Add another struggle to the newsroom: how to balance the reporting objectivity and broader range of opinion older journalists strive for against the passionate and often impatient activism of the new generation?
A leak of internal Slack messages from New York Times editorial staff highlighted the issue. Younger staffers unhappy with a poorly-judged Tweet by a conservative-leaning columnist ranged further into the Times’s editorial culture, complaining about daily microaggressions, a hostile work environment and mere “lip service” to diversity.
Your take on the story probably depends on your politics, and maybe your age. For the Huffington Post, which leaked the transcripts, the NYT hiring conservative commentators is an offensive act: “Putting a philosopher’s toga on a troll.” It’s firmly on the side of the disgruntled reporting staff.
When historians write the story of the demise of the newspaper industry in the early part of the 21st century, they’ll have a colourful cast of suspects. Colonel Zuckerberg, in the Saloon Bar, with slow-acting poison. Or perhaps Reverends Brin and Page, in the dining room, via strangulation. A range of less exalted figures, including tech-whispering editorial appointees, spurious media think tank gurus and publishers willing to pay them fortunes to divine the future of the industry. Even readers, who, given the choice between paying for the same old undifferentiated content and getting it for free made the rational choice of spending their hard-earned salaries elsewhere.
In truth, no-one expected it to work out this way. Fifteen years ago, as the shockwaves of the first dot.com crash wiped out most of the remaining new media startups, sobered publishing executives knew that while there was little appetite for gushing profiles of dot.com geniuses, the gloomier financial outlook didn’t mean the internet was going away.
Their storied brands and millions of paying readers gave them a moat protecting against the worst of the crash. From here, new empires would be built. Few were in any doubt about the potential of the internet (though its total mobile ubiquity was perhaps underestimated). Newspapers who were prepared for the next phase of internet dominance would make billions. And not only from home readers: Freed of print and distribution costs, anyone in the world with an internet connection was a potential reader.
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An Edelman “Trust Barometer” survey shows that trust in the UK’s traditional media is at heights not seen since 2012. 61 percent of respondents say they trust newspapers, radio and television, up from 48 percent last year.
Trust in media in general, however, remains low, with only 32 percent claiming to trust the media, and only 23 percent of UK youths agreeing.
This video from 2014’s Arab Media Forum shows a later variation on the Newsroom of the Future. This time it’s a flashier, more exciting product that focusses on user experience for the editor, who gets to throw screens and feeds around the globe like Robert Downey Jr in Iron Man.
In October 2000, news industry think tank Ifra produced a video entitled “Tomorrow’s News.”
Set in the near future, the ten-minute video followed a day in the life of Anne and Kou, multimedia content editors in an eerily calm newsroom as a terroristic hacking crisis brought airlines across the US to a standstill. As a huge map screen pulsated with the ebb and flow of “news”, they directed reporting resources to cover the attack. An offscreen supreme editor is referred to like Godot.
It’s an optimistic production, and though it was released just after the first dot.com wave broke, it was an optimistic moment for journalism. The NASDAQ Composite had lost 30 percent of its value since its May 2000 peak (and was set to lose a lot more) but few believed the appetite for news on the internet was crashing. Millions were coming online every day. Newspapers eyed readerships far beyond their home markets. The market for news was growing, unstoppably.