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Media at a flashpoint: 2019 year in review – CNN



Here is a very incomplete look back at the year in media, especially when it intersected with government, business, culture, and entertainment.

News about the news

In year three of the Trump presidency, journalists reached for new ways to describe the tumultuous times — I noticed “the victim president,” “the Infowars president,” “the conspiracy theory president,” “the ‘say anything’ president,” and “the grifter president,” just to name a few. In Foxland, Lou Dobbs called him “the greatest president in our history.” At the end of the year, of course, it was “the impeached president.”
Trump’s mendacity and his propaganda machine’s complicity hit new heights during the impeachment inquiry. Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler reported at the end of the year that “Trump said more false or misleading claims in 2019 than he did in 2017 and 2018 combined.” There were signs of exhaustion and numbness — the ever-present “Trump fatigue.”
The president’s near-daily complaints about the news media almost faded into the background, but there were times when the extreme nature of his rhetoric was newly shocking. In June he accused the New York Times of a “virtual act of treason” and threatened a Time journalist with prison over a Kim Jong Un letter. In September he tweeted that two Washington Post reporters “shouldn’t even be allowed on the grounds of the White House.” That same month, a federal judge ruled that the White House had to restore press access to Playboy columnist Brian Karem, who had been suspended for 30 days.
Trump also complained about Fox News more than a dozen times, usually when news anchors were reporting fact-based news or when Democratic politicians were speaking on the channel. He griped about Fox’s scientific polls and occasionally promoted OANN, a far-right channel that wants to reach Fox’s viewers. But despite the barbs, Trump leaned heavily on support from the channel’s right-wing commentators and took his cues from their shows. Fox’s chief news anchor Shep Smith suddenly resigned in October, the most high-profile example of news being squeezed out by opinion on the channel.
Back in DC, the Mueller probe came and went; on-camera White House press briefings were scrapped; and Stephanie Grisham took over as press secretary. Sanders accepted a Fox News contributor gig.
Arguably the most shocking media/politics story of the year broke in February when Amazon founder Jeff Bezos alleged that the National Enquirer attempted to extort and blackmail him. Bezos — the owner of the Washington Post and a longtime Trump target— implied that it was a political hit job.

Entertainment’s new world order

The Disney-Fox deal took effect in March, creating a media company of unparalleled scale, and a slimmed-down Fox Corp focused on live news and sports. Disney dominated the year at the box office and launched a flagship streaming service, Disney+, that will define the company’s future.
All the talk about Disney+ and other streaming launches reflected the fact that Netflix is the pace setter, establishing the model for the new streaming world order. Netflix tripled down on its original content bets, competing with the likes of Apple and Amazon.
Richard Plepler stepped down at HBO and Bob Greenblatt joined WarnerMedia (CNN’s parent company) in a top content job that included oversight of HBO. The company’s top priority became the HBO Max streaming service, which will launch in April. WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey was promoted to president and COO of AT&T, putting him in line to succeed Randall Stephenson. AT&T fended off an activist shareholder campaign. Verizon continued to shrink its digital media footprint while focusing on 5G. Sprint and T-Mobile tried to merge.
At NBCUniversal, the top priority was Peacock, which will launch in May. NBCU CEO Steve Burke will step aside on January 1, making way for Jeff Shell.
Apple launched new subscription products in both news and entertainment. (Reminder: I’m a consulting producer on one of Apple’s shows.) Analysts predicted that an Apple bundle is on the way. Other bundles launched in other categories: For instance, Luminary launched in the ever-more-crowded podcast space.
Spotify acquired podcasting companies like Gimlet Media and inked deals with programmers like Barack and Michelle Obama. Sometimes it seemed like everyone had a podcast. But companies kept betting that the ecosystem has room to grow.
Media business stories, meantime, kept giving inspiration to Hollywood storytellers: Look no further than “Succession,” “The Loudest Voice,” “Bombshell,” and, yes, “The Morning Show…”

Business interrupted

Upheaval in digital media continued: A private equity firm acquired a set of beloved websites — including Gizmodo, Kotaku, Deadspin, Jezebel, and The Onion — from Univision. By the end of the year Deadspin was a figment of its former self. Vice bought Refinery29, Bustle Media Group bought multiple brands, and more and more websites put up pay walls to spur subscriber revenue. More and more digital newsrooms pushed to unionize.
While losses accumulated in local news, big tech companies said they would do more to support the fragile news ecosystem that has suffered from digital disruption. For the first time, Facebook started to directly pay publishers for opening up their content to the social network. Google’s support came in the form of grants and partnerships. Critics said the efforts were just a relative drop in the bucket, given the overwhelming size of the tech giants.
Despite the hardships and headwinds, news organizations produced ambitious work, from “The 1619 Project” and “The Privacy Project” at The New York Times to “The Afghanistan Papers” and “The Opioid Files” at the Washington Post. Miami Herald reporter Julie K. Brown was celebrated for her intrepid reporting about Jeffrey Epstein’s crimes. “We were assisted by some excellent investigative journalism,” prosecutors said when announcing Epstein’s arrest.
Newspapers explored new models to stay in business. Consolidation continued, with Gannett and Gatehouse coming together in a takeover deal that immediately led to further layoffs. In Utah, the Salt Lake Tribune became the first metropolitan daily paper in the United States to file with the IRS and turn into a nonprofit enterprise.
Speaking of not-for-profit media, John Lansing became the new chief executive at NPR, succeeding Jarl Mohn.
In other transitions, Kevin Tsujihara stepped down amid controversy and Ann Sarnoff became the new CEO of the Warner Bros studio. Adam Moss retired from New York Magazine and David Haskell took over.

Changing of the guards

In the television news world, Susan Zirinsky took charge at CBS News, signed Gayle King to a new contract, and moved Norah O’Donnell to the “Evening News.” Tony Dokoupil and Anthony Mason joined King on “CBS This Morning.” Steve Kroft retired from “60 Minutes.”
At NBC, Andy Lack and Noah Oppenheim weathered the “Catch & Kill” storm, and Oppenheim signed a new contract, putting him in line to succeed Lack after the 2020 election.
At Vice, news boss Josh Tyrangiel left when HBO’s “Vice News Tonight” was canceled. Vice hired Jesse Angelo to be the new news and entertainment chief.
Executives in newsrooms and Hollywood boardrooms increasingly came to believe that their competitors weren’t just down the street or across the country, but across platforms and around the world. The short-form video sharing app TikTok was a sensation, and it originated in China. Esports consumed more and more viewing time. The massive multiplayer game “Fortnite” collapsed into a black hole, reinvented itself and, in the words of the Los Angeles Times, “remained a massive force.”
Attention was the currency, whether people were recording a funny video on a phone or buying tickets for a live taping of a podcast or getting news alerts on a smart watch or riding a connected bike. What captured your attention in 2019?

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Are You Missing Life’s Moments Because of Social Media?



Recently my wife and I watched the movie Before Sunrise [1995], starring Ethan Hawke as Jesse and Julie Delpy as Celine. While travelling on a Eurail train from Budapest, Jesse, an American, sees Celine, who’s French. It’s Jesse’s last day in Europe before returning to the US. Jesse strikes up a conversation with Celine, and they disembark in Vienna to spend the night wandering Austria’s capital city.


Summary: Before Sunrise is a back-and-forth conversation between a romantic [Celine] and a cynic [Jesse].


During the closing credits, I turned to my wife and said, “That wouldn’t have happened today. Jessie and Celine would have been staring at their respective smartphone throughout the train ride, which in 2021 would have free Wi-Fi, not noticing the passing scenery, their fellow passengers or each other, let alone start a conservation.”


How much of real life are we trading to participate in the digital world?


I have this problem; actually, it’s more of an addiction I need to keep in check constantly. I suffer from FOMO [Fear of Missing Out].


You’ve probably heard of FOMO. Odds are you suffer from it to a degree. FOMO is that uneasy feeling you get when you feel other people might be having a good time without you, or worst, living a better life than you. FOMO is why social media participation is as high as it is. FOMO is why you perpetually refresh your social media feeds, so you don’t feel left out—so that you can compare your life. FOMO is what makes social media the dopamine machine it is.


FOMO has become an issue, especially for those under 40. More and more people choose to scroll mindlessly through their social media feeds regardless of whether they’re commuting on public transit, having dinner in a restaurant, or at a sports event. Saying “yes” to the digital world and “no” to real life is now common.


Your soulmate could be sitting a few seats over on the bus (or Eurail train), or at the diner counter, or in the doctor’s waiting room. However, you’re checking your social media to see if Bob’s vacationing in Aruba with Scarlett or if Farid got the new job and may now be making more money than you. Likely, your potential soulmate is probably doing the same.


Look around. Everyone is looking down at the screen in their hand, not up at each other.


We all know Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, et al. [even LinkedIn] doesn’t provide a very well-rounded picture of people’s lives. Most of what people post is cherry-picked to elicit self-affirming responses, such as likes, thumbs-up and hand-clapping emojis, retweets, shares, and those coveted comments of “Congratulations!”, “Way to go!”, “You’re awesome!”, “Looking good!”


The Internet, especially its social media aspect, equates to “Look at me!”


Sometimes I wonder, if bragging and showing off were banned on social media sites, how much would posts decrease?


“Stop paying so much attention to how others around you are doing” was easy advice to follow pre-Internet (the late 90s). Back in the day, it would be only through the grapevine you were a part of that you found out if Bob was in Aruba with Scarlett and that be without pictures. Evidence of how others are doing, strangers included, is pervasive because undeniably, most of us care about status. In 2021 how people are doing is in the palm of our hands, so we tend to give more time to the device we’re holding at the cost of neglecting the real-life happenings within our immediate surroundings.


Social media has made us a restless, anxious bunch underappreciating the present moment. With lockdown restrictions lifting and more social activities taking place, people will be hunkering down on their smartphones more than before to see what others are doing. They’ll see the BBQ they weren’t invited to or people they consider to be friends having a few laughs on the local pub’s patio or camping or at the beach without them. Loneliness, questioning self-worth, depression will be the result.


Trading engaging with those around you to feed your FOMO angst is what we’ve come down to. In my opinion, Guildwood is the GTA’s most walkable neighbourhood. You can choose to take walks around Guildwood, getting exercise, meeting people or stay addicted to the FOMO distress social media is causing you.


Instead of catching up with an old friend or colleague in person over lunch, coffee, or a walk in Guild Park & Gardens, people prefer to text or message each other on social media platforms eliminating face-to-face interactions. Instead of trying to reconnect with old friends verbally, people would rather sit at home with their technology devices and learn what their friends are up to through social media platforms, thus the start of a slippery slope towards anti-social behaviour.


Social media’s irony is it has made us much less social. How Jesse and Celine meet [you’ll have to see the movie] and the resulting in-depth conversation they have as they gradually open up to each other, thus beginning a postmodern romance wouldn’t have happened today. They’d be too preoccupied with their smartphones feeding their FOMO addiction to notice each other.


Social media will always nudge you to give it attention, but that doesn’t mean you have to oblige. Take it from me; there’s more to be had in enjoying life’s moments outside of social media.


Nick Kossovan is the Customer Service Professionals Network’s Director of Social Media (Executive Board Member). You can reach Nick at and him on Instagram and Twitter @NKossovan.

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Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck pictured kissing as ‘Bennifer’ returns



Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck have been pictured exchanging passionate kisses, apparently confirming weeks of fevered rumors that they have rekindled a romance that dominated celebrity media almost 20 years ago.

Paparazzi photos printed in the New York Post on Monday showed the two actors kissing while enjoying a meal with members of Lopez’s family at Malibu’s posh Nobu sushi restaurant west of Los Angeles on Sunday.

Representatives for Lopez, 51, declined to comment on Monday, while Affleck’s publicists did not return a request for comment.

Lopez and “Argo” director Affleck, dubbed “Bennifer,” became the most talked about couple in the celebrity world in the early 2000s in a romance marked by his-and-her luxury cars and a large 6.1-carat pink diamond engagement ring. They abruptly called off their wedding in 2003 and split up a few months later.

The pair have been pictured together several times in Los Angels and Miami in recent weeks, after Lopez and her former baseball player fiance Alex Rodriguez called off their engagement in mid-April after four years together. Monday’s photos were the first in which Lopez and Affleck were seen kissing this time around.

Celebrity outlet E! News quoted an unidentified source last week as saying Lopez was planning to move from Miami to Los Angeles to spend more time with Affleck, 48, and was looking for schools for her 13-year-old twins Max and Emme.

Max and Emme, along with the singer’s sister Lydia, were also photographed walking into the restaurant in Malibu on Sunday.

Lopez married Latin singer Marc Anthony, her third husband, just five months after her 2004 split with Affleck. Affleck went on to marry, and later was divorced from, actress Jennifer Garner.


(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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TikTok debuts new voice after Canadian actor sues




After noticing a new female voice narrating the videos on the popular video-sharing social networking service, users of TikTok were baffled as to why. It actually turns out that the Canadian actress behind the old voice filed a lawsuit against the platform for copyright violation as her voice was apparently being used without her permission.

Bev Standing, a voice actor based in Ontario, is taking China-based ByteDance to court. TikTok’s parent company has since replaced her voice with a new one, with Standing reportedly finding out over email after a tip-off from a journalist. On the matter, Standing said: “They replaced me with another voice. I am so overwhelmed by this whole thing. I’m stumbling for words because I just don’t know what to say.”

TikTok is said to be considering a settlement for Standing outside of the courts, but nobody knows whether or not this is true. According to legal experts, the fact TikTok now has a new voice on the popular social media app suggests they acknowledge Standing’s case and potentially understand that she may have suffered as a result of the company’s actions.

Thanks to the emergence of the powerful smartphone devices of today, alongside taking high-quality images for Instagram, getting lost down YouTube wormholes, and accessing popular slots like Purple Hot, people are turning to relatively new platforms like TikTok. The service has 689 million monthly active users worldwide and is one of the most downloaded apps in Apple’s iOS App Store. This latest news could harm the platforms future, although many of its younger users potentially aren’t aware that this type of scenario is unfolding.

For Bev Standing, the ordeal is a testing one. She wasn’t informed of the voice change, there is no mention of it in TikTok’s newsroom online, and the development is news to her lawyer also.


This all comes after her case was filed in a New York State court in early May after the voice actor noticed a computer-generated version of her voice had been seen and listened to around the world since 2020. Speculation is rife as to how TikTok managed to obtain the recordings but Standing believes the company acquired them from a project she took part in for the Chinese government in 2018.

(Image via

The Institute of Acoustics in China reportedly promised her that all of the material she would be recording would be used solely for translation, but they eventually fell into the hands of TikTok and have since been altered and then exposed to a global audience.

According to Pina D’Agostino, an associate professor with Osgoode Hall Law School at York University and an expert in copyright law, the fact that the hugely popular social media platform has now changed Standing’s voice could result in a positive outcome for the distraught voice actor. She said: “It’s a positive step in the way that they are mitigating their damages. And when you’re mitigating, you’re acknowledging that we did something wrong, and you’re trying to make things better.”

When assessing social media etiquette and how both companies and users should act, this type of news can only do more harm than good. Not only does it make the company look bad, but it could have an effect on revenues and, ultimately, TikTok’s reputation.

With a clear desire to move on and put this whole process behind her, Bev Standing is eager for the case to be resolved and get back to the daily work she loves and has been doing for a large part of her life. TikTok has until July 7 to respond to her claim.


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