Twitter will take out advertisements in 28 local newspapers across the US to encourage readers to support local journalists and news outlets, Axios first reported.
The ads will begin appearing Monday in 28 newspapers across the US, including USA Today and the McClatchy networks of local newspapers. The Cincinnati Enquirer, the Miami Herald, the Detroit Free Press, and the Kansas City Star, are among the local papers that will run the ad, according to the Axios report, published Sunday.
“Local journalists are so incredibly important to the conversation on Twitter,” Niketa Patel, the head of print and digital news partnerships at Twitter, told Axios. “We’re viewing this as a way of ensuring that Twitter is giving local journalists a national spotlight.”
The advertisements will point users toward public Twitter Lists – the social-media platform’s feature that allows users to create lists of profiles and publicly share them – that feature local reporters and newspapers, according to Axios. The advertisements will also run on the local papers’ websites.
Twitter will also promote the hashtag “FollowLocalJournalists” and ask national journalists with large followings and other prominent journalism advocacy organizations to use it to share stories authored by local journalists and published at local outlets.
The company will also host several Twitter Spaces – the company’s live audio feature that aims to rival the live audio platform Clubhouse – with journalists from around the world from countries that include India, Thailand, and Brazil, according to the report.
“We think these two products in particular are a powerful part of the way journalists can have great conversations on Twitter and build a following,” Patel told Axios of Twitter’s List and Spaces features.
The campaign will continue for the rest of the year, Twitter said, according to the report.
The news industry, and in particular already struggling local news outlets, have been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, as the Columbia Journalism Review noted last year.
Tech workers at The New York Times on Tuesday announced they have formed a union and asked for recognition from the publication.
The union, called the Tech Times Guild, represents more than 650 employees who work for the digital side of the company in roles such as software engineers, data analysts and product managers.
The Tech Times Guild said in a statement on Twitter that it’s organizing its formation with the NewsGuild of New York – an editorial union of more than 3,000 media workers at the Times, The Daily Beast, The Nation, and other media outlets.
Tech workers weren’t included in the NewsGuild because they weren’t allowed to join. The Tech Times Guild is looking to become a separate bargaining unit from the NewsGuild. It would communicate with the Times management independently.
“As of now, we face a number of challenges, including sudden or unexplained termination, opaque promotion processes, unpaid overtime, and underinvestment in diverse representation,” the Tech Times Guild tweeted.
“Without a union, we lack the data or bargaining rights to address these issues,” it said, adding that the tech workers will be able to build digital products and platforms in a company, which is more “equitable, healthy and just.”
“At The New York Times, we have a long history of positive and productive relationships with unions, and we respect the right of all employees to decide whether or not joining a union is right for them,” The New York Times said in a statement to Insider.
“We will take time to review this request and discuss it soon with representatives of the NewsGuild,” it said, adding that the company wants to “make sure all voices are heard.”
In February, New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz made an error that led to over a month of harassment and attacks. The Styles section reporter, whose work focuses on tech and online influencer culture, was listening in on a conversation hosted by popular audio-based social media app Clubhouse – where listeners can hear the participants but can at times not identify the speaker – when she mistakenly thought she heard billionaire tech investor Marc Andreessen use an ableist slur.
The word was actually said by Ben Horowitz, the other cofounder of the venture capital firm Andreeseen Horowitz. But Lorenz posted an accusation against Andreessen before that was clear, and by the time she deleted the tweet and clarified, the damage was done.
An unrelenting harassment campaign aimed at Lorenz from Andreessen and his allies followed. At one point Andreessen joined a Clubhouse room with Holocaust denier Chuck C. Johnson ironically entitled “Taylor Lorenz Fans Only.” With 3.7 million Clubhouse followers, Andreessen’s participation was a magnet for his fans, already primed to dislike Lorenz.
A war on journalism
Andreessen’s investment into Clubhouse led to the app’s $1 billion valuation in January. In addition to investing in Clubhouse, a16z is a primary backer of newsletter service Substack, a new player in media with an eye toward overturning traditional newsrooms and giving journalists the ability to talk directly to their audience.
For Andreessen, a man with a long history of online invention, investment, and influence who jealously guards his image and tightly controls how he’s perceived, reporters like Lorenz represent a threat to his carefully crafted image. So, the billionaire tech investor is using his power to dismiss her reporting and shape public opinion.
By using these tropes and attempting to undermine Lorenz and others, Andreessen is following an established playbook from rich men who want constant public adulation and power but refuse to tolerate criticism or deviation from their preferred narrative. Billionaires using their clout and power to agitate for better coverage in the press is a longstanding practice of the wealthy and powerful. The ultrarich have long meddled with the media and attempted to shape newsrooms to the benefit of the elite.
In the modern era there have been figures who push their agenda through a direct media empire, like Rupert Murdoch – owner of News Corp – has made billions pushing the English-speaking world to the right through a number of outlets. Or magnates from other industries getting into media to project their worldview and protect their business interests, like the late casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who bought the Las Vegas Review Journal in 2015.
Today this age-old tactic has come to Silicon Valley. After over a decade of largely friendly and positive coverage from the tech press, a shift in how the industry is reported on has generated a backlash from company boardrooms and venture capital firms. In one of the most notorious cases, financier Peter Thiel’s successful vendetta against the website Gawker, the site was shuttered. Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, regularly attacks journalists that don’t toe the line. Amazon sends demands to reporters that they include PR lines in investigative articles on warehouse conditions.
Beyond just attacking, Silicon Valley’s wealthy have also gotten directly involved with media interests around the country. For example, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post. The paper’s reporting on Amazon has seemed to pull punches in the past and at times has promoted an ideological agenda that supports the financial interests of its billionaire founder.
Now a16z seems to be taking an approach somewhere between Thiel’s outright attacks and Bezos’ absorption of legacy media. In addition to investments in alternative platforms like Substack and Clubhouse, the first is creating their own alternative media landscape, launching an in-house media venture to compete with tech-focused outlets – but with its content presumably under the auspices and control of the founders. The new outlet will have a clear editorial voice, according to a January 25 press release from a16z partner Margit Wennmachers, that sees the general mission of Silicon Valley as a societal good.
“Our lens is rational optimism about technology and the future,” Wennmachers wrote. “We believe that it’s better to be alive after the industrial revolution than in an agrarian society.”
Big Tech’s real mission
There’s a rather simple explanation for the actions of Andreessen, Thiel, et al. They’re not so much interested in obtaining positive coverage – though that’s certainly a consideration – they more want to reshape the institution of the media to their benefit.
There’s nothing wrong, per se, with wanting to shake up the staid institution of the American press, which doesn’t have a lot to offer readers interested in affliction of the powerful. These new media platforms like Clubhouse and Substack offer new, innovative, and needed ways for writers to reach their audiences. That’s all to the good, but is hardly the extent of the ambitions of the ultra-rich tech lords.
The diverse ecosystem of independent media that has sprung up over the past decade is profitable – for company heads, investors, and the content creators at the top. And what the tech billionaires want is a subservient press that doesn’t question Silicon Valley and the opinions and beliefs of the wealthy investors who power the tech sector. It’s not a coincidence that the targets of tand their hanger ons are people whose reporting has exposed issues of concern for the public around tech that Silicon Valley would prefer to keep quiet.
The attacks on Lorenz and others are designed to make reporters more hesitant to report on Silicon Valley’s most powerful, to add another deterring factor to the consideration of whether to chase a story. It’s not about “fairness,” it’s about power – and who gets to wield it.
Eoin Higgins is a journalist in New England. His work has also appeared in the Washington Post, The Intercept, Vice News, and many other outlets. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
A Twitter and Roblox user who posed as a White House Correspondents Association member managed to land four questions in recent Biden administration briefings, Politico reported.
Politico’s Christopher Cadelago found that the individual – who goes by the name Kacey Montagu – successfully snuck in questions to press secretary Jen Psaki by emailing White House pool reporters using an array of invented journalist titles.
Some reporters declined to pass along Montagu’s inquiries. But correspondents at publications like the The Plain Dealer and CQ Roll Call followed through on the requests, asking Psaki questions on topics like COVID-19 travel bans and the president’s reaction to Microsoft being hacked.
Montagu used various aliases in emails to pool reporters, Cadelago reported. Sometimes the aliases identified as a White House correspondent at an outlet called “WHN.” Other times they named themselves as a political correspondent at an entity called “WHSG.” And in at least one instance, they claimed they were a reporter at The Daily Mail.
Montagu, whose true identity is unknown to Insider, built credibility among White House reporters and staff by starting two political news accounts on Twitter, @WHschedule and @WHpoolreport. Montagu has had several exchanges with White House officials, Cadelago reported.
The internet-savvy user appears to have a general interest in politics. In addition to running two White House-focused Twitter accounts, acquaintances of Montagu told Cadelago that they would spend time in a section of the virtual world Roblox where users role-play as US government officials.
“I love journalism, and I think the Press Corps is doing a pretty bad job at the moment, so I decided I would ensure some transparency and ask some questions me and some friends wanted the answer to,” the person Cadelago identified as Montagu wrote in an email to Politico.
As the spike of police brutality targeted at Black people became a constant headline in 2020, the world began to listen to concerns of structural racism and bias, especially in professional settings.
Many industries started to examine their racist pasts. Journalism in particular began to reckon with the lack of diversity in newsrooms, and the racist rhetoric it used in coverage of diverse communities.
These “reckonings” felt like an empty PR attempt, since the same behaviors are still present at many publications in 2021
Despite these “attempts,” we’re left with a lingering question of how can journalism actively change to be as diverse as the communities it reports on. One way is to hire diverse candidates with intersecting identities, such as Black queer journalists who navigate the industry with the added stress of implicit bias rooted in racism and queerphobia.
I spoke with three Black queer journalists about the lessons they’ve learned navigating the journalism job market.
Cerise Castle (she/her) is a Black lesbian multimedia journalist who’s produced and hosted segments for VICE News Tonight, Los Angeles NPR affiliate KCRW, and Wondery.
Tre’vell Anderson (they/them) is a Black queer, non-binary person of trans experience, the president of the National Association of Black Journalists of Los Angeles, co-chair of NABJ’s LGBTQ Task Force, and editor-at-large at Xtra Magazine.
Femi Redwood (she/her) is a Black lesbian TV news anchor who most recently reported for VICE News on intersectional issues including race, gender, and LGBTQ identities. She’s a board member of NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists and a co-chair NABJ’s LGBTQ Task Force.
Here’s what they had to say, including advice they have for young Black queer journalists trying to break into the industry and advice for publications to better recruit and retain these diverse journalists.
What was one lesson you learned as a Black, queer journalist?
Cerise Castle: The hardest lesson I think is the fastest one you learn: that your voice and ideas will probably always be counted last. I think that’s a valuable lesson because I think it’s helpful to go in knowing the reality of most newsrooms and how most outlets work. Unfortunately, I think it’s a reality that you have to accept most of the time.
Tre’vell Anderson: A lesson that I’ve learned as a Black, queer journalist is that, just because my editor doesn’t understand the importance of a particular story, doesn’t mean that story shouldn’t be told. As Black, queer, trans folks, as folks from a marginalized, less represented community in newsrooms, often the stories that we want to tell about our communities don’t hold that same weight. Or don’t seem as necessary or worthy to our editors, who are white folk more often than not.
Femi Redwood: Pay attention to the media group because it may have more control in how the station or the publication handles things than the individual entity you will work for. If it’s a problematic station group, you don’t want to work there.
What advice do you have for young Black, queer journalists trying to break into the industry?
Castle: I would say not to change yourself for the industry. I had a college professor who told me that to be on camera, I had to have shoulder-length hair and couldn’t wear it naturally. I couldn’t have piercings or do my makeup a certain way. And all of that, just … It isn’t true.
Granted, there will be some news directors that will force you into that box, but you can always be yourself. The first on-camera job that I got picked me because they liked my curly hair and liked that I bleached it. They liked that I had facial piercings. They liked that I didn’t look just like every other reporter from central casting. Playing into your identity can help you out in many situations, to get that job, and to get the story too.
Anderson: My advice to Black queer journalists, emerging and coming into the industry and those that are fairly established, is to remain undaunted as we navigate these spaces. Follow your heart, follow your gut, follow your intense desire to tell your community’s stories, even when the broader media ecosystem, or your editor, or whomever tells you that those stories don’t have any worth.
It’s important to build an identity outside of the news organizations that we might work for and beyond the work we do because being a journalist is a thankless job in many ways. Still, it’s a very necessary job at the same time.
Redwood: My one piece of advice to queer Black journalists is to go into every situation as if you were a straight white man. It’s been my recent guiding principle.
Often we are told we need to accept anything, accept any pay, and accept any position. We are told that unless we check off certain boxes – years of experience, education, awards, etc. – we don’t deserve more. Nah.
Be like straight white men. They are socialized to expect what they believe they deserve. Young queer Black journos need to do that as well. We often see straight white men “fail up” while we tell ourselves, ‘we aren’t ready for a new position, we don’t deserve a raise, or haven’t earned a promotion.’
You deserve that job even if you only worked on your college paper; you deserve that pay even if you didn’t go to what’s considered a top j-school, you deserve that promotion even if you haven’t earned any awards, because why not you.
What can publications do to better recruit and retain Black, queer journalists?
Castle: Pay them. That’s all, that’s my answer. Pay them what they’re worth, more than they’re worth.
Anderson: What these people need to do to recruit more Black queer journalists is the same thing they need to do to recruit more Black journalists, right? They have to get out of their own way and get out of our way.
Many folks hiring and recruiting reporters aren’t doing intentional outreach to groups of color, to 1) Let us know the available opportunities, and 2) Give us the same kind of level playing field that our white counterparts have.
It also requires you to not only augment and change your recruiting habits, but you also need to change your retention practices because once you hire a Black person, you need to make sure that the work environment is one they will want to stay at your company.
That might mean that some people on the team need to leave because they’re toxic, or they’re white supremacists, or they’re racist, or they’re homophobic, or transphobic.
Redwood: It’s all a big circle. And all of these things work hand in hand. To recruit Black queer journalists, you have to create a place they want to work. Because if the environment is homophobic or full of racist microaggressions, then Black folks aren’t going to want to work there.
The next thing is to create paid internships. Expecting journalists to work for free, it’s a form of gatekeeping that unfortunately prevents many Black and brown and queer journalists from getting in. Because statistically speaking, we don’t have the same wealth as white counterparts.
Australian lawmakers have portrayed the proposed law as an effort to curb the tech giants’ power over digital advertising (a major cause of news publishers’ declining revenues over the past two decades). Facebook argued that the law misunderstands its relationship with publishers.
But the situation is more complicated than an attempt to level the digital media playing field – and it could have consequences around the world.
Here’s what you need to know about the battle between Australia, Facebook, and Google over who pays for news online.
How did we get here?
News publishers have long had a bone to pick with companies like Facebook and Google, blaming them for eating away at ad revenues (and as a result, journalism jobs), while also exercising massive control over publishers through algorithms and benefitting from showing their users news content without paying its creators.
Increasingly, regulators have sought to force Facebook and Google to pay publishers to use their content, and Australia has been at the forefront, along with the EU and countries including France, Germany, and Spain.
The law as currently proposed would require companies like Facebook and Google to pay Australian publishers directly for news content that’s displayed or linked to on their sites, as well as give publishers 28 days’ notice before changing their algorithms.
Specifically, it would require them to individually negotiate content prices with publishers within three months, or be forced into an arbitration process where a government-appointed panel will pick between the publisher and tech giants’ proposals.
Is it likely to pass?
Yes. The lower chamber of Australia’s parliament approved the proposed legislation this week, and it’s now headed to the Senate, where it’s expected to pass into law, though discussions between the companies and the government are still ongoing.
Who would be the likely winners and losers?
As the Syndey Morning Herald reported, smaller publishers are not eligible for payments under the proposed law, so large publishers like News Corp may end up benefitting the most. (News Corp has urged the Australian government to pass the law).
Reporter Casey Newton also pointed out that the law also doesn’t require publishers to spend any new revenue on reporters or newsgathering efforts, meaning it could go to executives or investors.
Facebook’s and Google’s competitors could also gain an edge if their market share is diminished – Microsoft President Brad Smith endorsed the law last week.
As a result, the law could inadvertently further entrench Facebook’s and Google’s dominance, though it’s unclear what the ultimate impact would be on news publishers or the broader media ecosystem.
What was Facebook’s response?
Facebook said in a blog post that the law “fundamentally misunderstands” its relationship with publishers – which it argued benefits publishers more. Facebook said news content is “less than 4% of the content people see” and that it brought in around $315 million for Australian publishers in 2020.
With less to lose, in its view, Facebook pulled the plug.
On Wednesday (Thursday in Australia), Facebook blocked Australian publishers from sharing or posting content from their pages, blocked Australian users from viewing any news content at all (even from international publishers), and blocked all users worldwide from viewing content from Australian publishers.
Alphabet subsidiary Google, which arguably has a more even exchange of value with news publishers, has fought aggressively against the proposed law. In January, the company came under fire for hiding some Australian news sites from its search results.
With each passing day, it becomes more obvious that President Donald Trump views the media as his enemy. But with the pandemic, criminal justice reform, the presidential election, and now COVID-19 relief bill talks dominating headlines, little attention has been paid to the long-term damage caused by Trump’s hatred of a free press.
Right now, Julian Assange, the publisher of WikiLeaks, is facing an extradition trial in England because Trump’s Justice Department has hit him with an unprecedented indictment – seeking 175 years in prison for what experts consider customary newsgathering and publishing activities.
Charging Assange sets a dangerous precedent for the freedom of press
I had the privilege of meeting Assange during his time in the Ecuadorian embassy. Assange cares deeply about the public’s right to know what governments do in their name. He cares about peace. He thought that by bringing this information to light, he could make the world a better place by bringing an end to foolish wars. Call him naive if you want, but he is not our enemy. The world needs individuals with Assange’s passion and commitment to truth.
The American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Ben Wizner warns that the charges against Assange are “an extraordinary escalation of the Trump administration’s attacks on journalism, and a direct assault on the First Amendment.”
These semantic arguments over whether someone is a journalist or not miss the point. Journalism isn’t about where you work. It’s about what you do. Trevor Timm, founder of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, testified at Assange’s extradition: “In the US, the First Amendment protects everyone. Whether you consider Assange a journalist doesn’t matter, he was engaging in journalistic activity.” Most importantly, the conduct Assange has been indicted for is textbook “journalistic behavior“: communicating with sources and gathering, possessing, and publishing sensitive information.
Expertsagree that a successful prosecution of Assange would undermine the First Amendment, and would particularly cripple investigative journalism. All journalism aims to inform the public, but what makes investigative journalism so vital to democracy is its power to inform us about what is deliberately hidden from our view.
Criminalizing journalism is ‘killing the messenger’
The saying “don’t kill the messenger” is as old as civilization itself, but we forget to take it to heart sometimes. People blast the bearers of bad news for “blaming America,” as if being honest with ourselves is something shameful. Greatness depends on our willingness to look ourselves in the mirror and right the wrongs in our lives and in our society.
Without a free press shining light on the government, we are unable to hold our government accountable. Freedom of the press and freedom of speech are necessary for us to form opinions and choose leaders. Without the information that a free press provides, we can only stumble around in the dark, blind to the realities of the world and the conduct of our government. A blind public is unable to see society’s problems, let alone fix them.
If we care about a free press, we must defend Assange
If the reports are true, then Assange chose to not lie for Trump, and as a result he is now the first journalist in our history to be indicted for publishing truthful information. You don’t have to like Assange personally or be happy with the stories WikiLeaks has broken, but if we care about a free press, we must defend Assange.
As we transition to a new administration, we should remember the previous one. The Obama-Biden record on war, transparency, and whistleblowers was not perfect, but President Obama respected democracy. He did not make the press his enemy. And even though the WikiLeaks disclosures embarrassed his administration, Obama showed restraint by not prosecuting Assange.
All citizens, regardless of their politics, should be outraged. But I don’t want to tell people that they should be outraged; I want to give them information that makes them outraged – that their government is escalating its war on journalism.
After all, a war on journalists is not just a war on the messenger. It is a war on some of America’s most important legal, cultural, and political traditions. It is a war on our right to know and our ability to participate in important debates. It’s a war on democracy itself.