The ‘transition to digital’ looks less like a challenge when the real challenge may be just retaining the right to publish
Morning Brief: Editors struggle with how to cover a future government intent on limiting its First Amendment rights, while also competing for the attention of readers who, more and more, get their news through social media outlets
The president-elect went on another Twitter rage yesterday, then woke up and said he’l like to take away the citizenship of anyone who burns an American flag. State flags, I guess, would still be burnable.
Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2016
So, you can expect that much of the debate in the press today will be whether the Donald was simply off his meds last night and this morning, or is seriously demonic and a threat to the First Amendment. I don’t see there is much of a difference, in either case the First Amendment is under attack from a future president.
That is one reason it has been hard continue publishing Talking New Media these past few weeks. The issues facing publishers who are transitioning to digital (see mention below concerning that topic) seem somehow less important when the future president of the US is looking to make the whole issue moot.
Deciding how to cover the words and actions of the future president will be the single biggest issue over the next few years – along with whether media companies will fight for their right to free publishing, or whether to reach an accommodation with the new regime in the interests of financial survival.
Several news organizations hastily promoted Donald Trump’s false claim that “millions” voted illegally in the 2016 election.
Most of the offenses Sunday afternoon likely came as a result of media outlets rushing stories online immediately after Trump’s aggrieved tweets and failing to qualify in headlines that the president-elect’s allegation was without merit.
The Wall Street Journal wasn’t in a similar rush, however, when it published atop Monday’s front page “Trump Takes Aim At ‘Millions’ Of Votes.”
…Though the article does mention “there is no evidence of widespread voting by illegal immigrants or others ineligible to vote,” that essential detail doesn’t appear until a few paragraphs in.
“No mention in hed, subhed or lede that the claim is total fiction,” tweeted New York Times reporter Alex Burns.
With the election of Donald J. Trump — and his subsequent appointment of Stephen K. Bannon, a former chairman of the right-wing website Breitbart News, as his chief White House strategist — the term alt-right has emerged as a linguistic flash point. Generally deployed by news organizations to describe a far-right, white nationalist movement known for its aggressive online expression, the term has attracted widespread criticism among those, particularly on the left, who say it euphemizes and legitimizes the ideologies of racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and white supremacy…
…Last Wednesday, The Washington Post circulated style guidelines for several terms, including alt-right, which it defined in part as “a small, far-right movement that seeks a whites-only state” whose adherents are “known for espousing racist, anti-Semitic and sexist points of view.”
And on Monday, The Associated Press published its own usage guidance for the term, saying that journalists should not use the term without defining it because “it is not well known and the term may exist primarily as a public relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience.”
This is an interesting perspective from an Iranian-Canadian author and media analyst who lives in Tehran. The focus is on social media, but I think the points made could be extended to web publishing, in general.
At the start of the year TNM launched a new website as an experiment. PoliMedia.press, now shuttered, looked at the intersection of the media and politics, attempting to reveal how the media was covering politics – looking not only at what was being said in the NYT or WaPo, but elsewhere around the web. To do so, one needed to read each day Breitbart News and other websites of the far right. When you do that, you realize that the way these sites drive the news is through their headlines, often saying things that do not appear in the actual story below the headline. In this way, these stories are constructed like a Tweet, with the real message condensed into a few words, with the story itself largely irrelevant. This allows the reader to jump from the headline to the comments without even needing to read the story at all.
If I say that social media aided Donald Trump’s election, you might think of fake news on Facebook. But even if Facebook fixes the algorithms that elevate inaccurate stories, there’s something else going on: social media represents the ultimate ascendance of television over other media.
I’ve been warning about this since November 2014, when I was freed from six years of incarceration in Tehran, a punishment I received for my online activism in Iran. Before I went to prison, I blogged frequently on what I now call the open Web: it was decentralized, text-centered, and abundant with hyperlinks to source material and rich background. It nurtured varying opinions. It was related to the world of books.
Then for six years I got disconnected; when I left prison and came back online, I was confronted by a brave new world. Facebook and Twitter had replaced blogging and had made the Internet like TV: centralized and image-centered, with content embedded in pictures, without links.
While most Americans, and certainly the US press, have been busy keeping up with the president-elect’s Twitter storms, there has certainly been big news elsewhere in the world. Today may be the day that South Korean President Park Geun-hye resigns, the final act in a scandal that has rocked the country. Park has been engulfed in a scandal involving a friend and secret adviser who has been accused of extorting millions of dollars from South Korean businesses, supposedly with the help of the president. It’s a complicated story involving a religious sect and many details, far too many for most US broadcast media reports that must condense a story into a couple of sentences, if any at all.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Tuesday that she’ll resign — if parliament arranges the technical details — in her latest attempt to fend off impeachment efforts and massive street protests amid prosecution claims that a corrupt confidante wielded government power from the shadows.
Opponents immediately called Park’s conditional resignation offer a stalling tactic, and analysts said her steadfast denial that she has done anything wrong could embolden her enemies. The country’s largest opposition party, the Minjoo Party, said it would not let Park’s “ploy to avoid impeachment” interfere with a planned vote on impeachment that could take place this Friday or the next.
Ken Whyte is the head of Rogers Publishing and, importantly I think, the founding president of Next Issue Canada, which produces the digital newsstand app Texture. This personal blog has a provocatively headlined post (below) that might, at first, seem to be rather pro-print, anti-digital. But that really isn’t the case. Instead, what Whyte seems to be saying is that moving to digital editions won’t save print.
I think his point has validly, but is thinly thought out. He dismisses, for instance, the way The Atlantic has diversified its business efforts. It should be remembered that many of yesterday’s most profitable publishing companies were part of diversified media companies where much of the costs associated with the publishing arm were merged into giant media companies with profitable broadcast divisions. Some of these publishing companies, once split off from the whole, suddenly look less viable.
What Whyte points out, I think correctly, is that the success being seen in digital comes from so-called “digitally native” brands such as The Huffington Post, Vice and BuzzFeed. I’m not sure these brands really are so successful financially – but if they are then print publishers should ask themselves why can’t they be digitally native? Is there some gene that print publishers have that prevents this?
Ken Whyte (blog):
We are now twenty-plus years into the digital era and it is clear that there is no such thing as a transition from print to digital. I’ve heard hundreds of print outlets, and a lot of policy makers, talk about this transition but I can’t think of one important title that has effected such a transition, newspaper or magazine. Many are trying, and they’re all still shrinking at alarming rates, or (like The Atlantic) muddling along with aid of a business strategy that no longer resembles publishing, whether print or digital…
…There is print, and there is digital. Period. I find this depressing but it needs to be confronted. Show me a single title that has stood up and said, “Here, we’ve done it, we’ve made the leap from print to a flourishing digital operation that can support the expense of what’s left of this newsroom.”
Just a reminder, once again, that the struggles of publishers today are not limited to the US, or Europe. This is from The Media Online which covers South Africa’s media industry:
CEO of Media24, Esmare Weideman, said in a statement that the move was in line with the company’s strategy to “strengthen its position as Africa’s leading digital publisher while continuing to run a highly successful print media business”…
…Newly appointed head of Media24 Print Media, Ishmet Davidson, says staff at the affected magazines were being consulted about potential closures. “As part of the process we are considering all available options. Some of these publications may be sold, or the international titles may find new licence holders in South Africa. As a last resort, these titles will be closed,” he said.