The Messenger, a Media Start-Up, Aims to Build a Newsroom Fast
The company, which will begin operating in May, plans to have around 550 journalists covering entertainment, politics and sports within a year.
Jimmy Finkelstein’s winding career in publishing has included running and being a part-owner of The Hollywood Reporter and The Hill, a middle-market chronicler of Washington politics. In 2021, he sold The Hill to the broadcast giant Nexstar for $130 million.
But neither of those journalistic ventures was nearly as big as what Mr. Finkelstein, 74, is envisioning for what he’s calling his last major act in the media industry.
In May, he plans to introduce The Messenger, a news site that will cover politics, business, entertainment and sports. Financed with $50 million in investor money, the site will start with at least 175 journalists stationed in New York, Washington and Los Angeles, executives say. But in a year, Mr. Finkelstein said, he plans to have around 550 journalists, about as many as The Los Angeles Times.
The goal, Mr. Finkelstein said in his first extended interview about the new business, is creating an alternative to a national news media that he says has come under the sway of partisan influences. The site will be free and supported by advertising, with an events business to follow.
“I remember an era where you’d sit by the TV, when I was a kid with my family, and we’d all watch ‘60 Minutes’ together,” said Mr. Finkelstein, who comes from a wealthy New York publishing family. “Or we all couldn’t wait to get the next issue of Vanity Fair or whatever other magazine you were interested in. Those days are over, and the fact is, I want to help bring those days back.”
Mr. Finkelstein cited what he described as CNN’s limited coverage of the southern U.S. border and Fox News’s downplaying of the Capitol riot as the type of coverage he would like to address.
“I find that bias in the news is not so much what the people report, but what they don’t report,” he said. “So it’s really a question of not commission, but omission.”
Under his leadership, The Hill was accused of bias itself — as a conduit for conspiracy theories about Ukraine and President Biden’s family that were seized upon by former President Donald J. Trump. The Hill published a lengthy review of some of its work on the topic and added editor’s notes to many of its columns, noting that some failed to provide important details about sources and may have left readers unsure of whether the work was news reporting or opinion writing.
Mr. Finkelstein acknowledged that he and Mr. Trump had known each other socially for decades, adding that he’s friendly with Democrats, too. And he defended The Hill, saying independent studies determined that readers think the publication is “balanced and nonpartisan.”
Dan Wakeford, a former top editor of People Magazine, will oversee the newsroom. Mr. Wakeford has hired Marty Kady, a longtime senior editor at Politico, to be The Messenger’s politics editor, and Mary Margaret, a former top editor of Entertainment Weekly, to direct entertainment coverage.
Mr. Wakeford said The Messenger would explore many sides of an issue — “polyperspectivity,” he said — and wouldn’t ignore any perspectives or opinions.
Mr. Finkelstein’s backers include Josh Harris, co-founder of the private-equity giant Apollo; James Tisch, chief executive of the financial conglomerate Loews; and Thomas Peterffy, founder and chairman of the trading platform Interactive Brokers. Mr. Harris owned the majority of The Hill, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The Messenger will be starting during a difficult ad market. Media companies like The Washington Post, News Corp and Vox Media have all cut staff in the last year, some citing a fall in advertising revenue.
Richard Beckman, a former president of The Hill and Condé Nast who will be The Messenger’s president, said in an interview that the company planned to generate more than $100 million in revenue next year, primarily through advertising and events, with profitability expected that year.
To build its digital audience, the company has hired Neetzan Zimmerman, who has been a digital traffic maven at The Hill and Gawker Media, and is expecting more than 100 million monthly readers — an ambitious goal that would make it one of the most-read digital publications in the United States.
In the interview, Mr. Beckman pitched The Messenger with a sizzle reel featuring the Dire Straits hit “Money for Nothing,” saying he hoped the publication’s colorful writing, compelling visuals and in-depth reporting would make its audience “fall in love” with media again.
Mr. Finkelstein said starting The Messenger wasn’t his first idea after selling The Hill. He also tried to buy The Miami Herald, banking on Florida as an increasingly important state. But McClatchy, which owns the newspaper, wasn’t interested in selling to him.
“I really want to do something that changes journalism a bit and changes America for the good,” he said.
Trans Flight Attendant Famed For United Airlines Ad Found Dead After Emotional Social Media Post – NDTV.com
Kayleigh Scott, a transgender flight attendant who gained fame after appearing in a United Airlines commercial, has died after posting an emotional note to her social media channels. According to The Independent, the 25-year-old was found dead on Monday in her Colorado home. In her Instagram and Facebook posts, she penned a heartbreaking letter to her friends and family that asked them to remember the “good memories we have shared”.
“As I take my final breaths and exit this living earth, I would like to apologize to everyone I let down,” Scott wrote. “I am so sorry I could not be better. To those that I love, I am sorry I could not be stronger. To those that gave me their everything, I am sorry my effort was not reciprocated. Please understand that me leaving is not a reflection on you, but the result of my own inability to turn myself for the better,” the flight attendant added.
In her post, Scott also named a few of her loved ones and apologised saying, “I will see you all again on the other side”.
Scott’s mother, Andrea Sylvestro, confirmed her daughter died after posting the letter. In a Facebook post, Ms Sylvestro wrote, “Kayleigh Scott…I am so unbelievably proud to have you as my daughter, proud and amazed by everything that you have done in your life, your smile was absolutely beautiful, your laughter was unbelievably contagious, your heart was bigger than any of us could have ever understood.”
As per The Independent, the Denver Police Department is now investigating Scott’s death. The cops stated that a final determination as to the cause of death will be made by the Denver Medical Examiner’s office.
Separately, United Airlines said it was saddened by the loss of Scott. “We are incredibly saddened by the tragic loss of Kayleigh Scott and extend our deepest condolences to her family, friends and coworkers,” the company stated.
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Notably, Kayleigh Scott made headlines in 2020 when United featured her as a part of its diversity campaign. In the clip for Trans Day of Visibility, she spoke about the importance of coming out and living authentically. “I used to be so embarrassed about being trans,” she said, adding, “All I wanted was to blend in.”
The following year, Ms Scott also spoke about her progress since publicly coming out as transgender. She had alluded to battling depression. ” I’m really struggling to find happiness and hope. I’m begging 2023 to be better to me. Please,” she wrote, as per the outlet.
Utah social media law means kids need approval from parents
SALT LAKE CITY –
Children and teens in Utah would lose access to social media apps such as TikTok if they don’t have parental consent and face other restrictions under a first-in-the-nation law designed to shield young people from the addictive platforms.
Two laws signed by Republican Gov. Spencer Cox Thursday prohibit kids under 18 from using social media between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m., require age verification for anyone who wants to use social media in the state and open the door to lawsuits on behalf of children claiming social media harmed them. Collectively, they seek to prevent children from being lured to apps by addictive features and from having ads promoted to them.
The companies are expected to sue before the laws take effect in March 2024.
The crusade against social media in Utah’s Republican-supermajority Legislature is the latest reflection of how politicians’ perceptions of technology companies has changed, including among typically pro-business Republicans.
Tech giants like Facebook and Google have enjoyed unbridled growth for over a decade, but amid concerns over user privacy, hate speech, misinformation and harmful effects on teens’ mental health, lawmakers have made Big Tech attacks a rallying cry on the campaign trail and begun trying to rein them in once in office. Utah’s law was signed on the same day TikTok’s CEO testified before Congress about, among other things, the platform’s effects on teenagers’ mental health.
But legislation has stalled on the federal level, pushing states to step in.
Outside of Utah, lawmakers in red states including Arkansas, Texas, Ohio and Louisiana and blue states including New Jersey are advancing similar proposals. California, meanwhile, enacted a law last year requiring tech companies to put kids’ safety first by barring them from profiling children or using personal information in ways that could harm children physically or mentally.
The new Utah laws also require that parents be given access to their child’s accounts. They outline rules for people who want to sue over harms they claim the apps cause. If implemented, lawsuits against social media companies involving kids under 16 will shift the burden of proof and require social media companies show their products weren’t harmful — not the other way around.
Social media companies could have to design new features to comply with parts of the laws that prohibit promoting ads to minors and showing them in search results. Tech companies like TikTok, Snapchat and Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, make most of their money by targeting advertising to their users.
The wave of legislation and its focus on age verification has garnered pushback from technology companies as well as digital privacy groups known for blasting their data collection practices.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation earlier this month demanded Cox veto the Utah legislation, saying time limits and age verification would infringe on teens’ rights to free speech and privacy. Moreover, verifying every users’ age would empower social media platforms with more data, like the government-issued identification required, they said.
If the law is implemented, the digital privacy advocacy group said in a statement, “the majority of young Utahns will find themselves effectively locked out of much of the web.”
Tech industry lobbyists decried the laws as unconstitutional, saying they infringe on people’s right to exercise the First Amendment online.
“Utah will soon require online services to collect sensitive information about teens and families, not only to verify ages, but to verify parental relationships, like government-issued IDs and birth certificates, putting their private data at risk of breach,” said Nicole Saad Bembridge, an associate director at NetChoice, a tech lobby group.
What’s not clear in Utah’s new law and those under consideration elsewhere is how states plan to enforce the new regulations. Companies are already prohibited from collecting data on children under 13 without parental consent under the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. To comply, social media companies already ban kids under 13 from signing up to their platforms — but children have been shown to easily get around the bans, both with and without their parents’ consent.
Cox said studies have shown that time spent on social media leads to “poor mental health outcomes” for children.
“We remain very optimistic that we will be able to pass not just here in the state of Utah but across the country legislation that significantly changes the relationship of our children with these very destructive social media apps,” he said.
The set of laws won support from parents groups and child advocates, who generally welcomed them, with some caveats. Common Sense Media, a nonprofit focused on kids and technology, hailed the effort to rein in social media’s addictive features and set rules for litigation, with its CEO saying it “adds momentum for other states to hold social media companies accountable to ensure kids across the country are protected online.”
However, Jim Steyer, the CEO and founder of Common Sense, said giving parents access to children’s social media posts would “deprive kids of the online privacy protections we advocate for.” Age verification and parental consent may hamper kids who want to create accounts on certain platforms, but does little to stop companies from harvesting their data once they’re on, Steyer said.
The laws are the latest effort from Utah lawmakers focused on the fragility of children in the digital age. Two years ago, Cox signed legislation that called on tech companies to automatically block porn on cellphones and tablets sold in the state, after arguments about the dangers it posed to children found resonance among Utah lawmakers, the majority of whom are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Amid concerns about enforcement, lawmakers ultimately revised that legislation to prevent it from taking effect unless five other states passed similar laws.
The regulations come as parents and lawmakers are growing increasingly concerned about kids and teenagers’ social media use and how platforms like TikTok, Instagram and others are affecting young people’s mental health. The dangers of social media to children is also emerging as a focus for trial lawyers, with addiction lawsuits being filed thorughout the country.
Ortutay reported from Oakland, California.
4 ways to use social media to advance your career
As a business community, we’ve tried to shame execs into being on social media for at least 10 years, and the results are decidedly mixed. Despite the expectations from employees and consumers, only half of the CEOs in the S&P 500 are on social media. Probably less than half that number contributes with any regularity to social communities online. Why is that?
We’re living in a moment when social media is widely acknowledged as a burden as much as a pastime. Even the most successful influencers feel it. Of the myriad reasons it’s turned out that way, the weight of expectation—to perform, post constantly, be a “thought leader,” sound smart, and be inspirational—is one. It can be crippling. No wonder some don’t even bother. You can’t fail if you don’t try.
Except that there are benefits to engaging people online, as some who’ve quit social media, only to return later, have realized. The lesson?? Do it on your terms.
If you want to make social media part of your career marketing plan but have doubts, here are four ways to trick your brain into getting it done.
Don’t treat it like an obligation
Execs are busy with full-time responsibilities of running their teams, making hundreds of decisions, traveling, and driving revenue (to say nothing of their hopes for a personal life). Treated as one in a dozen daily chores, contributing to social media will fall to the bottom of the list every time.
You don’t have an obligation to contribute to social media. Your marketing team or sales team might want you to, but the internet is doing just fine without your content. Hell, you’ve made it this far with minimal investment. And while your business might benefit from more social value vis a vis your personal brand, its survival in no way hinges on it.
This thinking leaves you free to pursue a more fun mentality—one where social media is a reprieve from your other chores.
Andrew Yang said something instructive in his book Forward about this. He struggled from not using Twitter to using it as his primary communication tool during his presidential campaign. He had a whole team of communications professionals telling him what he should post and when. But none of that motivated him to start building a brand and audience on Twitter. He had to motivate himself. He had to, in his words, “resolve to enjoy it.”
We tend to prioritize the activities we enjoy and bring our best selves to them. So it is with social media. If you don’t find a way to enjoy it, you won’t be posting for very long anyway.
Think about consistency loosely, on your terms
They say you get what you put into your social media presence; if you post sporadically, you limit growth, so most social media advice includes a mandate to be consistent.
Great advice, though framing it that way hews close to the chore territory that’s so debilitating. No need to put hard and fast rules around it, and you don’t need a calendar of posts and tweets for the whole year (sorry, marketing team) because part of the job is being responsive to what’s happening in your world, the wider world, and the lives of your audience. That’s where the best, most genuine content comes from, not boilerplates and rehearsed takes.
For the same reasons, you don’t want to be willy-nilly, either. You’ll get busy, stressed, and forgetful, and then weeks and months go by since your last post, and any momentum you had is gone. Some structure is useful, but only if it works for your life. You know your schedule, habits, and propensity for chaos better than anyone, but here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- If the news is your muse for social content, try posting in content-consumption mode. It could be first thing in the morning or evenings on the couch with a glass of wine.
- If Fridays are a little lighter for you, make that your Social Media Friday.
- If you travel a lot, make downtime at the hotel your photo dump on Instagram.
- Find out which days and times on your chosen channel(s) give your content the best chance of reaching people and try to do a little more during those times.
Produce for an audience of one
We tend to think of digital audiences in anonymous, abstract terms. “We should educate ‘the industry’ on this issue” if you’re in B2B or maybe “fans of the brand” if you’re in B2C. When we produce for no one in particular, it tends to show up in the content. The writing is staid and corporate, the photos are stock, and the engagement is paltry.
If you’re giving a consumer product update, think of a cousin or niece who’s firmly in the target audience and what would get them excited to engage. If you’re a B2B exec and want to get something off your chest, think of a colleague or friend in your network who will totally get your point, vehemently disagree, and challenge you to a duel on social media.
I once worked for a startup CEO who was pulling his hair out over recruitment. I just couldn’t get enough quality marketing candidates in the pipeline or couldn’t tell who was just an excellent self-marketer and who was for real. He published a candid missive, and 24 hours later, the post had gone viral, and all kinds of people in his network had reached out directly to either commiserate or offer advice.
Why? Before he wrote it, we discussed whether or not it was a good idea, and he concluded, “this can’t just be happening to us. There have to be other people in our growth stage struggling with this. And if they aren’t, I’d love to know what they’re doing.” He didn’t care if the post made him look like an exec who didn’t know how to hire people. He had a person or persons in mind—execs who’d been in a similar position—and he wanted to start a conversation with them. That’s why it was effective.
Take pride in contributing to one platform
Some execs never get started because they think the job is a lot bigger than it is. Their eyes cloud over as they previsualize posting to LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram and wonder, “am I supposed to be on TikTok now?” and give up altogether.
As an industry, we’ve created a mindset that the more places you show up, the further your message goes. And that mindset has degraded social media feeds over time, where one person or brand posts the same content everywhere and leans back, satisfied that they repurposed content.
You want to be where the people you’re trying to influence are in critical mass, yes, but you also want to be where you’re most at ease with the tools, user experience, conversations, and dynamics (at least to start or ramp up again). It’s also fair to consider your audience’s propensity to pick up and share what you’re putting down. If there’s only one platform that meets all that criteria, then you have your answer on where you need to be.
Brandon Carter is director of strategy at Codeword, an integrated marketing agency.
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