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Newsonomics: GateHouse’s new round of layoffs fits the sad logic of the coming consolidation

Today’s editorial managers find themselves in the lemonade business. Their assembly line of lemons keeps gaining speed, and they have to constantly find new recipes to make lemonade out of thinner and thinner ingredients. On Thursday, GateHouse — a.k.a. New Media Investments, or NEWM — unleashed a new set of layoffs in its newsrooms. While...
Posted: May 24, 2019, 6:55 pm

It’s not me, it’s you: Our Facebook fears are mostly about all those other gullible types

A number of prominent figures have called for some sort of regulation of Facebook — including one of the company’s co-founders and a venture capitalist who was one of Facebook’s early backers. Much of the criticism of Facebook relates to how the company’s algorithms target users with advertising, and the “echo chambers” that can show...
Posted: May 24, 2019, 5:03 pm

In Greece, the line between conservative journalism and political campaigns blurs

In February, Adonis Georgiadis, the deputy chairman of New Democracy, Greece’s conservative main opposition party, hosted an annual pie cutting, an old custom meant to bring good luck for the whole year. Prominent party members and hundreds of enthusiastic supporters filled a small municipal stadium in an Athens suburb, while the soundsystem blasted out the […]
Posted: May 24, 2019, 4:36 pm

Espionage charges against Assange are a ‘terrifying’ threat to press freedom

Last month, shortly after police dragged Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, out of Ecuador’s embassy in London, the United States said it would seek his extradition. Journalists and press-freedom watchers—many of whom dislike Assange—waited anxiously for details of the charges; the Justice Department, they feared, was prepared to indict Assange for practices relevant to journalism, possibly under the Espionage Act. Later that day, when the charge was made public, some breathed a sigh of relief: Assange was to face a single count under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, for helping Chelsea Manning crack a password, which is not something reporters typically do. Many press advocates, however, warned that the indictment contained some gray areas, and that further charges would likely follow. A separate, recently unsealed affidavit in Assange’s case added cause for concern. It discussed publishing, and borrowed language from the Espionage Act.

Yesterday, the situation took a grave turn. US authorities outlined 18 additional charges against Assange, 17 of which fall under the Espionage Act. All of the charges arose from sharing classified intelligence documents and diplomatic cables that Manning passed to WikiLeaks for publication. Assange faces a maximum sentence of 175 years. Briefing reporters, Justice Department officials insisted that they were not trying to criminalize journalism—most of the counts, they stressed, result from how Assange obtained information; those related to publication are narrow in scope, concerning only a handful of documents that identified US intelligence sources in dangerous places. (Many journalists consider Assange’s publication of such details to have been grossly unethical.) “Julian Assange is no journalist,” John Demers, head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said.

ICYMI: The impossible task of covering the NYPD

The government should not get to decide who is and isn’t a journalist. And drawing a distinction is beside the point. “The question isn’t whether Assange is a journalist, but whether the government’s legal theory threatens freedom of the press,” Carrie DeCell, a staff attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, wrote on Twitter. “It does. The government argues that Assange violated the Espionage Act by soliciting, obtaining, and then publishing classified information. That’s exactly what good national security and investigative journalists do every day.” The solicitation charges are based on open calls for information that WikiLeaks posted on its website, a practice common to many news organizations. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said that the charges pose “a dire threat”; the Freedom of the Press Foundation called them “terrifying.” Ted Boutros, a prominent media lawyer, said that the US government wants to use Assange’s bad name to cover for a dangerous precedent. “There’s a real element of picking the weakest of the herd, or the most unpopular figure, to try to blunt the outcry,” Boutros told The New York Times.

Troubling legal clampdowns on press freedom have been on the rise since the latter days of the George W. Bush administration. Until now, however, the Justice Department has mostly used the Espionage Act to prosecute staffers who have leaked information to journalists. The charges against Assange represent a sharp departure, since this is the first time a publisher has been indicted under the law. (The Obama administration considered taking this step against Assange, but ultimately decided against it.)

It’s far from clear whether the charges against Assange will stand up in court. It’s also unclear whether Assange will ever even face an American judge: Sweden is seeking to extradite him as part of a recently reopened rape investigation, and the latest heavy-handed US charges might not sit well with British courts, which have the power to decide where Assange goes next. With yesterday’s indictment, however, this story is no longer really about Assange. It’s the clearest example yet that in the US, the practice of journalism is at risk.

Below, more on the government’s legal threats to press freedom:

  • The law as a sword: Manning, who is in jail for refusing to testify about Assange before a grand jury, released a statement following yesterday’s charges accepting “full and sole responsibility” for disclosing information to WikiLeaks. “This administration describes the press as the opposition party and an enemy of the people,” she said. “Today, they use the law as a sword, and have shown their willingness to bring the full power of the state against the very institution intended to shield us from such excesses.”
  • The Espionage Act as a chainsaw: Two weeks ago, the Justice Department charged Daniel Hale, a former National Security Agency analyst, under the Espionage Act, alleging that he leaked classified information to a journalist. The recipient was not named, but is widely believed to have been Jeremy Scahill, of The Intercept. This week, Scahill posted a 10-minute video on Trump’s war on leaks. The administration is “using the Espionage Act like a chainsaw,” he said.
  • The tip of the iceberg: In 2013, the Obama administration subpoenaed phone records belonging to the Associated Press and several of its reporters as part of a leak investigation. The move was widely condemned, but according to a new report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, it wasn’t the end of the story: the Justice Department also considered subpoenaing the Times, The Washington Post, and ABC News. Ramya Krishnan and Trevor Timm round up the findings for CJR.

Other notable stories:

  • Theresa May, the British prime minister, is stepping down. May’s position finally became untenable after the certain demise of her Brexit deal; she will stay on as prime minister while the ruling Conservative Party chooses a new leader to replace her. (The race is likely to be crowded; Boris Johnson is the favorite.) For much of May’s tenure, domestic and foreign media portrayed her as a subject of pity and ridicule. Often, that was justified. But coverage also skewed sexist: a 2018 study by King’s College London found that the media’s early treatment of May was more gendered than its coverage of Margaret Thatcher after she took office in 1979.
  • Trump has declared war on Nancy Pelosi, and his internet minions have rallied behind him. Yesterday, doctored video footage of Pelosi—slowed down and modified for pitch to make her sound drunk—went viral on social media. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s attorney, was among those who shared the video. (He later deleted it.) Fox News cut together its own misleading video of Pelosi. Last night, Trump tweeted it. “Spreaders of misinformation don’t need sophisticated technology to go viral,” the Post’s Drew Harwell writes. “Even simple, crude manipulations can be used to undermine an opponent or score political points.”
  • Jay Fielden is out as editor of Esquire. Fielden cited “the lure of new possibilities,” but Marc Tracy reports, for the Times, that a decision by executives at Hearst, which owns Esquire, to kill a blockbuster #MeToo story about Bryan Singer, the Hollywood director, “weighed on” Fielden. (The Singer piece was finally published in The Atlantic; in February, its authors, both on the masthead at Esquire, spoke to CJR.) According to the New York Post’s Keith J. Kelly, Fielden has “differed” with the direction taken by Troy Young, Hearst’s president, since Young’s appointment last year.
  • Yesterday, Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York, ordered all city agencies to direct at least half of their annual print and online ad spending to community and ethnic media outlets. The move aims, in part, to help smaller titles stay solvent; de Blasio, who has had a tense relationship with the New York press corps since taking office, insisted that the ad buys would not be dependent on favorable coverage. David Brand has more for the Queens Daily Eagle.
  • For CJR, Nick Pinto writes that covering the New York City Police Department is an impossible task, given the NYPD’s lack of transparency. Recently, reporters, including Pinto, have struggled to cover the administrative trial of Daniel Pantaleo—the officer charged with killing Eric Garner, an unarmed Black man, in 2014—due to a lack of available documents and limited space in the courtroom. The final recommendation and decision in the case will be secret. Pinto spoke with Kyle Pope, CJR’s editor and publisher, on our podcast, The Kicker.
  • In March, prosecutors in Chicago dropped all charges against Jussie Smollett, the Empire actor who, police alleged, had falsely claimed he was the victim of a hate crime. The same day the charges were dismissed, Smollett’s attorneys succeeded in sealing all evidence and records related to his case. Several media outlets objected; yesterday, a judge ordered that the records be unsealed, in part because Smollett undercut his privacy argument by seeking publicity. NBC News has more.
  • For Vanity Fair, Joe Pompeo reports that the Times has become “a book-deal factory” of late; with many high-profile reporters requesting book leave, editors are concerned that they’ll be shorthanded on key beats. Earlier this month, Dean Baquet, editor of the Times, and Carolyn Ryan, assistant managing editor, wrote staffers with a reminder: “The Company reserves the right to deny a book leave request for any reason. Our journalistic needs must come first.”
  • This week, two French newspapers declined a joint interview with Emmanuel Macron, the country’s president, because Macron’s office wanted to approve his quotes prior to publication. That practice is common among French politicians and media, but, in recent years, has become the subject of increased debate. For CJR, I assess the arguments.
  • And from noon today, you can check out “National Enquirer Live!”—an amusement park installation in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, inspired by the controversial tabloid of the same name. According to The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove, the attraction has exhibits exploring notable conspiracy theories, including several around the death of Princess Diana; visitors “can watch a 3D, computerized model tracing Diana’s last moments.”

ICYMI: Report reveals new details about DOJ’s seizing of AP phone records

Posted: May 24, 2019, 11:48 am

In France, Macron tries to vet an interview and sparks a debate

This week, Emmanuel Macron, the French president, granted a joint interview to a consortium of French regional newspapers ahead of elections to the European Parliament, the legislative arm of the European Union. Two outlets—La Voix du Nord, a Northern French paper headquartered in Lille, and Le Télégramme, which serves the province of Brittany—refused to participate. […]
Posted: May 24, 2019, 10:50 am

Podcast: Journalist Nick Pinto on the impossibility of covering the NYPD

On this week’s episode, CJR Editor and Publisher Kyle Pope speaks with Nick Pinto, a journalist who covers the New York City Police Department, about the notorious opacity of that institution. Pinto describes the impossibility of covering the trial of Officer Joseph Pantaleo, the NYPD officer charged with killing Eric Garner, without public transcripts, recordings, […]
Posted: May 23, 2019, 9:48 pm

The impossible task of covering the NYPD

Nearly five years ago, Officer Daniel Pantaleo of the New York Police Department was charged with killing a 43-year-old man named Eric Garner. Since then, Pantaleo has managed to avoid criminal prosecution. For the past two weeks, he has been on administrative trial with the NYPD. The worst punishment he faces is the loss of […]
Posted: May 23, 2019, 9:01 pm

Report reveals new details about DOJ’s seizing of AP phone records

With its latest leak indictment last week, the Department of Justice under Donald Trump is now on pace to break the previous record for prosecutions of journalists’ sources, just two and a half years into its administration. A new report, released for the first time today, shows just how dangerous such cases can be to […]
Posted: May 23, 2019, 3:52 pm

News outlets post way more pictures of men than women to Facebook

Just like in newsrooms, men are overrepresented in the images U.S. news organizations use in news stories posted to Facebook, a new study from Pew Research Center found. Men comprised more than half of the faces in photos accompanying links from news outlets, with as many as two-thirds of the faces pictured. Pew used machine...
Posted: May 23, 2019, 2:00 pm

Elections in India and the EU mean a flood of homegrown fake news

“Stupefying speed.” Bloomberg checked in with Vishvas News, Facebook’s largest Indian-language fact-checking contractor, to see how things went during India’s general elections. (Results announced Thursday gave Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP party a landslide victory.). Pallavi Mishra, Vishvas’ manager, “spent two weeks recently talking with internet users in small cities. She found most people are...
Posted: May 23, 2019, 12:48 pm

New report says tech platforms ‘blackmailed’ EU policy experts

In January 2018, alarmed by the spread of misinformation around Britain’s “Brexit” referendum and the aftermath of Russian trolling on Facebook during the 2016 US election, the European Union convened a “high-level” working group filled with experts from media and academia—as well as representatives from Google, Facebook, and Twitter—to look at the scope of the problem and recommend solutions. This past fall, that group came out with an agreed upon “code of practice,” including a commitment to make political advertising more transparent. But, according to a new report from Investigate Europe, the proposals were watered down after both Facebook and Google put pressure on participants behind the scenes (neither company had responded to a request for comment from CJR by press time).

“We were blackmailed,” said Monique Goyens, director-general of the European Consumer Association, according to the report, which was published by Open Democracy. In her account, Goyens and other members of the group suggested that an EU commissioner should look into whether Facebook’s business model played a role in spreading misinformation, but Richard Allan—the company’s director for public policy for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa—warned her that doing so would be very controversial. An anonymous source told Investigate Europe that Allan later made an explicit threat, saying, “If we did not stop talking about competition tools [ways of enabling competition through policy], Facebook would stop its support for journalistic and academic projects,” according to the source. In other words, the EU working group was allegedly pressured not to criticize Facebook with threats to funding.

There was also more subtle pressure to agree with the interests of Facebook and Google, according to Goyens and others who were unnamed. That pressure came from journalistic entities funded by the tech companies, some of whom allegedly didn’t disclose their conflicts. “The Google people did not have to fight too hard for their position,” one group member told Investigate Europe, because “they had some allies at the table.” The Investigate Europe report mentioned that the Oxford-based Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism gets Google funding for its annual digital news report, and both Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network and the First Draft fact-checking project get funding through Google’s Digital News Initiative. (All three get funding from other sources as well, and disclose their Google funding. The ones who allegedly didn’t disclose aren’t named.)

ICYMI: Secretly recorded video underscores months-long threat to Austrian media

As reported by CJR in May 2018, Facebook and Google either provided or promised a combined $600 million in funding for journalistic startups, fellowships, training, and other purposes between 2017 and early 2018. Google started the Digital News Initiative, while Facebook has the Journalism Project, the Local Journalism Accelerator program, and a number of other efforts that fund things like the News Integrity Initiative at CUNY. One of the fears expressed by a number of journalism observers was that all of this funding largesse from the technology giants would create a conflict of interest—or at least the perception of one—should those entities ever want to criticize the platforms.

Alexios Mantzarlis, who used to run the International Fact-Checking Network and was one of the members of the EU working group, says he feels the reports of shady backroom pressure from the tech companies are overdone. “The reality was less House of Cards and more Veep,” he said on Twitter, referring to a popular drama about Machiavellian maneuvering in Washington vs. a popular comedy about the White House. The tech giants lobbied for their positions, he says, but so did media companies who participated in the working group. That said, however, a number of the EU critics who spoke to Investigate Europe said they believe the resulting report from the fall was rendered toothless in part because of lobbying from the tech companies—and the support they got from some of the media entities they fund.

More on the EU’s effort to fight misinformation:

  • A Flood: According to a new report from the online activist group Avaaz, there has been a flood of far-right disinformation leading up to the European Union elections, which start today. The group found 500 suspicious pages and groups, which it reported to Facebook, and 200 of those have since been removed. Together, these fake accounts got more than 500 million views—several times more than the legitimate pages and accounts that were set up by politicians and parties involved in the vote.
  • Anti-Muslim: While the disinformation leading up to the UK’s Brexit vote focused on the dangers of either remaining in or leaving the EU, the kind of propaganda that has been seen leading up to the EU vote is focused on hot-button issues like immigration, according to the market research firm Alto Data Analytics. Its research showed a number of sites created specifically to push an anti-Muslim agenda.
  • Junk News: Oxford’s Computational Propaganda Project says its research found that less than 4 percent of the sources on Twitter before the EU elections consisted of “junk news” (outright fakes or sensationalized news), with the exception of Poland, where junk news made up 21 percent of traffic. And while the proportion of fake news was also small on Facebook, individual fakes “can still hugely outperform even the best, most important professionally produced stories” on the platform, the group said.
  • Stratcom: The European Union has a special unit aimed at fighting disinformation that specifically comes from Russia, a program it set up in 2015. It is run by the European External Action Service East Stratcom Task Force, and says its work is designed “to better forecast, address and respond to pro-Kremlin disinformation.” The unit also publishes an email newsletter called The Disinformation Review.

Other notable stories:

  • Maitreyi Anantharaman writes for CJR about how coverage of the Women’s National Basketball Association suffered at many media outlets during the early 2000s, due to diminishing resources, but the beat has become much more popular as interest in the league has risen steadily and newsrooms have decided they need more unique coverage as a way of making their content stand out online. In some cases, sponsors help support the reporting.
  • Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri who sits on the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights, writes in an opinion piece for USA Today that Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are “parasites” on productive investment, on meaningful relationships, and on a healthy society, and suggests that we might be better off if Facebook disappeared from the information landscape.
  • Twitter co-founder and former CEO Evan Williams, who is now running the publishing platform Medium, told CNN that when it comes to using Twitter, Donald Trump is “a master of the platform” with few equals. “What he has done is pretty genius, actually,” Williams said. But the Medium founder said that the negative effects of the president’s tweets pale in comparison to the “destructive power” of mainstream media outlets like Fox News.
  • A senior correspondent for Le Monde, a leading newspaper in France, was summoned for questioning by the national security division of the French police after reporting extensively on a corruption scandal involving French president Emmanuel Macron. What is being called the “Benalla affair” began as a story about misconduct by a former aide to the president, but has led to allegations of a cover-up by the French government.
  • The Boston Globe now has more subscribers paying for its digital product than it does for its print product, a landmark that only a few major newspapers have reached, Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton says. In part that’s because print subscriptions to the paper has declined sharply, but Benton argues that crossing that mark “clarifies that you’re now a digital news organization with a print product, not the other way around. It means your default audience is now online, and future resource allocation can reflect that.”
  • Two respected Russian journalists were forced to quit their jobs at Kommersant, the country’s leading political and business newspaper, after they refused to identify the sources they used for a story on a political shakeup in Moscow. After they were forced to leave, 13 of their colleagues announced they were quitting the paper in solidarity, including all the reporters working for the Kommersant‘s political desk.
  • The Brexit Party in the UK agreed to lift a ban on Channel 4 that it imposed earlier this week, which blocked the channel from party events. The broadcaster initially said the six-week ban appeared to be retaliation for an investigative report that it aired into party leader Nigel Farage’s finances. The party, however, said the ban—which was implemented before the Farage report—was a result of misbehavior by the network, which the party accused of lying in order to get access to a campaign rally. Channel 4 denied the accusations.
  • An independent review of Radio and Television Martí, the government-owned sister network to Voice of America that broadcasts to Spanish-language audiences in Cuba, found that the network failed to meet basic standards of journalistic fairness. Last month, an anchor for the network described Trump administration officials as the “dream team” for Cuba policy, according to the independent review board, and Martí has also been criticized for airing anti-Semitic segments about financier George Soros.
  • Nan Winton, the first woman to read the news on the BBC, has passed away. Winton, whose real name was Nancy Wigginton, became the first TV newsreader at the British broadcaster in 1960. She was an experienced journalist who had worked on Panorama and Town and Around before she joined the BBC, but her appearance on the network was criticized by those who felt women were “too frivolous” to read the news.

ICYMI: The story of Ernest Hemingway’s $187,000 magazine expenses claim

Posted: May 23, 2019, 11:45 am

Independent Russian journalists look for ways to succeed despite gov’t control

On March 25, 2018, a massive fire tore through a busy four-story shopping mall in the Siberian city of Kemerovo. As the blaze engulfed the building, alarm systems failed to go off. Panicked customers found fire escapes blocked. As a result, 60 people died, including 37 children, most of them trapped inside a movie theater. […]
Posted: May 23, 2019, 10:50 am

Abortion ban coverage sows confusion

On May 15, Kay Ivey, the governor of Alabama, signed a bill banning abortion nearly completely, with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. The news sent a jolt through the country, which had just watched similar, but less extreme, bills pass in Kentucky, Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, and Georgia, where Clarissa Brooks, an Atlanta-based […]
Posted: May 22, 2019, 9:14 pm

How the WNBA became a hot newsroom beat

When Mike Terry was assigned to the WNBA beat in 2001,  the stars seemed aligned. He’d be covering the ascendant Los Angeles Sparks, a team on the precipice of back-to-back championships. And he’d be doing it for a Los Angeles Times sports section helmed by editor Bill Dwyre, whose generous budget allowed Terry to travel […]
Posted: May 22, 2019, 4:20 pm

The New York Times brings its summer pop-up newsletter back for a second season, with lessons learned

Summer is fleeting, as is The New York Times’ summer newsletter, which is returning for its second year this week. It will run through Labor Day. In the intervening winter months, the Times surveyed readers and applied what they learned to the newsletter’s second summer — here are some of the changes they’re making: Readers loved...
Posted: May 22, 2019, 1:15 pm

Why local foundations are putting their money behind a rural journalism collaborative

In the many questions of the future of local news, philanthropy — and more recently, the support of locally-grown philanthropists and funders — is stepping up as a bigger potential answer. But media philanthropy, like most everything else about media, is still largely centered on the coasts and in major metropolitan area — even though...
Posted: May 22, 2019, 12:00 pm

Another milestone passed for newspapers: The Boston Globe is the first local newspaper to have more digital subscribers than print

Earlier this month, with The Guardian’s remarkable turn to profitability, I noted that it had passed three milestones I’d consider critical for the digital transformation of newspapers to work. Those were: Making more revenue from digital sources than from print. Making more revenue from readers than from advertising. Achieving net revenue growth, with digital dollars...
Posted: May 21, 2019, 7:05 pm

Election-related “junk news” still does well on Facebook, this European study finds

As the U.S. media scrambles to do something different besides Youngstown, Ohio profiles of working class voters, the misinformation machines are alive and well in our neighbors across the pond. A study of tweets and Facebook posts related to the European parliamentary elections found that misinformation and “junk news” still flourished on Facebook but seemed...
Posted: May 21, 2019, 3:46 pm

From Walkman to podcast: Sony Music moves into the podcast business, setting the stage for other music companies

Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 210, published May 21, 2019. Joint adventures. Last Thursday, Variety reported that Sony Music, the global music conglomerate ($7.2 billion in revenue in fiscal 2018), has formed a joint venture with Adam Davidson, the New Yorker staff writer and co-founder of Planet Money, and...
Posted: May 21, 2019, 3:27 pm

People lie about going to church and aren’t sure what “rural” means: Highlights from the latest in public opinion research

This past weekend, the smart folks who try to figure out what the hell we’re thinking at any given moment gathered in Toronto for the annual conference of the American Association for Public Opinion Research. The jobs of pollsters and journalists don’t have a perfect overlap — mostly, we like anecdotal ledes more — but...
Posted: May 21, 2019, 1:44 pm

Winter may be coming for HBO’s streaming subscriptions, but it doesn’t have to for your news organization

There is apparently a television program out there called “Game of Thrones” that is quite popular, and I’m told its final episode aired last night. To all of you who wished someone who is not currently sitting on the Iron Throne would be sitting on the Iron Throne, I offer my sympathies. To HBO, though,...
Posted: May 20, 2019, 5:45 pm

The power of journalism collaboration is also the power of inclusion — here’s how to harness it

As resources (especially locally) in journalism recede, collaboration has emerged as a way to do more with more by sharing skills, networks, and other reporting tools for maximum impact. The third annual Collaborative Journalism Summit, organized by the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University and hosted this year by WHYY in Philadelphia, is,...
Posted: May 20, 2019, 4:23 pm

The 016, a social network for Worcester, seeks to become a “delivery boy and booster” for local media

Mark Henderson was getting ready to throw in the towel on his dreams of becoming a successful media entrepreneur. He had suspended his two-year-old online community news project, the Worcester Sun, after a brief, failed experiment with a weekend print edition. So in February 2018, he started pulling his resume together and getting ready to...
Posted: May 20, 2019, 2:17 pm

From “climate change” to “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown”: The Guardian is changing the environmental language it uses

Human-caused climate change is arguably the largest crisis facing the world’s population of more than 7 billion, but news organizations have struggled to cover it adequately. “Newsroom managers have failed to see the climate crisis as fundamental, all-encompassing, and worthy of attention from every journalist on their payrolls,” Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope wrote in...
Posted: May 17, 2019, 2:42 pm

This is how an Iranian network created a “disinformation supply chain” to spread fake news

If you ever see an article on, it’s fake. The Citizen Lab at University of Toronto released a case study of Endless Mayfly, “an Iran-aligned network of inauthentic websites and online personas used to spread false and divisive information primarily targeting Saudi Arabia, the United States, and Israel.” Here’s how the “disinformation supply chain”...
Posted: May 17, 2019, 12:08 pm

Newsonomics: Gannett turns back Alden, but it’s just a hiccup before the big rollup in the sky

It seems like a return to status quo ante. But the ante may have changed. No surprises: Today, Gannett shareholders officially rejected Alden Global Capital’s amateurish efforts to win board seats and push the country’s biggest newspaper chain by revenue to sell itself. Over the last month-plus, Alden — using the name of its MNG...
Posted: May 16, 2019, 7:22 pm

The BBC’s 50:50 Project shows equal gender representation in news coverage is achievable — even in traditionally male areas

News organizations that want to diversify their editorial output have a number of different ways to do it. On the lame end, they can simply talk about wanting to be more diverse without actually doing anything about it. At the opposite end of the spectrum, they can set a real target and strive to hit...
Posted: May 16, 2019, 6:17 pm

Why are so many people running for president and so few for mayor? Blame the media (and the Internet)

You would need five cramped Priuses to carry all the Democrats currently running for president. Four years ago, you would have needed six Ford F-150s to carry all the Republicans running for president. (Okay, three if you upgrade to the SuperCrew.) It seems as if these supersized fields of candidates are the new normal; maybe...
Posted: May 16, 2019, 5:10 pm

Local TV news is still growing (though consolidation’s impact is yet to come)

While local TV is by no means perfect — see overblown crime coverage and the faux Momo challenge — it’s one of the most trusted sources of news in the United States. And for the second year in a row, according to the 2019 RTDNA/Hofstra University survey of local TV news directors, local TV news...
Posted: May 16, 2019, 1:35 pm

NewsMatch sums up its third year of helping nonprofit newsrooms raise money

In the last two months of 2018, more than 240,000 people gave money to nonprofit news organizations with help from NewsMatch — and 52,000 of them were donating to a nonprofit news organization for the first time. That’s according to NewsMatch’s annual report, released Tuesday. In a recent feature about NewsMatch’s work with four news...
Posted: May 14, 2019, 4:24 pm

U.S. journalism really has become more subjective and personal — at least some of it

It’s easy to make broad claims about the American media. “They’re all just a bunch of leftists!” “It’s all run by fat-cat corporations!” “They don’t report the facts like they used to — now it’s all their opinion!” The people making these claims aren’t always responsive to facts, but a broad new linguistic analysis out...
Posted: May 14, 2019, 4:00 pm

Podcast episodes will now show up in Google searches. Helpful discovery mechanism or a shot in the Platform Wars?

Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 209, published May 14, 2019. The state of play, mid-2019. Last week, a good portion of the podcast community got glimmers of something they’ve long wanted: seemingly structural-level solutions to discovery, one in the form of playable Google search listings and one in the...
Posted: May 14, 2019, 2:32 pm

Quartz, built on free distribution, has put its articles behind a paywall

At its debut nearly seven years ago, Quartz’s model was to be everywhere — not behind a paywall, not locked inside a mobile app, ready to build an audience through social sharing. “In 2012, the very clear strategy for us was to create as little friction as possible to growth, because you start with an...
Posted: May 13, 2019, 5:58 pm

Here’s the state of Hispanic media today — and where it goes from here

“This is a fickle country. They take you in one generation and want to deport you the next,” Alfredo Corchado, the Dallas Morning News’ Mexico-U.S. border correspondent, said at a conference about covering the 2020 election last month. Hispanic media in the U.S. serves one of the fastest-growing demographics in the country, but is trying...
Posted: May 13, 2019, 5:40 pm

Assigned to the 2020 campaign trail? Consider a Google form on your way out

“Tell me how you think I should cover 2020!” This might be the start of the most earnest Google form in political journalism. While citizen journalism and engaged journalism strategies have pushed for more interaction with and involvement of readers/viewers in the reporting process, building trust and improving reporting that reflects the nuances of the...
Posted: May 13, 2019, 1:38 pm

So what is “digital journalism studies,” anyway? Is it its own thing?

One of the primary rituals of any new area of academic inquiry is what’s known as field building: working to establish — through publishing, boundary defining, and a little bravado — that your field should be recognized as its own thing. The study of governments, for instance, dates back to Machiavelli, Aristotle, and beyond, but...
Posted: May 10, 2019, 5:13 pm

Most Americans have never spoken with a local journalist. Those who have are likely to be white.

Seventy-eight percent of Americans have never spoken with a local journalist at all, according to data highlighted by Pew on Friday — but of the 21 percent who say they have (1 percent didn’t answer), they are more likely to be white, college-educated, and older. From Pew: About 23% of whites have had this kind of...
Posted: May 10, 2019, 2:54 pm

Black female gun owners, moderate Republicans, and Jewish Americans are among the groups that may be particular targets of misinformation in 2020

“Passive misinformation” is a problem for The Hill and other mainstream media outlets. The liberal Media Matters did a study of how news organizations handle misleading claims and lies from Trump. “Passive misinformation is a problem for outlets across the board,” they found after a review of “more than 54,000 tweets sent between 12 a.m....
Posted: May 10, 2019, 12:46 pm

The Salt Lake Tribune wants to go nonprofit in a new and unproven way, and now the IRS will have its say

Nonprofit status has become a common business model for many news organizations just starting out. That magic “501(c)(3)” on an About page doesn’t solve all a publisher’s problems by any means — but it opens up new avenues of funding, communicates intent to audiences, and orients the organization toward a common cause. Now that appeal...
Posted: May 9, 2019, 3:43 pm

Is your organization thinking about membership? Take some ideas (and maybe some money) from the Membership Puzzle Project

Styli Charalambous was trying to think through some lightbulb moments. As the publisher and CEO at the Daily Maverick, a ten-year-old investigative outlet in South Africa, he had done an innovation tour in October 2017 and came back determined to set up a reader revenue system. The outlet’s site was being overhauled, which meant he...
Posted: May 9, 2019, 3:30 pm

Tronc Eviscerates New York Daily News With 50% Staff Cut

The cure for the newspaper  industry’s ills was once thought to be a “hyper-local” focus, but that’s not proving to be the salve for New York City, which is suffering an unprecedented decline in local news coverage. The latest casualty is the New York  Daily News, which on Monday said it would cut its newsroom staff […]
Posted: July 24, 2018, 11:54 pm

Crowdsourcing History With Global Newspaper Archive Search

The United States Holocaust Museum is conducting an interesting exercise in crowdsourced research using newspaper archives from the 1930s and 40s. Called “History Unfolded,”, the project asks students, teachers and anyone else who’s interested to look in local newspapers for accounts of 34 different Holocaust-era events that took place in the U. S. and Europe, […]
Posted: May 24, 2018, 2:20 pm

Google Pledges $300 Million to Support Quality Journalism

With the media world buzzing about the fake news engine that is Cambridge Analytica, news about a new Google initiative to support quality journalism might easily be overlooked. The multi-faceted investment covers everything from website analytics tuned to the needs of publishers to machine learning tools that identify potential subscribers. Of particular note is Subscribe with […]
Posted: March 21, 2018, 5:29 pm

Why Facebook Was So Easily Gamed

“Research has shown that the downside of powerful, centralized networks is their susceptibility to being subverted and exploited,” writes The Wall Street Journal’s Christopher Mims in a fascinating analysis of why social networks, which were supposed to challenge hierarchy, have reinforced it instead. Delving into network theory, Mims explains why networks that start out with […]
Posted: February 20, 2018, 4:13 pm

#FakeNews: Facebook Isn't a Media Company

Despite a Pew Research study‘s finding last year that two-thirds of Facebook users rely on the site for news, the COO of the world’s largest social network insists that Facebook isn’t a media company. “At our heart we’re a tech company… we don’t hire journalists,” Sheryl Sandberg told Axios. Although Sandberg admitted that her company […]
Posted: October 19, 2017, 4:21 pm

Bad News on the Doorstep

After a spate of closures and layoffs in the latter part of the last decade, the newspaper industry appeared to find its footing over the past few years. But now that oasis of stability may be drying up. Hard times are hitting some of the most resilient titles, and the trend indicates that things are […]
Posted: November 4, 2016, 12:21 am

R.I.P. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

We’re going to call a time-of-death on the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, despite the fact that the newspaper says it’ll live on with a website. Everyone says that these days. The more important news is that the 24-year-old daily will shutter its print edition and lay off 106 staff members. It will maintain an online-only edition, but most […]
Posted: September 29, 2016, 12:59 am

Startup Says It's Figured Out a Way to Make Micropayments Work

The idea of convincing readers to pay a few pennies to read a single article has been largely scoffed at over the years, but Blendle may have cracked the code, at least a little bit. Launched two years ago in Europe, Blendle says it just surpassed the one-million-member mark. It’s getting hundreds of thousands of monthly visitors […]
Posted: August 12, 2016, 1:34 pm

The Best 20 Minutes of Video You'll Watch This Week

John Oliver’s sendup of the news industry for preposterous ideas like Tronc is both hilarious and sad. Oliver digs into the video history bag to remind us that Sam Zell really did own a newspaper company at one point and thought that stories about cats could possibly support stories about crime and corruption. He also calls […]
Posted: August 10, 2016, 4:30 pm

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette hikes prices even as circulation plummets

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is raising newsstand prices 50 cents to $2 per weekday issue, despite the fact that weekday print circulation has dropped 54% over the last decade.rThe move continues a drive by newspapers to raise reader revenues in the face of quickening declines in advertising sales. Ad revenues at U.S. newspapers fell 8% last year, the […]
Posted: July 13, 2016, 1:31 pm