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.
The BBC will stop putting out an evening edition of Newsround, its popular news show for young viewers. The afternoon program has been around since 1972 – for almost half a century! The cause is not the pandemic but rather changes in media consumption. A couple of decades ago, children used to return home from school at teatime and turn on the TV; not anymore.
Newsround overall is not canceled, though. As The Guardian reports, “BBC will focus on producing a single morning television edition of Newsround aimed at schools, where it is often used by teachers in classrooms,” and leverage the internet more.
Tech disrupted traditional media consumption, but it also provides unheard-of opportunities for news publishers. This week, podcast editor Descript announced its paid product version will be able to create an AI-powered voice double. The feature will allow to add words and phrases absent in the original recording.
As The Verge puts it, “it’s a bit like creating an audio-only deepfake, except you’re doing it to fix your own mistakes instead of trying to impersonate someone else”. A great prospect indeed, although expect it to be used for evil, too.
Western media are being impacted by not just technology but also cultural shifts, particularly in terms of increased attention to racial issues. The Washington Post has instituted the role of managing editor for diversity and inclusion. This senior position will be among four deputy roles to the post of executive editor. Krissah Thompson, who was appointed to the newly created position, made history as the first Black female managing editor in The Post’s history.
Thompson’s appointment highlights the fact that American newsrooms are less diverse in terms of race and gender than the country overall. As The Washington Post itself puts it, “71 percent of its newsroom staff is white, including 79 percent of top managers”, which is more than the proportion of White Americans overall (and probably considerably more than the percentage of White Americans among The Post’s core audience).
People are still avoiding coronavirus news. Two months ago, we wrote that UK readers were growing tired of coronavirus news and were increasingly avoiding it. In May, the poll conducted by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) in the UK showed that the proportion of people who often or always avoid news had reached 22%.
Since then, the situation has not changed significantly. The poll in mid-July commissioned by the RISJ shows the same 22% figure. The most popular rationale people give for avoiding coronavirus news is that it makes them sad — 56% of COVID-19 news avoiders do so because “it [the news] has a bad effect on my mood”. Three other big reasons are news overload, lack of trust in the news, and the news’ uselessness.
In the recent several months, Russia has witnessed a decline of one of its few remaining independent business publications, Vedomosti. As we wrote in May, Kremlin and state-controlled oil giant Rosneft were going after Vedomosti’s independence.
Numerous journalists, including senior editors, have left the company since the new leadership has allegedly started to infringe on editorial independence. Now, Vedomosti’s “alumni” are launching a new publication called VTimes. “A number of experts and columnists who previously wrote for Vedomosti have confirmed their cooperation with VTimes,” reports The Moscow Times.