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Phil Mattingly Capitol Earlier in the week, this briefing was touted as shaping up to be a straight Movers & Shakers column because of the New Year spike in changes, including the launch of Punchbowl News (ATT: Freshman Comms). The Secret Service code name for the Capitol Building is “punch bowl.”

Then Jan. 6, 2021 became a significant day in U.S. history.

There are numerous stories to be told about the rhetoric that led up to the insurrection (as President-elect Joe Biden put it) at the Capitol Building that led to at least five deaths, the latest being US Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick (moment of silence). There will be investigations and consequences. Given this briefing’s focus, we will look at the news media’s role. In all the chaos and conflicting accounts, the media plays a vital role in reporting impactful breaking news and creating transparency around decisions. Keeping track of bylines will help readers navigate whose reporting is most valuable.

On the morning of Jan. 6, White House Reporters and election watchers were eyeing the electoral count, and Georgia runoff elections that eventually saw Democrats taking two seats, called by The Associated Press. The senate split gives Vice President-elect Kamala Harris the deciding vote. Objections to the electoral counting were expected to have no effect on the outcome. What many civilians didn’t expect was people from a rally held by President Donald Trump at the Ellipse park south of the White House marching to, and eventually through security to the inside of the Capitol Building.

In addition to clear reporting — the AP’s standards editor John Daniszewski gives guidance on “protests” and “coups” — the visual component makes it all the more real for people not at the scene. As former National Political Correspondent Meredith Shiner writes:


More iconic images include this standoff with guns drawn, and many more compiled by CNN here.

As people breached Capitol Building security, there was speculation about why the National Guard was not called in sooner, and questions about who was acting commander-in-chief. Now-famed fact checker Daniel Dale of CNN touted his colleagues’ source reporting on the matter, while three Washington Post reporters wrote about possible limitations of National Guard deployment. Dan Barry and Sheera Frenkel of The New York Times wrote that turmoil should have been expected, though Capitol police stated otherwise. The reporting by these organizations could lead to a push for new rules around armed deployment, and reporting structures in the federal government — things that might not change without public attention. News about IEDs, one resembling a pipe bomb, doesn’t seem to be getting noticed.

After the crowd mostly dissipated at sundown as more law enforcement arrived, Vice President Mike Pence and other members emerged from their protective locations to continue the electoral process. There’s no sleep for reporters either — just after 3:30 a.m. on Jan. 7, Pence was recorded confirming Biden’s win. There was also morning news of cabinet picks, including Merrick Garland and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

In the immediate aftermath, the FBI is looking for individuals like some here; there were 50 officer injuries and 83 arrests (mostly after curfew; state of emergency continues); and Trump reiterated his refusal to concede, citing a stolen election. After being suspended by Twitter, temporarily banned by Facebook (note the suspensions were made without the removal of Section 230), political urging to denounce the events, and at least 22 resignations reported by Gabe Fleisher, Trump announced he would seek an “orderly transition.” That did not stop Articles of Impeachment being set up for introduction on Monday, as tweeted by Rep. Ted Lieu.


Here’s another major piece of reporting: Technology and Cybersecurity Policy Researcher Tonya Riley reveals an intelligence breach that may include more than one stolen laptops. There is also concern of physical building layout intelligence possibly gleaned. There are many questions.

And lest we forget, the maskless mob was running about during the COVID-19 pandemic, while there is fear of a congressional outbreak. There’s a new addition to our coronavirus coverage list as well: LA Times Transportation Reporter Laura Nelson is reporting on vaccine distribution and is open to receiving tips.

As all the field reporting is going on, it’s important to register that in recent years attacks on journalists have become more commonplace. Here are some accounts from reporters that were on scene. While embedded wartime reporters are offered some protection, it may be time for new federal law for reporters in the field, domestically. Case in point:


By the way, here are some of those aforementioned Movers & Shakers.

  1. Politico Playbook competitor Punchbowl News launched.
  2. Olivier Knox, Chief DC Correspondent at SiriusXM, has left to anchor The Daily 202, The Washington Post’s flagship politics newsletter on the inner-workings of Washington politics and policy.
  3. Katie Glueck moved to New York to cover the New York City mayoral election.
  4. Olivia Beavers just started as a Congressional reporter at Politico, coming in from The Hill.
  5. Washington Post Congressional Reporter Robert Costa is taking leave to work on a book with Bob Woodward about the presidential transition.
  6. Sam Stein has left The Daily Beast to become White House editor at Politico.
  7. Grace Sparks has left CNN Politics to work on the Kaiser Family Foundation polling team, covering vaccines and coronavirus data.
  8. Ex-Politico and USA Today Political Producer Matthew Sobocinski has joined Katie Couric Media, which interviews experts on news, politics, health, pop culture, and more.

On the executive front:

  1. Keith Poole becomes EIC of the New York Post.
  2. Elisabeth Deutschman Rabishaw and Victoria Gold were promoted to executive vice presidents and co-publishers of The Hollywood Reporter.
  3. Ted Lipien is named president of Radio Free Europe.
  4. Colleen McCain Nelson is named executive editor of The Sacramento Bee, and regional editor for McClatchy’s California news outlets.
  5. Making room at the top, Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler is retiring in April.

Another notable signoff is that of USA Today Supreme Court/White House/Congress Reporter Richard Wolf, who, before everything went down, poked fun at the relentless news cycle. He wrote on Jan. 5, “Since there’s not much happening these days, it seems an appropriate time to leave USA Today and daily journalism. Covering SCOTUS after the White House and Congress completed my hat trick. On to other endeavors.”

The reporting now falls to the next in line.


Baz Hiralal

Managing Editor, Thought Leadership