Ailing newspapers abandon newsrooms as pandemic deepens woes

Ailing newspapers abandon newsrooms as pandemic deepens woes
A view of the news room at the Washington Post. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 13 December 2020

Ailing newspapers abandon newsrooms as pandemic deepens woes

Ailing newspapers abandon newsrooms as pandemic deepens woes
  • Many journalists say the loss of the newsroom has changed the nature of their work and worry that newspapers may not re-establish newsrooms even after the pandemic

NEW YORK: The buzzing newsroom has long been the lifeblood of American newspapers. But in recent months the buzz has become virtual as the pandemic deepens the industry crisis and forces journalists to work remotely.
In recent months, established dailies such as the New York Daily News, Miami Herald and Baltimore Sun have joined other news outlets abandoning their headquarters, amid pandemic workplace restrictions that had already left them empty.
Tribune Publishing, owner of the Baltimore daily and others, has acknowledged it is re-evaluating its real estate needs as it struggles with a difficult environment, with lower print circulation, falling advertising revenues and increased costs for health and safety.
But many journalists say the loss of the newsroom has changed the nature of their work and worry that newspapers may not re-establish newsrooms even after the pandemic.
“A newsroom is a lot more collaborative than a lot of other workspaces are,” said Emily Brindley, a reporter at the Tribune-owned Hartford (Connecticut) Courant, which shut its newsroom this month.
“I definitely think that it’s going to have an effect on the product,” added Brindley, an organizer of the Courant Guild, which represents journalists. “I do feel that there will be some intangible effects.”
One of Brindley’s colleagues in Hartford, Daniela Altimari, said she believes the pandemic “proved that we could all work from home and still put out a newspaper,” making it unlikely the newsroom will reopen. She fears for the quality of the work.
“Newsrooms are factories for ideas in a way. There’s a lot of chance encounters,” Altimari said. “You get ideas by talking to colleagues. Those chance encounters can really lead to better work.”
Victor Pickard, a professor who follows the sector for the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, said the pandemic “is certainly accelerating and exacerbating the journalism crisis, but this crisis predated the pandemic by years.”
He said large newspaper chains such as McClatchy and Tribune “are seizing this opportunity to cut costs, as they often do in order to maximize profits,” while adding that at the moment “they’re not very profitable these days.”
The move out of the newsroom follows a long crisis for the sector that has seen consolidation by major chains, the closing of many smaller papers, and hedge funds buying newspapers only to slash costs and squeeze out as much profit as possible.

'Incalculable loss
For decades, the newsroom has been a mythical place whose atmosphere was captured in films from “His Girl Friday” to “All the President’s Men” to “Spotlight.”
“There’s a sort of alchemy that happens when you have a lot of reporters in a room together,” said Marijke Rowland of the California-based Modesto Bee.
“There’s nothing quite as interesting, vibrant and at times weird as working in a newsroom,” she said. “That’s an incalculable loss, for local journalism particularly.”
Some major newspapers such as the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal have maintained or even boosted their journalistic staffs even as they adapt to remote journalism.
“No one doubts that (the major dailies) will reopen when it’s safe to do so,” said Dan Kennedy, a Northeastern University journalism professor.
But smaller local and regional newspapers are in more difficult straits and may struggle to get their newsrooms back, he noted.
“I just hope that any newspaper owner who is committed to doing a good job understands the importance of having a newsroom,” Kennedy said.
But with an industry in turmoil and facing challenges from a shift to digital news consumption, some fear the newsroom will become a relic of the past.
“These trends are so structural that they have very few options,” Pickard said.
“The advertising revenue model is irreparably damaged and will never come back for newspapers. For those that are not able to sustain themselves through subscriptions, which includes nearly all newspapers other than the national big three, there’s not much they can do.
“It’s very difficult to remain profitable, so they’re going to continue to cut costs.”


ABG leads first global diversity, inclusion census in GCC

ABG leads first global diversity, inclusion census in GCC
Photo/Supplied
Updated 23 June 2021

ABG leads first global diversity, inclusion census in GCC

ABG leads first global diversity, inclusion census in GCC
  • Census represents biggest global cross-industry collaboration across 27 markets

DUBAI: In a move to assess the scale of the diversity challenge facing the marketing and advertising industry, the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) has launched the first-ever global diversity, equity and inclusion census.

The census is a collaboration between the WFA, VoxComm, the European Association of Communication Agencies (EACA), Campaign, Kantar, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week and The Effies, with the goal of generating the largest and most representative sample possible.

“This is an unprecedented act of unity by the global marketing industry. With over a hundred participating organisations, this is the biggest industry collaboration ever,” WFA CEO Stephan Loerke said in a statement.

In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the effort is being led by the Advertising Business Group (ABG), a non-profit organization advocating for responsible advertising and communication​.

People from across the marketing industry — including brands, agencies, media, tech, consultancies and marketing services providers in 27 countries — can fill in the survey until July 2 by providing socio-demographic data about themselves and perceptions of their workplace.

“The data from so many markets will be incredibly powerful in helping the industry focus its efforts on where they are most needed, helping us become a better, more diverse and more inclusive industry,” said Tamara Daltroff, director general of EACA and president of VoxComm.

The survey will assess where the global advertising and marketing industry stands in relation to diversity, equity and inclusion by investigating workforce composition across the industry as well as people’s perception of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

The findings will be presented at leading global industry events in October this year, and published publicly for the benefit of global, regional and local groups.

The results will also be used to inform an action plan devised and led by the WFA’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, which is a global platform of the world’s top marketers.

A follow-up survey will be conducted after 18 months to track progress.


Facebook expands Shops to WhatsApp, Marketplace in commerce push

Facebook said it would introduce personalized ads in its Shops service based on users' shopping behavior. (File/AFP)
Facebook said it would introduce personalized ads in its Shops service based on users' shopping behavior. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 June 2021

Facebook expands Shops to WhatsApp, Marketplace in commerce push

Facebook said it would introduce personalized ads in its Shops service based on users' shopping behavior. (File/AFP)
  • Facebook Inc (FB.O) is expanding its "Shops" feature to its messaging app WhatsApp in several countries.
  • Users will be able to use this search from content on the app or on photos on their own camera rolls.

Facebook Inc (FB.O) is expanding its "Shops" feature to its messaging app WhatsApp in several countries and to Facebook Marketplace in the United States, the company said on Tuesday as it announced changes to its commerce tools.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said it would also introduce personalized ads in its Shops service based on users' shopping behavior.

The social media giant, which launched Shops last year as a way for people to find and buy products on Facebook and Instagram as part of its push into ecommerce, said it has more than 300 million monthly Shops visitors and about 1.2 million monthly active Shops.

Zuckerberg said during Facebook's last earnings release that e-commerce is one of the company's three key areas of focus, along with working on augmented and virtual reality and helping content creators earn money on Facebook's platforms.

The company said it would in the coming months test an artificial intelligence tool called 'visual search' so users shopping on its photo-sharing site Instagram can click on items and find similar products in Shops.

Users will be able to use this search from content on the app or on photos on their own camera rolls, Zuckerberg said.

Facebook is also working on ways using augmented reality that shoppers can try on items, including from ads, Zuckerberg said, speaking in a live audio room on Facebook.


Twitter opens applications to test new content subscription features

Twitter will focus on individuals who apply for the features, but will also consider brands, publishers and nonprofit organizations. (File/AFP)
Twitter will focus on individuals who apply for the features, but will also consider brands, publishers and nonprofit organizations. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 June 2021

Twitter opens applications to test new content subscription features

Twitter will focus on individuals who apply for the features, but will also consider brands, publishers and nonprofit organizations. (File/AFP)
  • Twitter users can apply to get first access to "Super Follows," which will let them sell exclusive content to paying subscribers.

Twitter Inc said Tuesday it will seek applications from users who want to be the first to test new content subscription and ticketing features, as the social platform works to build more ways for users to earn money. 

Twitter users can apply to get first access to "Super Follows," which will let them sell exclusive content to paying subscribers, and "Ticketed Spaces," to charge for entry into audio chat rooms they host on the platform.

Both features are part of Twitter's plan to compete with other social media companies to attract more influential content creators by letting them earn money from fan followings.

Users must have at least 10,000 followers on Twitter to be eligible to apply for Super Follows, and at least 1,000 followers to apply for first access to Ticketed Spaces.

The company aims to select "a diverse set of voices," from the applications, said Esther Crawford, senior product manager at Twitter.

The company will take a 3% cut of a creator's revenue until the user hits $50,000 in earnings, after which Twitter will keep 20%, in order to help up-and-coming creators earn more money at the start, Twitter said.

Crawford added that Twitter will focus on individuals who apply for the features, but will also consider brands, publishers and nonprofit organizations which have built an audience on Twitter.


British minister urges same rules for streaming services, broadcasters -Times

British minister urges same rules for streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Disney+. (File/AFP)
British minister urges same rules for streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Disney+. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 June 2021

British minister urges same rules for streaming services, broadcasters -Times

British minister urges same rules for streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Disney+. (File/AFP)
  • British government draw plans to make streaming services follow the code of British regulator Ofcom, says Culture Secretary.
  • The government will consult on whether it is time to set the same basic rules for video-on-demand services as is done for traditional broadcasters

June 23 : Britain’s streaming services and broadcasters should be on a level playing field, as traditional broadcasters now compete with “one hand tied behind their backs,” Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said on Wednesday.
Dowden is to unveil plans for a white paper on broadcasting that aims to make streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ follow the code of British regulator Ofcom, he said in the Times newspaper “Every “linear” broadcaster — BBC, Sky and so on — has to comply with stringent content and audience protection standards,” Dowden said in an article published on Wednesday.
“You might assume the same is true of video-on-demand services such as Amazon Prime and Disney+. You’d be wrong.”
The government will consult this summer on whether it is time to set the same basic rules for video-on-demand services as is done for traditional broadcasters, he added.
“The white paper will also set out proposals on how we ensure public service broadcasters are given sufficient visibility...online, and ensure viewers can continue to find and watch original and high-quality British programs.”
Separately, Britain’s Conservative government said it plans to sell Channel 4, launched 39 years ago as an alternative to the BBC and ITV, to help secure its future as a public service broadcaster.
“In summer I will consult on the sale of Channel 4,” Dowden wrote, adding that he would proceed on the lines that an alternative ownership model retaining the broadcaster’s public service remit would better serve both it and Britain.


Rights group: Facebook amplified Myanmar military propaganda

Rights group: Facebook amplified Myanmar military propaganda
Updated 23 June 2021

Rights group: Facebook amplified Myanmar military propaganda

Rights group: Facebook amplified Myanmar military propaganda
  • Facebook's algorithm amplified military propaganda in Myanmar following the military takeover, revealed report.
  • After the coup, the military junta temporarily blocked access to Facebook because it was being used to share anti-coup comments and organize protests.
Facebook’s recommendation algorithm amplifies military propaganda and other material that breaches the company’s own policies in Myanmar following a military takeover in February, a new report by the rights group Global Witness says.
A month after the military seized power in Myanmar and imprisoned elected leaders, Facebook’s algorithms were still prompting users to view and “like” pro-military pages with posts that incited and threatened violence, pushed misinformation that could lead to physical harm, praised the military and glorified its abuses, Global Witness said in the report, published late Tuesday.
That’s even though the social media giant vowed to remove such content following the coup, announcing it would remove Myanmar military and military-controlled pages from its site and from Instagram, which it also owns. It has since enacted other measures intended to reduce offline harm in the country.
Facebook said Tuesday its teams “continue to closely monitor the situation in Myanmar in real-time and take action on any posts, Pages or Groups that break our rules.”
Days after the Feb. 1 coup, the military temporarily blocked access to Facebook because it was being used to share anti-coup comments and organize protests. Access was later restored. In the following weeks, Facebook continued to tighten its policies against the military, banning all military entities from its platforms and saying it would remove praise or support for violence against citizens and their arrest.
“Once again, Facebook shows that it’s good at making broad sweeping announcements and bad at actually enforcing them. They’ve had years to improve their work in Myanmar but once again they are still failing,” said Sophie Zhang, a former Facebook data scientist and whistleblower who found evidence of political manipulation in countries such as Honduras and Azerbaijan while she worked there.
The struggle between the military regime that deposed Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government and those opposing it has sharpened in recent months.
Soldiers and police have killed hundreds of protesters. Last week, the United Nations’ office in Myanmar expressed concern about escalating human rights abuses after reports that a group opposed to the junta may have executed 25 civilians it captured and allegations that troops had burned down a village.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, had over 22.3 million Facebook users in January 2020, more than 40 percent of its population, according to social media management platform NapoleonCat.
“What happens on Facebook matters everywhere, but in Myanmar that is doubly true,” the report says. As in many countries outside the Western Hemisphere, mobile phones in Myanmar often come pre-loaded with Facebook and many businesses do not have a website, only a Facebook page. For many people in the country, Facebook effectively is the Internet.
On March 23, just before the peak of military violence against civilians, Global Witness said it set up a new, clean Facebook account with no history of liking or following specific topics and searched for “Tatmadaw”, the Burmese name for the armed forces. It filtered the search results to show pages, and selected the top result — a military fan page whose name translates as “a gathering of military lovers.”
Older posts on this page showed sympathy for Myanmar’s soldiers and at least two advertised for young people to join the military — but none of the newer posts since the coup violated Facebook’s policies. However, when Global Witness’s account “liked” the page, Facebook began recommending related pages with material inciting violence, false claims of interference in last year’s election and support of violence against civilians.
A March 1 post, for instance, includes a death threat against protesters who vandalize surveillance cameras.
“Those who threaten female police officers from the traffic control office and violently destroy the glass and destroy CCTV, those who cut the cables, those who vandalize with color sprays, (we) have been given an order to shoot to kill them on the spot,” reads part of the post in translation, according to the report. “Saying this before Tatmadaw starts doing this. If you don’t believe and continue to do this, go ahead. If you are not afraid to die, keep going.”
Facebook said its ban of the Tatmadaw and other measures have “made it harder for people to misuse our services to spread harm. This is a highly adversarial issue and we continue to take action on content that violates our policies to help keep people safe.”
Global Witness said its findings show that Facebook fails to uphold the “very basics” of its own guidelines.
“The platform operates too much like a walled garden, its algorithms are designed, trained, and tweaked without adequate oversight or regulation,” said Naomi Hirst, head of the digital threats campaign at Global Witness. “This secrecy has to end, Facebook must be made accountable.”