox respectively... But CNN's Chris Cuomo has been faring well in the time slot... He has boosted CNN's 9pm #'s "by double digits" in his first two months, Jon Levine reports... (TheWrap)

 -- Jim Acosta is Stephen Colbert's guest on the "Late Show" Wednesday night...

21st Century Fox earnings are in...

...And the company beat analysts' expectations.

Jill Disis emails: On Wednesday's earnings call, Lachlan Murdoch said Fox is focused on closing its deal with Disney... They're working on getting international regulatory approval, and expect to close in the first half of next year...

When Fox Nation will launch

MediaPost's Alex Weprin tweeted: "Lachlan Murdoch says that the Fox News streaming service, 'Fox Nation,' will launch towards the end of the year, 'around the time of the midterm elections.'" Fox is already promoting it via TV commercials...

"The NYT is even failing at failing"

That headline comes courtesy of Yahoo's Colin Campbell. The NYT's quarterly earnings reports have become a quarterly contradiction of President Trump's "failing NYT" insult. And a quarterly chance for Trump's critics to troll him. 

Witness Joe Scarborough's tweet on Wednesday: "What a remarkable success story! The 'failing New York Times' just keeps flying higher. Congrats!"

The Times posted a $23.6 million profit in Q2... But we should all keep an eye on digital subscriber trends... Here's why...

The NYT's subscriber trends

Tom Kludt emails: The quarterly growth in digital-only subscribers has abated at the NYT, dropping to 109,000 new sign-ups in Q2 from 139,000 in Q1, which was itself a steep drop from the 157,000 who joined in Q4 2017.

But the Times is still bullish. On Wednesday, Mark Thompson told investors that the company has retained a significant number of subscribers who signed up after the 2016 election. This year's midterms elections are expected to bring about a similar spike: the company forecasts digital-only subscription revenue to increase "in the high teens" in Q3.

"We're living in unpredictable political times," Thompson said on the morning call with investors. "And we expect the audience to react to it." More here...
For the record, part two
 -- IAC/InterActiveCorp's Q2 revenue "beat Wall Street expectations on Wednesday, boosted by growth in businesses, including digital home-services provider ANGI Homeservices and dating-services provider Match Group..." (Reuters)

 -- The acting EIC of the military-focused site Task & Purpose, Adam Weinstein, "publicly resigned on Wednesday over a conflict with website publisher Zach Iscol..." (TheWrap)

-- Justin Baragona tweeted: "Candace Owens again serving as a co-host of Fox News @TheFive today. How long before Fox hands her a contract?"

Tamron Hall's development deal with ABC

Last summer Tamron Hall was developing a daytime talk show with the Weinstein Co. Then the Harvey Weinstein scandal happened. Now she has "signed a deal to develop and host a new daytime talk show for Disney/ABC," the LAT's Stephen Battaglio reports. "The program is to be syndicated on TV stations starting in fall 2019."

He notes that "Hall will enter a challenging landscape when she launches the new show... Disney/ABC has not entered the syndication market with the format since Katie Couric's program, which had a two-year run in daytime that ended in 2014..."

Dems want Facebook to tell them who has seen disinformation... here's why

Donie O'Sullivan emails: How can candidates respond to claims they don't know about? The DNC's CTO has called on Facebook to tell Democrats what false information there is about their candidates on the platform and whose seen it.

Robby Mook, Hillary Clinton's former campaign manager, is behind the idea. He says it's all about how media consumption has changed. Previously, claims about candidates were made in newspapers and on TV, which candidates could see and respond to. Now, a rumor can be spread and seen by thousands (or millions) of users by the time it gets on a campaign's radar, if at all. Candidates should have the right to respond, Mook says...

Spotted at Rick Wilson's book party

Rick Wilson's book "Everything Trump Touches Dies" has been near the top of Amazon's best sellers list since it came out on Tuesday... Sightings from Molly Jong-Fast's book party for Wilson on Wednesday night in NYC: Max Boot, Renato Mariotti, Katie Rosman, Elizabeth Spiers, Evan Siegfried, Robert George, Paulina Porizkova, Noah Shachtman, Joan Walsh, Maxwell Tani, Jon Levine, Liza Donnelly...
For the record, part three
Daniella Emanuel emails:

 -- ProPublica plans to expand its Local Reporting Network in order to shine a light on issues in communities that normally wouldn't be illuminated...(ProPublica)

 -- Per Todd Spangler, CBS News senior producer Nancy Han is leaving the network to lead NowThis' daily news show for Facebook... (Variety)

 -- Speaking of Facebook shows, Refinery29 is set to have a nightly talk show on the platform, "After After Party," which will launch next Monday at 9pm ET on Facebook Watch...(Deadline)

 -- ICYMI: Elle profiled Ainsley Earhardt and her path to becoming "America's (president's) sweetheart…" (Elle)

ABC pushed for these Academy Awards changes...

Entertainment editor Megan Thomas emails: "And the Oscar for transparency in ratings strategy goes to..."

She says the Academy's plan to make the Oscars more "popular" -- and no more than three hours long -- should be titled "we heard you." Sure enough, Variety reports that Disney's ABC, which pays to broadcast the Oscars, had a big hand in the changes...

Some Hollywood types are appalled...

Sandra Gonzalez emails: All of Hollywood is talking about the Academy's decision to add an Oscar category for "achievement in popular film." This addition, plus a few other adjustments, are all intended to make the awards telecast more appealing to viewers... But there's been an intense backlash to Wednesday's announcement.

Before we get to that, here are the key Q's:

-- What exactly will constitute as a "popular film?" Are they going to set a domestic gross minimum? Or, what, use Rotten Tomatoes? (Cue Film Twitter melting down here.)

-- When will this category begin? Will it be in time for "Black Panther" to secure a nod?

-- Will adding this category yield what the Academy really wants: more young viewers?

Pallotta's objections

Frank Pallotta emails: The Academy announced these changes without getting into the nitty gritty details. What exactly is the definition of a "popular" film? We'll see. But here's the thing: Blockbusters like "Star Wars," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Forrest Gump," "Titanic," and "Gone with the Wind" have all been nominated for Best Picture in the past. Hell, some of them even won! We shouldn't be separating "popular" and "best." A film can be both and some of the greatest in history ARE both. If an acclaimed blockbuster like "Black Panther" hits the national conscience and is worthy of a Best Picture nod, then that's what it deserves...

Blame Lowry!

Sandra Gonzalez adds: I must point out that three of the changes implemented by the Academy were suggested by our colleague Brian Lowry in a piece he wrote last year after the Oscars notched record-low ratings. So if anyone doesn't like them, I think we should blame him. He's on vacation anyway and won't become aware of the ire until he returns...

The bottom line

Returning to the aforementioned Variety piece, it says "network insiders were unmoved" by "evident social-media backlash to the announcement, particularly to the addition of the popular film category, noting that changes to longstanding institutions such as the Oscars often yield complaints, and predicting that audiences would ultimately embrace the new format..."
The entertainment desk

Kanye on Kimmel

Lisa Respers France emails: Kanye West is set to return to "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" Thursday, five years after the two men famously settled their feud...

Bryan Cranston to star in "Network" on Broadway

"The National Theater's stage version of 'Network,' Paddy Chayefsky's searing film satire about a mentally unraveling TV news anchor and the manipulative executives who seek to use him for their advantages, will transfer to Broadway in the fall," Dave Itzkoff reports. "As in its London production, the Broadway play will be directed by Ivo van Hove and will star Bryan Cranston as Howard Beale..."

Gen Z's worthy poster woman

Megan Thomas emails: Harvard-bound "grown-ish" star and get-out-the-vote activist Yara Shahidi is everywhere these days -- and deserves to be. THR's profile on Shahidi should inspire confidence in our future. Key quote for news execs trying to engage younger viewers/readers/users: "News isn't marketed to me and my peers," she says. "It's as though it doesn't pertain to us, even though half of these policies that are being implemented will affect us. We know people who are immigrants, we know people who are undocumented..."

Pitt fires back at Jolie's child support claims

Ugh. What a disappointing story all around. Chloe Melas emails: Angelina Jolie says Brad Pitt isn't paying "meaningful" child support. But he filed legal docs on Wednesday saying not so fast. Pitt says he's given Jolie millions, including an $8 million dollar loan for her new house. Read the rest here...
For the record, part four
By Lisa Respers France:

 -- Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin's tears have fans worried...

 -- Carrie Underwood used a post about her forthcoming tour to announce she is pregnant with baby No. 2...

 -- Kathleen Turner shaded an unnamed famous actress -- and everyone wants to know who it is...

Saving the funniest for last...

I missed this on "The Five" Wednesday night... but thankfully Mediaite's Josh Feldman was watching, and he wrote it up...

So this is what I would look like as an insect, courtesy of Fox News:
Bravo, Fox. I laughed out loud when I saw this. Greg Gutfeld dreamed it up, of course... Evidently the idea was that I've been silent about Bill de Blasio's criticism of Rupert Murdoch... Thus, "crickets." Some Twitter commenters pointed out that this looks more like a grasshopper, but I digress.

I DID say on Tuesday that politicians make lousy media critics, but Gutfeld's not interested in that, he's interested in producing awesome Photoshops. Well done! I'm CHIRPING with delight...


Thanks for reading! Email me your feedback... See you tomorrow...

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