Five biggest media stories of 2018

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President Trump’s second year in office saw several clashes between the White House and the media.

It was also a busy year of news within the media, headlined by a dramatic breakup at NBC.

Here’s a look at the top five media stories of the year:

5. Megyn Kelly, NBC News abruptly part ways

{mosads}Kelly jumped from Fox News to NBC in January 2017 among much fanfare, reportedly for a $69 million three-year deal.

Less than two years later, she was out, ostensibly after she described wearing blackface as a costume for Halloween as something that was appropriate when she was growing up.

The remarks led to a backlash within NBC that Kelly’s apologies, on air and in a letter to colleagues, did little to quell.

Kelly also suffered from low ratings, however, raising questions about whether the controversy was the real reason for her departure from NBC.

Kelly has not signed with another network, but speculation of a return to Fox News is seen by some as a possible scenario, albeit at a considerable pay cut from her NBC contract. 

However, Lachlan Murdoch, who was named the CEO of New Fox earlier this year, said shortly after Kelly’s NBC cancellation that he’s “very happy” with the network’s current lineup. 
“I’m a big fan of Megyn’s. I like her a lot. We didn’t want her to leave Fox when she did,” Murdoch said at The New York Times’ annual DealBook Conference. “Having said that, I’m very happy with our current lineup on Fox, and we won’t be making any changes there.”

4. White House suspends Jim Acosta press pass

The White House suspended CNN correspondent Acosta’s press pass on Nov. 7 following a heated debate with President Trump during a press conference.

After Trump sought to move on from Acosta at a White House press briefing the day after the election, Acosta continued to ask questions. A White House intern walked over to Acosta to take his microphone, but the reporter refused to relinquish it while brushing the intern as she reached for it.

In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed Acosta “[placed] his hands” on the intern.

“We will … never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern. This conduct is absolutely unacceptable,” Sanders said in announcing the suspension.

Acosta responded by calling Sanders’s charge that he put his hands on the intern “a lie.”

The suspension was ultimately lifted after a federal judge ordered the administration to reinstate Acosta’s press credentials.

The White House agreed to “temporarily reinstate” Acosta’s press pass on Nov. 16.

The episode was a low point of the public feud between Trump and CNN.

3. Sinclair merger with Tribune shot down

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in July essentially shot down a $3.9 billion merger between Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media. 

At the time, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai stated he had “serious concerns” about the merger, which would have provided Sinclair with 215 stations and reach into 72 percent of U.S. households.

{mossecondads}Pai questioned the right-leaning Sinclair’s strategy to get the merger approved by selling off some stations it owned under a deal that would allow it “to control those stations in practice.”

“The evidence we’ve received suggests that certain station divestitures that have been proposed to the FCC would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law,” Pai said on July 16.

Tribune Media officially backed out of the merger in August while filing a $1 billion lawsuit against the Maryland-based Sinclair for allegedly breaching their agreement while blaming the company for creating regulatory roadblocks that became the focus of the FCC.

Earlier this month, Tribune was purchased by Texas-based Nexstar Media Group for $6.4 billion.  

2. White House significantly scales back daily press briefings

In 2018, there were just 64 daily presidential press briefings, with 78 percent occurring in the first six months of the year, according to the American Presidency Project. 

For context, then-Obama press secretary Josh Earnest held 200 daily press briefings in 2016.

Since August, Sanders has only held five press briefings, with each briefing becoming progressively shorter. 

The last press briefing, on Dec. 18, lasted just 15 minutes. In 2016, Earnest took an average of 15 more questions than Sanders, the American Presidency Project found.

1. Jamal Khashoggi murdered

The biggest press story of the year centered on the killing of Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen residing in the U.S. who worked for The Washington Post as a columnist, on Oct. 2 at the hands of Saudi officials in that country’s consulate in Istanbul.

The killing strained U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia and became a challenge for Trump, who had focused much of his foreign policy on strengthening ties to the kingdom.

After U.S. intelligence determined that Saudi Arabia played a role in the killing, Trump said the United States would nonetheless continue its “steadfast” alliance with the Saudis, drawing fierce criticism from media. 

“In a crude statement punctuated with exclamation points, Mr. Trump sidestepped a CIA finding that the crown prince was behind the killing; casually slandered Mr. Khashoggi, who was one of the Arab world’s most distinguished journalists; and repeated gross falsehoods and exaggerations about the benefits of the U.S. alliance with the kingdom,” wrote the Post editorial board on Nov. 20. 

Khashoggi was later honored along with a number of other journalists, some of them imprisoned, as Time’s person of the year.

Tags CNN Donald Trump Fox NBC Saudi Arabia
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