Thursday's top story; Trump's phoners; Hearst's shakeups; WarnerMedia's streaming service; Civil's challenge; USA Today's odd op-ed; Snap's shows

Exec summary: WarnerMedia announces a streaming service... President Trump phones it in to Fox News again... Hearst shakes up its editor ranks... Civil Media admits that it's having trouble... plus much more...



Television journalists standing out in the rain and wind is a staple of hurricane coverage. Some viewers love it, others think it's ridiculous. No matter what you think, Wednesday showed the limits of those spectacular live shots.

Hurricane Michael was so ferocious that reporters near the center of the storm could not physically stand in the worst of the winds. Some broadcasters used the relative safety of a sturdy building to remain outside, while shielded from the gusts. Others retreated inside and even barricaded themselves inside interior rooms until the eyewall passed. Some news crews were forced off the air because cell towers and satellite phones were no match for the monster. Case in point, NBC's Mariana Atencio tried to call into "Nightly News" from Port St. Joe -- viewers heard her say "it looks like a massive tornado hit" -- but her signal was barely audible.

Later in the evening, Tampa Bay Times reporter Zack Sampson, in the same town, said he could only get cell service at the top of a nearby bridge. "Even the cops are here, high above the intracoastal, using their phones," he tweeted. "They say even their communication systems are down." 

Reporters are trying to get to Port St. Joe, Mexico Beach and other devastated communities, but roads are blocked "by just about everything that Mother Nature can throw at you," CNN's Miguel Marquez said...

Thursday's top story will be:

Michael had a relatively small inner core, but it was still intensifying as it reached the Florida panhandle. So there's a swath of land just to the east of Panama City that experienced tornado-like conditions.

Michael's strength was "shocking," Sam Champion said on Chris Cuomo's CNN program.

"When we get some daylight into these areas" on Thursday, "the damage is just going to be horrifying." And the path of damage extended into south Georgia...

Moment of impact

As the eyewall passed by Panama City Beach at 1 p.m. ET, CNN's John Berman said the wind felt like "small nails" hitting his face. That image stuck with me all afternoon.

NBC, ABC and CBS all aired special reports as Michael's eye came ashore between 1 and 2. Lester Holt, appearing on NBC's special report from inside a hotel room, said he could feel the sliding glass doors shaking. The crew took apart the bed and put the mattress in front of the window in case it shattered. "You know, we want to be on the air, but we've got to take care of each other," Holt told anchor Kate Snow. "Know that we're safe but we're going to have to sign off." Holt came back on about five minutes later and showed that the room was barricaded...

Tech difficulties

By 6:30 p.m., Holt and his nightly news rivals were able to step outside and show some of the damage. Jeff Glor anchored the "CBS Evening News" with just a LiveU video transmission unit and a single functional cell phone. 

Exec producer Mosheh Oinounou talked with Glor via correspondent Nikole Killion's phone... Her signal was used to feed Glor the show in his ear, direct camera shots, send scripts and notes, etc...

The big picture

Brian Lowry emails: It's difficult to connect a breaking news story to a larger issue, in the same way a mass shooting can appear to be an unseemly time to discuss gun control. But Hurricane Michael and terrifying images out of Florida are already prompting some to connect the recent spate of catastrophic weather to the U.N. Climate report, and the political implications of failing to act. John Dean, for example, tweeted about Republicans rejecting climate science, amid a spate of editorials addressing the need for action and what the LAT characterized as "lack of political will."

How to talk about hurricanes now

Notice how news outlets tend to call hurricanes like Michael a "natural disaster?" CNN's John D. Sutter points out that we continue to use that term, "natural," but "doing so -- especially in the era of climate change -- is misleading if not dangerous." He spoke with several disaster experts and climate scientists about this. "The phrase 'natural disaster' is an attempt to lay blame where blame really doesn't rest," Kerry A. Emanuel, a professor of atmospheric science at MIT and a global expert on hurricanes, told Sutter...

Trump's show must go on?

That's my takeaway from his decision to go ahead with Wednesday night's rally in PA. Back in 2012, he criticized Barack Obama for campaigning in the wake of Sandy. But on Wednesday he said he couldn't let down his fans.

After the rally, Trump called into Fox's 11 p.m. program, "Fox News @ Night," marking anchor Shannon Bream's first interview with Trump as president. Trump also called into Judge Jeanine's show last weekend...

 >> Related: Jason Schwartz and Gabby Orr's latest for Politico: Fox News is no longer carrying every Trump rally live, and "some in the White House are worried that the president is losing a megaphone to his base..."


 -- SELLOFF: Media and tech stocks "dipped in tandem with one of the most significant drops in the stock market in months..." (Variety)

 -- Oliver Darcy emails: NY Mag announced the launch of Intelligencer, a new site that aims to cover politics, business, tech, media, and innovation... EIC Adam Moss says it will be a place that "brings together the smartest writers on everything from climate change to technology's impact on our lives..." (NY Mag)

 -- "Civil Media's token sale is not going well," Jill Disis reports... (CNN Business)

 -- Ben Mullin has more here: Several major news orgs have passed on partnerships with Civil... (WSJ)

Warner's streaming strategy

WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey announced a new venture on Wednesday: A streaming TV service that will be sold directly to consumers starting in the fourth quarter of 2019.

It has the potential to challenge to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video... plus Disney's streaming service, which is launching around the same time... but there are lots of unknowns. And the streaming wars are not zero sum.

 -- Reminder: CNN is a unit of WarnerMedia. (But the new service will not include news programming at first.) It will feature a wide variety of entertainment content, tapping into the Warner Bros library of films like "Harry Potter," etc... 

 -- Key details, like pricing, will be announced later...

 -- WarnerMedia will have to navigate a thicket of contracts with existing distributors like Comcast and Netflix. That's one of the reasons why the plan was announced on Wednesday -- Stankey said in an internal memo staffers will now be able to work "openly on important technology, branding, affiliate, licensing and marketing issues." Here's my full story...

HBO will lead the way

This product "will be anchored by HBO as a lead brand as part of the offering," Stankey said on stage at the VF New Establishment Summit. HBO Now will still be sold separately.

Stankey said the new service would include HBO shows, library content (think "ER," "Big Bang Theory," etc) and some "third party license content." He predicted a "stronger HBO" as a result of this new service, and said "we're going to continue to invest heavily" in HBO...

How many services will you pay $$ for?

Per Sandra Gonzalez, who was at the summit for us, Stankey's interviewer Andrew Ross Sorkin asked a vital Q: How many streaming services will the average person want?

Stankey's answer: "I can probably guess the number isn't ten. I can guess the number probably isn't two. What I do know, is that we better be at that table."

The NYT's Edmund Lee tweeted a related point on Tuesday... This is something I've been thinking about... "The mad dash for subscription-based revenue will force papers (NYT, LAT, WaPo, etc) to compete against magazines (Wired, New Yorker, NYMag, etc) against music services (Apple, Spotify) against streaming video (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Apple, YT, Disneyflix, AT&T). That they all have similar price points only stresses the competition. An average household will only be able to afford so many, maybe 4-5 before they're tapped out..."

A sneak peek at Apple's plans?

CNBC's Alex Sherman popped a new story about Apple's streaming TV plans on Wednesday... Citing sources, he says Apple plans to "give away original content for free to device owners," i.e., if you own an iPhone or an Apple TV, the built-in TV app will have some Apple-funded shows for you to stream. The app will also hook into other streaming platforms. But the company isn't going to give everything away: It's "looking for 'tent pole' franchises that could serve as linchpins to a paid Netflix-like subscription service down the road," Sherman said, citing sources...

Occasional disclosure: I'm a consultant on one of Apple's forthcoming TV shows. I have no idea how the company plans to release its shows...

Rich Greenfield's take

BTIG's Rich Greenfield was at the VF summit. I asked him for his take on the day's news. "The direct to consumer war is on," he said -- "Netflix is the lead car multiple laps ahead of Hulu, Amazon is repositioning themselves to go bigger and bolder, Apple is coming in the first half of 2019 with a free offering, Disneyflix is coming in late 2019 as is WarnerMedia's HBO+. The big question nobody asked is what happens to the legacy cable bundle with all these alternatives -- not to mention the future of advertising as almost all are ad-free."

Uproar over Trump's outrageous op-ed in USA Today

Tom Kludt emails: USA Today re-opened an ongoing debate that has vexed the news media in the Trump era: If the president says something, does that mean it's automatically worth publishing? On Wednesday, a chorus of reporters, editors and fact-checkers all gave an emphatic "no" to that question, after the paper ran an op-ed by Trump in which, as WaPo's Glenn Kessler put it, "almost every sentence contained a misleading statement or a falsehood."

Kessler was among many who wondered why USA Today would run such a flawed piece, even if the author is the sitting president. So, I reached out to a number of current and former opinion editors to get their thoughts on the debate…

USA Today defends itself

More from Kludt: Bill Sternberg, USA Today's editorial page editor, said the opinion section "provides a forum for a diversity of views on issues of national relevance.... President Trump's op-ed was treated like other column submissions; we check factual assertions while allowing authors wide leeway to express their opinions. Readers are invited to submit opposing viewpoints and provide additional context, some of which will be published in the days ahead."

 --> But Sternberg sidestepped the complaints. Whoever wrote this op-ed for POTUS made many factual errors. Were they checked? Were they ignored because he's the president? Read Tom's full piece here...



By Oliver Darcy:

 -- Did Trump tweet out a photo originally snapped and posted by Jim Acosta? It sure looks so... (Mediaite)

 -- Daily Beast all-stars Lachlan Markay, Asawin Suebsaeng, and Maxwell Tani profiled Dan Bongino... One nugget from the story: Bongino has been banned from appearing on "Fox News @ Night" after becoming "unglued" off-camera during a previous appearance... (Beast

 -- BuzzFeed's Anne Helen Petersen asks: "Why won't any scandals stick to Trump?" (BuzzFeed)

Nuzzi's wild 'private Oval office press conference' with Trump

Oliver Darcy emails: Olivia Nuzzi had an interesting Tuesday. In a piece published Wednesday, Nuzzi detailed how she came to find herself at a "private Oval Office press conference" with Trump, Mike Pence, John Kelly, Mike Pompeo, Bill Shine, and Sarah Sanders. Nuzzi delivered the story in her trademark colorful way, and it does not disappoint. I can't recommend enough that you read the spellbinding piece in its entirety here...

That said, if you don't have time to read the piece, Maggie Haberman summarized the episode quite well with a singular tweet: "The highest levels of the West Wing came together for a nationally important and significant purpose - to keep @Olivianuzzi from writing negative things about John Kelly's relationship with Trump. And in this way, little has changed since last year." 

>> Meanwhile, Fox's Laura Ingraham (rightfully) seemed perplexed by the WH's comms strategy with the story: "Curious why WH thought this was necessary..." 


 -- Looking back at coverage of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings: Becket Adams says the case "produced some of the worst journalism of the Trump era to date – and that's a pretty high bar...." (Wash Examiner)

-- Erik Wemple tweeted: "Per a NYT spokesperson, Baghdad bureau chief Margaret Coker 'has left The New York Times. This is an internal personnel matter and at this time we cannot comment further.'" (Twitter)

-- Timely: The American Red Cross held its annual NYC gala on Wednesday night at the Ziegfeld Ballroom... CNNers Poppy Harlow, Jim Sciutto, S.E. Cupp, John Avlon, and Margaret Hoover joined board member Ashleigh Banfield... Aaron Sorkin too!

-- "Newsweek's former parent company has been charged by Manhattan prosecutors with carrying out a complex scheme to defraud lenders out of millions of dollars as part of an effort to keep the struggling media organization afloat..." (WSJ)

Updates on Jamal Khashoggi 

In the wake of Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance -- and what Turkish officials have quietly called his murder-- Saudi Arabia is coming under more and more pressure. But the kingdom continues to deny any involvement in the mystery. 

US senators were given access to classified intel about Khashoggi on Wednesday. Later in the day, a bipartisan group representing one-fifth of the Senate sent a letter to President Trump triggering an "investigation and Global Magnitsky sanctions determination." CNN's DC team has details here...

 >> Trump's newest comment on the matter: "It's a very bad situation and we're going to get to the bottom of it." But analysts who watch the US-Saudi relationship are skeptical that will happen, as this CNN story notes.

 >> Meanwhile, Khashoggi's Turkish fiancée Hatice Cengiz answered Q's from Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday... She said she still thinks "anything" could have happened to him... She wants to wait for the "final result..."

WaPo's latest

The Post's Shane Harris reported Wednesday night: "The crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered an operation to lure Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia from his home in Virginia and then detain him, according to U.S. intelligence intercepts of Saudi officials discussing the plan. The intelligence, described by U.S. officials familiar with it, is another piece of evidence implicating the Saudi regime in Khashoggi's disappearance..." 

What about these biz relationships?

Media and tech world ties to Saudi Arabia are getting a lot of scrutiny all of a sudden. The NYT, Bloomberg, CNBC, Fox Business and CNN are all listed as "media partners" at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, coming up later this month, the WaPo's Erik Wemple writes.

His question: "Should U.S. media outlets be partnering with Saudi Arabia?" Even if it's just an ad sales deal? On Wednesday evening, according to Wemple, the NYT withdrew... And CNBC said it's "monitoring the situation."

As for the tech world, numerous tech and biz heavyweights are supposedly serving on the advisory board for a Saudi mega city project called NEOM. But some of the execs backed out on Wednesday -- or said they'd never really signed up in the first place...


By Julia Waldow: 

-- Lindsay Peoples Wagner of The Cut has been named Teen Vogue's new EIC... She will start October 18... (Business of Fashion)

 -- The FT says James Murdoch is the top pick to succeed Elon Musk at Tesla... Murdoch's rep declined to comment, per Hadas Gold... (FT

 -- The University of Michigan Center for Social Media Responsibility has released a tool called the "Iffy Quotient" to track the prevalence of misinfo spread on Facebook and Twitter ahead of the midterms... (UMichigan


Shakeup at Hearst

"Jessica Pels has been elevated to editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan as part of a sweeping editorial shake-up at the Hearst magazine empire," Keith J. Kelly reports.

Cosmo EIC Michele Promaulayko is out. Pels, Cosmo's top web editor, is taking charge. It's "part of a shift at the publisher that is seeing the walls between digital and print being torn down," Kelly says.

"Two other print magazine editors, at House Beautiful and Seventeen, are out as top digital people take over. At three Hearst titles — Popular Mechanics, Men's Health and Women's Health — it was the print editors who got the nod over their digital counterparts."

About 35 jobs are being eliminated... And Redbook is losing its print edition and going digital-only... 

Radhika Jones' first TV interview

From news about Hearst to news about Condé... Here are the highlights from my interview with Vanity Fair editor Radhika Jones:

 -- "Audiences are hungry for new faces and new voices... My goal is to reflect the culture as I see it..."

 -- "It's been heartening, to me, to hear that people are surprised by our cover choices across the board..."

 -- VF and other mags have discovered that "you can make a moment out of a magazine cover" now that the images "travel meme-like through the world..."

 -- Will there be a print edition of Vanity Fair in ten years? "I think there will be. We still have a robust print business...."

 -- Graydon Carter "very generously left me a mug full of sharpened pencils." But she edits on the computer. She said she's become a bit of a "workflow nerd..." Read the rest here...


One year since Ronan Farrow's first Weinstein report


Julia Waldow emails: Wednesday was a year to the day of Ronan Farrow's first story about Harvey Weinstein. In commemoration, The New Yorker asked eight of its writers "to look back on #MeToo in order to anticipate what could -- or should -- come next," editor David Remnick writes. The resulting feature, titled "One Year of #MeToo," contains pieces by Allyson Hobbs, Masha Gessen, Doreen St. Félix, Helen Rosner, Katy Waldman, Jia Tolentino, Amanda Petrusich, and Han Zhang...

Snap's new slate of shows

Samuel Burke emails: I interviewed Snap VP of content Nick Bell about what is essentially Snapchat's version of a fall TV lineup with its first formal slate of scripted, comedy and docuseries shows dubbed Snap Originals. The company convinced big Hollywood producers like the Duplass brothers to film vertically and rethink length with five-minute episodes.

First and foremost, Bell said, these series are about retaining users. More here...

What's going on at Annapurna?

Variety has been leading the way on this story... Here's the latest from Brent Lang and Matt Donnelly... They say "Larry Ellison is engineering a major reorganization of his daughter Megan Ellison's struggling Annapurna Pictures..." The Oracle founder "is taking a hard look at costs to figure out a way to overhaul the operation..."

All of this is especially interesting because Annapurna just offloaded a film about Roger Ailes and Fox News. "The film was two weeks from starting production before being dropped," Lang and Donnelly note. Now it's "expected to land at Focus Features with co-financing from Bron Studios."

So what happened? Here are the competing narratives: "Chatter among agents says that Larry Ellison, a Republican, was hesitant to back the Ailes film because he is personally close to Fox chief Rupert Murdoch. Even if that is not the motivation, Annapurna insiders have gotten the sense that Larry Ellison is not interested in putting his money behind politically charged material." But: "One person who knows Larry Ellison says his concerns are purely financially driven and that he determined that the economics of the Ailes film, as well as other projects, didn't add up..."

"22 July" captures horror of extremism, and hope in its aftermath

Brian Lowry emails: Premiering on Netflix and theatrically, "22 July" is a sobering look at extremism, as told through the mass slaying at a Norwegian youth leadership camp in 2011. Directed by Paul Greengrass ("United 93"), the movie clearly seeks to provoke thought about how democratic societies deal with these threats, and the insane-versus-evil debate when it comes to those who would perpetrate such acts in the name of ideology. Read Lowry's full review of the film here...

CW's 'All American,' 'Charmed' get in the game, casting spells

Lowry emails: No network has exhibited a firmer grasp on its brand in recent years than the CW, and that's true of two new dramas premiering this week: "All American," about an African-American football player recruited to play at a Beverly Hills high school; and "Charmed," a reboot of the series about three sister witches, which, yes, works in a "witch hunt" joke in the premiere. Notably, both are paired with what appear to be extremely compatible shows -- "Riverdale" and "Supergirl," respectively, as the network expands to six nights. 


By Lisa Respers France:

 -- Jael Strauss, a former "America's Next Top Model" contestant, has revealed she has stage 4 incurable breast cancer which has spread...

 -- Azealia Banks and Lana Del Rey had a nasty Twitter feud, which included Del Rey threatening Banks...

 -- We now know what led Cardi B to go after Nicki Minaj for their famous New York Fashion Week fight...

As always, your feedback is welcome... it helps make the newsletter better... so email me here...

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