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Josh Steimle’s digital marketing agency was failing. It was 2013, and Steimle needed to do something drastic to turn it around. A friend in public relations suggested he start writing columns for free. Steimle’s desperation spurred him to become a regular “contributor” to Forbes.com. He has since written hundreds of articles for Forbes, Mashable, Entrepreneur, […]
Posted: March 20, 2018, 3:25 pm
One of the oldest American fact-checking projects has regained control of its hosting and majority control of its parent company.
Posted: March 20, 2018, 3:00 pm
(Editor's note: This was adapted from a speech to 600 middle and high school students and teachers participating in
Posted: March 20, 2018, 2:23 pm
Do private hospitals in India perform an unnecessary number of C-section operations in order to make more money? It’s a common worry among Indian families, but until recently there was no official data to back up their concerns. Then data journalists working at How India Lives, a three-year-old startup whose mission is to make public...
Posted: March 20, 2018, 1:37 pm
Monday began with the surprise news that Tronc Chairman Michael Ferro, one of the most powerful figures in newspaper publishing, was stepping down from his position after two years on the job. Hours later, Fortune published a report detailing allegations of Ferro’s inappropriate sexual advances.
Ferro’s spokesman initially told The New York Times that the 51-year-old executive wanted to “go out on a win,” a reference to Tronc’s recent $500 million sale of the Los Angeles Times. The deeply reported story by Fortune’s Kristen Bellstrom and Beth Kowitt ensured that his legacy will also include allegations of sexual misconduct. Their story contains on-the-record descriptions from two women about Ferro’s unwanted advances, as well as details about questionable behavior in front of his employees. His surprise retirement comes after Fortune reached out to Ferro last week about the details in their story, which he declined to address directly.
ICYMI: One of Facebook’s “biggest ever data breaches” exposed in new report
Fortune’s story included a comment from Ferro’s spokesman, who asserted that there had never been a claim filed against him nor a settlement made on his behalf, and added, “Mr. Ferro has retired back to private life after leading a financial turnaround of Tronc as the non-executive chairman. There will, therefore, be no other comment.”
While Tronc’s bottom line improved under Ferro’s leadership, his tenure was marked by upheaval and layoffs at the company’s newspapers, including a bruising year of management turnover, a unionization battle, and—ultimately—a sale at the LA Times. The Chicago Tribune went through a round of layoffs just last week. Ferro talked a big game about global expansion, but he never developed a coherent strategy for the company that controls iconic newspapers including the Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, and the New York Daily News.
Justin Dearborn, Tronc’s chief executive, will replace Ferro as chairman, but Ferro will remain the company’s largest shareholder and will continue to be paid $5 million per year through 2020 as a consultant. The shake-up comes two months after LA Times publisher Ross Levinsohn was accused of repeated sexual harassment. After an investigation, Levinsohn was cleared of wrongdoing and moved to a new role at Tronc.
ICYMI: Facing a critical moment, Vice makes an unexpected announcement
Longtime Chicago media-watcher Robert Feder, a frequent Ferro critic, pulled no punches in his analysis of the executive’s departure. “For a man who had done so much to undermine two Chicago news organizations (including the elimination of more than 1,125 newspaper jobs companywide in the last two years),” Feder writes, “it seemed fitting that Ferro would be brought down by the power of journalism.”
Below, more on the fallout from Ferro’s retirement and Fortune’s reporting.
- What’s next?: NeimanLab’s Ken Doctor considers future options for Tronc. After the sale of the LA Times closes, the company will be much diminished in scale. Might it merge with Gannett? Will Ferro take it private? Doctor explores those possibilities.
- Journalists celebrate: CNN’s Brian Stelter writes that “Even before the Fortune story was published, some journalists at Tronc’s papers were saying good riddance to Ferro.” While the company’s shareholders may be happy with Ferro’s leadership, Stelter notes that his reign was marked by cutbacks and turmoil at the newspapers he ran.
- Ferro’s controversial legacy: Splinter’s David Uberti has a critical view of Ferro’s time at the top, detailing his many questionable initiatives and calling him “a human spigot of poorly conceived ideas.”
- From the homefront: Always interesting to read the internal reporting on issues like this. The Chicago Tribune’s Robert Channick plays it straight, laying out the allegations against Ferro in detail.
Other notable stories
- Following up on yesterday’s newsletter: The UK’s Channel 4 went undercover to film senior executives at Cambridge Analytica claiming they could entrap politicians using underhanded methods like bribes or Ukrainian sex workers.
- The Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian writes about increasing press crackdowns by the Iranian regime. The government has long suppressed local media and made things difficult for foreign reporters in the country, but it is expanding its reach by “attempting to intimidate journalists living and working [in] a foreign country.”
- As Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visits the US, CJR’s Jon Allsop looks at the state of media coverage of Saudi Arabia. As the newly elevated leader consolidates his power, Allsop writes that “coverage of MBS’s reforms could be improved if foreign correspondents got out into the country and folded ordinary Saudi voices into their stories.”
- Poynter ethics chair Indira Lakshmanan uses last week’s reports by Axios and The Daily Beast about a meeting between John Kelly and reporters to tackle the issue of off-the-record meetings. “Being told something that’s off-the-record puts [journalists] in a terrible bind. We can’t un-know something,” she writes. “What if we are told something that could be as big as Watergate? If we sit on such information, we’re derelict in our duty to inform.”
- For CJR, Amanda Palleschi profiles New York magazine’s The Cut. “The Cut stands out in a crowded women’s media world in both editorial gravitas and reach,” she writes.
- A week after criticizing reports that he was looking for new counsel, President Trump added a lawyer to his team. Joseph E. diGenova, who has appeared on television pushing outlandish theories about an FBI conspiracy against the president, will “serve as an outspoken player for the president as Mr. Trump has increased his attacks on the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III,” write The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt.
ICYMI: Trump’s use of the word ‘sanctimonious’ astonishes Twitter users
Posted: March 20, 2018, 11:57 am
Editor’s note: This article is the second of two in a series on innovation in rural journalism. The first, “Sourcing innovation from a ‘rural journalism lab,’ ” can be found here. LEE BRATCHER ISN’T THRILLED about waking up at 5:15am to make his way to what in rural Ohio County, Kentucky, qualifies as the public sphere. He and his […]
Posted: March 20, 2018, 10:55 am
As the mushroom cloud continued to spread over the weekend from Friday evening’s nuclear blast—the news that Facebook provided personal data on more than 50 million users to a Trump-linked data company called Cambridge Analytica—one consistent theme amid the chaos was the increasingly defensive argument from senior Facebook executives that a) What happened wasn’t technically […]
Posted: March 19, 2018, 6:37 pm
Mohammed bin Salman, the 32-year-old heir-apparent to the Saudi throne, sat down with CBS’s Norah O’Donnell for a special edition of 60 Minutes that aired Sunday, the eve of his hotly anticipated visit to the US this week. “MBS”—who courted global media attention late last year when his supposed crackdown on corruption shuttered hundreds of […]
Posted: March 19, 2018, 5:33 pm
Update, 7:52 p.m.: So what led Tronc chairman Michael Ferro to suddenly “retire” today? I throw around some ideas in the piece below, published early afternoon, but it looks as if we have a definitive answer. Fortune’s Kristen Bellstrom and Beth Kowitt broke the story numerous journalists have tried to crack for several months: Two...
Posted: March 19, 2018, 5:28 pm
Digital First Media has been a big player lately in news about news — and not in a good way. Last week
Posted: March 19, 2018, 4:22 pm
On a weekend evening in January, a relatively obscure women’s website called Babe.net published a story that elicited a media frenzy. Babe, known best for clickbait headlines (“Do you want to read my weirdest, grossest sex stories ever?” “Kylie’s just posted her post-pregnancy body and I’m drinking myself into a coma tonight”), posted a rambling […]
Posted: March 19, 2018, 4:01 pm
Freelancers and others can use Authory to carry audiences across platforms and organizations and alert them when they've published a new story.
Posted: March 19, 2018, 3:31 pm
When Andrew McCabe was fired as deputy FBI director just days before he would have retired, President Trump tweeted his exultation: Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a […]
Posted: March 19, 2018, 3:19 pm
Let’s talk about “off-the-record” — what it is, what it isn’t, why it’s a bad convention that’s antithetical to what we do as journalists
Posted: March 19, 2018, 2:05 pm
Cambridge Analytica, the Robert Mercer–backed, Steve Bannon–linked data analytics firm that worked with the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, harvested data in 2014 from over 50 million Facebook accounts without users’ permission, according to reports published this weekend in The New York Times and The Guardian and Observer. From The Guardian: The data was...
Posted: March 19, 2018, 1:59 pm
After raising more than $250,000 from readers-turned-investors and pledging to launch in 25 cities by 2019, local news parent-startup WhereBy.Us is now doubling its scale. Starting today, Ben DeJarnette (in Portland, the West Coast one) and Katie Johnston (in Orlando) are each spearheading new WhereBy.Us newsletters. CEO Chris Sopher said the company is on track...
Posted: March 19, 2018, 1:34 pm
DOHA, Qatar — If robot reporters are going to deploy from drones in war zones in the future, at what point do we have the conversation about the journalism ethics of all this? The robots may still be a few years away, but the conversation is happening now (at least about today’s AI technology in...
Posted: March 19, 2018, 1:00 pm
Connections between a shocking electoral upset, a shadowy data analytics firm, and a tech giant were the focus of dual stories in The New York Times and the Guardian-owned Observer this weekend. The joint investigation detailed how Cambridge Analytica, a firm with ties to Donald Trump’s campaign, gathered personal data on 50 million Facebook users without their consent. Facebook, already reeling from revelations about fake news and Russian influence, is back in damage-control mode as the fallout continues.
The Observer’s story, written by Carole Cadwalladr and Emma Graham-Harrison, calls the harvesting of user information, “one of the tech giant’s biggest ever data breaches.” They write that Cambridge Analytica—funded by the powerful Mercer family and headed at the time by Steve Bannon—used the data “to build a powerful software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box.” On Sunday, Cadwalladr wrote a companion piece explaining how she worked with Christopher Wylie, the whistle-blowing former Cambridge Analytica employee who provided her with documents demonstrating the firm’s actions. “He may have played a pivotal role in the momentous political upheavals of 2016,” Cadwalladr writes. By the spring of 2017, when she started speaking with him, Wylie was “guilty, brooding, indignant, confused.”
ICYMI: Denver Post newsroom receives devastating news at staff meeting
Facebook initially sought to downplay the reporting, but on Friday announced that it was suspending Cambridge Analytica, Wylie, and researcher Aleksandr Kogan from the platform. The tech giant denied that the harvesting of user data could be described as a “breach,” writing that “people knowingly provided their information, no systems were infiltrated, and no passwords or sensitive pieces of information were stolen or hacked.” It blamed the misuse of that data on Cambridge Analytica, and promised changes to its processes.
The response from government officials in the US and Britain was swift, with Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar leading the charge. “This is a major breach that must be investigated. It’s clear these platforms can’t police themselves,” she tweeted. “I’ve called for more transparency & accountability for online political ads. They say ‘trust us.’ Mark Zuckerberg needs to testify before Senate Judiciary.” The New York Times’s Matthew Rosenberg reported on trans-Atlantic reactions of politicians demanding action from the Facebook.
RELATED: Facebook can no longer be ‘I didn’t do it’ boy of global media
This weekend’s reports, and Facebook’s response to them, once again demonstrated big-picture issues related to the influence of social media platforms in the political process. The lack of transparency and shirking of responsibility by Mark Zuckerberg and his executives is disturbing, but the larger issue might be that we are only just learning the extent of the power these companies possess.
Below, more on the reaction to the Facebook revelations.
- Wylie’s response: “Suspended by @facebook. For blowing the whistle. On something they have known privately for 2 years,” he tweeted Sunday.
- Word games: “Facebook officials today playing semantic—but legally very important to regulators—word games about a data ‘breach,’” the Times’s Nicholas Confessore, who worked on the story, tweeted “But who needs to steal passwords when Facebook will just give some dude access to your profile and not even check his app out that closely?”
- More to come?: The UK’s Channel 4 posted a teaser clip promising to take users “inside the world of Cambridge Analytica after our reporters went undercover as prospective clients.” The report is set to air Monday night in Britain.
- A disturbing pattern: CNN’s Brian Stelter notes that this is the third major issue Facebook has dealt with in relation to its role in the 2016 election.
- From the archives: The Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia’s Emily Bell provided a prescient warning just over two years ago, writing that “something really dramatic is happening to our media landscape, the public sphere, and our journalism industry, almost without us noticing and certainly without the level of public examination and debate it deserves.”
Other notable stories
- New York magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi has a cover story on Hope Hicks, the famously press-shy White House communications director who announced her departure last month. It’s a juicy story full of palace intrigue, and the revelation that Hicks kept detailed notebooks may be of interest to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
- The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan focuses on the increase in civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria, a topic that hasn’t received much national coverage. “Obsessed with the seemingly daily updates in the Stormy Daniels story or the impeachment potential of the Russia investigation, the American media is paying even less attention now to a topic it never focused on with much zeal,” Sullivan writes.
- For CJR, Freedom of the Press Foundation Executive Director Trevor Timm praises ProPublica’s transparency in correcting its story about newly nominated CIA Director Gina Haskel, but argues that “these types of unintentional mistakes would be almost entirely avoidable if journalists did not have to read between the lines of ridiculous government redactions meant to cover up crimes.”
- The AT&T-Time Warner deal is headed to court this week, with the Trump Justice Department attempting to block the acquisition. Evidentiary hearings are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, and the trial is set to begin on Wednesday. The New York Times’s John Koblin has a preview of the trial, writing that “the talk in media circles revolves around what will happen if the acquisition is stopped and Time Warner—the owner of HBO, Warner Bros., CNN, TBS and TNT—is made an orphan. And what will it mean for the old-guard entertainment companies in the streaming age?”
- Meredith is expected to cut 200 to 300 positions after its recent purchase of Time Inc., reports The Wall Street Journal’s Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg. The layoffs are expected to focus on Time Inc. employees in New York, as Meredith attempts to trim up to $500 million in costs over the next couple of years.
ICYMI: Facing a critical moment, Vice makes an unexpected announcement
Posted: March 19, 2018, 11:49 am
A question to ponder as we head into our week: Which explosive new development in the ongoing maelstrom in the Trump Administration will
Posted: March 19, 2018, 11:18 am
Suzanna Barna was just shutting down her computer in journalism class, thinking about her too-long story on her high school’s internet fi
Posted: March 19, 2018, 11:02 am
After coming under fire for promoting fake news, conspiracy theories, and misinformation around events like the Parkland school shooting, YouTube says it will take a number of steps to fix the problem. But the Google-owned video platform still seems to be trying to have its cake and eat it too when it comes to being […]
Posted: March 19, 2018, 10:55 am
ProPublica last year published a widely cited article linking Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel directly to the waterboarding and torture of Abu Zubaydah when she was in charge of a CIA black site prison in Thailand in 2002. Yesterday, ProPublica was forced to retract and apologize for a significant part of the article’s content. There’s no doubt […]
Posted: March 16, 2018, 8:41 pm
A coalition of American newsrooms is working to overcome the anger and divisiveness driving the national debate over guns and gun violenc
Posted: March 16, 2018, 4:18 pm
What’s motivated people to visit the Wikipedia pages they’re reading? Wikipedia recently tried to answer that question at scale by asking a sample of Wikipedia readers last June, “Why are you reading this article today?” It seems a lot of people go to Wikipedia for earnest, serious, information-seeking reasons. The study collected 215,000 responses from...
Posted: March 16, 2018, 3:30 pm
Today’s WriteLane podcast is about covering tragedies, with a focus on last month’s Parkland school shooting.
Posted: March 16, 2018, 2:11 pm
It started with a plea for help on Twitter.
Posted: March 16, 2018, 2:10 pm
Just three months into the year, The News Lens, itself a news startup, had already acquired two separate Chinese-language sites: a tech site, Inside, and a site for sports fans, Sports Vision. “By 2017, we were hitting our peak in terms of traffic. If you do the math, we were close to the ceiling. When...
Posted: March 16, 2018, 2:06 pm
Heads up Wikipedia, YouTube’s coming. YouTube will add “information cues” — i.e., Wikipedia article links — to some of its videos, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said at SXSW this week. Wired’s Louise Matsakis explains: “If you search and click on a conspiracy theory video about, say, chemtrails, YouTube will now link to a Wikipedia page that debunks...
Posted: March 16, 2018, 12:59 pm
Sure, virtual reality can help news organizations tell stories that their audiences wouldn’t be able to imagine or relate to in other ways. But are the efforts actually resulting in greater empathy? A report from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism shares findings from three different types of storytelling — immersive VR (via a head-mounted...
Posted: March 15, 2018, 3:55 pm
Think of the reporting done by David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post around Donald Trump’s charitable giving (or lack thereof) — done in public, in direct engagement with readers and sources, in a way that made thousands of people feel involved in the fact-finding process. What if we could translate that kind of journalism to...
Posted: March 15, 2018, 2:29 pm
In many countries over the past few years, the political process — and social cohesion — have been threatened by various forms of disinformation, sometimes misleadingly and inadequately called “fake news.” Politically-motivated and for-profit disinformation is blamed, among other things, for the U.K.’s decision to vote to leave the EU and the election of Donald...
Posted: March 15, 2018, 1:41 pm
The New York Times has sunset those custom email alerts to Times stories, that users could tailor based on keywords of their interests. The feature, which met its unceremonious end Tuesday, March 13, was being used by less than half a percent of users, according to a Times spokesperson. From the outside, it didn’t seem...
Posted: March 14, 2018, 4:09 pm
If they build it, will the young viewers come? 2018 is likely to finally be the year that more Americans get news online than from TV (we were almost there last year). Right now, it’s primarily an older crowd that watches TV news: 58 percent of those over 65 often get news from cable, for...
Posted: March 14, 2018, 2:04 pm
“Is anyone watching the money in our government coffers?” “I am still hoping we can get some in-depth analysis of Brazil’s Lula conviction and electoral campaign.” “I’d like to see a story about the bill passed in Iowa that forces stores to offer eggs that are caged rather than cage free.” Each morning at 10...
Posted: March 14, 2018, 12:33 pm
Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 155, published March 13, 2018. Infinite Dial 2018. In the run-up to every Infinite Dial — the annual report from Edison Research and Triton Digital presenting what is, in my opinion, the definitive sizing on podcast listenership due to its assiduousness and the simple...
Posted: March 13, 2018, 7:07 pm
Caliphate, a new podcast from The New York Times, marks a few firsts for the newspaper. For one, the mini-series, announced at SXSW this weekend, is the Times’ first foray into narrative documentary storytelling, following in the footsteps of shows like Serial and S-Town. Times foreign correspondent Rukmini Callimachi, who focuses on terrorism, will go...
Posted: March 12, 2018, 6:01 pm
The down-ballot got you down? Keeping up with local news is important. Participating in local politics is important. Bay Area engineer and designer Jimmy Chion felt these pressures of civic duty, but wrestled with what he felt was a shallowness to his understanding of the city he lived in, and the policies that would define it....
Posted: March 12, 2018, 11:44 am
Over the weekend, I was chatting on Twitter about last week’s media flare-up, l’affaire Manjoo. That’s the debate prompted by New York Times tech columnist Farhad Manjoo writing this piece, headlined: “For Two Months, I Got My News From Print Newspapers. Here’s What I Learned.” It was only the latest in the overstuffed genre of...
Posted: March 12, 2018, 11:43 am
For the news industry, the promise — or perhaps threat — of automation is that technology will be able to handle more of the monotonous reporting, freeing up human reporters to do the enterprising, high-value work. Reuters, however, sees another path: cybernetic reporters. At NICAR on Friday, Padraic Cassidy, Reuters’ editor of news production systems,...
Posted: March 12, 2018, 11:42 am
Is it really only the beginning of March? The news business’ gyrations seem to be moving at warp speed this year, and particularly this week, as two newspaper companies long in the news make new big moves. As Tronc reckons with the crash of its stock price and oh-so-private Alden Global Capital gets publicly accused...
Posted: March 9, 2018, 4:06 pm
Xi Jinping and Winnie the Pooh; the letter “n,” and Pu Yi, too. A hodgepodge of text and images have been deleted by Chinese censors as thousands of delegates gather in Beijing for the National People’s Congress this month to officially vote to abolish the two-term limit for Chinese presidents, paving the way for Xi Jinping...
Posted: March 9, 2018, 4:00 pm
“It’s easier to be novel and surprising when you’re not bound by reality.” It’s not bots. It’s us. A paper published on Thursday in Science (it’s the cover story) by MIT’s Soroush Vosoughi, Deb Roy, and Sinan Aral tracks the spread of fake and real news tweets and finds that fake news both reached more...
Posted: March 9, 2018, 2:01 pm
Sean Stanleigh is proud of the work that has come out of Lab 351, the innovation unit that The Globe and Mail’s launched in 2015. But he’s also looking forward to the day when the division no longer needs to exist. Closing the doors on Lab 351 is “the absolute end goal,” albeit a longterm...
Posted: March 8, 2018, 7:36 pm
I feel like I’m back in 2016, because Quartz on Thursday announced the launch of its Facebook Messenger chat bot, which delivers news stories and introduces users to select Quartz Obsessions, but will also include a more participatory element (mindfulness challenges, for instance). The bot will learn and “will shape the experience to you and...
Posted: March 8, 2018, 4:09 pm
I have read some of the other testimony before the commission and was pleased to see people speak about media literacy, the alarming ease with which technology will enable us to create compelling audio and video fakes, so-called “information disorder” brought on by massive changes in communications technology, and the shift in trust from institutions...
Posted: March 8, 2018, 2:00 pm
For those invested in making news organizations more diverse, inclusive places, particularly for women, the past few years haven’t offered much in the way of good news. ASNE’s latest newsroom diversity survey, published last fall, found that women made up 39.1 percent of all newsroom employees in 2017 — up only slightly from 37.35 percent...
Posted: March 7, 2018, 6:25 pm
For the past decade, one of the very few (relative?) bright spots in newspaper earnings reports has been circulation revenue, which has either held steady or dropped only slightly for many. (Compared to the complete collapse of print advertising revenue, “only down a little” is an offer you’d take.) The reason for that stability isn’t...
Posted: March 7, 2018, 3:29 pm
The Better India wants to show you the good stuff. Anuradha Kedia, cofounder of The Better India with her husband Dhimant Parekh — both have engineering backgrounds — started the effort in 2009 as a side-project blog. They spent their weekends writing posts about people doing good work that reflected a side of Indian communities...
Posted: March 7, 2018, 2:21 pm
GateHouse Media, though suffering through all the same revenue woes as its peers, is about to get significantly bigger. Earlier today, GateHouse officially became the winner in the auction of the Austin American-Statesman; the newsroom of a little more than 100 staffers was told in mid-afternoon. I had reported that was the highly likely outcome...
Posted: March 7, 2018, 1:10 am
Look, it’s no New York Times’ first tweet, but what follows is the oral history of how The New York Times got shruggie into a headline. I asked the story’s author, Jonah Bromwich, how this was able to happen. Sure, here is the process! (Cc: @mccanner @palafo) pic.twitter.com/qQ2B22MnSZ — Jonah Bromwich 👾 (@Jonesieman) March 6,...
Posted: March 6, 2018, 7:07 pm