WashPost experiment gets real; NYTimes to drop syndicated cartoons; a TV news exec pushes local

April 30, 2019
Category: Newsletters

Wash Post takes reality to new levels

The paper released a short animated film Monday showing what it’s like to lose your best friend in a school shooting.  
A screenshot from “12 Seconds of Gunfire: The True Story of a School Shooting.” (Courtesy of The Washington Post)

The story is heartbreaking: a 6-year-old girl dealing with the loss of her best friend in a school shooting.

There are many ways to tell that story, but The Washington Post strived for something different. It wanted to take its audience inside the world of that little girl. To do so, the Post came up with an 360-degree, virtual reality, animated film called “12 Seconds of Gunfire: The True Story of a School Shooting.”

The 8-minute film tells the story of Ava Olsen, whose best friend was killed in a 2016 school shooting in South Carolina.

It’s risky to tackle such a topic in this form, but the Post succeeded, in part because of thorough and sensitive reporting by John Woodrow Cox, who wrote the script and whose original story was the basis for the film.

I had a chance to talk to Jeremy Gilbert, the Post’s director of strategic initiatives, and Post design editor Suzette Moyer about their groundbreaking work in a story on Poynter.org.

Gilbert told me, “We wanted to do something where the act of being immersed in it makes the story richer and more compelling than it would be any other way.”

More NYT cartoon fallout

The paper tells the Daily Beast that it will drop syndicated cartoons.


(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

More fallout from The New York Times’ controversial editorial cartoon featuring an apparently blind Donald Trump wearing a yarmulke being led by a dog with a Star of David collar and the face of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Times’ opinion columnist Bret Stephens blasted his paper writes:

“The problem with the cartoon isn’t that its publication was a willful act of anti-Semitism. It wasn’t. The problem is that its publication was an astonishing act of ignorance of anti-Semitism — and that, at a publication that is otherwise hyper-alert to nearly every conceivable expression of prejudice, from mansplaining to racial microaggressions to transphobia.”

In its original apology on Twitter, the Times said it was the result of a “single editor working without adequate oversight.” The question still remains: how in the world does a cartoon like that get in print with only one set of eyes reviewing it?

CNN’s Brian Stelter spoke to several anonymous Times staffers who said they were, “alarmed to see that the image was published — and dismayed that the initial editor’s note was so feeble. They wanted a more detailed explanation.” (It should be pointed out that Stelter has connections inside the Times’ newsroom — he’s a former Times staffer.)

Times personnel said they “anticipate significant changes” to how their process works. Then, The Daily Beast reported Monday night that the Times was dropping the syndicate service that supplied the cartoon.

News exec invests in Mississippi

NBC News chair is the founder and a financial force behind an online news outlet covering the southern state.

Andrew Lack in New York. (Athena Torri/NBC via AP)

Andrew Lack is from New York City. He is the chair of NBC News. So why is leading the charge to revive local news in Mississippi? The Associated Press’ David Bauder writes that Lack’s mother was from Mississippi and his great-grandfather was the mayor of Greenville. But mostly, Lack believes in local journalism, which is why he founded and has invested $1 million into Mississippi Today, an online news site that has been operating for three years.

“Non-profit, digital-first journalism was beginning to fill a void as the newspaper structure that so many people depended on was starting to erode,” Lack said in the AP story.

Lack, however, has been keeping a low profile and said he is not trying to take down local papers.

“We’re not competing with everyone,” Lack said. “I’m not competing with the Clarion Ledger. Maybe I can help them be better. … You’re beginning to see an understanding that local news is a public responsibility that is central to a working democracy, and it’s core to the good health and life of every community.”

Facebook ‘likes’ Fox News

The network continues to dominate online engagement on the platform.


Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

Which network was the big winner on the day the Mueller report was made public? Well, on Facebook, it was Fox News, according to David Uberti in a piece for Vice News. Fox News’ main Facebook page nearly doubled CNN in total engagement on April 19, the day the report was released. The New York Times and Washington Post had one-sixth the number of Facebook interactions and MSNBC had only one-tenth.

Uberti wrote:

“Over the past three years, CrowdTangle (an analytics firm) estimates that Fox News’ main Facebook page, with 17 million followers, has racked up 80 percent more reactions, comments, and shares than CNN, which has 31 million followers. The Fox page’s engagement rate — the average number of engagements per post per follower — was higher than any major news organization over the same period, and some five times that of The New York Times.”

Baltimore loses a pioneer

She started in TV as a dress model and moved on to become a local journalism star. 


Screenshot, WMAR in Baltimore.

Susan White-Bowden, the first female TV reporter in Baltimore, died last week from complications of a fall. She was 79.

White-Bowden was a reporter, anchor, news writer and producer at WMAR-TV from the 1960s through the 1980s, but her path into journalism was an unusual one. She started off as a model and regularly appeared on a local TV morning show modeling dresses. She also appeared in local commercials for bread, beer, margarine, hair dryers, grocery stores and even the IRS. White-Bowden’s local celebrity led WBAL in Baltimore to hire her to do occasional features and she did well enough that WMAR hired her as a full-time reporter in 1967. After that, her career took off.

Former Baltimore TV reporter Andy Barth said, “Susan was the brightest star on Baltimore TV for many years, and a terrific reporter.”

Hot type

A curated list of great journalism and intriguing media.

John Singleton (in 2003) touches his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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