Media Matters 2016

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Media Matters 2015
The Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy
How to Deal With the Lies of Donald Trump: Guidelines for the Media
A More Detailed Guide to Dealing With Trump’s Lies
How to Manipulate Donald Trump

“If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed.
If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.” – Mark Twain

new-yorker-facts-dont-matter“I’m sorry, Jeannie, your answer was correct, but Kevin shouted his incorrect answer over yours, so he gets the points.”

22 December
Fake News Is Not the Real Media Threat We’re Facing
By David A. Bell
(The Nation) What the conservative media machine does, in tandem with its delegitimization of real news, is much more dangerous. Its leaders take any story that, however glancingly or speculatively, throws doubt upon the patriotism, honesty, or competence of public figures they dislike, and immediately cast it as the greatest outrage in American history. They return to it as often as possible, greeting every new revelation, however tiny or questionable, as a smoking gun. Just for the Obama administration alone, the list of such scandals is almost endless: “Operation Fast and Furious”; the IRS auditing scandal; the supposed “ransom” paid to Iran as part of the nuclear deal; the loans made to the Solyndra solar panel company; alleged misdeed involving the Secret Service, the General Services Administration, and the EPA; Benghazi (Benghazi!); and of course Hillary Clinton’s e-mail. Anyone relying on The New York Times for news over the past eight years would have seen little of genuine importance in most of these stories, and little to challenge the conclusion that Barack Obama has presided, by historical standards, over a virtually entirely scandal-free administration. Anyone relying on Rush Limbaugh or Fox News would have seen in them a pattern of corruption and malevolence unmatched in American history, and one which the untrustworthy mainstream media deliberately covered up

18 December
By Attacking the Press, Donald Trump May Be Doing It a Favor
(NYT) “Has anyone looked at the really poor numbers of @VanityFair Magazine,” the incoming president of the United States wrote. “Way down, big trouble, dead! Graydon Carter, no talent, will be out!”
Actually, the magazine reports that its circulation, its revenue and its Web traffic are all up this year over last. And Mr. Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair and one of the best magazine editors in the country, is in no more danger of losing his job than he was a year ago, when Mr. Trump wondered aloud whether he was on his way out.
But Mr. Carter seized the moment with a red home page banner calling Vanity Fair “The Magazine Donald Trump Doesn’t Want You to Read” and imploring visitors, “Subscribe Now!”
Lo and behold, subscriptions spiked a hundredfold over their daily average, the magazine said, bringing Vanity Fair’s parent company, Condé Nast, the biggest number of new daily sign-ups in its 116-year history. (The tally had hit 42,000 by Sunday.)
… in the weeks since the election, magazines like The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Vanity Fair; newspapers including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post; and nonprofits like NPR and ProPublica have been reporting big boosts in subscription rates or donations.
It’s as if Mr. Trump’s media attacks have combined with the heightened attention on the perils of fake news to create one big fat advertisement for the value of basic journalism.
15 December
Trump: Vanity Fair is ‘dead’
Vanity Fair is the latest addition to a long list of media outlets attacked by Trump, including POLITICO, The New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post and NBC News.
3 December
How to report Trump
(Quartz weekend edition) In the Age of Trump, the protocols are being rewritten. From unhinged early-morning tweets to loopy phone calls with foreign leaders and the reality-TV-style contest for the job of secretary of State, it’s a sprawling mess. Moreover, getting elected hasn’t diminished Trump’s penchant for telling shameless and very big lies, such as his claim that millions of people voted illegally, or that the murder rate is rising sharply (it’s been falling steadily for years).
As destabilizing as this may be for most people, it’s completely unmoored the press. Once, everything a president would say was considered news; anything that hinted at an opinion would be carefully dissected. But what happens when the president is a gushing firehouse of ill-considered polemics and outright falsehoods? For the first time, serious people in the media are suggesting the responsible way to cover Trump is simply to ignore a lot of what he says, and focus more attention instead on what his administration does. Others counter that shrugging off his ravings is letting him off the hook.
This problem will become even more acute as outrage fatigue sets in. Trump will not tire of repeating lies, but people will tire of reading stories pointing them out. Is it just a matter of stamina? When half the nation (or more!) believes that no reporting on Trump can be trusted, and where “post-truth” has entered the lexicon, what’s the role of the media? Maybe the best we can do is turn on the cameras and let them run, so that like spectators at a Nascar race, people will watch, if only to see the inevitable crash.—Oliver Staley
26 November
christiane-amanpour‘My blood ran cold’: Christiane Amanpour on Trump media comments
Renowned CNN foreign correspondent ‘worried’ by current climate for journalists in U.S.
(CBC) Amanpour says several statements made in recent months by the U.S. president-elect — in which he has variously described journalists as “despicable and dishonest,” “crooked” and “liars” — can be the beginning of a dangerous political narrative.
Earlier this week, Trump held meetings with several high-profile U.S. journalists, including some of Amanpour’s CNN colleagues. The gathering with TV network executives and anchors at Trump Tower in Manhattan was later reported to be a dressing-down by the president-elect for what he considered their unfair treatment of him during the election campaign.
In her acceptance speech [of the award by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists for “extraordinary and sustained achievement in the cause of press freedom.”], Amanpour said the current hostile climate for reporters in the United States, including the rise of so-called fake news, has led to an “existential crisis” for journalists, a “threat to the very relevance and usefulness of our profession.”
Amanpour says journalists can’t lose their nerve now, at such a critical time.
“We have to fight to defend facts right now,” she told CBC News, “in what’s being described as a ‘post-truth’ world.”
(CNN) Journalism faces an ‘existential crisis’ in Trump era  This is a
transcript of the speech she gave after accepting the honor Tuesday night in New York.
24 November
Postmedia executive awarded retention bonus departing company at end of November
The payments were disclosed in public filings just as Postmedia is undertaking the latest of several rounds of cost-cutting, planning to slash 20 per cent of salary costs as the company’s revenue continues to decline.
In the past year alone, Postmedia, which owns the National Post, Vancouver Sun, Edmonton Journal and Montreal Gazette among other papers, has merged competing newsrooms in major cities, cut the equivalent of at least 800 full-time jobs, offered staff buyouts and closed a printing plant in London, Ont.
23 November
Carol Giacomo:
Under President Trump, Will the Press Still Be Free?
(NYT) The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based advocacy group, usually focuses on the fight for press freedoms overseas. In the past, the group has condemned the persecution of reporters and photographers in Turkey, Egypt, Iran and China, among other countries.
But this year is not like other years. Throughout the presidential campaign, Donald Trump relentlessly excoriated and mocked journalists, fostering a hostile environment in which his supporters often joined in taunting and threatening the press corps. So when the committee held its annual dinner in New York City on Tuesday night, it rightly shone a spotlight on the United States itself.
John Cassidy: Two Theories About Donald Trump’s Meeting with the New York Times
(The New Yorker) … the optimistic theory of Trump: that he has no core principles and will do virtually anything to be liked, including, where necessary, ditching some of his campaign promises. … But just because Trump was willing to enter the enemy’s den and soften his rhetoric doesn’t mean that anything about his policy platform, or his approach to the Presidency, has really changed.
Charles M. Blow: No, Trump, We Can’t Just Get Along
(NYT Op-Ed) Donald Trump schlepped across town on Tuesday to meet with the publisher of The New York Times and some editors, columnists and reporters at the paper.
After a campaign of bashing The Times relentlessly, in the face of the actual journalists, he tempered his whining with flattery.
It’s not that I don’t believe that people can change and grow. They can. But real growth comes from the accepting of responsibility and repenting of culpability. Expedient reversal isn’t growth; it’s gross.
22 November
(Quartz) Lessons on autocracy for the US press. Normally used to lecturing the rest of the world about media freedom and ethics, under Donald Trump American journalists will now get a taste of life elsewhere, writes Nic Dawes, head of Human Rights Watch’s media division. Get used, he says, to endless lawsuits, limited access, being stigmatized as “the opposition,” and interference from regime-friendly plutocrats.
Maneuvering a new reality for US journalism
(Columbia Review of Journalism) You have some deep resources to draw on for the battle that is closing around you. For starters there is your Constitution, which offers stronger protections than just about any comparable legal framework. And your money, greatly diminished, and unevenly distributed to be sure, but orders of magnitude more plentiful than what your counterparts elsewhere have to call upon. You also have reserves of talent, creativity, and commitment far larger than you are given credit for by your critics, and right now by angry, bewildered, and wounded friends.
But one thing you don’t have, is experience of what to do when things start to get genuinely bad.
When Donald Trump ditched his press pool twice within days of being elected, and launched a series of Twitter attacks on The New York Times, a lot of you sounded surprised. As if you expected him to become a different person once the anointing oil of the Electoral College had touched his brow. Of course there was nothing surprising about his conduct. Rule number 1 of surviving autocracy, as Masha Gessen reminds us, is “Believe the Autocrat.”
19 November
From truthiness to post-truth, just in time for Donald Trump: Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year should scare the hell out of you
Back in the innocent days of 2006, “truthiness” described our political reality. We’re way past that now
(Salon) With truthiness, though, we still recognized that truth exists, just that it could be overridden and bent to serve our own emotional purposes. Even the word itself suggests fidelity to a kind of truth — perhaps the loosiest-goosiest brand but still recognizable to its mother.
In the cold, bitter light of November 2016, truthiness sounds positively quaint. We’re in the “post-truth” era now, baby. The word of this year gained popularity in the aftermath of the Brexit vote and took on a life of its own and three more heads, it seems, as Donald Trump’s campaign for president with its wild claims to “Make America Great Again” proved unstoppable. Now it’s the Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the yearfor 2016.
One Thing Voters Agree On: Better Campaign Coverage Was Needed
Liz Spayd, THE PUBLIC EDITOR
(NYT) WHAT struck me most as I spoke with readers is how much, to a person, they had something to say that was smart and reasonable. They weren’t randomly selected — I chose them from an inbox of complaints — but they had reactions that were well worth hearing. I found myself wishing someone from the newsroom was on the line with me, especially to hear how many of the more liberal voters wanted more balanced coverage. Not an echo chamber of liberal intellectualism, but an honest reflection of reality.
13 November
Dangerous idiots: how the liberal media elite failed working-class Americans
Trump supporters are not the caricatures journalists depict – and native Kansan Sarah Smarsh sets out to correct what newsrooms get wrong
(The Guardian) Earlier this year, primary exit polls revealed that Trump voters were, in fact, more affluent than most Americans, with a median household income of $72,000– higher than that of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders supporters. Forty-four percent of them had college degrees, well above the national average of 33% among whites or 29% overall. In January, political scientist Matthew MacWilliams reported findings that a penchant for authoritarianism – not income, education, gender, age or race –predicted Trump support.
These facts haven’t stopped pundits and journalists from pushing story after story about the white working class’s giddy embrace of a bloviating demagogue.
In seeking to explain Trump’s appeal, proportionate media coverage would require more stories about the racism and misogyny among white Trump supporters in tony suburbs. Or, if we’re examining economically driven bitterness among the working class, stories about the Democratic lawmakers who in recent decades ended welfare as we knew it, hopped in the sack with Wall Street and forgot American labor in their global trade agreements. …
The main reason that national media outlets have a blind spot in matters of class is the lack of socioeconomic diversity within their ranks. Few people born to deprivation end up working in newsrooms or publishing books. I know journalists to be hard-working people who want to get the story right, and I’m resistant to rote condemnations of “the media”. The classism of cable-news hosts merely reflects the classism of privileged America in general. It’s everywhere, from tweets describing Trump voters as inbred hillbillies to a Democratic campaign platform that didn’t bother with a specific anti-poverty platform until a month out from the general election.
The economic trench between reporter and reported on has never been more hazardous than at this moment of historic wealth disparity, though, when stories focus more often on the stock market than on people who own no stocks. (13 October 2016)
donald-trump-60-minutes-20161114Donald Trump won’t take a salary as US president, and other news from his “60 Minutes” interview
On the conduct he plans to exhibit as president:
“I’ll conduct myself in a very good manner, but it depends on what the situation is. Sometimes you have to be rougher,” Trump said. “Sometimes you need a certain rhetoric to get people motivated.”
The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson is not impressed

“60 Minutes” with Donald Trump
11 November
John Cassidy: Media Culpa? The Press and the Election Result
In a public statement issued on Wednesday, the American Association for Public Opinion Research said bluntly, “The polls clearly got it wrong this time.” The organization announced that it had already put together a panel of “survey research and election polling experts” tasked with finding some answers. Several possible explanations have already been floated.
First, it’s possible there was a late swing to Trump among undecided voters, which the state polls, in particular, failed to pick up. Another possibility is that some Trump voters didn’t tell the pollsters about their preferences—the “shy Trump supporter” hypothesis.
A third theory, which I suspect may be the right one, is that a lot of Trump voters refused to answer the pollsters’ calls in the first place, because they regarded them as part of the same media-political establishment that Trump was out railing against on the campaign trail. Something like this appears to have happened in Britain earlier this year, during the run-up to the Brexit referendum. Turnout wound up being considerably higher than expected among lower-income voters in the north of England, particularly elderly ones, and that swung the result.
Whatever went wrong with the polls in this country, they inevitably colored perceptions
10 November
Commentary: The unbearable smugness of the press
By Will Rahn, political correspondent and managing director, politics, for CBS News Digital
(CBS Commentary) Journalists increasingly don’t even believe in the possibility of reasoned disagreement, and as such ascribe cynical motives to those who think about things a different way. We see this in the ongoing veneration of “facts,” the ones peddled by explainer websites and data journalists who believe themselves to be curiously post-ideological.That the explainers and data journalists so frequently get things hilariously wrong never invites the soul-searching you’d think it would. Instead, it all just somehow leads us to more smugness, more meanness, more certainty from the reporters and pundits. Faced with defeat, we retreat further into our bubble, assumptions left unchecked. No, it’s the voters who are wrong.
There’s a place for opinionated journalism; in fact, it’s vital. But our causal, profession-wide smugness and protestations of superiority are making us unable to do it well.
Our theme now should be humility. We must become more impartial, not less so. We have to abandon our easy culture of tantrums and recrimination. We have to stop writing these know-it-all, 140-character sermons on social media and admit that, as a class, journalists have a shamefully limited understanding of the country we cover.
What’s worse, we don’t make much of an effort to really understand, and with too few exceptions, treat the economic grievances of Middle America like they’re some sort of punchline. Sometimes quite literally so, such as when reporters tweet out a photo of racist-looking Trump supporters and jokingly suggest that they must be upset about free trade or low wages.
We have to fix this, and the broken reasoning behind it. There’s a fleeting fun to gang-ups and groupthink. But it’s not worth what we are losing in the process.
9 November
how the world’s best cartoonists are reacting to Trump’s victory
(Fusion) With a mix of angry humor, barbed irony, and total disbelief, political cartoonists around the world are sharpening their pencils to illustrate something that can’t be explained in words: President-elect Donald Trump.
While some cartoonists are focusing on Trump’s misogyny, others are using their skills to highlight the racism and nativism that ran through his campaign. In most cases, the cartoonists are challenged to make the U.S. look more cartoonish than it’s become.
Many of today’s cartoons reflect a deep concern about the immediate future of a country that for centuries has been a beacon of democracy and freedom for those fleeing authoritarian regimes and economic chaos.
26 October
Study Confirms Network Evening Newscasts Have Abandoned Policy Coverage For 2016 Campaign
(Media Matters) Walking away from a long-standing tradition of covering issues and presidential policies during campaign season, the network evening newscasts have all but abandoned that type of reporting this year, according to recent tabulations from Tyndall Report, which for decades has tracked the flagship nightly news programs.
Since the beginning of 2016, ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News have devoted just 32 minutes to issues coverage, according to Andrew Tyndall.
It seems clear that the media’s abandonment of issues coverage benefits Trump since his campaign has done very little to outline the candidate’s core beliefs. Clinton, by contrast, has done the opposite.
As the Associated Press reported, “Trump’s campaign has posted just seven policy proposals on his website, totaling just over 9,000 words. There are 38 on Clinton’s ‘issues’ page, ranging from efforts to cure Alzheimer’s disease to Wall Street and criminal justice reform, and her campaign boasts that it has now released 65 policy fact sheets, totaling 112,735 words.”
A study released last month from Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy confirmed that during the time of both parties’ conventions this summer, just eight percent of news coverage centered on policy and issues.
20 October
We should not be surprised – as the son of Mike Wallace, he has the right genes.
No rigged debate here: Moderator Chris Wallace wins the night
(The Hill) The reviews are in for moderator Chris Wallace.
And let’s just say that we haven’t seen a media harmony and consensus over one guy like this since Sully landed that plane in the Hudson River.
… the consensus from publications — even those of the left leaning variety — is clear: Chris Wallace of Fox News was the clear winner of last night’s debate. And following a summer when the network dominated headlines for all the wrong reasons in the wake of sexual harassment allegations against its now-former Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, Wallace’s impeccable performance couldn’t have come at a better time.
The upgrade from debate moderators of the recent past came very early in the debate, exemplified by this textbook pivot Wallace employed in an effort to fact-check Trump without injecting himself into the debate:
17 October
What If the Newspaper Industry Made a Colossal Mistake?
By Jack Shafer
(Politico) What if, in the mad dash two decades ago to repurpose and extend editorial content onto the Web, editors and publishers made a colossal business blunder that wasted hundreds of millions of dollars? What if the industry should have stuck with its strengths—the print editions where the vast majority of their readers still reside and where the overwhelming majority of advertising and subscription revenue come from—instead of chasing the online chimera?
That’s the contrarian conclusion I drew from a new paper written by H. Iris Chyi and Ori Tenenboim of the University of Texas and published this summer in Journalism Practice. Buttressed by copious mounds of data and a rigorous, sustained argument, the paper cracks open the watchworks of the newspaper industry to make a convincing case that the tech-heavy Web strategy pursued by most papers has been a bust. The key to the newspaper future might reside in its past and not in smartphones, iPads and VR. “Digital first,” the authors claim, has been a losing proposition for most newspapers.
11 October
European Parliament expresses concern over media pluralism in France
(EurActiv) Media freedom and pluralism in several EU countries is degrading, according to a European Parliament report, which focussed on France and six other countries. EurActiv France reports.
Already under strain from political and commercial interests, the freedom of the EU’s media is being further undermined by cultural and financial impoverishment.
As a result, they are finding it more and more difficult to stick to their role as independent observers, according to the “
comparative analysis of media freedom and pluralism in the EU Member States published by the European Parliament’s committee on civil liberties (LIBE).
For the purposes of this study, the concept of pluralism covers several criteria: diverse shareholders, independence from political and economic pressure, observation of journalistic ethics and professional quality, financial stability, cultural and political diversity of content, geographical diversity and independence from regulatory authorities. None of the member states studied fulfilled all the criteria.
There is no direct correlation between diversified ownership and pluralism on the media market. But rich international owners are sometimes able to resist political pressure and provide diverse content, while financially weaker media split the market between them and seek the support of the political establishment or industry, the report said.
7 September
Mansbridge’s Exit Is CBC’s Chance To Fix What’s Wrong With TV News
Wade Rowland, professor, author, journalist
The celebrity news anchor fills no journalistic need, but is a marketing necessity, especially when quality comparisons are risky.
(HuffPost) … it has long been my view that there’s an even bigger problem with the whole idea of the news anchor as avatar. And it is that their value as a marketing tool gives them too much authority in the television newsroom. Whatever intellectual, academic or journalistic chops they may or may not have, their political clout within the corporation as a whole gives them disproportionate influence over the ongoing process of deciding what constitutes news and how stories should be covered.
My other long-standing concern is that the news should not have a face, either fatherly or motherly. Despite the unfortunate use in the business of the word “story” as synonymous with “report,” news is not entertainment — it’s information. The anchor-as-chief-story-teller is a concession to entertainment values that confuses audiences, blurring the line between the two.
5 September
Peter Mansbridge to step down from The National next year
With his instantly recognizable baritone voice, CBC’s chief correspondent has helmed the desk for 3 decades
Peter Mansbridge — the veteran CBC News anchor whose deep, authoritative voice has been informing Canadians of the day’s top stories, broadcasting into their living rooms each night for decades — is retiring as anchor of The National.
He has covered 14 federal elections, hosted eight Olympic ceremonies and conducted an estimated 15,000 interviews, sitting opposite countless Canadian and global leaders, along with numerous personalities from the worlds of politics, sports and entertainment.
Mansbridge, 68, has announced that he plans to step down from the helm of CBC’s flagship show next summer, after anchoring special Canada Day coverage on July 1, when the country will mark its 150th birthday.
“It’s been an amazing time to report our history, but I’ve decided that this year will be my last one,” Mansbridge told viewers Monday night.Peter Mansbridge thenational-web-2014
2 September
Interesting and detailed analysis – well worth reading
The Revenge of Roger’s Angels
How Fox News women took down the most powerful, and predatory, man in media
(New York Magazine) By January 2002, Fox News had surpassed CNN as the highest-rated cable news channel. But Ailes’s success went beyond ratings: The rise of Fox News provided Murdoch with the political influence in the United States that he already wielded in Australia and the United Kingdom. And by merging news, politics, and entertainment in such an overt way, Ailes was able to personally shape the national conversation and political fortunes as no one ever had before. It is not a stretch to argue that Ailes is largely responsible for, among other things, the selling of the Iraq War, the Swift-boating of John Kerry, the rise of the tea party, the sticking power of a host of Clinton scandals, and the purported illegitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency.
Ailes became untouchable. At News Corp., he behaved just as he had at NBC, but Murdoch tolerated Ailes’s abusiveness because he was pleased with the results.
12 August
Rupert Murdoch Promotes Roger Ailes Loyalists to Run Fox News
(New York Magazine) Murdoch, who will remain as executive chairman of Fox News, divided Ailes’s job into two positions with titles of co-president. Fox Television Stations CEO Jack Abernethy will run the business side of the news network, while programming chief Bill Shine will oversee content and talent.
Shine’s promotion is perhaps the most surprising given that he’s been the subject of intense media scrutiny since Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual-harassment lawsuit against Ailes on July 6. His elevation seems to signal that Rupert Murdoch, contrary to some speculation, intends to maintain Ailes’s brand of programming. Shine enthusiastically promoted Ailes’s right-wing agenda (he was formerly Sean Hannity’s producer)
18 July
Roger Ailes to be ousted from Fox News
(Daily Kos) Ailes is the architect of the network’s hard-right news model that during his tenure elevated rage over substance and belligerence over facts, leading to a new conservative movement stupider and less informed than any which came before it.
2 July
Jeffrey SimpsonTHE SIMPSON DECADES: FOUR SNAPSHOTS OF A COLUMNIST’S CAREER
In his 43 years at The Globe and Mail and 32 years as a national affairs columnist, Jeffrey Simpson has written thousands of columns, published eight books and won all three of the nation’s leading literary awards. Now, at the end of June, he will be retiring.
During his time in The Globe’s comment pages, Canada has seen 10 federal elections, seven prime ministers and many defining moments of the world’s modern history. Here are some decade-by-decade snapshots of how Mr. Simpson saw some of those events.
Yves Boisvert: Merci beaucoup et au revoir, Monsieur Simpson
Few journalists in this country know Canada better then Jeffrey Simpson. And fewer still have a better understanding of Quebec politics, which is an exotic theme for a vast majority of reporters outside the province.
I met Jeffrey Simpson on several occasions when I was a young journalist and was able to see, at work, the same man whose articles I had read before entering the profession: curious, well-read, generous and apparently devoid of self-importance, even though some viewed him with an almost papal deference.
The distinguished columnist is, along with Graham Fraser and some others, part of the vanishing breed of Canadian journalists who invested a lot of time in trying to understand Quebec society and history during the 1970s and 1980s. That was before “constitutional fatigue” set in.
Not many star journalists from other parts of Canada could easily cover a trial, a press conference or a political gathering held in French. Mr. Simpson, who laid down his pen for The Globe on Friday after more than 30 years as a national affairs columnist, is much more than technically bilingual. He speaks a perfect French and could conduct an interview in la langue de Molière with the man in the street as well as with the chief justice or the premier of Quebec.
27 May
Behind the Scenes, Billionaires’ Growing Control of News
(NYT) Already famous for helping to start PayPal, Mr. Thiel has presented an innovative take on the old practice of media control — devoting his almost unlimited means to lawsuits that promise to shutter a news organization he does not like, as Felix Salmon wrote in Fusion this week.
He is also tied to a dominating new force in news, Facebook, which has spent the last couple of weeks addressing a report in the Gawker-owned technology site Gizmodo that said some staff members kept conservative news items off the Facebook trending list.
What Can’t Tech Money Buy?
To many of Gawker’s critics, Mr. Thiel is a hero on a charitable crusade for justice. It would be safe to say that this is how his fellow Silicon Valley philanthropists would also define their giving. They are under a presumptive mandate to improve society according to their own values, purely because they have made a lot of money while most everyone else has not. The Gospel of Wealth dictates that this is not only their ability, but their responsibility.
21 May
The New York Times of the future is beginning to take shape
“We have already announced major commitments to international reporting and visual journalism, including video. And I am determined to diversify the newsroom so that it looks more like the world we aspire to reflect and cover. I’m confident the newsroom of the future will be even stronger than today’s.”
In a memo sent to staffers Friday, New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet outlined several steps in a project, announced in February, to remake the newsroom in a bid for “journalistic dominance.” Among them:
De-emphasis on large “desks,” more “coverage clusters.” “In the past, an editor who ran education coverage across The Times had to convince the metropolitan and national editors to run stories that fit their sections. Now, to be provocative, it could be that some important subjects — climate change, education, health care, to name a few — should function on their own.”
19 May
Morley Safer, 60 Minutes journalist, dead at 84
Toronto-born newsman worked at CBC prior to joining CBS in 1964
(CBC) Morley Safer, the legendary, Toronto-born reporter who covered such landmark stories as the construction of the Berlin Wall and the Vietnam War, has died at the age of 84 at his home in Manhattan, according to CBS News.

  • Morley Safer, the legendary reporter who covered many of the biggest events of the 20th century and at one time worked for CBC News, has died at the age of 84, according to CBS News. Here he is at the 40th anniversary of CBS's 60 Minutes in 2008.
    Morley Safer, the legendary reporter who covered many of the biggest events of the 20th century and at one time worked for CBC News, has died at the age of 84, according to CBS News. Here he is at the 40th anniversary of CBS’s 60 Minutes in 2008. (John Paul Filo/CBS/AP)

Safer recently retired from CBS due to poor health. On May 15, he tweeted that his time at CBS had been a “wonderful run.”

His career spanned over 50 years and he reported from practically every continent.
Safer once claimed “there is no such thing as the common man; if there were, there would be no need for journalists.”
(NYT) Morley Safer, Mainstay of ‘60 Minutes,’ Is Dead at 84
Mr. Safer was one of television’s most celebrated journalists, a durable reporter familiar to millions on “60 Minutes,” the Sunday night staple whose signature is a relentlessly ticking stopwatch. By the time CBS announced his retirement on May 11, Mr. Safer had broadcast 919 “60 Minutes” reports, profiling international heroes and villains, exposing frauds and corruption, giving voice to whistle-blowers and chronicling the trends of an ever-changing America.
4 March
This article appears in The Nation magazine’s March 21, 2016, issue available on newsstands now.
What Happens to Journalists When No One Wants to Print Their Words Anymore?
As newsrooms disappear, veteran older reporters are being forced from the profession. That’s bad for journalism — and democracy.
(Moyers & Company) The sprawling lattice of local newsrooms is shrinking — 105 newspapers closed in 2009 alone — whittled away by the rise of the Internet and decline of display ads, with the migration of classified advertising to Craigslist hitting particularly hard. Between 2000 and 2007, a thousand newspapers lost $5 billion to the free site, according to a 2013 study by Robert Seamans of New York University’s Stern School of Business and Feng Zhu of the Harvard Business School. Falling circulation numbers have also taken their toll.
And things may get a lot worse, according to former Los Angeles Times executive Nicco Mele. “If the next three years look like the last three years, I think we’re going to look at the 50 largest metropolitan papers in the country and expect somewhere between a third to a half of them to go out of business,” said Mele, now a professor at USC’s Annenberg School of Journalism, in an interview a few weeks ago with the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University.
Meanwhile, what remains of print journalism is shifting, morphing into a loose web of digital outfits populated by a corps of underpaid young freelancers and keyboard hustlers, Twitter fiends and social-media soothsayers. Gone are the packed newsrooms. And gone, in many cases, are the older journalists.
18 February
Neil Macdonald: The Rebel and the NDP, why not to provoke Ezra Levant
Thanks Rachel Notley, for helping define what journalists are, or maybe aren’t?
(CBC) Journalists entertain all sorts of self-aggrandizing notions about what we do.The big one is that we are a profession, which we pretty clearly are not. We don’t even really qualify as a trade.
Professions generally have minimum qualifications. You need a degree in accounting to be an accountant, for example.
And a tradesman, like a mechanic, or a furnace installer, requires a licence — something to prove you can actually do the job.
Not a journalist. Journalists don’t even have to finish high school.
Levant is a journalist if he says he’s one, and he does.
Mind you, it would have been wonderful to hear him raise his fearless voice in defiant criticism when Stephen Harper’s underlings were gagging public servants, shutting down access for journalists, controlling questioning at news conferences and generally making Notley’s crew seem like amateurs.
But then, there’s nothing that says a journalist has to be consistent, either.
14 February
The BBC is dropping its television and radio divisions
London-based broadcasting giant BBC is planning to drop its channel-based television and radio divisions to help reshape the company’s future for “content and audience-led divisions.” The Telegraph reports that the news will be unveiled in a speech by BBC director-general Lord Tony Hall. This may be the largest organizational overhaul in the broadcaster’s 93-year history.
For the time being, the existing television channels and radio stations will stay on the air. But according to Lord Hall, the blurring of boundaries between television, radio, and the Internet will lessen the demand for traditional broadcasts.
12 February
There is really not much more to say – what a disaster
Margaret Wente: The biggest losers in the Ghomeshi debacle
It’s all over but the verdict – and the shouting. To many people’s outrage, Jian Ghomeshi – perhaps the most widely loathed man in Canada – is unlikely to be convicted for alleged crimes that happened in another decade. There is almost no corroborating evidence, and all the witnesses were, to put it kindly, shaky.
It’s not too soon to say that almost everybody lost. His reputation is beyond repair. All three complainants were cut to ribbons for varying degrees of misleading and incomplete testimony. The details they forgot to mention include that notorious e-mail from Lucy DeCoutere, hours after the alleged assault, in which she expressed the desire to “fuck your brains out.”
The Crown looks, at best, hapless, and appears to have failed miserably in preparing the witnesses for the rigours of trial. The police look terrible for failing to conduct a proper investigation and failing to uncover important evidence that proved devastating to the witnesses. The same can be said of their lawyers. The only winner is the razor-sharp defence lawyer Marie Henein, she of the clacking stilettos. She did her job.
But the biggest losers were not in court. They are the many victims of sexual assault who now, because of this fiasco, will be more reluctant than ever to come forward.
4 February
Jennifer Ditchburn, a longtime political reporter for The Canadian Press, is leaving the Hill.
The news agency announced Thursday that after the better part of two decades in its Parliament Hill bureau, Ditchburn is leaving to become editor of Policy Options, the online magazine affiliated with the Institute for Research on Public Policy.
She will start in March, replacing Dan Gardner [Trudeau hires decision-making expert to aid Prime Minister’s Office], a former Citizen columnist who has joined the Prime Minister’s Office as a policy adviser.
The former editor of the Edmonton Journal’s inside look at the damage being done to Canada’s newspapers and reminds us of the important part they used to play in their communities.
(The Walrus) The Edmonton Journal was a jewel in the Southam Newspaper chain that stretched across the country for decades. The Hamilton Spectator, the Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Calgary Herald, Winnipeg Tribune, Vancouver Sun, and other Southam papers were the hearts of their communities; their conscience, biggest fans, historians. Powerful and highly profitable businesses, they annoyed politicians and advocated for the underdogs. The publishers and editors wielded tremendous influence, and, by and large, used it wisely.
Like any successful local business, these newspapers played a strong philanthropic role in their communities. The Journal sponsored an annual track and field event for kids for twenty-five years, and each of the city’s high-school theatre troupes. It heavily supported the arts, its name prominently on the city’s downtown concert hall and in banners at every major festival. It sponsored and promoted everything from toy drives to summer camps to women’s shelter fundraisers.
2 February
Canada’s media: A crisis that cries out for a public inquiry
By Lawrence Martin
Today, we have a crisis in the journalism industry unprecedented in scope. A media implosion. Newspapers being reduced to digital editions, large numbers losing their jobs, circulation falling, ad revenues plunging, near monopoly ownership of big-city dailies, the old business model in a state of collapse.
The business is in a hellishly worse condition than at the time of the other probes. But you don’t hear any calls for an inquiry to examine the deterioration and what can be done to halt it. The idea, it seems, is to let the descent of journalism, the so-called lifeblood of democracy, proceed ad hoc.
Gerald Butts, the savvy principal secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, sounded a note of no grave concern in a weekend tweet, “Newspapers running endless stories about newspapers is unfortunately not going to sell a lot of newspapers.” From Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly, I got the sense that while the government is committed to reinvesting in the CBC, the fourth estate’s broader malaise is barely on the radar screen. “Journalism plays a central role in a healthy democracy,” she said. “We acknowledge that newspapers are facing industry-wide challenges …”
21 January
Canada’s national fabric is paying price for depletion of journalistic resources: Chantal Hébert
There must be a point when the steady disintegration of the country’s fifth estate’s news-gathering and news-getting functions becomes a public policy issue.
Just last week, some columnists were debating whether Ottawa lacked the gravitas one would normally associate with the capital of a G7 country. Detractors of the city that is home to Parliament will soon be able to add soulless newspapers to the list of its alleged shortcomings. …
There will be some to actually rejoice in the notion that a shrunk news media will have less potential for digging out embarrassing stories. The corruption inquiry in Quebec and the sponsorship scandal on Parliament Hill both had their source in persistent journalism.
Less shortsighted politicians may consider that they are ignoring this crisis at their own peril. A less informed electorate is more easily manipulated and less engaged. And at a time when parties are toying with notions such as compulsory voting and more participatory democracy, is the decline in political literacy that stands to result from an impoverished information environment a desirable outcome?
On the heels of a three-year study of the Canadian media landscape in 2006 a Senate committee warned that Canada was tolerating a concentration of media ownership that most other countries would find worrisome. And it noted that the consistent depletion of these resources of the country’s public broadcaster compounded the problem.
Jonathan Kay: Charity Case – As Postmedia’s newspaper woes demonstrate, the free market can no longer guarantee the survival of high-quality journalism
(The Walrus) This week, my old employer, the Postmedia Network, merged newsrooms operations at cities across the country. The company, which controls almost all of Canada’s major newspapers, is $700 million in debt. Its stock is worth 15 cents per share, down 99 percent over the last five years. And with demand for print advertising dropping by about one sixth every year, it seems unlikely that the future will bring relief.
Newspapers aren’t dead: A generation from now, I believe, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal will still be publishing paper editions. And Toronto likely will have a paper, too—likely a single merged upscale product arising from the consolidation of the National Post, Toronto Star, and Globe and Mail. But the era of the medium-sized, medium-quality daily is in its final act.
… there will be plenty of mass-produced, ad-financed low-quality content to be found at the cheap, Business Insidery end of the content spectrum. And there also will be people like me and my Walrus colleagues creating quality content at the charitably financed top end. But betwixt and between—call it Postmedia-land—where the content is not quite good enough to attract donations from high-minded donors, nor vulgar enough to qualify as viral clickbait, the business model has evaporated.
Pressing On
The brainiacs in Silicon Valley can replace newspapers with smartphones, but they can’t replace journalists
(The Walrus) With time, the plight of Canadian media will improve—not because we are on the cusp of some renaissance in print advertising but because journalists provide an inherently valuable service. The challenge is that the industry has yet to perfect a new, reliable formula for converting that value into revenue. But if every Canadian newspaper were to fold today, innovative publications would rise from their ashes tomorrow—if for no other reason than Canadians are more numerous, literate, and voracious for news than ever before.
19 January
Postmedia cuts 90 jobs, merges newsrooms in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa
(CBC) The chain says two papers in those markets — the Sun and Province in Vancouver, the Herald and Sun in Calgary, the Journal and Sun in Edmonton, and the Citizen and Sun in Ottawa — will share newsroom resources, but continue to operate.
“Each city will have one newsroom,” Godfrey said, and the two papers will be run by one editorial team.
Postmedia’s finances have been sagging for several quarters under a large debt load, much of which was accrued when the company bought the entire Sun chain of newspapers from Quebecor in late 2014 for $316 million.
According to the company’s latest quarterly earnings report, Postmedia has almost $700 million worth of debt on its books.
And don’t forget that Postmedia execs pocketed $1M in bonuses as company slashed jobs (27 November 2015)
13 January
The End of Al Jazeera America
(The Atlantic) Its chief executive said the the decision was driven by the fact that “our business model is simply not sustainable.”
Despite its attempt to provide what it saw as sober current-affairs programming in a sea of often-rancorous cable news channels, and winning some top awards in journalism, Al Jazeera America was unable to build an audience—it reached about 60 million households, compared to 100 million for other cable broadcasters—or draw advertisers. And while the Qatari royal family financed the network, the precipitous decline in the price of oil has affected that country’s economy and, presumably, its ability to endlessly finance the U.S. operation. (WaPost) Al Jazeera America: Was the TV news network cursed from the start?
8 January
Red ink, black horizons: the future of the newspaper business
(iPolitics) … And that’s what struck me about the film [Spotlight] — that it depicts a print media environment that has pretty much disappeared. In the 15 years since that award-winning investigation, newspapers have shriveled and are now clearly on their deathbeds — including The Boston Globe, dumped by The New York Times for a song. And while online sources of news are more accessible than ever, the quality of what we’re getting and where we’re getting it from are increasingly in doubt.
The signs of the collapse of traditional journalism are all around us:

  • Last month, The Globe and Mail agreed to pay printing firm Transcontinental Inc. $31-million as compensation for reduced revenue from the Toronto paper — basically paying for the privilege of printing fewer copies of the paper.
  • Postmedia, that guild of vampires masquerading as a newspaper chain, recently announced that its top executives took in bonuses of $1 million in 2015 — as the company announced its fifth consecutive annual loss and its shares dropped to 15 cents from over $15 four years ago, while Standard & Poor’s dropped its debt rating to triple C-plus. Talk about pay for performance!
  • Promising to get more blood from the papers before they go into rigor mortis, Postmedia’s chief executive, Paul Godfrey, recently told analysts, “We cannot take our foot off the gas with respect to cost savings,” as he accelerated into the concrete wall just ahead.
  • The Halifax Chronicle-Herald, apparently the largest remaining independent newspaper in the country, wants a new contract with its employees. Among its demands are a staff reduction of 30 per cent and no more overtime for employees until they work 48 hours a week.

It’s true that there are alternative sources of journalism that have emerged from the new digital age — like iPolitics.ca — put forward by entrepreneurs attempting to figure out how to turn great ideas into workable businesses. But some of these ventures remain fragile affairs — particularly when most digital advertising still flows to the likes of Google and Facebook rather than serious journalism, and readers remain reluctant to pay.

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