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ProPublica and The Texas Tribune are teaming up on a full-time, Texas-focused investigative news unit

ProPublica has funded or collaborated on investigative news reporting with well over 100 other outlets, and launched it its first state-level expansion in Illinois in 2017. But the partnership it announced Tuesday night with The Texas Tribune is a first for both outlets: They’re jointly launching a Texas-focused, permanent investigative reporting unit with 11 full-time...
Posted: October 16, 2019, 5:07 pm

Is USA Today’s print edition headed for the sunset as GateHouse and Gannett merge? Signs point to yes.

This story has been updated. After a nearly 40-year run, USA Today and its digital sites are about to undergo a major restructuring that will include building up digital marketing while phasing out the print edition. The deal for GateHouse’s parent, New Media Investment Group, to acquire Gannett, which owns USA Today, will not close […]

The post Is USA Today’s print edition headed for the sunset as GateHouse and Gannett merge? Signs point to yes. appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: October 16, 2019, 5:02 pm

India had its first ‘WhatsApp election.’ We have a million messages from it

Editor’s note: This is the first piece in a series about monitoring political communications during the 2019 Indian elections on WhatsApp, a closed messaging network that’s difficult for researchers and journalists to enter.  More and more, political advertising is being distributed on closed networks, such as WhatsApp and Messenger (both owned by Facebook), Signal, and […]
Posted: October 16, 2019, 4:50 pm

The News Revenue Hub is launching a pilot project to help news orgs increase their readers’ loyalty

Everyone who’s had to sit next to a business-school student at Thanksgiving knows about the funnel. There are lots of versions of it, but the core idea in publishing terms is this: At the top of the funnel you’ve got a lot of people who have a very loose connection to your news site. Say...
Posted: October 16, 2019, 2:34 pm

The place for local news in a national debate

There’s plenty to consider about the role debate moderators and political commentators play in effectively informing the American electorate. But it’s also worth considering the role local journalism plays in serving its portions of that same electorate. People tend to trust local news more than national news, as a 2018 Poynter survey indicated. Trust plays a foundational role in effectively distributing public-service information, putting local journalists in powerful positions to shape their audience’s civic engagement. Local journalists wield their power most effectively when they offer their audiences something exclusive: localized angles. 

On Tuesday night, as viewers across the country tuned in to the CNN-New York Times Democratic debate in Westerville, Ohio, a few journalists in that state capitalized on their geographic access to the debate and their proximity to candidate talking points by offering their audiences fact-checks and careful context. Cincinnati Enquirer reporters Jessie Balmert and Jackie Borchardt fact-checked a list of claims made by candidates about Ohio, from Julian Castro’s lament that Ohioans were losing jobs under Trump (employment rates have steadily grown and since 2010) to Yang’s assertion that Ohio prescribed more opioids than it had people (that checks out). 

Other local publications beyond Ohio took advantage of their own resources and considered their audience in different ways. The Des Moines Register, located in an early primary state, tweeted a link to their Candidate Tracker, which aggregates relevant caucus headlines and upcoming public appearances by all the candidates. Michigan reporter Malachi Barrett wrote for MLive about the United Auto Workers strikes, an issue pertinent to Michigan voters that he felt had been largely glossed over on the Ohio debate stage. (Mike Elk wrote about coverage of the UAW/GM strikes this morning for CJR.)

A host of local news publications across the country—the Patriot-News on PennLive, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the Dayton Daily News in Ohio, just to name a few—posted live updates throughout the debates. Some news sites populated their debate pages with political reporters’ tweets, which meant many local outlets mirrored the hot takes happening at the national level. “Put me down for Medicare For All Who Don’t Want to Hear Any More About It Right Now,” tweeted John Bridges, editor of the Austin American-Statesman. Other local sites honed in on those candidates from their state: The IndyStar dedicated its real-time debate blog exclusively to Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and the El Paso Times did the same for Castro and O’Rourke. 

Other local outlets focused their work on general analysis and national storylines. Reporters at the Tampa Bay Times, for example, addressed Tulsi Gabbard’s complaint about a recent New York Times article that, she claimed, called her “a Russian asset and an Assad apologist.” The Tampa Bay Times parsed Gabbard’s response as many national news outlets did. (“The Times story didn’t accuse Gabbard of being a Russian asset,” Tampa reporters wrote. “It just noted that she has the support of some on the far-right and is mentioned frequently on Russian state news media.”) But is such generalized debate coverage at the local level worth something more for Tampa Bay readers? Or is it a missed opportunity to bend a national debate to local concerns?

As local news struggles for readership and attention, it’s worth considering the singular services local journalists are able to provide readers during nationally significant media moments. Local news has the power to move far beyond important basic services such as linking readers to debate-watching sites; instead, it might reward its audience’s trust with localized perspectives in a shared language and a common context. With the 2020 presidential election still more than a year away, there will be plenty more opportunities for local journalists across the country to rise to their unique occasion.

Below, more on the debate:

  • Hunter questions, pt. 1: Before the debate, Hunter Biden appeared in an exclusive interview with ABC News to refute President Trump’s widely debunked allegation that his father, Joe Biden, pressured Ukranian officials to fire a prosecutor investigating Burisma, a Ukranian company at which Hunter was a board member. In the ABC interview, Amy Robach asked Hunter about his salary (reported at more than $50,000 a month), his qualifications to be on Burisma’s board, and whether or not he discussed his position with his father. Hunter declined to discuss his salary and maintained that he was qualified to serve on the board, though he admitted he couldn’t untangle his last name from many of the privileges he enjoys in life. He repeatedly insisted that his father was above reproach.
  • Hunter questions, pt. 2: Later, during the debate, Anderson Cooper asked Joe Biden two questions about the same issue. The first question openly (and accurately) declared Trump’s allegation false, while the second question suggested that Hunter Biden has stepped down from Burisma out of guilt or culpability, rather than political pressure. Politico ran down the partisan critiques of Cooper’s framing 
  • ICYMI: Last month, I talked with Adam Entous about his Hunter Biden profile and how to responsibly report on these allegations.

Other notable stories:

  • Staff, producers, and supporters of Brooklyn broadcast station WBAI gathered at City Hall to protest the station’s contentious and abrupt closure by its parent nonprofit, the Pacifica Foundation. The Nation reported earlier this October that the community-based radio’s local station board had gotten a temporary restraining order to limit the Pacifica Foundation’s control, but the parent company did not comply with the order. Before a contempt-of-court hearing took place, the proceedings were moved to a Manhattan court. The Brooklyn Eagle reported yesterday that the temporary restraining order was reactivated, “prohibit[ing] Pacifica from keeping local broadcasting off-air” until an upcoming court date.
  • The Texas Tribune and ProPublica announced that they will join forces for a special investigative unit. The newsroom will be based in Austin, but will draw upon the resources of both organizations.
  • The Hollywood Reporter noted that media mogul Shari Redstone is exploring a plan to launch a conservative TV station as a competitor to Fox News. The move, which is not official, would likely rebrand an existing Viacom channel. 
  • TechCrunch reported that Twitter plans to restrict users’ ability to interact with the tweets of world leaders who break its user guidelines. Though the tweets will continue to exist, users will be unable to re-tweet, like, or comment on posts that do not meet the social-media company’s standards.
  • Hachette Australia—a publisher of Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill—will continue with its plans to release the book, despite a legal threat from Australian journalist Dylan Howard that has discouraged an online distributor and some Australian book sellers from stocking it. The Guardian has more
Posted: October 16, 2019, 1:51 pm

Democratic debate proves 12 is too many, and other takeaways | Ronan Farrow praises NBC journalists | Now hiring investigative reporters

The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, click here. Good Wednesday morning. Another Democratic presidential debate is in the books. The next one will be Nov. 20 in Georgia and co-hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post. Let’s look back at Tuesday’s debate, as well as the […]

The post Democratic debate proves 12 is too many, and other takeaways | Ronan Farrow praises NBC journalists | Now hiring investigative reporters appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: October 16, 2019, 11:52 am

Less than a third of Peruvians are satisfied with democracy  — and misinformation makes it worse

If you thought democracy was doing fine in Peru, think again. According to the latest poll released this week by the Latin American Public Opinion Project out of Vanderbilt University, only 28% of Peruvians say they are satisfied with democracy. And almost 60% of them say they would support  an unconstitutional presidential coup against the […]

The post Less than a third of Peruvians are satisfied with democracy  — and misinformation makes it worse appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: October 16, 2019, 11:45 am

Labored coverage

On the night of September 16th, security guards and a small crowd waited in the parking lot at the General Motors plant in Rochester, New York, for a strike that no one knew for sure would come. As the minutes ticked by it seemed it wasn’t going to happen at all. Then, about 20 minutes […]
Posted: October 16, 2019, 10:50 am

MSNBC public editor: The path of most resistance

This week, Chris Hayes took a remarkable risk. He called out the leadership of his own network in the wake of allegations made by Ronan Farrow, in his new book Catch and Kill, that NBC had “slow-walked and then ultimately killed” Farrow’s reporting on Harvey Weinstein. The caution came in part, Farrow alleged, out of […]
Posted: October 15, 2019, 7:05 pm

Twitter says it wants to solve the “journalists’ careers end because someone digs up an old tweet” problem

Whenever the end-of-decade-nostalgia industry gets around to ranking The 500 Best Internet Memes of the 2010s, I hope that No. 1 is Milkshake Duck. Nothing quite binds together all that we love and hate about contemporary online life than a charming lactose-tolerant duck who, I’m sorry to report, also had some very bad tweets. The...
Posted: October 15, 2019, 6:33 pm

“We repeatedly observed the same needs in our various circles of journalists of color.” This guide starts to address those needs in one place

“We pass on information person-to-person in a fashion that sometimes can feel like an elaborate game of telephone,” Lam Thuy Vo, Disha Raychaudhuri, and Moiz Syed write in the introduction to their Journalists of Color Resource Guide, which was released this week by the News Integrity Initiative at CUNY’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism....
Posted: October 15, 2019, 4:13 pm

Covering immigration in a private contractor’s world

When Patrick Michels began reporting on immigration two years ago, he set out to find where the government was sending migrant children who had arrived unaccompanied or who had been separated from parents or guardians. The search led him to a database listing the various private companies and nonprofits funded by the Department of Health […]
Posted: October 15, 2019, 3:55 pm

Can Spotify be the one to finally get people listening to short podcasts?

Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 230, dated October 15, 2019. Mina Kimes will host ESPN’s upcoming daily sports podcast. A senior writer who also frequently appears as a contributor on ESPN’s various television properties, Kimes joined ESPN in 2014 following stints at Fortune and Bloomberg News. She already hosts...
Posted: October 15, 2019, 3:37 pm

Government agencies can’t stop employees from talking to the press. Here’s why.

During the 35-day government shutdown that spanned last year’s Christmastime holidays, journalists searched for ways to humanize the impact of a month’s lost income on the families of federal employees. At every turn, they ran into the same obstacle: Federal employees had been told it was a punishable offense to talk to the media without […]

The post Government agencies can’t stop employees from talking to the press. Here’s why. appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: October 15, 2019, 1:30 pm

Syria, Turkey’s President Erdoğan, and the ongoing op-ed problem

On Sunday, according to reports, Turkish forces struck a convoy of civilians that was traveling with Kurdish forces in northern Syria—part of Turkey’s incursion into the region following Donald Trump’s sudden decision, last week, to draw down US troops there. Saad Ahmed, a reporter with the local news agency Hawar News, was one of several journalists in the convoy, and was killed in the strike; at least four others—Arsene Jakso, Dilsuz Deldar, Amal Younis, and Ahmed’s colleague Mohammad Ikinji—were injured, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. “At least nine people were killed, more than 70 injured,” Lindsey Hilsum of Britain’s Channel 4 News, who had been traveling with the convoy but abandoned it for safety reasons, said of the strike. “Were any of them those we’d met on the road? I have no way of knowing. All I know is that hope and determination could not save them.”

Turkish forces, and their proxies in Syria, haven’t stopped there in their fight against Kurdish groups they consider to be terrorists. In recent days, reports detailing shocking human-rights abuses, including the execution of Kurdish captives by Turkey’s partners and the killing of “scores” of unarmed civilians, have circulated. On Face the Nation Sunday, Margaret Brennan raised such claims with Mark Esper, the US defense secretary. “These are war crimes,” she said. Esper, cautiously, concurred: “It appears to be, if true, that they would be war crimes.” Yesterday, Trump—who has wavered a little on his drawdown decision following massive, bipartisan criticism at home—echoed Esper’s words as he slapped sanctions on Turkish officials, and tariffs on Turkish steel. Turkey’s action, Trump said, is “precipitating a humanitarian crisis and setting conditions for possible war crimes.” On the ground, the situation continued to deteriorate. According to the Washington Post, Turkey expanded the geographical scope of its operation. And US officials confirmed to Foreign Policy that Turkish proxies are deliberately releasing prisoners tied to ISIS.

ICYMI: Using social media to uncover a black market ‘brand’ linked to vaping illness

Much coverage and commentary in Western media has focused on Trump’s strategic blunder in clearing the path for Turkey’s offensive. (Per Axios, Trump aides didn’t think Turkey would actually invade.) Further down the news cycle, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s president, has also taken some sharp blows. Yesterday evening, in the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal, Erdoğan punched back. Under the headline “Turkey Is Stepping Up Where Others Fail to Act,” Erdoğan passed the buck, painting his operation as an unavoidable corrective to other world leaders’ failures to act on the migrant crisis and on Syria. Turkey, Erdoğan wrote, “has no argument with any ethnic or religious group.” (Many Kurds in Turkey, whose community has faced a years-long campaign of repression, may beg to differ.)

Erdoğan is not a first-time caller. This year alone, he’s been published in the opinion section of the New York Times, and multiple times in that of the Post. In hindsight, his piece for the Times—which ran in January, after Trump first announced plans to withdraw from Syria—grimly foreshadowed his argument in the Journal, albeit in peppier terms: Turkey, Erdoğan wrote for the Times, was “volunteering” to finish fighting “terrorists” on behalf of the US, and the international community should support its efforts to do so. In March, he wrote for the Post comparing the white supremacist who slaughtered Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, to members of ISIS; late last month, he wrote for the same paper about the need to secure justice for Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi dissident murdered by Saudi officials in a consulate in Turkey.

Following the Christchurch op-ed in March, I wrote in this newsletter that opinion editors were wrong to give Erdoğan a platform in their pages. The problem, I wrote, was the clear dissonance between Erdoğan’s op-eds—normally innocuous and righteous—and his politics. In print, Erdoğan said Western leaders must learn from the dignified, tolerant response of Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, to Christchurch; in real life, he toured Turkey ahead of local elections playing the shooter’s video to incite crowds. In print, Erdoğan expressed outrage at Khashoggi’s murder; in real life, he has eroded press freedom in Turkey, and is the world’s most prolific jailer of journalists. His renderings of Turkish interests in Syria, likewise, have been deeply propagandistic. His focus in the Journal, on the refugee crisis, seems aimed at a domestic audience. Unsurprisingly, the words “war crimes” are nowhere to be seen.

In March, Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor at the Post, told me that publishing Erdoğan is not an endorsement of him; rather, he said, the op-ed page should be “a forum for a wide range of views.” I returned to Hiatt yesterday, to ask whether his section had any new red lines around contributions, and if so, whether Erdoğan’s conduct in Syria would disqualify him from writing about it. He replied: “An editor should evaluate each piece on its merits, not draw red lines.” (James Bennet, editorial page editor at the Times, did not return a similar request for comment. CJR reached out to Paul Gigot, editorial page editor of the Journal, about today’s op-ed shortly before sending this newsletter, and will update it at CJR.org should we receive a response.)

As I wrote in March, simply banning authoritarian politicians from writing op-eds about newsworthy events would be an unsophisticated response to a complicated, nuanced problem. That said, serving readers requires more than offering up propaganda and trusting them to make up their own minds about it. Readers looking at an Erdoğan op-ed about Jamal Khashoggi should be confronted—prominently—with Erdoğan’s own record on press freedom*. Likewise, readers looking at his op-eds about Syria—today and, it seems likely, going forward—should know that his forces attacked a convoy of journalists and civilians, and didn’t stop there.

Below, more on Turkey, Syria, and the press:

  • “A nationalist surge”: The Post’s Kareem Fahim reports that Turkish media have mostly backed Erdoğan enthusiastically over the Syria invasion—and that more critical voices have been bullied or otherwise suppressed. Last week, Hakan Demir, an editor at the daily newspaper Birgun, was detained after he reprinted a statement from the Syrian Kurdish fighters Turkey is targeting. He remains under investigation.
  • Another op-ed: It’s not just Erdoğan using the Western press to get his position across on Syria: on Sunday, Foreign Policy published an article by Mazloum Abdi, the commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces, which are lined up against Turkey. Abdi explained that his forces will partner with their erstwhile enemy Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator, following the retreat of their American allies.
  • The wrong footage: On Sunday, ABC News ran footage of Turkey bombing Syria—but the footage wasn’t of Syria at all. Rather, it appears to have been taken at a gun range in Kentucky. ABC apologized but did not explain the error.


Other notable stories:

  • Tonight sees the fourth Democratic presidential primary debate, hosted jointly by CNN and the Times. Erin Burnett and Anderson Cooper will moderate, as will Marc Lacey, the Times’s national editor. The stage will be the most crowded in debate history, with 12 candidates vying for attention. (Why didn’t they just split them over two nights?) We could be in for a messy evening; in a preview, the Times writes that the big question will be, “Can anyone make a splash without being the one who ends up soaked?” (That is, indeed, a question.) Ahead of time, CJR’s Alexandria Neason asked Scott Wunn, executive director of the National Speech and Debate Association, how hosts and participants might cut through the noise. “The moderator has so much power,” he says.
  • Ronan Farrow’s book Catch and Kill hits shelves today and is still making headlines, despite its lengthy rollout: yesterday, we learned that the National Enquirer, per Farrow, shredded secret documents about Trump in 2016, the same day a Wall Street Journal reporter approached the magazine for comment on its “catch and kill” scheme to protect Trump. American Media Inc., which owns the Enquirer, denies this. Management at NBC News, another target of Farrow’s book (he used to work there), are hitting back, too—yesterday, Noah Oppenheim, its president, told staff that the book is “a smear.”
  • Following Shep Smith’s shocking departure from Fox, executives on the news side of the network are determined to keep his time slot focused on the facts; Variety’s Brian Steinberg reports that heavy-hitters including Bret Baier, Chris Wallace, and Martha MacCallum will all take turns filling in for Smith until a permanent replacement is appointed. Elsewhere, BuzzFeed reports that the Trump-based tensions at Fox aren’t unique—Rupert Murdoch’s UK titles face a similar divide over Boris Johnson.
  • For CJR, Elizabeth Hewitt spoke with Emma Betuel, a mind and body reporter for Inverse who wrote the first deep dive into Dank Vapes, a murky brand that officials subsequently linked to vaping-related lung illnesses. Betuel says: “I felt like I was screaming in a corner, ‘This company is not legitimate and they’re really dangerous.’”
  • OneZero’s Will Oremus explores the algorithm of Pinterest, which—when it comes to misinformation—is charting a different course than its Silicon Valley rivals. Where others have been criticized for radicalizing users through recommendations, Pinterest has opted to “embrace bias, limit virality, and become something of an anti-social network.”
  • Digital First Media—the cost-slashing, hedge fund-backed newspaper publisher—is outsourcing design work at some of its titles to the Philippines, Julie Reynolds writes for The Intercept. Reynolds reports that, prior to the Philippines move, Digital First laid off six employees in its California design and copy-editing hub, itself established to cut costs.
  • Staff at the Daily Progress, a newspaper in Charlottesville, Virginia, are unionizing. Their newly formed Blue Ridge Guild is asking management at the paper, which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway’s media arm, to voluntarily recognize the effort.
  • In Italy, Carlo De Benedetti, an 84-year-old media mogul, is trying to buy back into the newspaper company he founded—seven years after retiring and handing his controlling stake to his sons. In recent years, De Benedetti has berated his sons for mismanaging the company, whose titles include la Repubblica and La Stampa. Bloomberg has more. 
  • And when Business Insider’s Benjamin Goggin asked Bryan Goldberg, CEO of Bustle Digital Group, for comment on cratering morale at the company, Goldberg accused him of spreading “FUD” (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) and causing employees distress. (ICYMI in June, Lyz Lenz profiled Goldberg the “digital slumlord” for CJR.)

ICYMI: What Shep Smith’s exit says about Fox News

*Update: After the publication of this article, Hiatt, the editorial page editor at the Post, told CJR that Erdoğan’s recent op-ed on Jamal Khashoggi did run in print opposite an article, by Asli Aydintasbas, noting Turkey’s “complicated” role in the Khashoggi story given Erdoğan’s jailing of journalists.
Posted: October 15, 2019, 12:12 pm

Media showdown: It’s Ronan Farrow vs. NBC brass | More Matt Lauer accusations in book | Trump condemns fake video

The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, click here. Good Tuesday morning. Tonight, the Democratic presidential hopefuls — 12 of them — will hold a debate hosted by CNN and The New York Times. You can watch on CNN, CNN en Espanol and CNN International. You can […]

The post Media showdown: It’s Ronan Farrow vs. NBC brass | More Matt Lauer accusations in book | Trump condemns fake video appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: October 15, 2019, 11:32 am

Debate tips from the teens’ coach

Presidential debates can be tedious, hard to follow, and kind of useless a year ahead of Election Day. Moderators have limited time. Candidates, eager to stand out in the crowd—tonight on CNN, twelve Democrats will be on stage—are incentivized to grandstand. After every debate, journalists complain about the format and the performances. What would make […]
Posted: October 15, 2019, 10:50 am

Using social media to uncover a black market ‘brand’ linked to vaping illness

On September 27, federal health officials announced that they had tracked a number of bootleg THC cartridges to the vaping-related lung illnesses that have afflicted more than 1,000 people across the country. The most common cartridge cited by officials is a brand known as Dank Vapes.  Emma Betuel, a mind and body reporter for Inverse, […]
Posted: October 14, 2019, 6:21 pm

What Shep Smith’s exit says about Fox News

In March 2018, Shep Smith mused, in an interview with Time magazine, about walking away from his Fox News show. “I wonder,” he asked, “if I stopped delivering the facts, what would go in its place in this place that is most watched, most listened, most viewed, most trusted?” A year and a half later, we’re about to find out the answer. As his hour drew to a close on Friday afternoon, Smith, smiling placidly, heralded “a personal moment now.” No one—not least his colleagues—knew what was coming next. “This is my last newscast here,” Smith eventually said. “Even in our currently polarized nation, it’s my hope that the facts will win the day, that the truth will always matter, that journalism—and journalists—will thrive. I’m Shepard Smith, Fox News, New York.” With those words, Smith shuffled some papers and waved at the camera; then—according to the Washington Post—he slipped out of the building via the freight elevator, avoiding both the paparazzi and emotional goodbyes.

As his Time interview made clear, Smith—a redoubt of sanity in the increasingly warped universe of Fox News—had grown sick of the latitude afforded the network’s opinion hosts. His tipping point, the Post and CNN report, was a recent spat with Tucker Carlson: Smith criticized Carlson for failing to stick up for Andrew Napolitano, a legal analyst on Fox, after a guest on Carlson’s show called Napolitano “a fool”; Carlson shot back that Smith is “a partisan.” Per CNN’s Oliver Darcy, Smith was irked that network executives did not have his back; instead, he was reportedly reminded not to “shoot inside the tent.” (Fox called the latter claim “wildly inaccurate.”) Smith’s departure could now become a tipping point in its own right: an inside source told Darcy that it could trigger an exodus of staffers who “stayed here solely” for Smith. “Fox hasn’t just lost Shep today,” the source said.

ICYMI: Moving beyond ‘Zuck sucks’

In media circles, Smith’s exit drove a conversation throughout the weekend. On Reliable Sources, CNN’s Brian Stelter called it a “cultural moment” that’s “bigger than Fox”; Conor Powell, formerly a correspondent for the network, told Stelter that Smith “was really the directional compass for those of us that were journalists” at Fox. “His voice didn’t always make it past his own show—a lot of the other shows just sort of ignored what he reported—but at least, day in and day out, Shepard’s voice was on the channel.” Commentators concurred that with Smith gone from Fox, so, too, are facts. His departure “sends a clear and dismaying message: Fox’s vaunted ‘news’ division has been routed,” Matt Gertz, of Fox-antagonist Media Matters for America, wrote. “Fox belongs to the Seans Hannity and Lous Dobbs. And now, everyone knows it.”

At least until any exodus, such verdicts seem a little harsh on some of those Smith left behind: his own team of reporters and producers, for example, and hosts such as Chris Wallace, who have proved they can sit in the same studio as Trump administration figures without going all gooey-eyed at them. There’s no question, however, that Smith’s resignation is a defining loss for the serious people left at Fox—writing last year, Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman called him the network’s “most visible capital-J journalist and quasi-ombudsman”—as well as a clear victory for its propagandists. (Sean Hannity praised Smith on Friday, but has previously called him “clueless.”)

It’s also a victory for Trump. The president repeatedly trashed Smith, including in a tweet on the eve of Smith’s exit; on Friday, Trump needled Smith’s “terrible” ratings (which, while low by Fox News standards, were high compared to competitors’) under the guise of wishing him well. Over the weekend, Trump continued to behave like the network’s programmer in chief. On Saturday, he dialed into Jeanine Pirro’s show for a sycophantic interview. (“Do you take vitamins?” Pirro asked, expressing awe at Trump’s stamina. “How do you do this?”) Yesterday, on Twitter, he mocked Wallace, and suggested his fans should tune into Mark Levin’s show and Steve Hilton’s to get their nightly impeachment-Bidens-Ukraine-scandal fix.

In recent months, skeptical voices have refuted the suggestion that there is a genuine news-opinion divide at Fox. Those voices don’t need to be wrong for Smith’s departure to point at a concerning broader truth. As Sherman wrote last year, Fox has reportedly been rudderless since the ouster of Roger Ailes, in 2016; in Ailes’s absence, opinion hosts have had freer rein to do their own thing, which has often meant doing Trump’s thing on his behalf. The news-opinion divide (and this is not Smith’s fault) may often have been more smoke and mirrors than an actual firewall, but the appearance of one was of critical importance to Ailes. The disappearance of Smith—who had been with Fox ever since Ailes founded the network, in 1996—further erodes that perception, perhaps more so than any individual event of the post-Ailes era.

Below, more on Shep Smith and Fox News:

  • Next steps for Shep: Smith is not retiring, but he won’t resurface on a rival network anytime soon, seemingly for contractual reasons. For now, he plans to spend more time with his family. Also for the time being, Fox will replace Smith with a rotating cast of hosts, and rename his show Fox News Reporting. Trace Gallagher is first up today.
  • A Murdoch walks into a Barr: Last week, Maggie Haberman and Katie Benner, of the New York Times, reported that William Barr, the attorney general, took a private meeting with Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox News, at Murdoch’s New York home. It’s not clear what they discussed, but speculation that Smith’s departure was linked to the meeting is wide of the mark, Smith’s spokesperson said.
  • “Personal struggles”: Carl Cameron, formerly a reporter at Fox News, toured the studios following Smith’s departure, and was heavily critical of the network. In a statement to Mediaite, Fox unloaded on Cameron: a spokesperson said he “has a very short memory for our endless compassion, patience and graciousness in dealing with his multitude of personal struggles.” This, the Hollywood Reporter’s Jeremy Barr noted, was not what Fox said at the time of Cameron’s departure.
  • Litmus test: Fox personalities have stayed loyal to Trump despite the president’s frequent tirades against the network. According to the Times, over the summer, Trump even phoned Suzanne Scott, Fox News’s CEO, to complain about coverage. “In cajoling and bullying his closest media allies, Mr. Trump is wielding the total-loyalty litmus test that he has used to keep close associates in line,” the Times reports.


Other notable stories:

ICYMI: A climate of hate toward the press at Trump rallies

Posted: October 14, 2019, 12:02 pm

Beth Macy on the space between journalist and subject, and what comes after Dopesick

Beth Macy is still getting used to the idea of being an expert. Dopesick, her 2018 book, made Macy one of the country’s most authoritative voices on the subject of opioid addiction. The fifty-five-year-old reporter, who is based in Roanoke, Virginia, has shared information about sensitive topics, such as stigma’s stymying effect on medication-assisted treatment, […]
Posted: October 14, 2019, 10:55 am

In a corner of Brazil, local reporters are switching to government jobs and the state is achieving “media capture”

An unfortunate reality of the news business today is that it seems to create ex-journalists faster than it creates journalists. Reporting has always had a healthy turnover rate; downtown-living idealists turn into mortgage-owning, kid-having suburbanites, and that makes the paycheck of a comms or PR job more appealing. But the room for an exit, whether...
Posted: October 11, 2019, 5:50 pm

The spirit of Gawker keeps finding new ways to die: G/O Media shuts down Splinter and warns staffers not to write about the closure

Splinter is following in the footsteps of its predecessor, Gawker, in a not-great way: It’s being shut down. The site’s private equity firm owner is Great Hill Partners, which acquired Gizmodo Media Group, including what was left of the Gawker family of sites, from Univision earlier this year, renaming it G/O Media Group. It cited...
Posted: October 11, 2019, 2:51 pm

Focus here, not there: These are the gaps in political misinformation research

“Focus on the most pressing questions to which we truly need answers.” In a paper to be published in an upcoming issue of American Behavioral Scientist, Brian Weeks, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, and Homero Gil de Zúñiga of the University of Vienna outline the “critical issues” that they hope political communications...
Posted: October 11, 2019, 1:57 pm

How are paywalled news outlets preparing to serve residents in California’s mega-power shutoffs?

In what would be the world’s fifth-largest economy by itself, at least 800,000 but as many as 2 million residents have already lost power — on purpose — as California’s largest utility provider cut the power supply in fear of faulty equipment sparking wildfires. It’s kind of mind-boggling how big it could get: 22 of...
Posted: October 10, 2019, 6:01 pm

Tech platforms are where public life is increasingly constructed, and their motivations are far from neutral

As background, I’m a professor of communication and journalism, which means I study how people make meaning through media. This is broad, but this focus on meaning and media poses an intellectual challenge that is tightly tied to practices like journalism, technology design, and policy making. These are the professions that often create the conditions...
Posted: October 10, 2019, 4:27 pm

Here’s The New York Times’ vision for its product team, now under Alex Hardiman’s leadership

The product team — people who float in between editorial, business, technology, etc. around the newsroom and keep the organization on track in developing useful products — is becoming an increasingly larger part of newsrooms, locally and nationally. As I wrote in April: In a nutshell, journalism is now firmly a product that needs humans...
Posted: October 10, 2019, 3:14 pm

From live blogs to time capsules: How CNN is trying to put its breaking news into context

What do you do when the breaking news is coming in from all over, all the time? Some people stop using their news apps (or don’t even download them in the first place) out of sheer overwhelmingness. And some people turn to CNN for live updates. On Wednesday, for example, you could find live updates...
Posted: October 10, 2019, 1:34 pm

Newsonomics: The Gannett–GateHouse merger is really happening, but expect to see more than 10% of jobs cut off the top

The megamerger is really happening. Expect the new Gannett — the brand that will survive that chain’s acquisition by GateHouse Media — to officially take wobbly flight soon, perhaps around Thanksgiving. Both companies, the country’s No. 1 and No. 2 newspaper publishers, say it’s full speed ahead. Independent financial analysts tell me that their data-driven...
Posted: October 9, 2019, 6:12 pm

A thumb on the scale: Research says hiding likes can make Facebook fairer and reduce misinformation

You may have read about — or already seen, depending on where you are — the latest tweak to Facebook’s interface: the disappearance of the likes counter. Like Instagram (which it owns), Facebook is experimenting with hiding the number of likes that posts receive for users in some areas (Australia for Facebook, and Canada for...
Posted: October 9, 2019, 5:18 pm

Fundraising like reporting: How eight nonprofit newsrooms majorly increased their major gifts

If you put no money into getting more money, then you will have no money. A new report from the Institute of Nonprofit News examined the investments made into major gift procurement by eight nonprofit newsrooms in a pilot coaching program. “The results exceeded expectations,” INN consultant Lindsey Melki wrote. “All participating organizations achieved increased...
Posted: October 9, 2019, 2:48 pm

Which podcasts have truly shaped the medium? And do they fit in convenient list form?

Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 229, dated October 8, 2019. Just in: Luminary exec shuffle. For your intelligence dossier purposes: The Verge is reporting that Joe Purzycki, who co-founded the startup with Matt Sacks, is no longer the company’s chief strategy officer. He was replaced by Jeff Saunders, former...
Posted: October 8, 2019, 3:25 pm

Facebook will pay $40 million to settle a lawsuit claiming that it misled advertisers about the success of video

Last year a group of small advertisers in California sued Facebook, claiming that it massively overestimated video ad viewing time (by as much as 900 percent) and failed to disclose the miscalculation once people inside the company had discovered it. During this period, company executives were also heavily promoting video at news industry events — contributing,...
Posted: October 8, 2019, 2:37 pm

Substack’s first media company is The Dispatch, a center-right site founded by former Weekly Standard and National Review editors

Two significant figures in the conservative media world — Stephen Hayes, former editor-in-chief of the now defunct Weekly Standard, and Jonah Goldberg, formerly senior editor at National Review — say they see opportunity in the center-right, conservative-but-not-kneejerk-pro-Trump political news space. Substack, which until now has focused primarily on individual writers’ email newsletters, sees a chance...
Posted: October 8, 2019, 12:00 pm

Here’s a roundup of the latest and greatest research on local news’ impact and future

You’re pretty sure that local news contributes positively to democracy. But do you have the research to back that up? In addition to this collection Democracy Fund assembled in June 2018, take a look at this list of research papers. Academics have been diving into the structure and impact of local news operations for decades,...
Posted: October 7, 2019, 6:05 pm

One subscriber or 48,000 pageviews: Why every journalist should know the “unit economics” of their content

Imagine you’re a barista at a coffee shop. You may have no background in business, finance, or data analysis — but you still probably have a decent handle on how the company you work for makes money and what role you play in that process. You know that each cup of coffee you sell costs...
Posted: October 7, 2019, 2:00 pm

12 local newsrooms, seven states, one big problem: How an INN collaboration is nationalizing the rural healthcare crisis

When a rural hospital closes, according to a new study of California’s healthcare system, the chance of dying in a time-sensitive situation like a heart attack or stroke increases by nearly 6 percent. On average over the past 15 years, 10 rural hospitals have closed each year in the United States. Half of the rural...
Posted: October 7, 2019, 12:46 pm

Supermarkets are ditching their newspaper and magazine racks (and publishers aren’t happy)

You can still get a wine advent calendar at an Aldi store in the U.K., but you can’t buy a newspaper to go along with it. The German-owned grocery store chain — which is the fifth-largest in the U.K. and also operates in 17 other countries — is no longer selling newspapers or magazines as...
Posted: October 4, 2019, 3:40 pm

Facebook is opening up a fact-checking loophole for satire creators. Hope all their motives are good!

Come on, it’s just satire! Creators of damaging fake news have long sought cover under the claim that what they’re doing is “just satire” — whether or not the readers/sharers of said articles are aware that what they’re reading is supposed to be a joke or not. (They often aren’t.) Now Facebook is making it a...
Posted: October 4, 2019, 2:14 pm

The business case for listening to your audience is still murky (but early results are promising)

Does audience engagement-focused reporting actually improve a news organization’s revenue? After $650,000, nearly three dozen newsrooms’ experiments, and one year later, it’s still unclear. Four major journalism funders pooled the money for a fund to support a variety of outlets’ attempts at connecting the use of audience engagement and transparency tools with increased reader revenue....
Posted: October 3, 2019, 4:54 pm

A merger of chumbox-mongers might leave publishers a little bit poorer (and their websites a little less revolting)

I had an idea for a joke website once. It was about at all the gross, exploitative, soul-debasing ads you see at the bottom of news articles or tucked into sidebars on a lot of sites. The headline was going to be the very clickbaity “YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT THESE 1990s STARS LOOK LIKE TODAY.”...
Posted: October 3, 2019, 4:47 pm

A soccer league, job fairs, and local news: How this Spanish-language news org in New Orleans reshaped its mission post-Katrina

Jambalaya News is one of those organizations that’s hard to pin down — because it’s busy doing as much as it can for its ever-growing community. I first met publisher and editor Brenda Murphy and COO Rocio Tirado in the organization’s hometown of New Orleans during ONA (credit to Daniela Gerson, senior fellow at the...
Posted: October 3, 2019, 2:06 pm

Wriggling out of accountability: Misinformation, evasion, and the informational problem of live TV interviews

First, it happened on Fox News. Chris Wallace asked White House adviser Stephen Miller about the president’s decision to use private lawyers “to get information from the Ukrainian government rather than go through…agencies of his government.” Miller’s response began “Two different points…” when Wallace cut him off. “How about answering my question?” Wallace asked. Miller,...
Posted: October 2, 2019, 5:00 pm

College students who go off Facebook for a week consume less news and report being less depressed

Threatening to leave Facebook, or talking about how you should spend less time on it, is common. Actually leaving is less common (though it is happening). If you do leave, it might be good for you…and you also might miss it: A study of 1,769 U.S. undergrads found that those who got off Facebook for...
Posted: October 2, 2019, 3:25 pm

More Americans than ever are getting news from social media, even as they say social media makes news “worse”

U.S. adults are getting news from social media increasingly often — but they also think that the big platforms have too much control over the news they see and that this results in a “worse mix of news” for users, according to a study of 5,107 people out Wednesday from the Pew Research Center. Both...
Posted: October 2, 2019, 2:00 pm

Will a merged Vox Media/New York become a bigger player in podcasts?

Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 228, dated October 1, 2019. New Vox Media. Know what’s wild? It’s only been a week since news broke that Vox Media is moving to acquire New York Media, a significant media development with tremendous thematic weight, and already it feels like it’s been…oh,...
Posted: October 1, 2019, 3:46 pm