Doing her job.
That’s what The Washington Post’s Taylor Lorenz was doing when she reported on the woman behind the controversial Twitter account called Libs of TikTok. Lorenz’s story — “Meet the woman behind Libs of TikTok, secretly fueling the right’s outrage machine” — detailed the woman behind the account that, as Lorenz describes it, “reposts a steady stream of TikTok videos and social media posts, primarily from LGBTQ+ people, often including incendiary framing designed to generate outrage. Videos shared from the account quickly find their way to the most influential names in right-wing media. The account has emerged as a powerful force on the Internet, shaping right-wing media, impacting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and influencing millions by posting viral videos aimed at inciting outrage among the right.”
It was a legitimate story that needed to be told.
I wrote about the actual Lorenz story in Wednesday’s newsletter, but Lorenz’s reporting is now the hot topic over the past 48 hours, particularly from right-wingers and conservative-media types who are outraged that Lorenz would name the woman behind the account — even though the information needed to find out who the woman was was available for anyone to find on the internet.
But what really has some riled up is a photo that went viral on social media (and Lorenz’s admission in the story) of Lorenz knocking on doors to find the woman behind the account. The Libs of TikTok account even tweeted the photo of Lorenz standing outside a door and asked, “Which of my relatives did you enjoy harassing the most at their homes yesterday?”
Others also made claims that Lorenz crossed a line by simply knocking on a door and trying to get a comment and/or information from the woman she was writing about.
Knocking on doors? Yes, Lorenz was also doing her job then, too. And doing it well.
Lorenz found out who was behind the account — a woman named Chaya Raichik. She then set out to find and talk to Raichik. She tried by phone. When that was unsuccessful, she went looking for her. An argument could be made — and I will make that argument right now — that knocking on a door looking for Raichik was as much for Raichik’s benefit as it was Lorenz’s. By seeking out Raichik, Lorenz was doing two things: making sure she had the right Chaya Raichik and, two, giving Raichik a chance to be quoted — to explain/defend/give her side of the story about the account she runs.
In fact, if Lorenz didn’t exhaust all efforts to reach Raichik, you could say that would have been journalistically irresponsible.
You can go a step further. If Lorenz had written the story and never tried to reach Raichik then Raichik (and her defenders) would have every right to complain about her not being given the opportunity to be quoted.
Ben Collins, a senior reporter at NBC News, tweeted a really smart observation: “Say there are two women with the same, very specific name. They live in the same exact neighborhood. One is a TikTok influencer. Nice family, cute kids, loves a good handbag. One runs an anti-LGBT TikTok aggregator. She’s a regular on Tucker Carlson—but never shows her face.”
Collins continued on explaining how and why it’s important to make sure, if you’re writing a story, to get the right one.
This is Journalism 101. Has there ever been a journalist who hasn’t knocked on a door at least once in their career? Ever see “All the President’s Men?” Yeah, it was a movie, but trust me, Woodward and Bernstein knocked on plenty of doors.
Writing for his Substack newsletter, Alex Pareene wrote, “A related belief people in the news business sometimes express is that, because the profession has done such a poor job explaining its methods, its ethical codes, and its bright lines, sometimes people become alarmed or upset when they witness what are actually common reporting practices, especially around tracking down and identifying sources, subjects, victims, and wrongdoers. This one is closer to the mark. Journalism can be exploitative and invasive and grubby. There’s this whole book about it.
In this case, though, the thing that happened was that information was gathered in basically the simplest way possible, deemed newsworthy, and put in a newspaper. This is what many, many people, so many people, tried to explain, over and over again, to everyone who was mad about it.”
Of course, some of this is just false outrage by those who simply don’t like that Lorenz wrote the story she did. The headline on Pareene’s says it perfectly: “They Know How Journalism Works! They’re Just Against It!”
Pareene writes, “These people on this ascendant right don’t just have different ideas about the role and function of journalism; they don’t just believe journalists are biased liberals; they don’t just believe the media is too hostile to conservatives; they are hostile to the concept of journalism itself. As in, uncovering things dutifully and carefully and attempting to convey your findings to the public honestly.”
He adds, “This new right fundamentally doesn’t want ‘newsgathering’ to happen. They want a chaotic information stream of unverifiable bulls— and context collapse and propaganda.”
As far as Lorenz? She did her job — well and responsibly.
Lorenz tweeted this on Wednesday afternoon: “The amount of insane stuff that’s happened over the past 24hrs has been unbelievable. It’s eye opening to see how sophisticated & vicious these coordinated attacks have become. I’m grateful to work at a company that takes these issues seriously and is supportive. I’m doing great!”
One day after The New York Times named Joe Kahn as successor to Dean Baquet as executive editor, Kahn announced his leadership team, which includes two editors who also were likely considered as potential replacements for Baquet.
Marc Lacey and Carolyn Ryan will serve as managing editors, the No. 2 role in the newsroom, starting on June 14.
Lacey, 56, is currently the assistant managing editor, while Ryan, 57, is a deputy managing editor. As The New York Times’ Michael M. Grynbaum noted, Ryan oversaw “the hiring of more than 400 journalists, and she helped lead its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. Before that, she was the paper’s political editor, Washington bureau chief and metropolitan editor.”
In a memo to staff, Kahn wrote, “Both will share with me responsibility for overseeing the breadth of our coverage and news operation … (as well as) advancing major priorities like independence and trust, digital excellence and cultural transformation.”
Kahn also announced four deputy managing editors. Rebecca Blumenstein will lead recruitment and operations. Sam Dolnick will be in charge of the Times’ audio, video, email newsletters and televised documentaries. Steve Duenes and Clifford Levy will remain deputy managing editors, with Duenes running visual and multimedia journalism and Levy leading ethics and training for editors.
Grynbaum wrote, “Matthew Purdy, currently a deputy managing editor and a force behind many of The Times’s major investigative projects, will take on a senior, as-yet-undefined role.”
Meanwhile, the industry is still buzzing over the news that Kahn will take over for Baquet.
Writing for Politico, John F. Harris wrote, “How in this entrepreneurial age — a moment of radical disruption in the news business — did the Times settle on such a profoundly traditional choice?”
Then again, Harris went on to write, “Nearly every modern newsroom — the Times and Post emphatically among them — have been buffeted in recent years by ideological and cultural fissures. Usually, this turmoil has had a generational dimension, pitting older traditionalists against younger employees who believe the profession’s old conventions about objectivity and neutrality are an obstacle to illuminating the true moral stakes on questions of racial or sexual equality. Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger, who selected Kahn, likely is hoping that a leader with a low-key temperament can tamp down conflict.”
Meanwhile, if you want to know more about Kahn, New York magazine’s Shawn McCreesh has this in-depth profile: “Meet Joe Kahn, the Enigma Who Will Run The New York Times.”
During its earnings call Tuesday, Netflix shockingly reported that it had lost 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter of 2022 — the first time it has shed viewers in a decade. This after it thought it was going to add 2 million subscribers. It gets worse. Netflix expects to lose another 2 million in the second quarter and Netflix shares dropped 35% Wednesday morning.
As CNN’s Frank Pallotta wrote, “Simply put, Netflix’s terrible 2022 has now become disastrous.”
Netflix still has 221.6 million subscribers around the world, but the earnings call revealed a troubling trend.
There are various theories as to what happened. Such as people sharing their Netflix passwords with family and friends and the economy forcing some to trim their personal budgets. In addition, by pulling out of Russia because of Russia’s war with Ukraine, Netflix lost 700,000 subscribers.
Still, even with all that, to lose 200,000 subscribers when you expected to gain 2 million is a cause for concern.
Recode’s Peter Kafka wrote, “Netflix has spent the past decade leading the world in streaming. Now everyone is catching up.”
Kafka went on to write, “Netflix spent years telling investors that the fact that Disney, Hulu, HBO, Paramount, Peacock, Apple, Amazon, and many more competitors were following in its footsteps — and, crucially, taking stuff that used to run on Netflix and running it on their own services — was fine. Now, the company says, it turns out that people are watching some of those other streaming services, too.”
So is there anything Netflix can do to reverse — or at least slow — this trend?
One of the appealing things about Netflix for its customers is that there are no commercials. But Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said in a post-earnings call on Tuesday that Netflix might consider a lower-priced subscription package that would include some advertising.
Kafka wrote, “The best-case scenario is this one: Even with this quarter’s loss and next quarter’s loss, it will have 219 million subscribers — way more than any of its competitors. And Netflix is no longer burning a gazillion dollars a year and asking Wall Street to lend it more, so it won’t have problems financing new shows and movies to show its remaining customers. But if it wants to find new subscribers — and keep the ones it has — it will have to find shows they really, really like. And that is going to be harder than ever.”
On assignment in Ukraine
NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is back this Friday with another “On Assignment with Richard Engel.” This time, Engel features on-the-ground reporting from Ukraine. The episode — called “Ukraine: Freedom or Death” — will air at 10 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC and will stream on Peacock.
Among Engel’s reporting is meeting the Bobkov family, who hid in a bunker in Kharkiv for 27 days. Engel also meets and hears the stories of survivors of various atrocities committed by the Russian forces.
Engel also talks with American-Ukrainian Miro Popovych, an Afghanistan vet who is now fighting in Kyiv, the city where he was born. He tells Engel: “We are willing to die. … We are going to do everything.”
There’s also the tear-jerking story of Andriana Susak, a mother who joined the 2014 Maidan Revolution in Kyiv and served as an assault trooper on the frontline. As she stayed behind to fight, she recounts sending her 6-year-old son to safety in West Ukraine and describes feeling as though it might be the last time she ever saw him.
And there is much more.
The latest notable journalism from Russia-Ukraine
- From Bloomberg News: “Kremlin Insiders Alarmed Over Growing Toll of Putin’s War in Ukraine.”
- The New York Times’ Michael Schwirtz with “A town in Ukraine’s east finds itself squarely in the path of Russia’s advance.”
- Grim video from The Washington Post as explained by Post journalist Louisa Loveluck: “Post reporters spent 7 days in Bucha. They saw more than 200 bodies.”
- USA Today columnist Jill Lawrence with “Zelenskyy’s path from comedy to tragedy: Can he save Ukraine from Russian war invaders?”
- The Washington Post’s Robert Klemko and Serhii Korolchuk with “One body at a time, a Kyiv coroner documents Ukraine’s death toll.”
A table for two
President Joe Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden will attend this year’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington on April 30.
CBS News Radio’s Steven Portnoy, who is president of the WHCA, tweeted, “Every president since Calvin Coolidge has attended the WHCA’s annual dinner … with just one exception. The tradition continues next Saturday night.”
That one exception: Donald Trump, who didn’t attend once during his four years as president.
The WHCA dinner was canceled in 2020 and 2021 because of COVID-19. There was a question about this year’s dinner, and whether the Bidens would attend after a recent outbreak of COVID-19 cases following the Gridiron Club dinner, which also features some of Washington’s movers and shakers.
- Normally, you need a paid subscription to read The Washington Post’s website. But all stories are free now until Friday night at midnight.
- The end of the federal mask for public transportation has many folks asking questions. The Washington Post’s Fenit Nirappil, Katie Shepherd, Salvador Rizzo and Dan Diamond address the biggest one of all in “Do I still need to wear a mask? A guide to help you decide.”
- And while we’re on the topic of COVID-19, The Washington Post’s Joel Achenbach and Carolyn Y. Johnson with “Boost now? Boost later? Tricky calculation for a 4th coronavirus shot.”
- Journalism making an impact. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a $150 million investment to replace old water and sewer system infrastructure in Mount Vernon, New York. The announcement came after a CBS Reports docu-series called “Wasteland,” which is available on Paramount+, exposed Mount Vernon’s sewage problems. CBS News’ Tori B. Powell has more.
- Real or not? Piers Morgan tweeted out a teaser of an interview in which Donald Trump apparently stops early and walks off.
- For The New York Times, Corina Knoll (with photographs by Justin J Wee) with a heartbreaking story: “A Daring Dream and a Lifelong Love, Dashed in a Moment of Violence.”
- Writing for The Telegraph, former tennis great Pam Shriver with “I was in an inappropriate relationship with my 50-year-old coach at 17.”
- Cool stuff from Philadelphia in National Geographic. It’s Johnna Rizzo with “This city has more than 4,000 murals—and counting.”
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More resources for journalists
- Subscribe to Poynter’s new Friday newsletter, Open Tabs with Poynter managing editor Ren LaForme, and get behind-the-scenes stories only available to subscribers.
- Time for a new job? Your future employer is looking for you on The Media Job Board — Powered by Poynter, Editor & Publisher and America’s Newspapers. Search now!
- A Journalist’s Guide to Covering Jails – St. Petersburg (In-person Seminar) July 2-3 — Apply by April 22.
- Will Work for Impact: Fundamentals of Investigative Journalism (Seminar) — April 27-May 18. Enroll now.
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