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Home » The Messenger, 175 journalists strong, makes its debut with a Trump interview

The Messenger, 175 journalists strong, makes its debut with a Trump interview

The Messenger, a news site that will cover politics, business, entertainment and sports, made its debut on Monday. Its first big story was an interview with former President Donald Trump.

Behind the site is Jimmy Finkelstein, a media investor who formerly owned The Hill and was part owner of The Hollywood Reporter. With the backing of $50 million in investor money, the site is kicking off with 175 journalists in New York, Washington and Los Angeles. In a year, Finkelstein hopes to have as many as 550 journalists working at the site.

By Monday afternoon, dozens of stories (and plenty of advertising) were already up on the site from all across the spectrum — from the Trump interview to reports at the border to the latest “Vanderpump Rules” scandals. Some of the stories read a little like something you might see from People or TMZ, but others looked like stories you might see on any hardcore news site.

In a note to readers, editor-in-chief Dan Wakeford wrote, “Readers demand impartial and objective news, and The Messenger is on a mission to deliver exactly that. People are exhausted with extreme politics and platforms that inflame the divisions in our country by slanting stories towards an audience’s bias. Our talented journalists are committed to demystifying the onslaught of misinformation and delivering impartial and objective news.”

Wakeford wrote that in the coming months, The Messenger will launch new verticals across entertainment, business, technology, sports, health and wellness, purpose, travel, food and style.

Not everyone was impressed with The Messenger’s debut. As The Wrap’s Rosemary Rossi wrote, “… while Finkelstein surely hoped the new outlet would get a warm welcome, it received the exact opposite. Far from oohs and ahs, the Messenger was met with scorching criticism from readers who were left confused and angry, calling it ‘literally unreadable.’”

The story that drew the most attention from Monday’s launch was Trump’s interview with Marc Caputo, the former NBC News and Politico reporter. Trump talked about the town hall he did last week with CNN, saying, “I was amazed to see that they were traumatized by what took place. They were actually traumatized. They should have said, ‘We had a tremendous ratings night, one of the best in years, many years,’ and spiked the football.”

CNN has taken lots of criticism, both inside and outside of the network, for the Trump town hall. However, Trump is right when talking about the ratings. The 70-minute town hall drew an average of 3.3 million viewers. The night after the town hall, CNN averaged 538,000 viewers in prime time.

Trump also talked about other media, including Fox News. He told Caputo, “Yeah, I’m doing a lot of different media. I was disappointed with Fox. I thought the firing of Tucker (Carlson) was a tremendous mistake. I was very disappointed. And of course, I was disappointed with the coverage of the (2020 presidential) election, in particular the early call in Arizona.”

Trump said he is open to doing more media with nonconservative outlets. But in the interview, he continued to falsely rant about how the 2020 election was rigged.

Trump also talked extensively about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who could be his biggest competitor for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.

“I think the media has said he’s doing a terrible job and he doesn’t know what he’s doing,” Trump said. “You know, the media has not been friendly to him. They’re saying that he’s a rank amateur. And you know, he started off fine, but then he hasn’t done very well. You look at the polls.”

Trump added, “But if he runs, he runs. But he’s very disloyal. He was a dead man walking (in 2018). He was dead, dead as a doornail. And I revived him. … I’m a loyal person. If that happened to me, I would never run against the guy that did that. He’s got plenty of years left. And I think if he runs, he’s gonna lose MAGA votes forever. That’s my opinion. And the MAGA votes are almost everything in the Republican Party, far bigger than you think.”

It’s just one day. And it was a Friday, not exactly a great night for TV and, especially, TV news. But The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona notes that ultra-conservative Newsmax averaged 357,000 viewers from 8 to 11 p.m. CNN during that time? Only 335,000.

If you care about journalism or are a media consumer, you should check out a lengthy, but worthwhile piece written by New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger for the Columbia Journalism Review: “Journalism’s Essential Value.”

It’s an essay that focuses on how “objectivity” plays a role in today’s journalism and the importance of journalism independence.

It’s way too long and detailed and, most of all, important, to attempt to sum up by cherry-picking a few passages and running them here. This is not just a message to and about journalism, but to citizens as well.

Carve out time and read it. It’s really long. But it’s good. Most of all, it’s critical. I cannot recommend it enough.

A logo of Vice Media is seen on the facade of its office building in Los Angeles on Monday. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Just a few years ago — 2017 to be exact — investors valued Vice Media at nearly $6 billion. On Monday, Vice Media filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In its filing, the company said it had assets and liabilities worth between $500 million and $1 billion.

The New York Times’ Lauren Hirsch and Benjamin Mullin reported, “The bankruptcy will not interrupt daily operations for Vice’s businesses, which in addition to its flagship website include the ad agency Virtue, the Pulse Films division and Refinery29, a women-focused site acquired by Vice in 2019. A group of Vice’s lenders, including Fortress Investment Group and Soros Fund Management, is in the leading position to acquire the company out of bankruptcy. The group has submitted a bid of $225 million, which would be covered by its existing loans to the company. It would also take over ‘significant liabilities’ from Vice after any deal closes.”

In a statement, co-CEOs Bruce Dixon and Hozefa Lokhandwala said, “This accelerated court-supervised sale process will strengthen the Company and position Vice for long-term growth. We look forward to completing the sale process in the next two to three months and charting a healthy and successful next chapter at Vice.”

So what went wrong?

The Times wrote, “Like some of its peers in the digital-media industry, including BuzzFeed and Vox Media, Vice and its investors bet big on the rising power of social media networks like Facebook and Instagram, anticipating they would deliver a tide of young, upwardly mobile readers that advertisers craved. Though readers came by the millions, new media companies had trouble wringing profits from them, and the bulk of digital ad dollars went to the major tech platforms. Last month, BuzzFeed shut down its namesake Pulitzer Prize-winning news division after going public at a small fraction of its earlier valuation, and Vox Media earlier this year raised money at roughly half its 2015 valuation.”

Meanwhile, Axios’ Dan Primack and Sareen Habeshian have “The biggest startup flameouts of the last decade.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer didn’t have a print edition on Sunday and the offices are closed at least through Tuesday — all due to an apparent cyberattack.

Inquirer publisher and CEO Lisa Hughes said in a statement to several news outlets that “The Philadelphia Inquirer recently discovered anomalous activity on select computer systems and immediately took those systems offline.”

The print editions of the Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News went forward as scheduled Monday, but employees are being kept out of the main offices at least through Tuesday. The Inquirer has hired Kroll, a corporate investigation firm, to investigate and restore its systems. The FBI is reportedly “aware of the incident” but is not commenting further.

Reporters will not be in the office today — a big news day in Philadelphia. It’s the city’s Democratic primary for the mayoral race.

Diane Mastrull, an editor who is president of the NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia, told The New York Times’ Michael Levenson, “I truly don’t think it will impact it at all, short of us not being able to be together in the formal newsroom. COVID has certainly taught us to do our jobs remotely.”

The Inquirer’s Jonathan Lai reported that this is the “greatest publication disruption to Pennsylvania’s largest news organization since the blizzard of Jan. 7-8, 1996.”

I won’t give away any spoilers, but Sunday night’s “Succession” looked a little too real when it comes to a cable news network’s influence on American politics — specifically a presidential election. It was entertaining, but scary as heck, too.

I bring this up because The Atlantic’s Tom Nichols played a pundit on ATN, the fictional conservative cable news network on “Succession” that very much resembles Fox News.

He wrote about it for The Atlantic in “What I Learned From My Guest Role on Succession.” If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll enjoy Nichols’ story.

He wrote, “It is a gigantic amount of work. The hour of television you see represents days and weeks of shooting. Even for my tiny role, I reported for multiple days of work over three weekends, sometimes being on set for eight or 10 hours, and yet my total screen time in my one episode is probably measurable in seconds.”

He also gets into the politics and what took place in the episode, writing, “… I also had a realization about politics and television that made me uncomfortable. I was ‘reporting’ the show’s events with lines meant to imply racial animus, gravely agreeing with offensive, right-wing conspiracies, and it occurred to me how easy it was to fall into that persona. In real life, I was once a Republican, and I know some of the steps to that waltz, but now we were dancing a mad tango, and my footing was just a bit too sure.”

(AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

This is a rather big deal. The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Flint and Jessica Toonkel had the scoop that Peacock, the NBC streaming service, will carry an NFL playoff game exclusively this upcoming season. The Journal reports the deal is in the range of $110 million. The playoff game will be in prime time on Saturday, Jan. 13 during the first weekend of the playoffs known as Wild Card Weekend.

The markets of the teams in the game will get the game for free, mostly likely on their local NBC affiliate. But if you’re not in those markets and you don’t have Peacock, you might not be able to see the game.

Last season, for the first time, regular-season games were shown on a streaming service. Amazon carried “Thursday Night Football” on Prime Video and will do so again this season. This upcoming season, Peacock will air a regular-season game exclusively on Dec. 23.

Expect two things. One, plenty of complaining from NFL fans, especially when this playoff game comes up and catches fans off guard. And, two, this will not be the last time an NFL playoff game will be aired exclusively on a streaming service.

Tom Brady is putting his broadcasting career on hold for a year, but another future Hall of Fame quarterback is jumping into the booth. Probably.

Matt Ryan, who spent most of his 15-year career with the Atlanta Falcons and finished in the top 10 in many all-time key QB categories, is joining CBS to work select NFL games, while also providing analysis on studio shows such as “The NFL Today” and “That Other Pregame Show.”

But, Ryan tweeted, “Excited to join the @NFLonCBS family! Looking forward to breaking down the game this season. P.S. – this is not a retirement post.” It also included a wink emoji.

What does it mean that Ryan said it’s not a retirement post? The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz, who covers sports in Atlanta, tweeted it could hint that Ryan is in the booth as long as another NFL team doesn’t come along with an interesting offer for him to continue playing.

NewsNation’s Chris Cuomo, left, reporting from El Paso, Texas. (Courtesy: NewsNation)

  • No Hot Type stories today. In case you missed it earlier in the newsletter, I highly encourage you to take the time to read A.G. Sulzberger’s essay for the Columbia Journalism Review: “Journalism’s Essential Value.”

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