The Perfect Enemy | The Washington Post looks at Politico’s new owner … and it’s quite something
February 18, 2024

The Washington Post looks at Politico’s new owner … and it’s quite something

The Washington Post looks at Politico’s new owner … and it’s quite something  Poynter

Here’s your fascinating media story of the day. The Washington Post’s Sarah Ellison traveled to Berlin to profile Mathias Döpfner for “Politico’s new German owner has a ‘contrarian’ plan for American media.”

Döpfner is CEO of Axel Springer, the publishing house that bought Politico last October in a deal worth reportedly more than $1 billion.

Ellison wrote, “A newcomer to the community of billionaire media moguls, Döpfner is given to bold pronouncements and visionary prescriptions. He’s concerned that the American press has become too polarized — legacy brands like the New York Times and The Washington Post drifting to the left, in his view, while conservative media falls under the sway of Trumpian ‘alternative facts.’ So in Politico, the fast-growing Beltway political journal, he sees a grand opportunity.”

That opportunity? As Döpfner told Ellison, “We want to prove that being nonpartisan is actually the more successful positioning.”

I highly recommend Ellison’s story, but I did want to quickly mention two details from her story. One was an email that he sent to his top executives that said, “Do we all want to get together for an hour in the morning on November 3 and pray that Donald Trump will again become President of the United States of America?” He then added that no administration has done more in the past 50 years.

When Ellison asked him about the email, he at first denied it, saying, “That’s intrinsically false. That doesn’t exist. It has never been sent and has never been even imagined.”

When shown a printout of the email, Döpfner changed his story and said it’s possible he sent it “as an ironic, provocative statement in the circle of people that hate Donald Trump.”

There was also this passage from Ellison: “While calling for political neutrality from his U.S. media properties, Döpfner comes from a tradition of European publishers who are very much at ease blending ideology with news. Axel Springer staff in Germany are required to sign a pledge committing to principles that include a disavowal of racism, sexism and political or religious extremism; but also support for a united Europe, Israeli statehood and a free-market economy.”

Those are just a couple of the intriguing details from Ellison’s must-read story that digs deep into Politico’s new big boss.

John Miller, left, in 2017. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

CNN has made plenty of news in recent weeks for who it has let go — media reporter Brian Stelter, legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and, just last Friday, White House correspondent John Harwood.

But on Tuesday comes news of someone coming in at CNN instead of going out. CNN announced it has hired John Miller as chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst. Miller was most recently NYPD’s deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism. But before that, Miller was a notable journalist, working for both CBS and ABC News. His career highlight might have been landing a rare interview with Osama Bin Laden in 1998.

Miller is the first major on-air hire since Chris Licht took over as CNN Worldwide CEO and chairman. In a statement, Licht said, “John will help deliver on CNN’s commitment to tackle complex issues while presenting audiences with independent, objective news and meaningful analysis across platforms. As both a brilliant journalist and experienced, compelling subject matter expert, he brings to the network an incredible breadth of knowledge.”

In the same statement, Miller, who will be based in New York, said, “I’ve worked closely with Chris Licht and share his editorial vision: speed, but not at the expense of accuracy, passion but not at the expense of objectivity. I am especially proud to join CNN at a time when covering the news, getting it right and delivering it in a straightforward way has never been more vital to the American public.”

(Not everyone is a fan of the hire. If you’re interested, Media Matters’ John Knefel wrote, “New CNN chief’s first major hire is retired cop who recently lied about the NYPD spying on Muslims after 9/11”)

Miller wasn’t the only hire CNN announced Tuesday. It also named Dr. Tara Narula as medical correspondent. Narula goes over to CNN from CBS News. She is currently a fellow of the American College of Cardiology.

There were some big shakeups last week at National Geographic. The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi reported that the magazine laid off six “top editors.” Farhi said it included several who appear on the NatGeo masthead, including senior executive editor Indira Lakshmanan.

Farhi wrote, “The cuts surprised and alarmed people at the magazine, which employs about 125 on its editorial side. In internal discussions, several staff members have referred to the dismissals as the ‘Red Wedding,’ a reference to a massacre depicted in the HBO series ‘Game of Thrones.’”

Nathan Lump, who took over as editor-in-chief just three months ago, told staff in a memo, “It is an understatement to say that today is a tough day. These moments of change are hard in many ways, especially because it is so difficult to see the roles of close colleagues impacted.”

The latest issue of The Atlantic focuses on the war in Ukraine and features outstanding writers George Packer, Anne Applebaum and Franklin Foer. The stories will roll out online this week.

Packer has the first story to be published online: “Ukrainians are defending the values Americans claim to hold.”

Packer writes, “I told myself and others that Ukraine is the most important story of our time, that everything we should care about is on the line there.”

Packer wrote that he felt a sense of dread as he headed off to cover the war. He didn’t dread where he was going, but, he wrote, “of the place I was leaving behind, of the ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ signs and the school-board showdowns and the next mass shooting, the prospect that our experiment in people coming from all over to run their own affairs together was finished. For the first time in my life, I felt hopeless about America.”

He found he was inspired by what he saw in Ukraine, writing, “Nearly everyone I met had looked for something to do as soon as Russia attacked — some way to be useful without waiting for instructions from a higher authority.”

Serena Williams after her U.S. Open loss last week. (Courtesy: ESPN)

What likely will be Serena Williams’ last professional tennis match now holds the record for the most-watched tennis match in ESPN history. Williams, who has given every indication that she is retiring, lost last Friday night in the third round of the U.S. Open. Her 7-5, 6-7, 6-1 defeat to Ajla Tomljanović averaged 4.6 million viewers, making it the most-watched tennis match in ESPN’s 43-year history. The match peaked with 6.9 million viewers.

The previous ESPN record for average viewers was 3.9 million for the 2012 Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Championship when Roger Federer defeated Andy Murray. That was ESPN’s first year with exclusive Wimbledon coverage.

My Poynter colleague Al Tompkins was back writing his “Covering COVID-19” newsletter on Tuesday after putting it on hiatus for a couple of weeks. And he returned with a grim number that simply had slipped under my radar — and I bet yours, too. Tompkins reminded us that there are still 500 people dying in the U.S. every day from COVID-19.

“If that many people died every day from the seasonal flu, it would be the lead story on the evening news and headlines would warn people to take care,” Tompkins wrote. “How did 500 deaths a day, day after day, become acceptable when there are vaccines that prevent nearly all COVID-19 deaths?”

Tompkins writes, among other things, about when you should get the latest COVID-19 omicron booster.

Julie Chin — a news anchor at KJRH, the NBC affiliate in Tulsa, Oklahoma — knew something was wrong. She was delivering the news as normal last Saturday morning, but then she suddenly started having issues reading and noticeably struggled. Sensing something was off, she told the audience that “something is going on with me this morning” and she pitched it over to the station’s meteorologist.

Chin was right. Something was going on. She was having what she said was the “beginnings of a stroke.” Her coworkers immediately called 911.

In a lengthy Facebook post, Chin wrote, “The episode seemed to have come out of nowhere. I felt great before our show. However, over the course of several minutes during our newscast, things started to happen. First, I lost partial vision in one eye. A little bit later my hand and arm went numb. Then, I knew I was in big trouble when my mouth would not speak the words that were right in front of me on the teleprompter. If you were watching Saturday morning, you know how desperately I tried to steer the show forward, but the words just wouldn’t come.”

She later added, “I’m glad to share that my tests have all come back great. At this point, Doctors think I had the beginnings of a stroke, but not a full stroke. There are still lots of questions, and lots to follow up on, but the bottom line is I should be just fine.”

She also wrote about the warning signs of a stroke, while thanking her colleagues, emergency workers, doctors and the viewers.

CBS News’ John Dickerson, on the set of his new streaming newscast. (Courtesy: CBS News)

The CBS News Streaming Network has launched a new live newscast featuring CBS News chief political analyst and senior national correspondent John Dickerson. The show — called “CBS News Prime Time” — airs Monday through Thursday at 7 p.m. Eastern.

As the Los Angeles Times’ Stephen Battaglio reports, the show “will be less of a digest of the day’s events and go deeper into top stories with longer conversations and historical perspective, a specialty for Dickerson, who has written two books about the presidency.”

Dickerson will continue to serve as a CBS News correspondent and will be a fixture, as usual, on election nights and breaking news coverage.

In a statement, Dickerson said, “What CBS News has developed with streaming is a platform for the basic reason any of us get into journalism — the gift of getting to take the trust our viewers and readers give us and using that obligation to explore the world, figure out what is happening, why it’s happening and report back in proportion and the right order. I also love their experimental instincts on the streaming team which I’ve tried to work on during my career. Leaving print to go into digital journalism in its early stage, starting a podcast 16 years ago when few knew what a podcast was. My hope for this show is that it will evolve like the medium and the news stories that we cover every day.”

Dickerson is one of CBS News’ most trusted voices, having worked on a variety of newscasts and shows, including “Face the Nation,” “CBS This Morning,” “60 Minutes” and the “CBS Evening News.”

  • Today is the first anniversary of “CBS Mornings” — the reimagined morning show that used to be called “CBS This Morning.”
  • NPR’s David Folkenflik with “Fox producer’s warning against Jeanine Pirro surfaces in Dominion defamation suit.”
  • Horrific story: The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s David Wilson with “Review-Journal investigative reporter Jeff German killed outside home.”
  • NBC News’ Chuck Todd is in Phoenix, where he will anchor today’s “Meet the Press NOW.” The show will feature independent voters as well as local panelists. It’s just one of several trips to swing states that Todd is taking ahead of the midterm elections. Look for him to travel to Georgia and Pennsylvania, and other spots, in the fall.
  • I wrote last week about how Jay Caspian Kang was giving up his New York Times Opinion newsletter after one year. Now we know why. He is returning to The New Yorker as a staff writer. The New Yorker says he’ll write “a wide-ranging column, as well as longer essays and features, bringing to bear the same incisiveness and verve that have distinguished his work for so long.” Kang also just finished his directorial debut on “American Son” —  a documentary about former pro tennis player Michael Chang. It’s a part of ESPN’s “30 for 30” series and is scheduled to come out in 2023.
  • ESPN has re-signed NFL reporters Jeff Darlington, Dan Graziano, Kimberley A. Martin and Ed Werder ahead of the 2022 season, which begins Thursday night. Those four join Sal Paolantonio and Dianna Russini, who are both in the midst of multi-year agreements.
  • Axios’ Sara Fischer with “Yahoo buys The Factual to add news credibility ratings.”

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at

The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, sign up here.

Follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.