Another day, another possible Trump indictment in the works.
Former President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he has received a letter from the Justice Department that he is the target of an investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. He took to his Truth Social to call it a “WITCH HUNT.”
But what timing. The big news of the day broke just before another Republican candidate, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, did something few thought he would do: sit down for an interview with CNN. In fact, it was a rare move for DeSantis to sit down with anybody outside of the usual friendly conservative media circles, such as Fox News.
With DeSantis chasing Trump in the polls, he had a chance to cut into Trump a bit. Instead, DeSantis walked the fine line, making sure not to offend Trump and, more importantly, the Trump supporters that he might need someday.
DeSantis was interviewed in South Carolina by CNN’s Jake Tapper, who naturally asked DeSantis about the Trump news. Tapper asked if there is evidence of criminality, should Trump be charged?
DeSantis said, “Here’s the problem. This country is going down the road of criminalizing political differences. I think that’s wrong.”
When pressed, DeSantis said, “When you’re going after somebody on the other side of the political spectrum, if you’re stretching statutes to try to criminalize political disagreements, that is wrong. Now, look, this is all speculation. But I think we’ve gone down the road in this country of trying to criminalize differences in politics, rather than saying, ‘OK, you don’t like somebody? Then defeat them in the election rather than trying to use the justice system.’”
So if you were waiting for the moment for DeSantis to come out swinging at Trump, it never happened. Earlier in the day Tuesday, the most he would say was that Trump should have “come out more forcefully” when his supporters were attacking the Capitol.
But he told Tapper, “I don’t think it serves us good to have a presidential election focused on what happened four years ago in January. And so I want to focus on looking forward. I don’t want to look back. … I hope he doesn’t get charged. I don’t think it’ll be good for the country.”
One of the themes of DeSantis’ campaign, as well as his time as governor in Florida, is fighting against “wokeness.” In a recent campaign speech, he used the word “woke” five times in 20 seconds. He talks about it constantly.
Yet, he told Tapper, “Not everyone really knows what wokeness is. I mean, I’ve defined it, but a lotta people who rail against wokeness can’t even define it.”
Perhaps that is why DeSantis’ campaign is floundering at the moment. One of his chief talking points is something most people can’t even define.
CNN’s Steve Contorno and Kit Maher wrote, “That disconnect is echoed in concerns by Republican donors and operatives, who have privately — and sometimes publicly — said that DeSantis is too focused on the priorities of the most conservative factions in his party, particularly those that speak loudest in digital spaces and the GOP speaking circuit.”
Check out the CNN story for more specifics on the interview and some of the answers DeSantis gave about his campaign.
The interview didn’t result in any explosive moments, testy back-and-forths or, for that matter, any truly viral clips. The only thing that came close was DeSantis admitting many people can’t define what “woke” means.
Aside from spending lots of time on Trump, Tapper hit many of the major questions voters might have of DeSantis — foreign policy, possible problems with his campaign and his thoughts on abortion. (His answer on the latter was, at best, vague.)
Tapper might get beat up in some circles for not being tougher with DeSantis, but he should get credit for asking the pertinent questions and allowing DeSantis to answer.
Could Tapper have hit every questionable thing DeSantis has said or done? Well, for starters, Tapper didn’t have all day to interview DeSantis. The interview, which was taped and aired later, was just over 15 minutes long.
So, with some time limitations, Tapper did the right thing: hit the major talking points and ask tough questions without being combative and having the interview devolve into a mess.
We shall see if DeSantis gains some momentum from the interview (doubtful), but CNN and, in particular, Tapper came out of it in good shape.
For this next item, I turn it over to my Poynter colleague Annie Aguiar.
A $5 million partnership between the American Journalism Project and OpenAI, the artificial intelligence research and development company behind ChatGPT, will explore ways AI can support local news, a sign of the news media staking a claim in the rapidly expanding field of generative AI.
OpenAI will give $5 million to AJP, the venture philanthropic organization that provides funding to local news initiatives like Houston Landing, Capital B, The Marshall Project and other local nonprofit shops, in addition to $5 million in OpenAI API credits (essentially, a fee for each time a project sends a request to OpenAI’s larger system) to be used by AJP and its portfolio organizations.
Other plans from AJP and its local news organizations include:
- Creating a technology and AI studio to assess applying AI within local news, giving organizations coaching on how to use tools, and work with OpenAI and other AI vendors to support journalism and prevent the spread of misinformation
- Distributing grants directly to 10 of its organizations to explore AI applications
“In these early days of generative AI, we have the opportunity to ensure that local news organizations, and their communities, are involved in shaping its implications,” said Sarabeth Berman, CEO of the American Journalism Project, in a press release announcing the deal. “With this partnership, we aim to promote ways for AI to enhance — rather than imperil — journalism.”
This isn’t OpenAI’s first foray into collaborating with the press, as last week the company struck a deal with The Associated Press to use the AP’s text archive to train its AI algorithms. In return, the AP would get input on its own AI work from OpenAI. (You can read more about the deal from Axios.) The AP has used AI since at least 2014, when it started experimenting with automating earnings reports.
History shows that journalists and news consumers should be wary of any news organization getting into a multimillion-dollar business partnership with a company poised to be a major newsmaker in years to come. Handled right, however, these types of partnerships can provide models for AI-driven solutions at the local level.
On a national scale, AI is an emerging area of focus for big publications like The Washington Post, and local-centered AI solutions could help prevent a widening innovation gap between national and local.
But flawed usages of AI for digital news content have garnered anger from news staff in recent weeks. Any implementation of this technology in a local news environment without careful consideration could stand to even further destabilize an already shaky ecosystem, and it’s easy to see repeated factual errors on a local level piling up to erode trust even more.
It’s also easy to see tools developed from these partnerships being used by scrupulous digital news publishers to minimize payroll costs and spread misinformation outside of the purview of AJP and the AP’s ethical guidelines. But potential pitfalls can only do so much to stop the inevitable march of the kind of innovation being pushed as hard as AI.
From OpenAI’s perspective, partnerships with news organizations make sense, but unanswered questions about AI in journalism cast a shadow over the enterprise. These partnerships can be read as an implicit promise: We are not trying to take your job with these technologies, but make them better. The technology’s here anyway.
While a lot of the talk around generative AI is conjecture, we know at least one thing is true: There’s no stopping this train. It’s a savvy move for AJP and the AP to hop aboard and see where it goes, but a scary one when it comes to hanging on.
Did Fox News hire the right Watters to replace Tucker Carlson in prime time?
Jesse Watters made his debut on Monday, but one of his guests stole the show: his mom.
Watters finished up his inaugural show by taking a phone call from his mother, Anne, who is a Democrat. She had plenty of advice for how her son should host his show. After praising him for his hard work and how proud she is of him, she said, “Do not tumble into any conspiracy rabbit holes. We do not want to lose you and we want no lawsuits.”
That seemed like a veiled shot at Carlson, who lost his job not long after Fox News paid Dominion Voting Systems $787.5 million to settle a defamation lawsuit.
Mom then said, “In keeping with the Hippocratic oath, do no harm. We need you to be kind and respectful. Use your voice responsibly to promote conversation that maintains a narrative thread. There really has been enough Biden-bashing and the laptop is old. Perhaps you could suggest that your people take less interest, for example, in other people’s bodies and talk about that.”
She also talked about Trump, telling Watters, “You could encourage that Bedminster friend of yours to return to his earlier career on television. Everyone in his audience could wear a red hat and I’m sure the ratings would soar, although never as high, my darling, as yours.”
Can we get her on every night?
By the way, Watters’ debut show averaged 2.4 million viewers. That’s nearly a million fewer than Carlson’s final show, which averaged 3.2 million viewers. As media reporter Brian Stelter noted, Watters’ numbers were night one and after “heavy promotion.”
- Margaret Sullivan’s latest media column for The Guardian US: “I took RFK Jr’s phone call long ago. Now I regret it.”
- The Atlantic has hired Michael Powell, who has been at The New York Times since 2007. At the Times, Powell has been a national reporter covering issues around free speech. In the past, Powell wrote the “Gotham” column for the metro section and wrote the “Sports of the Times” column. He worked at The Washington Post before joining the Times.
- The Atlantic also hired Zoë Schlanger to cover issues of climate, which will include a newsletter called “The Weekly Planet.” Schlanger has been a staffer at Newsweek and Quartz, and also has been a contributor to, among other outlets, The Atlantic and The New York Times.
- The Texas Tribune’s William Melhado and Alejandro Serrano with “Texas A&M interim dean resigns after university backtracks on hiring professor to revive journalism program.”
- Axios’ Sara Fischer and Kerry Flynn with “Vox Media drops its own CMS.”
- Audio from NPR’s “Pop Culture Happy Hour” as Linda Holmes, Eric Deggans, Mike Katzif and Jessica Reedy break down the Hollywood actors and writers strike.
- Liz Kreutz is joining NBC News as a correspondent based in Los Angeles. She will cover all news in the western region for all NBC News platforms, including MSNBC. Kreutz joins NBC from ABC7 in San Francisco where she was an anchor and reporter. Before that, she was an evening anchor and reporter in Sacramento at ABC affiliate KXTV.
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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