Media matters 2019 – 1 June 2020

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2018 World Press Freedom Index
RT, Sputnik and Russia’s New Theory of War
How the Kremlin built one of the most powerful information weapons of the 21st century
— and why it may be impossible to stop
The Digital News Report
Pew Research: State of the News Media
Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism
Press Freedom Conference 2019


1 June
CNN Celebrates 40 Years
(TV Technology) In the springtime of 1980, Americans were getting accustomed to “Post-It Notes,” and a few were just starting to twist Rubik’s Cubes. Out in Washington state, inhabitants in the Mount St. Helens region were beginning to experience frequent earthquakes and explosions; waiting and watching to see what would happen next. None of this, however, was being given much notice by the growing number of arrivals at a new enterprise rapidly taking shape in Atlanta.
Ted Turner’s latest dream—a 24-hour-per-day news service—was being transformed into a reality by a small army of construction workers, broadcast engineers, journalists and TV production people. He christened it “Cable News Network” or “CNN” for short. The nonstop flow of news generated would be delivered to North American cable customers via satellite, following the pattern of Turner’s now highly successful WTBS “superstation” launched four years earlier.
CNN turns 40 today. Here’s what it was like on Day One
(CNN) Ted Turner, CNN’s founder, also gave a speech to dedicate the network’s first day.
“To act upon one’s convictions while others wait, to create a positive force in a world where cynics abound, to provide information to people when it wasn’t available before, to offer those who want it, a choice,” Turner said.
Turner continued: “For the American people whose thirst for understanding and a better life has made this venture possible, for the cable industry whose pioneering spirit has caused this great step forward in communications… I dedicate the news channel for America, a cable news network.”

John Doyle: American all-news TV is fundamentally unfit to cover this crisis
(Globe & Mail) American TV, especially cable news, is in as much a state of tone-deaf chaos as the country itself. Night after night, coverage of the protests, peaceful or violent, after Floyd’s death, has been woefully inadequate. There is a lust for footage of chaos, burning cars or buildings and a serious absence of analysis and explanation.
The major American all-news outlets, the lot of them, are essentially unfit to cover this crisis. The engine that drives them is snark, rhetoric, posturing and pompous finger-pointing. When a real civic meltdown happens, their modus operandi is beggared by events. Their first impulse is to glorify themselves as innocent witnesses to rage and chaos. They are not innocent; they are players in the churning chaos of Donald Trump’s presidency and the meltdown itself. Like those police officers who expect impunity, all-news TV expects exoneration from responsibility.
The arrest last week on live TV of CNN’s Omar Jimenez was a crucial moment in this uprising. On live TV, the suppression of a free press was there for all to see. For the most part, the police in the U.S. loathe the TV media.
Yet the police and media are part of the same United States of the moment, careening from one crisis to another in a welter of righteous rhetoric, finger-pointing and posturing. The police provide no valid excuses for their actions and the media provide no context about how the country got here.
Gabriel Snyder in The Columbia Journalism Review takes the New York Times to task in New York Times public editor: Enough of ‘all the news.’ Time for what’s fit to print.
Perhaps it’s time, as we confront two pandemics—one a virus, the other cynical misinformation peddled mostly for financial gain—that the Times stopped focusing on all the news, and took a stand once more on what is fit to print. … this pandemic, and the protests and riots that have followed, have shown us that the bubbles that separate us are as durable as we ever imagined, and the stakes of the battle over how we see the world—who we trust, and how to handle crises—could not be higher. The debates over the best way to mitigate the pandemic are not partisan confusion; they’re a matter of life and death—of relying on science, facts, and expertise to guide society’s actions or adopting a political program that would junk them altogether.
Given what is at stake, it is not enough to present conspiracy theories unchallenged. … On matters where there is a very right and a very wrong answer—and not competing political talking points—such “both sides” coverage is irresponsible.

26 May
Arrogant, inexperienced and ineffective: White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany is overmatched in her new job
In barely more than a month, the White House press secretary has already had several high-profile controversies.
(Poynter) McEnany’s arrogance is as evident as her incompetence so far and it’s a bad look not only for her, but the president she serves.
There was a time when the media wanted the White House press secretary to give regular press conferences. That hasn’t changed. But with more press conferences like Tuesday’s, it wouldn’t be surprising if this press secretary goes into hiding just like her predecessors.
U.S. police have attacked journalists more than 120 times since May 28
Laura Hazard Owen, Deputy editor of the Nieman Journalism Lab
“Although in some incidents it is possible the journalists were hit or affected accidentally, in the majority of the cases we have recorded the journalists are clearly identifiable as press, and it is clear that they are being deliberately targeted.”
As Black Lives Matter protests spread across the country one week after a white police officer allegedly murdered a black man, George Floyd, it’s becoming clear that attacks by police on journalists are becoming a widespread pattern, not one-off incidents. While violence against press-credentialed reporters covering the protests may still be dwarfed by violence against the American citizens who are protesting, incidents are piling up — and are getting more attention in part because the journalists being attacked include those from large mainstream news organizations.
A companion piece is Riot or resistance? The way the media frames the unrest in Minneapolis will shape the public’s view of protest Vigils and protests were organized in Minneapolis and around the United States to demand police accountability. But while investigators and officials called for patience, unrest boiled over. News reports soon carried images of property destruction and police in riot gear.

The general public’s opinions about protests and the social movements behind them are formed in large part by what they read or see in the media. This gives journalists a lot of power when it comes to driving the narrative of a demonstration.

12 May
Inside the earliest days of CNN and the birth of 24-hour cable news
A business adventure tale for the ages, ‘Up All Night’ tells the story of a media property that succeeded beyond even the wildest imaginings of its charismatic and uncontrollable founder, Ted Turner, paving the way for the world we live in today.
By Lisa Napoli

(Fortune) Only a few short decades ago, innovations like cable, satellites, portable cameras, microwave trucks, and videotape were just beginning to dawn. And in the hands of a small group of broadcasters and journalists, this technology made it possible to launch the first 24-hour news network.

5 May
Leading Philippine Broadcaster, Target of Duterte’s Ire, Forced Off the Air
ABS-CBN has closely documented President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs that has left thousands of people dead. Such coverage has made it a target of the administration.
A leading media network in the Philippines was forced off the air on Tuesday, making it the first major broadcaster to have met such a fate during the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, which is cracking down on news outlets that have been critical of his leadership.
The government’s telecommunications commission issued ABS-CBN Corp. a cease-and-desist order one day after the media giant’s broadcast franchise, which is granted by Congress, expired.

4 May
The high costs journalists pay when reporting on corruption
(Transparency International) Yesterday marked World Press Freedom Day, an important opportunity to highlight the critical role investigative journalists play in identifying and exposing corruption.
It’s also a good moment to recognise the increasingly dangerous environment that journalists and independent media face across the globe, particularly when reporting about corruption linked to authoritarian regimes, powerful individuals and organised crime.

28 April
Postmedia to lay off 80, permanently close 15 newspapers amid COVID-19 fallout
Postmedia Network Inc. will lay off about 80 employees and permanently close 15 community publications as the newspaper conglomerate navigates the financial fallout of COVID-19. The company is “fully utilizing every government subsidy announced,” but more must be done to weather the industry’s “huge declines” in revenue.

23 April
Justin Ling: I Called Out A Sun Columnist For Spreading A COVID-19 Conspiracy Theory, And She Did Not Take It Well
Turns out I’m both “fake news” and a propagandist for China’s Communist government
Malcolm wrote that “the theory that COVID-19 leaked from a Chinese laboratory is looking more credible with each passing day.” … On the January 27 edition of her YouTube show, Malcolm asked her 4,901 viewers: “Why isn’t the mainstream media talking about the origin of this deadly virus? Could it be linked to China’s biological warfare program?”
The Sun has been a vector for this sort of irresponsible misinformation for some time. Underneath it is a pretty serious set of ethical problems.
Malcolm is both a weekend columnist for the Sun and the founder of True North Canada, a think tank and media outlet. It is also a registered charity, under the name True North Centre for Public Policy.
Trying to undercut trust in the mainstream press in favour of Malcolm’s brand of nonsense, especially at a time of national crisis, is playing with fire. If we don’t keep some level of trust in our institutions right now, the effectiveness of our response to this pandemic is going to be severely weakened.
What’s more, buying into whatever conspiracy theory we find on the internet that matches our worldview is giving a free pass to China’s actual crimes.

21 April
Carleton’s Chris Waddell Argues a More Diverse Canada Needs a More Global CBC
Millions of Canadians have roots in Asia, but Canada’s public broadcaster has only one correspondent that covers the world’s most populous region.
Chris Waddell of Carleton University argues that’s nowhere near enough. In The End of the CBC? co-authored with David Taras of Mount Royal University, he argues that to be more relevant, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation needs a stronger global presence.
“Canadians come from different places around the world – China, India, the Philippines — yet we know almost nothing about the places they come from,” says Waddell, a professor of Journalism and Communication who will be retiring in June after 19 years.
“We don’t know the stories of what happens there. We never hear much about those countries, except when there’s a disaster. But helping Canadians learn about those countries can also help us understand the issues that new Canadians face and how they see Canada.”
“Looking at how other countries handle a problem can help understand the problems society faces, and offer ideas and solutions. On health care, we hear about how millions of Americans don’t have health care. We never hear how France, Germany, Britain, or the Scandinavian countries are dealing with their health care systems. So, we don’t do anything, because we think we’re better than the Americans. That’s really not good enough. We need to have more information to help us have more intelligent debates about public policy issues.”
Waddell and Taras argue that the CBC should focus on six key areas: urban life, business and the economy, public policy, science and technology, issues that impact Canadians, and Canadians who are making a difference.

Comments by two former ambassadors:
These are all good points. The English language service of the CBC reflects our traditional parochialism. It maintains almost no correspondents abroad. Its free-lancers tend to be either British or American. More money would be required, but for that, a more cosmopolitan culture would also be required to make a credible case. Derek Fraser
All true, and shameful. CTV News is worse in that they have even fewer abroad of their own. In this crisis, Europe is covered by a guy (Paul Workman, pretty good) from his flat in London. The whole USA is covered by Tom Walters in his flat in L.A. But CTV at least uses good clips from ABC News. The CBC is too stuck-up to do that. When it comes to covering the world, Radio-Canada wins hands down.
CBC’s The National is a continuing embarrassment. CTV’s Nightly News is much better. Didn’t used to be so, but their news function is much more eclectic and staffed by a fraction of the people. Jeremy Kinsman

29 March
The Fate of the News in the Age of the Coronavirus
Can a fragile media ecosystem survive the pandemic?
(The New Yorker) A robust, independent press is widely understood to be an essential part of a functioning democracy. It helps keep citizens informed; it also serves as a bulwark against the rumors, half-truths, and propaganda that are rife on digital platforms. It’s a problem, therefore, when the majority of the highest-quality journalism is behind a paywall. In recent weeks, recognizing the value of timely, fact-based news during a pandemic, the Times, The Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other publications—including The New Yorker—have lowered their paywalls for portions of their coronavirus coverage. But it’s unclear how long publishers will stay committed to keeping their paywalls down, as the state of emergency stretches on. The coronavirus crisis promises to engulf every aspect of society, leading to widespread economic dislocations and social disruptions that will test our political processes and institutions in ways far beyond the immediate public-health threat. With the misinformation emanating from the Trump White House, the need for reliable, widely-accessible information and facts is more urgent than ever. Yet the economic shutdown created by the spread of COVID-19 promises to decimate advertising revenue, which could doom more digital news outlets and local newspapers.
A report released last year by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism maps the divide that is emerging among news readers. The proportion of people in the United States who pay for online news remains small: just sixteen per cent. Those readers tend to be wealthier, and are more likely to have college degrees; they are also significantly more likely to find news trustworthy. Disparities in the level of trust that people have in their news diets, the data suggests, are likely driven by the quality of the news they are consuming
A history of the Trump War on Media — the obsession not even coronavirus could stop
The anti-media antagonism can manifest like an organized crusade in some cases but also more like a culture — a vernacular shared by the president and his allies on the right. Their battles are waged in the courts, on social media and at rallies where Trump’s rants against the journalists who cover him goad his fans into taunting the camera crews and booing the press pens.
This war often seems intended to inoculate the president from criticism or scandal by undermining the public’s confidence in the news they see reported by traditional media. The best-organized efforts include a blitz of defamation lawsuits, well-financed undercover stings to capture video evidence of media bias and troll-ish campaigns to embarrass individual reporters.
Trump spent much of his 2016 campaign beating up on the media. But it wasn’t until after he was inaugurated that he issued something like a formal declaration of war.
One afternoon in February 2017, ensconced at Mar-a-Lago, he deployed his Twitter account to declare with all-caps bombast that the “FAKE NEWS media” is “the enemy of the American people.” He specifically cited the New York Times, CNN, NBC, ABC and CBS.
His statement on that day generated shock in the media world and among his critics. But it caught on with conservative fans who have long nurtured a belief that the mainstream media tilts to the left.

26 March
Can Trump’s daily disinformation show be saved? Yes — turn it into a vector for the truth
Trump’s daily coronavirus showcase is making us all dumber. But it could be used to leverage truth to millions
When Trump spreads misinformation, the networks need to show viewers, in real time, the correct information. When he lies and contradicts himself, they need to provide the necessary context as he speaks. When he puffs himself up, they need to remind viewers of his massive failures.
From Friends of Canadian Broadcasting
Last week, we launched a letter-writing campaign after CBC made the unconscionable decision to cancel local TV newscasts in the middle of a pandemic, when quality information is essential to our well-being.
Thanks to our strong response, CBC was forced to reverse course. On Tuesday morning, Matt Galloway interviewed CBC President Catherine Tait on The Current, and he asked her point blank to respond to our petition. On account of our pressure, Ms. Tait promised to restore local TV newscasts over the coming weeks. Heritage Minister Guilbeault confirmed this on Twitter last night.

23 March
from The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism
How journalists can help stop the spread of the coronavirus outbreak
11 tips on how to report on the outbreak from Trudie Lang and Peter Drobac, two public health experts from Oxford University

16 March
COVID–19 has intensified concerns about misinformation. Here’s what our past research says about these issues
Uncertainty and controversy around the COVID–19 pandemic has intensified the debate about misinformation in the last few weeks. “We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic”, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

3 March
Australian Associated Press to shut down after 85 years
(AP) — The national news agency Australian Associated Press said Tuesday it will close in late June, its 85 years in business vanquished by a decline in subscribers and free distribution of news content on digital platforms.
“The saddest day: AAP closes after 85 years of excellence in journalism. The AAP family will be sorely missed,” AAP Editor-in-Chief Tony Gillies said in a tweet.
Sydney-based AAP was started in 1935 by newspaper publisher Keith Murdoch, father of News Corp. founder Rupert Murdoch. It is owned by Australian news organizations News Corp. Australia, Nine Entertainment Co., Seven West Media and Australian Community Media.
The agency is renowned for its fair and impartial reporting and its extraordinary reach across rural and urban Australia. The surprise decision by its owners to close the agency comes amid a brutal consolidation in the industry and raised an outcry both from its staff and from many Australians who view it as a pillar of a free and fair press.

16 February
Unloved by Trump, NPR Carries On
Donations to the public broadcaster went up sharply after the president said it was “a very good question” to ask why it still existed.
(NYT) Despite the lack of support from the administration, Paul G. Haaga Jr., a longtime Republican donor who is the chairman of NPR’s board of directors, said he believed public media was not in danger.
He recalled conversations that he’d had with Republican lawmakers soon after he joined the board. “They’d leaned over and say, ‘Don’t tell anybody in the caucus, but I love NPR and couldn’t live without it,’” Mr. Haaga said. “And I’d lean over and say, ‘Don’t tell anybody, but everybody in the caucus tells me that, too.’”

15 February
Why the Presidency Can’t Just Go Back to ‘Normal’ After Trump
The “norms and traditions” that Trump has incinerated aren’t timeless features of American democracy; they’re actually quite new—and brittle
(Politico) …Critics are also wringing their hands over the Trump administration’s phaseout of the White House news briefing. It’s been almost a year since the White House press secretary has taken to the podium to answer reporters’ questions, pausing a cherished—or at least familiar—institutional norm.
At least since 1896, when President Grover Cleveland’s staff designated a fixed work space for reporters assigned to the White House, presidents have acknowledged the importance of accommodating the journalists who cover their administrations. President William McKinley made a habit of traveling with a press pool and, on one occasion, declined to visit the Vanderbilt family’s Biltmore Estate unless reporters were permitted to accompany him. Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to meet regularly with trusted journalists.
But it was President Woodrow Wilson who initiated the practice of staging regular presidential news conferences. In his two terms as president, he held 159 formal news conferences. His successors took to the practice: President Calvin Coolidge spoke to the White House press corps 521 times; President Herbert Hoover, 268 times; Franklin Roosevelt, over 1,000 times in his 12 years as president.
Wilson’s private secretary, Joseph Tumulty, also initiated the practice of briefing reporters regularly, a tradition that was later formalized by presidential press secretaries Steve Early (FDR) and Jim Haggerty (Dwight Eisenhower). With the advent of television news in the 1960s, JFK and his press secretary, Pierre Salinger, made on-camera news conferences and briefings a staple of political life. And so a relatively new tradition entered the canon.
Understandably, people are upset that the administration has ended this custom. People assume naturally that if in their lifetime or memory the presidential press corps enjoyed certain prerogatives, those prerogatives must be deeply woven into our political fabric. Not entirely the case.
Presidents from Teddy Roosevelt through Franklin Roosevelt enforced a strict off-the-record rule when they addressed reporters. In effect, their news conferences weren’t news conferences in the way we think of such affairs today. Staff briefings were also generally conducted on background, without attribution, excepting cases when Tumulty or Early might have authorized publication of a canned statement. Only with the advent of television did briefings and presidential press “avails” become what we know them as today. In effect, the institution is scarcely 50 years old.
Neither should we romanticize the relationship between presidents and their press secretaries and the Fourth Estate that covered them. Teddy Roosevelt and Wilson cultivated reporters because they saw political value in it—not out of a heightened sense of obligation. “I feel that a large part of the success of public affairs is the newspaper men,” Wilson remarked shortly after taking office in 1913. “Unless you get the right setting to affairs—disperse the right impression—things go wrong.” Though he had worked since his days as governor of New York at providing reporters with a veneer of access, FDR happily disintermediated the press by speaking directly to citizens by radio, much as Trump has proved a master practitioner of social media.
Two of Johnson’s press secretaries, George Reedy and Bill Moyers, struggled to retain their credibility with an increasingly hostile press corp. By late 1966, some members of the press spoke openly of the “Moyers Gap”—that yawning gap between truth and dissemblance, particularly on the administration’s Vietnam policy.
Under Nixon, the relationship turned positively toxic. Ronald Ziegler, a former barker at Disneyland who transitioned at age 29 from midlevel account executive at the J. Walter Thompson company to presidential press secretary, could scarcely conceal his contempt for reporters. Reporters, in turn, found him utterly hapless and tongue-tied. “This is getting to a point beyond which I am not going to discuss beyond what I have said,” he once told the press room. “I am completed on what I had to say,” he informed them on another occasion. Nevertheless, it was the Nixon administration that constructed the press briefing room over what had once been the White House swimming pool—the same room that is collecting cobwebs today.
In the aftermath of Watergate, a succession of presidents—some media-savvy (Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama) and others less so (Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush)—attempted to create a more courteous relationship with White House reporters. It’s that pattern we remember today. But it’s a recent innovation.

13 February
Use threat of sanctions to protect journalists, Clooney report urges
Panel led by Amal Clooney wants targeted action against those who deny free expression
The proposal, coming in the midst of an unprecedented era of attacks on the rights of journalists, represents a blueprint for a radical extension of potential sanctions to protect reporters in countries such as Turkey, Iran or Saudi Arabia.
Her report, prepared with the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute, documents the extent to which repressive regimes are resorting to extra-judicial killings, torture, abductions, intimidation and arrests in what amounts to a world-wide assault on free expression. In 2019 more than 250 journalists around the world were in prison because of their work, including an increasing number accused of spreading false news.
Clooney’s panel recommends targeted sanctions on officials who restrict free expression, including freezing the individual’s assets or withholding travel visas. The sanctions could be imposed unilaterally by governments, or by consortia of states. Unjust imprisonment of reporters would meet the threshold for sanctions, the report says, and the penalties could be imposed not just on the officials charging the journalist, but also prosecutors and judges deemed to be complicit in the sentencing.
Canada and the UK, which set up the panel that Clooney leads, staged a joint conference in London last summer on media freedom at which more than 30 states signed a global pledge on media freedom. Clooney proposes these 30 states could form an opening group declaring support for a sanctions regime.

11 February
Americans of all political stripes expect 2020’s fake news to be biased against their side
It’s not just the real news media partisans think is rooting for the other team — it’s the fake news media too.
(Nieman Lab) Fake news, misinformation, and disinformation will be major concerns in the 2020 presidential election. According to previous research by the Pew Research Center, half of American adults describe misinformation as a “very big problem” — more than who say the same about climate change, racism, and terrorism (though fewer than who say healthcare affordability, the wealth gap, and drug addiction).
Last month, Pew launched its Election News Pathways project to better understand how American news consumption habits affect what they know about the election. In survey findings released today, it found that both Democrats and Republicans expect misinformation efforts to be aimed more than their own parties than at the other.
Pew surveyed more than 12,000 Americans last October and November and found that 51 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning adults believe fake news “will mostly be intended to hurt” their party, while 62 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning adults believe their party will be targeted instead. Of those same Dems, 36 percent believe misinformation will target both parties equally compared to 29 percent of Republicans.

10 February
The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President
How new technologies and techniques pioneered by dictators will shape the 2020 election
By McKay Coppins
(The Atlantic) Every presidential campaign sees its share of spin and misdirection, but this year’s contest promises to be different. In conversations with political strategists and other experts, a dystopian picture of the general election comes into view—one shaped by coordinated bot attacks, Potemkin local-news sites, micro-targeted fearmongering, and anonymous mass texting. Both parties will have these tools at their disposal. But in the hands of a president who lies constantly, who traffics in conspiracy theories, and who readily manipulates the levers of government for his own gain, their potential to wreak havoc is enormous.
The Trump campaign is planning to spend more than $1 billion, and it will be aided by a vast coalition of partisan media, outside political groups, and enterprising freelance operatives. These pro-Trump forces are poised to wage what could be the most extensive disinformation campaign in U.S. history. Whether or not it succeeds in reelecting the president, the wreckage it leaves behind could be irreparable.

9 February
The New York Times’ success lays bare the media’s disastrous state
A handful of legacy institutions thrive as digital startups face increasing pressures
(The Guardian) The financial health of journalism has been deteriorating in such an acute way that every spit and cough emanating from its institutions is anxiously pored over to ascertain whether it’s a death rattle or a sign of miraculous recovery. An outcome few would have predicted for the future of media has been the resilience of a handful of decidedly old-fashioned legacy institutions, at the cost of the shrinking of the supposedly more innovative digital players.
The new gatekeepers of the global media, which are mostly American and Chinese mega-platforms such as Facebook, WeChat, YouTube, Google, Apple and co, have created a business environment that is inherently hostile towards free, advertising-supported media.
Costly journalism is the first casualty of an advertising model that favours these online platforms. Those organisations that have unbelievably survived the past 15 years of digital onslaught are defined by both the presence of mission and money.
Take for instance the New York Times, the midtown Manhattan local news organisation which is transforming itself into a global digital news brand.
Ironically, this remarkable revival in both its subscription base and its share performance stems from the policies of Donald Trump. Digital subscriptions have boomed as the progressive audience sees support for reporting institutions like the New York Times as the only effective opposition to a corrupt government.
And the stock market boom, as we are constantly reminded by the president’s Twitter feed, is peaking on the basis of an economic policy that largely favours rich business owners at the cost of everyone else.
The revolving door between media organisations is in constant motion, but as the layoffs in local and digital news outlets continue, the New York Times is hiring many more than it is firing. Many of those who have joined as either staff or columnists come from the world of digitally native publishing.

8 February
How can the media earn back the trust of viewers? Stop playing by Trump’s rules for coverage
Time for TV newsrooms to stop trying to win over GOP viewers. Stand up and band together for a free press instead
(Salon) According to recently released survey data from the Pew Research Center, nothing most of the broadcast networks do is likely to change the minds of their viewers when it comes to Trump or Trumpism.
Pew Research Center surveyed 12,043 U.S. adults between October 29 – November 11, 2019, on the organization’s American Trends Panel. Survey takers were presented with the names of 30 news sources drawn from across TV, radio, and online, and selected on a range of measures including audience size, topic areas covered, and relevance to political news. … The overall takeaway is that polarization in the use and trust of media sources has widened in the past five years. “A comparison to a similar study by the Center of web-using U.S. adults in 2014 finds that Republicans have grown increasingly alienated from most of the more established sources, while Democrats’ confidence in them remains stable, and in some cases, has strengthened,” it says.
… Among all adults, broadcast television news is still considered trustworthy news sources among a large swath of Americans. ABC, NBC, and CBS hold three of the four top ranked slots on the survey, with CNN coming in second place.
Fox News comes in fifth – trusted by slightly more consumers than PBS, 43% to 42%. The BBC, The New York Times, and MSNBC round out the list of sources trusted by 33% or most respondents.
Republicans highly distrust political and election news from most media outlets except for, in order, Fox News (trusted by 65% of respondents who identify as Republican or Republican leaning), Sean Hannity’s radio show (30%), Rush Limbaugh’s radio show and PBS (both logging in at 27%), the Wall Street Journal which, like Fox News, is owned by the Murdoch family (24%), the BBC (21%) and Breitbart (12%).
The network that fares the best among Republicans, but is still distrusted (to the tune of 37%) more than trusted (33%), is ABC News.
Democrats and Democrat-leaning respondents, meanwhile, expressed a high level of trust in many more mainstream news sources than their Republican counterparts, with CNN (67%), NBC (61%), ABC (60%, CBS (59%) and PBS (56%) taking the top five slots.
… another Pew survey lamentably reports that 45% of Americans have stopped talking about politics with someone in their lives. That breaks down to 60% of Democrats, and 45% of Republicans.
Predictably, “[t]he more closely people follow election news, the more likely they are to say they have stopped talking with someone about politics – including 58% of those who say they follow political and election news ‘very closely,'” the survey’s write-up says.
The upside of this is that people who get the majority of their political and election news from local TV are far less likely to have stopped talking with someone about politics than any other group.
The downside, and of course there’s a downside, is that local news is the next major attack target in the right-wing’s disinformation war.

3 February
Political journalists boycott No 10 briefing after reporter ban
Journalists in Downing Street walk out after Johnson aide tries to exclude some reporters
The confrontation took place inside No 10 after Lee Cain, Johnson’s most senior communications adviser, tried to exclude reporters from the Mirror, the i, HuffPost, PoliticsHome, the Independent and others from an official government briefing. … When Cain told the banned journalists to leave, the rest of the journalists decided to walk out collectively rather than allow Downing Street to choose who scrutinises and reports on the government.

26 January
Reporters Face New Threats From the Governments They Cover
The cases against Julian Assange and Glenn Greenwald may be models for a crackdown.
By , former reporter for The Times, is the senior national security correspondent for The Intercept
(NYT opinion) When Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, was charged last year by the Trump administration in connection with the publication of secret United States government documents nearly a decade earlier, many journalists expressed deep concern about the dangerous precedent the case could set for investigative reporting in America.
But few seemed to consider that the case might also serve as a model for other nations eager to clamp down on press freedom.
On Tuesday, Glenn Greenwald, an American journalist living and working in Brazil, was charged, in a criminal complaint brought by Brazilian prosecutors, with cybercrimes in connection with his stories on private messages among Brazilian officials that revealed corruption and abuses at the highest levels of the government.


Fox News Is Now a Threat to National Security
The network’s furthering of lies from foreign adversaries and flagrant disregard for the truth have gotten downright dangerous.
(Wired) Fox’s bubble reality creates a situation where it’s impossible to have the conversations and debate necessary to function as a democracy. Facts that are inconvenient to President Trump simply disappear down Fox News’ “memory hole,” as thoroughly as George Orwell could have imagined in 1984.
The idea that Fox News represents a literal threat to our national security, on par with Russia’s Internet Research Agency or China’s Ministry of State Security, may seem like a dramatic overstatement of its own—and I, a paid contributor to its competitor CNN, may appear a biased voice anyway—but this week has made clear that, as we get deeper into the impeachment process and as the 2020 election approaches, Fox News is prepared to destroy America’s democratic traditions if it will help its most important and most dedicated daily viewer.
The threat posed to our democracy by Fox News is multifaceted: First and most simply, it’s clearly advancing and giving voice to narratives and smears backed and imagined by our foreign adversaries. Second, its overheated and bombastic rhetoric is undermining America’s foundational ideals and the sense of fair play in politics. Third, its unique combination of lies and half-truths has built a virtual reality so complete that it leaves its viewers too misinformed to fulfill their most basic responsibilities as citizens to make informed choices about the direction of the country.

4-5 December
Is This Thing On? A Look Back at Political Hot Mic Moments
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada became the latest world leader to have private remarks disseminated worldwide.
How a CBC producer caught Trudeau on a hot mic gossiping about Trump
(CBC) … after footage emerged of the prime minister chatting with other world leaders at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday. In the clip, Trudeau appears to be discussing Trump’s behaviour and his “40-minute press conference.”
The viral moment likely wouldn’t have surfaced at all without Chris Rands, the CBC’s parliamentary producer in Ottawa. He spotted the exchange while he was scrolling through video footage.
” One of my jobs as a field producer is to put pictures to voice or pictures to the story. I was looking for footage and there was a reception at Buckingham Palace that seemed to be happening live, or almost live, around 3:10 p.m. [Tuesday] afternoon. I was scrolling through, and there was a beautiful little grouping of U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, President of France Emmanuel Macron, the prime minister of Canada, the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte … and a little later, Princess Anne.
“It was this great little grouping and I thought, wait a sec, I see the prime minister’s face on the camera. He’s animated. He’s gesticulating. And I put on my headphones, and I can hear his voice.”

17 September

Does Journalism Have a Future?
In an era of social media and fake news, journalists who have survived the print plunge have new foes to face.
By Jill Lepore
(New Yorker Magazine) By the what-doesn’t-kill-you line of argument, the more forcefully Trump attacks the press, the stronger the press becomes. Unfortunately, that’s not the full story. All kinds of editorial decisions are now outsourced to Facebook’s News Feed, Chartbeat, or other forms of editorial automation, while the hands of many flesh-and-blood editors are tied to so many algorithms. For one reason and another, including twenty-first-century journalism’s breakneck pace, stories now routinely appear that might not have been published a generation ago, prompting contention within the reportorial ranks.
There’s plenty of room to argue over these matters of editorial judgment. Reasonable people disagree. Occasionally, those disagreements fall along a generational divide. Younger journalists often chafe against editorial restraint, not least because their cohort is far more likely than senior newsroom staff to include people from groups that have been explicitly and viciously targeted by Trump and the policies of his Administration, a long and growing list that includes people of color, women, immigrants, Muslims, members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community, and anyone with family in Haiti or any of the other countries Trump deems “shitholes.” Sometimes younger people are courageous and sometimes they are heedless and sometimes those two things are the same.
The broader problem is that the depravity, mendacity, vulgarity, and menace of the Trump Administration have put a lot of people, including reporters and editors, off their stride. The present crisis, which is nothing less than a derangement of American life, has caused many people in journalism to make decisions they regret, or might yet. In the age of Facebook, Chartbeat, and Trump, legacy news organizations, hardly less than startups, have violated or changed their editorial standards in ways that have contributed to political chaos and epistemological mayhem. (28 January 2019)

Elimination of copy editors has been disastrous for newspapers
By Rosie DiManno
Serious lapses can completely alter the intent of a sentence. But it’s the slapdash defects of scruffy writing that seriously tarnish a newspaper’s reputation.
(Toronto Star) When newspapers first grasped that the internet, wedded to technology, would usher in a mass communications revolution, even long before everybody had a smartphone to hand, the response was sluggish. They did, in time, find religion, worshipping at the altar of digital journalism as the dead tree version got skinnier and frailer, largely because advertisers fled to the far cheaper option of online access to customers.
Papers bled. Staff was slashed. And among the first to get the axe were copy editors.
It is wacko, to me, that newspapers — where accuracy and clean content have always been of utmost importance — would view copy editors as expendable. The upshot has been disastrous.
It makes me crazy reading sloppy, typo-strewn copy. Ditto for readers, as has been made clear by the hundreds of emails I receive complaining about errors and inexcusable typos. The takeaway is that we just don’t care enough to give every story a good shake.
And that’s the thing, how such tiny slips can bugger up an entire story.

13 September
Sign of the Times: The New York Times 1619 Project, a highly ambitious, often excellent accounting of “the racial terror-state in America before and after Reconstruction,” is a prime example of the paper’s fundamental change in mission, Andrew Sullivan writes in “The New York Times Has Abandoned Liberalism for Activism.” In a dizzyingly short space of time, the Times has taken to favoring propaganda over objective reality and “it is hard to trust a paper engaged in trying to deceive its readers in order for its radical staffers to transform the world.”
Vice’s Race to Save Itself
since Viceland’s inception in 2016, it has struggled to find a meaningful audience
(New York) On the third Friday in August, Jesse Angelo, the longtime News Corp executive hired in June as president of global news and entertainment at Vice Media, gathered the staff of the company’s nightly news show to deliver their fate. Vice News Tonight had run on HBO for three years, until the network canceled it this spring — the final episode aired last Friday — and the 200-person Vice News staff had spent the summer waiting to see if another premium platform might pick up the show. Angelo told the staff that he and Nancy Dubuc, Vice’s CEO, had just returned from a company board meeting in Los Angeles: They’d been given orders to bring it home. VNT would now air on Viceland, the company’s cable channel.
“Making do with less” has become a theme not just at Vice News, but across the company. (As it has across the news industry in general.) Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Vice was on track to lose $50 million and to post revenues of between $600 and $650 million — less than it made two years earlier, and far less than the $1 billion Shane Smith, the company’s co-founder, had promised it would be making by now.

5 August
America’s two largest newspaper chains are joining forces. Will it save either?
Gannett and GateHouse announce agreement to try to save costs amid steep newspaper industry decline.
The $1.4 billion purchase of McLean-based Gannett by GateHouse Media, based in Pittsford, N.Y., will create a conglomerate that will own more than 250 daily newspapers and hundreds of weekly and community papers. The new company will retain the Gannett name and will have publications in 47 states, reaching more than 145 million unique visitors each month.
Executives from both companies extolled the deal in a news release as an opportunity to slash up to $300 million in annual overhead costs within 24 months while “continuing to invest in newsrooms” — creating journalism they hope can attract more digital subscribers and advertisers at a time when America employs thousands of fewer journalists than it did a decade ago.
But the efficiencies wrought by the merger may also result in publications that rely less on local reporters and more on USA Today-type stories produced or edited remotely and published in dozens of the company’s publications. Journalists across the country fretted over whether the deal would mean a wave of layoffs.
[Gannett merger with GateHouse marks a shift for troubled American newspaper giant]

10 July
Amal Clooney decries ‘collective shrug’ over Khashoggi at media freedom conference
(CBC) Clooney spoke at the opening day of a two-day conference [on press freedom in London] initiated by U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.
Politicians, officials, activists and journalists from more than 100 countries were taking part — though two Russian news outlets have been banned. The British government says Sputnik and RT are barred because of “their active role in spreading disinformation.”
Clooney, the British government’s envoy on media freedom, said … that “journalists are under attack like never before,” not just while covering wars but for exposing crime and corruption.
“The vast majority of these murders go unpunished,” she said, adding that “world leaders responded with little more than a collective shrug” to Khashoggi’s killing by agents close to the Saudi crown prince.
According to the United Nations cultural body UNESCO, 99 media workers were killed worldwide in 2018.
Media watchdog visits Saudi Arabia to free journalists
Reporters Without Borders says it met Saudi officials in April to press for the release of 30 jailed reporters.
(Al Jazeera) The Paris-based rights group, known by its French acronym RSF, said its secretary-general led a four-member delegation to the Gulf kingdom from April 21-23, in what it described on Wednesday as an “unprecedented” mission.
The RSF team met the Saudi foreign, justice and media ministers and the public prosecutor during the three-day visit to engage directly with the government on the need for urgent press-freedom reforms.
RSF said it kept the trip “confidential” as it hoped Riyadh would pardon the 30 journalists and citizen reporters during the month of Ramadan, which started in May.
The idea was discussed with officials but “the Saudi government did not act”, it added.

9 July
Graydon Carter Taps More Former Colleagues for Air Mail Launch
Carter’s putting some of the old Vanity Fair band back together for his new venture.
(WWD) The first edition of Graydon Carter’s Air Mail is coming up and he has a lot of familiar names on hand for the launch.
Although the former longtime Vanity Fair editor in chief has been hiring for his new venture, a weekly online newsletter in the works for about a year, it’s happened with no major announcements or press releases. WWD has learned there have been a number of additions to the masthead, beyond Carter and Alessandra Stanley, who will be the top editors.

14 June
Highlights From Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s Career of Deflection
(New York)   The End of the White House Press Briefing  Though a pattern of deflection and occasional outright lies are a part of Sanders’s legacy in the White House, perhaps the Trump administration’s greatest damage to the position of press secretary will be its abdication of the role almost entirely. In the past 200 days, only eight briefings were held. The last briefing was on March 11, 98 days ago, when Sanders briefed the press corps on the president’s 2020 budget proposal.

30 May
“Inconsistent, Incoherent, and Poorly Conceived”: As the Times Clamps Down on Reporters Going on MSNBC, Is This a Liberal-Media War?
The Times recently yanked one of its journalists from Rachel Maddow amid concerns about cable-news “bias.” Dean Baquet “thinks it’s a real issue.” But didn’t MSNBC help rebuild the Times’s business? And aren’t they in the same Trump-era boat?
(Vanity Fair) … there’s never been more demand on cable news for political reporters, many of whom now enjoy lucrative side hustles as paid contributors at the networks. For the Times, which is navigating its own quandaries of journalistic objectivity in the Trump era, the relationship is becoming trickier than it had previously been.
The guidelines could theoretically create a world of cable news haves and have-nots. A number of high-profile Times journalists have landed political-analyst gigs either at CNN or MSNBC (Maggie Haberman, Julie Davis, Patrick Healy, Mike Schmidt, Nicholas Confessore, Jeremy Peters, and others). It’s unclear whether they, too, would be encouraged to stay away from Lemon or Maddow or O’Donnell going forward, but the way cable-news contracts work is that contributors are obligated to appear on a network generally, not on this show or that. At the same time, several sources pointed out that political reporters generally gravitate toward shows like Morning Joe and Anderson Cooper 360 anyway. In CNN’s case, according to a network source, the only Times contributors who typically go on CNN Tonight with Don Lemon are the opinion columnists Charles Blow and Frank Bruni, who aren’t bound by the same strictures as Times newsroom staff. Of course all of this raises another point—in the current media environment, there’s hardly universal agreement on what constitutes partisan or opinionated programming. Where do you draw the lines?

9 May
Sarah Sanders leads “mass purge” of White House reporters with new press-room rules
New rules on press access, imposed by Sanders, could disqualify “almost the entire White House press corps”
(Salon) The White House imposed new rules on reporters’ press access that some journalists say may disqualify “almost the entire White House press corps.”
The White House press office implemented a new policy this week that aims at cutting down the number of journalists who can have a “hard pass,” a two-year press pass that allows reporters entry to the White House grounds, The Washington Post reported. Under the new rules, only journalists who have entered the White House grounds at least 90 days of the last 180 can renew their hard pass. Reporters who do not have a hard pass must apply for a new pass each time they need access.
The new rules were announced in March and came after the White House revoked CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s press pass over a combative exchange with President Trump at a news conference. A Trump-appointed federal judge ordered the White House to restore Acosta’s press pass, noting that the White House did not go through any formal process before making the decision.
Sanders denied that the new policy was related to Acosta and claimed that “no one’s access is being limited” under the new rules. She said that the White House Correspondents’ Association was consulted on the new policy.
But the Post’s Dana Milbank points out that Sanders failed to mention that she went ahead with the policies “over objections” from both the White House Correspondents’ Association and numerous news outlets.
The new rules set a “nearly-impossible” standard for journalists, Milbank wrote, noting that it appears that “most of the White House press corps didn’t qualify for credentials under the new standard.” … The new policy also comes as the White House has gone out of its way to limit press access to the point where it is impractical for a journalist to spend 50 percent of their days at the White House.
Sanders has held just two press briefings this year and has instead held unscheduled “gaggles” in front of the White House. (See: Donald Trump says he told Sarah Huckabee Sanders “not to bother” with White House press briefings

7 May

Two Reuters reporters freed in Myanmar after more than 500 days in jail

(Reuters) The two reporters, Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, had been convicted in September and sentenced to seven years in jail, in a case that raised questions about Myanmar’s progress toward democracy and sparked an outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates.
They were released under a presidential amnesty for 6,520 prisoners on Tuesday. President Win Myint has pardoned thousands of other prisoners in mass amnesties since last month.
Myanmar’s Supreme Court had rejected the journalists’ final appeal in April. They had petitioned the country’s top court, citing evidence of a police set-up and lack of proof of a crime, after the Yangon High Court dismissed an earlier appeal in January.

30 April
CNN Drops 26% In Prime Time As Fox News Dominates April Cable Ratings
(Forbes) Among prime time cable news shows, Fox News’ Hannity led with a total audience of 3.086 million, followed by FNC’s Tucker Carlson Tonight (2.834 million) and MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show (2.630 million). None of CNN’s prime time hours finished among the top five shows overall. CNN’s top-rated hour, Cuomo Primetime, finished in 26th place.

27 April
Press freedom declines in Hungary
A ranking of European countries that reflects such aspects as violence against media, access to information and legal restrictions reveals journalists have huge problems in Hungary. Many journalists are leaving the country

15 April
Pulitzer Prizes Honor Journalists Under Threat With New Crop Of Winners
(NPR) Dana Canedy kept her remarks brief Monday. But by the time the Pulitzer Prize administrator left the lectern at Columbia University, she had significantly altered the careers and prospects of a host of journalists, artists and scholars across nearly two dozen categories.
With their $15,000 in award money, each is receiving a new laurel that’ll likely prove more valuable: the title “Pulitzer Prize winner.”
A range of journalism fields — including breaking news and investigative reporting, criticism and cartooning — account for 14 of the prizes Canedy is announcing Monday. The other seven are reserved for the arts and scholarship: fiction, music, history and several others.
This year, Canedy deviated from the usual plan in order to honor two more recipients. The Pulitzer board recognized the staff of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., which suffered a gunman’s deadly attack last year. Along with the honor, the staff of the paper is receiving a $100,000 bequest to support its work.
International Reporting: split between: the staff of Reuters, including the imprisoned journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo; and Maggie Michael, Maad al-Zikry and Nariman El-Mofty of The Associated Press. Click this link to jump to the full list of winners

10 April
More Than a Data Dump
Why Julian Assange deserves First Amendment protection
By James C. Goodale
(Harper’s April edition/paywall) If reporters can be indicted for talking to their sources, it will mean that the government has created the equivalent of a UK Official Secrets Act—through judicial fiat, without any legislative action.
Given the threat the Justice Department’s actions against Assange pose to the First Amendment, why haven’t more journalists, press organizations, and editorial boards jumped in to support him? Principally it is because journalists dislike what he is doing; they don’t believe he is a “real” journalist and therefore do not see him as entitled to the same protections they enjoy.
But he’s not just a data dumper. He edited the Manning leaks initially, holding back some material. He may have done the same thing with his other leaks, including the Vault 7 releases. For better or for worse he seeks out information to be published on his website the way other journalists do for their publications. He is a publisher and is entitled to the same First Amendment protections as any other. Nonetheless, in the eyes of establishment journalists he remains a dumper, as well as a rapist, a liar, a thief, and a Russian agent.
One wonders whether the real reason journalists will not support Assange is that they simply don’t get it. They don’t understand how a successful prosecution of Assange would threaten their ability to report. I would suggest that the focus of the mainstream press should not be on whether Assange meets the usual definition of a journalist or whether they approve of what he does. That’s not the point. The point is that he carries out the functions of a journalist, has First Amendment protections (as they do), and should not be prosecuted for what he does. If he is, we are all worse off for it.

3 April
6 Takeaways From The Times’s Investigation Into Rupert Murdoch and His Family
Using 150 interviews on three continents, The Times describes the Murdoch family’s role in destabilizing democracy in North America, Europe and Australia.
A six-month investigation by The New York Times covering three continents and including more than 150 interviews has described how Mr. Murdoch and his feuding sons turned their media outlets into right-wing political influence machines that have destabilized democracy in North America, Europe and Australia.
Here are some key takeaways from The Times’s investigation into the Murdoch family and its role in the illiberal, right-wing political wave sweeping the globe.
How Rupert Murdoch’s Empire of Influence Remade the World
Murdoch and his children have toppled governments on two continents and destabilized the most important democracy on Earth. What do they want?
(NYT Magazine) Few private citizens have ever been more central to the state of world affairs… . As the head of a sprawling global media empire, he commanded multiple television networks, a global news service, a major publishing house and a Hollywood movie studio. His newspapers and television networks had been instrumental in amplifying the nativist revolt that was reshaping governments not just in the United States but also across the planet. His 24-hour news-and-opinion network, the Fox News Channel, had by then fused with President Trump and his base of hard-core supporters, giving Murdoch an unparalleled degree of influence over the world’s most powerful democracy. In Britain, his London-based tabloid, The Sun, had recently led the historic Brexit crusade to drive the country out of the European Union — and, in the chaos that ensued, helped deliver Theresa May to 10 Downing Street. In Australia, where Murdoch’s power is most undiluted, his outlets had led an effort to repeal the country’s carbon tax — a first for any nation — and pushed out a series of prime ministers whose agenda didn’t comport with his own.
Murdoch has carefully built an image during his six decades in media as a pragmatist who will support liberal governments when it suits him. Yet his various news outlets have inexorably pushed the flow of history to the right across the Anglosphere, whether they were advocating for the United States and its allies to go to war in Iraq in 2003, undermining global efforts to combat climate change or vilifying people of color at home or from abroad as dangerous threats to a white majority.

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