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Nov 13 Media Newsletter͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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November 13, 2022


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Ben Smith
Ben Smith

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

I grew up reading the New York Post, and have watched it transform itself into a national Republican outlet. Max has the gossipy (naturally) story behind that story.

And: Arianna Huffington texts about what ails Elon Musk. (One guess!) A top Post (the other Post) editor heads to The Athletic. The dream of an all-Matt-and-Nate substack has died with the crypto exchange FTX.

ALSO: Check out Semafor’s other newsletters, which broke news all week on Elon, FTX, and more.

Box Score

New York: It’s belt-tightening season, and every executive who tells you that they’ve got some bright new strategy is, mostly, coming up for an explanation about why they’re about to lay someone off or scale back a big new plan.

San Francisco: Even the people who thought Elon knew what he was doing are starting to have doubts. Twitter may be the most important company in the history of news, and it’s off the rails.

Washington: The battle is on for the heart of conservative media, and a new wave of media power brokers like the Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro are starting to get a lot of love from Republicans thinking harder than ever about challenging Donald Trump.

Max Tani

Posties Abroad

Semafor/Al Lucca


This summer, as the New York Post bludgeoned her reelection campaign, New York Governor Kathy Hochul sought via an aide to arrange a meeting between the governor and the editor of the powerful tabloid, Keith Poole.

Word came back from Sixth Avenue that Poole, regrettably, wouldn’t be able to make one of the dates work: He was, as he often is, in London that day.

Poole, an affable Englishman who built up the website of Rupert Murdoch’s Sun, took over the storied New York newspaper last spring. He moved his family to the affluent Bronx enclave of Riverdale and, in the ultimate New York power feat, got his children in one of the area’s elite private schools.

(In a grittier era, Pool’s predecessor Col Allan asked the head of the city’s teachers union, Randi Weingarten for help finding a public school before turning to attack her institution. “The hypocrisy is so grating,” she said.)

But New York, and even its most elite private educational institution, couldn’t live up to London standards for the Pooles, he later told associates. This year the family moved home and enrolled in a London school. They now split their time between sides of the Atlantic.* But while Poole isn’t much of a newsroom presence, Posties find him an affable, charming, if distant, figure. He rides an electric scooter around Manhattan and reporters hear from him via senior editors under the subject line “kp request.” Nobody is complaining, particularly after Allan, a volcanic presence who was recently the subject of a sexual harassment settlement.

In one typically endearing touch, the top editor returned from a recent trip to London with Cadbury chocolates for the newsroom.

Poole is a new model leader for a newspaper that has turned from a money-losing local hobby for Rupert Murdoch into a national political force. The Post said it nearly doubled its profits in 2022 compared to 2021, and brought in 198 million unique users in June 2022 compared to 123 million in the previous year.

The paper has also become an influential voice in national Republican politics. After weeks of trying to unseat Hochul, its focus after the midterm elections turned abruptly to a coordinated campaign among Murdoch’s media outlets against their old ally, Donald Trump. The day after the midterms, the tabloid dubbed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis “DeFuture.” This week, the Post turned hard against former President Donald Trump, whose political persona it shaped and who had copies of the paper sent to the White House. The paper mocked Trump on the wood (its front page), wrote about how conservative voters were done with him, and dubbed him “grumpy” in a piece on Friday about his daughter Tiffany’s wedding.

Trump, among others, has observed a change to “the no longer great New York Post (bring back Col!),” as he wrote last week.

The Post continues to play hard in local politics, backing Mayor Eric Adams in particular. It helped him get elected with lurid coverage of crime, which also performs well with a national audience. It maintains one of the strongest local reporting staffs in town, and columnists like Nicole Gelinas are a key voice on urban affairs.

But like its upscale rival, The New York Times, the Post is following the dream of digital scale away from the local market. Staff say Poole is less concerned with the paper’s longtime rival, the New York Daily News, which has limped along without a physical newsroom, than he is with the Daily Mail. He remains fixated on matching and replicating many stories produced by the U.S. version of the UK tabloid, where Poole was formerly a mid-level editor.

The Post has also reoriented some of its editorial coverage towards New York expat readers: One of its reporters recently transferred from the New York City education beat specifically to cover Florida, and wrote this week about the state’s preparations for an influx of conservatives fleeing blue states due to the results of the midterm elections.

“Everybody I know living in Florida reads the Post,” said Kathy Wylde, the longtime President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, a big business lobby. “It defines their view of New York.”


The Post’s new strategy is working, at the expense of the old Post. The publication used to be a guilty pleasure for New York’s left-leaning elite, a funny, gossipy, reactionary second-read after The New York Times. The paper saw itself as the voice of right-leaning New Yorkers on Wall Street and in the outer boroughs, people who lived in and loved the city.

Now the Post can be joyless and strident, reading like a publication edited by people who hate the city for people too horrified to consider visiting it.

Posties believe that the publication’s transformational moment came during in the 2020 presidential election, when it reported on the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop, sparking a media firestorm just a month before the election.

National political figures have taken notice of the Post’s influence. In recent months, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stopped by to meet with newsroom leaders, and was given a tour by political reporter Jon Levine, of  the Post’s right-leaning Sunday team. Some Democrats have also taken note of the Post’s national coverage and influence: Rep. Ro Khana recently met with the paper’s editorial board to share his vision and pitch common ideological ground.

The paper continues to play a big role in politics, but its editorial board has stopped making an effort to appear deeply engaged. In the days before last year’s Democratic mayoral primary, the paper’s editorial board scheduled its traditional interviews with different candidates, including Kathryn Garcia and Maya Wiley. Days before the meetings were supposed to take place, the Post’s editorial board told the candidates not to bother even showing up.

*(A Post spokesperson asked that Semafor not report in detail on Poole’s family, a reasonable request though hardly the Post’s typical approach).


Managing editor Dan Greenfield said the notion that the Post has transformed itself away from New York is “flawed and preposterous,” though he did acknowledge that the Post had a “much larger national focus than we used to.”

“The idea that somehow our commitment to New York and Keith’s commitment is waning or has somehow been scaled back is flatly wrong,” he said.

A Post spokesperson cast Poole as a typical New Yorker.

“The Post also happens to be one of the largest digital publishers in the nation. It also happens to be true that a lot of national news originates in New York,” the spokesperson said. “It’s a point of pride for New Yorkers that they’re from everywhere — so the editor in chief can be from London, and still consider himself a New Yorker and love New York.”


  • When Poole got to town, The Times’s Katie Robertson reported that he’d lunched with Page Six editor Emily Smith, but for many others, “the only evidence of the new boss’s presence has been the addition of his name to the newsroom’s main channel on Slack, the messaging app.”
  • Poole comes across in a 2018 interview with The Drum as a traffic-focused digital manager: “The Sun’s digital strategy is built on five content ‘pillars’: news, UK TV and showbiz coverage, football, money, and female lifestyle (which it names ‘Fabulous’ after its Sun on Sunday magazine brand.”
  • Former editor Michelle Gotthelf’s lawsuit, since settled, lifted the curtain on a brutal internal culture, The Cut wrote. One Postie told them: “If you wonder what it’s like to work at the New York Post, read the fucking pages of the New York Post.

A WaPo editor heads to the Athletic

Washington Post managing editor Steven Ginsberg is leaving the paper to run the Athletic, according to two people with knowledge of his plans. Ginsberg is a well-liked veteran who lost out on the top job to Sally Buzbee last year. His appointment to run the Athletic comes at a crucial moment for the sports-focused news organization, which has been a source of drama inside the Times company — as documented by the Washington Post.

— Max Tani


One good text... with Arianna Huffington


FTX founder had a newsletter plan

Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried
Getty Images/Tom Williams

The spectacular collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto exchange FTX has rippled into the news business, ending a stream of funding that backed nonprofit news organizations including ProPublica and the Law and Justice Journalism Project.

It also means the end of Bankman-Fried’s plan for a Substack competitor populated by his favorite writers. The Substack writer Matt Yglesias confirmed that he had spoken to Bankman-Fried about the project, saying he was “flattered but not interested.” The 538 founder Nate Silver told Semafor that he spoke to an FTX executive about the project, and was similarly not interested. Other names Bankman-Fried floated included Bloomberg’s Matt Levine.

Bankman-Fried had also become an investor in at least one for-profit organization: This one. The former crypto billionaire invested in Semafor earlier this year.

“We closed our seed round in May and received all investments in full in USD. While we are monitoring the evolving situation closely, we don’t anticipate an impact on our financial outlook or our business,” Semafor spokesperson Meera Pattni said.

Max Tani and Liz Hoffman

Staff Picks
  • The advertising industry is not like sending rockets into space. It involves listening to your customers and, at times, demonstrating how much you care. If Elon Musk can be persuaded to make the effort, a lot of ad executives would no doubt be thrilled to see him prostrate on their carpets, and NBCUniversal’s powerful Linda Yaccarino is optimistic that “we can teach him” the industry.
  • Meta’s Facebook is taking the humans out of news curation, turning what’s left of its expensive, high-profile News Tab experiment into another algorithmic feed, Press Gazette reports.
  • Michael Lewis isn’t just a great nonfiction writer. He’s incredibly lucky, having just spent six months behind the scenes with Sam Bankman-Fried. His agent is already selling hard, The Ankler reports.
  • After a long backlash against anecdote-and-vibes driven “diner journalism,” it’s making a comeback. Now, everyone is sick of the circular reliance on polling, and Ed Luce makes the case that the best political reporting involves talking to people. Possibly in diners.
Semafor Events

Join me in Washington DC or online this Friday, Nov. 18 for our third event on the future of news.

I’ll be talking to the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman, author of “Confidence Man,” about how to cover Donald Trump. My colleague Gina Chua is interviewing White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. You can watch online, and if you’re in town you can stick around for food and cocktails. RSVP here to join virtually or in person.

— Ben

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— Ben