March 25, 2024

โ˜€๏ธ Hello, Monday! Smart Brevityโ„ข count: 1,792 words ... 6ยฝ mins. Thanks to Erica Pandey for orchestrating. Copy edited by Carolyn DiPaolo.

1 big thing โ€” Behind the Curtain: Media shatters

Illustration: Axios Visuals

You can't understand November's election โ€” or America itself โ€” without reckoning with how our media attention has shattered into a bunch of misshapen pieces, Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen write.

  • Think of it as the shards of glass phenomenon. Not long ago, we all saw news and information through a few common windows โ€” TV, newspapers, cable. Now we find it in scattered chunks that match our age, habits, politics and passions.

Why it matters: Traditional media, at least as a center of dominant power, is dead. Social media, as its replacement for news in the internet era, is declining in dominance.

What comes next: America is splintering into more than a dozen news bubbles based on ideology, wealth, jobs, age and location.

  • This means where you get your news, the voices you trust, and even the topics and cultural figures you follow could be wholly different from the person sitting next to you.
  • So instead of Red America and Blue America, we'll have a dozen or more Americas โ€” and realities. This will make understanding public opinion, and finding common agreement, even more complex and elusive.

To help get your head around this shift, we'll generalize in describing some of today's most powerful bubbles (which are of widely varying sizes). We talked to influencers left, right and center; media executives; political operatives; C-suite executives; and more. What we found:

  1. The Musk-eteers: This is a fast-growing, mostly male group who feed off Twitter, podcasts (especially "All-In" and Joe Rogan), and follow independent reporters, led by Bari Weiss, through social media or newsletters.
  2. Instagrammers: This is mostly young to middle-aged women in college and the professional class. They're very engaged with this more visual form of journalism and gravitate toward influential voices in the creator economy โ€” including Jessica Yellin (News Not Noise), Betches News, Emily in Your Phone (former Democratic strategist Emily Amick) and Sharon Says So (Sharon McMahon, an educator who does history and civics explainers).
  3. TikTok kids: This is where most kids get most of their information about the world and hot news topics. They scroll, fast and furious, through pictures and microbursts of information โ€” and trust people most parents have never heard of. Think MrBeast, Addison Rae and Zach King.
  4. New-age grandmas: Consumers of news on Facebook have been trending older. Yes, Facebook has deliberately deemphasized news over the past three years, emphasizing what Meta global affairs president Nick Clegg calls "babies, barbecues and bar mitzvahs." But a lot remains.
  5. Right-wing grandpas: Senior citizens, especially men, still flock to Fox News โ€” especially in prime time, and especially around popular personalities. They would have been big Rush Limbaugh fans back in the '90s.
  6. MAGA mind melders: The new conservative news ecosystem would seem like a distant planet to anyone whose habits were formed pre-Trump. People like Charlie Kirk (massive because he's multiplatform), Jack Posobiec and Mike Cernovich are dominant voices. Then there are folks who are taken seriously only in Trumpworld (Laura Loomer, Alex Bruesewitz), but can really move the needle there. No one rivals Tucker Carlson with the base, even without his Fox News platform. Don Jr. is second, with his massive X, Facebook and Instagram engagement. "He's the meme lord of the right," a MAGA insider told us. Steve Bannon's WarRoom remains a juggernaut. Breitbart's Matt Boyle is a go-to newsbreaker on the right. Plus there's a potent crew of video clip guys.

Read on for 6 more shards.

2. ๐Ÿ”Ž Abortions rise post-Roe

Data: Guttmacher Institute. Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Guttmacher Institute. Chart: Axios Visuals

Eliminating the federal right to abortion surprisingly hasn't reversed a yearslong rise in the number of legal abortions in the U.S.

  • The number of abortions had steadily dropped since the early 1990s. But it started ticking up in 2019, and surpassed 1 million last year for the first time in over a decade, Axios' Caitlin Owens writes from an analysis by the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights think tank.

Women's health experts who expected a rapid drop-off in abortion numbers post-Roe said it's not entirely clear why they've continued to rise. But expanded access to the abortion drug mifepristone is seen as a major factor.

  • Medication abortion accounted for 63% of abortions last year, up from 53% in 2020, per Guttmacher.

๐Ÿ›๏ธ What to watch: In a case the Supreme Court will hear tomorrow, the justices will consider rolling back federal policies that made it easier to access mifepristone.

3. ๐Ÿ’ฐ Scoop: J.D. Vance is new GOP money magnet

An ad for a J.D. Vance fundraiser
J.D. Vance. Photo: Valerie Plesch/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) was quietly the driving force behind fundraising that helped propel Bernie Moreno to a commanding win in Ohio's GOP Senate primary last week, officials involved in the race tell me.

Why it matters: GOP insiders say Vance, 39, who's on former President Trump's shortlist for vice president, is building a national profile that's turning heads among major donors.

Organizers say Vance, a freshman senator who wrote the bestselling "Hillbilly Elegy," was responsible for more than $1 million in donations to Buckeye Values, the super PAC backing Moreno.

  • That includes $500,000 raised in 24 hours to help fund a rally Trump held with Moreno three days before the primary. The PAC raised $2.8 million for the primary.

Behind the scenes: Vance worked the phones with big donors, teeing up PAC leaders to close the deals. "It became a running joke how many times we heard 'JD sent me' from donors both in Ohio and around the country," said Cliff Sims, who co-led Buckeye Values PAC.

Zoom in: I'm told Vance helped facilitate a $93,400 donation to Moreno from Purple Good Government PAC, which is funded by Silicon Valley founder and investor David Sacks โ€” a star of "The All-In Podcast." Sacks has become a bridge between Silicon Valley wealth and Republican politicians.

  • Vance also was influential with one of the heaviest hitters in politics โ€”ย Steve Schwarzman, the billionaire founder and CEO of Blackstone Group who's a bellwether among top GOP donors. Schwarzman gave $375,000 to the Moreno super PAC.

Keep reading.

4. ๐ŸŒŒ Lights out

Two photos of the Eiffel Tower, lit up and dark
The Eiffel Tower in Paris. Photo: Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images

Countries around the world joined in the Earth Hour environmental campaign by going dark from 8:30 to 9:30pm in their local time zones Saturday.

  • Why it matters: The UN says "Lights Off" is the "largest global environment movement," as "millions of people around the world switch off the lights to shine a light on the plight of our planet."
Two photos show the same tomb, lit up and dark
Photo: Mayank Makhija/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Above: The Safdarjung Tomb in New Delhi.

5. ๐Ÿ—ณ๏ธ Biden mobilizes against RFK

RFJ Jr. hikes with his dogs in the Santa Monica Mountains
RFJ Jr. hikes with his dogs in the Santa Monica Mountains on March 18. Photo: Mike Blake/Reuters

President Biden's team is so worried about independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that Democrats are building an entire operation dedicated to attacking him, Axios' Sophia Cai reports.

  • Why it matters: RFK, a spry 70, is polling better than any independent candidate since Ross Perot in 1992.

๐Ÿงฎ By the numbers: Trump's 2016 margin of victory over Hillary Clinton in three key states โ€” Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin โ€” was smaller than the total number of votes that Green Party candidate Jill Stein won in them.

So Biden's campaign and the DNC have dedicated a team of staffers and consultants to try to diminish Kennedy.

6. ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ Putin weaknesses exposed

Putin
Putin addresses Russians in a speech televised from Moscow. Photo: Kremlin Press Office/Anadolu via Getty Images

For a president who emerged from the security services and for whom restoring stability and security to Russia is central to his czar-like image, Vladimir Putin's recent record is glaringly weak, Axios' Dave Lawler writes.

  • First, the failed offensive on Kyiv laid bare Russia's military shortcomings.
  • Then, in a mutiny led by oligarch-turned-mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, troops and tanks shockingly moved on Moscow.
  • Now Russia's worst terror attack in 20 years has killed at least 137 people. And it seems Washington saw it coming.

๐Ÿ‘“ Reality check: While some commentators saw the attacks as an example of Putin's loss of control inside Russia, there's little evidence his hold on high-level politics is slipping.

The bottom line: In times of turmoil, Putin has repeatedly proved capable of rallying Russians around the flag and against external foes.

7. ๐ŸฅŠ NBC uproar over Ronna McDaniel

Screenshot of a TV interview
Kristen Welker interviews Ronna McDaniel yesterday. Screenshot: NBC News

NBC News and MSNBC are in an uproar over the hiring of former RNC chair Ronna McDaniel as a political analyst, which took top journalists at the network by surprise when it was announced Friday.

  • In a rare on-air protest, Chuck Todd โ€” one of the most recognizable faces of NBC News โ€” said on "Meet the Press" yesterday that McDaniel has "credibility issues that she still has to deal with."

Why it matters: With former President Trump as the presumptive Republican nominee, networks are trying to reflect the MAGA perspective without giving a platform to election deniers.

"I think our bosses owe you an apology for putting you in this situation," Todd told moderator Kristen Welker as the roundtable began after she grilled McDaniel in the previous segment.

  • Todd said a lot of NBC journalists are "uncomfortable with this because many of our professional dealings with the RNC over the last six years have been met with gaslighting, have been met with character assassination."

Friday's announcement said McDaniel, who left her RNC post on March 8 under pressure from Trump, "will contribute her expert insight and analysis on American politics and the 2024 election across all NBC News platforms."

  • "It couldn't be a more important moment to have a voice like Ronna's on the team," said Carrieย Budoff Brown, NBC News SVP of Politics.

๐Ÿ‘‚ What we're hearing: The view of NBC News executives is that McDaniel is one voice among dozens of contributors, and that the network can't ignore the views of a significant part of the country.

๐Ÿ‘€ Behind the scenes: MSNBC President Rashida Jones made the rounds of anchors and producers and reassured them that they have editorial independence to decide who they book, a network source says.

During the "Meet" interview, scheduled before McDaniel's hiring was announced, she said President Biden won "fair and square" โ€” a reversal of what she told CNN's Chris Wallace last year: "I don't think he won it fair."

8. ๐Ÿ• 1 fun thing: Pups get red carpet

A man and a goldendoodle
Sam and Steve. Photo: Holly Andres for The New York Times

Belly rub tuck-ins, blueberry facials, private patios and bone-shaped swimming pools are some of the perks Sam Apple noticed when staying at a string of luxury dog hotels with his goldendoodle, Steve.

  • "It's not just the hotels. There are now dog bakeries and ice cream parlors and social clubs. ... A lot of these things probably started as jokes, but such gestures have a way of outliving their origins," Apple writes for The New York Times Magazine.
  • "At some point, throwing birthday parties for our dogs and buying them Valentine's Day gifts went from being something we did to be funny to something we just did."

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