Ms. Raimondo, a moderate Democrat with a background in the financial industry, has served as governor since 2015. She is seen as a relatively traditional choice for commerce secretary, a post that oversees not only relations with the business community but also technology regulation, weather monitoring and the gathering of economic data, among other duties.As governor of Rhode Island, Ms. Raimondo introduced training programs, cut taxes, and eliminated regulations and offered new loans to support businesses. She clashed with unions but ultimately found compromise as she overhauled the state pension plan.Before running for office, she was a founding employee …
CNN and MSNBC thrived during the Trump years, reaching new heights in ratings and revenue while devoting countless prime-time hours to criticizing a White House antagonist their viewers just could not quit.Now faced with a Trump-less future, top executives at the rival cable news networks have summoned star anchors and producers to private meetings in recent weeks, seeking answers to a pressing question: What’s next?People at both networks know that viewers who abhorred President Trump may no longer need their nightly therapy sessions with Rachel Maddow or Don Lemon. And President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. seems unlikely …
MSNBC was already preparing for one momentous presidential transition next year. Now the 24-hour cable channel and home to liberal stars like Rachel Maddow is about to take on a second.Phil Griffin, the MSNBC president whose left-leaning shows yielded big ratings in the Trump years and minted media brands like “The Rachel Maddow Show” and “Morning Joe,” will depart on Feb. 1 after a 12-year tenure, the network said on Monday.He is to be succeeded by Rashida Jones, a senior vice president for news at MSNBC and NBC News, who will become the first Black woman to take charge …
The Atlantic, the 163-year-old publication that has grown under the stewardship of Laurene Powell Jobs, announced on Thursday that it had selected a new chief executive after a yearlong search: Nicholas Thompson, the editor in chief of Wired, the tech-focused magazine published by Condé Nast.It is unusual for a journalist to take charge of a media outlet’s business operations, but Ms. Powell Jobs, whose Emerson Collective owns a majority stake in The Atlantic, and David G. Bradley, a minority owner, said in a joint email to the staff that Mr. Thompson was suited to the challenge.“Nick is …
WASHINGTON — President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is expected to name top members of his economic team this week, including Cecilia Rouse, a Princeton labor economist, to run the Council of Economic Advisers, and Neera Tanden, the chief executive of the Center for American Progress, to lead the Office of Management and Budget, according to people familiar with the matter.The announcement — which will include Mr. Biden’s decision to name Janet L. Yellen, the former Federal Reserve chair, as Treasury secretary — would potentially culminate in several women in top economic roles, including the first Black woman to lead the Council …
WASHINGTON — Janet L. Yellen’s expected nomination as Treasury secretary will place the former Federal Reserve chair into a critical role overseeing President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s economic and national security agenda at an agency that has increasingly become a center of power.While Ms. Yellen’s views on monetary policy are well known from her time leading the central bank, her perspective on a range of issues that are part of the Treasury Department’s portfolio is less known.As Treasury secretary, Ms. Yellen will be the Biden administration’s chief economic diplomat and will face the challenge …
WASHINGTON — Janet L. Yellen became an economist at a time when few women entered the profession and fewer still rose in a male-dominated environment. She is now poised to become the first female Treasury secretary and one of few people to ever have wielded economic power from the White House, the Federal Reserve and the president’s cabinet.
Her expected nomination would come as rebuilding a U.S. economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic and saddled with high unemployment presents a central challenge for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s administration.
While Ms. Yellen is not the type of firebrand nominee some progressives might have hoped for — she has warned that the United States is borrowing too much money, a fact that some liberals count against her — she has paid consistent, careful attention to inequality and labor market outcomes, even when doing so earned her backlash from lawmakers.
As the chair of the Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018, Ms. Yellen also oversaw an extremely slow set of interest rate increases as she and her colleagues tested whether unemployment could fall further without leading to higher prices. Her patience drew criticism from inflation-wary economists at the time, but the policies laid the groundwork for a strong labor market and a record-long expansion that drove unemployment to its lowest rate in 50 years before the pandemic turned the world upside down.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, one of the most prominent progressive Democrats in Congress, wrote on Twitter that Ms. Yellen “would be an outstanding choice for Treasury Secretary.”
But she faces a steep challenge: As Treasury secretary, Ms. Yellen will be at the forefront of navigating the economic fallout created by a pandemic that continues to inflict damage. While growth is recovering from earlier coronavirus-related lockdowns, infections are climbing and local governments are restricting activity again, most likely slowing that rebound.
Ms. Yellen has been a clear champion of continued government support for workers and businesses, publicly warning that a lack of aid to state and local governments could slow recovery, much as it did in the aftermath of the Great Recession, when Ms. Yellen was leading the Fed.
“While the pandemic is still seriously affecting the economy, we need to continue extraordinary fiscal support,” she said in a Bloomberg Television interview in October. She called fiscal support early in the crisis “extremely impressive” but noted that key provisions had lapsed.
Unlike the independent Fed, Ms. Yellen as Treasury secretary would find herself in a much more political role — one that is likely to require negotiating with a Republican-controlled Senate. With Mr. Biden expected to push for additional economic aid, Ms. Yellen would be central to brokering a stimulus deal in a politically divided Congress that has so far failed to agree on another round of aid.
Ms. Yellen declined to comment on her expected nomination, which was reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.
She would be the first woman to hold a job that has been dominated by white men — like Alexander Hamilton — throughout its 231-year history and would have held the government’s top three economic jobs, including leading the White House Council of Economic Advisers during the Clinton administration.
A former academic who taught at the University of California, Berkeley, Ms. Yellen was also the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, a Fed governor and the Fed vice chair before becoming the central bank’s first female chair.
Ms. Yellen said she wanted to be reappointed when her term as Fed chair ended in 2018, but President Trump, eager to install his own pick, decided against renominating her.
By replacing Ms. Yellen, Mr. Trump broke with precedent. The previous three Fed chairs had been reappointed by presidents of the opposite political party.
Instead, Mr. Trump chose Jerome H. Powell, the Fed’s current chair, with whom Ms. Yellen could soon be working closely as Treasury secretary. The two still talk, and Ms. Yellen has consistently praised Mr. Powell’s performance at the Fed, suggesting they would have a good relationship.
Born in Brooklyn in 1946, Ms. Yellen was raised in Bay Ridge, a middle-class neighborhood across the waterfront from Staten Island. Her mother was a teacher who stayed home to raise Ms. Yellen and her brother. Her father was a family doctor. She was both valedictorian and editor of the newspaper at her high school.
She attended Brown University and went on to receive a doctorate from Yale. In an interview in 2013 with Simon Bowmaker, an economics professor at New York University, Ms. Yellen explained her rationale for becoming an economist, saying she had always liked the rigor of math but economics offered something more.
“I care about people,” she said. “I discovered that economics was of enormous relevance to our lives and had the potential to make the world a better place.”
She met her husband, George A. Akerlof, an economist who is now a Nobel laureate, while working in a research position at the Fed in 1977.
Ms. Yellen has spent her post-Fed years at the Brookings Institution, occupying an office close to Ben S. Bernanke, who preceded her as Fed chair, and other former Fed officials. They call their corridor the “F.O.M.C., Former Open Market Committee,” a play on the central bank’s rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee.
Ms. Yellen is a Keynesian economist, which means she believes markets have imperfections and sometimes need to be rerouted or kick-started by government intervention.
As Fed chair, she gave important speeches — including one at the storied annual conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo. — advocating continued watchfulness and wariness when it came to financial overhauls instituted after the 2008 crisis. She has struck a concerned tone about regulatory rollbacks under the Trump administration.
“It is certainly appropriate to simplify regulations that impose unnecessary burdens, particularly on small community banks,” she said in 2019. “But I’m greatly concerned that the regulatory work needed to address financial stability risk has stalled. There have been some worrisome reversals.”
She is relatively moderate on many topics, including trade. Mr. Akerlof recalled in a biographical note in 2001 that when he met her: “Not only did our personalities mesh perfectly, but we have also always been in all but perfect agreement about macroeconomics. Our lone disagreement is that she is a bit more supportive of free trade than I.”
Ms. Yellen has been a major influence on leading officials at the Fed. John C. Williams, who worked for her in San Francisco, now leads the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Mary C. Daly, who now leads the San Francisco Fed, cites Ms. Yellen as a key mentor.
That, along with Ms. Yellen’s experience working with Mr. Powell, could help facilitate the kind of close relationship needed between the Fed and Treasury, which are collaborating on a variety of crisis response programs.
Henry M. Paulson Jr., who served as Treasury secretary under President George W. Bush, praised the selection. He said Ms. Yellen “will have a tough job ahead of her, but she has the experience, talent, credibility and relationships with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to make a real difference.”
While the other leading contenders for the job also had extensive experience that spanned fiscal and monetary policy, Ms. Yellen was seen as well placed to make it through Senate confirmation, even if Republicans maintain control of the chamber.
Lael Brainard, another top candidate for the role, is the only remaining Fed governor from the Democratic Party on the seven-member board, which currently has two open slots. She might have been difficult to replace at the Fed: Nominees have been hard to confirm over the past decade, and the Senate may remain under Republican control.
While leading the Fed, Ms. Yellen at times had a testy relationship with congressional Republicans. In one instance, Representative Mick Mulvaney, then a South Carolina Republican, said Ms. Yellen was overstepping her boundaries by talking about inequality.
“You’re sticking your nose in places that you have no business to be,” Mr. Mulvaney said at a hearing in 2015.
But in many ways, those conflicts underline how much Washington has changed over the past five years. Fed officials now regularly talk about inequality, entirely unchallenged. The central bank has formalized policies much like Ms. Yellen’s patient approach to interest rate-setting as its official stance, which it explicitly hopes will foster more inclusive growth.
“It seems like a pretty subtle shift to most normal human beings,” Ms. Yellen said of that move. But “most of the Fed’s history has revolved around keeping inflation under control. This really does reflect a decisive recognition that we’re in a very different environment.”
Reporting was contributed by Michael D. Shear, Jim Tankersley, Alan Rappeport and Thomas Kaplan.
It has been more than a year since L Brands, the owner of Victoria’s Secret, said it was hiring a law firm to investigate its billionaire founder Leslie H. Wexner’s close ties to the convicted sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein, but no findings have been made public and the review has seemed to fade from view.
Maybe a new law firm will fare better.
After Mr. Epstein’s July 2019 arrest, revelations about his sweeping power over the retail magnate’s fortune and how he may have used his link to the lingerie giant to prey on women prompted the company to swiftly declare that it had hired lawyers to conduct a “thorough review” of the matter.
The company enlisted Davis Polk & Wardwell, the white-shoe law firm that it had relied on for legal counsel for years, and which once employed Mr. Wexner’s wife, Abigail. But nothing about the scope of the investigation has been released since, and many former Victoria’s Secret employees, including two who had interacted with Mr. Epstein, said they were never contacted by lawyers.
Now, a second inquiry has begun at the company. A shareholder lawsuit filed in May suggested Davis Polk was too close to L Brands to be truly independent. The shareholder said they asked the board in February to replace Davis Polk or hire another firm as a “check” for its review of Mr. Wexner and Mr. Epstein’s relationship.
Last month, at least five current and former Victoria’s Secret employees were surprised to hear from a new lawyer with no affiliation to Davis Polk. Sarah K. Eddy, a partner in the litigation department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, said she was commencing a separate investigation on behalf of two independent L Brands board members: Sarah Nash, who became its chairwoman this year, and Anne Sheehan.
In an email obtained by The New York Times, Ms. Eddy said her firm was investigating “allegations raised in shareholder demand letters and civil complaints concerning, among other things, connections between L Brands and Jeffrey Epstein.” The former employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity citing fear of retribution, all said they had received similar calls and emails. Shareholder complaints have also raised concerns about allegations of misconduct and a culture of harassment and misogyny at L Brands and its lingerie powerhouse, suggesting that the new investigation could be looking into those issues.
Ms. Nash, a former executive at JPMorgan Chase and chief executive of Novagard Solutions, and Ms. Sheehan, an expert in corporate governance, joined the L Brands board last year after an activist investor pushed for more diversity and fewer directors with business and social ties to the Wexners.
Ms. Eddy declined to comment. A representative for Davis Polk did not respond to requests for comment.
The new investigation is the latest jolt for L Brands and Victoria’s Secret, and comes months after the pandemic foiled a plan to sell the lingerie brand to a private-equity firm. Even before the revelations about Mr. Epstein, Victoria’s Secret was battling a decline while facing criticism that its lingerie-clad models were out of step with current views of beauty. That put fresh attention on its management and the board of L Brands, which also owns Bath & Body Works.
Mr. Wexner, 83, has sought to distance himself from Mr. Epstein, who died in prison last August in what was ruled a suicide. But L Brands has also faced intense scrutiny about its workplace environment. An article by The Times in February showed that Mr. Wexner and his former chief marketing officer, Ed Razek, presided over an entrenched culture of misogyny, bullying and harassment at L Brands and Victoria’s Secret.
Mr. Wexner stepped down as C.E.O. and chairman of L Brands in May, but nearly all of Victoria’s Secret’s remaining top leaders are men he hired or promoted, including the brand’s interim chief executive, who was appointed to that role despite an extramarital affair with a subordinate that became widely known inside the company. The scarcity of women in the highest ranks of the company has frustrated some employees.
“This year, we have amended our board governance, made significant policy changes, initiated a robust diversity and inclusion strategy, and greatly enhanced associate communication,” Ms. Nash said in a statement. “It’s truly a new day for L Brands and I’m excited about the progress we continue to make for our associates, customers and communities we serve around the world.” She said she was proud that half of its board was now women.
Two current employees said they were cautiously optimistic that Wachtell’s independence could allow the new investigation to address the company’s workplace culture.
In May, the company’s board said that Stuart Burgdoerfer, L Brands’ chief financial officer for more than a decade, would also become interim C.E.O. of Victoria’s Secret. Some current and former employees wondered how significantly Mr. Burgdoerfer could improve the company’s culture. Several years ago, while he was engaged in an extramarital affair with an L Brands employee, fliers with both of their photos were placed on car windshields in a company parking lot, saying in part: “Hope you two can buy enough lingerie to make up for the damage you caused your families!!!”
News of the affair and the fliers spread through the company and even reached at least one Wall Street analyst. The matter was never addressed internally with rank-and-file staff. Mr. Burgdoerfer and the employee, who left the company this year, were recently married.
Charles McGuigan, the longtime chief operating officer of L Brands who departed in July, was also in a serious relationship with an employee who worked in store design and construction. Five current and former employees said that the situation was viewed as particularly egregious because Mr. McGuigan also oversaw human resources for a time while in the relationship.
Brooke Wilson, a company spokeswoman, said that the relationships “were fully and thoroughly disclosed to the appropriate people, including the board.” She said that there were no reporting relationships between the individuals or violations of company policy.
Until last year L Brands had given investors few reasons to complain. Mr. Wexner previously had a sterling reputation as the longest-serving C.E.O. in the S&P 500 and was a major force in shaping the American mall through L Brands, which once owned chains like Abercrombie & Fitch and Express. He and his wife are prominent in Ohio as the biggest donors to Ohio State University. (Davis Polk, the law firm the company first enlisted for its investigation, has contributed money to Ohio State’s Wexner Center for the Arts.)
But the ties to Mr. Epstein, who had unusual control over Mr. Wexner’s billions and obtained assets like a New York mansion and private plane through their connection, dented the tycoon’s legacy. Earlier this year, three former L Brands executives told The Times that Mr. Wexner was alerted in the mid-1990s about Mr. Epstein’s attempts to pitch himself as a recruiter for Victoria’s Secret models, but the C.E.O. did not appear to act.
In February, L Brands announced a plan to sell a majority stake in Victoria’s Secret to the private-equity firm Sycamore Partners, whittling the public company down to Bath & Body Works. Once the sale closed, Mr. Wexner planned to step down as C.E.O. and chairman of L Brands but remain on its board.
Then the pandemic hit, dealing an outsize blow to mall chains, especially apparel sellers, and Sycamore backed out of the deal after some legal wrangling. In May, there was a management shuffle at Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, which are still being run as separate companies within the publicly traded L Brands, and Ms. Nash replaced Mr. Wexner as board chair. Mr. Wexner and his wife remain on the board but three directors retired, including a former Ohio State president as well as two who had served for more than three decades.
Morale has been low in a difficult year that has included hundreds of layoffs in New York and Columbus tied to the pandemic.
While L Brands’ shares soared 92 percent this year through Monday, they remained 64 percent below a 2015 peak.
L Brands will report quarterly earnings on Wednesday.
That gust of wind you felt coming from Silicon Valley on Wednesday morning was the social media industry’s tentative sigh of relief.
For the last four years, executives at Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media companies have been obsessed with a single, overarching goal: to avoid being blamed for wrecking the 2020 U.S. election, as they were in 2016, when Russian trolls and disinformation peddlers ran roughshod over their defenses.
So they wrote new rules. They built new products and hired new people. They conducted elaborate tabletop drills to plan for every possible election outcome. And on Election Day, they charged huge, around-the-clock teams with batting down hoaxes and false claims.
So far, it appears those efforts have averted the worst. Despite the frantic (and utterly predictable) attempts from President Trump and his allies to undermine the legitimacy of the vote in the states where he is losing, there have been no major foreign interference campaigns unearthed this week, and Election Day itself was relatively quiet. Fake accounts and potentially dangerous groups have been taken down quickly, and Facebook and Twitter have been unusually proactive about slapping labels and warnings in front of premature claims of victory. (YouTube was a different story, as evidenced by the company’s slow, tepid response to a video that falsely claimed that Mr. Trump had won the election.)
The week is young, of course, and there’s still plenty of time for problems. Election-related disinformation is already trending up — some of it targeted at Latinos — and will only increase as votes are challenged in the courts, and conspiracy theorists capitalize on all the uncertainty to undermine confidence in the eventual results.
But the platforms’ worst fears haven’t yet materialized. That’s a good thing, and a credit to the employees of those companies who have been busy enforcing their rules.
At the same time, it’s worth examining how Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are averting election-related trouble, because it sheds light on the very real problems they still face.
For months, nearly every step these companies have taken to safeguard the election has involved slowing down, shutting off or otherwise hampering core parts of their products — in effect, defending democracy by making their apps worse.
They added friction to processes, like political ad-buying, that had previously been smooth and seamless. They brought in human experts to root out extremist groups and manually intervened to slow the spread of sketchy stories. They overrode their own algorithms to insert information from trusted experts into users’ feeds. And as results came in, they relied on the calls made by news organizations like The Associated Press, rather than trusting that their systems would naturally bring the truth to the surface.
Nowhere was this shift more apparent than at Facebook, which for years envisioned itself as a kind of post-human communication platform. Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s chief executive, often spoke about his philosophy of “frictionless” design — making things as easy as possible for users. Other executives I talked to seemed to believe that ultimately, Facebook would become a kind of self-policing machine, with artificial intelligence doing most of the dirty work and humans intervening as little as possible.
But in the lead-up to the 2020 election, Facebook went in the opposite direction. It put in place a new, cumbersome approval process for political advertisers, and blocked new political ads in the period after Election Day. It throttled false claims, and put in place a “virality circuit-breaker” to give fact-checkers time to evaluate suspicious stories. And it temporarily shut off its recommendation algorithm for certain types of private groups, to lessen the possibility of violent unrest. (On Thursday, The New York Times reported that the company was taking other temporary measures to tamp down election-related misinformation, including adding more friction to the process of sharing posts.)
All of these changes may, in fact, make Facebook safer. But they also involve dialing back the very features that have powered the platform’s growth for years. It’s a telling act of self-awareness, as if Ferrari had realized that it could only stop its cars from crashing by replacing the engines with go-kart motors.
“If you look at Facebook’s election response, it was essentially to point a lot of traffic and attention to these hubs that were curated by people,” said Eli Pariser, a longtime media executive and activist who is working on Civic Signals, a new project that is trying to reimagine social media as a public space. “That’s an indication that ultimately, when you have information that’s really important, there’s no substitute for human judgment.”
Twitter, another platform that for years tried to make communication as frictionless as possible, spent much of the past four years trying to pump the brakes. It brought in more moderators, revamped its rules, and put more human oversight on features like Trending Topics. In the months leading up to the election, it banned political ads, and disabled sharing features on tweets containing misleading information about election results, including some from the president’s account.
YouTube didn’t act nearly as aggressively this week, but it has also changed its platform in revealing ways. Last year, it tweaked its vaunted recommendation algorithm to slow the spread of so-called borderline content. And it started promoting “authoritative sources” during breaking news events, to prevent cranks and conspiracy theorists from filling up the search results.
All of this raises the critical question of what, exactly, will happen once the election is over and the spotlight has swiveled away from Silicon Valley. Will the warning labels and circuit-breakers be retired? Will the troublesome algorithms get turned back on? Do we just revert to social media as normal?
Camille François, the chief innovation officer of Graphika, a firm that investigates disinformation on social media, said it was too early to say whether these companies’ precautions had worked as intended. But she conceded that this level of hypervigilance might not last.
“There were a lot of emergency processes put in place at the platforms,” she said. “The sustainability and the scalability of those processes is a fair question to ask.”
Mr. Pariser said that the platforms’ work to prevent election interference this year raised bigger questions about how they will respond to other threats.
“These platforms are used for really important conversations every day,” Mr. Pariser said. “If you do this for U.S. elections, why not other countries’ elections? Why not climate change? Why not acts of violence?”
These are the right questions to ask. The social media companies may have gotten through election night without a disaster. But as with the election itself, the real fights are still ahead.
There’s a media phenomenon the old-time blogger Mickey Kaus calls “overism”: articles in the week before the election whose premise is that even before the votes are counted, we know the winner — in this case, Joe Biden.
I plead guilty to writing a column with that tacit premise. I spent last week asking leading figures in media to indulge in the accursed practice of speculating about the consequences of an election that isn’t over yet. They all read the same polls as you do and think that President Trump will probably lose.
But many leaders in news and media have been holding their breaths for the election — and planning everything from retirements to significant shifts in strategy for the months to come, whoever wins. President Trump, after all, succeeded in making the old media great again, in part through his obsession with it. His riveting show allowed much of the television news business, in particular, to put off reckoning with the technological shifts — toward mobile devices and on-demand consumption — that have changed all of our lives. But now, change is in the air across a news landscape that has revolved around the president.
And given the jittery pre-election timing, I’ll try to keep these items short so you can check Nate Silver’s Twitter feed in between reading them.
The News Business After Trump
Before the 2016 election, Andrew Lack, then the head of NBC News, warned colleagues that MSNBC’s revenue would take a 30 percent hit if — when — Hillary Clinton was elected, two people familiar with the remark told me. (After the debacle in 2016, few in the media wanted to be quoted speculating about what happens after the election.)
Well, TV sure dodged that bullet! CNN’s chief, Jeff Zucker, later told his Los Angeles bureau that Mr. Trump had bought the declining business four more years, a person who was there recalled. (A spokesman for CNN said that Mr. Zucker would not have speculated on future ratings.) And it has been a profitable time for cable news, a record-breaking year for political books and, generally, a bonanza for the legacy media that live rent-free in the president’s head.
That may be ending. MSNBC and other outlets that thrived on resistance to Mr. Trump may see their audiences fade, said Ken Lerer, a veteran investor and adviser to old media and new, who also predicted that The New York Times would “cool off” as you, dear reader, find other things to do.
And the people who continue to pay attention to the news will stay online.
“The pandemic has advanced digital by four or five years and it will not go back to what it was,” Mr. Lerer said.
In corporate media, that means what Cesar Conde, the new chairman of the NBCUniversal News Group, has been calling an “omnichannel” strategy, as brands like MSNBC no longer see themselves primarily as television. For new outlets, it’s an opportunity to press their advantage of being native to this new world.
“Many media organizations have spent the past four years generally failing to adapt to a campaign, a president, a White House and an administration that is extremely online,” said Stacy-Marie Ishmael, the editorial director of the nonprofit Texas Tribune. “We are only, four years in, getting to grips with how to contend with rhetorical techniques, messaging and communications steeped in misinformation and propaganda.”
Keep up with Election 2020
Others predicted a deeper cultural shift — from Stephen Colbert’s biting satire back to the sillier Jimmy Fallon, from politics back to entertainment, whenever the studios can get production running again. But some veterans of the business of politics doubt that news coverage can really calm down — or that consumers can look away.
“If Biden is elected, conservatives will be energized, not retreating,” said Eric Nelson, the editorial director of Broadside Books, HarperCollins’s conservative imprint. “Trump will keep tweeting, and new scandals from his presidency will keep unfolding for well into 2022. By the time that all chaos and nonsense runs out, Trump could be running again for 2024.”
A Wave of Retirements
You aren’t the only one just barely hanging on until Election Day. Most of the top leaders of many name-brand American news institutions will probably be gone soon, too. The executive editor of The Los Angeles Times, Norm Pearlstine, is looking to recruit a successor by the end of the year, he told me. Martin Baron, the executive editor of The Washington Post, just bought a house out of town and two Posties said they expected him to depart next year. He hasn’t given notice, The Post’s spokeswoman, Kristine Coratti Kelly, said. And the executive editor of The New York Times, Dean Baquet, is on track to retire by the time he turns 66 in 2022, two Times executives told me, dampening speculation that he might stay longer.
Over in big TV, Mr. Zucker, of CNN, has signaled that he’s frustrated with WarnerMedia, and broadcast television is overflowing with speculation about how long the network news chiefs will stay on, though no executives have suggested imminent departures. “Everyone is assuming there’s going to be turnover everywhere, and everyone is absolutely terrified about who is going to come in,” one television industry insider said.
This isn’t just the usual revolving door. Newsroom leaders face strong pulls in conflicting directions. Outlets all along the spectrum, from the staid BBC to the radical Intercept, have been moving to reassert final editorial control over their journalists. But newsroom employees — like a generation of workers across many industries — are arriving with heightened demands to be given more of a say in running their companies than in years past. New leaders may find opportunities to resolve some of the heated newsroom battles of the last year, or they may walk into firestorms.
Mr. Pearlstine, the only one talking openly of his departure, told me that the new “metrics for success might be different as well — issues such as inclusiveness, such as being anti-racist, such as really commanding some new platform, be it podcasts or video or newsletters, in addition to having journalistic credentials.”
And, he said, the old top-down newsroom management is a thing of the past. “Consent of the governed is something you have to take pretty seriously,” he said.
Wesley Lowery, a CBS News correspondent who has been a voice for more diverse and politically engaged journalism, said he had already seen signs of change.
“These big institutions very rarely come out and announce some big sweeping change — they say, ‘We’re not changing,’ and they change,” he said. “Even people who made a big deal about how the rebels were wrong are now conceding to the things we all wanted.”
Fox News on Autopilot
The right-wing cable channel has been riding high as the quasi-official White House network, though it has always been at its strongest when it’s attacking Democrats — who seem poised to take power.
But the approaching election has executives around Lachlan Murdoch, Fox’s chief executive, preparing to battle on several fronts: with left-wing critics, with what senior executives fear could be regulatory retribution from Democrats and perhaps most of all from James Murdoch, Lachlan’s more liberal brother and critic, according to a person familiar with the company’s plans.
And Lachlan Murdoch ends the election cycle as he began it: with no real control of the network’s high-profile talent and an unusually low profile for a figure of his nominal political power. One data point: a surprised patron of the Midtown power lunch spot Estiatorio Milos in late October reported overhearing Mr. Murdoch politely spelling his name to a hostess who didn’t recognize him.
The Attention Wars
The battles over speech and censorship, the sociologist Zeynep Tufekci tweeted recently, are becoming “attention wars.” As recently as last week, senators were dragging in tech executives to complain about individual tweets, but the arguments are about to turn more consequential. The platforms are increasingly being pushed to disclose how content travels and why — not just what they leave up and what they take down.
“We’re in this brave new world of content moderation that’s outside the take-down/leave-up false binary,” said Evelyn Douek, an expert on the subject and a lecturer at Harvard Law School.
In practice, Twitter, Facebook and the other big platforms are facing two sources of pressure. The first is from Australia and the European Union, where Germany has become the latest to push toward tight copyright restrictions.
“We are now at an inflection point with the digital platforms,” Rod Sims, the chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, told me in an email. “The tide has turned all around the world as governments and antitrust enforcers now see the size of the challenge ahead.”
The second source of pressure is the United States, where President Trump has pushed to repeal or revise Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects platforms from being liable for what they publish while allowing them to moderate content. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a co-author of the 1996 law who would head the powerful Finance Committee if Democrats take control of the Senate, said he was skeptical that changes to Section 230 would actually stop misinformation or what conservatives claim is censorship. And he noted that Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has said he supports some revisions, too.
“He made his money, and now he wants to pull up the ladder behind him,” Senator Wyden said in an interview on Saturday. “The fact that Facebook, of all companies, is calling for changes to 230 makes you say, ‘Wait a second.’” Mr. Wyden said his priority when it comes to big tech in the new Congress would be privacy legislation.
The media’s internal conflicts, meanwhile, play out on Twitter and, increasingly, on Substack, a newsletter platform where large audiences are paying for work by anti-Trump conservatives and iconoclastic voices on the left, who were joined last week by Glenn Greenwald, the national security journalist and free speech advocate who helped found The Intercept and quit in a dispute over whether his work should be edited.
Another way of looking at Substack is as a kind of Twitter Premium — a place you can pay for more content from your favorite journalists. And that synergy has caught the attention of some at Twitter itself, where the notion of acquiring the newsletter company has been discussed internally, a person familiar with the conversations said. (Executives at both companies declined to comment on the speculation.)
But it’s not clear whether Substack will continue to be the venue of choice for all of its stars. Mr. Greenwald wrote that he’d been exploring “the feasibility of securing financing for a new outlet” that would challenge what he sees as the “groupthink” of the left in the Trump era. And roiling anger in Silicon Valley with tough media coverage of companies and investments means there are deep pools of money for a new assault on big media.
“There’s going to be a surge of money after the election, especially from tech bros who think they can fix everything,” said one of the Substack writers who has drawn interest from tech investors.
Staying Sane for the Next 48 Hours
Nothing good will come of reading political news, much less Twitter, between now and the election. Election week is usually a good time to hide out at the movies, but with theaters closed, you’ll have to find escape elsewhere. Two favorites: The Times’s brilliant Election Distractor on the web; and for your Kindle, Malka Older’s Centenal Cycle, a bit of high-concept political sci-fi that will prepare you for many of the coming tech and political battles.
On election night, however, come to Twitter for the jokes and stay for what is really one of the highlights of American democracy, such as it is: the reassuringly sophisticated, nerdy and nonpartisan vote-counting conversation that you can listen in on among the likes of Mr. Silver, Nate Cohn, Ariel Edwards-Levy and Brandon Finnigan.