Former ‘CBS Evening News’ producer seeks ‘information janitor’ role

News junkies often develop a close relationship with a favorite television presenter or cable news channel. Mosheh Oinounou hopes some of them will turn to an “information concierge” instead.

The former ‘CBS Evening News’ executive producer is one of many reporters who are discovering they don’t need a traditional media apparatus – say a TV network control room or a giant printing press – to provide information and analysis. Some journalists turn to independent newsletters through companies like Substack. Oinounou has found himself a perch on Instagram, where he helps everyone from random followers to a handful of celebrities make sense of current events. He even takes requests to help explain specific topics. Joe Jonas is among those who ask him questions.

“My feed is kind of Drudge Report meets Axios meets The Skimm – all on Instagram,” he says in an interview.

A daily Instagram story from Oinounou will contain information on the number of coronavirus cases, Trump’s latest tweets; great political stories; and some of the more random flotsam and jetsam of the day. Each page cites a source of information and occasionally adds commentary and context. On December 10, for example, Oinounou summarized Jane Mayer’s New Yorker report that alludes to concerns about Senator Dianne Feinstein; Airbnb IPO: and Taylor Swift’s new album. A summary of a Politico story that says the Biden administration intends to sanitize the White House after President Trump leaves is accompanied by an audio clip of Christina Aguilera’s “Dirty.”

Instagram lends “the intimacy people live with,” says Rachel Adler, an agent for CAA’s television group that represents Oinounou. “It allows people to DM him and they ask him everything from what’s the best kind of pizza in Chicago to what’s the political risk if Michigan Governor Whitmer has to break a voter tie?”

Many print, TV and digital journalists are testing the freelance route. Katie Couric publishes a morning newsletter. Megyn Kelly has started a regularly scheduled podcast. There’s been a marked increase in mainstream journalists trying their hand at becoming entrepreneurs, whether it’s ABC News legal analyst Dan Abrams, who created a group of media-focused digital sites, law, crime and even whiskey, or Dan B. Harris, who gave up an anchoring position at ABC News’ “Nightline” to focus more closely on building an audience interested in his work on the meditation. A handful of prominent scribes from digital hubs like The Intercept, Vox and Buzzfeed have ventured into new territory – the world of digital subscription newsletters.

The rise of easy misinformation on social media – transmission of unverified and opinionated thoughts, inaccurate details of “bot” accounts – combined with the fragmentation of audiences has made the process of identifying reliable sources of information more complex. . The Pew Research Center found in two April surveys that only 9% of American adults were “very confident” they could tell whether a news agency does its own reporting. When asked if six different news sources – ABC News, Wall Street Journal, HuffPost, Google News, Apple News and Facebook – did their own reporting, 23% of American adults could not correctly identify whether one of the six outlets did, according to Pew.

Americans hire dog walkers, physical trainers and short-haul drivers. Is appointing someone to sum up the headlines of the news cycle that much of a stretch? “The feeling I got from a number of subscribers was that they were overwhelmed with cable news and Tweets and didn’t know what to trust as they were hearing mixed messages,” Oinounou says, noting that his budding efforts to distill information generated more intense information. interest in the first weeks of the coronavirus pandemic. “There were rumors going around about what was being shut down and the country going to martial law,” he recalls. He likens his Instagram feed to “taking a deep breath” and noted that more and more followers have started asking, “Can you update us on what’s going on?” »

Oinounou has been doing just that for years. He worked as a producer for Fox News Channel’s Sunday public affairs show, “Fox News Sunday,” hosted by Chris Wallace, before working as an editor at Bloomberg TV. He joined CBS News in 2011, working on the team that helped launch the current edition of “CBS This Morning,” then took on the task of helping launch the company’s streaming video news outlet, CBSN. He arrived as top producer of “CBS Evening News” just as anchor Jeff Glor took over the reins of the program, then left the network after a change that put Norah O’Donnell behind the desk of the venerable program. . He has recently consulted for the digital content strategy of various companies.

There’s a sense that traditional news outlets — including TV news outlets — may seek out people with a higher degree of digital literacy, Adler says. “Technology has really democratized people’s access to information, and it’s allowed journalists to harness their own individual power and ambition to figure out how to make this work for themselves,” says Adler, who represents Abby Phillip. of CNN, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News and former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, among others. She adds, “In my corner of the world, we’re optimistic that the networks are continuing to invest and put real resources against what were once ancillary businesses.”

The former network producer says his previous jobs haven’t given him the connection to the public he currently enjoys. Some followers tell him, “I don’t know what’s true, but I trust it’s coming from you,” he says. “I come from a world where I used to produce a show that had millions of viewers,” but now “people send me direct messages about their reactions to things and their experiences.”

He hopes to find a way to turn his efforts into a stronger business and has opened an account on Patreon to help generate support. At a time when more people say they find it harder to trust the mainstream media, Oinounou hopes his efforts can provide some sort of substitute. “I hope to be a rare platform, a rare place, where people can get out of their bubble,” he says.