With publication of pool reports, Gawker loosens up the Beltway

In the old days, they were photocopied and placed in bins near the back of White House briefing room. As years went by, they began appearing in the inboxes of Washington journalists via email.

And on Tuesday, the distribution of White House pool reports was changed yet again when journalists at Gawker Media announced they had begun publishing the dispatches directly to the Web.

President Barack Obama waves to reporters at the conclusion of his news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House.  (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais )

President Barack Obama waves to reporters at the conclusion of his news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais )

News of the change was greeted differently by various members of the White House press corps, who held a vigorous back-and-forth about whether the pool reports, which are largely not written for general consumption, should be made instantly available to the public at large.

“Some people object to putting in all of that work and then submitting reports from which others draw and prosper without ever putting in a day’s work,” said Christi Parsons, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association and a White House correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. “On the other hand, others feel that this is a public good, even a public service, and that it belongs to anyone who wants it on the exact same time frame as the soldiers who do the work.”

In this case, the soldiers are poolers, members of the press corps who trail the president and other White House VIPs on official excursions. The briefs they file have long been used by Washington journalists to fill out stories chronicling the comings and goings of the commander-in-chief and his entourage.

The pact is simple: The pool, a mini-news cooperative composed of outlets that cover the executive, assigns reporters on a rotating basis to tail White House officials and record the details of their day. It’s essentially an open notebook that can be used by any other reporter with access to the report.

But before journalists can use the reports, they are first filtered through White House officials, who distribute them to the press corps via email. This has led to cases of censorship from an administration that has occasionally tried to squelch certain details. In October, The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi reported that White House officials demanded that reporters cut out pieces of their dispatches, including details of the president’s appearance on “The Tonight Show” and one of Michelle Obama’s trips to the gym.

In both cases, the reporters acquiesced to the changes before the White House sent along the reports to all the recipients of the email list.

This specter of censorship, real and perceived, has been the subject of intense discussion among White House correspondents since Gawker Media made the reports available to the public, said Dan Roberts, White House bureau chief for The Guardian. Rather than waiting for the White House to approve the dispatches and send them along to Gawker and others, journalists have floated the possibility of sending each other the pool reports directly and providing a copy to the executive, essentially cutting out the middle man.

There is one big disadvantage to this, of course — distributing the reports to the entirety of the press corps would mean taking on the cumbersome task of maintaining the list of recipients, a burden that the White House currently bears, Roberts said. White House correspondents have come down on both sides of the issue.

“I personally think the Gawker intervention is very helpful, because it’s forced a debate that’s been coming far too slowly about how the pool operates,” Roberts said.

How the pool operates and who should get access to the reports has been debated before. In 2009, Gawker began publishing the reports manually, shortly after Web native sites like The Huffington Post and Talking Points Memo joined the pool, but quickly abandoned the effort because it was taking too much time, said John Cook, Gawker Media’s executive editor for investigations. This time around, the reports are posted automatically by a tool created in the company’s Editorial Labs division.

Gawker Media’s decision to publish the reports was motivated primarily by a desire to lift the curtain on information that’s confined to a select group of people, Cook said. Traffic to the reports has been “negligible,” but their publication is not a play for more readers.

“Anytime you have open secrets or information that’s relevant, or limited to a select few, I like to expand the body of knowledge and let people who aren’t clued in have access to it,” Cook said. “And this is sort of a prime case.”

Information in the pool reports wasn’t exactly confidential before Gawker Media decided to publish them. Although the White House distributes them to a group of recipients, that list reportedly numbers in the thousands, and includes non-journalists in addition to news agencies. Press pool dispatches are published regularly on the official blog of Fox News host Greta Van Susteren and juicy excerpts have appeared on Fishbowl DC’s “This Week In Pool Reports” feature.

“It seems to me as if there’s no real reason for the association to get worked up about it,” said Patrick Gavin, who used to edit the pool reports feature at Fishbowl DC. “The pool reports go out to an obscene amount of people anyway. If there were claims about exclusivity, those went out the door a long time ago.”

Still, some White House reporters question the wisdom of making informal notes available to everyone immediately. Michael Shear, who covers the White House for The New York Times, encourages readers to consume “the actual finished journalism that all of these hardworking journalists are producing.”

“It really was never intended to be a kind of public historical documentation for the world,” Shear said. “It was intended to be reporters solving a logistical problem by sharing their notes about what they saw by following the president around.” Read more


Mic news director fired for plagiarism

Gawker | Politico

Jared Keller, news director at Mic, has been fired from his position at the startup after a Gawker investigation unearthed “at least 20″ plagiarized passages from a variety of news organizations including The Associated Press, Reuters and Storyful.

Jake Horowitz, Mic’s editor-in-chief, provided Poynter with the following statement:

Jared Keller is no longer employed at Mic. Plagiarism is unacceptable in any form and our editorial policies make that very clear. We appreciate Gawker bringing these issues to our attention, and as we continue our internal review, we’ll be transparently updating any story that violates our standards.

Mic takes responsibility for allowing this to happen. We’re going to use this as an opportunity to improve as an organization, and we’re already soliciting candid feedback from our editorial staff about what we can be doing better. We’re committed to making all of the changes necessary to ensure that Mic is consistently exceeding the high standards we have for ourselves.

This news was originally reported by Gawker.

Mic confirmed Wednesday it was investigating Keller based on accusations of plagiarism raised by Gawker Wednesday afternoon, sending the following statement to both Politico and Gawker:

Plagiarism is unacceptable. We have strict editorial standards and conduct ethics trainings for new employees. Using detection software, our copy editing team also checks articles for plagiarism prior to publication. Mic takes any allegations of plagiarism seriously and will conduct an internal review to determine the appropriate next steps.

The plagiarized passages appeared in stories written by Keller between the months of July and February, according to Gawker. Some were cribbed word-for-word without attribution, while some were rewrites containing “an inline link and in a few cases with a hat-tip at the very bottom.”

RELATED: Is it original? An editor’s guide to identifying plagiarism Read more


What platishers, like Medium, mean for unknown writers

Early in November, Lauren Cusick, a former defense attorney, was listening to Serial. In one episode, a juror explained that a defendant’s choice not to testify contributed to a guilty verdict. In response, Cusick wrote a thoughtful, persuasive essay about a defendant’s invocation of Fifth Amendment rights and posted it on Medium.

Cusick, who now lives in Japan, has a personal blog, a Twitter account, and a Facebook page. She chose Medium, she said, because she had friends who used it to write about their areas of expertise and it seemed more professional than emotional outbursts on Facebook or Twitter’s noise. Plus, the barrier to entry was nil.

“I used their formatting tools, which were super easy,” she said. “It’s kind of nice to be able to able to use pull-quotes. It looked like a real magazine article.”

Submitting a story to Medium is quite simple. (Screenshot from Medium's site)

Submitting a story to Medium is quite simple. (Screenshot from Medium’s site)

Her essay was added to the “For the Love of Podcast” collection on Medium, and, as of early December, had generated nearly 1,700 views and 905 reads, according to Medium’s analytics. The read ratio – the percentage of people who read the article all the way through – was 54 percent.

Cusick’s piece may not have attracted a ton of attention, but such is the fate of most of the content published by unknown writers on platforms like Medium, Creatavist, Gawker’s Kinja, or Buzzfeed Community. The publisher gets free or low-cost content and the writer gets a content management system that lends their words a professional veneer.

Not all platishers have the same model, of course. The Atavist licenses its publishing platform, Creatavist, to paying customers. Legacy magazines like Esquire and online publications like Tablet use Creatavist to present stories in an immersive digital format without having to hire a Snow Crash-like team of developers. Gawker’s “Recruits” program” compensates select Kinja contributors and uses the platform as a talent source.

But except for better interfaces and the advanced sharing tools of social media, many of these platishers — the portmanteau of the publisher-platform hybrid – institutionalize a two-tiered system of content creators. The majority is content created by people like Cusick. They have something to say and no big outlet of their own, so they utilize the tools these platishers provide. That’s exactly what appealed to Cusick. “I wasn’t interested in going through everything you need to go through to publish those thoughts,” she said.

The “everything you need to do” is the familiar editorial structure: Pitch, report, write, revise. And the big difference between that approach and Cusick’s is that writers who work within the traditional framework are the ones who get paid.

Medium’s director of content, Kate Lee, contends that amateur writers are attracted to platforms like Medium because they look and work better than a Tumblr or a WordPress blog and offer the potential of a larger audience. “For a non-professional, they can write something and it really looks good. It doesn’t look amateur. It looks professional. That’s an appeal,” she said. “There’s a potential to reach an audience that might not be coming to their individual website.”

Creatavist serves both individuals and publications, but for now the onus is on users to promote their own work, co-founder Evan Ratliff said. “There are a lot of individuals using it you wouldn’t come across unless you were sort of specifically in their world and they link to something. For individuals, it’s more about: You can make the thing you want to make and then share it with everyone,” he explained.

“The kind of place where our platform lives is a place in which you can design things to be your own,” he said. “And that’s very conducive to all the news organizations, or non-profits, using it to do their highly-designed storytelling, because you can make something look really beautiful.”

Amateur writers who aspire to earn money for their work writing can use tools like Medium or Kinja to attract the attention of an editor – the kind that pays. Ratliff said good content – often utilizing original reporting  – still breaks through. “I’m amazed at the extent things get surfaced in my world from publications and places that I don’t know, I’ve never heard of,” he said. “When Ferguson happened, there became go-to people doing stories on that. And so, now I follow those people. That’s the kind of thing that I would say, “Oh, I wonder if we could get that person to do a longer piece,” sort of on that or something else.”

At Medium, Kate Lee recruits writers for Medium much the same way she sought clients as an agent. “I very much utilize the skills that I developed when I was an agent, which is spotting talents, working with writers, … identifying what’s happening, who would be appropriate to write something based on what’s happening in the news,” she said.

Assigned pieces come with a price tag. In a 2013 Medium post, Kate Lee wrote that some contributors were paid competitive rates and solicited pitches “from experienced professional magazine writers for reported features and investigative articles.” Paid assignments, at Medium, the Atavist, and elsewhere come not only with compensation, but with editorial and promotional services as well.

The open-access allows anyone to publish, but it doesn’t allow everyone to flourish. Certainly there are success stories, like Gawker’s “Fittish” site that came out of the Recruits program, or the Dinovember post on Medium that spawned a book deal. But the look and feel of an accessible platform that puts your words next to the pros has its own appeal.

“I could imagine using it again,” said Cusick of her experience with Medium. “I was very drawn to having an outlet. I do have a lot of opinions.”

Aileen Gallagher teaches magazine journalism at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications. Read more


Nick Denton wants Gawker Media to reach more conservatives

Jason Parham’s Kinja thing

Gawker Media honcho Nick Denton Thursday told an editor (and careful Gawker readers) that he knows the company’s audience leans left and wants its journalism to reach more conservatives:

Let’s welcome, if not out-and-out racists, then at least the wide array of people with whom a conversation is possible: national greatness conservatives, Burkean Tories and business pragmatists, for instance; Christians and other spiritual people; economic liberals, libertarians and techno-utopians; and black and other social conservatives.

Denton was responding to a note from Gawker’s Jason Parham, who publicly urged Denton and the upper echelons of Gawker Media to embrace diversity “throughout all departments of the company.” In the note, Parham encouraged Gawker Media bosses to “engage the interest around progressive voices” and hire more Latina, queer and black writers.

In his response, Denton agreed with Parham that the company needs to be more diverse and suggested that the company push to incorporate voices that aren’t necessarily progressive and metropolitan.

But liberals are only a fifth of the US voting population. In the absence of commitment sufficient for armed struggle, or separatism, democratic change is the only option. And a successful cause is open to new allies and ideas.

Denton also wants to “look beyond our social stata” when hiring writers for the company, so they don’t all come from “the same small liberal arts schools.” Read more


Gawker editor: We ‘must commit’ to diversity


Gawker’s Jason Parham wrote about the need for more diversity at Gawker on Monday. In the post, Parham published an internal email, which he sent in December, about why Gawker needs to add more diversity.

So, here’s the thing: For Gawker Media to compete, evolve, and grow, our commitment to create a self-operating ecosystem must involve a commitment to diversity throughout all departments of the company, but especially in edit. It is an ambitious and important endeavor — and will no doubt be essential to our survival as a leading independent media entity — so it is crucial we understand growth in terms of racial, sexual, and gender diversity.

To forge ahead, Gawker Media must commit to publishing and hiring more Latina voices, queer voices, black voices, and marginalized voices across its core sites. This mission — along with Kinja and enhancing the overall user experience — is equally important to our development as a company. It is, as Nick put it, maybe the only way to “host the most lively and informative conversation on the web.”

Parham points out BuzzFeed’s Shani Hilton and that organization’s efforts at adding new voices, which will help BuzzFeed stay relevant “beyond the lists and quizzes.”

Our current efforts have been tremendous — my intention here is not to discredit the progress we have made this year — but we must continue to ACTIVELY seek out brave voices to hire and publish. To use Nick’s words: This is the only way Gawker Media truly becomes the very best version of itself.

Though Gawker Media has grown immensely during the last decade, it remains a product of early web publishing in many regards: a world largely accessible to, and engaged by, white men. But what we once were, and who we are presently, is not who we have to be moving forward.

Read more

Former Racket executive editor rejoins Gawker


Alex Pareene, who was formerly executive editor of The Racket, a short-lived satirical news project from First Look Media, has joined Gawker Media as its special projects editor, executive editor for investigations John Cook announced Wednesday.

In a post filed to “prodigal sons,” Cook noted that Pareene, who was formerly a Gawker staffer, will be tasked with “developing and executing pranks, capers, hijinks, and long cons” on Gawker’s various sites.

Gawker sites have always traded in such joyful pursuits—we stalked Fox News stalker Jesse Watters, publicly corrupted the Baseball Hall of Fame voting process, ostentatiously placed a mole inside Roger Ailes’ shop, killed every television at CES, and tested Jeremy Lin and Eli Manning’s table-pull at swank Manhattan eateries, to name a few—but Alex’s presence and talents will help us to keep thinking big and place a premium internally on attention-grabbing, high-quality gags.

Cook worked with Pareene at First Look Media when he was editor-in-chief of The Intercept, a position he left in November.

Cook notes that Pareene will be writing on Gawker Media’s sites in addition to cooking up juvenilia for the company, “because that’s what he does best.”

Pareene’s former colleague at The Racket, Matt Taibbi, has resumed contributing to Rolling Stone and recently wrote an article for Grantland. Read more


Gawker’s New Year’s resolution: Make some sub-blogs


On Friday, Gawker’s Editor-in-Chief Max Read posted a memo about his plans for 2015 at Gawker. The way Gawker’s homepage is set up has been frustrating, Read wrote. And so they’re going diagonal.

The basic structure is simple. Rather than publish everything directly to the home page, we’ll publish our stories to a set of beat-focused sub-blogs, some of which already exist and some of which will be launched in January. From those “diagonals”, the best and most representative work—original stories, reported news, personal writing, smart arguments, breakout viral, breaking news—will be shared to the front page, which will update at a somewhat slower rate than it currently does. Everything will be pushed to Facebook and Twitter, as well as to a comprehensive Gawker “news feed.”

The sub-blogs include and will include Valleywag, Defamer, and ones on the Internet, media and justice. Those larger topics could be spun off into more specific ones, Read wrote.

He also wrote about what Gawker is and what it isn’t.

Coverage that guides doesn’t need to always be reactive, stilted, or distanced the way “explainers” tend to be: We can break stories that cut through bullshit and expose backdoor dealings, a la Sony, or drive conversation and buzz with well-argued and unflinching opinion, a la Cosby.

Read more

Buy the journalist in your life a drone. Or a selfie stick

Good morning. Thanks for hanging in there with me this week. We’re taking a newsletter break for the holidays but will return on Monday, Jan. 5, brimming with news and probably an extra five pounds from all that day drinking. In the meantime, Poynter has a lot of great stories lined up for your holiday reading pleasure. For now, here are 10 media stories.

  1. What to buy your journalist friends, because they’re probably not getting a bonus this year

    How about an "Is it plagiarism?" pillow? Or a cassette recorder for when digital devices fail us? (Poynter) | A bandolier for your iPhone? A picture-taking aerial robot that's not really a drone? (Mashable) | Buzz Bissinger's Gucci schwag? (New York) | Grammar dessert plates? A Superman lunchbox? (AJR) | A studded USB necklace? (TechCrunch)

  2. Now Cuba needs to take care of its journalists

    Cuba is 10 countries away from the bottom of Reporters Without Borders' 2014 Press Freedom Index, and on Thursday, RWB called for the release of jailed Cuban journalists and bloggers. (Reporters Without Borders) | RELATED: Raju Narisetti has an idea. "Create a Journalist Rescue Fund." (NiemanLab)

  3. Will 2015 be the year we all start making podcasts again?

    Looks like yes. Serial was a smashing success, but it broke out of the podcast bubble for some specific reasons. (Mashable) | There's also a reason the Mail Chimp ad worked so well. (AdAge) | "More important, the economics of podcasting have begun to make sense." (CJR) | Stop being frustrated by the things you still don't know. "This is how investigative journalism works." (Slate)

  4. At Vice, writers make way less than pretty much everyone

    Gawker's Hamilton Nolan got some numbers on what Vice employees are making, so if you were considering switching to business development, consider this a sign. There's a $35,000 difference. (Gawker) | RELATED IF YOU STILL WANT TO BE A JOURNALIST: Tips for applying for journalism jobs. (

  5. Nice work, ladies

    Bustle, a startup aimed at women, is attracting some big money and readers -- now up to 20 million monthly. (Business Insider) | TheSkimm is also killing it. (The New York Times) | Sadly, The Washington Post's She the People blog will not survive the year. (All Digitocracy)

  6. Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab has some FOIA tips for you

    Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab, a Mexican journalist who shared a Pulitzer with The New York Times' David Barstow in 2013, has eight tips on getting information regardless of what country you're in. (IJNet)

  7. Take this list of questions that tell you something at the end to see if you're too wordy, but first glide your eyes across this from The Guardian

    "When you start calling carrots 'popular orange vegetables', something has gone badly wrong. Bring on the subeditors!" (The Guardian) | It's a sprout, not “nubby little cabbages." But that is cute. (The Guardian) | Now take this quiz and see if you're too wordy. (The Guardian)

  8. We have 12 days left to reflect on 2014

    The Washington Post has the 15 worst Internet hoaxes of the year. "6. Justin Bieber did not save a Russian man from a bear." (The Washington Post) | Slate has an amazing interactive about the things that made us ragey in 2014. (Slate)

  9. Front page of the day

    The Sydney Morning Herald, with a tribute at Martin Place.

Read more

No interviews at premiere for ‘The Interview’

Good morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. No interviews at premiere of ‘The Interview’

    "Sony Pictures said Wednesday that no broadcast media will be invited to cover the film's red carpet Thursday in Los Angeles and no interviews will be granted to print reporters at the screening." (AP)

  2. The Washington Post found more people Rolling Stone didn't interview

    T. Rees Shapiro spoke with three friends of Jackie's that Rolling Stone apparently wrote about but never actually spoke to. (The Washington Post) | Here's a succinct roundup of everything that's happened up to now. (Huffington Post) | UVA's Cavalier Daily originally published something no one else had, Ben Mullin reports -- a letter from Jackie's roommate. (Poynter) | | Related: Geneva Overholser says the news media convention of not naming sexual assault victims "is a particular slice of silence that I believe has consistently undermined society’s attempts to deal effectively with rape." (Geneva Overholser) | Related: Alexander Zaitchik, who wrote a 2013 Rolling Stone story about Barrett Brown, says he wasn't present for a scene he described in detail. (WP)

  3. Al Jazeera reporter killed in Syria

    Mahran Al Deeri "died on Wednesday while taking cover from government fire as his car hit the vehicle of rebel fighters." (Al Jazeera) | Orient TV journalists Youssef Mahmoud El-Dous, Rami Adel Al-Asmi and Salem Abdul-Rahman Khalil were all killed in a missile attack in Syria on Monday. (RWB)

  4. pulls story about Chinese-food professor

    It published a story that purported to show a racist email from Ben Edelman, the Harvard professor who very strongly disputed a $4 charge on a Chinese food order. "We cannot verify that Edelman, in fact, sent the email," an editor's note reads. "We have taken the story down." ( | Edelman apologized for the incident that led to his Internet fame. (Ben Edelman) | Some 2010 emails from Edelman over a Groupon gone wrong. (

  5. Excellent headline alert

    "N.M. high school teacher resigns after student’s story about Jesus giving out marijuana stirs controversy" (SPLC)

  6. The week everyone stepped down

    Alan Rusbridger steps down as The Guardian's editor. (The Guardian) | Joe Pompeo has a rundown of who may succeed Rusbridger. (Capital) | Gawker honcho Nick Denton names Heather Dietrick president, will remain CEO. (Also, and this is quite important: Tommy Craggs is Gawker Media's new executive editor.) (New York Observer) | Bloomberg News EIC Matthew Winkler stepped down this week, and Matthew Zeitlin reports the company passed over Executive Editor Laurie Hays when replacing him. (BuzzFeed)

  7. Maybe media companies aren't such bad places to work

    NBC Universal, ESPN and LinkedIn (hey, it publishes stuff) are among Glassdoor's "best places to work" list. (MediaJobsDaily) | This business has been on the upswing since CareerCast ranked "reporter" 199 on its Top 200 jobs list, one slot higher than "lumberjack." (Poynter)

  8. There's something called a Google Tax

    Google announced it's shutting down Google News in Spain before a Jan. 1 intellectual property tax begins. That tax is nicknamed "Google Tax." (Associated Press)

  9. Front page of the day, curated by Kristen Hare

    Burlington Free Press leads with a winter wonderland wallop. (Courtesy the Newseum)


  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin

    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) | Send Ben your job moves:

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

Correction: Yesterday's newsletter referred to Shéhérazade Semsar-de Boisséson as a "he." She is, of course, the correct pronoun. Thanks to the newsletter readers who alerted me to the error. Read more

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Drama at The New Republic, in 11 headlines

Here’s what happened starting yesterday at The New Republic, and here are nine headlines we’ve seen since. (It was originally seven. I’m adding as we go here.)


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Huffington Post:

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New York:

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Muck Rack:

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Daily Beast:

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Capital New York (via Media Pro newsletter, subscription required):

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The Nation:

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