Updated Apr 10, 2023, 7:35pm EDT
mediapoliticsNorth America

The Semafor Media Summit: In conversation with Jen Psaki, Stephen A. Smith, and Chris Licht

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Semafor
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The Scene

Semafor’s inaugural media summit kicked off in New York City on Monday with a lineup of influential figures in U.S. news and entertainment getting real about the future of the media industry.

Semafor co-founder Ben Smith chatted with former White House Press Secretary-turned-MSNBC host Jen Psaki, along with sports television personality Stephen A. Smith, CNN’s CEO Chris Licht, editor-at-large at New York Magazine Kara Swisher, and Group Black co-founder Bonin Bough, among others.

Here’s what happened.

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The View From Jen Psaki

The former White House Press Secretary turned MSNBC host told Semafor co-founder Ben Smith that she considers herself a journalist.

Her weekend show has been a ratings hit, racking up over a million viewers in multiple weeks. However, Psaki said she doesn’t know if U.S. President Joe Biden is watching her show.


She also said that Biden will run again in 2024, but that it “makes sense for him to wait as long as possible” to announce it.

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The View From Bonin Bough

Bough, the co-founder of Group Black — an emerging Black media group —hinted that his company is likely to acquire one of the major media organizations such as Vice News or the television channel BET.

Bough, a marketing veteran who previously oversaw media for Mondelez International, said he “hopes” the fund closes one of the deals that’s been publicly reported.

“I hope it’ll get done this year, that’s our goal,” he said.

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The View From Barry Diller

Diller, Chairman and Senior Executive of IAC and the Expedia Group, said that Fox News “should lose” the Dominion lawsuit, but added that the suit was overblown.


Diller and Rupert Murdoch founded the Fox TV Network decades ago.

“I hope they lose it. I think they should lose it. So what? They’ll pay it?” Diller said. “Is it going to worsen Rupert Murdoch’s reputation?” he joked.

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The View From Kara Swisher

Swisher, the host of the podcasts “On” and & “Pivot” and editor-at-large at New York Magazine slammed Elon Musk’s handling of Twitter, saying he was “an asshole.”

“Tesla Elon I like ok, some problems there. SpaceX Elon’s cool. Twitter Elon’s an asshole.”

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The View From Stephen A. Smith

The popular sports television personality and ESPN host, said that he believes Donald Trump is not racist, but that he was “beyond voting for him.”


“I think he’s changed, but I will tell you this: I think when people call him racist and stuff like that, I’ve never thought of Trump that way. He’s not against black people, he’s against all things not named Trump,” Smith said.

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The View From Jimmy Finkelstein

Finkelstein, the chairman and CEO of the soon-to-launch media start-up The Messenger, said this company’s ambitious goals of hiring 550 journalists, getting more than 100 million monthly readers, and generating more than $100 million in revenue next year were “very reasonable.”

The media mogul said that the goal of his news site which aims to cover politics, sports, business, and entertainment, is not just to make money but “to create a media site that is not only enjoyable but is completely fair.”

When asked about his opinion on Trump as a president, Finkelstein said, “I think he was a good president in a silent movie.”

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The View From Chris Licht

Licht, the Chairman and CEO of CNN Worldwide, refused to comment on whether he would cover Donald Trump differently than his predecessor Jeff Zucker.

“I think you cover Donald Trump as part of the news, not as a way of having an outcome of ratings — just cover the news,” Licht said.

When asked how he navigates the outsized role CNN anchor Don Lemon gets in coverage of CNN, Licht said, “Don Lemon is a lightning rod because he really came to prominence during an era where that was celebrated and encouraged in prime time ... CNN has moved on from that and Don has moved on from that.” (Lemon was in the audience at the Semafor Media Summit.)

On whether he would hire a White House press secretary like Jen Psaki as a host on CNN, Licht said that she was a “great hire” for MSNBC, but it wouldn’t be his strategy.

“I don’t know that I would do that... it depends on who it is,” Licht said.