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Ink, Out! Web, In!

USA Today’s Digital Gamble

The once-pioneering product went outside the newspaper business for it new editor. Howard Kurtz on the challenges of shifting to web journalism—especially for a paper whose former innovations are everywhere at one swipe.

Why would David Callaway, who has spent most of his career in online journalism, want to plunge back into the print world and run USA Today?

David Callaway - USA Today

David Callaway, USA Today's new top editor, says the paper's brand is “reflecting what America stands for,” and he wants to “take that advocacy for the American people and bring it online.” (AP Photo; Jack Gruber / USA Today (inset))

“I don’t look at it as a newspaper,” he tells The Daily Beast. “Obviously the print product is their flagship. But the whole idea is to take the websites they have and make the journalism more relevant.”

The message here is that ink-stained wretches are out, web-savvy folks are in. Callaway, who spent the last 13 years at the online business site MarketWatch, was tapped by the new president and publisher, Larry Kramer—who, as it happens, helped build MarketWatch before moving to CBS Digital Media. Gannett is betting USA Today’s future not on the four-section product derided as McPaper after its 1982 launch, but on its ability to make money online.

CBS correspondent on the campaign--and cooking.

Norah O’Donnell has little patience for the argument that Mitt Romney is being railroaded over his personal finances.

“You want to be president of the United States, you have to answer questions, you’ve got to give full disclosure, and there’s some question about how much disclosure Mitt Romney has made,” CBS News' chief White House correspondent told me in a video interview.

We were chatting about the avalanche of stories and Obama campaign attacks on Romney’s tax returns, tenure at Bain Capital and offshore bank accounts. Maybe some of the rhetoric, such as suggesting he committed a felony, went too far, O’Donnell said.

But in political terms, “it has put Mitt Romney on the defensive and we know that in campaigns, whenever you’re setting the debate, you’re winning that week,” she said.

From the Gut

Joe Biden’s Emotional Rescue

His emotional style was again on display Thursday in defense of voting rights. How the vice president has become Team Obama’s emissary to the working class.

Joe Biden was getting wound up, as he tends to do at the podium, those moments where his voice rises and his face reddens and whatever script he brought seems beside the point.


Vice President Joe Biden addresses the NAACP annual convention, Thursday, July 12, 2012, in Houston. (Pat Sullivan / AP Photo)

“Remember what this at its core was all about, [what] this organization at its core was all about,” he practically whispered to the NAACP on Thursday. Then, chopping the air with both hands, he broke into a shout: “It was about the franchise. It was about the right to vote. Because when you have the right to vote, you have the right to change things … We see a future where those rights are expanded, not diminished.”

President Obama was a no-show, which caused some grumbling. But his vice president roused the crowd, ripping the Republicans with far more passion than his boss usually musters. to be rebranded under deal

NBC and Microsoft plan to announce a deal to finally part company, with the network buying back the remainder of their hugely popular MSNBC website from the software giant, say people familiar with the matter. 

Under the plan, officials will rebrand, which consistently ranks among the top three in online news sites, as The announcement of the corporate divorce is expected within days, although there could always be a last-minute snag.

"We're absolutely having those conversations, but there is no deal," an NBC spokesman said Wednesday.

The cable channel MSNBC was originally a joint venture between the broadcast network and Bill Gates’ company—hence the initials in the name—but the television partnership was dissolved in 2005. The companies, however, remained 50-50 partners in the website.

Why he likes the nutty campaign--and old-fashioned phone calls

From the outside, the marathon we call the presidential race can appear insane. But Chuck Todd sees a certain genius in it.


In a video interview, NBC’s chief White House correspondent tells me the endurance contest has value: “This process that we put the presidential candidates through, sometimes it looks ridiculous. It creates these little trials for candidates who are running for president. To operate in this office, you’ve got to be nimble – your ability to navigate all this craziness, get through the hurdles, see if you’re nimble enough, allows you to deal with the unpredictability of the real issues you deal with in the Oval Office.”

Well, maybe. When I pushed back about the media’s role, Todd conceded that the focus is mainly on strategy and tactics: “We don’t do well enough in doing the murder boards when it comes to policy.”

For embattled Romney, a chance to change the subject

President Obama was on a pretty decent campaign role until 8:30 on Friday morning.

Howard Kurtz and Michelle Cottle on the political fallout of the new jobs report.

That’s when the latest jobs report showed a pretty anemic economic picture, turning the public debate back to the one overriding issue that could derail his reelection effort.

The Obama camp would much rather be talking about that picture of Mitt Romney on jet skis, don’t you think?

Blood Feud

Lance: Doping Deal Is a ‘Vendetta’

The cycling champion says U.S. anti-doping officials are ‘moving the goalposts’ in an attempt to discredit him by reportedly delaying suspensions against his accusers.

Lance Armstrong accused anti-doping officials of pursuing a “personal vendetta” against him, citing a report that several of his accusers have cut a deal that allows them to finish the racing season before facing suspension for their admitted doping.

XTERRA Championship Triathalon

Wayne Jones / AP Photo

In a telephone interview with The Daily Beast on Thursday, the seven-time Tour de France champion said the reported deal with his former teammates underscores the flimsiness of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency allegations against him.

“They’ve got no physical evidence, no lab work, no positive tests,” said Armstrong, who has steadfastly denied using performance-enhancing drugs. “They can go out and coerce testimony, and that’s all they need with the burden of proof so low.”

Liberal Love

The Media Man-Crush on Roberts

The man who saved the president’s health-care law is the new liberal heartthrob. Howard Kurtz on how a single vote recast the chief justice’s image and riled the right.

The liberal lionization of John Roberts is roaring through the media.

He is, after all, the man who saved Obamacare for a president who opposed his confirmation.

Tina Brown, John Avlon, and Paul Callan on John Roberts' historic decision.

One moment he is the bête noire of the left, a right-wing legal hack who lied about being a neutral umpire, and the next he is a profile in courage, rising above petty partisanship to do the right thing.

Juggling roles at White House and at home (can journalists really have it all?), the ABC correspondent weighs in on Obamacare, the administration's secretiveness, and that Atlantic article.

Jake Tapper isn’t buying the notion that the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare is actually a political setback for the president.

“I know conservatives and Republicans are trying to spin this as, well, now we have this issue to talk about,” ABC’s senior White House correspondent tells me in a video interview. “It’s true, it’s still not a popular law, but it’s also true that Mitt Romney is a very flawed carrier of the anti-Obamacare banner because he signed into law a very similar law—including one that contains the tax, the fine, that Republicans are now talking so much about.”

As for CNN and Fox News botching the initial reporting of the ruling, Tapper says: “It’s embarrassing. We all make mistakes. It’s the pressure to be first with the news.”

The Sunday anchor meditates on the issues

When you pose a question, she answers it—unlike many of the politicians she interviews.

So when I asked the host of State of the Union a question from a Facebook fan—does she trust politicians?—Crowley didn’t duck.

“No because our job isn’t to trust these guys. Our job is to mistrust them,” candid Candy told me. Not just be skeptical, but actively mistrust them—a pretty aggressive default position.

Maybe that comes from years of having candidates and officeholders bob and weave during interviews. Crowley says she’ll ask the same question three times—and then “you have to wave the white flag” and move on—but not before announcing to the audience, “So clearly you’re not going to answer this.”

Her uneasy partnership with Matt Lauer may be ending

Ann Curry is a world-class journalist.

But she’s never been a great fit as co-host of the Today show. Just about everyone at NBC, and in the television business, recognizes that.

As Curry, who loves to race to the scene of humanitarian disasters, told me last fall: “I'm at my core a hard-news reporter. I want more spinach and less sugar in this big meal we give viewers. Sometimes I feel personally our balance isn't quite right. I fight for stories that matter.”

So I’m not surprised to learn that NBC has begun talks to move her off the program, just a year after she ascended to the job. If this New York Times report is right, she’ll be gone before the Olympics.

The stiff, stumbling candidate? That was the old Mitt

What a difference a bus tour makes.

Remember Mitt Romney, the goofy, awkward campaigner who couldn’t connect with voters?

That guy is gone now.

Howard Kurtz on how Romney became a star campaigner in the press

Bob Schieffer keeps asking, Mitt keeps circling away

Mitt Romney sure knows how to dance.

I don’t know how he is out on the floor with Ann, but he’s got some fancy footwork when he wants to evade an interviewer’s question. 

During Romney’s first non-Fox Sunday morning interview of the campaign, Bob Schieffer asked him four times on Face the Nation about President Obama’s decision to stop deporting hundreds of thousands of younger illegal immigrants.

First time: “Well, let’s step back”—there’s the dance move—and we have to “secure the border” and have “an employment verification system” and “see some proposals brought forward by Senator Marco Rubio and by Democrat senators.”

Supreme Court

Obamacare: The Endless Wait

The Supreme Court ruling is coming...sometime

Everyone in Washington is waiting for Godot.

(There was a brief respite while everyone waited for Obama’s 54-minute economic speech to end. The man could use a good editor. We have some at The Daily Beast who specialize in pruning prose.)

But mostly, the capital cognoscenti are waiting for the Supreme Court’s health care ruling.

The problem is, no one knows when it’s coming. Maybe next week. Maybe the week after. Probably on the last day of the term. The rumors keep flying.

She shared information with U.S. official in Iraq

Wall Street Journal reporter Gina Chon resigned on Tuesday over her relationship with a U.S. official who is now President Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to Iraq.

The Journal said in a statement that Chon had acknowledged that “she violated the Dow Jones code of conduct by sharing certain unpublished articles” with Brett McGurk, then a member of the National Security Council based in Iraq. The two are now married.

In 2008, the paper said, “Ms. Chon entered into a personal relationship with Mr. McGurk, which she failed to disclose to her editor. At this time the Journal has found no evidence that her coverage was tainted by her relationship with Mr. McGurk.”

Chon asked for and received a leave of absence, which was made public last week. A series of romantic e-mails had surfaced from that time period, which included not just flirting but discussions of McGurk’s negotiations with the Iraqis.

About the Author

Author headshot

Howard Kurtz

Howard Kurtz is The Daily Beast and Newsweek’s Washington bureau chief, and writes the Spin Cycle blog. He also hosts CNN’s weekly media program Reliable Sources on Sundays at 11 a.m. ET. The longtime media reporter and columnist for The Washington Post, Kurtz is the author of five books.


Martha Stewart Vs. The Law

Roughly a decade after the insider trading scandal that landed her in federal prison, the 'domestic diva' is back in court, this time sued by Macy's for breach of contract. Here's the condensed history of Martha Stewart's legal battles.


From the Daily Beast

The Pols Who Praise Slavery

The Pols Who Praise Slavery

Rogue rancher Cliven Bundy recently shared his thoughts on African Americans and whether or not they were better off as slaves. While Bundy can, and probably should, be dismissed as fringe nonsense, he is hardly alone.

Big Texas Sell

Rick Perry Is Coming for Your Job

Bad Match

It’s Not Racist to Oppose Gay Marriage


In the Obamacare Closet


Red State Obamascare Tactics