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Home » Given a do-over, with a few tweaks, CNN would do the Trump town hall again

Given a do-over, with a few tweaks, CNN would do the Trump town hall again

If he had it to do over again, CNN big boss Chris Licht would make a few tweaks to the network’s town hall a week ago with former President Donald Trump. But despite all the flak he’s catching inside and outside of CNN, Licht would still do the town hall all over again. He believes history will show CNN did the right thing, according to a report from CNBC’s Alex Sherman.

Sherman wrote, “Licht wished CNN had introduced the in-person audience to TV watchers so that viewers could better identify who they were, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions were private. The crowd was a main character in the event as many Trump supporters cheered his responses and jeered CNN host Kaitlan Collins when she challenged him. Licht would have liked to openly question the crowd before the town hall began so the TV audience could better understand who they were and why they were supporting Trump, said the people.”

In addition, Sherman reports, CNN could have also done a few other things differently from a production standpoint, such as focusing on Collins when she called out Trump’s lies. Or using graphics to show Trump wasn’t actually answering questions he was asked.

Sherman added, “Licht was also displeased with the post-show tone from CNN’s anchors and panelists, said the people. The panel, co-hosted by CNN anchors including Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper, looked morose after the event, clearly showing trauma from previous Trump interviews and speeches where he’d peddled election fraud lies and talked over questioners.”

Meanwhile, The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Cartwright and Justin Baragona have a new piece out: “Inside the CNN Meltdown Over Its Town Hall Disaster.”

They mention Dylan Byers’ reporting for Puck that said Licht was displeased with CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy and his coverage of the town hall. In his newsletter, Darcy wrote, “It’s hard to see how America was served by the spectacle of lies that aired on CNN Wednesday evening.”

In a meeting, Licht reportedly told Darcy he was being too emotional in his coverage.

If that is true, and by all accounts it is, it’s grotesque that a network news boss would chew out one of his journalists — a media reporter, no less — for reporting reasonably about something that happened on their network. And, honestly, Darcy’s take was no worse than all the criticism CNN was taking from practically everyone in the media reporting business. It’s admirable, in fact, that a reporter will report so honestly about his own news organization.

Puck also reported that CNN told the audience in New Hampshire to be respectful and not boo, but it did allow the crowd to applaud. The New Republic’s Prem Thakker wrote, “Such instruction, beyond the possibility that CNN did not actually try to get a balanced audience of Trump supporters and genuinely ‘undeclared’ voters, may explain why the town hall appeared more like a Trump lovefest and less like an earnest exploration of whether a criminal and sexual abuser deserves to be president (this is needlessly generous: The answer is ‘no’).”

“Meanwhile,” The Daily Beast writes, “CNN insiders said Licht has been spending an inordinately large amount of time around The Atlantic reporter Tim Alberta, who is profiling the executive after his first year in office. Alberta was in the audience for the Trump town hall, which was described … as ‘our Chernobyl’ by one CNN staffer, as network spin doctors work overtime hoping to generate a glowing profile of the boss.”

One more interesting tidbit that came out in Sherman’s CNBC story about the CNN town hall is that NBC “isn’t likely to do a town hall” with Trump after seeing how the CNN town hall went down. Trump has hinted he is open to doing interviews and town halls with nonconservative media outlets.

You can see why networks would stay away from a town hall-type setting with Trump, but it’s hard to believe that NBC, or any network, wouldn’t think about doing a one-on-one sitdown with Trump.

Former President Barack Obama, left, talking with “CBS Mornings” co-host Nate Burleson. (Courtesy: CBS News)

Speaking of former presidents talking to the media, former President Barack Obama did an exclusive interview with “CBS Mornings” co-host Nate Burleson.

Obama talked about what worries him these days in America, the country’s gun problem and his relationship with his wife, Michelle.

What concerns Obama most?

“Today,” Obama said, “what I’m most concerned about is the fact that, because of the splintering of the media, we almost occupy different realities, right? If something happens that, you know, in the past everybody could say, ‘All right, we may disagree on how to solve it, but at least we all agree that, yeah, that’s an issue.’ Now people will say, ‘Well, that didn’t happen,’ or, ‘I don’t believe that,’ or, ‘I don’t care about the science,’ or, ‘I’m not concerned about these experts, you know, ‘cause they’re just all liberals’ or, you know, ‘That’s just conservative propaganda.’”

Regarding guns, Obama said, “We are unique among advanced developed nations in tolerating, on a routine basis, gun violence in the form of shootings, mass shootings, suicides. In Australia, you had one mass shooting, 50 years ago, and they said, ‘Oh, we’re not doing that anymore.’ That is normally how you would expect a society to respond when your children are at risk.”

Obama also talked about his improved relationship with his wife. He said, “Let me just say this — it sure helps to be out of the White House, and to have a little bit more time with her. You know, what also helps though … about children. And I don’t know about your spouse. Michelle, when our girls were growing up, that was priority No. 1, 2, 3 and 4. And so I did not fully appreciate … the degree of stress and tension for her knowing that not just me and Michelle were under scrutiny and in this strange environment but that we were raising our daughters … in a kind of situation that just wasn’t normal. Now that they’re doing good, she is a little more forgiving of all my flaws. What she has told me is, ‘You know, looking back, you did OK as a dad.’ And if I pass that test then she’ll forgive me most of my other foibles.”

The Wall Street Journal is getting less formal. Journal editor-in-chief Emma Tucker sent out a note to staff Tuesday, saying the news outlet is dropping “the routine use of honorifics, or courtesy titles.” In other words, it will no longer use titles such as Mr. or Ms. in news stories. Instead, after the first reference of a person’s name in a story, it will just give their surname.

Tucker wrote, “The Journal has been one of the few news organizations to continue to use the titles, under our long-held belief that Mr., Ms. and so forth help us maintain a polite tone. However, the trend among almost all newspapers and magazines has been to go without, as editors have concluded that the titles in news articles are becoming a vestige of a more-formal past, and that the flood of Mr., Ms., Mx. or Mrs. in sentences can slow down readers’ enjoyment of our writing.”

Tucker added, “In addition, dropping courtesy titles is more in line with the way people communicate their identities. It puts everyone on a more-equal footing.”

The new rule is already in effect. The change happened Tuesday night.

Tucker is correct that most news organizations do not use the titles in their stories. The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today and The Associated Press do not use such titles.

The New York Times does use the titles, although it doesn’t use them for sports stories. (The Journal also didn’t use titles in its sports stories.)

As a regular reader of the Journal and the Times, I occasionally noticed the use of titles, but it never slowed down the enjoyment or pace of my reading. But I also felt the use of titles didn’t necessarily add politeness or respect to the subjects in stories. You could even argue it was antiquated, unnecessary and, at times, a little weird. Eliminating the use of titles, undoubtedly, will go over well with the writers and editors of stories and have no impact on the stories themselves.

I think it’s a good move.

Pat McAfee, center of bottom row, and many of the people who appear on and help produce his show. (Courtesy: ESPN)

This deal isn’t necessarily surprising, but it sure is a blockbuster. New York Post sports media columnist Andrew Marchand broke the story that Pat McAfee is headed to ESPN. McAfee is walking away from a four-year, $120 million contract with FanDuel. ESPN officially announced the deal later Tuesday.

Marchand, who hinted this could happen a week ago, reports, “The amount ESPN will pay McAfee is not fully known yet, but it is more than eight figures per year, according to sources.”

We don’t know how all the financials shake out, but the move comes in the midst of Disney slashing 7,000 jobs, including at ESPN.

I’ve written about the amazing media success story of McAfee. He turned a decent career as an NFL punter into a massively successful podcast/YouTube show. In addition, he appears on ESPN’s “College GameDay” and does work with World Wrestling Entertainment, more commonly known as the WWE.

Why would he leave such a high-paying gig at FanDuel? Because there, he runs his business, meaning he is in charge of everything behind the scenes, too. In this new job, ESPN takes over most of the business-related aspects of McAfee’s show.

Marchand writes, “The move instantly becomes one of the biggest sports media stories of the year.”

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