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The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, click here. “Are you ready?” That’s what Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Sunday when asked by a reporter if he had made his selection for a vice presidential running mate. So who’s it going to be? Kamala Harris? Elizabeth […]
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This piece originally appeared in The Poynter Report, our daily newsletter for everyone who cares about the media. Subscribe to The Poynter Report here. President Donald Trump abruptly ended a news conference Saturday when challenged by CBS reporter Paula Reid after Trump, as he has done more than 150 times, bragged about passing the Veterans Choice […]
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On Friday, President Trump invited members of his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, to attend a press conference there, in apparent violation of the state’s coronavirus guidelines. The makeshift crowd, Politico’s Meridith McGraw writes, wore “pastel-colored polo shirts and golf cleats,” and sounded, at times, “like a sitcom laugh track for the president’s jabs at Democrats and the press.” When a reporter pointed out to Trump that their presence was against New Jersey rules, members jeered; Trump replied that they were staging a “peaceful protest”—“they heard you were coming up and they know the news is fake.” (As CNN’s Laura Coates pointed out afterward, as peaceful protesters in the vicinity of Trump, they were lucky not to get tear-gassed.) Trump said little of note Friday, though he did indicate that he was preparing to take executive action to circumvent Congress on coronavirus relief measures. On Saturday, he held a signing ceremony, again at Bedminster, to formalize those measures. Again, members were invited.
Trump said his executive action would “take care of, pretty much, this entire situation,” meaning the economic destruction wrought by the pandemic. Predictably, this was not true. The measures he signed were partial and of dubious legality. They provoked bipartisan censure—Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, referred to them as “unconstitutional slop,” words later echoed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—and face being challenged in court. Trump said he was acting to “provide an additional or an extra $400 per week in expanded benefits” to unemployed Americans, then noted, in the verbal small print, that the federal government would only contribute three-quarters of that sum; states are expected to pay the rest, and it’s not yet clear that they can or will. The federal government was previously paying $600 per week in extra unemployment benefits, but that provision recently expired. So, too, did a federal moratorium on evictions. On Saturday, Trump said he was signing an executive order to “make sure renters and homeowners can stay in their homes”—but in reality, the order merely directs administration officials to “consider” a further eviction ban.
Trump also signed off on measures aimed at eliminating interest on student-loan payments and deferring the payment of payroll taxes. The latter policy does not constitute a cut, though Trump added that he would “forgive these taxes and make permanent cuts to the payroll tax” should he win reelection in November. These taxes, of course, fund Social Security and Medicare. Over the weekend, several media-watchers felt that that fact—as well as the questionable legality of Trump’s orders—should consistently have been front and center in coverage. Skepticism of Trump’s moves abounded; still, it wasn’t conveyed with uniform efficiency. Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton shared a screenshot of push notifications from major outlets that mostly fell short of the desired clarity. Yesterday, Bill Grueskin, a professor at Columbia Journalism School (and CJR contributor), highlighted a better headline in the Washington Post—“Trump promises permanent cut to payroll tax funding Social Security and Medicare if he’s reelected”—and noted that it’s “journalistic malpractice not to have a version of this headline on your homepage this morning.”
The picture was similarly mixed on the Sunday shows. There was some sharp questioning about Trump’s moves: on CNN, Dana Bash grilled Larry Kudlow, a White House economic adviser, as he repeatedly stumbled over his figures (“We need a bit of a reality check here,” Bash said); on NBC, Chuck Todd asked Peter Navarro, Trump’s trade adviser, why the president spent the weekend at his golf club, rather than negotiating with Congress. Todd, however, didn’t exactly push back on Navarro’s ridiculous answer that Trump is “the hardest working president in history,” nor on Navarro’s misleading claim that Pelosi was formerly a “strong supporter of the payroll tax cut.” Over on ABC, George Stephanopoulos put a GOP talking point—that the $600 federal unemployment benefit “keeps people from working”—to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, without pointing out recent evidence suggesting that that isn’t the case.
Cydney Hargis, of the progressive watchdog group Media Matters for America, argued yesterday that the Sunday shows were filled with false equivalence—a reference, in this case, to the idea that Democrats and Republicans are equally culpable for the failure of coronavirus relief talks even though Democrats already passed a relief bill and offered to compromise on it, and Republicans came late to the talks and have shown little sign of budging. Media Matters previously accused the network nightly newscasts of failing to adequately contextualize the negotiations. Last week, the media critic Eric Boehlert wrote, in a similar vein, that reporters should stop blaming “gridlock” in “Congress” for the lack of progress. “The Republican Party does not want to govern,” he argued. “The press doesn’t want to highlight that fact, though. Instead, the coverage hides behind a phony Both Sides shield and let’s the GOP off the hook.”
The policies and tactics of Congressional Democrats, of course, merit scrutiny. Still, it’s true that the Democratic and Republican parties are not equal contributors to Congressional inaction—on coronavirus relief as during crises past—and the use of passive, impersonal terms like “gridlock” has undoubtedly tended to obscure that asymmetry. Right now, the stakes could hardly be higher—not just with regard to unemployment benefits, but around all manner of other issues, from expanding testing capacity to protecting the integrity of the election, that Democrats are keen to legislate and Republicans have thus far blocked. Across the media, much coverage has communicated the urgency of the present moment. But coverage of Congressional horse-trading sometimes slips back into tired old frames that feel divorced from the real world. Such frames can, in turn, condition us to write off radical policy prescriptions as unrealistic or not in the spirit of bipartisanship when, now more than ever, they deserve to be taken seriously.
The victims of the pandemic and the attendant economic crisis should always be at the front of our minds and our coverage. Late last week, the Labor Department released employment figures for the month of July. They showed that the economy “added” 1.8 million jobs across the month—a much lower figure than in June, and one which leaves nearly 13 million more people out of work than was the case in February. As many outlets noted, this hardly constitutes good news—and yet, as CNN’s Oliver Darcy pointed out on Friday, many of the same outlets summarized the figures in headlines that emphasized the jobs gain and left out the bleak context, a mistake that risked misleading floating readers as to the overall performance of the economy.
As Darcy notes, these small pieces of framing matter immensely. In a broader sense, the typical, kneejerk, up-and-down rhythms of political and economic coverage are not serving us well right now. The coronavirus story doesn’t have much of an upside, and Trump can’t conjure one with the stroke of a pen.
Below, more on the coronavirus:
- “Potemkin village”: Philip Rucker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Josh Dawsey, and Robert Costa, of the Post, look behind the scenes at the Trump administration’s failure to control the summer surge of COVID-19, and prioritization of messaging over public-health strategy. “The president has been focused first and foremost on his reelection chances and reacting to the daily or hourly news cycle as opposed to making long-term strategy,” they report. A senior official said, “Everyone is busy trying to create a Potemkin village for him every day. You’re not supposed to see this behavior in liberal democracies.”
- More dire business news: Amid the ongoing economic fallout from the pandemic, the Evening Standard, a free newspaper in London that is highly dependent on advertising revenue, said on Friday that it will lay off 69 employees—the equivalent of 40 percent of its newsroom staff. Meanwhile, in the US, G/O Media moved to lay off 15 staffers in its video department. (Lauren Harris is tracking the pandemic’s effects on the media business in her weekly newsletter for the Journalism Crisis Project, a joint initiative from CJR and the Tow Center for Digital Journalism. You can subscribe here.)
- “How did I catch the coronavirus?”: Carolyn Kormann, a staff writer at the New Yorker, developed symptoms of COVID-19 in April—despite having had only minimal contact with other people for more than two weeks, which is thought to be the upper limit of the disease’s incubation period. (She has since recovered.) “Let my story be a parable,” Kormann writes, in an essay about her experience. “Even if you wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, and social-distance, as you must, you might still contract this disease. Call it an atmospheric threat.”
- Overseas, I: Głos Polski, a Polish-language weekly in Canada, recently published an article that blamed “organized Jewry” for the pandemic alongside other anti-Semitic smears, National Post reports. B’nai B’rith Canada, a group dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism in the country, has since filed a police complaint against Głos Polski.
- Overseas, II: Last week, Les Echos, a newspaper in Senegal, reported that a religious leader had been hospitalized with COVID-19. Subsequently, a group of assailants showed up at the paper’s offices, threatened the author of the article, and damaged computer equipment. Over the weekend, Senegalese authorities charged six people with looting and criminal conspiracy in connection with the attack. AFP has more.
Other notable stories:
- On Friday, US intelligence officials confirmed publicly, for the first time, that Russia is trying to help Trump beat Joe Biden in November. They also said that China wants to see Biden win, but according to the New York Times, “officials briefed on the intelligence said that Russia was the far graver, and more immediate, threat.” In other election-nightmare news, Politico’s Anita Kumar reports that aides to the president are weighing a range of executive orders targeting mail-in voting, a process that Trump has repeatedly—and baselessly—called fraudulent. The orders could include directing the Postal Service not to deliver ballots—but, as usual, it’s not clear that Trump has the authority to intervene.
- Microsoft is leading the race to acquire the Chinese-owned video-messaging app TikTok, but, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Georgia Wells and Cara Lombardo, it may have a competitor: Twitter. (Last week, Trump set a 45-day deadline for TikTok to find a US buyer or face being banned.) It’s not yet clear whether Twitter will make an offer, and the company is currently “seen as a long-shot bidder, given that it is much smaller than Microsoft and would have a harder time paying for the deal,” Wells and Lombardo report.
- For CJR, Mya Frazier explores the origins and ambiguity of the phrase “officer-involved shooting.” Since the killing of George Floyd, more newsrooms “are now capitalizing the ‘B’ in Black, ending mugshot galleries, and reckoning with the consequences of a lack of diversity on coverage of racism and police violence,” Frazier writes. “Yet months into this profound reckoning, news outlets still reflexively use ‘officer-involved shooting.’”
- On Friday, Chatham Asset Management, the hedge fund that just acquired the newspaper chain McClatchy, announced that Tony Hunter, the former CEO of Tribune Publishing, will take over as CEO of McClatchy next month, replacing Craig Forman. Hunter has been tapped to steer McClatchy out of a period of bankruptcy, a task he also performed at Tribune. The Chicago Tribune’s Robert Channick has more details.
- For CJR, Tony Rehagen recalls writing for Southwest Airlines’ eponymous in-flight magazine, which shuttered in March. It “long had the reputation of being more than your typical airplane reading material,” he reports. “In the writing community, Southwest’s folding leaves a hole much larger than the extra space in seat-back pockets.”
- Today, police in Hong Kong invoked the territory’s draconian new security law to arrest Jimmy Lai, a pro-democracy media mogul, and Cheung Kim-hung, the CEO of Lai’s media company, Next Digital. At the same time, hundreds of officers raided Next Digital’s headquarters and intimidated journalists at work there. The Times has all the details.
- Following last week’s massive explosion in Beirut, protesters furious with Lebanon’s political class poured into the streets over the weekend. According to The Guardian, LBC, a Lebanese news outlet, itself expressed disgust by refusing to broadcast leaders’ speeches about the explosion. Several lawmakers and ministers have now resigned.
- Yesterday, authorities in Belarus declared that Alexander Lukashenko, the country’s strongman president, had comfortably won reelection. Opposition figures suspect fraud. Lukashenko faced unusually strong competition from Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who stood as an opposition candidate after her husband, a popular YouTuber, was jailed.
- And British Prime Minister Boris Johnson courted controversy recently when he appointed Evgeny Lebedev, the billionaire owner of the Evening Standard and The Independent, to the House of Lords, Britain’s upper legislative chamber. Writing for the Mail yesterday, Lebedev pledged to use his new position to fight “the social media mob.”
Update: This post has been updated to clarify Bill Grueskin’s job title.
John Lewis was not the same kind of orator as Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. or President Barack Obama. I know that’s setting a high standard. But Lewis was good enough to have spoken in 1963 in front of the Lincoln Memorial at the famous March on Washington. And he was good enough to have […]
President Trump signed an executive order and three memoranda over the weekend. Here’s what they do.
Covering COVID-19 is a daily Poynter briefing of story ideas about the coronavirus and other timely topics for journalists, written by senior faculty Al Tompkins. Sign up here to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The public needs your focused attention right away to help clarify what, if any, help is on […]
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Alma Matters is a Poynter newsletter designed to provide ideas, news and insight to those in the journalism education community. Subscribe here to get Alma Matters delivered to you. Has a clear understanding of data and science ever been so important to journalists? For a few weeks, I’ve been snagging links that I think might be […]
The post Here are reliable resources for college media and classroom assignments appeared first on Poynter.
This article was originally published on April 6, 2020, and has been frequently updated since. It was last updated on August 7. It’s getting hard to keep track of the bad news about the news right now. But we have to. Here’s our attempt to collect the layoffs, furloughs, and closures caused by the coronavirus’ […]
The post Here are the newsroom layoffs, furloughs and closures caused by the coronavirus appeared first on Poynter.
Yesterday, President Trump issued a pair of executive orders aimed at banning “transactions” related to TikTok and WeChat, a pair of popular social-media apps owned, respectively, by the Chinese companies ByteDance and Tencent. The orders are scheduled to take effect forty-four days from today, but it’s not yet clear what “effect” means. The orders are vaguely worded—they seem intended to block TikTok and WeChat from app stores maintained by US companies, and yet, as is so often the case with Trump’s whims, it’s not clear that he has authority to execute them. Whatever happens on our phones, Trump’s announcement of the bans has already had its desired effect: ratcheting up tensions between the United States and China. Early today, China’s foreign ministry accused Trump of “a nakedly hegemonic act.”
The executive orders capped a week in which Trump made a string of legally- and politically-dubious statements about TikTok. Last Friday, he told reporters of his intention to completely ban TikTok from the US. That pronouncement appeared to be a victory for the administration’s China hawks, including Peter Navarro, Trump’s trade adviser, and Matthew Pottinger, who once worked as a reporter in China and is now deputy national security adviser. Rival advisers, however, quickly persuaded Trump to soften his position—campaign aides, for example, told him that a TikTok ban would be unpopular among young voters—and the president has since said that he will permit TikTok to stay active if it can be transferred to acceptable new owners: namely Microsoft, which is very interested in the acquisition. Trump also said that he will attach conditions to any such deal. He expects the US Treasury to receive a “substantial” financial cut. Antitrust experts pointed out that a demand like that is unprecedented, and seemingly baseless; a startup investor told CNN that it looked like a “shakedown.” And the deal has to be wrapped up within forty-five days. Yesterday’s executive orders seemed designed to formalize that timeline.
In the TikTok order, Trump characterized its presence in the US as a “national emergency,” citing, in part, its role in spreading “disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party”—including around the origins of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. (This from a president who has repeatedly dismissed the notion of foreign powers meddling in America’s information ecosystem, and who was himself just censured by Facebook and Twitter for spreading COVID misinformation.) The order also claimed that China has the power to force TikTok to collect data on American citizens and relay it back to Beijing. The Trump administration has repeatedly voiced such fears. Others have, too: the Democratic National Committee and Joe Biden’s presidential campaign have advised staffers not to use TikTok, and parents of young users are suing the company, alleging that it has already sent their children’s data to China. TikTok denies doing so, and privacy experts in the US have thus far not found conclusive evidence to support the allegations. Geoffrey A. Fowler, a tech columnist at the Washington Post, wrote recently that “we should be wary of xenophobia dressed up as privacy concerns.” Still, he acknowledged that China could tell TikTok to farm US user data in the future, and it’s unlikely that the company would be able to say no.
While TikTok has grabbed more headlines, Trump’s threatened ban on WeChat could be even more consequential, especially for people in China. WeChat is an essential conduit linking the country’s residents to family, friends, and businesses overseas, and vice versa. (By contrast, TikTok is not available in China.) As Mia Shuang Li has reported for CJR and the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, WeChat is also a key source of news both for Chinese people domestically and in the diaspora. That has come with downsides—if worries about manipulation on TikTok are murky, on WeChat, they’re well-established. The app is heavily censored by the Chinese state, which uses WeChat to surveil both dissidents in China and accounts registered overseas. As Chi Zhang has reported for CJR and Tow, WeChat is a prolific vector of misinformation among Chinese communities—and first-generation immigrants, in particular—in the US. WeChat has also been a vector of Islamophobia and other forms of hateful rhetoric.
Trump’s executive orders are intended to exacerbate stark, simple geopolitical divisions, but the reality is more complicated. In many ways WeChat, in particular, is a genuine threat to free expression—but so is Trump’s move to ban it. Yuan Yang, a China tech correspondent for the Financial Times, argued yesterday that it would be a good thing if more members of the Chinese diaspora abandoned WeChat for encrypted apps such as Signal; she also pointed out that the Trump administration recently fired leaders of the Open Technology Fund, a nonprofit that has provided support to developers of encrypted apps. Grantees of the OTF recently told The Verge that they fear their funding is at risk.
Until the bans show some concrete effect, it’s best to view them as yet another Trump campaign stunt. As Emily Bell, Tow’s director, observed last night, the executive orders look like an “economic dog whistle” to Trump’s blue-collar base. “Games developers and teenagers don’t vote for Trump,” Bell wrote, “and by the time the order unravels/is implemented/is struck down as unlawful, the economic threat of China will be properly established as an election talking point.” In the meantime, however, Trump’s campaign stunts have the real consequence of impeding free expression. A previous escalation with China, related to press freedom, led correspondents for major US newspapers to be expelled from the country; closer to home, Trump deployed federal agents to assault protesters and journalists in American cities. That’s not an accidental side effect, of course—it’s an end in itself.
Below, more on China and social media:
- TikTok and journalism: In a recent column for CJR, Bell explored the “dilemma” newsrooms face in deciding whether or not to use TikTok. Some reporters—Taylor Lorenz, of the Times, and Dave Jorgensen, of the Post—are active on TikTok, but many outlets don’t use it at all. There are editorial reasons for that, but TikTok’s Chinese ownership is a consideration, too, Bell writes. “Can my kids be on the platform and make goofy videos without worrying about China’s access to their data? Sure,” David Kaye, the outgoing UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, told Bell. “Can a journalist covering China or things of interest to Beijing? That’s harder to say.”
- For Reels?: According to BuzzFeed’s Ryan Mac and Craig Silverman, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, told staff yesterday that he believes Trump banning TikTok would set a “really bad long-term precedent.” In the short term, however, Zuckerberg could stand to benefit from any ban, given that TikTok competes with Facebook products. This week, Instagram, which Facebook owns, launched Reels, a TikTok-like feature. Alex Connor, an audience editor at USA Today, predicted that Reels will be of use to newsrooms that don’t have a presence on TikTok.
- Taking action: Yesterday, Twitter outlined plans to put labels on accounts linked to state-run media outlets—including Xinhua News, which is tied to China, and RT and Sputnik, which are tied to Russia. Also yesterday, YouTube removed more than 2,500 channels that it said were connected to China’s government. YouTube said the channels were responsible for spreading disinformation alongside “spammy, non-political content.”
- Hypocrisy: Beyond banning TikTok and WeChat, the US State Department recently outlined a broader plan to “clean” the internet of Chinese surveillance and data-mining. For The Intercept, Sam Biddle points out the hypocrisy of the plan. “China won’t be able to do a litany of subversive and violative things with technology that the US and its allies have engaged in for years,” he writes. The message is “crystal clear: If there’s going to be a world-spanning surveillance state, it better be made in the USA.”
Other notable stories:
- Yesterday, Priya Krishna, Sohla El-Waylly, and Rick Martinez, journalists of color working at Bon Appétit, pulled out of the magazine’s “Test Kitchen” video series, citing pay discrimination. (Krishna and El-Waylly plan to stay on as writers.) The move kept a spotlight on the Bon Appétit office; Adam Rapoport, the editor in chief, resigned in June amid allegations of racism. Rapoport has yet to be replaced, though the magazine has appointed Sonia Chopra, formerly the director of editorial strategy at Eater, as its new executive editor. Variety’s Todd Spangler has more.
- Yesterday marked fifty-five years since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, the landmark civil-rights law that was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013. To mark the anniversary, The Guardian partnered with newsrooms across the country—including the Texas Observer, Wisconsin Watch, and the Navajo Times—to cover continuing voter suppression. Ankita Rao, the voting-rights editor at The Guardian, writes, “In a year of deep civil unrest, a raging pandemic, and an unprecedented election, commemorating the Voting Rights Act is bittersweet.”
- For Insider, Rahsaan Thomas, an inmate at San Quentin State Prison who cohosts the podcast Ear Hustle, writes about the rampant spread of COVID-19 inside the facility. Thomas tested positive for the disease in early July. “As horrible as I was years ago, I killed one person,” he writes. “Now 22 people have died in my prison alone from this COVID-19 fiasco. And you call me violent?”
- Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton spoke with Ken Doctor, a media-industry analyst and Nieman Lab contributor who will soon launch Lookout, a local-news startup. Lookout hopes to build newsrooms nationwide; it will start in Doctor’s hometown of Santa Cruz, California, where a hedge fund has cut the existing local paper to the bone. “I think people will notice a very strong focus on community betterment on the site,” Doctor says.
- Gannett announced its earnings yesterday: it reported a net loss of more than $435 million in the second quarter of 2020, with print advertising revenue down 45 percent, and digital advertising and marketing revenue down 27 percent. Also this week, Tribune Publishing reported a 48-percent ad-revenue decline, and the Times reported similarly steep ad losses—though it also had its best-ever quarter for digital-subscriber growth.
- John Ismay, a Times reporter and military veteran, explains how he used his experience working in a Navy bomb-disposal unit to calculate the size of the explosion that shook Beirut on Tuesday. Lebanese officials said that the blast was caused by 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate—the equivalent, Ismay worked out, of about 2.3 million pounds of TNT, “far more than the most powerful conventional US air-dropped bomb.”
- Last Sunday, unidentified gunmen killed Pablo Morrugares, the director of P.M Noticias Guerrero, a news site in Iguala, Mexico. A police officer guarding Morrugares was also killed. Two days later, gunmen opened fire on the offices of Diario de Iguala, a newspaper in the same city. The offices were empty at the time and no one was hurt. Local drug gangs are thought to be responsible for the shootings. The AP has more.
- Daily Maverick, a digital-native news organization in South Africa, is launching a weekly print newspaper. Though it may seem counterintuitive, editors believe that there is strong demand for a print product among Maverick readers. The paper will be free for customers at certain grocery stores. In 2019, Anya Schiffrin profiled Maverick for CJR.
- And The 19th*, a new nonprofit newsroom focused on gender and politics, announced that Meghan Markle will take part in a virtual summit to mark the centennial, next Friday, of the 19th Amendment. Markle, who has mostly stayed out of the public eye since she “Megxited” Britain’s royal family, will interview Emily Ramshaw, CEO of The 19th*.
On Aug. 3, 2019, an alleged white supremacist shot and killed people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Twenty-three people died and many were injured in what was described as the deadliest attack on Latinos in modern U.S. history. At the forefront of coverage were the journalists of the El Paso Times, part of […]
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The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, click here. “Almost immune.” Those were the words of President Donald Trump when talking about kids and the coronavirus during an interview on “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday. The claim seemed outrageous almost as soon as he said it. Which […]
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Covering COVID-19 is a daily Poynter briefing of story ideas about the coronavirus and other timely topics for journalists, written by senior faculty Al Tompkins. Sign up here to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. Now is a pretty good time to sell your used car and not so great a time […]
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In the arena: Ken Doctor is moving from “media analyst” to “media CEO” with Lookout, his plan for quality local news
As Gannett plans for continued COVID-related revenue pressure for the balance of the year, permanent expense reductions are in the works — but no newsroom layoffs. In fact, some staffing increases are coming at both USA Today and the company’s network of 260 regional dailies, Mike Reed, Gannett’s CEO, told me in an interview Thursday. […]
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