Media

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.

Is it still dangerous for journalists in Myanmar?

Yes, unfortunately. So the good news is that Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, the two Reuters reporters were freed. However, they were pardoned, which means they're still considered criminals. And there has been a real chilling effect on the press in Myanmar. The Irrawaddy, which is an independent newspaper, is being investigated. There are people being investigated for Facebook posts that the authorities don't like. So absolutely still dangerous.

Game of Thrones made a huge mistake last week. What is the best way to check your work?

Yes. Game of Thrones left a coffee cup on a Winterfell table. Not a good look. So, process is really the best way. Making sure that there are multiple people looking at your work and editing it, which I'm sure is the case at HBO. But you can still miss things. A trick that I use is changing the font or the layout on an article when I give it a last read. Or you can read it backwards. On video you can play with brightness, color saturation, and you can play just a sound, or just the image. Really anything that will trick your brain into thinking that you're looking at something new and therefore you can have fresh eyes and better see mistakes.

The Guardian is finally profitable! Can it keep it up?

Yes, The Guardian made £800,000 this year, which is a two-bedroom flat in London! But that's actually really good news because they were losing millions for years. Can they keep it up? Absolutely! Because most of their revenue is now from digital and it is from readers without a paywall. So, congratulations Katharine Viner and team! Who knew you could get good news in journalism?

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Claire Wardle, Executive Director of First Draft joins Isabelle Roughol, Senior Editor-at-Large at LinkedIn for Media in 60 Seconds!

Why should we stop using the term "fake news"?

I refuse to use it to such an extent that I actually say "f*** news." And the reason is because it's just a completely useless term for describing the complexity of the situation. None of this really masquerades as news. It's content, social posts, videos and most of it isn't fake. Most of it is misleading or old content used out of context. So it's not helpful. And more importantly, it's used to attack a free and independent press - globally. Politicians, not just Trump, many politicians on the left and the right use it to attack a free, independent press. Any reporting that they don't like they dismiss. And actually, when journalists keep using it like, "Oh yeah, but that's what the audience uses." Well, they're using a weapon that's used to attack them. There are many words that we no longer use because we know that they're harmful. This is a harmful word and so we should just stop using it. We can say lies, rumors, conspiracies, propaganda. What is it that we're talking about? Because we don't need to use this phrase!

Isabelle speaks with Maria Ressa, CEO and Executive Editor of Rappler, one of the leading online news organizations in the Philippines. Ressa was honored in 2018 as a Person of the Year by Time for her efforts and impact combating fake news.

Is global press freedom under attack and how?

As early as November 2017, we saw the studies: Freedom House came out and said in 27 countries around the world, cheap armies on social media are tearing down democracy, rolling back democracy. The year after that, the Oxford Computational Propaganda Project said that number went up — doubled. It's a very difficult time with technology which once empowered, now is being used to tear down, is being used to replace facts with fiction, is being used to create alternative realities. We've heard these words, "fake news" right? It's a time when journalists have to come together and fight for the facts, because facts lead to truth and truth leads to trust.