News and Social Media matters 15 July 2023-

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World Press Freedom Day 2023
2023 World Press Freedom Index
Pew Research: State of the News Media
Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism
NiemanLab
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Handy reference
Interactive Media Bias Chart®
Big Tech and Journalism – Building a Sustainable Future in the Global South
Disinformation, Dictators & Democracy:
A discussion with Maria Ressa and Ron Deibert

20 June
The Wrong Culprit in the Controversy at the Washington Post
The situation at The Washington Post can look immensely complex but the reality is simple. Lewis and Winnett are talented journalists that (sic) come with some baggage. Whether the weight of that baggage is too much to bear is a decision for Jeff Bezos — but the rest of the commentariat would do well to avoid harping on allegedly insurmountable international differences.
(Politico) … Some British newsrooms used to regularly put private investigators on retainer who had no qualms committing illegal intrusions, allowing journalists to obtain information without asking too many questions as to how it had been obtained.
This is the kind of behavior that Lewis and Winnett have been accused of engaging in, in recent articles by The New York Times and The Washington Post. Americans and Brits alike are right to be outraged by this conduct.
That said, there is a case against ousting them from the Post. These most serious allegations relate to stories from 2002 and 2004, relatively early in both men’s careers, and involve practices that were accepted in the newsrooms in which they were working at the time, even if they were not acceptable practice across all U.K. newsrooms even then.
Famously, though, and arguably far worse: At other British newspapers there was a much more widespread practice of journalists routinely and rampantly hacking the voicemails of royals, celebrities, politicians and even the families of victims of crime.
The reason we know so much about that misconduct is because of British journalism — led by The Guardian and the reporter Nick Davies. It was a huge scandal in the U.K., leading to one of Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers to shut down altogether.

17 June
Alberta joins other provinces in restricting cellphone use in classrooms
(Globe & Mail) The province’s announcement on Monday came on the heels of the U.S. surgeon-general calling on Congress to issue warning labels on social-media platforms, arguing that the products have emerged as an “important contributor” of the mental-health crisis among young people. (U.S. Surgeon-General says social media needs official mental-health warning on it)
Alberta’s Education Minister, Demetrios Nicolaides, said at a news conference on Monday that his government has heard from educators and parents that cellphones not only limit students from achieving academically, but in some instances, it has had detrimental effects on the mental health of young people.

Surgeon General Calls for Warning Labels on Social Media Platforms
Dr. Vivek Murthy said he would urge Congress to require a warning that social media use can harm teenagers’ mental health.
(NYT) The U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, announced on Monday that he would push for a warning label on social media platforms advising parents that using the platforms might damage adolescents’ mental health.
He also called on tech companies to make changes: to share internal data on the health impact of their products; to allow independent safety audits; and restrict features like push notifications, autoplay and infinite scroll, which he says “prey on developing brains and contribute to excessive use.”

15-17 June
Washington Post’s leaders are taking heat for journalism in Britain that wouldn’t fly in the U.S.
New leaders of The Washington Post are being haunted by their pasts, with ethical questions raised about their actions as journalists in London that illustrate very different press traditions in the United States and England.
An extraordinary trio of stories over the weekend by The New York Times, NPR and the Post itself outline alleged involvement by Post publisher Will Lewis and Robert Winnett, his choice as a new editor, in wrongdoing involving London publications as much as two decades ago.
The Post said on Monday that it had brought back its former senior managing editor to oversee the newspaper’s coverage of the matter.
Playbook: Will Lewis has some explaining to do
(Politico) Last night’s blockbuster story from NYT’s Justin Scheck and Jo Becker unveiled new details about the Washington Post CEO’s entanglement in Fleet Street hacking tactics and his payment of large sums of money to sources, a major violation of U.S. journalistic ethics.
It landed in the Post newsroom with what one current WaPo reporter called “a collective ‘holy shit,’” and it is raising fresh alarms both inside the enterprise and across its sprawling alumni network — including those who have been giving Lewis the benefit of the doubt.
What is clear is that Lewis’ effort to move past the chaos created in the immediate aftermath of his decision to replace Executive Editor SALLY BUZBEE with two of his close associates isn’t working amid the drip-drip of unsavory revelations from his work as a top London editor. If the fire raging at WaPo HQ had shown signs of dying down, this latest Times story seems to have slathered it with kerosene.
Washington Post Publisher and Incoming Editor Are Said to Have Used Stolen Records in Britain
Years before becoming The Post’s publisher, Will Lewis assigned an article based on stolen phone records, a former reporter said.
(NYT) The publisher and the incoming editor of The Washington Post, when they worked as journalists in London two decades ago, used fraudulently obtained phone and company records in newspaper articles, according to a former colleague, a published account of a private investigator and an analysis of newspaper archives.

14 June
Journalists Shouldn’t Depend on the State for Their Wages
Jonathan Kay
More than a third of many Canadian journalists’ salaries are now effectively being paid by Justin Trudeau’s government—an arrangement that’s created an obvious conflict of interest.

5 June
What will become of The Epoch Times with its chief financial officer accused of money laundering?
(AP) — The arrest of an executive at The Epoch Times in a money-laundering scheme this week has drawn attention to a media outlet that has lived largely in the shadows since its founding in 2000 and a transformation during the Trump administration.
Started first as a newspaper, the company produces news websites and videos, and is now available in 23 languages. Its founder, John Tang, is a Chinese-American who practices Falun Gong, a form of meditation and exercise. The Chinese government has denounced, banned and, according to members, has consistently oppressed and mistreated Falun Gong followers.
That’s a clue. The news organization transformed itself during the Trump years by becoming a site that supported the former president and his causes. It was opportunistic in two ways: leaders saw in Trump a president they believed would fight against the Chinese government, and sensed the chance to win funding from others who believe in the cause, said A.J. Bauer, a University of Alabama professor who studies conservative media.
In a few years’ time, the outlet became a partisan powerhouse and “has also created a global-scale misinformation machine that has repeatedly pushed fringe narratives into the mainstream,” The New York Times reported in 2020.
24 October 2020
How The Epoch Times Created a Giant Influence Machine
Since 2016, the Falun Gong-backed newspaper has used aggressive Facebook tactics and right-wing misinformation to create an anti-China, pro-Trump media empire.

23 May
Gazette cartoonist Aislin wins prestigious journalism award
Terry Mosher and freelance political columnist Chantal Hébert are only the 12th and 13th recipients of the Michener-Baxter Award since its inception in 1983.
Longtime Gazette cartoonist Terry Mosher, also known as Aislin, has won the Michener-Baxter Award, a prestigious prize that honours exceptional contributions to the cause of public-interest journalism in Canada.
Mosher/Aislin, has received a long list of honours, but says he is “particularly chuffed” about winning the Michener-Baxter Award because recipients are chosen by well-respected journalists, who are “tipping their hats toward satire.”
In an announcement released Tuesday, the board of directors of the Michener Awards Foundation explains that Mosher is being recognized “for his commitment to informing Canadians and lifting their spirits through humour that is cutting, but never cruel. He is also being recognized for his leadership in reminding Canadians and many around the world of the importance of freedom of speech, through his encouragement of cartoonists in countries where freedom of expression is suppressed, and his generous philanthropy.”
Also being honoured with the Michener-Baxter Award is freelance political columnist Chantal Hébert. The announcement cites Hébert for her exceptional talent at explaining “English and French Canada to one and other — and to themselves.” Because of her work in radio, television and print in both French and English over the past several decades, Hébert is “widely considered to be among the country’s best analysts of politics in terms of federal-provincial relations and national unity,” the news release says. “To this, because of her knowledge, expertise and judgment, she brings an unparalleled voice coupled with a unique blend of moral authority and political realism.”

19 May
How Canadian journalist Ali Velshi’s values propelled him to the top tier of American journalism
(The Sunday Magazine with Piya Chattopadhyay) In his new book, Small Acts of Courage, MSNBC’s chief correspondent Ali Velshi argues that working for social justice and in public service is the most important part of his and his family’s history because, as he writes, “democracy isn’t democracy unless it’s universal.” Velshi, whose family came to Canada from India via South Africa and Kenya, joins Piya Chattopadhyay to talk about the meaning of citizenship, his family’s journey, and the role journalism should play in a healthy democracy.

17 May
Julien Feldman posts “Congratulations to my wife Joanne Bayly – on her retirement from the CBC. From the day we met covering a bank robbery, my favourite reporter and journalist!” followed by the memo
From: Meredith Dellandrea
Date: Fri, 17 May 2024 at 16:00
Subject: CBC Staffing News
To: All Staff Quebec & Cree All Staff Joanne Bayly is not a person who seeks the spotlight. As radio newsreader, she brings the listeners’ attention to the stories they need to hear, with crisp writing and clear delivery. It’s never about her and always about the listener’s need to know.
Since the late 1990s, Joanne has been a trusted voice of CBC Radio News for Montrealers and English-speaking Quebecers. She’s been part of the fabric of people’s lives in this province for more than 30-years. …

5 May
Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy condemns Al Jazeera shutdown in Israel
Gideon Levy, a columnist at the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, has joined Al Jazeera to discuss the latest decision by Netanyahu’s government to shut down Al Jazeera’s operations in Israel. Gideon expresses deep disappointment at Israel’s shutdown of Al Jazeera, emphasizing the loss of a vital news source on Gaza. He criticizes the decision as politically motivated, aimed at pleasing the right-wing base. Levy suggests that Netanyahu’s timing may relate to diplomatic pressures from Qatar. He argues that such actions harm Israel’s democratic image and reflect a government lacking long-term vision, fixated on short-term gains. Levy highlights the biased portrayal of the conflict by Israeli media, which depicts Israelis solely as victims while disregarding Gaza’s suffering. He concludes by affirming Haaretz’s opposition to the shutdown.
Israel orders Al Jazeera to close its local operation and seizes some of its equipment
(AP) — Israel ordered the local offices of Qatar’s Al Jazeera satellite news network to close Sunday, escalating a long-running feud between the broadcaster and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line government as Doha-mediated cease-fire negotiations with Hamas hang in the balance.
The extraordinary order, which includes confiscating broadcast equipment, preventing the broadcast of the channel’s reports and blocking its websites, is believed to be the first time Israel has ever shuttered a foreign news outlet.
Al Jazeera went off Israel’s main cable and satellite providers in the hours after the order. However, its website and multiple online streaming links still operated Sunday.
The network has reported the Israeli-Hamas war nonstop since the militants’ initial cross-border attack Oct. 7 and has maintained 24-hour coverage in the Gaza Strip amid Israel’s grinding ground offensive that has killed and wounded members of its own staff. While including on-the-ground reporting of the war’s casualties, its Arabic arm often publishes verbatim video statements from Hamas and other militant groups in the region.
“Al Jazeera reporters harmed Israel’s security and incited against soldiers,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “It’s time to remove the Hamas mouthpiece from our country.”

2-4 May
World Press Freedom Day 2024 Global conference – A Press for the Planet:
Journalism in the face of the Environmental Crisis
Thursday, May 2, at 12 p.m.
SEJ Webinar: The Intersections of Press Freedom and the Environment
You’re invited to the next SEJ webinar, co-hosted by Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) and SEJ. Join us for “The Intersections of Press Freedom and the Environment,” a virtual discussion and Q&A on ET/9 a.m. ET.
This panel discussion will address obstacles U.S. journalists face when reporting urgent climate change and environmental issues for their communities — whether violence or arrest when covering environmental protests or denials of access and legal obstructions when investigating centers of political and corporate power.
For a global perspective, here’s an excerpt from UNESCO’s “A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the Face of the Environmental Crisis,” a discussion on why climate change, biodiversity loss and air pollution, along with related public health, democracy and disinformation concerns, have been chosen as this year’s theme for World Press Freedom Day (see Concept Note)

3 April
More action needed to tackle disinformation and enhance transparency of online platforms: OECD
As roughly half the world’s population prepares to vote in elections, a new OECD report offers the first baseline assessment of how OECD countries are upgrading their governance measures to support an environment where reliable information can thrive, prioritising freedom of expression and human rights, and sets out a policy framework for countries to address the global challenge of disinformation.
Facts not fakes: Tackling disinformation, strengthening information integrity  emphasises the need for democracies to champion diverse, high-quality information spaces that support freedom of opinion and expression, along with policies that may be utilised to increase the degree of accountability and transparency of online platforms.
The report details specific risks, including the spread of disinformation during electoral periods, foreign information manipulation and interference campaigns, and the implications of generative artificial intelligence. Based in part on a survey of 24 OECD countries, the report includes case studies and provides recommendations on how governments can play a positive but not intrusive role in this area. It reveals that national strategies for tackling disinformation remain the exception rather than the rule.

Evan Gershkovich’s Year in Captivity
The U.S. journalist is in prison because Vladimir Putin has made no pretense about using Americans as human bargaining chips.
By Tom Nichols
(The Atlantic) Evan Gershkovich, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, has now been held in Russia’s infamous Lefortovo prison for a year. It looks like he’s going to be in Russia even longer: This week, a Russian court extended his pretrial detention by three more months, meaning that he will not have his case heard until July at the earliest. The Russian-speaking Gershkovich was accused of espionage, making him the first foreign journalist charged with that crime by the Kremlin since the end of the Cold War. Evan, the Journal, and the United States government all deny the Russian accusations.

24-26 March
NBC has cut ties with former RNC head Ronna McDaniel after employee objections, some on the air
(NPR) NBC has dropped its newest contributor, former Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, following public backlash and concern from the network’s top talent. McDaniel, a Trump ally, was hired two weeks after stepping down from her RNC role.
The elephant in the room’: NBC’s McDaniel hiring sparks on-air criticism from one of its own
Ronna McDaniel may have secured a gig as a political contributor at one of America’s top left-leaning news networks, but it’s clear at least some of the journalists there aren’t happy about it.
Former “Meet the Press” host and one of America’s most prominent political journalists Chuck Todd castigated the leadership of his own company, one of the nation’s most powerful media conglomerates, during its flagship’s live broadcast.

25 March
USA Today Publisher Gannett to Drop Associated Press Content Across All Publications
The company will end its legacy AP premium subscription beginning March 25, and “redeploy more dollars toward our teams”
Gannett, publisher of USA Today and hundreds of local newspapers, will stop using the Associated Press’ content starting next week, a significant blow to the not-for-profit wire service collective that still relies on memberships for revenue.
Gannett will eliminate AP dispatches, photos and video as of March 25, according to an internal memo from chief content officer Kristin Roberts, obtained by TheWrap.
“We create more journalism every day than the AP,” Roberts said in the Tuesday statement, adding that not paying for AP content “will give us the opportunity to redeploy more dollars toward our teams and build capacity where we might have gaps.”

13 March
TikTok crackdown passes U.S. House: What to know about today’s vote
5 key details about Wednesday’s landmark moment in the history of social media
The U.S. Congress has moved a big step closer to a crackdown on a popular platform that could have far-reaching implications for social media in the country.
It involves a bill with major implications for the fast-growing site TikTok, renowned for addictive videos and used by hundreds of millions around the world, including millions in Canada.
At issue are alleged concerns about risks to national security and young users. The counter-claim: American politicians are unfairly picking on a Chinese-owned company.
The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Wednesday in favour of a bill called the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act. It passed in a largely bipartisan vote, supported by more than three-quarters of the chamber in a 352-65 vote.
The bill specifically cites TikTok. But it could apply to apps owned in countries designated as foreign adversaries under U.S. law — meaning Iran, Russia, North Korea and China.

12 March
Canada’s foreign correspondents are almost extinct
Harrison Lowman
According to new data collected by The Hub, there could now be less than 60 full-time Canadian foreign correspondents left abroad from major outlets, with 45 of them working for the CBC/Radio Canada and only 15 working elsewhere.

8 February
Tucker Carlson joins long line of ‘useful idiot’ journalists helping tyrants
The notorious Walter Duranty of the New York Times and Nazi broadcaster Lord Haw-Haw offer cautionary tales.
(Politico Eu) Tucker Carlson is far from being the first Western journalist to have aligned himself with the enemy. There’s a long tradition of the likes of Hitler and Stalin finding pliable Brits and Americans to do their propaganda for them.
Russian President Vladimir Putin can be confident he won’t be facing any zingers in his interview with Carlson, due to be broadcast on Thursday night in the U.S. It will probably be more an exercise in sycophancy akin to the softball encounter between Carlson and Donald Trump last August. Indeed, it could be an attempt to map out the contours of another Trump-Putin love-in.
After all, Carlson nailed his colors to Putin’s mast long ago. He’s argued Washington should take Russia’s side in its war on Ukraine and dubbed Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy a “dangerous authoritarian” — not a description, apparently, he thinks applicable to the Russian leader. He has also always been in tune with Putin’s calls for “traditional values” — which in Russia tends to mean the abuse of LGBTQ+ rights.
Tucker Carlson interview with Putin to test EU law regulating tech companies
Law obliges social media platforms to remove illegal content – with fears that interview will give Russian leader propaganda coup
The EU’s far-reaching new laws to regulate tech companies including X and Facebook will face their first big test on Thursday night when former Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s interview with Vladimir Putin is aired in the US.
A spokesperson for the European Commission said it anticipated that the interview would provide a platform for Putin’s “twisted desire to reinstate” the Russian empire. …
The interview has raised concerns within the EU that it will be used as part of Putin’s wider “information war”, with the likelihood that clips would spread across social media, particularly on Elon Musk’s X platform, providing the Russian leader with a propaganda coup.

12 January
Substack Was a Ticking Time Bomb
The platform seeded its own content-moderation crisis.
By Jacob Stern
(The Atlantic) Substack now finds itself in the middle of a crisis. In late November, an investigation in The Atlantic turned up “scores of white-supremacist, neo-Confederate, and explicitly Nazi newsletters on Substack.” Because the site takes a cut of subscription revenue, this meant that Substack was making money off extremists. In response, nearly 250 Substack writers demanded in an open letter that the site explain why it was “platforming and monetizing Nazis.” Meanwhile, an opposing group of nearly 100 writers published its own open letter rejecting calls for greater moderation. Last month, a Substack co-founder, Hamish McKenzie, responded with a blog post articulating the company’s position: “We don’t think that censorship (including through demonetizing publications) makes the problem go away—in fact, it makes it worse.”
After several of the site’s highest-profile writers either left or threatened to leave, Substack reversed course earlier this week. Several Nazi publications would be shut down, the company said, but going forward, it would proactively remove only “credible threats of physical harm.” This resolution has not been received warmly. Broderick’s departure was followed by another on Thursday evening: The prominent Substack writer Casey Newton announced that he, too, would soon leave the service.

2023

14 December
Masha Gessen won a ‘political thought’ prize. Then they wrote on Gaza.
A Q&A with the journalist, after two sponsors of the Hannah Arendt Prize withdrew their support
(WaPo) …two sponsors of the event had pulled out, citing Gessen’s Dec. 9 New Yorker essay titled “In the shadow of the Holocaust,” a reflection from Berlin on what’s happened since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. Gessen criticizes Germany’s policies relating to Israel, examines the country’s regulation of Holocaust remembrance, and compares the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza to that of Jews in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe.
“Presumably, the more fitting term ‘ghetto’ would have drawn fire for comparing the predicament of besieged Gazans to that of ghettoized Jews,” Gessen wrote. “It also would have given us the language to describe what is happening in Gaza now. The ghetto is being liquidated.”

28 November (w/ updates 11 January 2024)
Substack Has a Nazi Problem
The newsletter platform’s lax content moderation creates an opening for white nationalists eager to get their message out.
By Jonathan M. Katz
(The Atlantic) The newsletter-hosting site Substack advertises itself as the last, best hope for civility on the internet—and aspires to a bigger role in politics in 2024. But just beneath the surface, the platform has become a home and propagator of white supremacy and anti-Semitism. Substack has not only been hosting writers who post overtly Nazi rhetoric on the platform; it profits from many of them.

18 November
Elon Musk to file ‘thermonuclear lawsuit’ as advertisers desert X
Social media firm boss says he will sue media watchdog that said ads were being placed alongside antisemitic content
Elon Musk has said he will be filing a “thermonuclear lawsuit” against Media Matters and others, after major US companies paused their adverts on his social media site over concerns about antisemitism.
The media watchdog Media Matters said earlier this week that it found corporate advertisements by IBM, Apple, Oracle and Comcast’s Xfinity were being placed alongside antisemitic content, including that praising Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.
It led to a number of big names in technology and media announcing they would be withdrawing their advertising. It also included Warner Brothers, Paramount and Disney.

9 November
Israel berates New York Times, CNN, Reuters, AP over Hamas attack photographers
Israel accuses foreign media of having forewarning of Hamas’ attacks through freelance photographers in Gaza.
(Politico Eu) Israel on Thursday slammed four international media outlets — the New York Times, CNN, the Associated Press and Reuters — over the conduct of four photojournalists in Gaza, saying they had advance knowledge of the attack by Hamas militants on October 7 that killed more than 1,400 people.
The news services strongly rejected the Israeli government’s accusation they had any forewarning of the impending murderous assault, with the New York Times saying the “outrageous” charges endangered journalists in both Israel and Gaza.

Hundreds of journalists sign letter protesting coverage of Israel
The letter exposes divisions and frustrations within U.S. newsrooms about how they are covering the Gaza conflict.
By Laura Wagner and Will Sommer
(WaPo) More than 750 journalists from dozens of news organizations have signed an open letter published Thursday condemning Israel’s killing of reporters in Gaza and criticizing Western media’s coverage of the war.
The letter — which said newsrooms are “accountable for dehumanizing rhetoric that has served to justify ethnic cleansing of Palestinians” — is the latest in a string of impassioned collective statements staking out ground in the stateside reaction to the Israel-Gaza war.
But while other writers, artists, scholars and academics have criticized media coverage of the conflict, the latest letter — which includes signatories from Reuters, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe and The Washington Post — is notable for exposing divisions and frustrations within newsrooms.
… Steve Coll, a former managing editor at The Post and former dean of the Columbia journalism school, said that journalists who sign open letters could face backlash from management, especially if those newsrooms have rules against activism.
He noted a recent generational split in some newsrooms, where younger employees feel empowered to speak out on political issues — putting them in conflict sometimes with the mores of older journalists, who prefer to stay quiet. “It’s a problem that has to be resolved one way or another,” he said.

6 November
‘Are you sitting down?’ The windfall that transformed NPR 20 years ago.
(WaPo) In a stroke, the late philanthropist transformed the fortunes of NPR, a nonprofit that had struggled since its founding to keep its transmitters humming. The contribution — which ultimately hit more than $230 million once the final amount was transferred several months later — was by far the largest in public broadcasting history and, at the time, the largest monetary gift to any American cultural institution. …while NPR still dutifully pays tribute to Kroc’s generosity — via those regular announcements acknowledging “the estate of Joan B. Kroc” — it may have dissuaded other donors. Some listeners get the idea that Kroc’s estate “is still writing checks,” said Lisa Napoli, the author of “Ray & Joan,” a 2016 biography of the Krocs, as well a book about the history of NPR.

This is the beginning of the end for The San Diego Union-Tribune recounts the by now all-too-familiar story Under new owner Alden Global Capital, there’s no plan for the future. There’s just revenue extraction for as long as a generation of older newspaper subscribers live to keep paying their bills
(Nieman Lab) “The death of a city’s major journalism outfit isn’t a tragedy only if you’re one of those blessed souls who holds some deep reverence for the fourth estate. If you care about education, your schools just got less accountable and more opaque. If you care about local parks and beaches, the corruption of your local officials just got easier. If you care about democracy, your neighbors just became less likely to vote.
“If you care about your neighbors, you’re about to know less about them, and have less in common with them.”

3 November
The Great Social Media–News Collapse
Big Tech’s relationship with journalism is much more complicated than it appears.

By Charlie Warzel
After the 2016 election, news became a bug rather than a feature, a burdensome responsibility of truth arbitration that no executive particularly wanted to deal with. Slowly, and then not so slowly, companies divested from news. Facebook reduced its visibility in users’ feeds. Both Meta and Google restricted the distribution of news content in Canada. Meta’s head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, noted that its newest social network, Threads, wouldn’t go out of its way to amplify news content. Elon Musk destroyed Twitter, apparently as part of a reactionary political project against the press, and made a number of decisions that resulted in its replacement, X, being flooded with garbage. As The New York Times declared recently, “The major online platforms are breaking up with news.”
… Platforms, especially Facebook, have encouraged news organizations to redefine their publishing strategies in the past, including through disastrous pivots to video, only to change directions with an algorithm update or the falsification of key metrics. They’ve also allowed their platforms to be used for dangerous propaganda that crowds out legitimate information. But there is also a less convenient and perhaps more existential side to tech’s divestiture of news. It’s not just the platforms: Readers are breaking up with traditional news, too.
24 October
Americans are following the news less closely than they used to
(Pew Research) Americans are following the news less closely than they were a few years ago, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis. This comes amid changes in news consumption habits, declining trust in the media and high levels of news fatigue.
Older adults are more likely to say they follow the news all or most of the time, while younger adults are less likely. However, Americans in all age groups have become less likely to say they follow the news all or most of the time since 2016.
The recent decline in Americans’ attention to the news has occurred across demographic lines, including education, gender, race, ethnicity and political party affiliation. But the decline is still bigger among some groups than others.
For example, the decrease has been particularly steep among Republicans, who also have become much less likely to trust information from national news organizations in recent years. (Partisan divides in media trust widen, driven by a decline among Republicans)

17-23 October
How the Media Got the Hospital Explosion Wrong
Amplifying dubious Hamas claims caused real damage. No wonder public trust in news reporting is so low.
By Yascha Mounk
(The Atlantic) Last Tuesday, some of the world’s most prominent news organizations spread word about a terrible tragedy unfolding in the Gaza Strip. Images of a blast at a hospital were beginning to circulate on social media. The Palestinian health authorities claimed that Israel was responsible for the death of some 500 civilians. Because the details were extremely murky, it was impossible to tell who had caused the explosion or how many people had died. And yet some of the most reputable names in news media sent push alerts that broadcast Hamas’s claims far and wide.
“Hundreds feared dead or injured in Israeli air strike on hospital in Gaza, Palestinian officials say,” wrote the BBC. “At least 500 people were killed by an Israeli airstrike at a Gaza hospital, the Palestinian Health Ministry said,” wrote The New York Times.
Along with others, these news outlets ascribed these details to Palestinian authorities, thereby doing the minimum to ensure that their readers would understand where the claims originated. But both push alerts would have led reasonable readers to conclude that these statements must basically be true.
Finally, this morning, The New York Times acknowledged the extent of its error in an editors’ note Gaza Hospital Coverage
… CNN and other news outlets have not yet followed suit in apologizing for their own, very similar, missteps; a BBC statement on the topic applied only to a correspondent’s words, and not its push alerts or the initial reporting on its website.
… Journalists and media executives understandably tend to apportion blame for their failings elsewhere. If people no longer trust quality outlets, the fault must lie with the “misinformation” they encounter on social media. But such an easy allocation of responsibility won’t work when, marching in unison, major news organizations seem to have fouled up in as blatant a way as they have over this past week.

Lessons from Gaza: Think before you Tweet
Matthew Kendrick
(GZERO media) Hours before US President Joe Biden set off for his trip to Israel late Tuesday, social media erupted with videos purporting to show an aerial strike on the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City. The virtual battlelines formed immediately, with Hamas saying Israel had deliberately bombed the facility and killed 500 people.
Major media outlets published stories repeating the claims before Israel came out with its own version of events: A misfired terrorist rocket hit the hospital. Then came the rush to adjust those headlines and news alerts, but events had already moved well beyond their control.
Arab leaders canceled meetings with Biden, as people spilled into the streets of Beirut, Amman, Cairo, and other Middle Eastern cities following calls for a “day of rage.” Simultaneously, everyone on Twitter suddenly discovered newfound expertise on just how a guided bomb sounds as it falls or whether unburned rocket fuel could create such an explosion.
In the cold light of Wednesday morning, the story looked much different: Photographs of the blast site show a small shallow crater and around a dozen burned-out cars in the hospital parking lot. There’s only light visible damage to the hospital building itself. Gazan authorities still claim hundreds were killed, as many people were sheltering on the hospital campus.
Trouble is, the damage is done. The disinformation ruined Biden’s trip, upended the summit with Arab leaders that could have broken the humanitarian aid impasse, and deepened the divide over the war, both in and beyond the Holy Land. In another world, a successful summit might have saved thousands of lives by shortening the conflict or allowing food, fuel, medicine, and freshwater into Gaza. Instead, hearts are further hardened, and Israel is preparing a ground invasion.
How Social Media Abdicated Responsibility for the News
The Israel-Hamas war has displayed with fresh urgency the perils of relying on our feeds for updates about events unfolding in real time.
By Kyle Chayka
(New Yorker) …when Russia invaded Ukraine, the horror of war filtered out into the world through user-generated videos on TikTok. … Both the volume and the intimacy of the footage seemed unprecedented; the conflict was quickly dubbed the “first TikTok war.” Ten days ago, the eruption of violence between Hamas and Israel became the second major war of that new era of social media. But social media has changed to a surprising degree in the intervening year and a half. Across the major platforms, our feeds are less reliable sources of authentic crowdsourced news than they ever were—which wasn’t much to begin with—because of decisions made by the platforms themselves.
X, formerly known as Twitter, has, under the ownership of Elon Musk, dismantled its content-moderation staff, throttled the reach of news publications, and allowed any user to buy blue-check verification, turning what was once considered a badge of trustworthiness on the platform into a signal of support for Musk’s regime. Meta’s Facebook has minimized the number of news articles appearing in users’ feeds, following years of controversy over the company’s role in spreading misinformation. And TikTok, under increased scrutiny in the United States for its parent company’s relationship with the Chinese government, is distancing itself from news content. …

21-22 October
‘Let that sink in!’ The 13 tweets that tell the story of Elon Musk’s turbulent first year at Twitter (or X)
The billionaire’s posts began with a laboured gag and ended with a dangerous intervention into the reporting of the conflict in Gaza
Tim Adams
(The Guardian) A year ago this week, when he completed the purchase of Twitter for $44bn, Elon Musk tweeted “the bird is freed”. Billionaires like nothing more than casting themselves as popular liberators, but the acquisition fitted the pattern of his ever-expanding empire.
Musk has colonised areas of the economy from which public funding and regulation have been in retreat. His carmaker, Tesla, is shaping the future of transport; SpaceX, meanwhile, has in many ways replaced Nasa on the final frontier (so far this year it has launched 75 spacecraft).
Musk told himself and the world that he had acquired Twitter (now renamed X) to create “a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner”. The subtext of that naive homily was: what’s the point in being the one of richest men in the world if you can’t corner the market in free speech?

14-19 October
Truce sought in link-tax battle
A group representing Canadian news organizations has called on the federal government to make changes as requested by Google to a new law requiring the tech giant to make payments to news outlets.
Ottawa should accommodate Google’s C-18 concerns, urges group representing Canada’s major publishers
Bill Curry, Deputy Ottawa Bureau Chief, Globe and Mail
News Media Canada, the organization representing some of the country’s largest news organizations, is urging the federal government to accommodate Google’s specific concerns regarding Bill C-18, the Online News Act.
Google and Facebook have strongly opposed the bill, describing it as unworkable. Facebook has already removed Canadian news from its platform to avoid falling under the terms of the legislation.
Google responded to the government’s draft regulations Friday, raising a host of concerns. The company said it would follow through on plans to pull Canadian news entirely unless the final version of the regulations address its concerns. The company has also expressed skepticism that such issues can even be addressed through regulation. It has called on the government to bring in legislative amendments.
News Media Canada, which represents publishers such as The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, Postmedia and La Presse, has been urging all sides to reach an agreement through regulations. It said in a statement to The Globe that the government should address Google’s concerns through the final version of its regulations.
“Google’s submission is a welcome, clear, constructive, good faith articulation of legitimate concerns. We are in agreement with many of the issues they have raised,” said Paul Deegan, News Media Canada’s president and chief executive officer.
“We are aligned that there should be a firm ceiling, rather than a floor on financial liability. We also agree that eligible publishers must have an online presence, non-monetary measures such as training and product can be part of the remuneration, and parties need incentives to enter into negotiation, rather than holding out. We are ready to sit down and work through the detail of these issues before the regulations are finalized. Google plays an essential role in helping Canadians find trusted news sources, and we are confident there is a path forward for the company and publishers to continue what has been a mutually beneficial relationship for many years to come.”
The statement represents a significant olive branch from large publishers, who have generally been supportive of the government’s original proposals.

13 October
How the conspiracy-fueled Epoch Times went mainstream and made millions
The conservative news outlet has amassed a fortune, growing its revenue by 685% in two years, according to tax documents.
(NBC) In the runup to the 2020 election, a small news organization saw an opportunity.
The Epoch Times directed millions of dollars in advertising toward supporting President Donald Trump’s campaign and published dozens of articles parroting his lies about the election — resulting in huge growth to its audience and its coffers.
The strategy garnered criticism from fact-checking groups and got it banned from advertising on Facebook, but it ultimately paid off — putting the once-fringe newspaper on a path that perhaps only its leader, who claims to have supernatural powers, could have foreseen.
Today, The Epoch Times is one of the country’s most successful and influential conservative news organizations. It’s powered by Falun Gong, a religious group persecuted in China, which launched The Epoch Times as a free propaganda newsletter more than two decades ago to oppose the Chinese Communist Party.

19 September
AI and journalism: What’s next?
Expert David Caswell on why generative AI may transform the news ecosystem and how journalists and news companies should adapt
(Reuters Institute) Innovation in journalism is back. Following a peak of activity in the mid 2010s, the idea of fundamentally reinventing how news might be produced and consumed had gradually become less fashionable, giving way to incrementalism, shallow rhetoric and in some cases even unapologetic ‘innovation exhaustion.’ No longer. The public release of ChatGPT in late November of 2022 demonstrated capabilities with such obvious and profound potential impact for journalism that AI-driven innovation is now the urgent focus of the senior leadership teams in almost every newsroom. The entire news industry is asking itself ‘what’s next’?
For many people in journalism the first half of 2023 was a time for asking questions and learning the basics of AI. What can ChatGPT actually do? What is generative AI? What is a language model? What is a ‘prompt’? How dependable are these tools? What kind of skills are required to use them? How fast is this technology improving? What are the risks? How much of all this is just hype?

5 September
How to wage war on conspiracy theories
(Politico Nightly) Some researchers run experiments on rats. Adam Berinsky, the director of the MIT Political Experiments Research Lab, runs them on humans who believe rumors — or what we now call disinformation.
Berinsky doesn’t use electrodes or mazes — just surveys and polls. And his research has led to conclusions that could inform the 2024 race and the sorts of voters that politicians should be tailoring their messaging towards. Namely, Berinsky has found that false beliefs can be successfully debunked — up to a point — and that we should be paying much more attention to a group of people often overlooked by politicians and pollsters: people who answer that they’re “not sure” about a topic in surveys.
In his new book, “Political Rumors: Why We Accept Misinformation and How to Fight It,” he examines attitudes toward both politics and health, both of which are undermined by distrust and misinformation in ways that cause harm to both individuals and society.
Berinsky, who is also an MIT professor of political science, told Nightly in a recent conversation that a lot of misinformation comes not from random people tweeting but from leaders — the political elite. And in our hyperpartisan era, people come to understand that the candidate or politician they back has been lying – but stay loyal to them anyway.

10 August
Why Twitter Changed to X (YouTube + transcript)
Twitter is one of the most popular apps on iOS, but it recently dropped its iconic bird branding for something less recognizable; an X. So why did this happen?
Well, it starts with Elon Musk. The letter X fascinated him since 1999. When he purchased the x.com domain for an online payment business.

4 August
The AI Regulation Paradox
Regulating artificial intelligence to protect U.S. democracy could end up jeopardizing democracy abroad.
By Bhaskar Chakravorti, the dean of global business at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
(Foreign Policy) …regulating AI to protect U.S. democracy could actually end up jeopardizing democracy abroad. Here is why: The louder the voices of lawmakers from commercially and politically important markets such as the United States and the European Union—where lawmakers and regulators have been even more vigorous in their efforts to rein in technology-powered disinformation—the more likely it is that disinformation will proliferate in the rest of the world. The aggregate effect amounts to a paradox of regulating disinformation: The more you regulate it in the West, the worse it gets globally.
There are many factors feeding the paradox. The primary carriers of disinformation, the major social media platforms, have steadily dismantled their disinformation-catching staff. This means that severely depleted teams must tend to the squeakiest of wheels—that is, lawmakers and regulators in the United States and the EU. The result is that there aren’t enough resources left to monitor content in the rest of the world. On top of this, the major social media platforms are distracted by other matters. And all of this coincides with 2024, a year packed with elections in places far from the United States.

1 August
How Will Artificial Intelligence Change the News Business? Here are three theories of the case.
(New York) In early July, the Associated Press made a deal with OpenAI, maker of ChatGPT, to license “part of AP’s text archive” and get access to “OpenAI’s technology and product expertise.” A few days later, OpenAI announced a $5 million grant, accompanied by $5 million in software use “credits,” to the American Journalism Project, an organization that supports nonprofit newsrooms. Meanwhile, Google has reportedly been presenting major news organizations, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, with a new software “personal assistant” for journalists, code-named Genesis, which promises to “take in information — details of current events, for example — and generate news content,” with a pitch described by some in attendance as unsettling. A number of news organizations, including G/O media, which owns Gizmodo, Jezebel, and The Onion, are experimenting with blog-style content generated from scratch, and plenty of others, with varying degrees of transparency, have started to dabble.

26-27 July
Big Tech and News Media: Principles for Fair Compensation
(McGill Centre for Media, Technology and Democracy) The Big Tech and Journalism – Building a Sustainable Future for the Global South conference was held from 13-14 July 2023 at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) in Johannesburg, and was hosted by the GIBS Media Leadership Think Tank. The conference brought together a global network of journalists, news publishers, media organizations, academics, activists, lawyers and economists from 24 countries. Together, they jointly proposed the following principles for fair compensation.
24 July
Big Tech and Journalism – Principles for Fair Compensation
The Principles are intended to be universal, serving as a framework for any country seeking to address media sustainability through competition or regulatory approaches, while enabling adaptation to the unique context. It is hoped that the Principles will represent an important step forward in addressing news media sustainability in the tumultuous era of Big Tech. …
News publishers declare global principles for bargaining with Big Tech
Journalists and scholars gathered for two days in South Africa to hammer out details of fair compensation from Big Tech
(Poynter) Despite pressure from Google and Meta, global momentum is growing for codes similar to one passed in Australia that push the tech platforms to pay for the news they use.
A recent two-day meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, brought together journalists and scholars from around the world to discuss how to implement such codes and agree on principles that can help with the drafting of the laws. More than 50 organizations have signed on to the principles so far.
In the spring of 2021, Australia passed “world-first” legislation aimed at the power imbalance between large tech companies and news publishers. Since then some $140 million USD has been paid out to Australian publishers. Global interest in such laws is building. Canada passed its C-18 law in June and the United Kingdom is likely to have new competition rules in place by the end of 2023. Indonesia’s president is expected to issue a decree in the coming days and ministers have already been meeting in July to discuss the wording, according to members of Indonesian journalism organizations speaking at the conference.

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