CNN v. Trump update; Bernstein on decorum; reporting on unreality; inside Facebook; interview with Maria Ressa; Carell as Bezos; weekend box office


A new threat to Jim Acosta's press pass

If you thought the Trump administration would seek to settle CNN and Jim Acosta's lawsuit out of court... think again.

After CNN won a temporary restraining order on Friday, forcing the White House to restore his press pass for 14 days, White House officials sent Acosta a letter stating that his pass is set to be suspended again once the restraining order expires.

From the looks of the letter, the W.H. is trying to establish a paper trail that will empower the administration to boot Acosta again at the end of the month.

CNN responded with this statement on Sunday: "The White House is continuing to violate the First and 5th Amendments of the Constitution. These actions threaten all journalists and news organizations. Jim Acosta and CNN will continue to report the news about the White House and the President."

Expect to hear more about this on Monday...

Preliminary injunction next?

Lawyers were already expected to be back in court this week to discuss the timeline for further proceedings. Unless there's some sort of resolution, CNN will be arguing for a preliminary injunction. Here's what CNN outside counsel Ted Boutrous told me on "Reliable Sources" before these new developments were known... 

Reporting on "unreality"

Media reporters used to spend a lot time writing about TV anchor shakeups, newsroom shenanigans and ratings races. There's a part of me that misses those days.

Today the beat is about political propaganda, viral misinformation, threats against newsrooms and failing business models. It's about shiny tech tools enabling the worst of humanity and echo chambers eroding our common understanding of the world around us. It's about the information war that's raging on our screens.

Hang with me while I walk you through this weekend's examples... Beginning with one of the best stories I've read all year...

"The more extreme we become, the more people believe it"

Christopher Blair is a liberal blogger who writes fake stories. He says he's trying to trick conservative readers. And he says he's making a lot of money doing it. "How could any thinking person believe this nonsense?" he wonders before hitting send.

Shirley Chapian is one of the Facebook users who reads Blair's lies and believes some of it. Believes enough of it to click "like" and "share." Eli Saslow's story for the Washington Post is about both of them -- and it's about what is wrong with the internet in 2018. After you read the story, I'd love to know what you thought of it...
Here are a few takeaways from the story, starting with my own...

 --> For years, Chapian "had watched network TV news," but then she went deep down a far-right-wing hole, with Alex Jones, etc. So she traded (imperfect!) journalism for really manipulative entertainment that sometimes poses as journalism. This can do a lot of damage...

 --> BF's Charlie Warzel: "The story shows that the viral, platform-based assault on truth is really a story about addiction, too. Like any drug, there are the people who peddle it (who can stand to make a lot of money somewhat easily) and the people who become dependent on the product (in this case outrage)..."

 --> WaPo's Tony Romm: Read Saslow's story "to understand how and why so many Americans, especially older ones, are falling victim to falsehoods online. It's not Russian trolls. It's poverty. It's loneliness and isolation. It's poor digital literacy skills..."

 --> I'd like to second this comment from Ann Marie Lipinski: "The gullible are not the only problem. Guys claiming 'satire' while getting rich off the ads need to own their role in this debacle..."

Misinfo is a chronic condition

There is no quick or easy fix for these fundamental problems. We have to think about misinformation as a "chronic condition," researcher Renee DiResta told me the other day. Misinfo has always existed, but now "we have an information ecosystem that really facilitates the amplification of that content, that facilitates it going viral," she said. It can't be "fixed," but it can be managed...

Inside Facebook...

Will this week be any better than last week for FB? A few key stories to read...

 -- The WSJ's Deepa Seetharaman has a new story describing Mark Zuckerberg on a "war" footing... And detailing "tensions" and "strains" between Z and Sheryl Sandberg...

 -- Jim Rutenberg's Monday NYT column says "The Social Network" movie told us everything we needed to know about FB, eight years ago...

 -- Felix Salmon's framing for Axios: "Facebook's executive trainwreck"

Leaks about leaking

This is never a good sign. In a Q&A with employees on Friday, in the wake of that damaging NYT story, Zuckerberg "made it clear that Facebook would not hesitate to fire employees who spoke to The New York Times or other publications," according to... yes... leaks to the NYT. Zuckerberg also accurately acknowledged that leaks are usually caused by "issues with morale..."

Brian Wieser's latest

Well respected Pivotal analyst Brian Wieser's Sunday night note: "Advertiser concerns about morality at Facebook are real. Post-last week's New York Times articles on the company, we don't see immediate financial impact, but other risks to the business are elevated on many fronts. We maintain our Sell rating and $125 price target."

Understanding the links

Donie O'Sullivan emails: New emails obtained by CNN this weekend show Steve Bannon's early correspondences with "Leave.EU," one of the pro-Brexit campaigns. The emails raise new questions about the extent of Bannon and Cambridge Analytica's involvement in Brexit. An investigation has been launched into Leave.EU, and its main donor has faced questions about whether any funding came from Moscow...

 --> Big picture: British journalist Carole Cadwalladr, who led the way on the Cambridge Analytica story, has launched a new podcast called "Dial M For Mueller." She is arguing that the UK needs its own Mueller probe... She summed up her case in this NYRB piece...

 -- Congratulations to Rebecca Berg and Brendan Buck! The couple tied the knot over the weekend... (NYT)

 -- I guess this is how the pro-Trump media works? When Sean Hannity took Friday night off, Mike Huckabee filled in, and he interviewed his daughter Sarah Sanders about her W.H. press secretary job...

 -- In the interview, Sanders slammed Acosta, saying that if he can't act like an adult, "CNN needs to send somebody else..." The whole point of this battle is that CNN gets to decide that, not Sanders... (The Hill)

 -- On "Reliable," I challenged Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy's claims about Trump's "pro-veteran" record and the media's "negative attacks..." (CNN)

Making sense of nonsense

Returning to the "unreality" theme for a moment... I made this point on Sunday's "Reliable Sources..." Fact-checkers are fantastic, but sometimes President Trump seems to be beyond fact-checking. A few days ago he talked about showing a voter I.D. to buy cereal. Over the weekend, while visiting fire devastation in CA, he talked about raking the forests. It is hard to make sense of this nonsense...

"How dark is your mood?"

That was one of Chris Wallace's questions to POTUS in the interview that aired Sunday. Wallace cited the numerous news reports about Trump's anger and isolation.
So "how dark is your mood?" Wallace asked.

"It's very light, it's fake news, it's disgusting fake news," Trump said. "I read a front page story in the Washington Post, they never even called me, nobody ever calls me." Then he claimed the sources were made up. When I hear Trump complaining about reporters not calling him... A comment he made re: the NYT's story about Mike Pence, too... It makes me wonder how much info his press shop is withholding from him...

 --> Also note Wallace's quote about Fox being in "solidarity" with CNN and other outlets... While this doesn't seem to apply to Fox's pundits, it's still meaningful...

Today's "potty humor tweet" from the president

How did news outlets handle Trump's tweet about "little Adam Schitt?" Well, the homepage headline says "Trump attacks leading House Democrat in profane tweet." WaPo's headline calls it a "derisive nickname." USA Today labels it a "vulgarity," and Bloomberg says it's a "potty humor tweet."

Decorus, it is not...

Many reporters immediately pointed out that Trump has been calling for White House "decorum" while posting crude tweets and saying terrible things. (Don't even get me started on his factually inaccurate criticism of Ret. Admiral William McRaven.)

As Carl Bernstein said on "Reliable Sources," "the DECORUM of the presidency has been undermined and defiled by this president...."

Carl Bernstein proposing a different way to cover Trump's events:

"I don't think we should be taking them live all the time and just pasting them up on the air, because they're basically just propagandist exercises."

He urged more "editing" so that robust fact-checking can be included. Watch...

How local reporters are covering the Camp Fire

"We've had 10 people who work at the newspaper lose their homes. One who doesn't know. Three others who are still evacuated and can't go home," Chico Enterprise-Record editor David Little told me on Sunday's show.

Little said the staff feels "really helpless," but they are helping by informing the community. Papers are being delivered to evacuation centers and other locations. His account was incredible to hear... You can watch the segment here...

Philippine government threatening Rappler

Also on Sunday's show, Rappler founder and editor Maria Ressa joined me to respond to the Philippine government's new threat to indict her. "The end goal of all of these cases is political harassment," Ressa said. "They want to intimidate us into stopping the stories we're doing."

Ressa will be accepting an award at the aforementioned CPJ dinner on Tuesday... Then she plans to fly home to Manila, and she's not sure what will happen next... Watch our conversation here, and please note the part about FB's role in amplifying the awful smears about her website...


Catch up on Sunday's show

Listen to the show via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn... Watch the video clips on Or watch the full program through CNNgo or VOD...


 -- Fred Hiatt's latest about the Jamal Khashoggi case: "Why bring a bonesaw to a kidnapping? That is a question the crown prince of Saudi Arabia should be asked at every opportunity..." (WaPo)

 -- Trump's approach to Khashoggi's murder is that "ignorance is bliss," Sam Vinograd writes. "The longer you can claim ignorance about what really happened, the longer you can delay making tough decisions on whether to hold the real perpetrators of the murder accountable..." (CNN)

-- Virginia Heffernan's latest: "Harvey Levin and Michael Avenatti are proof that salaciousness and statecraft have become one..." (LAT)

Media week ahead calendar

Tuesday: CPJ's annual press freedom dinner in NYC...

Wednesday: Via Brian Lowry: A pair of sequels, "Creed II" and "Ralph Breaks the Internet," will seek to pack a one-two punch over the long holiday weekend...

Friday: Black Friday!

Have you heard of Shoeleather?

It's a new database "aimed at connecting journalists outside the nation's media hub with editors across the country "for the purpose of reporting on their home regions," the NYT's Matthew Sedacca explains.

Sarah Baird, a journalist from Richmond, Kentucky, created the tool along with developer Cameron Decker. Details here...


 -- Happy 80th birthday to Ted Turner! Jane Fonda, Sam Nunn, Andrew Young, Jeff Zucker, Wolf Blitzer, Bobby Cox, and many others were at Saturday night's party in Atlanta... (AJC)

 -- "One of Australia's leading wedding magazines is shutting down after it refused to feature same-sex couples..." (BBC)

 -- Rick Hasen's latest: "Why Democrats should not call the Georgia governor's race 'stolen.'" (Slate)

Georgia on their minds

Brian Lowry emails: The next question for Hollywood? Whether to try to financially punish Georgia – by relocating film production, drawn there by the state's aggressive tax credits – in the wake of the election tactics employed by new governor Brian Kemp.

Frank Rich engaged in an exchange with Kemp's opponent, Stacey Abrams, about it (she argued that workers shouldn't be punished), with Rich tweeting that the entertainment industry must "focus on using its considerable economic leverage any way it can." Meanwhile, "The Deuce" producer David Simon said flatly of filming in the state, "Not GA. Not now."

Carell as Bezos

Steve Carell as Jeff Bezos (!) on "SNL:"

"I chose our locations because they were ideal for growing business, not just to make Donald Trump think about how I'm literally 100 times richer than he is."

Read/watch Frank Pallotta's recap here...

Weekend box office report

"For months, Warner Bros. marketers did everything they could to stir interest in 'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,' the second of the studio's five lavish Harry Potter prequels. The hard sell appears to have worked overseas. But initial ticket sales were soft in the United States and Canada, where audiences are more susceptible to reviews," the NYT's Brooks Barnes reports...

About that "popular film" addition...

Brian Lowry emails: Rebecca Keegan's final Vanity Fair piece (having moved on to THR) is a good look at the Oscars' flirtation with a "popular film" category, including the key points that 1) ABC was clearly pressuring the group to do something that might jumpstart the ratings and 2) even the governors who were contemplating the idea knew they'd get "nailed" for it in certain circles...


"My Brilliant Friend" debuts

Brian Lowry emails: HBO's "My Brilliant Friend" premiered Sunday night, and the eight-part miniseries — adapted in Italian from Elena Ferrante's bestseller — more than lives up to its adjective. Read the review here...

Thanks for reading. Email me feedback anytime! See you Monday...
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