The Rating Game
The Real Zucker Story, Facebook's Drop
To the casual observer, Jeff Zucker's shocking resignation from CNN might appear to land at the intersection of scandalous media workplace relationships and cancel culture. It's more likely that it's about a clash of media titans and the Chris Cuomo firing. In Puck News (Unlocked Article with Email), Dylan Byers shares outtakes of a heated meeting that took place last night between WarnerMedia C.E.O. Jason Kilar and some of the most well-known talent at CNN. From Jake Tapper: "An outside observer might say, ‘Wow, it looks like Chris Cuomo succeeded. He threatened, Jeff said we don’t negotiate with terrorists, and he blew the place up.’ How do we get past that perception, that this is the bad guy winning?" (It's was a pretty amazing exchange and the reporting by Dylan Byers is indicative of some of the really interesting work being done by Puck News on a variety of media topics. You should give it a try.)
While the ouster's inner workings provide a glimpse behind the scenes at CNN, I'm more concerned with what's happened on the screen over the past several years, which can collectively be referred to as the Panel Era, when reporting was often replaced by discussion, and breadth was often reduced to a single story. How did CNN get here and what does it mean for the broader news ecosystem (and democracy)? Check out my quick take: CNN, News Panels, and the Auto-Fellatioization of Cable News.
+ The always on the mark Margaret Sullivan in WaPo (Gift Article): "When the dust settles, Zucker’s relationship with Donald Trump will define his legacy. Zucker, as much as any other person in the world, created and burnished the Trump persona — first as a reality-TV star who morphed into a worldwide celebrity, then as a candidate for president who was given large amounts of free publicity. The through line? Nothing nobler than TV ratings, which always were Zucker’s guiding light, his be-all and end-all and, ultimately, his fatal flaw."
2. Islamic Statement
"The leader of the violent Islamic State group was killed Thursday, blowing himself up along with members of his family during an overnight raid carried out by U.S. special operations forces in northwestern Syria, President Joe Biden said. The raid targeted Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, who took over as head of the militant group on Oct. 31, 2019, just days after leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died during a U.S. raid in the same area."
+ IS chief al-Qurayshi: Why getting him mattered so much to the US.
+ Footage shows aftermath of US raid on house of Islamic State leader.
3. Seizing an Opening
From WaPo: "U.S. officials say they have evidence that Russia has developed a plan, approved at high levels in Moscow, to create a pretext for invading Ukraine by falsely pinning an attack on Ukrainian forces that could involve alleged casualties not only in eastern Ukraine but also in Russia." Meanwhile, Putin is heading to China to bolster ties with Xi before joining him to watch the Opening Ceremonies the US is diplomatically boycotting.
+ "When will it be time to stop partying, or to stop preparing and start acting? It’s often difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when a modern war has started, and it is particularly difficult to define a moment of substantive change in a country that has, in fact, been at war for eight years." Masha Gessen in The New Yorker: A Moment of Excruciating Anticipation in Kyiv.
4. They Won't Miss Piggy
"The residents of the San Francisco Bay Area go to great lengths to accommodate the wealth of wildlife around them. With the exception of the occasional aggressive coyote, the animals that roam the hills and gullies of the Bay Area — turkeys, mountain lions, deer, bobcats, foxes and the rest of a veritable Noah’s Ark — find themselves on somewhat laissez-faire terms with the humans around them. Not so for the rampaging feral pigs. They are tearing up lawns, ripping through golf course fairways, threatening the drinking water and disturbing the harvests at Napa vineyards. Many Californians want them dead." (When they go on one of their barking binges, many Californians feel the same about my beagles...) Thomas Fuller in the NYT (Gift Article): The Rampaging Pigs of the San Francisco Bay Area.
5. Extra, Extra
Book Value: "The price of shares in Meta — the parent company of Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Meta Quest (fka Oculus) — has dropped more than 25 percent from the previous day’s close, the morning after it revealed its first-ever sequential decline in Facebook’s daily active users." Meta is suffering one of the worst one day stock drops ever as the company gets hit by fewer users (I mean, eventually they were gonna run out of humans), a Nasdaq bloodbath, concerns over Metaverse spending, and revenue hits from Apple's iOS privacy change. (Facebook should deploy its users' strategy. No matter how badly your life is going, just post a happy photo of your joyously normal family.)
+ Opiates and the Masses: The man who allegedly sold Michael K. Williams the drugs that led to his death has been arrested. Williams was part of a growing trend. According to Lancet: "More than 1.2 million additional people across North America are expected to die of opioid overdoses by 2029 if dramatic interventions are not taken to prevent it."
+ Ice Capades: The 1980 Lake Placid Games "were the first to use artificial snow, which traces its invention to a Hollywood production lot in the 1930s ... This year the slopes outside Beijing will be the first Winter Olympics competed on entirely fake snow."
+ Yacht Rocks the Boat: Jeff Bezos' superyacht won't fit through a historic bridge. So the town is dismantling it. (This is the exact opposite of free delivery.)
6. Bottom of the News
A guy that Trump saw qualified to be America's lawyer and the administration's right hand man was deemed too odious to appear on The Masked Singer. Unmasking of Rudy Giuliani on Fox’s ‘The Masked Singer’ Prompts Judges Ken Jeong and Robin Thicke to Walk Off in Protest. (On the plus side, at least we finally got a MAGA insider to put on a mask...)