Media Matters 2 June 2020 –

Written by  //  August 14, 2020  //  Media  //  No comments

2020 World Press Freedom Index
Pew Research: State of the News Media
Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Handy reference
Interactive Media Bias Chart®
This Interactive Media Bias Chart® is a data visualization that displays measures, generated by analysts and staff of Ad Fontes Media, of news (and “news-like”) articles and sources. It reflects our most up-to-date ratings of all our rated articles and shows over time. We also frequently publish static versions of the Media Bias Chart®, which display a select number of these sources.

14 August
Trump’s attacks on the Postal Service deserve sustained, red-alert coverage from the media
if journalists don’t keep the pressure on Postal Service problems, they will be abdicating their duty.
There’s very little that matters more than the Nov. 3 vote. Anything that threatens the integrity of the vote needs to be treated as one of the biggest stories out there — even if it’s not the sexiest

(WaPo) Listen to President Trump long enough, and, despite his penchant for falsehood, you’ll eventually hear some unvarnished truth. … His words were stark: “Now, they need that money in order to have the Post Office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots.” He added that holding back funding means “they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it.”
In other words, he doesn’t want American citizens, fearful of exposure to the coronavirus, to have every opportunity to vote in November.
The news media — although numbed to Trump’s outrageous statements after years of standing in the path of his fire hose of distraction — managed a robust reaction to Thursday’s disgraceful remarks.
Network news shows reported it high in their broadcasts. The Washington Post and the New York Times put the story above the fold on their print front pages and prominently on their home pages. (The Wall Street Journal did not mention it on Friday’s print front page.) The Philadelphia Inquirer nailed it, reporting that Pennsylvania mail ballots may not be delivered on time and that state officials foresee an “overwhelming” risk to voters. Vice’s Motherboard dived into the sorting-machine debacle.

14 August
As Newsrooms Close Across the Country, Remembering Why They Matter
By Tom Robbins

4 August
If one reporter can demolish Trump, where are the rest?
(WaPo) Axios’s Jonathan Swan deserves praise for his revealing interview with the intellectually and temperamentally deficient president. Pressed on how he could crow about his handling of the pandemic when a thousand people a day were dying, President Trump replied: “They are dying. That’s true. And you have — it is what it is. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t doing everything we can. It’s under control as much as you can control it.” The sight of him shuffling through papers, unable to process unflattering information or respond to questions for which he did not have a stock answer, was sobering if unsurprising. His peevish refusal to recognize the late Rep. John Lewis’s greatness because Lewis did not attend Trump’s inauguration was yet another example of raging narcissism.
However, what is instructive — and disturbing — was the amazement expressed by other media personalities in response. … After applauding their colleague Swan, the rest of the TV news universe might engage in some self-reflection. Why have they been so ineffective? Why have they played the false balance game? Do they have the people with the right skill set or have they simply given up asking the hardest questions for the sake of genial entertainment? These are tough but essential questions necessary if we are to have an effective, independent media. Right now, effective inquisitors are islands in a sea of froth and fog.

2 August
How the Media Could Get the Election Story Wrong
We may not know the results for days, and maybe weeks. So it’s time to rethink “election night.”
(NYT) The coronavirus crisis means that states like Pennsylvania may be counting mail-in ballots for weeks, while President Trump tweets false allegations about fraud. And the last barriers between American democracy and a deep political crisis may be television news and some version of that maddening needle on The New York Times website.
I spoke last week to executives, TV hosts and election analysts across leading American newsrooms, and I was struck by the blithe confidence among some top managers and hosts, who generally said they’ve handled complicated elections before and can do so again. And I was alarmed by the near panic among some of the people paying the closest attention — the analysts and producers trying, and often failing, to get answers from state election officials about how and when they will count the ballots and report results.
“The nerds are freaking out,” said Brandon Finnigan, the founder of Decision Desk HQ, which delivers election results to media outlets. “I don’t think it’s penetrated enough in the average viewer’s mind that there’s not going to be an election night. The usual razzmatazz of a panel sitting around discussing election results — that’s dead,” he said.

1 August
A Newsroom at the Edge of Autocracy
The South China Morning Post is arguably the world’s most important newspaper—for what it tells us about media freedoms as China’s power grows.
(The Atlantic) The SCMP is not as well read as the international outlets that it would like to compete with, but because of its unique position—as the main English-language outlet in a strategically important city—its coverage plays an outsize role in shaping international understanding of events not just in Hong Kong but across the border in China, as well.
Even beyond China, the SCMP has stood apart, operating free from the onerous press restrictions enforced in other Asian countries such as Singapore. Today, it is arguably the city’s most important title internationally, a position gained from a combination of both its size and its ownership (it is controlled by Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group, one of China’s most successful tech companies).
… Through the late 1980s and into the mid-2000s, the paper was owned by the media tycoon Rupert Murdoch and then the Malaysian billionaire Robert Kuok, and while SCMP veterans often speak of a bygone golden era in which the paper was more critical, there have in fact long been instances that gave rise to questions about its editorial stance and censorship.

25 July
Sinclair TV stations delay airing interview with ‘Plandemic’ researcher amid backlash
After facing intense scrutiny for planning to air a baseless conspiracy theory that infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci helped to create the coronavirus, conservative TV broadcaster Sinclair Broadcast Group announced Saturday that it will delay the segment to edit the context of the claims.
Sinclair, which has 191 stations across the country, received backlash this week after “America This Week” host Eric Bolling interviewed Judy Mikovits, a former medical researcher featured in the debunked “Plandemic” conspiracy online film.
In the Sinclair interview, Mikovits claimed that Fauci “manufactured” the coronavirus and shipped it to Wuhan, China, where the outbreak originated.

24 July
Hungary’s Index journalists walk out over sacking
(BBC) More than 70 journalists and staff at Hungary’s top news site Index have resigned, accusing the government of launching a bid to destroy or tame their website.
Index is the last of Hungary’s key independent media and editor in chief Szabolcs Dull was fired on Tuesday.
Its journalists said the sacking was “clear interference” and an attempt to apply pressure on the site.
Hours later protesters gathered in Budapest to rally for media freedom.
Barbara Kay “Stepping Away” From The National Post
Longtime columnist blames increased editorial scrutiny
(Canadaland) Kay wrote that she wasn’t comfortable with increased editorial scrutiny at the paper, which she attributed to editors now feeling more accountable to the public.
17 July
The American mind closes a bit further
By Konrad Yakabuski
The intellectually claustrophobic environment on university campuses has for many years left newsrooms as the last bastion of open inquiry
…the opinion pages of any newspaper played a critical role in advancing debates about what kind of society we wanted to live in. By necessity, the op-ed pages had to be forums where diverse and controversial opinions could be expressed without fear of censorship or reprisal against those who dared go against the groupthink du jour.
That is why recent developments at The New York Times have been so frightening for those of us who have long admired that newspaper as a beacon of free thought and open inquiry. Yes, its editorial page has mostly reflected the particular viewpoints of its owners or the U.S. liberal intellectual elite. But the paper’s embrace of cancel culture has left a once-model journalistic institution indulging in the same lazy righteousness it used to denounce.

12 July
Trump Appointee Might Not Extend Visas for Foreign Journalists at V.O.A.
The action could be a blow to the news-gathering abilities of Voice of America, an independently operated media agency funded by the government
(NYT) As many as 100 foreign citizens working in the United States as journalists for the Voice of America, a government-funded news outlet, might not have their visas extended once they expire, according to people familiar with the planning.
Michael Pack, the new chief executive for the U.S. Agency for Global Media, has indicated he may not approve extensions for any journalist holding a J-1 visa, which allows foreign citizens to temporarily work in the United States in ways that promote cultural exchanges.
The discussion on the visas, first reported by NPR, follows the firing on Wednesday of Bay Fang, who became executive editor of Radio Free Asia after Mr. Pack removed her last month as president of the organization. She was asked to leave the organization by the acting president, Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

11 July
How Can the Press Best Serve a Democratic Society?
In the nineteen-forties, a panel of scholars struggled over truth in reporting, the marketplace of ideas, and the maintenance of a free and responsible press. Their deliberations are more relevant than ever.
(The New Yorker) …the work of the Hutchins Commission remains a touchstone, in part because of the way it lays out the virtues to which journalism can aspire in a democracy. The committee’s report begins by going back to first principles and making the case for the special status of the freedom of expression. It is the political liberty from which all others spring—the one that “promotes and protects all the rest.” “Civilized society . . . lives and changes by the consumption of ideas,” the report argues. “Therefore it must make sure that as many as possible of the ideas which its members have are available for its examination.” It’s because the press is the primary conduit through which people engage with the ideas they need to function as democratic citizens that it must be both protected and scrutinized.

10 July
Wall Street Journal Staff Members Push for Big Changes in News Coverage
A letter from a group of Journal reporters and editors calls for “more muscular reporting about race and social inequities,” as well as skepticism toward business and government leaders.
“In part because WSJ’s coverage has focused historically on industries and leadership ranks dominated by white men, many of our newsroom practices are inadequate for the present moment,” the letter said.
Among its proposals: Mr. Murray should appoint journalists to cover “race, ethnicity and inequality”; name two standards editors specializing in diversity; conduct a study of the race, ethnicity and gender breakdown of the subjects of The Journal’s “most prominent and resource-intensive stories”; and bring more diversity to the newsroom and leadership positions.

19 June
The ‘Absurd’ New Reality of Reporting From the U.S.
The role of Washington correspondent has long been one of the most prized postings in international journalism.
(The Atlantic) In recent weeks, journalists—both domestic and international—have been subject to unparalleled attacks on press freedom across the U.S. Several of these incidents have involved the detention and arrest of people who identified themselves as members of the press. Others have been considerably more violent, involving the targeting of journalists with rubber bullets and chemical irritants. A photojournalist was permanently blinded in one eye as a result. Like Floyd’s death, many of these incidents have been caught on camera.
For foreign media, who have been among those assaulted, targeted with rubber bullets and tear gas, and arrested, the government’s response to the protests—upwards of 400 media-freedoms violations have been reported since the demonstrations began—is shifting perceptions of what it means to be a journalist in America.
European media that criticized the Hungarian Prime Minister asked to apologize
European media that criticized Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s coronavirus state of emergency have been asked to apologize by Hungary’s ambassadors in the countries where they are based. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns this ploy, which aims to intimidate foreign reporters in Hungary and compounds the existing pressure on Hungary’s own media.

16 – 17 June
‘Wednesday night massacre’ as Trump appointee takes over at global media agency
(CNN Business)The heads of four organizations overseen by the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM) were all dismissed Wednesday night — a move likely to heighten concerns that new Trump-appointed CEO Michael Pack means to turn the agency into a political arm of the administration.
In what a former official described as a “Wednesday night massacre,” the heads of Middle East Broadcasting, Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the Open Technology Fund were all ousted, multiple sources told CNN.
A source familiar with the situation said at least two of the removals — that of RFE/RL’s Jamie Fly and MBN’s Alberto Fernandez — were unexpected. The head of the Open Technology Fund, Libby Liu, had resigned effective July, but was still fired Wednesday evening, one of the sources said.
In addition, Jeffrey Shapiro, an ally the ultra-conservative former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, is expected to be named to lead the Office of Cuba Broadcasting.
Ex-Trump Aide Sebastian Gorka May Get Role Atop Voice Of America: Report
The pro-Trump mouthpiece is being floated for a U.S. Agency for Global Media job, fanning concern that the White House aims to build a propaganda empire.
(Huff Post) Controversial right-wing radio host and former Donald Trump aide Sebastian Gorka may take a leadership role in the taxpayer-funded agency that supervises the Voice of America, CNN reported, citing a “well-placed” source.
The installation of a stridently pro-Trump mouthpiece would further shake the leadership ranks of Voice of America, the U.S.-funded international news agency with a record of independent reporting, and inflame fears that the White House aims to mold it into a propaganda empire.
Michael Pack, a conservative filmmaker and friend of former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, is taking over as head of the Agency for Global Media after the Senate finally succumbed to White House pressure to confirm him. [Senate Confirms Conservative Filmmaker to Lead U.S. Media Agency]
The Voice of America’s top two editors ― both veteran journalists appointed during the Obama administration ― resigned on Monday, citing Pack’s arrival.[V.O.A. Directors Resign After Bannon Ally Takes Charge of U.S. Media Agency]
The turmoil follows a major confrontation involving the blacklisting of the VOA by a public relations manager at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under pressure from the White House. [Internal CDC memo forbids staff from speaking with Voice of America] The Trump administration accused the VOA of pushing Chinese “propaganda” about the coronavirus pandemic in a bizarre statement that claimed that “much of the U.S. media takes its lead from China.”
RSF alarmed by abrupt dismissals of US news agency heads by Trump-appointed CEO

9 June
Black Lives Matter movement reshapes the media landscape
(CNN Business) The media industry is at another inflection point. In the way the Me Too movement reshaped newsrooms, sparked debate, and purged bad actors from positions of authority, the Black Lives Matter movement is bringing about a similar upheaval by putting questions about race and reporting on the center stage.
“Women and people of color [are] more susceptible to discipline”: The Washington Post grapples with its social media policy in leaked memo
(Nieman Lab) To help address some of these issues, The Post in February tasked a group of National Desk staffers with writing a report analyzing the paper’s social media policy. The committee surveyed more than 50 Post reporters and ultimately found “near universal desire for a policy that is clearer and more specific about staffers’ responsibilities and limitations in using social media, as well as management’s obligations to employees’ security and equitable enforcement of the rules.” The report was leaked to Ben Smith, the media columnist at The New York Times and former editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed
The document — which the Post said on Monday is “part of a broader conversation we’ve been having throughout the newsroom about our use of social media” — is worth reading in full.

8 June
Issue 45: Why everyone hates the mainstream media
Judgements about status are embedded in almost everything aspect of the news. To read the news is to be insulted — which is why people are fleeing the mainstream media in droves
By Andrew Potter
(Policy for Pandemics) Like politics and law, the news isn’t a pretty system, but it worked well enough for most of the 20th century and a big chunk of the current one. But the mainstream media has lost a lot of its power and authority, as readers have taken full advantage of the enormous choice on offer. There’s no room here to discuss the full effect of that, but one obvious result has been that the news business has become more partisan and more polarized. And those organizations that still try to maintain a semblance of objectivity and impartiality just find themselves loathed by all sides.

2 June
Press pass, camera no longer providing journalists protection during conflicts in U.S.
(Canadian Press) Press passes and television cameras, once powerful symbols of neutrality that helped protect journalists working in combat zones, are providing little defence for reporters and crews covering the escalating urban conflict in the United States.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, an online project sponsored in part by the U.S. Freedom of the Press Foundation and the Committee to Protect Journalists, had documented more than 180 separate incidents since protests erupted late last week in Minneapolis before rapidly spreading to urban centres large and small across the country.

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