Media

Why do journalists keep sources anonymous?

So, anonymity can be granted for a number of reasons. The main one is a risk of retaliation against the person, against their job, against their personal safety. For instance, if you report in a war zone or on a crime victim. It can also be to protect vulnerable people such as children, or if it's just the only way to get the information out.

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Is it really an absurd request to ask sports writers to stick to sports?

This isn't going to be just 60 seconds, so bear with me. On the face of it, no, absolutely not. We're talking about Deadspin, a sports blog which lost all of its staff, who resigned after ownership gave them a mandate to, quote-unquote, "stick to sports," and fired an editor who would not stick to that mandate. Everyone else resigned. On the face of it, not stupid. Ownership says, "hey, we're a sports site, that's why people come to us. That's how we get most of our traffic and our advertising revenue and why bother doing anything else?"

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Why is The Guardian no longer using the words "climate change?"

So, The Guardian made a pledge in the past week to start covering climate change, or what they now call the "climate crisis," differently. They're changing their vocabulary. They're also changing their photography away from cliché polar bears and towards more of the human impacts of environmental damage. And they're making commitments as a company to zero net emissions.

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How did an entire country's media spread false news for a night?

Fascinating case study in France over the weekend. For less than a day, we thought that the most wanted man in the country had been caught in Scotland. Turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. The so-called news was actually reported quite carefully at first, on Friday night with careful words. But the language quickly moved from conditional to categorical and therefore, to misinformation through human error. What you have here is the tension between being first and being right, which has always been present in journalism but is more and more as you have these 24 hour news channels, social media, and the incredible economic pressure on news sites that are advertising based and therefore click based.

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Is the Gannet GateHouse merger good or bad news for local journalism?

It's probably bad. So it's the two biggest newspaper chains in the U.S. combining. They're going to own 1 in 6 newspapers in America. The problem is we're not seeing much of a strategy here, it's really mostly a financial deal and an expensive one at that with a lot of pressure to cut costs. They're looking to save about $300 million annually. That means layoffs. That means centralizing some functions like ad sales or design editing, consolidating regionally possibly selling off newspapers, selling off real estate. The problem is a lot of these things have already happened to American newspapers and more than once. So you're really getting blood out of a stone at this point. It's not good news for the communities they cover or the people who work there.

What does the CBS Viacom merger mean for consumers?

Ultimately, it's going to further divide up the content that you love across multiple platforms. The streaming war is on! CBS and Viacom felt they had to merge in order to stand up to the bigger players in the game like Disney, Netflix, Amazon. Viacom was so far quite happy to put their content on whatever platform would have them That's probably going to change. For you, it means you have to get more subscriptions and pay more to see all of the shows that you love especially the Star Trek franchise, in this case. So unfortunately, just more expensive bills just like back in the days of cable.

That's it for this week. It's a special episode of Media in 60. It's the last one produced by the wonderful Adam Pourahmadi, who's moving on to bigger and better things. Thank you, Adam. You were a joy to work with. Godspeed. We'll take a short break and we'll be back in September with more Media in 60 Seconds.

Should journalists always publish leaks?

No, of course not. And they usually don't. There's really a lot of criteria that you're looking at, like for any story. First, is it legal in the way that information was obtained and to publish that information? It is in most countries, most jurisdictions. But you do want to make sure and if not that you have good reason to do what is essentially civil disobedience. Is it safe? There are reasons, national security especially, not to publish information sometimes. Then you want to look at the source and the information. Is it reliable? Is it verifiable? Is it newsworthy? Is it even a story and is it in the public interest to publish it? And then you want to look at the broader context.

You want to make sure that you're not being used to further anyone's political agenda, unknowingly. And if you are, at least be so knowingly and with full transparency to your readers if you consider that publishing that information to the public interest of it overrides that concern. And because I know that with this question you're getting at the leak that ousted the U.K. ambassador to the U.S. You want to be sure that you yourself do not have a political agenda as well. And I'll leave it at that.

I'm in Athens for a bit of a different Media in 60 this week. I'm at a media conference where everyone has been reading the same piece of research. The digital news report out of the Reuters Institute in Oxford. Really the biggest piece of media research to come out every year. I recommend you read all 150 pages. However, for now, I'll give you the Cliff Notes in 60 seconds.

First pivot to pay more and more newsrooms are moving to subscription or membership model but the number of people willing to pay for news is actually plateauing and when they do pay it's only for one subscription. So it is a winner takes all model and in a battle between the New York Times subscription and your Netflix, Netflix almost always wins.

Second is pivot to private. So we're seeing declining use of Facebook though people are not giving it up altogether. Increased use of WhatsApp and Instagram which is good for them because it's the exact same company. Those were a couple of really smart acquisitions. We're also seeing more and more sharing and commenting of news in private or semi-private groups rather than in public feeds because probably people just feel safer there.

Third is pivot to audio. Podcast is in. 1 in 3 people have listened to one in the past month 1 in 2 for the under 35 audience and finally trust always a big issue. Trust is down two points to 42% of people saying they generally trust the media less than half of people even trust outlets that they themselves go to for their news. People feel that journalists are better at breaking news than explaining it so hopefully I'm explaining here. And also we're seeing massive news avoidance one in three people just avoiding the news. It's up 11 points in the UK because people are so so fed up with Brexit understandably.