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.
Protests against racial inequality in the US and across the West kept dominating the news — and causing the journalistic community on both sides of the Atlantic to reconsider its record on racial issues.
Some have been forced to apologise — or resign — over past racially insensitive deeds. Anna Wintour, the legendary editor-in-chief of US Vogue, apologized in an internal memo for “publishing images or stories that have been hurtful or intolerant” and for insufficient diversity during her tenure. Adam Rapoport, the editor-in-chief of US food magazine, Bon Appétit, resigned after a photo of him wearing “brownface” spread on social media.
In the meanwhile, platforms are turning their attention to content which was considered appropriate at the time of creation but may now look offensive. John Ridley, scriptwriter of the movie “12 Years a Slave”, published an op-ed calling on HBO Max to remove the famous film “Gone With the Wind” from its lineup — and HBO agreed, announcing it would temporarily drop the film.
“Gone With the Wind”, one of the most famous films in history, is accused of portraying “passive, compliant slaves, and sentimentalised depiction of the [American] south before the civil war”
Another discussion that dominated this week centers around the balance between freedom of speech and racial intolerance.
Last week The New York Times published an op-ed by Republican Senator Tom Cotton under the headline “Send In the Troops”. Cotton, a conservative politician and Trump ally, urged to use the military to deal with protests. The article brought unprecedented backlash from the paper’s own staff, particularly its people of color, who argued that the piece “puts black NYTimes staff in danger”. This week James Bennet, the editor of The Times’ op-ed section and now-former potential candidate for executive editorship, resigned.
The club of top editors out of the job was also joined by Stan Wischnowski, executive editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer. He resigned after the paper ran a front-page article under the headline “Buildings Matter, too”. It’s a reference to the protesters’ slogan “Black Lives Matter” — a reference widely considered insensitive and offensive, particularly by the Inquirer’s own staff.
In April, Amazon cut commission rates for affiliate sales. Many media organizations rely on these commissions for a noticeable portion of their funding, and the move caused fears among the media community, whose business has not been in particularly good shape this spring.
This week, Digiday reported that “major publishers who do business with Amazon seem to be spared from the cuts”. CNN, The New York Times, Vox Media and other big media organizations have unique deals with Amazon, and they have not been impacted by the slashed commissions.
While good news, this fact perhaps further exacerbates inequality between large and small media organizations, the latter having suffered the consequences of Amazon’s decision. Meanwhile, as Digiday puts it, “publishers live in fear of [future] commission cuts”, even though they are “spared for now”.
The BBC announced its new director general. Tim Davie, a longtime executive at the BBC, will replace the outgoing Tony Hall. Davie served as a Chief Executive of BBC Worldwide since 2013 and has a background in marketing.
The new director general will have to solve the long-term problems faced by the British Broadcasting Corporation, particularly the questions around its funding model, which now predominantly relies on license fees. One of Davie’s most important tasks will be to “help work out how to make the £125m savings Lord Hall has said the BBC needs to find this year”.
Let’s end on a bright note. Telegraph Media Group has decided to pay back government assistance which it received as part of the country’s job retention plan. The reason: the company has remained profitable throughout the first months of the coronacrisis.
According to Press Gazette, The Telegraph saw significant growth in the number of new subscribers and has recently surpassed the 500,000 milestone. The publication took hits, but the losses were not as bad as expected.