Coronavirus questions; creative solutions; two Trump narratives; new closures and cancellations; Disney’s ‘Frozen 2’ surprise

Foreign News

Let’s get creative

So many people are hurting right now. Sick and frightened patients are hurting the most, but there are so many other categories of people who are stressed and struggling with this unprecedented “pause” of American life.

Since this newsletter focuses on the media world, I want to highlight some of the concerns and some of the emerging solutions. The physical and emotional and financial tolls of this crisis are staggering. But there are creative ways to relieve anxiety; to connect with each other; and to squeeze some good out of this rotten situation. To shake off my own sadness, I made a list of some…

 — With public events called off, the Seattle Symphony is organizing “free livestreams and rebroadcasts until the orchestra can return” to the stage…

 — As Kaya Yurieff and Sara Ashley O’Brien reported for CNN Business, some people are seeking out live-streamed religious services…

 — SXSW was supposed to start this weekend. The film festival organizers have decided that “the films selected for competition will still be competing in front of a jury,” per Austin360. “They have also given filmmakers the option to upload their films to a screening library that press and industry professionals can take advantage of…”

 — Broadway legend Laura Benantitweeted Friday: “Dark times for all. Trying to find some bright spots. If you were meant to perform in your High School musical and it was cancelled please post yourself singing and tag me. I want to be your audience!” E! wrote about the responses…

 — In other Broadway news, BroadwayWorld is “partnering with some incredible Broadway performers to launch a series of Living Room Concerts…

 — Lots of websites are coming out with what-to-watch lists. The NYT’s Eleanor Stanford has “comforting streaming TV shows for stressful times” and TIME’s Eliana Dockterman has a list of “the most calming, anxiety-free content to stream…”

 — I’ll keep an eye out for other creative solutions. Email me examples…

New shows, new formats, new brands…

 — The past few years have highlighted all the antisocial behavior on social networks… But this crisis is a chance for the platforms to showcase how they help people. Facebook partnered with CNN for Thursday night’s town hall… And USA Today has some “TikToks and memes to get you through the panic…”

 — MSNBC is gathering Q’s from viewers via the hashtag #MSNBCanswers. At NY1, my better half Jamie is using the hashtag #OneNewYork to collect stories from New Yorkers…

 — ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt tweeted re: all the school closures: “So many college and HS athletes saw their seasons, maybe their playing careers, just….end. No send off, no nothing. We want to fix that. Share their stories, photos & videos here. We should certainly have the room for some…”

 — The Atlantic just launched a new podcast, “Social Distance” with Dr. James Hamblin, billed as “a podcast about living through a pandemic…”

 — Michael Barbaro and “The Daily”released a special Friday night episode titled “A Bit of Relief.” In this 10-minute podTaffy Brodesser-Akner reads from “Love in the Time of Cholera,” Wesley Morris reads from “In Pursuit of Flavor,” and Dean Baquet reads from “On Living in an Atomic Age.” Listen…

Record web traffic levels

Cable news ratings are up – way up. Traffic to news websites is way up too. CNN recorded “51.6 million unique visitors to CNN Digital” on Thursday – “the third biggest  day in CNN history, behind only Election Day 2016 and the day after…”

This news story sums up the day perfectly

R.E.M.‘s 1987 song “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”is suddenly back on the iTunes chart of top songs. The tune “reached No. 72 on the iTunes top 100 chart Friday,” The Hill’s Marina Pitofsky wrote. The reason? Apparently people have been creating and sharing “pandemic playlists…”


 — One of the top priorities for reporters right now: Getting to the bottom of outstanding Q’s about coronavirus tests. Four words: “Where are the tests?”

 — Tucker Carlson brought up the testing failures on his Friday night program. “Why was the richest, most advanced country on the planet not prepared?” He said “government incompetence played an awfully big role in all of this.” (Twitter)

 — Carlson also pressed Seema Verma, asking her, “Do we have enough ventilators” to handle the expected surge? Instead of telling the truth and saying no, Verma said things like “we have a stockpile” and “we’re going to purchase more.” (Mediaite)

— Saturday’s banner WaPo headline about Trump’s declaration and the dramatic disruptions to regular life: “Trump declares a national emergency” (WaPo)

 — The NYT’s all-caps banner: “U.S. EMERGENCY DECLARED; AID DEAL IS REACHED” (Twitter)


Two competing narratives about Trump

Following Friday afternoon’s Rose Garden news conference and a remarkable surge in the markets, pro-Trump outlets are celebrating the president’s leadership and saying left and right must come together to defeat the coronavirus. Meanwhile, sources that strive for objectivity are covering both the positives and the negatives of the presser — and the negatives are significant. Six of Trump’s words, “I don’t take responsibility at all,” will likely follow him for the remainder of his presidency. And his remarks about Google are completely at odds with what the company is actually working on.

Google caught off guard…

The Verge’s Dieter Bohn reports: “Google is not working with the US government in building a nationwide website to help people determine whether and how to get a novel coronavirus test, despite what President Donald Trump said in the course of issuing an emergency declaration for the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, a much smaller trial website made by another division of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is going up. It will only be able to direct people to testing facilities in the Bay Area.” 

Here is WIRED’s headline from Brian Barrett: “Trump Caught Google Off Guard With a Bogus Coronavirus Site Announcement.” And here is Brian Fung‘s full report for CNN.

 — Bottom line: One of the biggest stories out of Friday’s presser is that, once again, Trump misinformed the public in the midst of a crisis. Given a chance to model good practices and caution, he shook multiple hands…


 — WaPo counted: “Trump shook hands, patted backs and touched the mic 31 times during news conference…” (WaPo)

 — Trump sent Lou Dobbs a chart of Friday’s market rebound with Trump’s signature on it. Dobbs proudly showed it to viewers… (Mediaite)

 — Other Trump supporters also received a copy of the chart along with “screenshots of television coverage of the stock market closing much higher than Thursday,” Jamie Gangel reports. “The message did not mention the overall coronavirus crisis, the number of people who have died or are sick, nor the fact that he had just declared a national emergency…” (CNN)

 — “Despite Friday’s gains, Wall Street recorded losses this week,” Anneken Tappe notes. The S&P 500 logged a 8.8%% loss for the week; the Dow index was down 10.4%… (CNN Business)

The 9/11-like feeling…

Brian Lowry writes: Have seen a lot of journalists old enough to remember compare this to Sept. 11, and the feeling is certainly similar, beginning with the fact that every beat and story is informed by or related to this one. The one point of differentiation I’d note is that while there was an enormous amount of uncertainty and tension after the 2001 attacks, the pace of related stories didn’t seem to spew out as fast and furiously as it has here. The best visual analogy I can think of is the famous “I Love Lucy” sketch, when the chocolate balls are streaming out on a conveyor belt faster than she can wrap them…

More newsrooms moving to work-from-home methods

Here’s an example that involves me and my editors: AT&T, the owner of CNN, told employees on Friday that everyone who can work from home should work from home. Folks who, for example, work in AT&T stores, install equipment for customers, and broadcast live on CNN are not affected. But many tens of thousands of other employees are subject to the new guidance. “In support of our colleagues who need to continue working in our offices, we need to help reduce population density and risk of exposure in those locations by minimizing the on-site staff,” WarnerMedia CEO and AT&T COO John Stankey said in an internal memo.

Update on CNN

CNN’s TV news coverage will not be affected by the above announcement. Here’s what Jeff Zucker‘s memo said: “Obviously, given the many programming needs across News and Sports, there are some employees” who simply cannot work remotely. “In fact,” he said, “CNN is very different from almost any other part of the company, especially right now, and there are some roles that will continue to require your presence in the office.” But HR resources are available for anyone who feels uncomfortable.

 >> AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said Friday that employees who are serving customers and reporting around the world for CNN are “on the frontlines” of the crisis…

Update on CBS News

CBS News is experiencing the coronavirus story while covering it in real time. The news division’s offices in NYC have been closed ever since two employees tested positive for the virus. A third person fell ill, and on Friday CBS News president Susan Zirinskyannounced a case involving a fourth employee. “This person worked closely with the three who previously tested positive,” she wrote in an internal memo.

“We continue to put in place steps to keep everyone as safe as possible,” Zirinsky wrote. “ALL employees are expected to work remotely except for the small group related to a specific broadcast function.” A “very small team” will produce the Saturday edition of “CBS This Morning” in person in NYC.Zirinsky said that “‘CBS Sunday Morning’ and ’60 Minutes’ will have a handful of people to complete their broadcasts.” Everyone else has to work from home. Weekend editions of the evening news will originate from Los Angeles. The news division’s streaming network is using space at affiliates in Boston and San Francisco. CBS is getting an up-close look at the havoc of this virus – and it’s ugly…

“Social distancing” in newsrooms

Sam Hartle of KSHB in Kansas City shared this photo:


“We’re trying to do our part to help #FlattenTheCurve by doing our morning meeting spread out in the newsroom,” he wrote…


 — Fox’s Bret Baier: “The majority of my staff will be working remotely to ensure the safety of everyone…” (Instagram)

 — Protocol’s Charles Levinson: “Sign of the times via my colleague Mario Aguilar: A funny thing that’s happening in New York is people commuting home with their work monitors on the subway.” (Twitter)

 — CNN is adding three new medical analysts: Dr. Celine Gounder, Dr. James Phillips, and Dr. Seema Yasmin

 — Fox News is adding Johns Hopkins health policy expert and surgeon Dr. Martin Makary as a contributor. He is the EIC of MedPage Today…


All of the sporting events I would have included here… have been postponed or cancelled.

The CNN/Univision #DemDebate starts at 8pm ET Sunday night…

“Westworld” begins season three on HBO Sunday night…

This Sunday on “Reliable Sources”

On Sunday I’ll be joined by the aforementioned Dr. James Hamblin,along with Juliette Kayyem, Susan Glasser, Oliver Darcy, and Andrew Rossi… Plus Seattle Times editorMichele Matassa Flores and SF Chronicle editor Audrey Cooper… See you at 11am ET on CNN…

Showtime’s version of “Black Monday” 

Brian Lowry writes: In one of the strangest-timed premieres ever, the second season of Showtime’s “Black Monday” – a dark comedy built around the 1987 market crash – premieres on Sunday night. Meanwhile, sister ViacomCBS network CBS announced a slew of reruns, mostly, to fill the void left in its lineup by the suspension of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

The new cover of NYMag:


For this cover package, Josh Barropenned a piece titled “This Will Get Worse.” His ending: “The people who stand to die within the next 30 days may not even be very sick yet. And when they get very sick, the hospitals may be overwhelmed and ill-prepared to respond.This is the corner Italy backed itself into. We might be headed there, too.”

 >> ICYMI, I taped a conversation with New York Media EIC David Haskell on Thursday… We talked about how the virus disrupted production of this print issue, plus much more. Check out the pod via Apple Podcasts, SpotifyStitcherTuneIn, or your preferred app…

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