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.
Last week, we reported on the declining image and reputation of the media in the UK. This week, the Pew Research Center published a big report on the views of the news media in the United States — and it shows “a complicated relationship”.
The research indicates that less than 50% of Americans have confidence in news media. Also, the report shows that “Americans largely see news organizations as opaque, particularly when it comes to finances”, which is perhaps one of the key reasons that explains the general lack of trust.
A possible solution: building closer relationships with readers. 55% of Americans think it’s important to have a personal connection to their news sources, and those who think they have it tend to trust the media more, but the majority of respondents don’t feel they have such a connection.
In the UK, skepticism is also a major problem for the country’s public service broadcaster. The BBC has been facing criticism from the right, particularly by the current conservative government, for its alleged left-wing bias. This distrust might prove an existential problem for the world’s largest broadcaster.
To try and fight off the criticism, BBC’s new director general Tim Davie has publicly announced this week that “the BBC [has] to focus on impartiality to address accusations of bias from politicians”. In particular, the company’s leadership will restrict staff posting their political and ideological views on social media.
Telegram keeps playing a crucial role in providing access to independent information amid anti-government protests in Belarus. As a result the messenger is becoming a go-to platform for traditional independent media, showing another angle in the story of independent media struggles in the region.
According to different reports, the country’s Ministry of Information is blocking dozens of news outlets, including independent Belarusian sites and foreign outlets reporting on Belarus — for example, “Radio Liberty”. In turn, these are flocking to Telegram, which has already become an essential platform for protest “startups” such as Nexta.
According to local media analyst Sergey Yakupov, Belarusian newsrooms are quickly rebuilding their work processes and ways of content distribution so they can fit to Telegram.
Social media giants are preparing for the presidential election in the US. With the election looming in around two months, Facebook and Twitter are under growing scrutiny to avoid the controversies of the 2016 election. This week, both companies have unveiled moves to fight disinformation and potential election interference.
On Tuesday, Twitter announced it would add more context to its “Trending” section, which is often used to amplify misinformation — for example, by Russian trolls and American white nationalists, according to The New York Times.
However, The Times reports that this move is “only a half-measure unlikely to address the root problem” because Twitter doesn’t have “the financial resources to perform moderation and curation at a meaningful level”. Analysts and journalists are calling on the social network to disable the feature during the election period or remove it altogether.
In the meanwhile, Facebook has announced restrictions on advertisement in the immediate period before the election, efforts to fight voter suppression, and a promise to counter “attempts at claiming false victories by redirecting users to accurate information on the results”. The latter measure seems to be a reaction to Donald Trump’s unwillingness to commit to conceding defeat should he lose the election to Joe Biden.
In recent years, we’ve seen the growing popularity of news digests in the forms of email newsletters, daily podcasts, or smartphone apps. This week, the list of mediums for daily digests picking essential news was expanded to SMS. Company called “The New Paper” launched the first text message-based news digest.
The founders argue that SMS is an effective medium thanks to its extremely high open rate, unlike that of email — 98% versus 20%. The digest is subscription-based; to get a text with the latest news each morning, you would have to pay $5 per month. Beta-testing has brought the service 7,000 paid subscribers bringing around $400,000 a year in recurring payments.