Career Beat: Russell Contreras named president of UNITY

  • Russell Contreras will be president of UNITY. He is a reporter at The Associated Press (NAJA)
  • Sam Figler is now head of global business development at BuzzFeed. Previously, he was vice president of global business development at Yahoo. (Capital)
  • Wendy Carrillo is now an anchor and producer at Previously, she was a writer and digital producer for NuvoTV. (MediaMoves)
  • Will Hobson will be a sports news reporter at The Washington Post. Previously, he was a cops and courts reporter at the Tampa Bay Times. (Washington Post)
  • Ryan O’Hara will be CEO of Move, Inc. Previously, he was president at the Madison Square Garden Company. (News Corp)
  • Katy McColl is now senior executive editor at Southern Living. Previously, she was an editorial consultant. Whitney Wright is now general manager at Southern Living. Previously, she was deputy food director there. (Time Inc.)

Job of the day: The Des Moines Register is looking for a business columnist. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs)

Send Ben your job moves: Read more


The ethics of hacked email and otherwise ill-gotten information

Sony and Aaron Sorkin both got it wrong. There are journalism ethics to mining emails hacked by someone else. But the question is not whether or not to mine them, but rather how.

Journalists generally agree that it’s appropriate to use ill-gotten information in the public interest, whether it’s the Pentagon Papers or a massive email hack.

But good intentions and execution are two different things. The latter involves a solid process rooted in journalistic values — because public interest is a moving target. Some newsrooms claim public interest when information is merely interesting, funny or salacious. The article about Channing Tatum’s goofy email might fall into that category.

BuzzFeed’s look at Maureen Dowd’s practice of allowing prior review, which Dowd denied, could be in the public interest because Dowd is a powerful columnist at a powerful newspaper that influences public opinion. If she shows special favor to certain people, it would be in the public interest to know that. But BuzzFeed’s lack of additional reporting on their initial story suggests their motives were less about public interest and more about public shaming.

Bloomberg’s piece on Sony’s knowledge of its employees’ medical records is perhaps the best example of reporting in the public interest that’s come out of the recent hack. It’s a story that starts with the emails, but delves into a corporate practice that has moral, legal and public policy implications for everyone.

As a journalist, your ethical obligations remain the same whether information is delivered directly to you by a confidential informant, or simply posted to a public website. Your first priority is accuracy. Can you verify that the information itself is true? Or are you just repeating it? On top of that, how can you supplement accuracy with both precision and context to add value to the information?

When faced with information gained by nefarious means, a journalist should:

  • Do additional reporting to verify the details. You must be sure it is accurate before you pass it along
  • Avoid distortion and instead ensure appropriate tone. This means watching your headlines, adjectives and all the other details that give a particular piece of information a certain tone. When you add flavor to information, it needs to be appropriate.
  • Add context, by seeking additional input or rebuttal from the relevant stakeholders. Context makes information more accurate.

Truth is the rudder that steers ethical decisions in journalism. Is this information true? That’s the first, but not the only question journalists ask. Does it enhance our understanding of a situation? The obligation to seek the truth trumps, but does not excuse other ethical transgressions.

Rather than insisting that journalists delete information they’ve published, Sony lawyers would have perhaps gained more traction and public sympathy if they had reminded newsrooms of their obligation to verify truths. Read more


NYT corrects: Pope didn’t open heaven to pets

A New York Times story by Rick Gladstone carries a hefty correction explaining that pooches are still barred from everlasting paradise:

An earlier version of this article misstated the circumstances of Pope Francis’ remarks. He made them in a general audience at the Vatican, not in consoling a distraught boy whose dog had died. The article also misstated what Francis is known to have said. According to Vatican Radio, Francis said: “The Holy Scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us,” which was interpreted to mean he believes animals go to heaven. Francis is not known to have said: “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.’’ (Those remarks were once made by Pope Paul VI to a distraught child, and were cited in a Corriere della Sera article that concluded Francis believes animals go to heaven.) An earlier version also referred incompletely to the largest animal protection group in the United States. It is the Humane Society of the United States, not just the Humane Society.

The New York Times wasn’t alone in attributing the remarks to Pope Francis, according to, a rumor-tracking website founded by Poynter’s Craig Silverman. Time and BuzzFeed also reported the story, attributing the news to The New York Times. Both have since set the record straight. Read more


Hollywood to journalism: Delete, delete, delete

Good morning. My name is Kristen Hare and I’ll be driving this thing for awhile. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. Hollywood is concerned about the ethics and morals of journalism

    Sony's lawyer sent a letter to news organizations demanding that the documents stolen from the company in the recent hack be "avoided, and destroyed." (The New York Times) | Aaron Sorkin totally agrees. (The New York Times.) | Dan Kennedy does not. "Dear Sony: Stealing information is a crime. Receiving stolen information and publishing it is protected by the First Amendment." (@dankennedy_nu) | RELATED: Here's a pretty good explainer if you're not sure how we got to the place where the creator of a show about a fictional newsroom is doling out advice to real ones. (Fusion)

  2. The Sydney siege continues

    Chris Kenny, associate editor of The Australian, left the Lindt cafe with a coffee just before the gunman took over. "My fellow customers — fellow Australians — are now in a horrific situation, the sliding doors of the cafe playing a brutal game of chance and fate in Sydney today." (The Australian) | Australia's Channel 7, located in Martin Place, was evacuated. (@Channel7) | The Advertiser is keeping track of how news orgs around the world are telling the story. (The Advertiser) | REALLY GOOD RELATED REMINDER: On The Media's The Breaking News Consumer's Handbook remains a great resource for readers and reminder for journalists. (On The Media)

  3. Here are more people who are mad at Rolling Stone

    Three friends of the young woman in Rolling Stone's "A Rape On Campus" story tell the Associated Press, on the record and with their names, that Rolling Stone got things wrong. "All three say (Sabrina Rubin) Erdely has since reached out to them, and that she has told them she is re-reporting the story." (Associated Press) | Another friend of the young woman was on CNN's Reliable Sources on Sunday. Alex Pinkleton's job is to be an advocate, Pinkleton said. "But as a reporter, you can't be like an advocate..." (CNN)

  4. Bill Cosby has spoken, a little

    Cosby told journalist Stacy Brown that he expects journalists of color to approach the story neutrally. (New York Post) | Brown told CNN that Cosby didn't seem too worried and had more to say. "I definitely came away with the belief that he wants to talk about everything." (CNN)

  5. Sandy Hook's second anniversary was Sunday

    Mediaite reports that the Sunday morning talk shows didn't talk about Sandy Hook at all. (Mediaite) | Here's Sunday's cover of the New York Daily News. (Facebook)

  6. Wait, where is BuzzFeed going in three years?

    On Sunday, Michael Wolff wrote about Gawker and The New Republic and BuzzFeed for USA Today. "Ben Smith, its top editor, told me recently he didn't expect BuzzFeed to be around in three years, not under its present owners nor in its present form." (USA Today) | "Of course we will be a very different place in 3 years. That's a long time, and we are just getting started." (@BuzzFeedBen)

  7. It's time to look ahead. Also behind.

    From the SPJ to ONA to, well, all of us, it's been a big year for ethics. (PBS MediaShift) | And here are some predictions for journalism in 2015. (Nieman Lab)

  8. Detroit anchor dies at 82

    Bill Bonds died on Saturday at 82. He began his career with Detroit's WXYZ in 1963 and covered the 1967 Detroit riots. (WXYZ) | Bonds' ups and downs were fairly public, but despite them, he wanted to be back in the news. "'God, I miss it,' he said, in an interview for a Detroit Public Television documentary about local television." (Detroit Free Press)

  9. Front page of the day

    Melbourne, Australia's Herald Sun puts out a special edition on the Sydney siege (Courtesy the Newseum)


  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin

    John Hughes has been elected president of the National Press Club. He is an editor for Bloomberg First Word. (PRNewswire) | Andrew Beaujon is a senior editor at Washingtonian. Previously, he was news editor at Poynter. (@abeaujon) | Kevin Fries will be news director for WCJB in Gainesville, Florida. Previously, he was assistant news director for WBRZ in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Rick Gevers) | Leon Neyfakh will cover criminal justice for Slate. He is a reporter for The Boston Globe's ideas section. (@leoncrawl) | Alec MacGillis will be a staff writer at Slate. Previously, he was a senior editor at The New Republic. (@AlecMacGillis) | Mike Wise will join ESPN's forthcoming website "intersecting sports, culture and race." He was a sports columnist for The Washington Post. (WP) | Miguel Helft will be San Francisco bureau chief at Forbes. Previously, he was a senior writer at Fortune covering technology. Loren Feldman will be senior editor of Forbes’ entrepreneurs coverage. Previously, he was small business editor at The New York Times. Josh Robinson will create and manage sponsored editorial packages at Forbes. Previously, he was digital editor for the travel section at The New York Times. Thomas Fox-Brewster will be a staff writer at Forbes. Previously, he was a freelance writer. (Email) | Job of the day: Talking Points Memo is looking for an associate editor. Get your résumés in! (Mediabistro) | Send Ben your job moves:

Corrections? Tips? Holiday recipes? Please email me: Would you like to get this roundup emailed to you every morning? Sign up here. Read more


BuzzFeed reporter mistaken for that Chinese-food-dispute professor guy

BuzzFeed legal editor Chris Geidner is not Harvard Business School professor Benjamin Edelman, the world’s most famous customer of Sichuan Garden in Woburn, Massachusetts.

But as far as many people on social media are concerned, he’s the same guy.

Reached by email, Geidner said as far as he knew, the mistaken identity comes courtesy a Fox News article about Edelman that embeds a tweet he wrote.

His coworkers aren’t really helping out.

Read more


Career Beat: Tommy Craggs is executive editor at Gawker Media

Tommy Craggs has been named executive editor at Gawker Media. Previously, he was editor of Deadspin. Heather Dietrick has been named president of Gawker Media. Previously, she was general counsel there. Andrew Gorenstein has been named president of advertising and partnerships at Gawker Media. Previously, he was chief revenue officer there. Scott Kidder has been named chief operating officer at Gawker Media. Previously, he was vice president of operations there. Erin Pettigrew has been named chief strategy officer at Gawker Media. Previously, she was vice president of business development there. Nick Denton has been named CEO of Gawker Media. Previously, he was publisher there. (New York Observer) | Alan Rusbridger will become chair of the Scott Trust. He is editor-in-chief of The Guardian. (Poynter) | Greg Ip will be chief economics commentator at The Wall Street Journal. He covered economics and policy for The Economist. (Wall Street Journal) | Tom Gara is now business editor at BuzzFeed. Previously, he was deputy business editor there. (Romenesko) | Giovanna Gray Lockhart is now a contributing editor at Glamour. Previously, she was a senior advisor to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. (Fishbowl NY) | Job of the day: The Center for Public Integrity is looking for an engagement editor. Get your résumés in! (Center for Public Integrity) | Read more

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Capital flows like water to media companies (of a certain kind)

December has started with a bang-up ten days financially for some leading American media companies.

Vox announced it has raised another $46.5 million in a new round of venture capital bringing its total valuation to $385 million. CEO Jim Bankoff, in a internal memo he made public, announced ambitious expansion plans for 2015.

Outbrain, a content recommendation/native advertising company, indicated it is tentatively planing an initial public offering early next year, with a target valuation of $1 billion.  (Outbrain, like its biggest competitor Taboola, is Israeli in origin but has moved headquarters to New York and plans to be listed on NASDAQ).

Meanwhile expanding Buzzfeed’s growth continues and its investor valuation stands at $850 million.  Editor Ben Smith was lecturing in Australia late last week as the site announced it has hired a star from Wired to be its Silicon Valley bureau chief and is forming a health and science desk.

Shane Smith, founder and CEO of VICE. (John Minchillo/AP Images for PromaxBDA)

Shane Smith, founder and CEO of VICE. (John Minchillo/AP Images for PromaxBDA)

And in case you missed it, Vice attracted nearly $500 million in new venture capital funding in September and now is valued at $2.5 billion. Founder and CEO Shane Smith confirmed that he  wants to try again to buy and repurpose the broken-down HLN franchise from CNN/Time Warner. (CNN chief Jeff Zucker said HLN was not for sale — especially to Smith.

Vice also got a kiss of legitimacy December 1 when the Knight Foundation awarded it an Innovation Prize and partnered with the site and CUNY to create a $500,000 initiative to foster innovative story-telling internationally.

I could go on, but you get the drift.

None of these companies have the asset — or is it a liability — of a legacy operation.  Likewise Outbrain has come from nowhere to being a major player in the sponsored content boom in part because it has no need to modernize a traditional ad agency structure.

The capital markets’ infatuation with these newcomers takes place as tough times for legacy companies just keep on coming. The New York Times did a buyout deal  last week with 60-plus news staffers and will add some layoffs to reach a staff reduction goal of 100.  The same has been happening over the last few months at Poynter’s Tampa Bay Times.

A reporter for the Sacramento Business Journal called me recently asking whether McClatchy can survive as a family-controlled public company.  I think so — but it’s not an unreasonable question.

Venture capital valuations are somewhat different than the market capitalization of an existing public company.  When and if a VC-backed company goes public, it may or may not be worth as much as its investors hope.

With that qualifier, check out how the market capitalizations of some familiar legacy companies (as calculated by Yahoo Finance) compare to the figures mentioned at the top of this post:

*McClatchy — $337 million (considerably less than Vox).

*Tribune Publishing — $584 million (more than Vox, less than Buzzfeed).

*New York Times Co. — $1.93 billion (roughly twice Outbrain but not as big as Vice).

*Time Inc. — $2.55 billion (for now still a little more than Vice).

These numbers speak for themselves in terms of what investors favor in the media space. They also confirm the truism that short term revenue growth prospects matter much more to those placing bets with their capital than longevity or even profitability.

I would add two more short bits of commentary:

*Capitalism’s “creative destruction” dynamic works in part by accelerating the growth of promising new ventures while pulling investments out of fading older ones.  So you could say the money folks, as 2014 rolls to 2015, need no persuading that media transformation is in full gear.

*A small saving grace for newspaper companies as an investment is that a balanced portfolio (appealing also to many individual investors) includes profitable companies that pay a good dividend, even if share price may not move up quickly.  That’s the premise for the relaunch of GateHouse Media as New Media Investment Group, paying out about 5 percent on its current share price, and a likely strategy for other spinoff companies being formed like Gannett Publishing and Scripps’s Journal Media Group.

Unfortunately, as anyone from the boardroom to the back corner of the newsroom knows, it is not so easy to earn enough profits to pay a dividend while also making the needed big investments in new digital news products.  And the industry still has on its to-do list for next year (pardon if I’m repeating myself) achieving net revenue growth. Read more


Career Beat: Matt Thompson to join

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Matt Thompson will be deputy editor of He’s currently director of vertical initiatives for NPR. (Poynter)
  • Mat Honan will be Silicon Valley bureau chief for BuzzFeed. He’s an editor and writer at Wired. (Re/code)
  • Justin Yurkanin is now manager of multimedia at Alabama Media Group. Previously, he was a photojournalist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. (Email)
  • Sarah Karnasiewicz is now food editor of Previously, she was a writer at The Wall Street Journal. (Fishbowl NY)

Job of the Day: The (Rochester, New York) Democrat and Chronicle is looking for a senior engagement editor. Get your résumés in! (Career Builder)

Send Ben your job moves: Read more


Career Beat: Andy Wiedlin leaves BuzzFeed

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Andy Wiedlin will be an entrepreneur-in-residence at Andreessen Horowitz. He’s currently chief revenue officer at BuzzFeed. (Re/Code)
  • Salvador Rodríguez is a Silicon Valley correspondent for International Business Times. Previously, he was a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times. (Media Moves)
  • Peter Bale will be CEO at the Center for Public Integrity. Previously, he was vice president and general manager of digital operations at CNN International. (Center for Public Integrity)
  • Jed Hartman will be chief revenue officer at The Washington Post. Previously, he was group publisher for Time,, Fortune,, Money, and (Washington Post)

Job of the day: The San Antonio Express-News is looking for an online producer. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs)

Send Ben your job moves: Read more


Career Beat: Cara Buckley is an Oscars blogger at The New York Times

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Cara Buckley is now an Oscars blogger for The New York Times. Previously, she was a culture reporter there. (New York Times)
  • Adam Kushner will be editor of the Outlook section at The Washington Post. Previously, he was the editor of PostEverything there. (Email)
  • Michelle Nicolosi is now director of digital operations at The Oregonian and OregonLive. She was the managing editor of the Los Angeles Register. Benjamin Sherman is now director of sports and multimedia at The Oregonian and OregonLive. Previously, he was director of digital operations there. Fedor Zarkhin is now a data reporter at The Oregonian and OregonLive. Previously, he was a reporter at the Palm Beach Post. Carli Brousseau is now a data reporter at The Oregonian and OregonLive. She previously worked at the Arizona Daily Star. Tony Hernandez now covers Multnomah County government for The Oregonian and OregonLive. Previously, he worked at the Knoxville (Tennessee) News Sentinel. Kristyna Wentz-Graff is now a photographer at The Oregonian and OregonLive. She previously worked at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Jessica Greif is now a broadcast reporter at The Oregonian and OregonLive. Previously, she was the weekend anchor at KEZI 9 News in Eugene, Oregon. (Poynter)
  • Daniel Kibblesmith is now a staff writer at BuzzFeed. Previously, he was an associate editor at Clickhole. (Poynter)
  • Jackie Kucinich will be senior politics editor at The Daily Beast. She is a politics reporter for The Washington Post. (@JFKucinich)

Job of the day: The Granite Falls Advocate Tribune is looking for a reporter. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs)

Send Ben your job moves:
Read more


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