By Michael Calderone | 10/12/2017 05:39 AM EDT

"FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, including for speech and the media - even speech which some find controversial or uncomfortable - strengthens democracy and needs to be protected. More voices, not fewer, are necessary in challenging times."

-- That's how the State Department responded Wednesday to a Turkish court sentencing Wall Street Journal reporter Ayla Albayrak to prison for her reporting on a Kurdish separatist group. Turkey argues it's fighting the spread of terrorist propaganda, while the State Dept. sees an apparent effort "to discourage viewpoints critical of the Turkish government."

-- "It's frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write, and people should look into it" is how the president of the United States responded to critical coverage of his government about 90 minutes later.

-- Beyond blasting so-called "fake news," Trump has been musing more lately about ways the government can limit press freedom. Trump suggested last week that senators investigate news outlets and he issued a (likely empty) threat Wednesday that NBC lose its broadcasting license. He broadened the attack at night, tweeting that "network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked."

-- National Press Club president Jeff Ballou responded that "threatening journalists for doing their job undermines the Constitution." And such anti-press rhetoric, said media law professor Jonathan Peters, also "undermines U.S. credibility" in statements like that issued by the State Dept. Indeed, calls for other countries to honor democratic ideals ring hollow when the president of the United States shows little reverence for them.

Good morning and welcome to Morning Media. You can reach me at mcalderone@politico.com and @mlcalderone. Morning Media is edited by Alex Weprin (@alexweprin), with contributions from Daniel Lippman (@dlippman) and Jason Schwartz ( @JasonSchwartz) Archives. Subscribe.

NBC NEWS PRESIDENT NOAH OPPENHEIM, facing criticism over the network losing Ronan Farrow's explosive Harvey Weinstein story to The New Yorker, told network staffers Wednesday that "the notion that we would try to cover for a powerful person is deeply offensive to all of us." From my story:

-- Oppenheim said NBC "launched" Farrow on the Weinstein story, "encouraged him" to pursue it, "and supported him and gave him resources to report that story over many, many months....This past summer, he said, management "didn't feel that we had all the elements that we needed to air it" and Farrow - who no longer works at the network on an exclusive basis - "very understandably wanted to keep forging ahead." At The New Yorker, Oppenheim said, Farrow did "a ton more extraordinary work" and "greatly expanded the scope of his reporting."

-- Still, it's unclear why NBC, in possession of clearly newsworthy NYPD tape in which Weinstein admits to groping a woman, didn't use it. Farrow has he left 30 Rock with "an explosively reportable piece" that The New Yorker recognized immediately as worth pursuing.

-- More questions arise in a deep HuffPost look published Wednesday night, including whether the fact that Woody Allen is Farrow's father played a role: "According to multiple sources inside and outside of NBC News who worked on the aborted story, Oppenheim related to Farrow what Weinstein's lawyers had said in complaint to NBC: that Farrow had a conflict of interest because Weinstein had helped revive the career of Farrow's estranged father, director Woody Allen. Weinstein's representatives would later use a similar line of attack when the story landed at The New Yorker. The magazine, known for its rigorous vetting process, saw no conflict of interest."

** A paid message from Nicole Malliotakis for NYC Mayor: As the the New York Times editorial page highlighted earlier this year: Bill de Blasio has problems with the press, and he doesn't want you asking about them. It is time for a change in New York City. Meet Nicole Malliotakis. **


BEHIND THE TIMES' WEINSTEIN SCOOP: Reporter Jodi Kantor talks to Slate's Isaac Chotiner: "Megan Twohey and I had a version of one of those journalistic 'aha' moments where you have been putting all these puzzle pieces together and then you begin to grasp that there is a larger mechanism that you are looking at. What we became convinced of, and then very committed to documenting, was that this wasn't a case of a producer hitting on some women at a bar, right? This was much more organized than that."

CONGRATS: The Washington Post's Souad Mekhennet has won the Daniel Pearl Award. And New York Times magazine writer Nikole Hannah-Jones has won a MacArthur Genius Grant.

TRUMP'S AVOIDING ADVERSARIAL INTERVIEWS: A media nugget from Gabe Sherman's ominous Vanity Fair piece on the state of the Trump White House: "West Wing aides have also worried about Trump's public appearances, one Trump adviser told me. The adviser said aides were relieved when Trump canceled his appearance on the season premiere of 60 Minutes last month. 'He's lost a step. They don't want him doing adversarial TV interviews,' the adviser explained."

BUT HE IS TALKING TO HANNITY (ON AND OFF AIR): Noah Bierman, Cathleen Decker, and Brian Bennett in the LA Times: "'The president has started to call people more on the weekends, from the cellphone, which he didn't used to do,' the person said, noting that Trump often calls Hannity after the Fox News host's nightly show."

SOUND BITE: "The attack by Trump on the First Amendment today is likely the most Un American sentiment ever uttered by a POTUS. Can't think of another" [Steve Schmidt]

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN talked to Daniel Lippman about the genesis of her forthcoming book, "Everything You Need to Know about Social Media (Without Having to Call A Kid)": "I had the first anchor-blog in 2003, GretaWire, and I thought I knew everything about social media. Then about a year and a half ago, I asked one of my 25 year-old nieces a question about Snapchat, and she said 'seriously?' Then I realized I didn't know much about social media and started researching and writing the book."

MIKE ALLEN TO QUESTION SHERYL SANDBERG: Jason Schwartz writes: Axios and Facebook launch a new partnership at 9 a.m. this morning, when the insidery media outlet's co-founder, Mike Allen, interviews Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in Washington. The interview, which will be streamed on both Axios and Facebook, is part of a series aimed at expanding Facebook's "Hard Questions" blog, where it publishes its positions on some of the more difficult issues the company faces, like the Russian ads bought during the presidential campaign.

-- No money is being exchanged as part of the partnership, both Axios and Facebook spokespeople said. "This exclusive interview is purely editorial. Axios, of course, retains 100% control of content and questions," said Axios spokesperson Molly Mitchell. Reps for both companies said it was too soon to say how long the series may run or who else may be featured.

ESPN PUBLIC EDITOR 'BIT PERPLEXED' BY JEMELE HILL SUSPENSION: Jim Brady writes: "It's not the job of Hill -- or any other ESPN journalist, for that matter -- to concern herself with the network's business relationships. In fact, the separation of "church and state" is a longstanding core concept in any news organization worth its salt. So it shouldn't matter whether Hill's comments put ESPN in a bad position with the NFL, any more than with the network's excellent reporting on concussions that has done the same."

AND BACK IN BRISTOL: Vanity Fair's Joe Pompeo writes: "The suspension, several insiders told me, has also contributed to a sense of confusion, and frustration, over ESPN's social-media guidelines. ESPN has oscillated from an early practice of discouraging reporters from tweeting at sporting events, to later embracing Twitter, expecting its journalists to be active on the platform and including their Twitter handles in live shots. If an ESPN journalist fires off a tweet that picks up heat or seems controversial, he or she may be asked to "lay low" for a day or two, said one person who's been in that very situation."

SANDERS VS. CRUZ: CNN's next town hall debate will be Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz squaring off with Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders over tax policy on Oct. 18.

EXTRAS:

-- New York Times lawyers took issue with BuzzFeed show slogan "All the news too lit for print."

-- Jake Tapper shows the president the Constitution.

-- The U.S. men's soccer loss is a "disaster" for Fox Sports.

-- Greg Gianforte's mugshot stemming from assault on journalist.

-- The Trump era has not been good for Jimmy Fallon.

KICKER:

"Journalistic institutions like these are rare and the times, the economic and political times, have made them fragile and essential at the same time. The stakes are very high." -- New Yorker editor David Remnick to The Times' Jim Rutenberg.

** A paid message from Nicole Malliotakis for NYC Mayor: We have a problem in the five boroughs: New York City reporters and voters can't seem to get the Mayor's attention. So we figured we would go where Bill de Blasio and his staff tend to be focused: The DC Beltway press. It is time for a change in New York City. Meet Nicole Malliotakis. **

To view online:
http://www.politico.com/media/tipsheets/morning-media/2017/10/12/trump-wants-to-look-into-free-press-nbc-prez-defends-handling-of-weinstein-story-calling-hannity-axios-facebook-partner-001357

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