Escalating trauma for journalists: The past year has been eventful, to say the least, and it’s taking a psychological toll on journalists, writes Sarah Scire in Nieman Lab. The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, an organization that focuses on educating journalists on the impacts of trauma, has expanded its outreach in the past year as journalists grapple with the consequences of reporting on an unrelenting string of impactful events including the pandemic, mass shootings, racial injustice, and countless others. Though the Dart Center can’t hold in-person events, they have had success in their online conversations and have found a “surprising degree of intimacy” in addressing the stress of reporting in an especially difficult global moment, says Scire.
More on the downfall of Caliphate: In the fall of 2020, the popular New York Times podcast “Caliphate” was debunked after investigation showed that Shehroze Chaudhry, the interviewee that the podcast had been centered around, had never actually been involved with the Islamic state, says James Harkin in Harper’s Magazine. This incident reveals the dangers of internet reporting, writes Harkin. Podcast host Rukmini Callimachi had relied heavily in her terror reporting on jihadist social media, but failed to distinguish between ISIS sympathizers and militants and made other errors in judgement. According to Harkin, the New York Times itself did not use enough scrutiny before publishing the podcast, a mistake that has been repeated throughout Western news organizations in reporting on terror. “Strong journalism requires on-the-ground expertise and skepticism as much as great characters and slick narratives,” writes Harkin.
Reporting on homeless deaths: There’s been a gap in reporting on homelessness and the deaths of those experiencing homelessness, says Hannah Coogans in Global Investigative Journalism Network. In 2017, UK reporter Maeve McClenaghan found that there was no data on the number of people who die each year while homeless. McClenaghan, along with over a thousand other reporters, then worked on the Dying Homeless Project, investigating homeless deaths in the UK over the course of 18 months. The reports on the deaths focused on both numbers and individual stories, making sure to memorialize the deceased rather than just use them as data, says Coogans. McClenaghan recommends that others continue with this kind of practice: when there is a gap in knowledge or data, it should be seen as an opportunity to research and follow-up, not as a discouragement from reporting.
Supreme Court’s increasingly dim view of the press: It has been over a decade since the Supreme Court positively referenced the trustworthiness of the press, says Adam Liptak in the New York Times. There’s been a big change since then. A new study to be published soon found “a marked and previously undocumented uptick in negative depictions of the press by the U.S. Supreme Court,” wrote Liptak, quoting the report. This goes along with a federal judge’s attack against the media, especially the New York Times and Washington Post, accusing them of liberal bias. Unfortunately the judge does not seem to be an outlier. It’s no longer about ideology, says Liptak. A negative view of the press is coming from all ends of the political spectrum in the judiciary.
Newsmax’s new addition: Just what America needs — there’s another new one-dimensional far-right talk show on Newsmax, called the Gorka Reality Check, hosted by Dr. Sebastian Gorka. Right wing television has been trying to win over the Trump base since he left office in January, writes Jack Shafer in Politico. Gorka contributed to Fox between 2017 and 2019, before he was ousted due to his repetitive and predictable routine of providing an unambiguous pro-Trump, anti-Democratic message. “When Fox news producers dismiss you as a mere Trump propagandist, it makes sense to move your act to a lesser network like Newsmax where that’s an asset,” says Shafer.
Stop vilifying whistleblowers: Sources who help investigative reporters are increasingly in danger from the federal government, says James Risen in The Intercept. Over the past two decades, the federal government has used their unlimited surveillance powers to find and prosecute individuals who have leaked information to the press, says Risen. But that doesn’t mean journalists should stop using whistleblowers, or whistleblowers should stop giving intel to journalists. The upside to reporting on national security issues is the value in educating the public about national security, while the downside is the danger sources find themselves in. Often, stories about the prosecution of whistleblowers are presented by the media as an unpatriotic delinquent leaker versus the heroic FBI, but this narrative needs to change, he said. “The press must stop covering leak investigations like bank robberies and start covering them for what they really are: threats to press freedom,” says Risen.
A new era of content ownership: Substack, an online newsletter platform, is paying its writers directly, says Ben Smith in the New York Times. It’s part of a new era of content ownership — Platforms like Substack, Patreon and Cameo are allowing content creators and performers to own their own content and make money directly from their audience. Substack is doing so by paying advances to some of their most popular newsletter writers, taking the majority of the money that they make from subscription fees in return. Substack has competitors like the platform Ghost, which charges a flat fee per month rather than paying advances. Whatever the platform, however, “the new media economy promises both to make some writers rich and to turn others into the content-creation equivalent of Uber drivers,” writes Smith.
Philanthropy in less wealthy communities: As philanthropy grows as a funding mechanism for local journalism, people have wondered if the same model will work for less wealthy communities. To the surprise of some, it works just fine, write Lauren McKown and Jimmy Martinez in Poynter. A new study from Report for America looks into the results of fundraising campaigns across local news organizations in communities of varying degrees of wealth. As it turns out, papers in areas with limited financial resources are still able to successfully fundraise at a level on par with that of wealthier communities. The study shows that grassroots donations grew in the past year at a much higher rate than larger gifts. This demonstrates that when papers provide a value to the community and are trusted, the residents who rely on them for information are motivated to give back, say the authors.
The “no angel” narrative: As the trial of Derek Chauvin continues, right wing media is taking a “no angel” angle that they often take in cases of racial justice like these, says Margaret Sullivan in the Washington Post. Fox News hosts are calling it the “George Floyd trial” and focusing their conversation around Floyd’s drug use and history, going so far as to misreport the results of the autopsies which clearly stated that the cause of death was Chauvin’s knee-to-neck restraint. Tucker Carlson, Ann Coulter and company continue to victim blame, defend Chauvin and mock the racial-justice movement, using their reporting as “racist smears” — and it’s time for that type of narrative to die, Sullivan says.
Why hasn’t Biden’s White House leaked?: Two months into his presidency, Biden’s administration and his relationship with the media differs from Trump’s in a crucial way — the absence of leaks. By this time in 2017, reporters had become accustomed to regular information coming from within Trump’s administration or Trump himself, while Biden’s administration (and his 2020 campaign) have been relatively airtight, says Jack Shafer in Politico. Shafer attributes this to a relatively cohesive administration behind the scenes, whereas Trump’s was full of inner-administration conflict and adversarial relationships. The Biden White House will leak eventually, as they all do, says Shafer, but this administration seems to be working more together and not being on “both the supply and the demand side” of political gossip.
The problem with ad transparency: Social media platforms are claiming to be transparent when it comes to political advertising, say Madelyn Webb and Bethan John in Nieman Lab, but their definitions of transparency are very subjective, leading to more questions. Sites like Google, Facebook, and Twitter are all taking different actions when it comes to how they regulate political ads. Twitter has banned them entirely, while Facebook and Google are making past advertisements more accessible. Transparency in advertising is meant to monitor the spread of information, but it is a “tool, not an end” when it comes to political ads, say Webb and John. Murky language in the companies’ definitions of “political advertising” is making transparency difficult to enforce, raising questions regarding the sources and reliability of the ad data being reported, efficacy of pro-transparency measures, and the end result of openness in advertising.
Media strikes: The New Yorker, Pitchfork and Ars Technica unions are planning a strike against their parent company Condé Nast, reports Angela Fu in Poynter. The unions have been recently authorized to strike amid ongoing bargaining negotiations. Financial difficulties in Condé Nast have caused union members to worry about their own job security, and the three companies are pushing for increased wages and other workplace needs like professional development and commitments to diversity and inclusion. Though the three units are communicating regularly regarding the strike, a win at one negotiating table does not necessarily translate to the other two. If Condé Nast fails to negotiate in “good faith,” the unions will move forward with the strike, says Fu.