Losing Hope; "insane" news cycle; Seacrest update; Spotify's IPO; Couric speaks; anti-secrecy editorials; "The Looming Tower" is out

By Brian Stelter and CNN's media team
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Exec summary: Scroll down for details about Weinstein Co., Spotify's IPO, NBC's ad changes, Omarosa's appearance on "The Late Show," and much more...
The crisis continues
"This is a White House in crisis whether you recognize it or not," I said to Kellyanne Conway way back in July 2017. I was reminded of that remark on Wednesday. The disarray, the out-of-control tweets, the swirling scandals... This is a rolling, ongoing crisis. Some days it's more visible than other days. On Wednesday, it was really visible.

Hope Hicks is the fourth White House communications director to come and go in barely a year. There are numerous questions about what she knew, what she told the House Intel Committee, etc. But let's just stick with what we know. Her exit is the latest indication of a W.H. in permanent crisis mode... 

"16 insane things that happened in Trumpworld in just the last 48 hours"

This list by Chris Cillizza and Brenna Williams speaks volumes. "Major resignations! Infighting! Robert Mueller! Javanka! And much, much more."

Here's a 17th item for the list: Jeff Sessions, under attack from the president, dined with Rod Rosenstein in a "show of solidarity" Wednesday night... Axios published a picture and said "Sessions' allies are deeply concerned and Trump is totally fed up with his AG." Meanwhile, the WashPost reported that "Trump has derisively referred to Sessions as 'Mr. Magoo,' a cartoon character who is elderly, myopic and bumbling." And the Post said Mueller has been probing Trump's public shaming of Sessions... 

 --> As Sam Stein tweeted: "Between calling his AG 'DISGRACEFUL!;' Agreeing to a liberal fantasy of gun reform; losing his comms director; watching his son-in-law chewed up by devastating news reports; and seeing Mueller hone in on his attempts to fire Sessions, it's just your average day in Trumpland."

 --> This stunning story is on the front page of Thursday's NYT: "Kushner's Business Got Loans From Companies After White House Meetings"

Here's an idea!

WashPost's Philip Bump tweeted: "Today alone there have been at least five legitimately massive news stories... The Pulitzers are going to have to shift to a monthly system..."
LOSING HOPE? HOPE-LESS? All the great "Hope" puns have been taken... 

Another Haberman scoop

Maggie Haberman broke the news on NYTimes.com at 4:27pm. A few minutes later she was on the phone with CNN's Jake Tapper. On Wednesday night, she made this point on Twitter: "There are two major questions related to the Hicks departure. One is being heavily examined (could it relate to Russia). The other is how Trump, a creature-of-habit person for whom Hicks and Keith Schiller were sources of comfort, will function going forward..."


 -- Chris Cillizza says her explanation for quitting is "ridiculous..."

 -- About her "white lies" admission: Sources say "she was talking about small matters..."

 -- David Remnick's view: "It is hard to agree that her deceptions were merely occasional..."

-- Dana Milbank's column: "Hope Hicks told the truth about lying for Trump. Now she's gone..."

 -- Alexandra Petri: "She was a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a belted double-breasted dress from Theory..."

The Raffel factor

"The last few weeks were really, really hard for her," a confidant of Hicks told me. This source confirmed CNN's other reporting that Hicks started seriously thinking about resigning when the Rob Porter scandal erupted. The source said that Josh Raffel's plans to leave the W.H. -- revealed Tuesday -- were also a factor. Hicks and Raffel worked together on various matters and she believed her job would be even more difficult without him...

Who will replace Hicks?

And will he or she be more aggressive with the press corps? "It was not immediately clear who will replace Hicks," but "some of Hicks' duties have increasingly been filled over the last two months by Mercedes Schlapp," CNN's main story notes...

Without Hicks there, how will W.H. comms change?

Hadas Gold and I wrote about Hicks' relationships with reporters in this new story for CNN.com...

THE POINT: She held immense power... She was the point person for many of the nation's highest profile reporters and could (and would!) arrange an interview with the president seemingly independent of the rest of the W.H. press operation...

IMPORTANT: Even though she was constantly saying no to interview requests, Hicks advocated behind the scenes for Trump to be accessible to the press, both through interviews and other public appearances... 

Without Hicks there, how will W.H. comms change?

A source close to Hicks said "she respects reporters' roles in a way that most people in that building do not." That building meaning the White House. The source expressed concern that press access will become more limited without her there -- but W.H. reporters were skeptical that press relations would so drastically change. Here's our full story...

Omarosa says "wait and see"

Omarosa Manigault's first interview since leaving the "Big Brother" house is with another CBS program, "The Late Show." In a preview clip, Stephen Colbert asked about her remark to a "Big Brother" castmate about the Trump presidency -- that "we're not going to be okay." What did she mean by that? At first, she tried to reframe it as a conversation about the immigration debate. Then she said "we have an opportunity to make it okay." (Still: What's the "it?") It seems like she's still trying to juice interest in a potential tell-all book. Colbert asked the Q a different way: "Is everything going to be okay under Donald Trump?" Instead of the expected answer from a Trump loyalist, "everything's going to be great again," Omarosa told him, "We'll have to wait and see..."
For the record, part one 
 -- Here's the Ben Schreckinger Q&A with Steve Bannon that I teased last night... (GQ)

 -- This reality check about bots is a must-read by Charlie Warzel and Miriam Elder. "We gotta stop blaming Russian bots for everything," Warzel says. "The information wars deserve more nuance than this..." (BuzzFeed)

 -- What is "Big League Politics?" I've been seeing the site pop up more and more. Lachlan Markay got answers about the "conspiracy-theorizing pro-Trump news site..." (The Daily Beast)

 -- "In a victory for journalism and fair use, Playboy Entertainment has given up on its lawsuit" against Boing Boing... (EFF)

No big Sky updates today...

Nothing new out of Comcast, Fox or Sky on Wednesday. David Faber reported on CNBC that Fox and Disney are not seen "backing down." They are "not going to stand down," he said. He pointed out that it's "early days," and there's "not even an official offer" from Comcast yet, just a preliminary proposal...

Weinstein Co. update...

The Weinstein Company is still trying to avert bankruptcy... While it is "drafting the documents to file" for bankruptcy, "employees have been told that the company is continuing to pursue potential transactions," Variety's Gene Maddaus reports... Wednesday's headlines were about American Express suing the studio "claiming it is owed $1.4 million..."

Spotify files for a $1 billion IPO

Spotify filed paperwork for its IPO on Wedesday... NYSE ticker "SPOT..." "In an unusual move, Spotify plans to list shares directly on a stock exchange without relying on underwriters to help assess demand and set a price," CNN's Seth Fiegerman reports...

Spotify v. Apple

Spotify has "159 million monthly users, 71 million of which pay for a premium subscription, according to the filing. Apple Music, launched in 2015, has around half that amount," Fiegerman writes. "Spotify sales grew to nearly $5 billion in 2017, up from about $3.6 billion in the year prior. But its losses are growing too. The company lost about $1.5 billion in 2017, more than double from the prior year. It has lost nearly $3 billion since its founding in 2006, which stems from the cost of licensing content..."

Paramount postpones "Heathers"

Brian Lowry emails: Paramount Network has postponed "Heathers," a series adaptation of the hit 1988 movie, citing concern about its timing in relation to the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. Having waded through the first several episodes, it probably didn't help that (in this critic's opinion) the show is pretty terrible -- a nasty, seemingly tone-deaf effort to cash in on the name, which seeks to be provocative without any real clear point of view... Read more here...

PBS trying out "conservative-oriented talk show" on Friday nights

"Columnist Michael Gerson and commentator Amy Holmes are teaming to start a conservative-oriented talk show on PBS that takes its cue from William F. Buckley's 'Firing Line,' which aired from 1966 to 1999," the AP reports. Gerson is the anti-Trump voice, Holmes is more open to Trump. "The new show, 'In Principle,' will air Friday nights starting April 13. PBS will decide after an eight-week run whether to continue..."

Following up on the TVEyes ruling...

Erik Wemple's latest: "Fox News prevails in copyright case against TVEyes. What does that mean for TV accountability?" Lots of journalists use TVEyes to analyze Fox's coverage... This ruling might make that more difficult...
For the record, part two
 -- Some news from Facebook: "Jason White has been promoted to Director of News Partnerships for North America, overseeing the platform's relationships with news organizations in the U.S. and Canada." He will continue to report to Campbell Brown...

 -- Rachel Rosenfelt is the new publisher of The New Republic... Editor/acting president J.J. Gould is now officially president... (TNR)

 -- Racked EIC Britt Aboutaleb is taking some time off, then taking a new "behind the scenes" job at Vox... (Racked)

 -- Julia Waldow emails: A BBC News Labs AI researcher asks, "Face recognition: What use is it to newsrooms?" (Medium)


E! and ABC supporting Ryan Seacrest

Chloe Melas emails: The harassment allegation against Ryan Seacrest was in the headlines once again Wednesday when NBC's Kate Snow published a report citing an anonymous source who corroborated the harassment claims made by Seacrest's former stylist in November. Seacrest maintains his innocence and E! told me Wednesday that he will still be on the Oscars carpet on Sunday.

But on the flip side, two top Hollywood publicists tell me that some celebs will definitely skip the outlet, while others may take this as an opportunity to confront Seacrest on live TV. A source close to Seacrest tells me that he is focused on preparing for this weekend and E! told me that it's "business as usual."

 --> Here's the full story by Melas and Sandra Gonzalez...

 --> TheWrap reports: "According to an individual familiar with the situation, ABC was satisfied with the results of E!'s investigation into the matter and will take no further action..."

"Jeff Franklin Out as Showrunner of 'Fuller House' Amid Complaints About His Behavior"

That's the headline on Cynthia Littleton's Wednesday afternoon scoop. Netflix is moving forward on a fourth season of "Fuller House," but Jeff Franklin will not be working on it. Warner Bros. TV has also "declined to renew its overall deal" with him. "According to multiple sources, the studio's decision comes after it has received complaints about Franklin's behavior in the writers' room and on the set of the series." Franklin's lawyer declined to comment...

Vogue-Vice collaboration is on hold

"Vogue is putting an indefinite hold on its partnership with Vice," WWD's Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke reports. "The project, tentatively called Project Vs, was slated to launch today." One of her sources attributed it to the "loss of corporate sponsorship due to Vice's struggles following the #MeToo investigation and continuing allegations" at the company...
For the record, part three
 -- Per Erik Wemple: On Tuesday night, Fox's Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity walked back a CNN "smear" they promoted last week... (WashPost)

 -- Wemple's colleague Paul Farhi has this story about the "crossfire" between Fox and CNN in Thursday's paper. I'm quoted in it... (WashPost)

 -- Via Daniella Emanuel: A Former Google employee is suing company for alleged sexual harassment brought on by "bro-culture..." (Gizmodo)

 -- Twitter is finally letting you bookmark tweets for later reading... (CNN)

 -- Facebook is adding more job search features and expanding job postings to 40+ countries... (CNN)

USA Today publishes op-ed by InfoWars conspiracy theorist

Oliver Darcy emails his latest: USA Today said on Wednesday it was comfortable publishing an op-ed written by Jerome Corsi, the conspiracy theorist who serves as DC bureau chief for the fringe outlet InfoWars. A spokesperson for the newspaper told me its opinion pages are meant to show readers "more than one point of view on an issue." And it is true that Corsi's piece about arming teachers was a rather tame commentary that falls in line with the thinking of many Republicans. That said, it is surprising that the third largest newspaper by circulation would lend its platform to one of the world's leading conspiracy theorists. Initially, USA Today did not even disclose his connection to InfoWars. Only after inquiries from media outlets was the online version of the op-ed updated with that information. Details here...

Couric opens up about Yahoo

Kara Swisher and Katie Couric appeared on each other's podcasts recently... Swisher's Recode Decode is out now... while Couric's show will be out on Wednesday.

Couric told Swisher about her difficulties at Yahoo... It's at the 43-minute mark here... Couric: "I wouldn't say it was an unhappy marriage, but it certainly was not fulfilling for me." She says her big interviews were like trees "falling in the forest:" Yahoo "didn't really know how to market things properly... They hired some big names and yet they were in the witness protection program..."

Amazon selling PPV packages

Amazon has "inked a new deal with UFC to sell pay-per-view packages for the organization's upcoming slate of weekend fights," Recode's Kurt Wagner reports.

"It's the first time Amazon has sold a pay-per-view package for live sports..." It should be "another warning to cable companies that Amazon is becoming its own kind of cable company..."

NBC is the latest company to trim its commercial loads 

NBCUniversal "intends to cut the number of advertisements in its commercial pods during original primetime programming by 20% starting in the fourth quarter, and the amount of ad time during those primetime shows by 10%" Variety's Brian Steinberg reports. Commercials in repeats won't be affected. But you'll notice fewer ads in everything from "This Is Us" to "The Rachel Maddow Show..."

Lester Holt at the Paley Center

Lester Holt spoke at a Paley Center event moderated by Andrea Mitchell on Wednesday night. THR's Jeremy Barr has some of the highlights here. Another interesting detail: Holt said he has never watched the 2016 presidential debate he moderated. "I have not watched that debate yet..."
For the record, part four
 -- Bob Bakish is dropping "cryptic" hints about his plans for a Viacom streaming service... (Variety)

 -- Ta-Neshi Coates' latest for The Atlantic: "Why I'm writing Captain America and why it scares the hell out of me..." (The Atlantic)

 -- Julia Waldow emails: "It's worth asking: What if the numbers disappeared? How would it feel to use Twitter then?" David Zweig tests out a new media professor's 'Demetricator,' a browser extension that removes visible metrics from the site... (The New Yorker)
 -- Anti-secrecy editorials on Page One: In Washington state on Tuesday, "daily newspapers across the state published front-page editorials urging" Gov. Jay Inslee to veto a bill that would exempt lawmakers from the state's public records act. His office apparently received thousands of calls and emails... (Seattle Times)

Oprah's press tour continues...

Oprah Winfrey is out promoting "A Wrinkle In Time," and interviewers (rightly!) continue to ask her about 2020.

The latest is from People mag: With friends and fans urging her to think about running for president, "I went into prayer," Winfrey said. "'God, if you think I'm supposed to run, you gotta tell me, and it has to be so clear that not even I can miss it.' And I haven't gotten that."

 --> This lines up with my recent reporting. She says she is "not running" for president right now, and she has downplayed the chatter about it, BUT she has not ruled it out in private conversations...
The entertainment desk

T-minus four days til the Oscars

There's still time to watch!

Via Sandra Gonzalez, here's how to watch 30 of this year's Oscar-nominated movies...

"The Looming Tower" is now streaming

Brian Lowry emails: Hulu is looking to build on its breakthrough with the Emmy-winning "The Handmaid's Tale," and does so with "The Looming Tower," a taut miniseries adaptation of Lawrence Wright's Pulitzer Prize-winning book about pre-9/11 bureaucratic infighting. That will be followed by "Hard Sun," a less impressive, apocalyptic British series.

Read Lowry's full column here...
For the record, part five
By Lisa Respers France:

 -- I talked with Donald Glover (the soon-to-be star of both "The Lion King" and that Han Solo "Star Wars" movie) about season 2 of his hit FX series "Atlanta." He said he is feeling a little vulnerable...

 -- Kevin Smith got emotional talking to fans during a Facebook Live about his massive heart attack. The actor/director said he's feeling much better now...

 -- Mel B. has set off speculation that the Spice Girls might be performing at the upcoming royal wedding...

Welcome to March!

Last but not least, here's Lisa's recap of what's streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu in March. Personally, I'm starting the month with "The Looming Tower" on Hulu...
What do you think?
Email brian.stelter@turner.com... the feedback helps us improve this newsletter every day... Thanks!

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