Brian Stelter here at 10:40pm ET Thursday with the latest on BBC News, Dean Baquet, Medium, Microsoft, Bloomberg, Disney, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Issa Rae, and much more…

Those empty seats in the Senate chamber on Thursday? They are emblematic of the public’s reaction to the second Trump impeachment trial.

If you’ve been glued to every minute of the trial, or even just half-watching the proceedings, then you’re part of a special club. You’re learning the full story of the crimes that were committed at the Capitol on January 6. But you are much more plugged-in than the average American adult.

The Nielsen TV ratings for the first two days of trial coverage show that only a sliver of the public is watching at any given time. The ratings for CNN and MSNBC are way up — and the ratings for Fox News are much weaker. Some people are also watching coverage via the broadcast networks, but not in huge numbers.

The bottom line: News junkies are gripped by emotional presentations, but a vast swath of the nation is not. More casual news consumers are catching the coverage in bits and pieces, by watching clips of the Democratic presentation on news websites or YouTube, or by scanning summaries by partisan outlets. This is far, far from one of those “drop what you’re doing and watch” moments in America.

What the numbers tell us

On Tuesday afternoon an average of 11 million viewers watched the opening arguments across MSNBC, CNN, Fox, ABC and CBS. (NBC, PBS and other outlets also aired live coverage but I don’t have exact data for those channels.) On Wednesday afternoon the same five channels averaged 12.4 million viewers. This is an average, which means people came and went the whole time, and the cumulative audience was much higher. But given that nearly 210 million adults live in the US, you might conclude that many folks think they know how this story ends, so they’re not bothering to watch…

 >> However: Trump’s second trial IS drawing a larger average audience than the first trial, the NYT’s John Koblin points out…

 >> On Wednesday CNN was #1 overall in the 25-54 demo while MSNBC prevailed among total viewers…

 >> Online, the streaming audience was smaller, but still significant. CNN Digital’s traffic on Tuesday and Wednesday surpassed the equivalent days for the 2019 House Impeachment Hearings and the 2020 Senate Impeachment Trial…

Fox viewers don’t want to see Democratic arguments

Fox News ended Wednesday morning with 1.4 million viewers. Then the trial began, and so did Fox’s ratings slide. Fox bottomed out at 1 million in the 3pm hour, though the audience levels noticeably ticked up during a break in the trial at 1:39pm, when Fox’s Trump-friendly analysis of the trial brought some viewers back. The audience came back in a big way at 5 p.m. when Fox cut away from the Senate chamber and aired “The Five” — 2.7 million viewers were there for it. Some tuned out during “Special Report” at 6, and many more tuned out when Fox resumed trial coverage from 6:30 til 7 — Fox plummeted to 1.2 million viewers. The audience rushed back, of course, for “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” which topped 3 million. But MSNBC and CNN’s average viewership was up above 3 million all afternoon long! The takeaway is clear: Fox’s base rejected the prosecution of Trump. They only wanted to hear the pro-Trump spin…

 >> Thought bubble: I know it never would have happened, but what if the Senate had decided to conduct this trial in the evening, when a prime-time audience might have watched live?

Pulling further apart?

Will that be the primary result of this trial? New tears in the proverbial American fabric? Even more fights between red and blue?

The insurrection shouldn’t be seen as a partisan issue, but it has been, period, full stop. Folks have retreated to their corners. Charges of hypocrisy have flown in all directions. The crimes that will never be forgotten by Trump critics have already been excused, and buried down the memory hole, by Trump loyalists. The terms “Trump critics” and “Trump loyalists” shouldn’t even be a part of this conversation, but… they are.

What happened at the Capitol on January 6? Trump’s war on truth has affected how people answer that question. And it’s pulling people even further apart…

Not worth debating?

Brian Lowry writes: “Twitter spats seldom merit attention, but I think there’s a significant point buried in producer David Simon’s gleefully vulgar exchange with Hugh Hewitt, in which Hewitt offered Simon a chance to come debate on his syndicated radio show. It’s a favorite tactic of Hewitt’s, but buried within Simon’s response was this: Having gone all-in on defending the former president, you no longer have the credibility to be worth debating. This might not be a path to bridging the political divide, but it does send a message that someone like Hewitt – once seen as a fair broker of conservative ideals – has sacrificed that standing in the eyes of many on the left…”

FOR THE RECORD, PART ONE

 — “I’m not sure what, exactly, to call what we have been watching this week: part trial, part documentary film, part constitutional-law seminar, part Facebook video shared by your politics-obsessed cousin,” Susan Glasser writes… (TNY)

 — “Anderson Cooper called out the three Republican senators who met with Donald Trump’s defense attorneys on Thursday, despite being jurors of the trial, noting that ‘the fix is likely in…'” (Mediaite)

 — Instead of leading his hour with the trial news, Tucker launched into a conspiratorial complaint about Jeff Bezos, Max Boot, Nick Kristof, and yours truly… (Twitter)

 — Speaking of stories you won’t hear in MAGA media: “The Capitol assault resulted in one of the worst days of injuries for law enforcement” in the US since 9/11… (NYT)

 — WaPo’s most-read story right now: “Mounting evidence suggests Trump knew of danger to Pence when he attacked him as lacking ‘courage’ amid Capitol siege…” (WaPo)

 — Jonathan Reiner: “The former president’s legal team could literally say nothing tomorrow, offer no defense, and GOP senators would still vote to acquit…” (Twitter)  — The WSJ editorial board’s harsh assessment of Trump: “He might be acquitted, but he won’t live down his disgraceful conduct…” (WSJ)

Trump wants to see more lawyers on TV defending him

Jim Acosta reports: “Trump wants to see more lawyers defending him on television, a source familiar with his thinking said. One of his attorneys, David Schoen, left the Senate in the middle of the impeachment trial to do a live interview on Fox News. Even out of office, Trump has the people working for him performing for the ‘audience of one.’

FRIDAY PLANNER

The trial will resume at noon ET…

The WH press briefing will take place at 12:30 pm…

Friday is the deadline for public input on the Facebook Oversight Board “as it nears a decision” about Trump’s account…Natalie Morales will make her official debut as a “Dateline NBC” correspondent…

Kamala Harris and The 19th*

“In her first national, extended interview since becoming vice president, Kamala Harris sat down with Errin Haines, editor-at-large at The 19th* to discuss her focus on an equitable response to the COVID-19 crisis,” the website said in a press release. Here’s the interview…

FOR THE RECORD, PART TWO

— The deception of the Trump era is still being documented and exposed. The NYT’s Thursday afternoon scoop: “Trump Was Sicker Than Acknowledged With Covid-19…” (NYT)

 — The day’s most hopeful headline: President Biden “declares there will be enough vaccines for 300 million Americans by end of July” (CNN)

 — “On Wednesday, the 7-day average of new doses administered exceeded President Biden’s target for 1.5 million doses per day the first time,” per CNN Health…

 — NBCUniversal is rolling out a new tool “dedicated to helping you plan when and where you can get vaccinated…” (NBC)  — Journalists all across NYC are mourning the sudden death of Katherine Creag, a beloved reporter for News 4 who was “the first face many New Yorkers woke up to every day.” May her memory be a blessing. (WNBC)

Baquet walks back controversial comment

Oliver Darcy writes:Dean Baquet on Thursday walked back a controversial comment he and Joe Kahn made last week in which they said the paper does not ‘tolerate’ the use of racist language ‘regardless of intent.’ At the State of the Times meeting, Baquet said that in their ‘zeal to make a powerful statement about our workplace culture, we ham-handedly said something you rightfully saw as an oversimplification of one of the most difficult issues of our lives.” Baquet called it a ‘deadline mistake’ and expressed regret for it. More in my story here…”

>> Darcy adds: “The comment Baquet and Kahn had made about intent had drawn criticism from external critics, but also from staffers inside NYT who had expressed confusion to me and said that intent and context always matter. These staffers pointed to NYT’s own use of such language in reporting. Baquet nodded to that fact, telling employees racial slurs ‘will no doubt appear in our pages again….'”

Stephens says Sulzberger ‘spiked’ column, but…

Darcy writes:Bret Stephens on Thursday accused AG Sulzberger of having ‘spiked’ a piece he had written about the McNeil departure. In an email to a small group of colleagues, which was first reported by Dylan Byers and which I later obtained, Stephens said he had filed the column Monday, but that it was never published. Opinion editor Kathleen Kingsburyexplained to me over the phone that the paper regularly chooses not to run columns for various reasons. ‘The bar is especially high for columns that could reflect badly on colleagues,’ Kingsbury said. ‘And we decided that this column didn’t reach that bar.’ Kingsbury also pointed out to me that she has previously published and supported Stephens when he has written critically about NYT, including the 1619 Project and his reaction to retracting the Tom Cotton op-ed, but in this case felt his piece wasn’t quite there…”

A call for coverage

An Phung emails: “A number of celebrities and activists of Asian descent have taken to social media to condemn the spate of anti-Asian violence around the country, a trend that took root at the start of the pandemic and was reinforced by Trump’s hateful language. A thread that runs through the commentary: The glaring lack of attention from the national media. Amanda Nguyen said it. Daniel Dae Kim touched on it. Gemma Chan pleaded for media attention.

Phung adds: “A few high-profile incidents caught on camera that rippled through social media in recent weeks showed perpetrators targeting elderly people. This detail gets to the heart of why celebrities are wielding their powerful platforms: “Our elderlies won’t speak up to report these crimes so we have to do it,” said comedian David So, citing language and cultural barriers. On Thursday, the Asian American Journalists Association weighed in, calling on the national media to ‘prioritize coverage of this ongoing violence against AAPIs, and to empower their journalists to report on these incidents immediately, accurately and comprehensively.’ Indeed, coverage of the latest wave of violence was scant at the start of this week — but the media has since picked up the pace. Some credit goes to Nguyen for her powerful plea for media attention in a video that caught the eye of celebrities, journalists and lawmakers. Catch up with CNN, The Cut, or NPR for the latest on this troubling trend.”

FOR THE RECORD, PART THREE

— “In an apparent tit for tat move, BBC World News has been banned from airing in China,” one week after China Global Television Network was blocked in the UK… (CNN)

 — State Department spox Ned Price condemned the BBC blockade and said “it’s troubling that as the PRC restricts outlets and platforms from operating freely in China, Beijing’s leaders use free and open media environments overseas to promote misinfo…” (Reuters)

 — “Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, has won a privacy claim in her case against a tabloid newspaper,” the Mail on Sunday, “that published a handwritten letter to her estranged father, Thomas Markle…” (CNN)

 — David Folkenflik is out with a new story about the Trump-era VOA and about the lives that were upended… (NPR)

 — Via Brian Fung: Twitter has permanently banned an account belonging to Project Veritas (and temporarily locked James O’Keefe’s account) for repeated violations of the company’s anti-doxxing policies… (CNN)  

— New and compelling from Donie O’Sullivan and company: “Two women tell us how their parents began following QAnon and how it is tearing their families apart.” The extended 11-minute story is up on YouTube… (CNN)

A Valentine edition of the RS podcast

My better half, NY1 host Jamie Stelter, took over the “Reliable Sources” podcast for a Valentine-themed episode. She gathered questions via social media and asked me about everything from work habits (I’m a huge procrastinator) to “love language” to local news. A special guest makes an appearance at the end of the conversation. Hint: We taped this during afternoon nap time, or at least, we thought we did. Listen in via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, or your favorite pod app…

Microsoft calls for laws forcing Big Tech to share revenue with news outlets

CNN’s Brian Fung writes:Microsoft is calling for new laws, including in the US, designed to force tech platforms to share more advertising revenue with news publishers. It is a direct assault on Facebook and Google, who have protested such a proposal currently under consideration in Australia and, increasingly, in Europe. And it reflects Microsoft’s eagerness to challenge the reigning kings of digital advertising in markets where doing so could provide a convenient boost to Microsoft’s own bottom line.”

 >> Microsoft prez Brad Smith spoke with the NYT’s Cecilia Kang about his push…  >> Bloomberg’s Dina Bass has much more here…

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Brian Stelter here at 10:40pm ET Thursday with the latest on BBC News, Dean Baquet, Medium, Microsoft, Bloomberg, Disney, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Issa Rae, and much more…

Those empty seats in the Senate chamber on Thursday? They are emblematic of the public’s reaction to the second Trump impeachment trial.

If you’ve been glued to every minute of the trial, or even just half-watching the proceedings, then you’re part of a special club. You’re learning the full story of the crimes that were committed at the Capitol on January 6. But you are much more plugged-in than the average American adult.

Insert Ads Here

The Nielsen TV ratings for the first two days of trial coverage show that only a sliver of the public is watching at any given time. The ratings for CNN and MSNBC are way up — and the ratings for Fox News are much weaker. Some people are also watching coverage via the broadcast networks, but not in huge numbers.

The bottom line: News junkies are gripped by emotional presentations, but a vast swath of the nation is not. More casual news consumers are catching the coverage in bits and pieces, by watching clips of the Democratic presentation on news websites or YouTube, or by scanning summaries by partisan outlets. This is far, far from one of those “drop what you’re doing and watch” moments in America.

What the numbers tell us

On Tuesday afternoon an average of 11 million viewers watched the opening arguments across MSNBC, CNN, Fox, ABC and CBS. (NBC, PBS and other outlets also aired live coverage but I don’t have exact data for those channels.) On Wednesday afternoon the same five channels averaged 12.4 million viewers. This is an average, which means people came and went the whole time, and the cumulative audience was much higher. But given that nearly 210 million adults live in the US, you might conclude that many folks think they know how this story ends, so they’re not bothering to watch…

 >> However: Trump’s second trial IS drawing a larger average audience than the first trial, the NYT’s John Koblin points out…

 >> On Wednesday CNN was #1 overall in the 25-54 demo while MSNBC prevailed among total viewers…

 >> Online, the streaming audience was smaller, but still significant. CNN Digital’s traffic on Tuesday and Wednesday surpassed the equivalent days for the 2019 House Impeachment Hearings and the 2020 Senate Impeachment Trial…

Fox viewers don’t want to see Democratic arguments

Fox News ended Wednesday morning with 1.4 million viewers. Then the trial began, and so did Fox’s ratings slide. Fox bottomed out at 1 million in the 3pm hour, though the audience levels noticeably ticked up during a break in the trial at 1:39pm, when Fox’s Trump-friendly analysis of the trial brought some viewers back. The audience came back in a big way at 5 p.m. when Fox cut away from the Senate chamber and aired “The Five” — 2.7 million viewers were there for it. Some tuned out during “Special Report” at 6, and many more tuned out when Fox resumed trial coverage from 6:30 til 7 — Fox plummeted to 1.2 million viewers. The audience rushed back, of course, for “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” which topped 3 million. But MSNBC and CNN’s average viewership was up above 3 million all afternoon long! The takeaway is clear: Fox’s base rejected the prosecution of Trump. They only wanted to hear the pro-Trump spin…

 >> Thought bubble: I know it never would have happened, but what if the Senate had decided to conduct this trial in the evening, when a prime-time audience might have watched live?

Pulling further apart?

Will that be the primary result of this trial? New tears in the proverbial American fabric? Even more fights between red and blue?

The insurrection shouldn’t be seen as a partisan issue, but it has been, period, full stop. Folks have retreated to their corners. Charges of hypocrisy have flown in all directions. The crimes that will never be forgotten by Trump critics have already been excused, and buried down the memory hole, by Trump loyalists. The terms “Trump critics” and “Trump loyalists” shouldn’t even be a part of this conversation, but… they are.

What happened at the Capitol on January 6? Trump’s war on truth has affected how people answer that question. And it’s pulling people even further apart…

Not worth debating?

Brian Lowry writes: “Twitter spats seldom merit attention, but I think there’s a significant point buried in producer David Simon’s gleefully vulgar exchange with Hugh Hewitt, in which Hewitt offered Simon a chance to come debate on his syndicated radio show. It’s a favorite tactic of Hewitt’s, but buried within Simon’s response was this: Having gone all-in on defending the former president, you no longer have the credibility to be worth debating. This might not be a path to bridging the political divide, but it does send a message that someone like Hewitt – once seen as a fair broker of conservative ideals – has sacrificed that standing in the eyes of many on the left…”

FOR THE RECORD, PART ONE

 — “I’m not sure what, exactly, to call what we have been watching this week: part trial, part documentary film, part constitutional-law seminar, part Facebook video shared by your politics-obsessed cousin,” Susan Glasser writes… (TNY)

 — “Anderson Cooper called out the three Republican senators who met with Donald Trump’s defense attorneys on Thursday, despite being jurors of the trial, noting that ‘the fix is likely in…'” (Mediaite)

 — Instead of leading his hour with the trial news, Tucker launched into a conspiratorial complaint about Jeff Bezos, Max Boot, Nick Kristof, and yours truly… (Twitter)

 — Speaking of stories you won’t hear in MAGA media: “The Capitol assault resulted in one of the worst days of injuries for law enforcement” in the US since 9/11… (NYT)

 — WaPo’s most-read story right now: “Mounting evidence suggests Trump knew of danger to Pence when he attacked him as lacking ‘courage’ amid Capitol siege…” (WaPo)

 — Jonathan Reiner: “The former president’s legal team could literally say nothing tomorrow, offer no defense, and GOP senators would still vote to acquit…” (Twitter)  — The WSJ editorial board’s harsh assessment of Trump: “He might be acquitted, but he won’t live down his disgraceful conduct…” (WSJ)

Trump wants to see more lawyers on TV defending him

Jim Acosta reports: “Trump wants to see more lawyers defending him on television, a source familiar with his thinking said. One of his attorneys, David Schoen, left the Senate in the middle of the impeachment trial to do a live interview on Fox News. Even out of office, Trump has the people working for him performing for the ‘audience of one.’

FRIDAY PLANNER

The trial will resume at noon ET…

The WH press briefing will take place at 12:30 pm…

Friday is the deadline for public input on the Facebook Oversight Board “as it nears a decision” about Trump’s account…Natalie Morales will make her official debut as a “Dateline NBC” correspondent…

Kamala Harris and The 19th*

“In her first national, extended interview since becoming vice president, Kamala Harris sat down with Errin Haines, editor-at-large at The 19th* to discuss her focus on an equitable response to the COVID-19 crisis,” the website said in a press release. Here’s the interview…

FOR THE RECORD, PART TWO

— The deception of the Trump era is still being documented and exposed. The NYT’s Thursday afternoon scoop: “Trump Was Sicker Than Acknowledged With Covid-19…” (NYT)

 — The day’s most hopeful headline: President Biden “declares there will be enough vaccines for 300 million Americans by end of July” (CNN)

 — “On Wednesday, the 7-day average of new doses administered exceeded President Biden’s target for 1.5 million doses per day the first time,” per CNN Health…

 — NBCUniversal is rolling out a new tool “dedicated to helping you plan when and where you can get vaccinated…” (NBC)  — Journalists all across NYC are mourning the sudden death of Katherine Creag, a beloved reporter for News 4 who was “the first face many New Yorkers woke up to every day.” May her memory be a blessing. (WNBC)

Baquet walks back controversial comment

Oliver Darcy writes:Dean Baquet on Thursday walked back a controversial comment he and Joe Kahn made last week in which they said the paper does not ‘tolerate’ the use of racist language ‘regardless of intent.’ At the State of the Times meeting, Baquet said that in their ‘zeal to make a powerful statement about our workplace culture, we ham-handedly said something you rightfully saw as an oversimplification of one of the most difficult issues of our lives.” Baquet called it a ‘deadline mistake’ and expressed regret for it. More in my story here…”

>> Darcy adds: “The comment Baquet and Kahn had made about intent had drawn criticism from external critics, but also from staffers inside NYT who had expressed confusion to me and said that intent and context always matter. These staffers pointed to NYT’s own use of such language in reporting. Baquet nodded to that fact, telling employees racial slurs ‘will no doubt appear in our pages again….'”

Stephens says Sulzberger ‘spiked’ column, but…

Darcy writes:Bret Stephens on Thursday accused AG Sulzberger of having ‘spiked’ a piece he had written about the McNeil departure. In an email to a small group of colleagues, which was first reported by Dylan Byers and which I later obtained, Stephens said he had filed the column Monday, but that it was never published. Opinion editor Kathleen Kingsburyexplained to me over the phone that the paper regularly chooses not to run columns for various reasons. ‘The bar is especially high for columns that could reflect badly on colleagues,’ Kingsbury said. ‘And we decided that this column didn’t reach that bar.’ Kingsbury also pointed out to me that she has previously published and supported Stephens when he has written critically about NYT, including the 1619 Project and his reaction to retracting the Tom Cotton op-ed, but in this case felt his piece wasn’t quite there…”

A call for coverage

An Phung emails: “A number of celebrities and activists of Asian descent have taken to social media to condemn the spate of anti-Asian violence around the country, a trend that took root at the start of the pandemic and was reinforced by Trump’s hateful language. A thread that runs through the commentary: The glaring lack of attention from the national media. Amanda Nguyen said it. Daniel Dae Kim touched on it. Gemma Chan pleaded for media attention.

Phung adds: “A few high-profile incidents caught on camera that rippled through social media in recent weeks showed perpetrators targeting elderly people. This detail gets to the heart of why celebrities are wielding their powerful platforms: “Our elderlies won’t speak up to report these crimes so we have to do it,” said comedian David So, citing language and cultural barriers. On Thursday, the Asian American Journalists Association weighed in, calling on the national media to ‘prioritize coverage of this ongoing violence against AAPIs, and to empower their journalists to report on these incidents immediately, accurately and comprehensively.’ Indeed, coverage of the latest wave of violence was scant at the start of this week — but the media has since picked up the pace. Some credit goes to Nguyen for her powerful plea for media attention in a video that caught the eye of celebrities, journalists and lawmakers. Catch up with CNN, The Cut, or NPR for the latest on this troubling trend.”

FOR THE RECORD, PART THREE

— “In an apparent tit for tat move, BBC World News has been banned from airing in China,” one week after China Global Television Network was blocked in the UK… (CNN)

 — State Department spox Ned Price condemned the BBC blockade and said “it’s troubling that as the PRC restricts outlets and platforms from operating freely in China, Beijing’s leaders use free and open media environments overseas to promote misinfo…” (Reuters)

 — “Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, has won a privacy claim in her case against a tabloid newspaper,” the Mail on Sunday, “that published a handwritten letter to her estranged father, Thomas Markle…” (CNN)

 — David Folkenflik is out with a new story about the Trump-era VOA and about the lives that were upended… (NPR)

 — Via Brian Fung: Twitter has permanently banned an account belonging to Project Veritas (and temporarily locked James O’Keefe’s account) for repeated violations of the company’s anti-doxxing policies… (CNN)  

— New and compelling from Donie O’Sullivan and company: “Two women tell us how their parents began following QAnon and how it is tearing their families apart.” The extended 11-minute story is up on YouTube… (CNN)

A Valentine edition of the RS podcast

My better half, NY1 host Jamie Stelter, took over the “Reliable Sources” podcast for a Valentine-themed episode. She gathered questions via social media and asked me about everything from work habits (I’m a huge procrastinator) to “love language” to local news. A special guest makes an appearance at the end of the conversation. Hint: We taped this during afternoon nap time, or at least, we thought we did. Listen in via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, or your favorite pod app…

Microsoft calls for laws forcing Big Tech to share revenue with news outlets

CNN’s Brian Fung writes:Microsoft is calling for new laws, including in the US, designed to force tech platforms to share more advertising revenue with news publishers. It is a direct assault on Facebook and Google, who have protested such a proposal currently under consideration in Australia and, increasingly, in Europe. And it reflects Microsoft’s eagerness to challenge the reigning kings of digital advertising in markets where doing so could provide a convenient boost to Microsoft’s own bottom line.”

 >> Microsoft prez Brad Smith spoke with the NYT’s Cecilia Kang about his push…  >> Bloomberg’s Dina Bass has much more here…