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Weekly Digest: Holding the Media to Account

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.

A feud between the president and the media – that is, between French president Emmanuel Macron and “the Anglo-American media” – developed in the recent weeks.

In October, France suffered several Islamist terrorist attacks, including the beheading of a school teacher and the church attack in Nice. After the country cracked down on Islamist groups, some major media from the Anglosphere criticised Macron’s approach as too harsh.

Macron responded aggressively to this criticism, blaming “the Anglo-American press” for failing to understand France’s long-standing tradition of secularism and for legitimizing violence. Both The Financial Times and Politico Europe took the unusual step of taking down their opinion pieces after Macron’s criticism.

As The New York Times media columnist Ben Smith, who spoke with Macron, puts it, this situation has evolved into “the intensifying conflict between the French elite and the English-language media.”

More from The Fix: In the latest edition of The Fix’s newsletter, we reflect on what this story means for holding the media to account. Read this story here and subscribe to the newsletter

Britain’s largest newspaper, the Daily Mail, reached a settlement with Priyamvada Gopal, a British academic falsely accused by the publication of inciting racial violence.

In June, Dr. Priyamvada Gopal tweeted “White lives don’t matter. As white lives.” She argued against the concept of whiteness and for the inherent value of any life (without actually attacking white people).

The Daily Mail’s columnist pulled the “White lives don’t matter” quote out of context and attributed to Gopal some fake quotes promoted by right-wing activists on Twitter, according to The Guardian. The newspaper has now published a correction and agreed to pay a £25,000 settlement. 

Reporters Without Borders announced the list of twelve journalists and publications nominated for the 2020 RSF Press Freedom Awards.

The list includes seven journalists (including four female journalists) and five outlets or media organisations. Two of them are from Central and Eastern Europe. Elena Milashina, an investigative reporter for Russian Novaya Gazeta, was nominated for the prize for courage thanks to her reporting on Chechnya. Péter Uj, one of Hungary’s most prominent journalists and the co-founder of Index.hu, is a candidate for the independence prize.

Final results will be announced on December 8th.

In the US, the number of coronavirus cases has never been so high, while attention to COVID-19 has never been so low, reports Axios.

The average number of cases is considerably higher than ever before, but the number of social media interactions on the topic is more than 10 times lower than at the peak. The most likely reason is that COVID-19 has somewhat faded into the background, and it’s not as destructive to people’s daily lives as it used to be in the spring.

Media focus on the election in recent months also plays its role. While, according to Axios, the media has not started to produce less content on COVID-19 in general, the main emphasis in a lot of cases has been on the election.

More from The Fix: Weekly Digest: News Fatigue 

This week, we’ve seen some interesting stories from social media giants:

  • Twitter has launched its analogue of Snapchat and Instagram stories, or “fleets,” as they are officially called, as well as audio spaces. Tech reporters are worried about moderation challenges brought about by new formats.
  • Instagram is “cautiously” considering paying publishers. The program is moving more slowly than anticipated because the company has yet to figure out challenges such as how to distribute revenue. 
  • And, Digiday reports that the heated rivalry between Instagram and TikTok for creators has cooled in recent months as Instagram’s competitor to TikTok “is still finding its feet,” and creators are finding ways to work with both platforms.
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