When The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan published “a user’s guide to the media maelstrom ahead” around 11am on Monday morning, she couldn’t have known how necessary some of her advice would immediately prove. Sullivan warned that the week ahead would bring an avalanche of news—on both Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation and Rod Rosenstein’s future as deputy attorney general. But even that relatively brief timeframe proved optimistic; as her piece went live, all hell was breaking loose in the media space.
One of Sullivan’s maxims is, “Wait and see.” That advice would have been useful to keep in mind throughout Monday morning, as Rosenstein was reported to have “verbally resigned,” or was “expecting to be fired,” or was “considering resigning.” At noon, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders put the speculation to rest—for now—with a statement announcing that Rosenstein and Trump would meet on Thursday.
The uncertainty over Rosenstein’s future briefly knocked the drama surrounding Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination from the top of the news cycle, but the allegations against the nominee raised by a Sunday evening New Yorker article were a prominent topic of debate throughout the day. By Monday evening, the story, carefully written by Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer, proved to be neither a knockout blow to Kavanaugh’s prospects, nor evidence of a conspiracy between the media and Democrats to sink his confirmation.
Then, Fox News announced on Monday afternoon that Kavanaugh and his wife would be interviewed by Martha MacCallum. Plenty of critics assumed that softball questions from a network favored by conservatives were on the way. For those following Sullivan’s advice to “know your source,” those assumptions were fair. MacCallum, however, proved up to the moment, earning generally positive reviews for challenging Kavanaugh on each of the specific allegations against him and probing into his personal life. The full transcript is here, but the main takeaway from the interview may be the fact that it occurred at all. As the Post’s Robert Barnes wrote, “It is unheard of for a Supreme Court nominee to give interviews during the confirmation process.”
Both the Rosenstein and Kavanaugh stories are headed for watershed moments on Thursday, when the deputy attorney general will meet with the president, and the Supreme Court nominee will testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Over the next couple of days, more reporting on both of those stories will undoubtedly occur, driving the news cycle in various directions. At some point, it’s probably wise to follow Sullivan’s final piece of advice: “Take a break.” And if you can’t do that, “Consider actually reading that story before you share it on social media.”
Below, more on the Rosenstein, Kavanaugh, and our chaotic news cycle.
- The curse of the news narrative: CJR Editor and Publisher Kyle Pope writes that the fate of both Rosenstein and Kavanaugh “turned in recent days on decisions by news organizations to ignore or embrace how their reporting fits into a broader, partisan uber narrative swirling around them.” Pope criticizes both The New York Times and The New Yorker for failing to find a way to “keep the outside world from seeping in to warp the facts or the context that every story demands.”
- Rosenstein safe, for now: The New York Times has a tick-tock of the Rosenstein drama in the days since the paper reported that he had discussed invoking the 25th amendment and wearing a wire to secretly record President Trump. (That report sparked controversy and conflicting accounts over whether Rosenstein made the comment about wearing a wire in jest.)
- Kavanaugh, the press, and a conservative conspiracy theory: The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi writes that “the conservative conspiracy theory about the media and the Kavanaugh nomination has a few holes.”
- Words of wisdom: On Monday afternoon, NPR’s Steve Inskeep tweeted, “The very latest news development is only rarely the most important development, and sometimes not even a development.”
Other notable stories:
- The New York Review of Books has addressed the departure of editor Ian Buruma following the widely criticized decision to publish an essay by accused sexual abuser Jian Ghomeshi. In an unsigned statement, the magazine acknowledged the “validity” of the criticism it faced, and said that Buruma misrepresented the input of staffers. “This article was shown to only one male editor during the editing process,” the statement read.
- “In the sometimes murky world of national security reporters, few people are wrong less often than Marcy Wheeler,” writes CJR Tow Editor Sam Thielman. Thielman has a great interview with Wheeler, a prolific national security reporter, on everything from the value of poring over declassified documents to find scoops hiding in plain sight to the reasons that she doesn’t trust encrypted apps.
- CJR’s Mathew Ingram praises the BBC’s Africa bureau for providing “a master class in how to verify a video using digital tools.” BBC Africa broke down a video that had been circulating online over the summer purporting to show Cameroonian soldiers blindfolding and shooting two women and two children. The government labeled the clip fake news, but BBC Africa was able to verify not just that soldiers were involved, but also where and when the shooting took place.
- For The Daily Beast, Robert Silverman examines “Barstool Sports’ culture of online hate.” Silverman speaks with several female journalists who have been on the receiving end of harassment from the site’s personalities and fans, painting a picture of a misogynistic culture at the millennial-focused outlet.
- Nikole Hannah-Jones has won the Columbia Journalism School’s John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism. Hannah-Jones, a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, covers school segregation and racial injustice. In announcing the award, J-school Dean Steve Coll called her, “one of the country’s most distinctive and respected voices on the subject of race in America.”