News & Insights

The Deadline: Elon Musk’s Biography, Blackout Avoided and Media Moves & Shakeups

By Rebecca Epps

The Deadline - Media Intelligence Newsletter.

Key Highlights

  • Isaacson Backtracks – The much-anticipated release of Elon Musk’s biography hits store shelves but a claim in the book stirs controversy.
  • Push to Support Local News – Non-profits unite to help bring more support and interest in local news.
  • Google Faces Off in Court – The case between Google and the U.S. government begins in a trial that may be a bellwether for antitrust action.

Industry News

Elon Musk Biography Hits Store Shelves

Walter Isaacson’s highly anticipated biography on Elon Musk hit store shelves on Tuesday and there is some controversy swirling. Specifically, a claim in the book around Musk turning off Ukraine’s access to a key satellite internet system last year just as the country was launching an underwater drone attack. The claim set off alarms and triggered a barrage of questions about Musk’s role in potentially determining the fate of the Russia-Ukraine war. Isaacson walked back on the claim and posted a clarification on X. A spokesperson for Simon & Schuster, the publishing house, told CNN that “future editions of the book will be updated to no longer include the error”. CNN also published four key takeaways from the book, which include details about Musk’s upbringing and his father, Musk’s constant mix of girlfriend, ex-wives, ex-girlfriends and significant others and him having many children with multiple women, details behind X (formerly called Twitter) and what’s behind a robot called “Optimus.”

Google Faces Off in Court Over Antitrust Violations

A showdown in court on Tuesday arose as Google faces off against the U.S. government in an antitrust case. The case is centered on Google’s search business and the case is expected to have a weeks-long trial that could reshape the internet’s most dominant search platform. In 2020, the Justice Department and dozens of states accused Google of abusing its dominance in online search by allegedly harming competition through deals with wireless carriers and smartphone makers that pinpointed Google Search the default or exclusive option for consumers. Google has maintained that it competes on the merits and the consumers choose their tools because they are the best. Google’s search business provides more than half of the $238 billion in revenue and $76 billion in the net income that Google’s parent company, Alphabet, recorded in 2022. CNN reports that the trial may also be a bellwether for a more assertive antitrust agenda by the Biden administration. CNN also reports that the case is expected to feature testimony from high-profile witnesses including former employees of Google, Samsung, and executives from Apple.

Disney and Charter Strike Last Minute Deal to Avoid Blackout on ESPN

Just hours before the “Monday Night Football” premiere on ESPN, Disney and Charter announced they had struck a “transformative agreement” to end a dispute, which would restore access for nearly 15 million subscribers to channels such as ESPN and ABC. The clashes between Disney and Charter erupted into view as the U.S. Open was taking place and with the NFL season about to get underway. The dispute brought to the surface the strained relations between distributors and content providers which has been simmering for years. As part of the agreement – which came just hours before “Monday Night Football” kicked off, giving relief to millions of households who subscribe to Charter – Disney will provide advertiser-supported Disney+ to select Charter television packages and ESPN+ will be included in more premium subscriptions. The deal could be the tipping point of more such deals to come with cable and satellite television providers demanding companies such as Disney provide their subscribers access to their streaming services.

Chuck Todd’s Final Sign Off with “Meet the Press”

It’s the end of an era as Chuck Todd signed off Sunday as the 12th moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press”. Todd has held the acclaimed Sunday morning show position since 2014. NBC News White House Correspondent Kristen Welker will take over as the new show host. Todd announced earlier this year that he would be leaving the show, saying at the time that he was “feeling concerned about this moment in history but reassured by the standards we’ve set here.” Todd said hosting “Meet the Press” was the honor of his professional life. He will remain with NBC moving to a chief political analyst role while also focusing on long-form coverage. With Welker taking the helm, the appointment also signifies a significant milestone for women in journalism, as it marks the first time that every Sunday public affairs program will be moderated or co-moderated by a woman, including Dana Bash, Shannon Bream, Margaret Brennan, Jen Psaki, and Martha Raddatz at their respective networks.

Fox News Fires Veteran Executive

John Finley, who helped develop many of the network’s biggest shows and who had at one point been the executive producer for Sean Hannity, has been fired by Fox News. The news was announced on Friday. The move came after determining Finely violated the company’s conduct standards. In a statement, a Fox spokesperson said, “Fox News Media and John Finley have parted ways after an independent investigation concluded that he had violated certain standards of business conduct.” The media company did not disclose any further details or what Finely had done. According to the Washington Post, a person familiar with the matter suggested Finely had used his position to benefit someone who had influence over him. Finely had also been the subject of an internal probe back in 2011 but was later cleared.

Former White House Spokesperson Added to MSNBC Primetime Lineup

Jen Psaki, the former White House spokesperson and political advisor who served under both former President Barack Obama and President Biden, is set to host the 8 p.m. primetime show on Monday evenings on MSNBC. The network announced her role will begin September 25. The move comes as MSNBC has made a big push with partisan personalities to drive ratings in the post-Trump era. MSNBC is also continuing to experiment with scheduling shifts to assess for programming projects from its biggest stars and to boost ratings. Rachel Maddow, for example, signed a new contract with the network in 2021 to focus more on content such as documentaries and podcasts. Psaki joined MSNBC last October after leaving the White House. She launched “Inside with Jen Psaki” which airs on Sundays and was launched earlier this year. The network said she will continue to host her Sunday show along with the new 8 p.m. Monday show. 

Cesar Conde: A Star Honored with the Hispanic Heritage Media Award

Cesar Conde, Chairman of the NBCUniversal News Group, has been recognized with the esteemed Hispanic Heritage Media Award at the 36th Hispanic Heritage Awards. In a milestone achievement, Conde became the first Latino to lead a major English-language television news organization in 2020. The Hispanic Heritage Foundation commended Conde’s visionary leadership, citing the remarkable growth of NBCUniversal under his guidance, spanning broadcast, digital, and streaming platforms. Conde’s creation of NBCU Academy, a program offering free journalism training and resources in partnership with colleges nationwide, further underscores his commitment to fostering talent and diversity within the media industry. The prestigious award acknowledges Conde’s profound impact on journalism and his dedication to creating a more inclusive media landscape.

“Press Forward”: Major Philanthropic Collaboration to Revive Local News

Over 20 nonprofit organizations, led by the MacArthur Foundation and backed by the Knight Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, among others, have unveiled a game-changing initiative called “Press Forward.” This ambitious venture pledges to invest a substantial $500 million over the next five years in local media organizations, addressing the growing crisis in local news coverage. The mission of “Press Forward” encompasses funding grants for both for-profit and nonprofit local newsrooms, facilitating the development of shared tools, offering resources to underserved regions and diverse outlets, and investing in nonpartisan public policy initiatives that bolster access to news and information. This concerted effort comes at a critical time as so-called “news deserts” continue to expand, with more than 20% of Americans residing in areas lacking independent local news sources.

Megyn Kelly’s Podcast Deal Extension with an Exclusive Interview with Donald Trump

Megyn Kelly, the former Fox News host and personality for NBC News, is extending her multi-year deal with SiriusXM for “The Megyn Kelly Show,” defying initial doubts about her podcast’s success. The program will continue to air live on SiriusXM’s Triumph channel during the weekdays until the 2024 election, further cementing Kelly’s presence in the audio space. Known for her independent political stance and willingness to tackle controversial topics, Kelly is part of a wave of former Fox News regulars who have found new audiences in the audio and direct-to-consumer realm. Kelly expects to interview former President Donald Trump and play the interview on her program on September 14, 2023.

White House to Send Letter to Top News Execs

The White House is set to send a letter to top U.S. news executives, urging them to increase their scrutiny of House Republicans after Speaker Kevin McCarthy launched an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, despite no evidence found of a crime. According to CNN, the letter will be sent to executives at the largest news organizations including CNN, The New York Times, Fox News, the Associated Press, CBS News, and others. CNN also notes that the letter will cite that an impeachment inquiry with no supporting evidence should “set off alarm bells for news organizations.” According to a draft copy obtained by CNN, a spokesperson for the White House Counsel’s Office notes in the letter that, “it’s time for the media to ramp up scrutiny of House Republicans for opening an impeachment inquiry bases on lies.”

Career Moves

  • POLITICO has introduced its new leadership team, with Joe Schatz taking on the role of executive editor, Francesca Barber assuming the position of executive director for global newsroom strategy, and Alex Burns appointed as the head of news.
  • The New York Times has hired Neel Patel as a staff editor and introduced a second cohort of New York Times Corps members, consisting of 19 undergrad students. Neel Patel has joined the Opinion section as a staff editor, where he will apply his expertise to commissioning and editing health and science coverage as part of the guest essay operation.
  • Alex Marquardt has been promoted to Chief National Security Correspondent for CNN Worldwide, based in Washington, D.C. He brings nearly 15 years of experience covering international and national security issues.
  • Michael Gold has been upped to campaign correspondent on The New York Times’ Politics desk, after gaining recognition for his work on the Metro desk. In his new role he is set to cover campaigns and breaking news, bringing his talents as the election cycle heats up.
  • NBC News Now named Sean Reis the executive producer of “Morning News Now.” Previously, he had worked as the senior producer who launched NBC News Daily with Morgan Radford and Vicky Nguyen on the NBC TV Network.
  • The opinion department of The New York Times underwent a restructuring process. Krista Mahr was promoted to senior editor for international affairs, where she’ll also lead the global coverage for Opinion. Sara Barrett has been advanced to senior photo editor, Glyn Peterson to senior staff editor, Phoebe Lett to senior producer within the Opinion Audio team, and Anna Marks to a staff editor role within the Opinion team.


A Q&A with CNN’s Fast-Rising Star Kaitlan Collins

CNN’s primetime anchor and well-known new face for the network, Kaitlan Collins, has risen to the top ranks of CNN’s on-air talent list in the span of just six years. Collins began her career with the network as a White House correspondent and notched her way up the ladder to now anchoring her own show, “The Source” in the coveted 9 p.m. ET timeslot. CNN sat down with Collins for a Q&A that talked about her move to primetime and the defining moments of her career. In the interview, Collins described her rise at the network as “totally thrilling” and talked about her ability to ask tough questions and stay cool under pressure. She also talked about the town hall back in May in which she interviewed former President Donald Trump – his first appearance on CNN since 2016. When asked what advice she would give to young women interested in a similar career path Collins said, “I would tell them to keep an open mind and pursue every opportunity that comes your way when you’re just getting started.”

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