Briefing room battle; AT&T closes Time Warner deal; Stankey takes charge; Pittsburgh outrage; Mirror Award winners; podcast with George Lakoff

By Brian Stelter and CNN's media team
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Exec summary: Rudy wants Mueller "suspended..." Pittsburgh wants its cartoonist back... Plus, AT&T is officially in charge of Time Warner... Apple is bidding for its first original movie... Oh, and don't miss the WashPost's new reporting about what Trump saw on North Korean state-run TV...

DONE DEAL: AT&T now owns Time Warner

It's official -- now what?

On Thursday afternoon the Justice Department said it would NOT seek a stay of the judge's ruling in US v. AT&T. There was speculation in media and biz circles: Would the Time Warner deal take effect next Monday? Maybe even on Friday? No -- now. Two and a half hours after the word came down from the DOJ, AT&T said it "has completed its acquisition of Time Warner." That means CNN, HBO, Warner Bros, etc are all part of a big wireless company. This is the biggest media biz takeover in nearly a decade. Here's how it will impact consumers...

The "Time Warner" name is going away

For now, AT&T is calling Time Warner its "media business." The Time Warner name is being retired, but not quite yet... AT&T says "a new name for this business will be announced" in the coming days...

In one way, this the end of a media era. The Time in Time Warner stands for Time Inc., founded in 1922, and Warner stands for Warner Brothers, the studio that was incorporated by four brothers in 1923.

And in another way, this is the start of brand new era. A wireless company has never owned a giant movie studio or a TV news network before. Comcast/NBCU is the closest analogue, but Comcast is mostly wired, and it lacks the national wireless footprint that AT&T has...

Stephenson's message: "Keep doing what you do best"

Here's how AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson touted the combo in Thursday evening's press release: Time Warner's "content and creative talent" + AT&T's "direct-to-consumer distribution" = "differentiated, high-quality, mobile-first entertainment experience."

Stephenson sent a note to all employees from a Time Warner email address (nice touch). "It's been a long time coming, but well worth the effort: AT&T and Time Warner are now one company," he wrote.

Key graf: "To our new Time Warner colleagues, including HBO, Turner and Warner Bros. employees – welcome! As different as our businesses are, I think you'll find we have a lot in common. Like you, we take immense pride in what we do. And we have a passion for always doing the right thing and supporting our communities. We're big fans of your talent and creativity. And you have my word that you will continue to have the creative freedom and resources to keep doing what you do best."

Stankey taking charge

Per AT&T's press release, "Jeff Bewkes, former chairman and CEO of Time Warner Inc., has agreed to remain with the company as a senior advisor during a transition period." 

Veteran AT&T exec John Stankey will succeed him as CEO of the renamed company... and all of Bewkes' "direct reports will now report" to Stankey... Stankey will meet with HBO, Warner Bros. and Turner employees at a series of three town halls next week...

The DOJ might still appeal...

As Hadas Gold and Jessica Schneider reported here, the DOJ is not ruling out an appeal, even though it is not asking to put Tuesday's ruling on hold. "We are still evaluating options," a DOJ official said...

Deafening silence from Disney

"Few people in Hollywood or on Wall Street expect the Walt Disney Co. to meekly surrender 21st Century Fox to media rival Comcast, though the Burbank entertainment giant has been deafeningly silent on its next move," Deadline reports.

Craig Moffett says "almost everyone expects them to make a counter bid. It's only then that things will get truly interesting. Will Comcast then top Disney's bid? How far can they go?"

 >> Related: "Which media cos are still up for grabs?" by Jill Disis...
For the record, part one 
 -- Kara Swisher and Kurt Wagner's latest scoop: Facebook's top policy and communications exec Elliot Schrage is stepping down... (Recode)

 -- Twitter PR boss Kristin Binns is also leaving... (Twitter)

 -- Rudy Giuliani went on "Hannity" and said Robert Mueller "should be suspended" tomorrow... (Axios)

 -- Prosecutors are investigating whether Michael Cohen "illegally engaged in secret lobbying..." (WSJ)

-- EPA chief Scott Pruitt remains "in relatively good standing with the president," according to The Daily Beast. A source says the two men "mostly talk about how the media is out to get him..." (Beast)

NEW: My podcast with George Lakoff

Linguist George Lakoff, a vocal critic of President Trump, says news outlets are empowering Trump to "lie" to the public. Trump "weaponizes words," he says, and journalists are helping him do it. 

We had a lively conversation on Thursday. And the audio is up now on our weekly "Reliable" podcast. Lakoff was critical of me... and many others... for repeating Trump's claims, even in the context of fact-checking. He makes the case that the president is "winning the linguistic war." Listen here via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or TuneIn...

2 stories for 2 sides

Chris Hayes' lead on MSNBC at 8pm: "Lawsuit alleges Trump used charitable foundation as an illegal shush fund." He focused on the New York state AG's bombshell suit, citing it as evidence of Trump's lawlessness. 

Over on Fox, Tucker Carlson's 8pm lead was about another bombshell: The DOJ inspector general's report on the FBI's actions during the 2016 election. Carlson alleged FBI lawlessness...

I was struck by this radical don't-believe-the-media line from Carlson's intro: "If you're looking to understand what's actually happening in this country, always assume the opposite of whatever they're telling you on the big news stations. And that's certainly the case here. They are lying..."

Power of the WashPost on display

This was a big day for David Fahrenthold. His story about the civil suit against Trump humbly noted that "New York state began probing the Trump Foundation in response to an investigation by The Washington Post."

Fahrenthold told Hayes that the A.G. used subpoena power to answer a lot of the questions he still had about the foundation... A lot of things "I had always wondered or suspected..."

We need more info about this

The DOJ IG report went into detail about alleged leaks to reporters, as The Federalist notes here. This passage from the report raised a lot of eyebrows, and I'd like to know a lot more about this: "FBI employees received tickets to sporting events from journalists, went on golfing outings with media representatives, were treated to drinks and meals after work by reporters, and were the guests of journalists at nonpublic social events..."

"Don't you have any empathy?"

At Thursday's briefing, Jim Acosta brought up the separation of children and parents who cross the border illegally. When Sarah Sanders dodged and Acosta tried to follow up, she insulted him, saying "I know it's hard for you to understand even short sentences." Outrageous. Several other reporters in the room spoke up -- one was heard saying "that's a cheap shot, Sarah" -- but she pressed on.

A minute later, Playboy columnist/CNN contributor Brian Karem interjected: "Come on, Sarah, you're a parent. Don't you have any empathy for what these people are going through?" Karem kept going, but Sanders moved on. Some viewers cheered for Karem; others criticized his "outburst." Fox's Jesse Watters called him an "emotional wreck" who "doesn't belong in that room." On "OutFront," Karem defended himself and said he asked a "valid question..."

 >> Erik Wemple's take: "Do you feel empathy with torn families? Possibly the easiest question @PressSec has faced from podium. Yet she mocks reporter..."

 >> April Ryan on "CNN Tonight:" "This administration is using that [briefing] room for the wrong purposes..."

 >> Reminder: If you're calling for limits or restrictions on press briefings, you're doing it wrong...

Outrage in Pittsburgh

Frank Pallotta writes: "An award-winning editorial cartoonist who has worked at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for 25 years announced on Thursday that he was fired from the paper. Rob Rogers' firing comes after the paper stopped publishing his cartoons -- many of which were critical of President Trump -- last month."

Last week Rogers told CNN's Jake Tapper that he got the feeling that management wanted him to be "less negative to Trump..."

The Post-Gazette declined to comment on Thursday. But Rogers had a lot to say. "The Post-Gazette's leadership has veered away from core journalistic values that embrace diverse opinions and public discourse on important issues," he said... Read more here...

Even the mayor weighed in

Pittsburgh mayor William Peduto (a Dem) called out the paper for firing Rogers. "This is precisely the time when the constitutionally-protected free press -- including critics like Rob Rogers -- should be celebrated and supported, and not fired for doing their jobs," Peduto said. "This decision, just one day after the President of the United States said the news media is 'Our Country's biggest enemy,' sets a low standard in the 232-year history of the newspaper..."
For the record, part two
 -- "The Atlantic hires the Houston Chronicle's Vernon Loeb as politics editor..." (WashPost)

 -- "The Young Turks laid off at least five employees this week... Among the departures were Nomiki Konst and Hannah Cranston..." (TheWrap)

 -- "After buying PureWow, Gary Vaynerchuk's company is launching a new men's media brand about the collision of entrepreneurship and pop culture..." (BI)

Top W.H. comms aide has a history of rhetoric strongly critical of Trump

Oliver Darcy emails with his latest scoop: W.H. director of strategic communications Mercedes Schlapp has a history of commentary strongly critical of Trump and his agenda. Back in 2015, Schlapp posted a number of tweets assailing the then-presidential candidate for his hardline immigration rhetoric, his attacks on Senator John McCain and then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly, and his pledge to get along with Russian President Vladimir Putin. You can read the tweets I uncovered here...
 --> Asked for comment, Schlapp said she's "100% supportive" of Trump and his policies. Notably, she declined to address in her statement her history of critical commentary... Read the rest here...

Remnick interviews Haberman + Baquet

Julia Waldow emails: Dean Baquet and Maggie Haberman sat down with David Remnick for a frank discussion on truth, lies, and Trump's war on the media...

 >> "Does he lie for sport, just for the hell of it?" Remnick asked. "Sometimes," Haberman responded. "I mean, he likes to see what he can get away with. There's a 'Zotz!' factor of trying to see how far he can push the envelope."

 >> "One of the angles of attack that Trump takes against the NYT is that it's somehow failing. In fact, if you're going to be honest with me, Trump is good for business, is he not?" Reminck asked. "Yeah, he's made our audience care deeply about news," Baquet said. "He's made everybody care a lot about news, and I think people understand that they're seeing a big-deal news moment. And that's good for us."
For the record, part three
By Julia Waldow:

 -- How's this for a head-spinner? "A fact-checker hatched an elaborate scheme to catch a site that was stealing his stories," Craig Silverman reports... (BuzzFeed News)

-- Here are this year's winners of the International Press Freedom Awards... (CPJ) And this year's Ida B. Wells Fellows... (Investigative Fund)

Toasting the Newmark School

CUNY's newly renamed Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism celebrated Newmark's $20 million donation with a reception on Thursday night. Dean Sarah Bartlett said Newmark and the school have "humble beginnings" and "scrappiness" in common. Newmark said "I'm just putting my money where my mouth is."

Sightings via CNN's S. Mitra Kalita: Steve Shepard, Marcus Brauchli, Stacy-Marie Ishmael, Richard Tofel, Ben Smith, Liena Zagare, Julia Angwin, Mark Whitaker, Raju Narisetti, Sree Sreenivasan, Stu Loeser, Margaret Sullivan, Azi Paybarah, Sandeep Junnarkar, Shazna Nessa...

This year's Mirror Awards winners...

I love the Mirrors because, true to the name, the awards celebrate media-industry reporting. (I was a judge for a couple of the categories.) This year's winners:

Best profile: Lois Parshley for "Editor in Exile"

Best single article/story: Jim Rutenberg for this story about RT

Best commentary: Jack Shafer and Tucker Doherty for "The Media Bubble Is Worse Than You Think"

Best story on fake news, a new category this year: Amanda Robb for "Pizzagate: A Slice of Fake News" and Rolling Stone with The Investigative Fund's "Anatomy of a Fake News Scandal"

Best story on sexual misconduct in the media industry, also a new category: Irin Carmon and Amy Brittain for their reporting about Charlie Rose

John M. Higgins Award for best in-depth/enterprise reporting: Ronan Farrow AND a team from the NYT. The team: Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey, Rachel Abrams, Ellen Gabler, Susan Dominus, Jim Rutenberg and Steve Eder...

Sheila Nevins, NPR, and "60 Minutes" were also honored...

Powerful statement by Irin Carmon

Deadline quoted from her acceptance speech at the Mirrors: "There's a temptation to think the last few months have been about individual men, that it was about a handful of bad apples and if we get rid of them it will end the cycle of harassment and abuse. But it's not true. The stories that we have been doing are about a system. The system has lawyers and a good reputation. It has publicists. It has a perfectly reasonable explanation about what happened. It has powerful friends that will ask if it's really worth ruining the career of a good man based on what one women says, what four women say, what 35 women say. Indeed, the system is sitting in this room. Some more than others. The system is still powerful men getting stories killed that I believe will one day see the light of day."
For the record, part four
David Klein emails:

 -- Another weapon in the war on fake news? CJR examines Trusted News, a new Google Chrome extension that hopes to use blockchain technology to gage an outlet's trustworthiness... (CJR)

 -- Creative! This British news outlet is putting its work on stage, literally, by producing a one woman show about "life in a refuge..." (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism)

 -- The often-forgotten power of reporting: More than 70 years since their separation, a USA Today story helped connect a survivor of Stalin's gulags with the family of her long-lost husband... (USA TODAY)

About that salute...

Oliver Darcy emails: Back in 2009, then-President Barack Obama triggered apocalyptic media coverage in the conservative press when he appeared to bow before the Saudi king. Flash forward to 2018: North Korean propaganda revealed on Thursday that Trump returned a salute to a NK general, and the issue got little-to-no play in the conservative media. Over at Fox News, I could only find one story that mentioned the salute, and it was a detail included in the 10th paragraph of a larger story. The Drudge Report, which famously bannered Obama's bows before other world leaders, did not feature any stories on the matter. And elsewhere across the conservative media, the issue got little attention. Weird! I wonder why that might be. 🤔

WashPost: "Trump nearly upended summit with abrupt changes"

Josh Dawsey tweeted: "After landing in Singapore, Trump abruptly demanded the North Korea summit be moved up by a day, rattling aides. They talked him down by telling him fewer people would watch on TV." Here's his story, co-written with three other Posties...

Trump watched North Korean state-run TV, and he said...

Another key graf from the Post story: "At one point, after watching North Korean television, which is entirely state-run, the president talked about how positive the female North Korean news anchor was toward Kim, according to two people familiar with his remarks. He joked that even the administration-friendly Fox News was not as lavish in its praise as the state TV anchor, one of the people added, and that maybe she should get a job on U.S. television, instead..."

Another magazine cover POTUS won't like

"Life imitating art a little too much..."

Brian Lowry emails: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg held a conference call Thursday to promote "Preacher," an AMC series that's ginned up controversy. But as the directors of "The Interview," they also conceded that they experienced a bit of deja vu watching coverage of the Trump-Kim summit, with Goldberg saying that it was a case of "life imitating art a little too much..."
The entertainment desk

Will this be Apple's first movie?

Apple is close to a deal for the rights "to an animated movie as part of its upcoming slate of original video offerings," Bloomberg reported Thursday, citing "people familiar with the matter." The talks are with "Cartoon Saloon, an Ireland-based, Oscar-nominated animation studio." The movie "has yet to be made and is more than a year from release..."

Anousha Sakoui, Mark Gurman, and Lucas Shaw had the scoop. Apple hasn't announced any movies so far, so these talks "mark a new level of ambition" for the company... Read the rest here...

Lowry reviews "Tag"

Brian Lowry emails: Inspired by a true story, "Tag" is a hit-and-miss R-rated comedy about adults who continue to play a kids game. But one part that stood out as especially bogus was its depiction of the Wall Street Journal reporter who wrote the story, who drops everything to flit around the country (and, among the movie's creative liberties, is recast as a woman)...

Lowry's kicker in the review: "The closing credits do gain a lift from featuring clips of the actual guys, offering a sense of the movie's playful underpinnings. It's a taste of a documentary version of this story, frankly, that might have been better than this mostly hit-miss Hollywood-ized version..."

Another Roseanne tweetstorm...

Roseanne Barr says her racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett was actually about anti-Semitism. Uh-huh. She also says "I will begin to speak for myself in media soon." Lisa Respers France has a recap of the tweetstorm here...

Reality check

Brian Lowry emails: While Barr keeps tweeting, the LA Times' Greg Braxton has a good deep dive into her tumultuous (to be kind) history, reinforcing that ABC should have known what it was potentially getting itself into when it rolled the dice on reviving her show...
For the record, part five
By Lisa Respers France:

 -- Cyberbullying has led Millie Bobby Brown to leave Twitter...

 -- Brie Larson used a recent speech to highlight the need for more diversity among film critics...
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