What should we call the impeachment? | Deadspin’s tragic death | Nudes and revenge porn present ethics challenge

November 1, 2019
Category: Newsletters

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Good Friday morning. Is it too early to start missing baseball already? Well, if you’re looking to Washington, D.C., there was another big score on Thursday: 232-196. We start there.

Careful how you talk about ‘impeachment’

The House of Representatives voted 232-196 on Thursday to endorse the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. That vote went right down party lines with Democrats voting for and Republicans voting against.

So how should journalists describe this?

NPR, for example, has been calling this a “Democratic impeachment inquiry.” The New York Times on Thursday referred to it as a “Democratic-led impeachment inquiry.” The Washington Post simply said the impeachment inquiry was voted on by the “House,” although it did call it a “divided house.”

Who’s right?

Technically, the Post is. Regardless of party ratio, the House of Representatives is a formal institution as voted on by the citizens of the United States. That institution voted to move forward with impeachment.

But the job of the media is to accurately portray the news. In that instance, the Times is most accurate. After all, the Democrats are leading the inquiry.

And what about NPR? Its public editor, Elizabeth Jensen, addressed the language in a column this week. Shirley Henry, NPR’s chief Washington editor, told Jensen, “It would be inaccurate to say that the House impeachment inquiry is a bipartisan effort. It is not.”

Why does this even matter? The argument NPR has received from listeners is that its description of a “Democratic impeachment inquiry” feeds into a divisive narrative. Another complaint is that similar language is not used when the House addresses other issues such as Facebook.

Ultimately, Jensen agreed with NPR’s approach, writing, “I appreciate the arguments made by the listeners, but I am with the newsroom on this one. Many are frustrated by the extreme partisanship of our civic culture, but the reports about the ‘Democratic’ inquiry are an accurate reflection of it to date.”

A good compromise is the Times’ using the phrase “Democratic-led.” It maintains that the House is taking the measure, yet the phrase is accurate.

Deadspin is dead. Long live Deadspin.


Screenshot, Deadspin

Another day of drama at Deadspin. This entire week has been a soap opera. A mass exodus has left the site a shell of itself following a directive from owner G/O Media telling writers to not write about any other topics unless they had a sports connection.

After at least seven staffers resigned Wednesday, more staffers resigned Thursday — including managing editor Samer KalafLuis Paez-PumarDavid RothDom Cosentino and longtime (and perhaps the site’s most popular) writer Drew Magary, who wrote a touching, heartfelt farewell about leaving Deadspin.

I want to stop for a moment and acknowledge that a lot has been written this week — both here and in other media outlets — about a website that is popular, but not that popular in the grand scheme of the internet. So why has this become such a big deal?

For several reasons. To start with, this showdown is one we all can appreciate. It’s the worker bees vs. the suits upstairs. The staff of Deadspin put together a ground-breaking sports website by being the cool kids, and here come the stiff new owners telling them to knock it off and stick to sports. You can’t help but admire Deadspin’s staffers walking out into uncertainty rather than write one more sentence for a website they no longer trust.

Beyond that, Deadspin was just … fun. And that made it important. You could tell writers had freedom and with that freedom came voice. The site was well-written and well-edited and made a difference. Websites popped up all over trying to be the next Deadspin. Newspaper sports sections looked for a writer who could be their “Deadspin-type” staffer. Deadspin’s irreverence became a trait sports sections, websites, TV shows, radio shows and bloggers wanted to emulate.

And now the fun is over. Oh, Deadspin will carry on. Other writers will step in to replace those who left and they will follow the demands of G/O Media. They will still call it Deadspin, but it won’t be the same.

That’s why it’s a big deal.

A coming crisis in political coverage — nudes and revenge porn


Katie Hill (Photo by Faye Sadou/MediaPunch /IPX)

Katie Hill gave her final speech before Congress on Thursday. The Democratic congresswoman from California is stepping down because, she said, of the “misogynist culture that gleefully consumed my naked pictures, capitalized on my sexuality and enabled my abusive ex to continue that abuse, this time with the entire country watching.”

Politico’s Michael Calderone wrote, “Katie Hill may be the first millennial member of Congress whose career was upended after the publication of intimate and embarrassing photos, but she’s not likely to be the last.”

Ashley Fairbanks, a 32-year-old who works on Julián Castro’s presidential campaign, tweeted this week:

“Almost every woman I know has taken nudes at sometime in her life. As more women under 40 run for office, we are going to have to figure out how to stand together and say it’s the leaking of them, not the taking of them, that is shameful.”

She then added:

“As someone who talks to a lot of women about running, I can tell you, anxiety around revenge porn is a serious barrier to a lot of young women interested in elected office.”

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes said on the air that we could see a generation of politicians with intimate photos out there. If so, how does the media handle such stories? Calderone writes:

“News executives and editors have long faced tough decisions when it comes to weighing privacy concerns against the need to reveal information in the public’s interest. That challenge is amplified by the ubiquity of cell phone images and the potential for former romantic partners and ex-friends — or anyone with a political axe to grind — to distribute them in an attempt to humiliate or discredit.”

Check out the rest of Calderone’s story for what could become a crossroads moment for political journalists.

Journalism that makes a difference

Earlier this year, a collaborative investigative project spanning the better part of a year and including 11 news organizations in North Carolina produced a stunning report. After analyzing data from nearly five years and conducting interviews with sexual assault survivors, victim advocates, medical professionals and state officials, the project led by Carolina Public Press reported that only one in four sexual assault defendants who were charged and had their cases resolved in that time were convicted of either sexual assault or a reduced and related charge.

In addition, 30 of the state’s 100 counties had no sexual-assault or reduced-charge convictions at all.

Due in part to the project, on Thursday the state legislature closed decades-old legal loopholes on the definition of rape, involving revocation of consent and sex with someone who was incapacitated due to alcohol or drugs. The measure will become law if signed by Gov. Roy Cooper.

New Media Q3 weak ahead of Gannett acquisition

For this item, I turn it over to Poynter media business analyst Rick Edmonds.

The GateHouse chain’s acquisition of Gannett is steaming toward completion later in November. Meanwhile GateHouse parent New Media Investment Group has reported weak third quarter financial results consistent with the newspaper industry’s pattern for the year.

Print advertising revenue (on a same property basis) was down 15.9% year-to-year; while total revenues were down 7.9%. Digital paid subscriptions and New Media’s events business showed strong growth but on a much smaller basis, operating at roughly break even.

In a press release, CEO Mike Reed said that “some disruption among our employee based on account of the anticipation of the Gannett transaction” was part of the cause of the revenue declines. A large round of layoffs after the merger is expected to realize the operating savings Reed has promised.

Separately, Reed announced in an internal memo that Kirk Davis, operating chief executive of GateHouse, will be leaving the company when the merger is completed. Gannett CEO Paul Bascobert had already been designated for that role.

Correction

In Thursday’s newsletter, I wrote that the anonymous op-ed critical of President Donald Trump last September ran in The Washington Post. I was wrong. It ran in The New York Times.
(Editor’s note: Also in Thursday’s newsletter, I inserted a headline that misspelled “death throes.” Thanks to the readers who took the time to email us. We regret the errors.— Barbara Allen)

 

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

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