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sunny New Yorksunny Washingtonthunderstorms Palm Beach

Welcome to Semafor Media, where we break the news behind the news.

The fractured new media landscape is an exciting, occasionally disorienting place. A big part of the production of this newsletter each week is the result of Ben and I repeatedly asking ourselves the same questions: Which legacy publications are still important? What are the interesting new media organizations no one is talking about? And who are this generation’s power players in media?

That’s why it was exhilarating to be in New York today, where we just wrapped up the inaugural Semafor Media Summit. For about 90 minutes, some of the biggest newsmakers and most interesting figures from different parts of the media business, legacy and startup, shared the same space to talk about today’s exciting and uncertain media landscape, and where the industry is headed.

Many Semafor Media readers were in the room, but for those who weren’t, we’ve compiled some of the biggest news nuggets and revelations from the summit. Come for Jen Psaki talking about why she calls herself a journalist now, Barry Diller on why publishers need to stand up to artificial intelligence, Bonin Bough’s plans to acquire a major media company, Kara Swisher on why she won’t support Jason Calcanis for mayor of San Francisco, Stephen A. Smith on his relationship with Donald Trump and why he doesn’t think he’s racist, Jimmy Finkelstein on why he thinks Jay Penske has a metaphorical “fat ass,” among other things. And stay for Chris Licht’s thoughts on Don Lemon, and what I overheard talking to media insiders who stuck around for the cocktail reception.

Your inbox is full of newsletters, and you’ll forgive us for sending a second one in two days. But when Bonin Bough’s first word onstage at the festival is shouting “WRONG!” at Ben Smith, and Chris Licht dunking on this newsletter, you have to let the people know.

— Max Tani

Box Score

BRISTOL: Stephen A Smith, famous for telling professional athletes to “stay off the weed,” told Ben that he doesn’t support the NBA’s recent decision to stop testing its players for marijuana.

New York: Barry Diller said he’s close to getting publishers to band together to stop letting tech companies scrape news websites for content for their artificial intelligence tools. He implied that he’s preparing to sue major tech companies behind AI, but would not say who, specifically, he planned on suing.

PALM BEACH: Asked about Hollywood Reporter owner Jay Penske’s stewardship of the entertainment company, former part owner of THR and founder of the forthcoming media company The Messenger Jimmy Finkelstein said that Penske had a “fat ass,” and “is able to sit on [the Hollywood Reporter] and to work on it until it gets good, and to improve it.”

Jen Psaki
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Semafor

The former White House Press Secretary told Ben Smith that despite the fact that she’s new on the job, she now considers herself a journalist.

"Journalism has changed dramatically," said the press secretary turned MSNBC anchor. "I'm, of course, an example of that, right? And even when I was in the White House, working in government, it really was already all on a spectrum. It wasn't just the New York Times, Washington Post, ABC News, and then everything else wasn't considered part of journalism. It's all a big, broad scope of things. And so to me, journalism is providing information to the public, helping make things clearer, explaining things."

Bonin Bough
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Semafor

Bough, the co-founder of an emerging Black media group with serious cash behind it, hinted that his company is likely to acquire one of the major media organizations on the block such as Vice Media or the television channel BET.

"I hope it'll get done this year, that's our goal," he said.

Bough also acknowledged that the political backlash from the right to DEI investment has made some major investors nervous.

Barry Diller
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Semafor

The billionaire media and tech mogul dismissed the seriousness of the threat of the Dominion Voting Services lawsuit against Fox News.

Diller, the chairman and senior executive of IAC and the Expedia Group, said that Fox News "should lose" the lawsuit, but said it was overblown.

"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.

Kara Swisher
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Semafor

The tech journalist and podcast host said her dreams of running for San Francisco mayor were over, saying raising her kids had taken priority.

But Swisher, the host of the podcasts "On" and & "Pivot" and editor-at-large at New York Magazine, also said she would not support mayoral bids from tech business figures like Jason Calcanis or David Sacks, who have expressed interest in running for the job.

Stephen A. Smith
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Semafor

The popular sports television personality and ESPN host discussed his relationship with former President Donald Trump, who formerly occasionally appeared on television with Smith to talk sports.

While Smith said he was beyond voting for Trump because of his rhetoric and unpresidential demeanor, he also defended the former president, saying he did not believe Trump was racist.

"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.

Jimmy Finkelstein
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Semafor

In one of the livelier appearances of the evening, the founder of the Messenger said his goal of generating $100 million in revenue by next year was reasonable.

He also said former President Trump had been following the Messenger’s progress, complimenting him on an article about the site in the New York Times. Asked about his opinion of Trump’s presidency, Finkelstein said, "I think he was a good president in a silent movie,” which some in the audience interpreted as a comment praising his policies, but not his rhetoric.

Chris Licht
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Semafor

Licht partially defended Don Lemon when asked about how he navigates the outsized role CNN anchor Don Lemon gets in media coverage of CNN.

"Don Lemon is a lightning rod because he really came to prominence during an era where that was celebrated and encouraged in prime time,” he said. “CNN has moved on from that and Don has moved on from that."

Licht also praised the high ratings Psaki has garnered in her first weeks as an MSNBC host. But asked whether he would hire a White House press secretary like 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.

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Semafor

SPOTTED AT THE EVENT: Tina Brown congratulating Licht on parrying Ben’s questions, doing some sword fighting gestures to drive the point home….Don Lemon coming over to say hello to his boss, saying he was nervous when Ben asked why Lemon was frequently in the headlines (Licht said onstage that Lemon was a “lightning rod” for criticism, but commended his on-the-ground reporting).....Barry Diller peeking out from backstage to watch Bonin Bough’s chat about the current media investment landscape…Bough talking at the cocktail reception with Jesse Angelo, the former president of news and entertainment at the company Bough was in talks to buy…. Lemon turning around in his chair to wink at Jen Psaki when Ben asked Licht if he’d hire her….Former CNN PR chief Allison Gollust sitting in the audience while Licht criticized some parts of CNN during her tenure…Kara Swisher not taking her aviator sunglasses off despite the dim lighting of the venue's basement…

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— Max