The BizBeat – November 17, 2016

Editor’s note: After a brief, post-election hiatus, The BizBeat is back. While the media has become saturated with election and political news in the past week, the BizBeat will continue to focus on the business and organizational news affecting the media industry.

Each Thursday, MediaFile’s Business section publishes an overview of the past week’s news in media organizations and industry. Have a tip, see something we missed, or want to put something on our radar? E-mail Shiplett@Mediafiledc.com.

Making Headlines

  • This week, the media world was shocked by the passing of PBS Newshour’s Gwen Ifill. CNN analyst Gloria Borger mentioned that Ifill had cancer, but “wanted to keep it quiet” even after taking a medical leave last spring. Prior to her passing, Ifill co-hosted PBS’ NewsHour and moderated the show Washington Week. “She was a journalist’s journalist and set an example for all around her,” said NewsHour executive producer Sara Just. Remembrances have since poured in, as the journalism world has surely lost a bright star in the reporting world.

  • After claims that fake news, perpetrated by social media platform Facebook, contributed to the results of the recent presidential election, CEO Mark Zuckerberg released a post examining the site’s role in news sharing. According to the Wall Street Journal, this has led the platform to ban fake news sites from using its advertising capabilities altogether, and even assemble a new task force to “battle” fake news on Facebook. Reactions to the moves have been mixed – while some say Facebook’s steps don’t reach the root of the problem, others argue the restrictions haven’t come soon enough. MediaFile’s Zaid Shoorbajee has a full report today.
  • Only days after its ex-leader Steve Bannon was named chief strategist to President-elect Trump, word broke that Breitbart News is planning a lawsuit against an unnamed “major media company.” The site, which has become associated with the “alt-right” movement often cited for putting Trump into power, is suing the company for “baseless and defamatory claims” that the news site is “‘a white nationalist website.'” While the company targeted has yet to be named, Breitbart has made it clear that it will not “allow such vicious racial lies to go unchallenged.”

Getting Down to Business

  • A week after most of the staff at Univision’s Fusion.net voted to unionize under the Writer’s Guild of America, Univision has announced large-scale layoffs and restructuring that will hit Fusion the hardest. The company has stated that it could slash up to 6 percent of its workforce, or 250 positions, in an effort to “operate its digital businesses more efficiently.” The layoffs will not affect properties associated with Gawker media. As a part of the restructuring, fusion.net and TheRoot.com will be filed under Gizmodo media group, which Univision bought in September. Read the full note sent to Fusion staff here.
  • With one of the most unprecedented elections in history also came a wave of subscription boosts for news sites. Popular news sites like The New York Times and The Wall Street journal experienced a “swell” in donations and subscriptions since election night, reports Bloomberg. Smaller investigative news sites, including ProPublica, also got a boost, due in some part to a segment done by John Oliver. As such, newspaper stocks have also soared, indicating a hopeful surge of support for an industry currently undergoing its own changes and self-doubt after the election.

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  • CrowdTangle, a site that helps publishers identify stories and measure performance, announced that it has been purchased by Facebook. According to CrowdTangle’s statement, it believes Facebook is “the single most powerful platform in the world,” and that joining the Facebook team is “a dream come true.” As CrowdTangle is used to measure how content spreads around the web, some are saying that the tool could help Facebook track and monitor fake news stories, according to Forbes.

On the Radar

  • After a sweeping win last Tuesday, Conservative news outlets are looking to expand. This includes the alt-right affiliated site Breitbart, which, according to Reuters, is eyeing expansion in both its U.S. operations and the opening of overseas branches. The outlet’s U.S. editor-in-chief Alex Marlow has stated that he plans to develop Breitbart’s multimedia production domestically, while exploring relationships with other journalism markets in countries like Germany and France.
  • Two popular papers, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, will slash entertainment and arts coverage in coming months. In August, it was reported that The Times had stopped its reviews of theater, restaurants, and art galleries in the New York City region, and papers like The New York Post and USA Today have already cut theater critics from their rosters. Ad revenue – or lack thereof, has been cited as the source for the changes.

Arrivals

  • Award-winning journalist and publisher Nikkie Finke will be joining Mediaite in January 2017 as a senior columnist. According to Mediaite’s statement, Finke “will have the complete autonomy to opine” on topics of her choosing. The hiring comes as Mediaite has experienced record traffic and emerged as a solid voice in the discussion on media and politics. Prior to coming to Mediaite, Finke was the founder and editor-in-chief for Deadline Hollywood, and has held journalism positions in a number of media organizations including the Associated Press, Newsweek, Los Angeles Times, and Salon.

  • Daily Caller editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson will be heading to his own program on Fox News. The show, “Tucker Carlson Tonight”, debuted on November 14 as a replacement to Greta Van Susteren’s “On the Record.” The show features analysis and round-table debates, with special segments on political correctness and media bias. Prior to the show’s debut, Carlson was a co-host on the network’s weekend show, “Fox & Friends Weekend.”
  • This week, it was announced that syndicated public radio host Diane Rehm will be replaced by Joshua Johnson and his new show “1A.” The first episode of 1A will air on January 2, 2017 at 10 AM. The show, inspired by the first amendment (hence the 1A), will “act as a national mirror – taking time to help America look at itself and to ask what it wants to be.” Be sure to read MediaFile’s full report on the new show on Monday.

Departures

  • Corey Lewandowski, once a controversial add to CNN’s lineup of contributors, has resigned from his role at the network. Lewandowski, Trump’s ex-campaign manager that was fired from his role in June, has stayed in close touch with Trump and his aides and is rumored to possibly be taking a role in the incoming administration. While Lewandowski brought unique first-hand insight into the Trump campaign to the network, many viewers and critics questioned his ties to candidate and the media’s role in providing a mouthpiece.
  • The New York Times reports that the New York Observer will be ending its print edition, just prior to the weekly paper’s 30th anniversary. The outlet’s website, Observer.com, will remain, but the issue printed last Wednesday will be its final physical copy. While a part of the larger company Observer Media, the paper is owned by Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law. According to a statement from Observer Media, the Observer will continue to cover New York City politics and culture, but only in digital formats.

In Other News

  • Staffers at The Washington Post are expressing concern about an “upsetting and infuriating” stunt during the outlet’s election night party, according to the Washingtonian. Reportedly, attendees at the party were encouraged to remove napkins from a female server’s dress, a move that Post Articles Editor Elizabeth Chang (and 150 other staffers) say “went beyond inappropriate to offensive” in an open letter to Post leadership. The Post’s Vice President for Communications and Events replied to the letter, stating that “even more scrutiny will be placed on the packages offered by sponsored” for future events.

  • Fake news? There’s a Google Doc for that. Melissa Zimdars, Assistant Professor of Communication and Media at Merrimack College, shared a “database” of “fake” news sites with students and on her personal Facebook page. As word spread, the post received over 22 thousand shares  and additions from around the world. Since, editing capabilities for the document have been removed, but still provide an interesting look at the categorization of “false, misleading, clickbait-y, and/or satirical ‘news’.”

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