The top 10 media stories of the year

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President Trump’s first year in office was a wild ride for the media.

From the inauguration on, reporters have been working at a frenetic pace to keep up with the 45th president and the policy changes wrought by his administration. 

Here’s a look back at the Top 10 media stories of the year.

10.) CNN retracts false Anthony Scaramucci report

A June CNN report that connected Trump ally Anthony Scaramucci to a Russian investment fund managed by a Kremlin-controlled bank was run and subsequently retracted.

CNN apologized to Scaramucci and said the story “did not meet CNN’s editorial standards.”

The three CNN staffers who wrote the piece offered their resignations, which the network accepted.

Thomas Frank, the author of the story, Eric Lichtblau, an editor in the CNN investigative unit that ran the story, and Lex Haris, who oversaw the unit, all left CNN.

Scaramucci went on to become White House communications director.

His tenure would last just 10 days but was eventful, with both chief of staff Reince Priebus and White House press secretary Sean Spicer announcing their resignations.

9.) Brian Ross of ABC News suspended

ABC News veteran Brian Ross falsely reported Dec. 1 that Michael Flynn, a former White House national security adviser, was prepared to testify that President Trump had ordered him to contact the Russians during the campaign.

Ross later corrected the report, stating that the order to contact Russia came only after Trump had won the White House, and that the conversation centered on fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in Syria.

ABC News’s handling of the story, which was based on a single unnamed source, drew heavy criticism, especially after it issued a “clarification” to the report instead of a correction or retraction.

The network ultimately apologized for the “serious error” and suspended Ross for four weeks.

8.) Megyn Kelly interviews Alex Jones 

Megyn Kelly’s interview with Alex Jones for her Sunday night news magazine program on NBC was one of the most hyped and controversial of the year, but it turned out to be a ratings flop and public relations headache for the network.

Jones, who runs the website, has suggested the 2012 massacre of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was a hoax.

Sponsors including JPMorgan Chase quickly pulled their ads from Kelly’s program as families of the Newtown victims implored NBC not to air the interview.

Despite the controversy, the interview aired, and Kelly won praise for pressing Jones on his suggestions that Sandy Hook was “staged” and that the grieving parents were “actors.”

“All of the parents decided to come out and lie about their dead children?” Kelly asked. 

Jones answered by stating he was playing “devil’s advocate.”

“I tend to believe that children probably did die there,” he said. “But then you look at all the other evidence on the other side.”

The former “Kelly File” hosted defended the decision to interview Jones, noting that Trump had appeared on his show. “Our job is to shine a light,” she tweeted.

According to Nielsen Media Research, “Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly” brought in an average of 3.5 million viewers for the Jones interview, finishing third behind both a repeat episode of CBS’s “60 Minutes” and U.S. Open golf coverage on Fox. 

7.) Roger Ailes dies at 77

After 21 years at the helm, Ailes stepped down as chairman and CEO of Fox News in July 2016. He departed the network amid a storm of sexual harassment allegations against him, including from prominent women like Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly. 

Ten months after resigning from Fox, Ailes passed away in May at age 77 after taking a fall in his Florida home.

Ailes was of the most influential media figures of modern times, building Fox News into a rating juggernaut that dominated the cable news landscape. 

Before his death, there was growing speculation of an Ailes comeback via the creation of a new conservative network to challenge Fox News.

“No one did more to change the media landscape than Roger Ailes, but no media executive did more to divide America,” Joe Peyronnin, a former network news executive, told the L.A. Times. 

“Ailes was a brilliant TV executive who saw an opportunity two decades ago to build a conservative news source and seized it,” he said.

6.) MSNBC sees ratings surge

The Trump presidency has been a boon to the liberal news network, which had the highest ratings in its 21-year history.

”The reason this is so wild is no matter what you think of Donald Trump, he is unconventional,” MSNBC President Phil Griffin told The Hill in an interview earlier this year.

“Every day, by noon, we are on to a different focus and topic. And strange things happen and we have to be on it, and fact check it, and look at the historical perspective, and see how the country is taking it all in,” added Griffin, who renewed his contract with the network in May.

“The Rachel Maddow Show” helped fuel the network’s success, finishing the third quarter, which ended in September, as the most-watched cable news show on television. That marked the first time an MSNBC program had finished first in the ratings, according to Nielsen Media Research.

5.) Fox News thrives despite turmoil

Fox News had long enjoyed one of the most stable programming blocs on television.

But after losing three popular hosts — Greta Van Susteren, Megyn Kelly and Bill O’Reilly — in the span of seven months, the network had no choice but to make major changes. 

Tucker Carlson filled the gaps, initially replacing Van Susteren at 7 p.m., then Kelly at 9 p.m. before finding a home at the 8 p.m. slot, where he replaced O’Reilly. 

The network eventually added Martha MacCallum at 7 p.m., Laura Ingraham at 10 p.m. and Shannon Bream at 11 p.m.

Sean Hannity also returned to his old 9 p.m. spot to directly challenge the surging Rachel Maddow.

The network also named veterans Suzanne Scott its president of programming and Jay Wallace its president of news.

Exiting 2017, the 21-year-old network continues to outpace not only its cable news competition, but all of basic cable, finishing as the most-watched network on cable for the second consecutive year.

4.) White House press briefings become must-see TV

Former press secretary Sean Spicer turned the White House briefings into a ratings smash.

Spicer’s briefings, carried live by Fox News, CNN and MSNBC, delivered an average of 4.3 million viewers out of the gate from late January into February, according to Nielsen data.

Statistics show that across Fox, CNN and MSNBC, audiences jumped by an average of 10 percentage points when Spicer appeared on screen for the briefings, even beating soap operas like “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “General Hospital.”

From the beginning, the briefings were defined by confrontations between Spicer and the press corps. “Saturday Night Live” parodied the briefings with actress Melissa McCarthy playing a combative, blustering Spicer, in clips that became viral sensations.

The fireworks in the briefing room have continued under Spicer’s successor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who has repeatedly clashed with reporters like Jim Acosta of CNN and April Ryan of National Urban Radio Networks.

3.) Bill O’Reilly ousted from Fox News 

Fox News cut ties with O’Reilly on April 19, ending his long reign at the network.

Pressure had been mounting after The New York Times reported that Fox News paid five women $13 million to settle sexual harassment claims against the host. After the report, more than 50 advertisers dropped “The O’Reilly Factor” in the span of three weeks. 

O’Reilly called the Times story a “malicious smear” and has denied all the allegations against him.

The host did not get a chance to say goodbye to his viewers, as he was on vacation when the decision was made to end his relationship with the network.

O’Reilly’s departure marked the end of an era at Fox News. The former “Inside Edition” host had easily been the network’s biggest star for years, as “The O’Reilly Factor” was the top-rated program in cable news for 15 years straight.

Since leaving Fox, O’Reilly has started to host a nightly online program, “No Spin News,” on his website,

2.) Two veteran anchors fired over sexual harassment allegations

Two hosts of popular morning shows, Charlie Rose of CBS and Matt Lauer of NBC, were both ousted over sexual harassment allegations in 2017.

Lauer, 59, had been the highest paid host in broadcast news, earning $25 million annually. His departure came just one week after Rose was fired from CBS and PBS after several women accused the 75-year-old of sexual misconduct.

In both cases, “CBS This Morning” female co-hosts and NBC’s “Today” show co-hosts broke the news to their respective audiences on the air.

“None of us ever thought we’d be sitting at this table in particular telling this story, but here we are,” said Rose’s former co-host Gayle King on Nov. 21. “This is not the man I know, but I’m clearly on the side of the women who have been very hurt and very damaged by this,” she added.

“This is a sad morning for ‘Today’ and NBC News,” Lauer’s former co-host Savannah Guthrie said on Nov. 29. “We just learned this moments ago, just this morning. As I’m sure you can imagine, we are devastated, and we are still processing all of this.”

A permanent replacement for Rose or Lauer has yet to be named.

1.) The war between President Trump and the media

The war that began during the 2016 president campaign between the Fourth Estate and Trump only escalated after he won the White House.

The president habitually refers to the media as fake news, particularly on social media, while paying close attention to how he is portrayed.

Overall, Trump has written about the media more than any other topic on Twitter since declaring his candidacy, with 993 tweets critical of the press, according to an analysis by the Columbia Journalism Review.

“Over 350 tweets target a news organization, and nearly two-thirds of these tweets were posted during the pre-primary and primary periods,” the publication wrote Dec. 21.

“The top targets have been The New York Times, which accounts for more than 20 percent of these tweets, and CNN, which accounts for more than 15 percent,” it continues.

“Perhaps surprisingly, Fox News is the third-most targeted organization. Its references came in the pre-primary and primary periods, before the network fell in behind Trump after he secured the GOP nomination.”

The president and his supporters say he has been treated unfairly.

A Harvard study in June showed that coverage of the president’s first 100 days, for example, included 93 percent of stories by CNN and NBC that were negative about Trump and the administration. The New York Times’s negative coverage of Trump came in at an 87 percent clip.

CNN responded in October with a “#FactsFirst” ad campaign mocking the president for telling falsehoods.

“This is an apple,” the ad’s narrator begins over a photo of an apple. “Some people might try to tell you it’s a banana.”

“They might scream ‘Banana, banana, banana,’ over and over and over again. They might put ‘banana’ in all caps. You might even start to believe that this is a banana. But it’s not. This is an apple,” it continues.

The Washington Post launched a new slogan in February, shortly after the president took office: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” 

The New York Times launched a “truth” ad campaign, also in February. “The truth is our nation is more divided than ever,” the ads say. “The truth is alternative facts are lies,” it continues.

“The truth is … The truth is hard. The truth is more important now than ever.”

A November Quinnipiac poll found American voters disapprove of media coverage of the president by a 20-point margin. However, 54 percent said they trust the media to tell the truth about important issues more than Trump, while 34 percent said they trusted the president more.

Tags Anthony Scaramucci Charlie Rose Donald Trump Matt Lauer Reince Priebus Sean Spicer
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