NEW YORK — Access to government-run facilities housing young immigrants on the border with Mexico has caused one of the first tussles between news organizations and the two-month-old administration of Joe Biden. Before the doors opened slightly this week, the media was limited in depicting how people in U.S. custody were being treated, and how that compared to what was done in the Trump years.
What’s behind that? Here’s a look.
WHY HAS MEDIA ACCESS BEEN BLOCKED?
The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” is a cliche for a reason. And governments know it well.
“This is sort of the default that government agencies go to when things are unflattering,” says Freddy Martinez, policy analyst for Open the Government, an organization that argues for government transparency.
News organizations say they have repeatedly sought access and been blocked. The Associated Press, for example, has asked Homeland Security officials for access to Border Patrol facilities at least seven times, without a response. The Biden administration has pointed to the need to establish safeguards for COVID-19 transmission and protecting the privacy of children as they work to set up their system for processing migrants.
“I will commit to transparency, as soon as I am in the position to implement what we are doing,” the president said at a news conference this week. When pressed on how long it would take for that to happen, Biden said he didn’t know.
But some journalists called that hypocrisy given his pledges during the campaign. After the news conference, CNN’s Jake Tapper said that Biden’s stance was “not really in keeping with the transparency that he promised the American people.”
BUT I’VE SEEN SOME PICTURES OF CHILDREN IN RECENT DAYS. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?
Some of them aren’t coming from the professional media but from people with special access.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat, on Monday released some still pictures he had been given that were taken at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in Donna, Texas. Those photos, taken through plastic sheeting, showed children, several of them covered with blankets, lying on mats lined side by side on the floor.
The Department of Health and Human Services issued some government-shot video clips and, on Wednesday, allowed an NBC News camera crew and reporter Gabe Gutierrez to visit an HHS facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas.
In the NBC video, some children were shown lining up as oranges were distributed, and others played soccer at an outdoor field. Their faces were obscured. An empty dorm room, with four beds, was shown, as was clothing handed out to youngsters.
While that access was an important step, Gutierrez and others noted that the HHS-run centres are where children are sent after processing at a customs facility like the one visited by Cuellar. The customs locations are considered much more crowded, and journalists have still not been allowed access to them.
DID FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP ALLOW JOURNALISTS?
The three presidents who preceded Biden all allowed at least some access, Martinez and other groups that are seeking more access said in a letter this week to Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of Homeland Security.
Such access wasn’t always aimed at pleasing the press, though. Stephen Miller, Trump’s top immigration advisor, told Politico’s Playbook this week that he wanted the press to have access, reasoning that images of immigrants held at the border were something Trump’s supporters wanted to see.
WHY SHOULD WE CARE?
Because bad information often replaces no information. A lack of good information creates a vacuum that activists on both sides of the contentious issue of immigration are only too eager to fill, says Dan Shelley, executive director of the Radio Television Digital News Association. He says: “It is more important than ever that journalists be allowed the necessary access to report accurately and independently on the border patrol’s response.”
David Bauder is the media writer for The Associated Press, based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/dbauder
David Bauder, The Associated Press
DeFiance Media Launches To Cover Blockchain-Based DeFi Business And Culture – Forbes
DeFiance Media, a video-news startup focused on coverage of the business and culture of the fast-growing decentralized finance (”DeFi”) sector, has launched with a presence on OTT and digital broadcast services reaching 65 million homes in the United States and abroad, and a new website providing enhanced coverage.
“We’re not taking the ‘Bloomberg for crypto’ approach” of some competing services covering parts of the blockchain world, Scarpa said. “None of them went on TV. We’re only streaming (video). If you look at mass media, and the way they’re portraying the decentralized narrative, there’s a real hole (in coverage) there, for covering it in a positive way.”
The 24/7 channel will feature a mix of original programming from notable personalities, third-party creators such as Hardcore Finance, news from across the world of blockchain, cryptocurrencies, non-fungible tokens and related areas, as well as related areas such as biotech, the artists and creators using NFTs, artificial intelligence, “connected living,” alternative energy, and “regenerative culture.” Other programming will come from partnerships with high-profile blockchain and cryptocurrency conferences.
“Our job is really more akin to a Huffington Post in terms of curation for these contributors,” Scarpa said. “We enable them to goose their personal brands. That’s our job, to increase carriage, to amplify their voice, promote what their doing.”
Scarpa said he was “adamant” about including cultural coverage of the blockchain space, particularly with NFTs, where many musicians, artists and other creative talent are eagerly jumping in.
“They’re in the space now, they’re artists doing really interesting work,” Scarpa said. “They’re really the cultural fabric of the community. If we were only a financial network, DeFiance wouldn’t be broad enough to be something providers want to carry.”
Scarpa, whom I’ve known socially for many years, served as New York bureau chief in the early days of CNET, which undertook in the 1990s to cover the emerging internet and tech industry in a focused way. Scarpa said he is taking inspiration for DeFiance from the approaches CNET took to industry coverage back then.
Services carrying the startup’s content include aggregators such as Local Now, Select TV, NetRange, Glewed TV, as well as Twitter and Amazon
-owned Twitch. The services reach a combined 50 million U.S. households and another 15 million outside the country.
Initial shows include Bitcoin: Culture Conversations, whose episode feature interviews of former Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary, venture capital stalwart Tim Draper, actor Adrian Grenier and skateboard icon Tony Hawk, and musicians Blond:ish and Fab Five Freddy. Weekly programs will be hosted by Patrick Tsang, Sarah Austin, Matt McKibbon, Ted Moskovitz, Mike Matsumura, Alex Chizhik, Shimon Lazarov, Steve McGarry, Siraj Raval, and Freya Fox.
The company hopes to make money several ways: with ad-revenue shares from carriers, branded entertainment/sponsored content, events, content licensing to Getty Images and similar outlets, and transactional markets, among other potential opportunities.
DeFiance is based in Puerto Rico, and has a studio in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles, Scarpa said. But in keeping with its core subject matter, the operation is heavily decentralized, with contributors and programming coming from numerous cities.
The company has been raising a seed round of about $2 million, Scarpa said.
It counts among its investors and advisers a number of notables in the blockchain world and related areas, including investor Brock Pierce, who is long-time chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation; Eric Pulier, founder of Vatom; Doug Scott, founder of gaming culture company Subnation; Hong Kong investor and podcast host Patrick P.L. Tsang; Good Human co-founder and former Warner Bros. Entertainment VP James Glasscock; and Craig Sellars, co-founder/CTO of cryptocurrency services company Tether. Sellars and Pulier are credited as pioneering creators of the technologies behind NFTs.
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How HuffPost Canada's digital impact and untimely demise changed Canadian news media – Poynter
Mel Woods found out they no longer had a job from a group chat.
The Vancouver-based journalist was working as HuffPost Canada’s only worker in the western region of the country, covering viral and trending stories as an associate editor, up until the outlet’s unceremonious March 2021 demise. BuzzFeed bought HuffPost in November 2019 and, just two weeks after the newsroom’s decision to unionize, closed HuffPost Canada and left 23 staff without their jobs.
It’s another data point in a long list of recent closures and contractions on the Canadian media landscape.
Many of those laid off have landed positions elsewhere. Woods now plies their trade at Xtra — a Toronto-based outlet focused on 2SLGBTQ+ perspectives — and others have surfaced as staff at The New York Times, CBC and Politico, among others. Some left for public relations gigs, and others are currently working as freelancers. The announcement of the closure just one week from the meeting, Woods said, left some staff scrambling.
“For somebody who was suddenly unemployed, it was a very, very busy week because we had to sort out what happened and when, and what the unionization played into it, what severance played into it and why it had happened because it caught all of us by surprise,” Woods said.
HuffPost’s union, CWA Canada, had never faced a closure in its history. President Martin O’Hanlon said the ceasing of operations points to BuzzFeed’s lack of understanding of the Canadian media landscape.
“I don’t think it says a lot about the Canadian media industry, per se, I think it says a lot about BuzzFeed. And I think it tells you that BuzzFeed is just interested in America, and in making as much profit as possible,” O’Hanlon said. “… They don’t give a damn about Canadian journalism is the bottom line.”
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for BuzzFeed said: “BuzzFeed announced a restructuring of HuffPost in March in order to break even this year and fast-track its path to profitability. As part of these changes, we made the difficult decision to close HuffPost’s Canada and Quebec operations. The incredibly talented teams there have made enormous contributions to the political and news ecosystems in Canada — from extensive, award-winning coverage of the federal election, to relentless reporting on how COVID-19 exacerbated a long-term care crisis, and a powerful investigation of how mental illness is responded to as a crime. We know this decision was painful for everyone affected, but we are confident that these journalists will continue to do powerful and impactful reporting in the years to come. We continue to do everything we can to ensure their transition is a smooth one.”
The announcement certainly wasn’t easy on the staff of HuffPost Canada. The all-hands meeting in which the closure was announced, which Woods said was predicted within the staff to be announcing a new U.S. editor-in-chief, had the password “spring is here.”
But the closing of HuffPost Canada is more than another sad story to add to the layoffs seen at other newsrooms in Canada, most publicly at Global and Postmedia. HuffPost’s Canada’s coverage won awards posthumously. Woods won an award from RTDNA Canada for examining gender and transphobia more than two months after the outlet officially closed.
The skill and success of the staff was partially due to the culture and the diversity of the newsroom, Woods said.
“The fact of how quickly folks have been snapped up by other places is proof of the respect that was had for our newsroom,” Woods said. “We kind of sprinkled our seeds everywhere.”
Woods likened the HuffPost style that they have taken to Xtra as “serving (readers) their vegetables, but in a good way,” through a metrics and service journalism-focused approach.
Some of those seeds appear to have taken root elsewhere. New approaches to digital journalism in Canada, including what service looks like to staff and readers, is a common thread in discussions with Canadian newsroom leaders.
The Canadian Association of Journalists recently completed data collection for their first diversity survey, modeling their work after the News Leaders Association in the U.S. Meanwhile, CBC made the decision to turn off all Facebook comments on news stories for a month beginning in mid-June, which editor-in-chief Brodie Fenlon attributed to a data-gathering exercise mixed with a want to protect the mental health of journalists. It is a policy that they have since extended to the end of October.
HuffPost Canada’s digital impact, and its dismantling, points toward a future for Canadian journalism that must consider the health of its readers and staff while acknowledging the changing needs of digital media.
CBC’s decision to direct the tenets of service journalism toward its own staff hints toward an industry that is understanding (at a glacial pace) just how worn down it is and how building back means doing so with care. At this year’s Michener Awards, a ceremony dedicated to public service journalism and its impact on society, APTN journalist Kenneth Jackson acknowledged what it means to sit with the impact your work makes, on subjects, readers and staff.
“If you want to do service journalism you can’t fly above it,” he said, “you gotta get down and wear it.”
BuzzFeed appears to have worn its decision, as have the journalists who had to face the consequences.
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