Many political pundits downplayed Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign as little more than a marketing move to generate publicity for the media company they thought he would launch after he received a thrashing from Hillary Clinton.

It’s funny how things work out.

Trump TV may have to wait until he leaves office on Jan. 20, but in the interim he gets to rule over the Voice of America, thanks to the political hack that he chose to run the US Agency for Global Media, VoA’s parent.

In June, Trump selected Michal Pack, a conservative filmmaker who made two documentaries with former Breibart News chief Steve Bannon, to run the US Agency for Global Media. Pack also was publisher of The Claremont Review, which the New York Times dubbed the “bible of highbrow Trumpism."

On Oct. 26, Pack came through for the president, junking the rule that protected news outlets funded by the government from federal tampering.

Signed into law by president Gerald Ford in 1976, that firewall protected the VOA and fellow US-bankrolled outlets Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Radio Free Asia and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting from being transformed into propaganda outlets for sitting presidents.

David Ensor, former director of the VOA, told the NYT that the firewall “is something that distinguishes the VOA from authoritarian radio and broadcasting organizations.”

That's precisely why Pack bulldozed it to set up a media empire for his boss.

ESG reaches the oil patch...The Independent Petroleum Assn. of America has launched The ESG Center because it is “committed to sustainability efforts through our vision, strategy and approach to environmental, social and governance priorities,” according to its website.

The IPAA sees ESG as an “evolving, critical component of a company’s social license to operate” and believes building such a program “is a critical business imperative.”

It notes that value of global assets applying ESG data to drive investment decisions has almost doubled over four years and tripled over eight years to $40.5T in 2020.

The world’s largest institutional investors, pension funds and proxy advisors "are also compelling companies to adopt strong ESG reporting metrics—including climate risk factors—to promote sustainability.”

FTI Consulting is helping IPAA on the ESG Center. Travis Windle, senior managing director in FTI’s strategic communications group, told the Financial Times: “This is not any longer a nice-to-have, but it’s critical to long-term stakeholder confidence. This is a new asset class.”

FTI also worked with the IPAA on its campaign to defend fracking, which is a tough fit for ESG.

Local news outlets need PR ASAP… Americans love local news outlets but are largely unaware of their financial plight.

Polls consistently show trust in local news is much more than national media. A 2019 Knight-Gallup poll found that 66 percent of respondents say local news reports the news without bias compared to 31 percent who believe national news organizations do the same.

The public also places great value in local news being part of their communities. A 2018 Pew Research Center poll found 85 percent of Americans say it is important for journalists to understand their community’s history and 81 percent want reporters to be engaged in their local areas.

Americans are talking the talk but not walking the walk. More than seven-in-ten (71 percent) believe local outlets are doing well financially. And the kicker: only 14 percent of respondents paid for local news during the past year, according to Pew.

The COVID-19 crisis has only tightened the screws on local news organizations as economic lockdowns and shuttered local businesses dried up advertising revenue streams.

The Poynter Institute reports more than 50 newsrooms have been closed due to the pandemic. A Congressional report says local news organizations will vanish within five years.

Aggressive PR is needed to highlight the gloom and doom facing small and mid-sized news outlets before it is too late.

And in the immortal words of Yankee great Yogi Berra, “It gets late early out there.” Though Yogi was talking about the late afternoon shadows reaching left field in Yankee Stadium, he could have been referring to the dire financial condition of today’s local newspapers.