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Top 8 media stories of 2018

Juicy reads, a social media reckoning, and the war on the press gets real. CNN's Brian Stelter counts down the top 8 media stories of 2018.

Posted: Dec 24, 2018 2:02 AM
Updated: Dec 24, 2018 2:09 AM

Every corner of the media industry was touched by 2018's frenetic pace of change.

The streaming wars escalated. So did a very different kind of war: President Donald Trump's assault on news outlets he doesn't like.

Meantime, a wave of media consolidation continued to build, and all sorts of websites explored new subscription-based business models.

And through the news media, we all learned names like Jamal Khashoggi, Christine Blasey Ford, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Stormy Daniels, and Karen McDougal.

Lest we forget all that's happened since January, here's a look back:

In print and online

Matt Murray was named editor of the Wall Street Journal. Nicole Carroll was named editor of USA Today. Patrick Soon-Shiong acquired the Los Angeles Times from Tronc and proceeded to rebuild the newsroom. Tronc (now named Tribune again) looked for a buyer, but not before slashing the New York Daily News staff in half.

Noah Shachtman succeeded John Avlon at The Daily Beast, with Avlon joining CNN full time. Shane Smith stepped down as CEO of Vice. Nancy Dubuc stepped in and the company cut headcount.

Other digital startups braced for tough times. Mic laid off its entire editorial staff. Verizon buried Oath. BuzzFeed buzzed about consolidation ideas. Bryan Goldberg's Bustle Digital Group bought the bones of Gawker and Mic.

More and more sites tried subscription and membership models to offset advertising revenue disruptions. "The reader revenue revolution is real," media analyst Ken Doctor wrote in his year-end column.

On the newsstand

Hearst took control of Rodale. Meredith closed on Time Inc. and started selling titles. Marc Benioff bought TIME and started hiring more staffers.

Radhika Jones succeeded Graydon Carter at Vanity Fair. Jim Nelson handed GQ off to Will Welch. Samantha Barry took the reins at Glamour. That magazine announced plans to stop its monthly print edition, and so did Cooking Light and Martha Stewart Weddings and Seventeen.

In other magazine news, Troy Young replaced David Carey as the president of Hearst Magazines. Bob Sauerberg announced plans to step down, and Condé Nast started looking for a new CEO. "The relatively few magazines that are finding a future are thought-provoking, reader-supported ones," Doctor wrote.

On the air

"American Idol" returned! So did "Roseanne," until it was canceled because of Roseanne Barr's racist tweets. An offensive segment about blackface Halloween costumes led NBC News to pull the plug on Megyn Kelly's show. NBC entertainment division president Jennifer Salke moved over to Amazon Studios. Later in the year, NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt stepped down, and George Cheeks and Paul Telegdy took over for him.

In the news world, CNN's Chris Cuomo moved to prime time and John Berman joined "New Day." At CBS, John Dickerson moved to the morning and Margaret Brennan succeeded him on "Face the Nation." Bianna Golodryga joined "CBS This Morning," too. Craig Melvin formally joined "Today." Meanwhile, the executive producers of both "CBS This Morning" and "Today" were replaced. At "GMA," Lara Spencer cut back her hours and Amy Robach moved to "20/20." Vince Sadusky replaced Randy Falco atop Univision. Suzanne Scott was promoted to CEO of Fox News.

In deals

At 21st Century Fox, the Murdochs awaited approval of the deal to sell most of their assets to Disney. AMC's Charlie Collier jumped to Fox to run the broadcast network. There were numerous other executive changes at Disney and Fox, too numerous to list here. James Murdoch struck out on his own. Comcast beat out Disney for Sky.

AT&T prevailed in the Justice Department's antitrust lawsuit and acquired CNN and the rest of Time Warner, now named WarnerMedia. John Stankey became CEO of WarnerMedia. Discovery took control of Scripps. Sinclair lost its bid to buy Tribune. And Byron Allen bought The Weather Channel.

In the boardroom

CBS CEO Les Moonves went to war with controlling shareholder Shari Redstone. He lost after decades of misconduct allegations against him were brought to light by The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow. In September, Moonves was forced out and "60 Minutes" executive producer Jeff Fager was fired. The CBS board was reshaped and several top executives retired.

#MeToo was the top advocacy hashtag used on Instagram. And that advocacy continued all year long. The Time's Up initiative launched on New Year's Day with a mission to stop sexual assault, harassment and workplace inequality. The remains of Harvey Weinstein's company were sold in a bankruptcy auction. John Lasseter left Disney, citing "missteps." And Christiane Amanpour officially replaced Charlie Rose on PBS.

On the West Coast

Ryan Murphy joined Netflix. Kenya Barris joined Netflix. Channing Dungey joined Neflix. (Seriously, who didn't join Netflix?)The Obamas even inked a deal to produce Netflix shows. Meanwhile, Amazon won its first Emmy for best comedy. Apple ordered lots of TV shows. Snap struggled to grow. Facebook struggled to explain itself. Twitter promised to make improvements. And Google tried to avoid scrutiny.

On the East Coast

Jimmy Pitaro became president of ESPN. The noise around politics in sports subsided. NFL ratings went up. Former ESPN star Jemele Hill joined The Atlantic, along with many other new hires. Jarl Mohn announced plans to leave NPR.

On both coasts and in between

"Fortnite" and "Red Dead Redemption 2" consumed countless hours of gaming time.

"Black Panther" was the biggest movie of the year in the United States, followed closely by "Avengers: Infinity War."

Michelle Obama's "Becoming" was the best-selling book of the year. Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury" and Bob Woodward's "Fear" were close runner-ups.

The most downloaded podcast of the year, according to Apple, was The New York Times' "The Daily." And the most-searched news topics on Google were the World Cup, Hurricane Florence and Mega Millions. And the No. 4 search was "election results," likely referencing the midterm elections in the United States. Notably, Trump's name did not make the top 10.

Trump and the media

Trump stepped up his anti-media attacks, even after multiple suspects were arrested for making threats against members of the news media.

Former Fox News co-president Bill Shine joined the White House as deputy chief of staff for communications. Longtime Trump communications aide Hope Hicks joined Fox's parent company as the head of PR. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders stayed in her role, but basically ended the daily press briefing. Trump hired John Bolton from Fox to be national security adviser and Larry Kudlow from CNBC to be National Economic Council director. Later in the year, he nominated Fox host turned State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert to be the US ambassador to the United Nations. And Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle left the network to join her boyfriend Donald Trump Jr. at a pro-Trump PAC.

And the most-read article of the year on NYTimes.com was the infamous senior official op-ed titled "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration."

In 2019, will we find out who authored that op-ed?

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