July 6, 2017 Last Updated 6:34 am

NYT executive editor explains decision to eliminate stand-alone copy desk; NPR July 4th tweets draws reaction, then overreaction

Morning Brief: McClatchy DC says official Kremlin documents show ties between the Moscow-based cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab and Russian intelligence service

The executive editor of The New York Times, Dean Baquet, today answered readers questions about the elimination of a stand-alone copy desk. The Q&A has the feeling of a Donald Trump press conference, with questions carefully selected, and the answers not all that convincing.

Certainly staffers are not that convinced, as last week many staged a brief walkout to show their displeasure with the decision to streamline the editing process, while at the same time eliminating more than 50 positions.

As an advocate for digital media, one might expect me to be a bit more supportive of the desire of the old Gray Lady to make adjustments in order to speed up the way stories make their way online. Baquet has a legitimate point to make when he says “we have to change our editing system to accommodate the changes in journalism. And we have to hire more journalists who can do all the tasks I just described.”

Still, the paper’s credibility on this issue feels shaky to me. Their recent editorial decisions, such as blowing up the HRC email story in such a way as to then have to walk it back, its decision to hire Bret Stephens in order to provide a voice to climate change deniers, sticks in my memory.

In other words, my trust in the paper has been shaken (especially about whether this move is merely being done to cut costs). And as a paid subscriber that is not a good thing, especially in this time when the president is trying to convince America (and the world) that journalists can’t be trusted to deliver the facts.

The New York Times:

Dean Baquet Answers Readers’ Questions on Editing in the Newsroom

I understand that this was a financial issue. Did higher level employees such as yourself consider taking salary cuts? — Diana Joubert

This is actually not primarily a financial issue — we are mostly shifting resources, not cutting them. We are making these changes to modernize an editing system that now has to accommodate many different kinds of storytelling. We will come out of this with a newsroom that is almost the same size.

But I should make clear that this has been difficult for me and the entire newsroom. I’ve spent a big chunk of my life here, as a reporter and as an editor. And I know how much these editors have given to the place. It may be necessary, but that does not make it less painful.

The Washington Post, Samantha Schmidt:

Why hundreds of New York Times employees staged a walkout

The protest followed letters from copy editors and reporters to Dean Baquet, the newspaper’s executive editor, and Joseph Kahn, the managing editor, pleading for reconsideration of the decision or at least for an increase in the number of available editing positions.

The letter from the copy editors said:

We are living in a strange time when routine copy-editing duties such as fact checking, reviewing sources, correcting misleading or inaccurate information, clarifying language and, yes, fixing spelling and grammar mistakes in news covfefe are suddenly matters of public discourse. As those in power declare war against the news media, as deliberately false or lackadaisical reportage finds its way into social media feeds, readers are flocking to our defense. They are sending us pizza. And they are signing up for Times subscriptions in record numbers because they understand that we go to great lengths to ensure quality and, most important, truth.

“Covfefe” referred to a misfired tweet from President Trump that attracted wide attention in May and has since become, among other things, an emblem of sloppy writing and failed editing.

When I read this story from McClatchy DC I immediately said “duh, no kidding” — so obvious is its premise, though until now there has been little evidence to back it up.

Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based cybersecurity company, has been at the center of much of the news surrounding recent cyber attacks, providing valuable information about hacks and the hackers. But, still, just how trustworthy are they?

That will be the question many ask if the company cannot beat back claims that the company has close ties to the Kremlin. In the end, these doubts are a serious threat to their business.

McClatchy DC, David Goldstein and Greg Gordon:

How close is Russian cyber firm to Russia’s spies?

U.S. intelligence agencies have turned up the heat in recent days on Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based cybersecurity giant long suspected of ties to Russia’s spying apparatus.

Now, official Kremlin documents reviewed by McClatchy could further inflame the debate about whether the company’s relationship with Russian intelligence is more than rumor…

…For years, suspicions that Kaspersky is connected to Russia’s spying apparatus have dogged the company, a leading global seller of anti-virus programs. Founder and CEO Eugene Kaspersky studied cryptography, programming and mathematics at an academy operated by the KGB, the FSB’s Soviet-era predecessor, then worked for the Ministry of Defense.

NPR, David Welna:

Congress Casts A Suspicious Eye On Russia’s Kaspersky Lab

U.S. lawmakers have become increasingly wary of the Russian cybersecurity firm possibly doing the will of the Kremlin. At a May Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, six intelligence agency chiefs seated at the witness table got put on the spot about Kaspersky.

“Kaspersky Lab software is used by, if not hundreds of thousands, millions of Americans,” Florida Republican Marco Rubio told the spy chiefs. “To each of our witnesses I would just ask, would any of you be comfortable with a Kaspersky Lab software on your computers?”

“A resounding no from me,” replied Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

“No,” said National Security Agency Director Admiral Mike Rogers.

A number of news outlets had fun with this story, but I have to say, it really is fake ne… OK, I won’t say it. But it was truly a nonstory.

On July 4, in recognition of Independence Day, someone at NPR thought it a good idea to tweet the entire Declaration of Independence — and it was truly a good idea. Every year I read the document, this year while in Italy. It is an easy read, like the Gettysburg Address, and well worth the short time needed to finish it.

But, of course, someone will miss the point of the exercise. A small number of Trump supporters decided to weigh in on NPR’s decision and the media focused in on their apparent failure to recognize that NPR was tweeting the Declaration, not some new editorial content.

But even more people tweeted about Trump, yet the media didn’t seem to care about that.

I’m not a big believer in “balance” but I am a big believer in understanding the story before jumping to the wrong conclusion. The editors that approved these stories should have said “let’s let it pass” before signing off.

The Washington Post, Amy B Wang:

Some Trump supporters thought NPR tweeted ‘propaganda.’ It was the Declaration of Independence.

For about 20 minutes Tuesday, NPR traveled back to 1776…

…Who could have taken issue with such a patriotic exercise, done in honor of the nation’s birthday?

Quite a few people, it turned out.

Esquire (no byline):

Trump Fans Lost Their Minds Over NPR’s ‘Biased’ Tweetstorm…of The Declaration of Independence

When you go ballistic at the language in your nation’s founding philosophical document because, in criticizing a king, you think it’s criticizing the president you support, you might have a problem on your hands. Of course, going knee-jerk apoplectic at any bad word uttered about Dear Leader is nothing new for a crowd that has steadily drifted towards the warm embrace of American Authoritarianism. It’s enough to make you wonder whether a lot of the talk about “freedom” and “the Constitution” on Twitter—and everywhere else—is really empty posturing meant to signal identity-based political allegiance.

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