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“A Darwinian Moment”: The Coronavirus Is Blowing Up the Media Landscape – Vanity Fair

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That it all happened in the blink of an eye is what makes the current quandary so head-spinning. A number publications have already pulled the plug, from digital startup The Outline to various local newspapers around the country, most recently three titles that are owned by the parent company of the Los Angeles Times. Announcements of salary reductions, furloughs, layoffs, and other belt-tightening measures have been coming so fast it’s hard to keep track of them all. Last week alone brought cuts to, among others, the L.A. Times, Vox Media, the Hollywood Reporter, ESPN, Fortune, and Condé Nast, which owns Vanity Fair, not to mention NPR’s dire warning that it is facing a budget deficit as high as $45 million. This week so far: Meredith Corp, Tribune Publishing, and Protocol, the Politico-affiliated tech-news website that launched less than three months ago. Across the Atlantic, downsizing is likewise taking hold at places like News UK and The Guardian. The New York Times has been keeping a running tally, and as of Tuesday, it was reporting that some “33,000 workers at news companies in the U.S. have been laid off, been furloughed or had their pay reduced.”

In a memo to staff on Friday announcing a variety of austerity moves, Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff hit upon the unprecedented-ness of it all: “Because we operate in such a tumultuous industry, it’s tempting to lump in the economic carnage resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic with other events or crises that we’ve seen in the media business. This is clearly very different: while the severity of the pandemic’s effect varies across institutions and individual lives, it is universal, and no one is immune from its impact.”

Jim VandeHei, the CEO of Axios, offered a similar take. “For huge swaths of media, it’s not hyperbole to say it’s cataclysmic, worse than 2008,” he told me. “If you rely on retail and consumer ads, home delivery, ad exchanges, affiliate revenue, or physical events, you are screwed, at least for the short term. This is devastating to local news and traditional newspapers in particular—they started with several shrinking business lines that in some cases are literally evaporating before their eyes.” Any bright spots? “The big players, like the New York Times and Washington Post, and niche players like Axios, will be fine longterm,” VandeHei continued. “But all of us do physical events, which are dead until further notice, and rely on some advertisers who are pulling back until the economic damage is more clearly known. All of this sucks, broadly speaking, for the media and nation because the need and value of news you can trust has never been higher.”

Even at those well-positioned big players that VandeHei mentioned, like the Times and the Post, which are insulated by the massive digital subscription businesses they’ve developed in recent years, it’s not as if the mood is particularly upbeat. “It’s tough to see how the industry is being hammered, particularly when people need quality journalism more than ever,” said Meredith Kopit Levien, the Times’ chief operating officer.

Still, it’s not impossible to find optimism even in these most despairing of times. “You do wonder if certain types of media will come back from this,” said Nicholas Carlson, editor in chief of Business Insider, which also has a strong subscription component. (The company doesn’t anticipate any COVID-related cuts, but it won’t be able to hire as many people as it was planning to in 2020.) “We’ve been saying for 20 years that newspapers are dying, and now it looks like this could really be it, and that’s horrible. But people still need journalism, and the model for it is being developed. If people want or need information that they can’t get anywhere else, they will subscribe to what you’re doing. For those who are well capitalized and have diverse business models and are not too cost heavy, this is an environment for them to really fortify themselves and even flourish when things go back to normal.”

Business Insider, Carlson pointed out, got its start amid the 2008 financial crash. “Great companies are founded in these moments,” he said, “so I’m optimistic that there’s capital that can be moved into trying to figure that out.”

More Great Stories From Vanity Fair

— Does the King of the Coronavirus Contrarians Have a Case?
— In the COVID-19 Crisis, Warren Buffett Is Lying Low—And Bill Ackman Stepping Up
— Can You Beat COVID-19 Without a Lockdown? Sweden Is Trying
— With “Those We’ve Lost,” the Times Reprises Its 9/11 Storytelling Role
— How Long Will the Coronavirus Alternate Reality Last?
— From the Archive: The Plague Warriors Who Battled Ebola

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Belleville Police responds to officer's social media posts – inquinte.ca

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Belleville mayor responds to controversial social media post – inquinte.ca

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Facebook slaps labels on 'state-controlled' media outlets – ZDNet

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Facebook has begun labelling media outlets it deems to be “state-controlled”, which it assesses based on various factors such as government influence and ownership. It also will slap similar labels on ads from these publishers later this year in a move, it says, aims to provide greater transparency. 

The social media platform on Thursday kicked off efforts to label media organisations that were “wholly or partially” under the editorial control of their government. It had announced plans to do so last October as part of a string of initiatives to curb election interference on its site. 

Applying labels to state-controlled media outlets would offer “greater transparency” to readers who should know if the news came from publications that might be under the influenced of a government, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, said in a post. He added that similar labels would be placed on ads from these publishers later this year. 

Xinhua News on Facebook

Applied globally, these labels would be placed on the publication’s Pages, Ad Library Page, and Page Transparency section. They also would be extended to posts in News Feeds in the US over the next week, Gleicher said. 

In addition, later this year, ads from such media outlets would be blocked in the US “to provide an extra layer or protection” against foreign influence in the public debate around the upcoming US elections in November, he said. 

A check on China’s Xinhua News and Russia’s Sputnik News profiles on Facebook revealed each had a label, displayed as “China state-controlled media” and “Russian state-controlled media”, under their respective Page Transparency section. 

Such labels, however, would not be added to US news outlets because Facebook believed these organisations, including those run by the US government, had editorial independence, Gleicher said in a Reuters report.

In establishing its policy criteria, he said in his post that Facebook consulted more than 65 experts worldwide who specialised in media, governance, and human rights development to understand the “different ways and degrees” to which governments exerted editorial control over media companies. 

He noted that the defining qualities of state-controlled media extended beyond government funding and ownership and included an assessment of editorial control. To determine if publishers were wholly or partially under the government’s editorial control, he said Facebook looked at various factors including the media organisation’s mission statement and mandate, ownership structure, editorial guidelines around sources of content, information about newsroom staff, funding source, and accountability mechanisms. 

Country-specific factors, such as press freedom, also were assessed, he said. 

Media organisations that disagreed with such labels could submit an appeal with Facebook and offer documentation to argue their case. To demonstrate their independence, publishers should provide indication of established procedures to ensure editorial independence or an assessment by an independent, credible organisation that determined such procedures had been adhered to and their country’s statute — safeguarding editorial independence — had been observed.

But while it is moving to stick labels on such media outlets, Facebook is less willing to do so for other types of content. CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently came under fire for refusing to take action against posts from US President Donald Trump, including one that appeared to incite violence against protesters in the country. The post, which first appeared on Twitter and was reposted on Facebook, was later restricted on Twitter for breaching its policies on glorifying violence. Zuckerberg, however, specifically declined to enforce similar action, prompting several of his employees to stage a “virtual walkout” in protest.

Facebook last September said advertisers running campaigns on social issues, elections, and politics on its platform in Singapore would have to confirm their identity and location, and reveal who was responsible for the ads. It said the move was part of efforts to stem the spread of “misinformation” and help block foreign interference in local elections. It also came amid calls from Singapore’s Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam for regulations to deal with “hostile information campaigns”. 

Facebook earlier this week complied with a Singapore government directive to block local access the National Times Singapore page, but described the order as “severe and risk being misused to stifle voices and perspectives” online. The social media platform in February also had adhered to the government’s order to block local access the States Times Review page, whilst highlighting it was “deeply concerned” that the move stifled freedom of expression in Singapore. 

Such government directives were enabled by the country’s Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), which was passed in May last year, following a brief public debate, and came into effect on last October along with details on how appeals against directives could be made. The Bill had passed despite strong criticism that it gave the government far-reaching powers over online communication and would be used to stifle free speech as well as quell political opponents.

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