Welcome to The Fix’s weekly news digest! Every Friday, we bring you five important news stories from the world of media — and try to put them in a wider context.
Sunday May 3rd was World Press Freedom Day. It was marked by the UN and politicians in numerous countries, but comes at a time of profound crisis for the world’s media.
Two weeks ago, The Fix reported on the shifts in press freedom across Europe according to the World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders. While some countries have seen a noticeable improvement, there is a considerable decline in press freedom and Central and Eastern Europe, especially in Poland.
The pandemic has made things worse. In the Philippines, the biggest broadcaster was “forced off the air” in what many observers view as the government’s move to crack down on free press.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International published an overview of the media landscape in Egypt, arguing that free journalism has become all but impossible in the country. “The Egyptian authorities have made it very clear that anyone who challenges the official narrative will be severely punished,” said the organisation’s representative. The NGO also registered a worrying trend in Bangladesh in the wake of the pandemic, among others.
This week was big for podcasting. For the first time in its history, one of the most prestigious awards in journalism — the Pulitzer Prize — distinguished audio reporting in a separate category. The prize went to “This American Life” for the episode “The Out Crowd” devoted to the Trump administration’s asylum policy. NPR’s “White Lies” and Radiotopia’s “Ear Hustle” came close.
Podcasting platforms are stepping up their game. Google Podcasts, one of the most popular podcasting platforms, introduced new tools for podcast creators, notably in terms of analytics.
At the same time, Spotify is testing video podcasts. “Video podcasts” might sound like an oxymoron, but it is certainly something interesting to play with for the platform, which has moved aggressively into the podcasting industry recently.
More on the Pulitzer Prizes. They were announced on May 4th — and, unsurprisingly, for the first time in history the ceremony was held online.
The international reporting prize was awarded to The New York Times for a series of stories on Putin’s regime. Other finalists: The New York Times on Chinese oppressions against Uighur Muslims and Reuters on the protests in Hong Kong.
Facebook announced members of its new oversight body, a board devoted to free speech. It will independently review complex cases of content moderation, particularly based on user complaints.
The first 20 members include a former high-profile politician, a Nobel Prize laureate, and a former chief editor of The Guardian. Eventually, the board will comprise 40 people. Will it help Facebook weather some of the storms of criticism regarding its content moderation decisions? Let’s watch and see.
Podcast “The Daily” has been a jewel in the crown for The New York Times. Now, the publication aims to replicate some of the successful practices in a new medium, argues Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton.
That is why NYT’s most popular email newsletter has received an official “host and anchor”. This role will be played by David Leonhardt. It is an interesting example of the importance of personal connection for successful journalism, “the person-ness”, as Benton puts it.