Michael's aftermath; Florida newsrooms struggling; mounting scrutiny of Saudi Arabia; NFL ratings; Lowry's weekend roundup; Sunday's guest list

Exec summary: TGIF. Scroll down for the latest in the Jamal Khashoggi case... President Trump's next TV interviews... plus a brand new analysis of NFL ratings and much more...

"Help is coming"

In the wake of Hurricane Michael, many local journalists in Panama City, FL "are working in incredibly difficult conditions," CNN's Dianne Gallagher emailed on Friday. "Their newsrooms were destroyed and so were many of their homes."

The area's two biggest TV stations, ABC-affiliated WMBB and NBC-affiliated WJHG, were knocked off the air as Michael's eyewall approached on Wednesday, and they were still off the air as of Friday evening. So both stations are using Facebook to send out updates and improvised live shows. While the digital audience is smaller, and power is sporadic in many places, it's a partial solution to the problem at hand.

WMBB's FB page is full of posts like this from Friday afternoon: "Federal help IS COMING in the next 24 hours. Hang in there! In the meantime, neighbors should help others."

Gallagher's crew dropped off Gatorades, water bottles and other supplies at the station on Friday. General manager Terry Cole gave her a tour...

Inside WMBB

During Wednesday's broadcast, one of the last things viewers heard was a reporter saying "it sounds like a train is coming over the roof of the TV station. The whole building is shaking."

Parts of the roof started to cave in. Rainwater started seeping in. By 12:45 p.m., the broadcast was over. A piece of a nearby building hit the station's generator and "knocked us off the air," Cole told Gallagher.

Cole had a backup plan, "but I never thought we'd use it," he said. His staff evacuated to First Baptist Church next door. WFLA in Tampa took over live coverage for anyone who was still able to see WMBB's signal via cable or antenna.

Cole said his staff worked and slept at the church on Wednesday and into Thursday. One of WMBB's sister stations from Mobile, Alabama, arrived with a satellite truck so that the anchors and reporters could go live again on Thursday evening. They anchored from the parking lot. The staff set up six chairs and three cameras, and the journalists shared their reporting and personal reflections. They've been doing an "incredible job," Cole said.
The staff produced another newscast from the parking lot on Friday night. The backdrop was a giant chunk of roof that flew off a nearby building. Several hundred feet above them, two workers were trying to repair a satellite at the top of a WMBB transmission tower. The satellite was apparently pushed in the opposite direction by the winds.

Cleanup crews at the local paper

Dianne Gallagher also stopped by the area's daily paper, the Panama City News Herald, on Friday. The newsroom is in bad shape... It has no power... "Cleanup crews were there when we stopped by," Gallagher said. "The journalists are all out trying to cover stories." She took this photo of some of the damage to the office building:

"With damaged homes, no power or cell service, our reporters have been hard at work," reporter Eryn Dion tweeted on Thursday.

Reporters at the Northwest Florida Daily News loaded up a car full of supplies for the News Herald on Friday. Others are also trying to help...

Comms are still very shaky

Communication remains very difficult near the ground zero of Michael. Both local and national reporters have been having a hard time contacting officials and filing reports. Some reporters in places such as Mexico Beach have been sleeping in their cars.

Meanwhile, the death toll is going to keep rising. As CNN.com's latest overview story notes, "the devastation left by Hurricane Michael in several states is still coming into focus, with coastal Florida cities destroyed beyond recognition, and homes, businesses and agriculture torn or swamped from Georgia to Virginia." Read on...



 -- On Friday CNN launched a new brand called "The Forecast" -- led by Harry Enten -- forecasting 2018 election results... (CNN)

 -- Azi Paybarah is joining the NYT and taking over the NY Today morning newsletter... (NYT)

 -- Penguin Press exec editor Warren Bass is returning to the WSJ as a senior editor, per a memo from features chief Mike Miller...

 -- Daniel Funke's latest: Hoaxes about voter fraud are plaguing the presidential election in Brazil. Fact-checkers say they need more resources... (Poynter)

NFL #'s are up

After two seasons of bad press over falling viewership, the NFL "has something to celebrate now: Its ratings are up," Frank Pallotta wrote in his latest for CNN Business. "About a month into the 2018 season, the numbers are up around 2% compared to this time last year, attracting an average of 15.6 million viewers across its network partners, according to Nielsen data. That might not seem like much, but at a time when ratings have been falling across network TV and people are turning to multiple streaming services, it's a huge win."

Why the rebound? "There are a few possible factors, but perhaps the biggest one might be this: The NFL wasn't that exciting to watch the past couple years. But it's great now." Read Pallotta's full story here...


Nevins in talks for expanded role

As the restructuring of CBS Corp continues, Showtime CEO David Nevins is in negotiations "to take on an expanded role beyond the premium service he now heads," Variety's Daniel Holloway and Joe Otterson scooped Friday night. "His renewed deal would give the executive oversight of content for streaming service CBS All Access, in addition to retaining his existing Showtime responsibilities. It could also see his role grow even further, giving him say in content decisions across CBS' brands, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the discussions..."

Inside CBS...

Another notable detail from Variety's story: "CBS division heads are expected to appear in New York next week to give presentations to the company's new board of directors. They are part of a process to familiarize the board with the inner workings of the company after its membership was overhauled in the wake of Moonves' departure. The board, in concert with CBS' controlling shareholder, Shari Redstone, is leading the search for a permanent CEO..."

Think about this

WaPo editorial page editor Fred Hiatt is out with a new piece that pushes readers to think about "the enormity of what happened in Istanbul." Think about "the extraordinary brazenness of this crime, even in an era when norms are eroding as the United States abdicates its role as leader of the free world." And to think about this: "No matter what Saudi Arabia offered, could its supposed friendship be worth shrugging off the ensnaring and killing of a critic whose only offense was to tell the truth? Is that the country we want to be?"

Trump says he'll call King Salman "soon"

"Amid outcry, there are few signs Trump will cut off Saudis" is the headline on Kevin Liptak's latest for CNN.com. He notes that "US officials have so far declined to endorse a Turkish assessment of Jamal Khashoggi's death, which includes -- according to Turkish claims -- audio and video recordings from inside the consulate revealing Khashoggi was killed. The Saudis have issued a broad denial of responsibility, but have offered nothing concrete to prove that Khashoggi walked out of their consulate or that he is still alive."

 -- President Trump said on Friday he has not yet spoken with King Salman of Saudi Arabia, but he will "pretty soon..."

 -- PLUS: "Saudi disappearance puts spotlight on Trump's business ties," CNN's Erica Orden reports...

Did Khashoggi record his own death?

That's what the Turkish newspaper Sabah is suggesting in Saturday's edition. According to the paper, Khasshoggi turned on the recording function of his Apple Watch before walking into the consulate on October 2. The moments of his "interrogation, torture and killing were audio recorded and sent to both the phone and to iCloud," the pro-government privately owned newspaper reported.

CNN cannot independently verify the report and is seeking comment from both Saudi and Turkish officials. There is at least one glaring error in the report: It asserts that the assailants used Khashoggi's fingerprint to unlock the smart watch and deleted some files, but the Apple Watch doesn't have a fingerprint sensor.

Shunning Saudi

"Most of the news outlets that had agreed to sponsor a high-profile business conference in Saudi Arabia have now pulled out," Hadas Gold reports.

CNN, CNBC, the FT, and Bloomberg all withdrew on Friday. Bloomberg's move was especially notable because last year it "signed a deal with a Saudi publisher to run an Arabic language financial news network." Gold says. Bloomberg didn't respond to a request for comment on the status of that deal.

STILL PARTICIPATING: Fox Business Network, Nikkei and Saudi-owned television channel Al Arabiya...


This Sunday on "Reliable Sources"

The aforementioned Fred Hiatt will join me, along with Brookings Institute senior fellow Shadi Hamid

"It sounds so crazy that it's hard to get your head around it that Saudi Arabia would go this far to allegedly kill one of their critics," Hamid said on NPR on Friday. But he thinks the murder plot alleged by the Turks is "the most persuasive and plausible scenario right now..."

Also on Sunday's program: David Zurawik, Gabby Orr, Doug Heye, Anthony Atamanuik, Genevieve Guenther, and Radhika Jones... Join us Sunday at 11 a.m. ET on CNN...

Trump's next interviews

It still hasn't been officially announced, but Lesley Stahl's interview with POTUS will air on Sunday's "60 Minutes." He already has another interview lined up after that: He'll be speaking with Fox Business host Trish Regan on Tuesday. It'll air on the second day of her new 8 p.m. program "Trish Regan Primetime..."

Susan Glasser's latest

She listened to all of Trump's campaign rallies so far this month, and she thinks you should too. "What the President of the United States is actually saying is extraordinary," she writes, "regardless of whether the television cameras are carrying it live. It's not just the whoppers or the particular outrage riffs that do get covered, either. It's the hate, and the sense of actual menace that the President is trying to convey to his supporters." Read the rest here...

"Trump's USA Today op-ed demonstrates why it's time to unbundle news and opinion content"

These days, the single most common complaint I hear about "the media" is about the blurred lines between "news" and "opinion about the news." Eli Pariser took this on in a new piece for NiemanLab on Friday.

"The recent furor over President Trump's op-ed in USA Today brings this growing tension between opinion and news content to the fore," he says.

Key graf: "Why does the public have such a hard time figuring out what 'news' means? Because it's actually confusing! Even highly media-literate people can have a hard time understanding where the lines are drawn... So perhaps it's time to reconsider the whole premise of bundling together hard news and opinion content under the same brand names and domains. If we believe there's something special about the processes and norms that create journalism (and I do), publishers should draw a brighter line around it — a line that both people and algorithms can understand." Read the rest here...

Les Hinton on this week's "Reliable" podcast

Les Hinton is out with a new memoir, "An Untidy Life," about his decades working for Rupert Murdoch's media empire. I spoke with him about the past, present and future of publishing on this week's "Reliable Sources" podcast. Listen here via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or TuneIn... And/or read Julia Waldow's recap here...


 -- What does a "partner manager" do in a newsroom? ProPublica's Rachel Glickhouse, who works on the Documenting Hate project, explains her role here... (NiemanLab)

 -- Eriq Gardner's latest: "When writer Stephen Elliott filed a lawsuit on Wednesday over the 'Shitty Media Men' spreadsheet, he didn't just pick a fight with Moira Donegan, the creator, and the 30 anonymous women who contributed stories of being victims of sexual misconduct. Elliott also triggered a coming legal war with tech giant Google..." (THR)

 -- "Chuck Wendig, the New York Times best-selling author of the Star Wars: Aftermath series of novels, has been fired by Marvel Entertainment." Wendig says he was told that his political tweets were cited as a reason... (THR)

Showtime's Roger Ailes miniseries just got even more interesting

Russell Crowe is already set to play Roger Ailes in the Showtime limited series based on Gabriel Sherman's book. Naomi Watts is on board to play Gretchen Carlson.

On Friday came word of additional cast members: Sienna Miller will play Beth Ailes, Simon McBurney will play Rupert Murdoch, Annabelle Wallis will play Laurie Luhn, and Seth MacFarlane will play former Fox News PR boss Brian Lewis. The MacFarlane casting is fascinating -- because he's a key producer for the Fox broadcast network -- but he's also an outspoken critic of Fox News. I wonder how this news is being received on the Fox lot..

Lowry's weekend viewing roundup

Brian Lowry emails: Those who can't wait for the History channel to air "Watergate" -- a six-part dive into that constitutional crisis, scheduled over three nights in November -- will get an advance look in theaters in New York and L.A. for Oscar consideration. It's well worthwhile, but marred by the use of dramatic reenactments in replicating the Nixon Oval Office tapes.

Elsewhere, DC Universe -- the new streaming service aimed at comic-book fans -- seeks to establish its credentials with the gritty live-action series "Titans," which is good, but perhaps not enough reason to subscribe; and HBO launches "Camping," a grating series from the producers of "Girls," starring Jennifer Garner as a control-freak mom, joined by friends and family on a camping trip...

At the movies, the new offerings include "Beautiful Boy," a harrowing addiction drama starring Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet, based on twin father-son memoirs about the ordeal, which feels a little too much like a classy TV movie. They're joined by "First Man," the Neil Armstrong biography; "Bad Times at the El Royale," a fever-dream thriller, that I can't wholly recommend (and didn't bother to review, despite a big-name cast); and "The Oath," a provocative political dramedy written, directed by and starring Ike Barinholtz, as well as Tiffany Haddish...



What Kim thought...

Chloe Melas emails: You might be wondering what Kanye West's wife Kim Kardashian West thought about his meeting at the White House on Thursday ... A source tells me she is "not embarrassed" by the things West said.

"Kim is incredibly supportive," the source said, who added that West's mind "moves at lightning speed" and suggested the forum for the White House meeting wasn't the best representation of West's "genius..."

Chloe's interview with 21 Savage

More from Chloe Melas: I sat down with rapper 21 Savage to discuss his financial literacy campaign in partnership with GetSchooled and why he's passionate about teaching the younger generation how to save more and spend less...


By Lisa Respers France:

 -- Amy Winehouse's hologram is set to go on tour next year and some fans are not happy about it...

 -- Get ready for the Wu-Tang TV series. Hulu has ordered an original drama based on the rise of the legendary hip-hop group in the 1990s...

 -- Singer Ryan Adams has apologized for tweets he made about his ex-wife, "This Is Us" star Mandy Moore...

As always, your feedback is welcome... it helps make the newsletter better... so email me here! Have a great weekend.
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