This Week in Media News: The Really Bad, the Bad, and the Hopeful

Last week was a troubling one for the journalism world. But in between some aggressive media-bashing and depressing layoffs, there were a few nuggets of hope to keep our collective spirits high.

The Really Bad: NRA Spokeswoman Says Media ‘Love Mass Shootings’

Most media coverage over the last week has centered around continued fallout from the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

All of that time and effort was turned against the mainstream press, though, when National Rifle Association Spokeswoman Dana Loesch commented on behalf of her organization at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C.

“Many in legacy media love mass shootings,” Loesch said. “You guys love it. Now, I’m not saying that you love the tragedy, but I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold to you and many in the legacy media in the back.”

Loesch went on CNN’s “New Day” and engaged in a heated debate about her comments with co-anchor Alisyn Camerota. It wasn’t long before the debate devolved into more of an argument, and Loesch refused to acknowledge the NRA’s role in the Parkland shooter getting his hands on an AR-15.

Since then, several companies have distanced themselves from any affiliation with the NRA after previously offering benefits to NRA members. Among them are United and Delta Airlines, as well as Enterprise, Avis and Hertz rental car companies.

The Bad: More Troubled Times for Media Outlets

In a news cycle dominated by the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, some tidbits about the direction of several journalism outlets flew under the radar.

Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff informed about 50 employees of SB Nation, Curbed, Racked and its Video Services subsidiaries that they would be laid off, though the timing of the firings is unclear.

Per CNN, Bankoff said to his staff in a company-wide statement sent on Feb. 21 that “today is one of the toughest days we’ve had as a company. As a result of our decision to wind down certain initiatives, we’ll be saying goodbye to some of our talented colleagues who have made valuable contributions to our success.”

Vox Media Union, which Vox Media formally recognized just last month, issued a statement of its own via tweet:

The move eliminated roughly 5 percent of Vox Media’s workforce and is the latest example of a news outlet struggling to simultaneously produce excellent journalism while remaining profitable. CNN mentioned in the same piece that it is laying off workers, and Condé Nast recently did the same for some of its Vanity Fair and Glamour employees.

The Hopeful: New Jobs and New Life

The news wasn’t entirely bad across the media landscape last week. Bucking the trend of layoffs, The Atlantic announced an initiative to hire up to 100 new employees, with half of their new-hire quota going to newsroom staff. The move would constitute a 30 percent increase in employees at The Atlantic, which reported a peak in circulation and a 25 percent uptick in online viewership during 2017.

Even more optimistic is the news that Gothamist, LAist and DCist will be going back online in the coming months. Joe Ricketts, the billionaire whose conglomerate owned the sites, shut them down in November 2017 with little notice after their writers voted to unionize.

The outlets will return thanks to public radio stations in each of their markets buying the website rights. WAMU, the District’s NPR affiliate, acquired DCist, as did WNYC for Gothamist and KPCC for LAist.

While the journalism industry still has work to do in figuring out how to stay afloat from a business perspective, the importance of journalists has not been lost on companies employing them.

Models to support journalism — whether through increases in advertising or incentivizing readers to pay for digital content — are still in a nascent stage. But, at least for The Atlantic and local news sites like Gothamist, it looks like readers, too, are understanding why journalism needs to survive.

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