Detailing The Downfall of The New York Times
The combined realities of the business model and staff that value mission over independence dictate how the Times will report news and opinion.
Last week I wrote about my surprise and dismay when I found an Op-Ed on the front page of USA Today (“Deshaun Watson gets laughable suspension,” USA Today – August 2, 2022).
A spokesperson for Gannett (owner of USA Today) told me via email, “USA Today clearly labels opinion columns as such, and it is not uncommon to appear on the front page.” Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised in this era that a newspaper often tagged “McPaper” would commit such a journalistic faux pax.
While nobody ever accused USA Today of setting standards for journalism, The New York Times has long set the standards followed by nearly every legitimate news organization in the country, if not the world. Over the past decade, however, it has become increasingly difficult to differentiate between news and opinion in “The Grey Lady.”
The New York Times was founded in 1851 and bought by Adolph Ochs in 1896. It has been controlled by his family ever since. The current chairman and publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, is the fifth generation of the family to lead the paper.
After buying The Times, Ochs crafted the paper’s famous slogan, “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” Ochs also published an announcement in the paper promising that The Times would “give the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved.”
The New York Times editorial pages have long leaned left. The Times hasn’t endorsed a Republican presidential candidate since Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. However, The Times’s news section was also considered impartial for many years.
The Times published the Pentagon Papers, a set of leaked Defense Department documents detailing the United States’ political and military role in Southeast Asia that showed the government had been dishonest about expanding its role in Vietnam. Still, The Times’s news coverage was, by and large, still considered impartial.
Less than a year after the Supreme Court denied the government an injunction preventing The New York Times from publishing the Pentagon Papers, William F. Buckley, the leading conservative voice of the time, conducted an audit of the newspaper’s fairness in his magazine, National Review. In 1972, the magazine reviewed five stories with a “distinct left-right line.” National Review concluded: “The Times news administration was so evenhanded that it must have been deeply dismaying to the liberal opposition.”
The New York Times established the executive editor position in 1964. The Times perhaps reached its zenith under Executive Editor Abe Rosenthal (1977–1986). Rosenthal was committed to unbiased, impartial reporting. Joseph Lelyveld, executive editor from 1994 to 2001, said, “Abe would always say, with some justice, that you have to keep your hand on the tiller and steer to the right or it’ll drift off to the left.”
Many believe The Times began to drift significantly under Howell Raines (2001–2003). My friend Dick Morris, political consultant (and one-time WPHT-AM, Philadelphia, afternoon host), stated that Raines had turned the paper into a “political consulting firm for the Democratic Party. For decades, The Times was the one newspaper so respected for its integrity and so widely read that it had influence well beyond its circulation. Now it has stooped to the role of partisan cheerleader.”
A 2002 Newsweek story reveals that there was considerable dissension under Raines. The article documents Raines’ “almost religious belief in ‘flooding the zone’—using all the paper’s formidable resources to pound away at a story,” continuing, “The Times is criticized for ginning up controversies as much as reporting them.” Newsweek quotes Slate’s (then) press critic Jack Shafer, saying, “The Times has assumed the journalistic role as the party of opposition.”
If there is a seminal moment that changed the course of The New York Times, aside from technology, it is the Jayson Blair affair. Blair came to The Times in 1999 from the University of Maryland, where he was editor of its student newspaper, The Diamondback. Initially hired as an intermediate reporter, Blair moved up rapidly to a full reporter and then editor.
In 2003, similarities between a front-page Blair story in The Times and one that had appeared two days earlier in a San Antonio, Texas, newspaper came to an editor’s attention. Further investigation revealed that Blair had plagiarized or fabricated more than half a dozen stories.
The internal investigation led to Blair’s dismissal and the resignation of Raines and Managing Editor Gerald Boyd. The matter created strife and factions within The Times, as well as the creation of an ombudsman position called the public editor.
Over 14 years, six people held the public editor title. The first was Daniel Okrent (2003– 2005), who wrote an opinion piece titled “Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?” and answered the title’s question succinctly in his first sentence: “Of course, it is.”
Okrent explained the philosophy of then-publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr.: It isn’t so much that The Times is liberal as that it has an “urban” viewpoint. Okrent believed that “living in New York City makes people think that way and that many people who think that way find their way to New York.”
Byron Calame held the position next (2005–2007), followed by Clark Hoyt (2007–2010).
The fourth public editor for The Times was Arthur Brisbane (2010–2012). At the end of his tenure, The New York Times was a troubled company. It was shedding its early digital assets (About.com was about to be jettisoned) and focusing on its core newspaper business. The company showed an $88M loss in the preceding quarter.
In his final column as the public editor for The Times, Brisbane wrote: “When The Times covers a national presidential campaign, I have found that the lead editors and reporters are disciplined about enforcing fairness and balance, and usually succeed in doing so. Across the paper’s many departments, though, so many share a political and cultural progressivism—for lack of a better term—that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times.”
“As a result, developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in The Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects.”
“. . . [A]s the digital transformation proceeds, as The Times disaggregates and as an empowered staff finds new ways to express itself, a kind of Times Nation has formed around the paper’s political-cultural worldview, an audience unbound by geography (as distinct from the old days of print) and one that self-selects in digital space.”
From Okrent through Brisbane, the public editors’ themes are consistent. They agree that progressive values and a progressive culture run through The Times. Through 2012, the paper’s ombudsmen maintained that these beliefs primarily impacted reporting on social issues, citing gay marriage as the best example, not political coverage. Brisbane prophetically warned that an empowered staff and an audience that “self-selects” in the coming digital transformation will wreak havoc.
By the time of the final two Times public editors (Margaret Sullivan [2012–2016] and Liz Spayd [2016–2017]), much had changed at the “paper of record.” It had become increasingly common for reporters to insert their “voice” into news stories.
Reader complaints about reporters’ opinions popping up in news stories became a frequent topic for Sullivan, including in a January 2015 column that included quotes from several Times editors.
Sullivan quoted Andrew Rosenthal, The Times opinion editor, who felt there should be a “much more careful separation of news and opinion.”
“I believe that an important line is crossed when first-person, clear opinion or advocacy make their way into the news pages, whether in print or online,” he said. “That sometimes happens.”
Sullivan added, “Top editors at The Times have told me that there is indeed a place for voice, personality, and, yes, sometimes opinion within the news pages.”
Sullivan identifies the origin of inserting voice into news content: “The world of online journalism, which is how more and more readers encounter Times articles, presents new challenges, especially in the way opinion stories are labeled or presented.”
If adding a reporter’s voice wasn’t new, accepting opinion in New York Times news stories, seemingly was. (This is MY voice, not Sullivan’s or that of a New York Times editor).
In her final column as public editor, Sullivan summarized her four-year tenure: “Journalism at The Times, and everywhere, continued to change radically. The corporate way to describe it is to say the business is being ‘reinvented.’ Down in the trenches, it’s seen more plainly: as turmoil, a struggle for survival.”
Sullivan offered advice. Her recommendations included:
—“Maintain editorial control. As partnerships, especially with Facebook, the social media behemoth, become nearly impossible to resist, The Times shouldn’t let business-driven approaches determine what readers get to see.”
—“Keep clickbait at bay. In the push for digital traffic, The Times is now publishing articles it never would have touched before in order to stay a part of a conversation that’s taking place on social media and read on smartphones.”
Liz Spayd became the sixth and final public editor of The New York Times in May 2016. She often criticized The Times, holding it to non-partisan news standards. In return, she faced harsher criticism than prior public editors. Some complaints about her found their way into other liberal publications, especially The Atlantic, which took particular delight in undermining her. The magazine said she was “inclined to write what she doesn’t know” and was “squandering the most important watchdog job in journalism.”
Some believe that the exceptionally severe reaction to Spayd was because she had previously been an editor at The Washington Post, The Times’s competitor. Others think it reflected the evolution that The Times and other news outlets were undergoing.
Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. ended the public editor position in May 2017, one year before Spayd’s contract expired. Like public editors before her, Spayd referenced “digital disruption and collapsing business models” in her last column.
Spayd also issued warnings to The Times in that column: “Whether journalists realize it or not, with impartiality comes authority—and right now it’s in short supply. In their effort to hold Trump accountable, will they play their hands wisely and fairly? Or will they make reckless decisions and draw premature conclusions?”
Sulzberger Jr. announced the end of the public editor position in a memo to the staff. He wrote that the responsibility of the public editor as the readers’ representative had outgrown one office. Now, everybody would be a public editor via the internet and the new “Reader’s Center.”
Things were getting weird.
Like most newspaper companies, during the first dozen or more years of the 21st century, The New York Times struggled with the decline of the printed newspaper and expanding digital media options. People who grew up in the 1980s were the last generation of newspaper readers. They saw their parents reading newspapers and magazines, and they did too, for the most part.
The number of daily newspapers in the U.S. remained stable throughout the 1970s at just under 1,750. By 1990 there were just over 1,600. Ten years later, as the new millennium began, there were under 1,500. By 2012, fewer than 1,400 remained. Four years later, in 2016, another 100 were gone, and only 1,286 daily newspapers survived.
Circulation dropped more precipitously. In 1988, U.S. daily newspaper circulation peaked at 63 million. By 2000, daily circulation had declined to just over 55 million. The number continues to drop: 43 million in 2012, under 35 million in 2016, and just over 24 million in 2020.
Millennials, born with the internet, learned to consume news on screens. Smartphones and apps became common before the 2016 election got into full swing. Newsrooms adjusted to smaller screens and shorter attention spans by writing shorter copy. Consuming audio and video became practical with the arrival of 3G and 4G. Finally, social media allowed everyone to share every thought. It was survival of the fittest. The Times was looking for answers on how to compete in a post-print world.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, The Times found an answer, but it would test the foundation Adolph Ochs had promised in 1896.
Russian media futurist Andrey Mir coined the term “post-journalistic” in his book “Postjournalism and the Death of Newspapers.” His thesis is that news revenue switched from ads to readers (or eyeballs and clicks) because of the internet. Ad-driven media manufactured consent. And reader-driven media manufactures anger, which increases polarization. In fact, the goal of post-journalism, according to Mir, is to “produce angry citizens.”
In a front-page analysis, Jim Rutenberg, a writer at large and previously a White House reporter, political correspondent, and media columnist for The Times, noted the conundrum the paper faced in covering Trump.
Rutenberg asks, If you’re a journalist who believes that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue and that he would be dangerous as commander in chief, how the heck are you supposed to cover him?
His answer is that your reporting will reflect your views. If your reporting reveals that you think a Trump presidency would be dangerous, it will move you “closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional. That’s uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream, non-opinion journalist. . . .” Covering Trump as a dangerous candidate, Rutenberg continues, upsets the balance that journalists are trained to always strive for.
Rutenberg acknowledges the coverage Trump receives: “But let’s face it: Balance has been on vacation since Mr. Trump stepped onto his golden Trump Tower escalator last year to announce his candidacy.”
Surely, there are pre-Trump campaign examples of bias in The New York Times, but the demarcation line, the point where it’s in the open, loud, and proud, takes place during the 2016 presidential campaign.
And then it gets weirder.
When Donald J. Trump won the presidency on November 8, 2016, it didn’t merely upend the world for most Times employees. It was apocalyptic. They had believed there was a greater probability that the sun wouldn’t rise than that The New York Times headline would pronounce Donald Trump the next president of the United States.
On that morning, everything they believed had been proven wrong.
Liz Spayd, still the public editor, wrote in her November 9 column that The Times would begin “a period of self-reflection.” She hoped the editors would “think hard about the half of America the paper too seldom covers.”
Stupefied, The Times looked for an answer. An online-only piece titled “Why Trump Won: Working Class Whites” identified where to direct the blame.
The Times dug further. How could women have voted for Trump? A week before his inauguration, The Times ran a story in its news section asking a dozen women to explain their votes for Trump. A full-color photo of each woman was part of each profile. But Times reporters still couldn’t comprehend that Trump had won.
News coverage of Trump as president-elect remained slightly combative. For example, on January 13, 2017, a page one headline reported, “Latest to Disagree with Donald Trump: His Cabinet.” The article details disagreements between Trump and those he nominated for cabinet roles.
If that sounds like fair news coverage, consider The Times’s reporting of Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s running mate. “Joseph R. Biden Jr. selected Senator Kamala Harris of California as his vice-presidential running mate on Tuesday, embracing a former rival who sharply criticized him in the Democratic primaries.” Most of The Times coverage focuses on her sex, race, and ethnic heritage. The Times repeatedly refers to her as a “pragmatic moderate.”
In another article about her selection, The Times reports, “She had an electric moment in the first debate last June when she forcefully challenged Mr. Biden over his record on race. The way that exchange began was also notable: The moderators had not called on Ms. Harris, but she asserted herself by saying, ‘As the only Black person on this stage, I would like to speak on the issue of race.’”
But that was not the way the exchange began. It was what she said directly to Biden, and if they included it in any coverage at the time of her selection as Biden’s running mate, I didn’t find it.
Here’s what was left out: “It was personal. It was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations on the segregation of race in this country. It was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose bussing.”
She pushed him further. “Do you agree that you were wrong to oppose bussing in America, then? Do you agree?”
She continued when Biden tried to explain that he was not actually opposing integration. “There was a failure of states to integrate public schools in America. I was part of the second class to integrate Berkley, California public schools almost two decades after Brown v Board of Education,” she said, hammering away like the former prosecutor she was.
While differences between Biden and Harris are gingerly touched upon, when Trump and his cabinet picks disagree, it is in The Times’s headlines.
Before Inauguration Day, The Times and The Washington Post started pushing a story that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Colluding with Russia fit perfectly with The Times’s worldview. So now it wasn’t white working-class voters who’d elected Trump. Ignorant women didn’t explain it. It had to be illegal activity between Trump and Russia. How else could he have won?
On January 12, 2017, The Times ran the front-page headline, “How a Sensational, Unverified Dossier Became a Crisis for Donald Trump.” It was pretty clear by then that this wasn’t reliable information.
Literally every day, The New York Times promised that the end of the Trump presidency was near. The Times ran over 3,000 stories on the Mueller investigation.
In a town–hall-style meeting whose transcript was leaked to Slate, executive editor Dean Baquet told the staff, “The day Bob Mueller walked off that witness stand, two things happened. Our readers who want Donald Trump to go away suddenly thought Bob Mueller is not going to do it. And Donald Trump got a little emboldened politically. We went from being a story about whether the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia and obstruction of justice to being a more head-on story about the president’s character. We built our newsroom to cover one story, and we did it truly well.”
If The Times’s new “post-journalism” didn’t succeed in removing Trump from office at that moment, it did improve the company’s business outlook. Jill Abramson, New York Times executive editor (2011–2014), confirms that The Times was slanting its coverage and what the impact of that was on its business in her book “Merchants of Truth.”
“Though [Dean] Baquet [executive editor 2014–2022] said publicly he didn’t want the Times to be the opposition party, his news pages were unmistakably anti-Trump. Some headlines contained raw opinion, as did some of the stories that were labeled as news analysis.”
“Given its mostly liberal audience, there was an implicit financial reward for the Times in running lots of Trump stories, almost all of them negative: they drove big traffic numbers and, despite the blip of cancellations after the election, inflated subscription orders to levels no one anticipated,” Abramson wrote.
CNBC reported that between the election on November 8 and November 26 (18 days) The Times saw an increase of about 132,000 paid subscriptions. The growth rate was ten times what it was during the same period the previous year. In the first six months after Trump took office, the paper added more than 600,000 subscribers. Trump and The Times’s new philosophy were good for business.
Then there’s the Op-Ed department. In 2016, James Bennet was hired from The Atlantic. The Sulzbergers wanted a more digital-friendly opinion section. Bennet was credited with modernizing The Atlantic.
The editorial board and columnists continued to hammer on Trump. Paul Krugman predicted “a global recession with no end in sight.” However, the people Bennet would bring on board would lead to the most upheaval and, ultimately, to his demise.
The Times editorial board changed in the two years between 2018 and 2019. Seven of the 15 members were new, and several more hadn’t been there much longer. The group was younger and more diverse. The department grew from around 70 to approximately 115 by early 2020.
There were occasional headaches when a conservative viewpoint created a brief Twitter tantrum, but nothing prepared management for Tom Cotton in June 2020.
Protests were spreading across the country over a police officer killing George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis, MN. The officer planted his knee into Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes as witnesses pleaded with him to stop and recorded the life going out of the man.
The protesters’ goals were to end police brutality and racism. In many cities, however, the protests became violent. The Times and other media outlets downplayed the violence in their reporting, calling the protests “mostly peaceful,” even as pictures and videos showed burning buildings, broken glass, and looting.
Information about the destructive side of the demonstrations could be found in the opinion pages, at least for a time.
Tom Cotton, a conservative Alabama senator, wrote an opinion column for The Times, “Time to Send in the Troops.” His essay proposed using the Insurrection Act of 1807 to restore order in areas where the protests had gotten violent. Cotton probably didn’t think he was suggesting anything radical. Eight presidents (mostly Democrats) have used the Insurrection Act 11 times over the past 100 years.
John F. Kennedy used the Insurrection Act twice, sending federal troops to Mississippi and Alabama to enforce civil rights laws. In circumstances akin to the summer of 2020, Lyndon Johnson called troops into Detroit to quell riots in 1967 and 1968 after Martin Luther King’s assassination.
The Times posted Cotton’s column in its online Op-Ed section. That action practically caused an atom to split. Although a nuclear catastrophe was averted, a revolt began among Times staffers. Many of the Op-Ed staff viewed the Cotton piece as hate speech. Leading the revolution were the newer group members that Bennet had brought in.
Cotton, a lone U.S. Senator, didn’t move any troops or even order any to move. He didn’t have the authority to do either. Nonetheless, Times employees found his opinion so odious that it required immediate action.
The whole point of having opinion pages is to present a wide range of ideas. The Times is, after all, the newspaper that once printed an opinion piece from Vladimir Putin. It is the paper that published an anonymous Op-Ed titled “I Am the Resistance,” detailing what some call a “deep state” effort to derail the Trump presidency. While anonymous news sources are common, this Op-Ed had no precedent to the best of my recollection. (About a year later, the author revealed himself as Miles Taylor when he left his position as chief of staff in the Department of Homeland Security—and wrote a book, naturally).
The revolutionaries mobilized. They took to Twitter, whipping up followers by condemning their own organization. Twitter and the blogosphere went crazy. The rebellion was in full swing.
Next was management’s turn. They wrote a letter expressing “deep concern” to Bennet, A.G. Sulzberger (who had taken over as publisher from his father), and several other New York Times Company executives.
For the staffers, what’s happening in cities across the nation is a struggle between good and evil. There is no room for opposing views, not even in the opinion pages. Jim Rutenberg had predicted four years earlier that this was how the news would be reported. Now it was impacting even the opinion pages.
Their letter demanded that the column never appears in the print edition—it didn’t.
It demanded that the online version receive an editor’s note—it did. It was more an apology than a note, and it challenged some of Cotton’s statements—something I’m sure the senator would like to do to their columns daily. The editor’s comment also claimed that the process was rushed, which the senator’s office disputes.
Cotton’s office maintains that there was a negotiation process to refine the nature of the article. It took a day for The Times and Cotton to agree on its scope. Afterward, Cotton submitted a draft to The Times. Then there were “at least three rounds of back and forth. The first two rounds focused on clarity and style, the last round on factual accuracy.”
The letter’s authors claim that Cotton’s opinions are dangerous and that his opinions put people, especially Times reporters, in danger. This claim is ridiculous. People who decided to break the curfews imposed by most cities and remain where violence was occurring (including reporters) weren’t in danger until a senator suggested doing what eight presidents had done 11 times before over the past 100 years. That idea endangered people? Huh?
There was another town-hall meeting, this time with Bennet, that reportedly didn’t go well. Bennet didn’t read the Cotton Op-Ed before publication. One of his deputy editors went through the piece. Two days later, Bennet resigned. The rebels had won.
Back at the very start of this long history, I said The New York Times sets the standards for every other legitimate news organization. Don’t think throwing Bennet under the bus didn’t send shock waves reverberating throughout the media. Within days, Stan Wischnowski, the top editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer and a 20-year veteran of the paper, resigned after his staff walked out to protest an Op-Ed on the effects of civil unrest on the city’s buildings, titled “Buildings Matter Too.”
Those working in the later stages of their careers in newsrooms know what happened to Bennet, Wischnowski, and others. The elders understand the new rules and where the power lies. They are going to keep their mouths shut and their heads down.
The evolution is complete now. Jim Rutenberg’s 2016 column and the words of past public editor warnings have come full circle. The combined realities of the business model and staff that value mission over traditional journalism dictate how The Times will report news and opinion.
Not only is a reporter’s voice permitted in a news story, but their point of view is also important.
From the business perspective, it appears that The Times is on to something. Revenues that declined through the first decade of the century have steadily grown since 2016. Trump and post-journalism have been steroids for The Times’s digital subscription growth.
For The New York Times staff, it’s about saving the world from what they view as an existential threat.
For A.G. Sulzberger, it’s about saving the family business for the sixth generation.
For the readers, it’s about time to change the box that says, “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” More aptly, it should now read, “Saving the World For Like-Minded People.”
Andy Bloom is president of Andy Bloom Communications. He specializes in media training and political communications. He has programmed legendary stations including WIP, WPHT and WYSP/Philadelphia, KLSX, Los Angeles and WCCO Minneapolis. He was Vice President Programming for Emmis International, Greater Media Inc. and Coleman Research. Andy also served as communications director for Rep. Michael R. Turner, R-Ohio. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter @AndyBloomCom.
Dagen McDowell Is Ready For A New Adventure With Fox Business
“Every decision in America is born of policy, On the show, we bring that to our show. Talk about the news of the day.”
To know Dagen McDowell, you must understand what she comes from, where she comes from. You won’t know her until you know the lessons, kindness, and determination set forth by her parents.
Her parents operated a small grocery store, LW Roark and Company. Charles and Joyce McDowell were high school sweethearts and both went to college but decided to go back home and open a business. “This is in the middle of nowhere,” McDowell said. “It was a wholesale grocery store. They sold it in the late 90s.”
She said her parents were smart, encouraging, and took every opportunity to teach McDowell and her brother.
“They’d constantly talk up people who came into the store. Both of them have and had an insatiable curiosity about everything. They felt they learned things through their customers. It was more fun to learn about things from other people.”
McDowell’s parents never took a week off work. Never. The family took no vacations as most families would. Once while McDowell was in college at Wake Forest University, the family visited the Air and Space Museum on the Mall in D.C.
“Both of my parents were very interested in architecture and landscapes. We’d go to Williamsburg and just look at the buildings.”
McDowell joined FOX News Channel in 2003 and helped launch FOX Business Network as a founding anchor in 2007.
Her mother passed away three years ago and her father is still very much a part of her life. Her father was a constant teacher.
“One time my father, who we called Dowell McDowell, was putting up an outbuilding and asked me how long one line should be if the other line was such and such. He taught me the Pythagorean theorem when I was about 4 years old.”
McDowell was nurtured by parents with endless curiosity.
“I was raised by parents who would always debate and converse around the dinner table. We shared breakfast and dinner together every day. They loved learning, were always inquisitive, never afraid to ask a question. My parents shared a fearlessness and passed that on to me. I’ve never been embarrassed to ask people questions. I love talking to people and finding out about things.”
For a long time, McDowell had no idea what she wanted to do for a living. She knew if she worked at different jobs she’d eventually figure out what she was good at.
“I knew I was a decent writer, but I always tried to get information out of people, what they were doing. Ask if they were fulfilled and happy.”
At Wake, Forest McDowell majored in art history and had every intention of working in a museum, possibly as a curator.
“I interned at the Center for Contemporary Arts. I lived in Venice, Italy for a while. Wake Forest owns a house in Venice.”
After that it was Colorado. She moved back to New York during the recession of 1991 with a duffel bag. She took the Amtrak to New York City and sublet an apartment for six months.
“I had no TV, just a radio. I knew I could find something good to do in New York, there were so many jobs. I always wanted to live in the city. Either the city or way out in the country. Nowhere in between.”
She said being in New York made her feel anything was possible. This was January in 1994 when job ads were still in the physical newspaper, like the New York Times. McDowell interviewed at Institutional Investor through a referral from a friend.
“It was a brilliant magazine with terrific writing,” McDowell explained. “Very prominent in the industry. They were looking for someone to work with the newsletter written for the financial community.”
She’d cover topics like the bond business, Wall Street, and money management. The magazine made her take a reporting test where you’d make up a story and write it. She was offered a job and worked there for three years.
“I learned to be a journalist there,” McDowell said. “I could write but I became a better journalist. We’d break news, create our sources, and learn more and more about finance. People love to talk about what they do if you show interest.”
The next big job was SmartMoney.com, a resource and web newspaper for private investors. There McDowell wrote a personal finance column. She started doing commentary on television shows, the way a lot of people in different professions tend to do. “Then I started making more appearances on weekend financial or business shows,” McDowell said.
She got a call from Neil Cavuto about 20 years ago and he told McDowell, ‘Kid, you want a job? I know you don’t have much professional TV experience. We’ll give you some training and you’ll figure it out. If you do, you stay. If not, you go.’
McDowell said she was glad she was a writer first before she arrived at Fox. She writes her own scripts and has a background in finance and business writing.
“Before the business network was launched, they had only one business reporter and two senior business correspondents,” she said. “I’ve gotten to do so many different jobs, use different muscles, so to speak. As the years have passed I’ve discovered other talents I may have and I’m incredibly grateful for that.”
There’s a new show in town. McDowell and Sean Duffy will co-host The Bottom Line which will air on weeknights from 6-7:00 PM ET.
McDowell said she and Duffy come from extremely similar backgrounds. Duffy is from rural Wisconsin and McDowell is from Virginia.
“We know what small-town living is like, “McDowell said. “I might live in New York City but where I grew up affects the way I view the world. I’m still grounded in my hometown. On the show, we look south and west with everything we cover. You have to think of your audience. Rather than talking about them, we talk with them. That’s our shared background and vision. Sean is extremely down to earth and generous.”
McDowell said the show is not financially based, but steeped in business.
She said Duffy’s experience as a former U.S. Congressman, he understands policy as well as financial matters.
“Every decision in America is born of policy,” she said. “On the show, we bring that to our show. Talk about the news of the day.”
This is different from anything McDowell has done in the past.
“It’s a two-anchor show in the evening,” she explained. “This is not taking place during market hours. We tie all the business happenings together from the day. Again, it’s not about Washington or New York. It’s about the people we grew up with. We talk to them. Build a relationship with them on the air. For me, this is not just sitting in front of a camera. I can run off at the mouth as well as anyone, hang in there with the filibuster.”
McDowell says she is blunt, but hopes she isn’t rude. During a recent interview for the new show she used the terms ‘pig potatoes’ and ‘chapped backsides.’
“Those are terms I just made up,” she said. “I make up a lot of phrases and don’t always know what they mean. I have an entire repertoire of those kinds of phrases.”
Duffy assumed they were southern phrases he had to learn from McDowell, but she assured him she’d never heard them anywhere else.
“I’m just making stuff up,” McDowell said. “You can’t curse. Can’t say BS. At least you shouldn’t say BS on television. You don’t want to say manure. You never want to say something that makes people wince or evokes a smell.”
Dealing with people directly and bluntly seems to come from her mother.
“My mother had grit,” McDowell said. “She was also very kind, never syrupy. I used to say she had no magnolia-mouth.
That’s got to be a southern phrase.
McDowell said her mother was not a servile flatterer, but she was kind. Always there when somebody was in need.
“She had real grit. She’d stand and fight for her friends and family members.”
Her mother passed away after being diagnosed with stage-four cancer.
“She went through unimaginable pain,” McDowell said of her mother. “For nearly six years. You want to talk about somebody who was tough. There was nobody more pugnacious than my mother.”
She explained even with her illness, her mother was always on the go. Continuing to live her life. When questioned about being so active while she was ill, her mother continued to show grit.
“My mother would say she didn’t want to walk around looking like she had cancer. She asked, ‘What choice do I have? I could lay in bed and wait to die, or I can get up and do what I can .’”
McDowell said her mother’s illness taught her to be a caregiver in ways she never could have imagined. Her mother taught her to find moments of joy every single day, in the smallest of things.
“It can be as simple as telling a stranger to have a great day. Treat a perfect stranger with kindness. I do it all day long. I know it sounds corny, but I want to be known as a person who brings a casserole to a friend when they’re ill.”
A one-sheet from Fox tells you McDowell and the culmination of her background is perfect for The Bottom Line. The fact is, it’s true.
Jim Cryns writes features for Barrett News Media. He has spent time in radio as a reporter for WTMJ, and has served as an author and former writer for the Milwaukee Brewers. To touch base or pick up a copy of his new book: Talk To Me – Profiles on News Talkers and Media Leaders From Top 50 Markets, log on to Amazon or shoot Jim an email at email@example.com.
Airing The Tyre Nichols Video Was A Necessity
There were hard moments to watch in those videos, hard sounds to hear. But they aired.
Far be it for me not to address this outrageous and embarrassing instance in humanity. After the videos of Memphis police brutally beating Tyre Nichols were shown on television there really seemed to be more outrage emerging from society this time than from the media, for a change. One would think that’s how we wish things to be.
In instances like this, where the video and audio images are far from brief but are instead chaptered as they unfold, there are few options other than to let them run their course. Clocks — breaks hard and soft — are out the window, just as in live coverage.
Because that’s what this was, only the live this time was us, and as we all absorbed and reacted to actions disapprovingly familiar yet somehow foreign at the same time, the impact was still becoming apparent even though we already knew the outcome.
It’s happened before.
Not always like this but we’ve seen it before, police encounters shown on the news overtakes and become the news.
It takes effect as the sights and sounds are digested, dissected, and discussed, often before their potential impact could really be imagined.
In 1991, when the Handycam footage crossed screens for the first time and we learned Rodney King’s name, we didn’t know then but we had a feeling.
We were on the right track, though as newsrooms evolved and street reporting incorporated a different type of storytelling.
I was a cop in 1991. Changes came. Some.
It’s 2023, I’m no longer a cop. Changes will come again. Some.
Turning points — or the overused watershed moments — mean just as much to the news media as they do to law enforcement.
The “why’s” that make this a turning point are more society and community based this time around than they were in 1991.
At least I think so. And I don’t think it makes a bit of difference who’s involved this time.
There were hard moments to watch in those videos, and hard sounds to hear. But they aired. Where they couldn’t air, they were described in great detail; descriptions sometimes can be worse than the real thing. Sometimes, not this time.
And they should air, they shouldn’t stop airing. This is what happened and this is what people need to see and hear and this is exactly why we are here.
Warn them, provide them with a heads up that they’re not going to like what happens next. It’s life and we show life, and we show what some of us do with it when it’s someone else’s.
Overall, I would say the news platforms held their composure, even after the videos were released. I saw, read, and heard some refreshingly neutral coverage, even from outlets where I expected hard turns into the lanes on either side of the road.
Legitimate questions were asked by anchors and reporters and much of the time, the off-balance issues were raised more by those on the sidewalks and those on the other side of the cameras and microphones.
As much as I find myself in disagreement with what I often see on the cable networks — all the cable networks — I did find a sense of symmetry watching CNN’s Don Lemon speak with Memphis City Council Chair Martavius Jones in the hours after the videos were released.
Regular protocols be damned, Lemon and producers lingered patiently as Jones, visibly overcome by emotion, struggled to regain breath and composure enough to be able to speak. Rather than cut away or move to other elements, they stood fast and it became an example of what often requires no words.
There were fewer punches pulled on other platforms as well.
The sounds of the screams, the impacts, and the hate-filled commands were broadcast through car radios.
As were Tyre Nichol’s calls for his mom. They aired. They had to.
Bill Zito has devoted most of his work efforts to broadcast news since 1999. He made the career switch after serving a dozen years as a police officer on both coasts. Splitting the time between Radio and TV, he’s worked for ABC News and Fox News, News 12 New York , The Weather Channel and KIRO and KOMO in Seattle. He writes, edits and anchors for Audacy’s WTIC-AM in Hartford and lives in New England. You can find him on Twitter @BillZitoNEWS.
Does the Republican Establishment Get It?
For many it seemed that the Republican establishment stood idly by as Democrats changed the rules and worked behind the scenes to alter elections.
In a move that seemed to go against the wishes of the patriotic American grassroots, the Republican party on Friday re-elected RNC Chairperson Ronna McDaniel.
The media immediately took notice, as many on television and radio are now wondering why the party would re-elect a chairperson who has been so unpopular with the base of its party.
Grant Stinchfield discussed this issue Friday night on his program, Stinchfield Tonight, which airs on Real America’s Voice network.
“Ronna McDaniel holds on to her chairmanship of the Republican Party. By a whopping total of — what were the numbers– 111 to 54. Harmeet Dhillon only received 54 votes. Mike Lindell 4 votes. This is proof to me that the Republican establishment is dug in,” Stinchfield — formerly of Newsmax — said. “Don’t tell me they’re out of touch. See, you tell me they’re out of touch, that implies ignorance. They’re not ignorant about anything.”
As sentiment for Dhillon grew in the days leading up to Friday’s vote, many influential politicians and party donors publicly offered her their support and endorsement. These included Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), as well as donors Mike Rydin, Dick Uihlein, and Bernie Marcus.
Also on board were musician and outspoken conservative John Rich, along with the state GOP of Nebraska and Washington State. Countless journalists and media personalities, such as Charlie Kirk, Miranda Divine, and Lou Dobbs, also came out publicly in support of Dhillon. Former President Donald Trump remained neutral, not making a public choice of either of the three candidates.
For many of Dhillon’s supporters, the deciding factor was public sentiment across the party’s base.
“They’re reading the same chat boards. They’re getting the same emails I’m reading. I will literally post something about this race when I was supporting Harmeet Dhillon. There was not one comment – not one – that supported Ronna McDaniel. Everyone wanted change,” Stinchfield said, noting that the party elite saw the same groundswell of support for change.
“Now, nobody has an issue as Ronna McDaniel is some evil kind of person. I don’t believe she is. I believe, though, that she is part of the establishment. She’s been around too long as far as the establishment goes. And she’s been ingrained in doing business as usual. It’s not working.”
In making their choices known, many Dhillon supporters simply pointed to the scoreboard during McDaniel’s reign.
“Think about where we are. 2018, we lost the House. 2020, we lost everything. 2022, we won the House, but we should have really steamrolled the House and we should have taken back the Senate, which we didn’t do,” Stinchfield said. “That means we’re on a real losing track since she took over. I don’t like being on a losing track. I like being on a winning track.
“Something has got to change when you talk about all of this. So how does Ronna McDaniel get 111 votes and Harmeet Dhillon only get 54 votes, when everyone, every Republican voter I talk to said it was time for change?” pondered Stinchfield.
And even more than the losses, for many it seemed that the Republican establishment stood idly by as Democrats changed the rules and worked behind the scenes to alter elections. The most recent example of which came in Arizona, where presumptive gubernatorial favorite, Kari Lake, was “defeated” when countless voting irregularities occurred in some of the state’s most deep-red areas.
“Under her watch, Democrats instituted a mail-in ballot scheme. That may be even worse than losing, when you talk about the House and the Senate and all these things. The fact that we now have a junk mail-in ballot scheme across the country under Ronna McDaniel’s watch is serious trouble. Very serious trouble,” Stinchfield said on Friday. “And so the reason it is is because the Democrats are rigging the system.”
For years – until Donald Trump descended the golden escalator and took the world by storm – the Republican party had the reputation of being the party of the rich. Rush Limbaugh used to refer to this wing of Republicans as “the country club crowd.” President Donald Trump flipped the narrative completely, offering a clear vision of hope and patriotism to working-class America.
Reputable polling — such as Richard Baris’ Big Data Poll — consistently showed Trump running well ahead of almost every Republican candidate during the 2022 mid-term election cycle. In other words, Trump still maintains considerably more support across the country than most of the individual Senate or House candidates experienced.
Many experts believe this is because voters still view Trump as an outsider, while they view the Republican party much less favorably.
“Let’s tell you how out of touch they are, how elitist they are,” Stinchfield said, calling out the GOP establishment. “This meeting that went on, do you know where it is? It’s at the Waldorf Astoria Monarch in California. One of the most expensive resorts in America. You’re lucky if you get a room for a thousand dollars a night down there on Dana Point. Now, it’s a beautiful hotel, but why is the Republican Party holding an event there? Then I went back and I looked at what RedState did. RedState went back and looked at some of the expenses that the Republican Party under Ronna McDaniel’s leadership was spending money on.
“Take a look at this. $3.1 million on private jets. $1.3 million on limousine and chauffeur services. $17.1 million on donor mementos. $750,000 on floral arrangements. Now you compare this to the Democrats. The Democrats spent $35,000 on private airfare. A thousand dollars on floral arrangements. A thousand. Not $750,000. A thousand. And the $17.1 million they spent on donor mementos, the Democrats spent $1.5 million.
“Democrats know where to put the money. It’s not giving donors gifts. Donors shouldn’t want gifts. If you give money, give money. You don’t need the fancy pin to put on your lapel.”
Following her loss, Dhillon warned her party that it must listen to the base, saying, “if we ignore this message, I think it’s at our peril. It’s at our peril personally, as party leaders and it’s at our peril for our party in general.”
Rick Schultz is a former Sports Director for WFUV Radio at Fordham University. He has coached and mentored hundreds of Sports Broadcasting students at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, Marist College and privately. His media career experiences include working for the Hudson Valley Renegades, Army Sports at West Point, The Norwich Navigators, 1340/1390 ESPN Radio in Poughkeepsie, NY, Time Warner Cable TV, Scorephone NY, Metro Networks, NBC Sports, ABC Sports, Cumulus Media, Pamal Broadcasting and WATR. He has also authored a number of books including “A Renegade Championship Summer” and “Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues”. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @RickSchultzNY.