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Monday, November 16
by The Fix Team

Holding the media to account – US elections, Macron, #MeToo

Experts had a lot of (rather patronising) advice for the media in the weeks before, and then after, the US presidential election. Most had to do with not buying into, or amplifying, the baseless messages of vote fraud that many feared the Trump campaign would put out (and then did).

News outlets ended up, by and large, doing a pretty decent job of handling attempts to manipulate the truth. It’s unclear if the scolding/schooling had much to do with it. More likely, four years of Trump animosity towards the press turned even former friends at Fox against him.

Media are a popular scapegoat for people on different sides of the spectrum, be it for the reality they cover or how they cover it. 

A recent example of the latter involved reporting on France’s crackdown on Islamist groups following several terrorist acts, including the decapitation of a history and geography teacher, as well as daylight assassinations in the streets of Nice. 

French President Emmanuel Macron himself led the charge in criticizing “Anglo-Saxon” media, calling Ben Smith from New York Times and penning a letter to The Financial Times (which removed it’s own, earlier article on the topic citing factual errors).

Macron was right on the factual errors in the outlets’ reporting, and the broader issue of media interpreting events through the prism of their own culture wars (especially US identity politics). 

But that doesn’t really help – a moment of reflection in Ben’s column was followed by defensiveness, accusations of Trumpism and suggestions that Macron was deflecting from a weak economy and challenges to his presidency.

Generally speaking, attempts to influence coverage from outside are doomed to backfire. That’s the feature, not the bug, of editorial independence. But can constructive feedback be delivered at all? Are media organizations capable of self-reflection? 

The experience of Denmark’s #MeToo wave – which started from the media sector (and a few years later than in most countries) – is an interesting case in point. Much of the coverage was focused on experiences and self-examination, starting from “marginal” voices within newsrooms (like interns and freelancers) and ending on the executives themselves. The discussion about how to best carry out such a national conversation is still ongoing.

Sadly, such stories are rare and often succeed despite, not because, of how the industry works. It is hard to conceive where change will come from. We can hope a new generation, more confident, diverse and open to challenges, will lead and engage in dialogue about the narratives they are missing or distorting (inadvertently or not). 

Until then, question yourselves about what you are missing (as we will), and have a great week!

From The Fix
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Media have been a major target of state violence and intimidation since protests started this August

How the Danish media’s #MeToo wave sparked a country-wide debate
Alicja Peszkowska
Politiken’s Ida Herskind reveals how the Nordic country took a different path to discussing harassment and discrimination

Working with Instagram: insights from The Economist’s head of audience
Nataliia Kindrativ
The platform is a growing source of news for younger readers – and a place for media to build their brand

What we are following 
Numerous media either launched or revamped their membership programs this year as a response to falling ad revenues. What platforms are out there to manage these new members? Here is a handy list from Poynter that looks at pros and cons of six different membershing management platforms. 
The secret to succeeding in reader-revenue is having a data-driven approach. Slovak digital native Dennik N (60k+ paying subscribers), and legacy UK paper The Independent explain how they work with data to get the most out of their paywalls. 
Covid-19 put an end to the dreams of profitability of many media companies. One example is American media Quartz, which had to lay off around 40% of its staff and close four of its offices. The CEO Zach Seward carried out a management buyout and bought the company from its Japanese owner Uzabase. Press Gazette explains the context behind the events.
Industry News
  • With the COVID-19 vaccine closer in sight, social media platforms are preparing for a new wave of vaccine misinformation.
  • The BBC has been formally cleared of illegal pay discrimination allegations. The women bringing forward the allegations disagree and plan to keep fighting.
  • It seems like Spotify is on course to a logical culmination of its expansion in podcasting – creating a paid subscription service specifically for podcasts.
  • Recent research shows that media publishers are ramping up subscription marketing and advertising their products more aggressively.
  • The UK government has announced plans to ban all online advertisement of junk food.  An unprecedented and “world-leading” proposal, it brought mixed reactions.
Read the full digest on our website. 
Opportunities and deadlines

Reinventing Media Business: International Ander Forum 2020. Annual forum for media professionals on the future of media business. Last year, our team was covering the forum from Riga and we can officially confirm that this event is worth attending. This year the conference is free for all and will be hosted online, so hurry up before registration is closed. 
More info:
When: November 25 , 2020

Audio Recess from PRX and the Google Podcasts creator program. A free online event for podcast and audio creators to create connections and network. Apart from planned events, every participant will be able to start their own session on any topic and discuss it with others. Sounds cool!
More info:
When: November 21, 2020
Trust in Journalism Conference 2020. The conference will include speakers from The Economist, Bellingcat, The Guardian, and other media. Topics will include ethics, race and harassment, the potential of public interest news, and perspectives for online journalism. Participants can register for one separate day, or all three days.
More info:  
November 23-25, 2020
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