Newsweek Is A Microcosm Of The Media Landscape’s Demise

Newsweek Is A Microcosm Of The Media Landscape’s Demise

If anybody wants to look at the sad demise of the quality press, Newsweek provides a good example.
In a recent article for the Columbia Journalism Review by Daniel Tovrov, a journalist who between 2011 to 2012 was an editor of the world section at the International Business Times that owned Newsweek, he explains how good journalism has been pushed to the side in order to obtain online clicks.
He explained how the paper’s editor-in-chief, Nancy Cooper, had told staff that all Newsweek stories should contain original reporting, a unique angle, new information, something the readers cared about – and it needed to be news.
But while a minimum standard was a noble and maybe even a basic requirement, it was something that staff at Newsweek could not achieve given that they had to maintain quotas – and the memo was simply to say that while keeping the quotas – they needed to improve the quality.
They need to have stories ready by nine a.m. in the morning, and they needed to suggest headlines before the stories are written and then make sure the stories match the headline. All of this pressure of courses to meet the Google algorithm.
Newsweek that was founded in 1933 was obtained by the Washington Post Company in 1961, and remained in their capable hands until 2010 when it stopped selling a print publication in 2012 but relaunched in 2014.
When it went online it merged with The Daily Beast, and then was sold to IBT where the article’s author Tovrov had previously worked and it was later hived off as a separate company.
Over the last two years there have been constant editorial changes, with more experienced professional writers replaced by college graduates, according to Tovorv, who highlighted mistakes like Newsweek stories claiming Japanese citizens wanted to go to war with North Korea among others.
He wrote: “Newsweek has tended to hire young reporters, many of them fresh from college papers or internships. In the course of my reporting for this piece, at least ten senior staffers left or were let go, their salaries freed up while Newsweek continued to look for “News Fellows,” contract employees working forty-hour weeks for $15 per hour, the minimum wage in New York City.”
He noted that many IBT editors ended up at Newsweek, with IBT being a news aggregator aimed at producing “click bait at the expense of original, quality reporting.” What was needed was to generate articles of 400 words, even if they weren’t worthy of the number, padding it out with a relevant detail in order to meet their number.
It was at IBT that the idea of bonuses to support salaries came in whereby reporters who produced content that attracted 600,000 unique page views a month could attract bonuses of around US$2000.
However staff quickly found that without click bait, the bonuses were almost impossible to obtain.
Later they introduced rules saying that when journalists were on holiday, colleagues needed to cover for their produce more content to ensure the site statistics did not drop, and when New York bureau chief Jason Le Miere, who’d been at IBT, then Newsweek, for more than seven years, and Jen Glennon, deputy editor of entertainment and gaming, tried to defend their reporters, they were told they were lazy and resigned the following Monday.
It used to be that some of the desks at Newsweek such as the culture desk could have enterprise days where reporters were able to work on longer, more in-depth stories, but these days have now “long gone”. If they happen at all now, they are done on the reporters and initiative, and on their own time, and only after the clicks have been generated.
Investigative reporter  Michael Edison Hayden said: ““I did a lot of the work I wanted to do at Newsweek. But my wife talks about it as a very dark time in our life. I was very burned-out. My brain felt like mashed potatoes.”
Newsweek’s IBT owners have notched up an unenviable reputation for using illegal methods to avoid paying salaries, using foreign students in full-time work, subcontracting work for their Australian additions to writers in the Philippines, and moving to monthly salaries instead of biweekly which is illegal in the US.
Employees in the US are dependent on their salaries more frequently because the opportunity to save is so low, that most companies pay fortnightly, or even weekly, and monthly salaries are a luxury that few can afford. Freelancers sometimes have to wait up to 8 months, even though in New York not paying a freelancer within 30 days has been illegal since 2017.
In the print edition freelancers have been almost eradicated and replaced by inflammatory opinion writers like  Nigel Farage, Ben Shapiro, and Newt Gingrich, all of whom do get paid.
Editorial resources such as telephones are becoming scarcer after they were disconnected, and subscriptions to vital services like Getty images suspended. Newsweek even uses the free version of slack meaning older messages are constantly deleted, and office computer software is running on Windows 8.
There is also ongoing money-laundering case against Etienne Uzac, IBT’s founder and Newsweek’s former CEO, and seven alleged co-conspirators including Olivet University, an American college tied to The Community, a church once accused of being a cult.
Uzac and other IBT Media leaders, who are members of the church, invented an accountant named Karen Smith to overvalue Newsweek in order to obtain $35 million in business loans.
The money was supposed to be used to purchase computer servers, but was instead allegedly laundered through a fake equipment dealer and sent to Olivet. In order to pay off the original loans, more loans were taken out and the scheme was repeated in reverse, with money moving from Olivet to Newsweek and IBT Media.
Layoffs have continued, and digital reporters are now expected to proofreading and fact check their own work, with salaried staff dismissed but occasionally invited to work on freelance contracts.
Tovrov writes: “Newsweek has the name and the professional website it has built in years past, but it’s increasingly repurposing the work of others—whether the Washington Post, the outrage fiends at Fox News, or a dozen people on Twitter—and packaging it as its own. Plenty of news sites aggregate, and in many ways the story of Newsweek is the story of the industry. But whereas other aggregators—Mashable, BuzzFeed, Upworthy; the list goes on—built their sites around this kind of internet-first strategy, Newsweek is selling off its own legacy while hoping that readers won’t notice.
Dropshipping journalism – https://www.cjr.org/special_report/newsweek.php

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