The theory as to why Paramount ‘laid off’ journalist Catherine Herridge

I’m not one for conspiracy theories.

In fact, I shoot them down all the time when I’m bombarded with claims that sinister forces on Wall Street are conspiring to screw small investors.

Such “rip-offs” are easily explained away with logic and a modest understanding of how markets work. 

One such theory making the rounds deserves some attention because the implications, if true, are so scary.

It involves the wonky circumstances surrounding the recent termination of journalist Catherine Herridge from CBS News. 

Herridge is a longtime investigative reporter who has been a constant thorn in the side of the Biden administration.

Here’s why some people are connecting the proverbial conspiracy dots: Sidelining Herridge might just get the Wall Street-phobic Biden merger cops to approve Paramount’s sale to a bigger media company. 

Again, I hate conspiracy theories, and I’m not anywhere close to being sure this one has any merit; Herridge was one of 800 people (including 20 journalists) recently let go from the struggling media conglomerate, owner of CBS, MTV, Paramount Pictures, Comedy Central, etc.

Catherine Herridge at the Paramount White House Correspondent’s Dinner After Party. Nathan Posner/Shutterstock

Media executives have described much of Paramount’s programming as “melting ice cubes,” industry slang for programs rapidly losing audience share because of irrelevance and cord-cutting.

The company is under intense pressure to downsize. 

That’s why Paramount is looking for a savior.

Shares are down 77% over the past five years.

A weak advertising market and the need to squeeze costs for a planned sale adds to the pressure to cut staffing.

Yet a deal should be a layup given the quality of some of Paramount’s assets (it does control a major studio and CBS).

President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden
Most recently, Herridge has been reporting critically on the Biden administration, the president’s weak mental acuity as displayed in a special-counsel report and the Hunter Biden imbroglio. AP

Plus, its market cap is just $7.6 billion.

It can easily be absorbed into any large media or tech outfit looking for content. 

So what’s holding it up?

Larger potential suitors (think Comcast, Discovery, Apple or Amazon) are either hesitating or staying away because they don’t believe the Biden administration will approve any merger, my deal sources say.

Smaller players will also face intense scrutiny since the Biden FCC, DOJ and FTC simply hate media properties changing hands. 

Put aside the idiocy of Biden’s deal-hating agenda for a moment, and let’s return to the curious case of Catherine Herridge.

(Full disclosure: Herridge and I crossed paths a few years back when she worked for Fox News, my employer. She left in 2019 to take the post of senior investigative correspondent for CBS. I don’t know her well, but I am an admirer of her work.) 

After she left Fox in 2019, Herridge picked up where she left off, breaking stories without fear or favor.

Most recently, she’s reporting critically on the Biden administration, the president’s weak mental acuity as displayed in a special-counsel report and the Hunter Biden imbroglio.

Not exactly stuff that endears a reporter to the Biden White House during an election year. 

I am well aware that journalism has always been a rough business made more difficult by the Internet, which first commoditized print media, and is now doing the same to broadcasting.

Money to pay talent is getting scarce.

Herridge, meanwhile, continues to rebuff a court order to turn over her sources on a story she did about a Chinese American scientist under federal investigation. 

Good at her job 

That said, Herridge’s defenestration was suspiciously odd.

She was both very good at her job and one of the few reporters in mainstream media who doesn’t do a woke calculus every time she does a story, which means she offered something that CBS really doesn’t have and is scarce throughout mainstream media: fair and balanced reporting. 

Now consider the way she was ousted.

Most people when they are told to leave do so by getting a chance to clean out their desks and take their work product with them. 

Apparently not Herridge.

According to a column written by George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley in The Hill, “The network grabbed Herridge’s notes and files and informed her that it would decide what, if anything, would be turned over to her. The files likely contain confidential material from both her stints at Fox and CBS.” 

And information the Biden administration might not want to be made public as Sleepy Joe tries to win a second term. 

Yes, it all seems like a bit of a stretch, but there is precedent.

Back in 1995, CBS initially pulled a “60 Minutes” interview that featured tobacco-company whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand, ratting out his old company, Brown & Williamson, for allegedly spiking its cigarettes with chemicals that enhanced the effects of nicotine, the addictive substance in those cancer sticks. 

The decision wasn’t made on journalistic grounds, it turns out.

The suits decided to kill the interview as they were negotiating shareholder and other approvals for their $5.4 billion sale to Westinghouse Corp.

They feared a lawsuit from the tobacco giant would upend the deal. 

Back then it was considered a low point for a network known for its journalistic chops, the home of the great Edward R Murrow.

As The New York Times opined in an editorial: “Some of the executives who helped kill the ‘60 Minutes’ interview, including the general counsel, stand to gain millions of dollars themselves in stock options and other payments once the deal is approved.” 

CBS denied money was at issue, and “60 Minutes” ultimately aired the Wigand interview; a Vanity Fair piece on Wigand followed, as did a hit movie starring Russell Crowe. 

We’re not at the movie-making level just yet, of course.

Following news of the files incident, CBS says it’s “prepared to pack up the rest of her files immediately on her behalf . . . the office she occupied has remained secure since her departure,” but stay tuned. 

Reps for Herridge, Paramount and the White House declined to comment.

Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button