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Gianna Walton

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The Guardian reports that former Sunday Express editor Sue Douglas and ITV executive Rupert Howell plan to launch a new Sunday tabloid that would be a "reincarnation of the News of the World." They are reportedly in talks with investors.

Blottr, a hyperlocal citizen journalist platform, has just launched a Facebook app which will allow them to more easily share news, according to The Next Web. Users will also be able to add new content to Blottr from Facebook, the article said.

The phone-hacking scandal hits the States: The Daily Beast reports that lawyer Mark Lewis, who filed lawsuits on behalf of UK hacking victims in the News of the World scandal, plans to sue Rupert Murdoch's News Corp in the name of three clients who claim to have been hacked in the US, one of whom is a US citizen.

PressGazette reported that two prominent regional newspapers, the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post, have combined their editorial staffs, which will lead to restructuring of positions and possible redundancies.

For more industry news, please see WAN-IFRA's Executive News Service.


Gianna Walton


2012-04-12 17:56

Yesterday, Brian Farnham announced that he would be stepping down as editor-in-chief of Patch to pursue other start-up ventures, according to his blog post. Farnham, who spent four years at Patch, will be staying on as a member of the Patch advisory board, the post said.

Patch, a network of hyperlocal news websites owned by AOL, launched in 2009 as a platform for local communities, as previously reported. Each Patch site serves a community of 20,000-50,000 people and has a full-time editor, freelancers and bloggers.

Farnharm says in his post that his reasons for leaving are not “negative,” despite recent editorial changes. In February, AOL hired Rachel Fishman Feddersen as chief content officer of Patch, Reuters reported.

Reuters reported, “While Feddersen's role is still being defined, she said she sees her job as crafting a cohesive strategy that takes the elements of what works best locally and weaving those principals into coverage across Patch's network of sites. Essentially, she's looking for a bottom up—not top down—content strategy.”

Though some of Patch’s 863 news sites reached profitability last year, the company still has a long way to go in terms of revenue, with analysts approximating Patch’s losses at about $150 million, Reuters said.

Media expert Ken Doctor told Reuters, “Patch is underperforming. It is halfway from where it needs to be in terms of revenue and user experience.”

Patch is not without its share of scandal, too. According to Jim Romenesko, a Patch “leaker” claimed that the company was planning to eliminate part of the budget designated for freelancers. In addition, the employee said that Patch’s new focus was in creating, “easy, quick-hitting, cookie-cutter copy” such as “Best Of” pieces, the article said.

In his farewell announcement, Farnham denies any problems stemming from working under Feddersen, and takes a stab at Patch’s critics.

“I've never worked for a company that has been as scrutinized, criticized, and coal-raked as this one…you'd think we were creating toxic waste, instead of, you know, free useful information,” he said. “We have critics on Wall Street, critics in the media, local critics, national critics, the business press, the journalism reviews, bloggers, etc. There are so many that I've come to think of them as a single large, screechy, off-key band called BI [Business Insider] and the Haters. It's music to kill yourself by.”

Will Patch continue to grow its way to profitability, and prove its critics wrong? Ultimately, Patch’s relationships with local communities will most likely determine its success or failure, so it seems more crucial than ever that individual editors deliver content that online readers find most relevant.

Sources: Patch, Reuters

Related links: http://www.editorsweblog.org/2010/11/24/patch-not-just-news-but-a-complete-destination


Gianna Walton


2012-04-12 17:25

The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) plans to launch an investigative news YouTube channel in July 2012, according to a press release. Funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the channel will spotlight videos from prominent broadcasters such as NPR, ABC News and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, among other freelance contributors, the release said.

The CIR, a nonprofit organization that produces public interest investigative journalism, will teach reporters working for the channel how to best reach online audiences, the release said. CIR and the Investigative News Network (INN) will also coordinate to try to capture the interest of online users through social media, the release said.

Michael Maness, Knight Foundation Vice President for Media Innovation and Journalism, said in the release, “This collaboration is poised to bring investigative reporting authoritatively onto the social web. We hope it will engage audiences and expand public appetite for visual story telling.”

The timing may be right for an investigative news channel to resonate with online audiences; according to BBC News, a December 2011 redesign of the YouTube website placed more of a focus on “promoted” channels as well as adding enhancing its sharing capabilities with Facebook and Google+. Users might spend more time on the site because of these features, which could mean a great deal of potential for the CIR in gaining web traffic for its new channel.

Google reported that YouTube receives more than 3 billion clip views per day, BBC said.

The YouTube channel is not the first investigative journalism venture pursued by the CIR. As we previously reported, CIR launched the nonprofit California Watch in 2009, a Sacramento-based news organization dedicated to accountability reporting in California. 

In addition, CIR recently merged with San Francisco's The Bay Citizen, announcing that the paper would be ending its partnership with The New York Times, Poynter reported. However, The Times will still contribute to other CIR sites, including the investigative news YouTube channel, Poynter said.

CIR Executive Director Robert J. Rosenthal said in the press release that one of the primary goals of the channel is to increase public awareness of the value of storytelling through video.

“We hope this initiative generates revenue that supports the work of nonprofit organizations and independent filmmakers everywhere,” he said. “Collaborative efforts like this are no longer the future of journalism, they are today's reality.”

With the ever-accelerating news cycle, video clips have certainly become an essential part of not only professional broadcasts but also citizen journalism. It remains to be seen, though, whether in-depth investigative video pieces will fare as well on YouTube as quick soundbites from news channels or amateur footage taken by citizens.

CIR and INN are optimistic about their new project.

“We believe that this channel can increase the impact of accountability journalism in a way that both engages and informs,” said INN Executive Director and CEO Kevin Davis in the press release.

Sources: CIR, INN, BBC, Poynter


Gianna Walton


2012-04-12 12:32

Yesterday, Bloomberg reporters such as TV host Emily Chang and news editor Sarah Rabil tweeted that US Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum dropped out of the running, citing The Washington Post as their source, according to The Huffington Post. As expected, the story spread like wildfire on Twitter. The problem? The Washington Post hadn’t published the story online yet—journalists were still waiting for confirmation from the Santorum campaign, the article said.

According to a Bloomberg spokesperson, Bloomberg received the news through The Washington Post’s syndication wire, the article said. Although the story was accurate, The Post was quick to deny the report on Twitter, the article said.

“Washington Post is NOT reporting that Santorum is dropping out,” a tweet from reporter Aaron Blake read. “We have NOT reported this, despite tweets to the contrary.”

After finally publishing the piece, a spokesperson from The Washington Post explained that the unfinished story was sent to Bloomberg in error, according to HuffPo: “The draft story was not intended to be published until we confirmed that Santorum was suspending his campaign. The draft was inadvertently sent to Bloomberg, with whom The Post has a partnership, through an automated feed. It was not published on our Web site until the news had been confirmed.”

Although the Bloomberg/Post mishap may have been just a simple accident, it calls attention to the dangers of inadvertently uploading content that hasn’t been verified or edited, as well as to the rapidity of the modern news cycle.

In another recent online mistake, techPresident Editorial Director Micah L. Sifry unintentionally published an unfinished article that questioned whether Bob Woodward’s portrayal of Yale student journalists’ papers was accurate, Poynter reported. NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen also speculated in the article that Woodward’s comments were “distorted,” Poynter said.

In an apology, Sifry wrote, “I have egg on my face, since the story was not finished when it was accidentally published, and I was in the process of tracking down various participants for their comments.”

Poynter reported that Woodward said the incident verified the notion that the Internet is a less-than-reliable tool for journalists, stating, “This only increases my distress about the Internet, and this rush to say anything.”

As the news cycle continues to accelerate and reporters feel increased pressure to break scoops as quickly as possible, it becomes more of an imperative for journalists to closely monitor what and when they post. If verification practices and online editing take as much precedence as actually breaking the news, errors such as these can hopefully be avoided in the future.

Sources: The Huffington Post, Twitter, Poynter, techPresident 1, 2, The Washington Post


Gianna Walton


2012-04-11 17:53

Washington Business Journal reported that USA Today Publisher David Hunke will be retiring. The Gannett-owned newspaper has also been looking for a new editor-in-chief since John Hillkirk left the post in November, the article said.

Hearst has launched a new digital lifestyle magazine titled Good Ideas, a sister publication of Good Housekeeping, PressGazette reported. Designed to be read on mobile devices, the magazine will also be available in print.

According to AsiaOne news, South African newspaper The Star launched a new tabloid edition, which will be aimed towards a black audience. Star Africa will focus on news and culture for working-class townships, the article said.

Idea Lab reports that the Knight-Mozilla Partnership is refocusing and expanding: read about the changes here

For more industry news, please see WAN-IFRA's Executive News Service.


Gianna Walton


2012-04-11 16:16

Are comment sections really all they’re made out to be? While most news organizations welcome user feedback in some form or another, the debate is far from settled as to whether comments help or hurt online newspapers. Intended to encourage intelligent online discussion—but often dominated by vicious trolls, or users who post inflammatory statements for no reason other than to provoke others—comment sections clearly have both their pros and cons.

In an article from the Animal New York website, which is currently redesigning its format, Joel Johnson asserts that most comments are not intellectually stimulating or educational, but rather just spam and “drive-by internet hate.”

“Comments are a dinner party,” Johnson writes. “If I’ve invited you to have a seat at my table, at least have the courtesy to not call me an idiot for serving you food slightly different than you preferred…”

Johnson also suggests that the cost of monitoring comments outweighs the editorial benefit that insightful comments might bring.

He writes, “comments are likely a cost-of-doing-business for most content sites, not a revenue generator. This has been somewhat known for years for any high-volume site that is forced to require human content moderation—humans cost money, whether they are hand-moderating content, shepherding conversation, or building automated tools to allow user-moderated content.”

In response to Animal New York’s take, however, Gigaom counters that though comments can be offensive, they are “the equivalent of free speech” and “serve a similar purpose—to keep those in power honest, and to enhance our online lives in much the same way that democracy does offline.”

The article suggests that it is the responsibility of the author or site monitor to control the direction of comment threads, rather than of users. Eliminating comments would in turn eliminate the online community users find on the site, driving them to comment on personal blogs or other sites with minimal traffic and essentially suppressing debate, the article said.

Perhaps the most intriguing question, though, is how many online users actually read or contribute to comment sections. Is the online commenting community really that influential in terms of overall website traffic? Or is the percentage of overall readers so small that it wouldn’t make much of a difference to get rid of the feature completely?

A digital media survey conducted by Kantar Media in ten countries found that the percentage of online users reading comment sections ranged from 26-47% of total users, according to a press release. Latin American countries had the highest percentages of comment readership (47% in Brazil, 44% in Argentina, 41% in Mexico) while the UK had 35%.

The survey also examined the amount of users who contribute to comment threads, finding that a much lower percentage of users actually comment (5-17%). In the UK, only 12% of online users contribute comments, the press release said.

Kantar Media Head of TGI International Geoff Wicken said in the release, “Today's digital world has enabled consumers to move from being passive recipients of news coverage to playing an interactive role in how news is distributed. While the doomsayers take this to signal the end of the traditional newspaper, savvy publishers understand that they need to encourage and engage with people providing content.” 

US newspaper sites were not included in the Kantar Media survey, according to the press release.

Though the reasoning behind comment sections is admirable, the practical application is clearly replete with a host of problems. If a news website does not have the manpower and editorial savvy to direct threads by closely monitoring comments, is it financially wise to continue to allow comments? Maybe not, but at this juncture in the restructuring of the journalism industry, news organizations seem to feel the greater risk is in alienating online users.

Sources: Animal New York, Gigaom, Kantar Media


Gianna Walton


2012-04-11 14:59

Facebook announced its acquisition of Instagram, a popular iPhone photography app, for $1 billion, The Guardian reported. Instagram, which has more than 30 million users, recently launched an Android app version.

According to CNET, Iranian Minister for Information and Communications Technology Reza Taghipour announced that Iran intends to create a "national intranet" which would block citizens from accessing outside Internet sites such as Google and replace them with government-sponsored websites.

A false report that South Carolina Governor Nikki R. Haley was about to be indicted went viral on Twitter, and was picked up by major news organisations before it was discovered to be false, writes The New York Times. The paper writes that the incident prompted fresh questions about whether retweets imply endorsements.

In an interview with nymag.com, The Guardian's editor Alan Rusbridger states that the paper made a loss of around $50 million last year, but hopes to reduce this sum to single figures over the next four years, partly through expansion of its US business.

For more industry news, please see WAN-IFRA's Executive News Service.


Gianna Walton


2012-04-10 14:10

From China to Iran, government Internet censorship has become increasingly more prevalent, posing numerous concerns to advocates of cyber freedom. As we previously reported, there are now 40 governments that censor the Internet, up from only four in 2002. Yet one of the biggest promoters of Internet freedom—the United States—may in fact be enabling these restrictive governments in censoring and monitoring their citizens, according to Foreign Policy magazine.

Censorship and surveillance require extensive software and hardware, many of which are actually created by US and other Western companies and sold to countries with restrictive internet policies, Foreign Policy said.

According to The Atlantic, such technologies can easily be used against citizen journalists in countries with little press freedom, preventing the dissemination of valuable data.

“Intelligence agencies throughout the Middle East can today scan, catalogue, and read virtually every email in their country,” the article said. “These technologies turn activists' phones against them, allowing governments to listen in on phone calls, read text messages, even scan cell networks and pinpoint callers with voice recognition. They allow intelligence agents to monitor movements of activists via a GPS locator updated every fifteen seconds. And by tricking users into installing malware on their devices—as is currently happening in Syria—government agents can remotely turn on a laptop webcam or a cell phone microphone without its user knowing.”

American tech companies not only sell their surveillance products to dictatorships but also to other democratic governments trying to confront Internet-related crimes such as child pornography and intellectual property theft, Foreign Policy said. Some of the technology can be seen as “dual-use” for its ability to both protect and censor, the article said.

One of their biggest customers? The US itself, the article said.

According to the ACLU blog, US law enforcement records across the country were just released that show that many agencies track cell phones of citizens without first obtaining warrants.

To counter the lack of oversight of tech corporations abroad, the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights passed the Global Online Freedom Act (GOFA), Foreign Policy said. The legislation would create a list of “Internet-restricting countries,” require companies on the US Stock Exchange to report their practices for protecting Internet freedom and privacy rights in those countries and prohibit the sale of censorship and surveillance technology to those countries, the article said.

At a February conference in Paris titled “The Media World after WikiLeaks and News of the World,” organized by WPFC and UNESCO, experts examined the difficulties in regulating the internet, citing WikiLeaks and other scandals as motivation for governments to create over-restrictive regulations, as we previously reported

Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, said at the conference, “We need to address how technologies should be governed to support people's rights around the world. And regarding SOPA, PIPA, ACTA, democracies in the West need to be warned that regulating the Internet needs to be done properly.”

Clearly, Internet regulations are complex and must be approached with caution. What seems much more transparent, however, is the obligation of the US and other Western nations to limit the sale of censorship and surveillance devices to nations that ignore the privacy rights of their citizens. With the development of nuanced legislation, and increased public attention to these issues, perhaps Western technology companies can begin untangling themselves from the governments which their home legislators denounce. 

Sources: Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, ACLU

*Photograph found through Flickr's Creative Commons License, credited to Mediajon


Gianna Walton


2012-04-05 18:04

According to a report released by the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) and the Center for Advanced Social Research at the Missouri School of Journalism, the percentage of minorities employed in newsrooms is 12.32%, about a percentage point less than the survey from 2010, Poynter reports.

The ASNE began conducting the survey in 1978, when minorities composed only 4% of newsroom employees, and saw increases in minority presence in the newsroom up until 2006 (13.73%), according to Poynter. Since then, the percentage of minorities has been declining faster than the overall percentage drop in newsroom employees, the article said.

An article by ASNE stated that while overall newsroom employment decreased by 2.4% in 2011, minority employment in newsrooms decreased by 5.7%.

The statistics indicate, however, that the decline in minority employment may in fact be stabilizing, with a loss of 500 jobs in 2011 as opposed to 800 in both 2008 and 2009, the article stated.

“There were slight decreases in the percentage of employees in each minority category in 2011, although the census was revised this year to add a category of ‘multi-racial,’” the article said. “This could account for some of the loss in other categories.”

Other changes include the increased number of online-only newspapers participating in the census, though they were not included in the ASNE’s overall results, Poynter said. Several large sites, such as The Huffington Post and Politico, chose not to participate in the census, with some citing the release of diversity information as against their policies, the article said. 

Despite evidence of stability, the report may still be cause for concern, especially in terms of newspaper content.

Ronnie Agnew, ASNE Diversity Committee Co-Chair, said in the ASNE article, “Clearly, we have more work to do. While the numbers suggest stabilization, the trend shows that the exodus from this important industry among people of color continues. This is far from just a numbers issue; this is a troubling content issue. The decline will only stop when people in leadership embrace diversity as an essential part of their business.”

Karen Magnuson, Democrat and Chronicle Media Group Editor and Vice President for news, also told ASNE that diversity is key to ensuring business success.

"I'm glad that the percentages appear to have stabilized, but our industry still falls significantly short of accurately reflecting the population it serves,” she said. “As our ‘Future of Diversity in the News’ report warns, diversity is a business imperative. We must ensure that we cultivate diverse, creative staffs to create content that is relevant to growing communities of color.  It's a critical key to our survival.”

The article notes that minority employment in newspapers is still quite small compared to the percentage of minorities which comprise the papers’ consumer markets.

To examine issues of minority representation in the journalism industry, the National Union of Journalists will host its Black members conference in London on April 14, according to the website.

In addition to minority employment, the percentage of women in journalism has recently been a topic of discussion. The 2011 ASNE annual convention opened with an all-female panel of top newspaper editors, including Jill Abramson of The New York Times and Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post, according to Poynter. Members of the panel noted that all-female panels are rare in the journalism industry, the article said.

As we previously reported, a 2011 study released by VIDA: Women in the Arts revealed that the percentage of stories written by women decreased at publications such as The New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, and the Boston Review. In addition, The Guardian’s Kira Cochrane reported that a four-week study showed that men wrote the majority of newspaper articles in top British dailies, as previously reported. 

As newsroom staffs continue to dwindle due to industry losses, the issue of representation of minorities and women in the newsroom appears to have moved to the sidelines. With the release of this and other studies, however, news editors will hopefully be reminded of the importance of editorial diversity not just in terms of numbers, but for the sake of their content and audiences.

Sources: Poynter 1, 2, ASNE, NUJ


Gianna Walton


2012-04-05 14:58

It seems the corruption of the news media in China extends not only to suppressing negative content, but also to planting positive content as well. According to The New York Times, various Chinese print and television media organizations regularly profile executives or otherwise feature companies in exchange for thousands of dollars in bribes.

Although such practices are technically illegal in China, the transactions are so rampant that many public relations firms and advertising agencies openly admitted to paying for coverage, the article said.

The Bejing office of Ogilvy and Mather, for example, told The New York Times in an email, “Our policy is to advise our clients to not participate in such activities. However, in some industries, such as luxury, the practice of soft news placements is very common so this is something that we have also done before.”  

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this revelation is the fact that Western organizations with offices in China have been named as part of the corruption. The Times reported that executives of the Chinese-language version of Hearst’s Esquire magazine say they “regularly publish soft news features that are essentially ads masquerading as news.”

The magazine allegedly received $10,000 per page of a five-page feature article on European auto company Bang & Olufsen, an Audi supplier, the article said.

However, a spokeswoman from Audi’s Singapore office denied having paid for the content, and Hearst chose not to comment, according to the article.

Even if positive-leaning articles are not paid for, questions still arise about the ethics of Chinese companies paying for journalists’ lodging, travel costs and other “gray areas,” the article said.

Bribery issues are certainly not limited to China, nor is the crossing of journalistic boundaries. The Leveson Inquiry in the UK heard testimony this past February that suggested that police officers and public officals took illegal payments from journalists working for The Sun newspaper, The Guardian previously reported.

The allegation that Chinese media organizations regularly accept payments for positive coverage, though, is just another of the numerous concerns with the accuracy and suppression of the Chinese news media. As we previously reported, China’s online censorship system involves an extensive firewall that blocks data according to standards set by the government.

The increase in popularity of microblogging sites such as Weibo has also led to recent government crackdowns, though bloggers have been attempting to use code words to avoid being blocked, as previously reported. Chinese companies and individual users also self-censor to avoid possible legal repercussions of disseminating forbidden content.

In an article for the BBC College of Journalism, Suzanne Franks discusses China’s media intervention in Africa, suggesting that China is promoting the notion of social stability over press freedom by providing African countries such as Ethiopia and Zimbabwe with Internet-blocking technology.

Franks asks, “why should countries have to choose between stability and press freedom? Surely one can argue that a robust media will enhance progress — and in particular will act as an antidote to corruption, which is now such a problem in China.”

Sources: The New York Times, The Guardian, BBC

*Photograph found through Flickr's Creative Commons license, credited to Ming Xia


Gianna Walton


2012-04-04 18:50

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