Industry News Weekly Digest

Weekly Digest: Ozy Media Scandal, More News From Russia

Welcome to The Fix’s weekly news digest! Every week, we bring you important news stories from the world of media – and try to put them in a wider context.

Perhaps the most noticeable media scandal in Global North this week has unfolded around Ozy Media, an American digital media company that had made headlines for reportedly becoming profitable earlier this year. 

On Sunday, New York Times’ Ben Smith published a column revealing that the company has often puffed up its results and inflated the numbers, such as those of its newsletter subscribers. Most damningly, though, Ozy Media’s COO had impersonated a YouTube executive on a call with potential investors in early 2021 – thus potentially committing a crime, not to mention a serious ethics offence; the company’s board didn’t take any action afterwards. 

So far, Smith’s report led to some high-profile resignations at the company, particularly by board chair Marc Lasry. The company has lost a key investor and seen its TV program and festival canceled.

More broadly, the story has brought some reflection on the approach to measuring media metrics. As Digiday’s chief editor Brian Morrissey notes, the Ozy Media case is emblematic of a broader “high tolerance for bullshit” issue in the media. 

Russian authorities continue a wide-ranging media crackdown, with two prominent independent media projects and 22 people labeled as “foreign agents.” This designation makes it considerably higher for the media to operate, such as adding arduous reporting requirements and creating security risks.

The projects targeted are OVD-Info, a human rights watchdog, and Mediazona, an outlet focusing on the Russian penal system. Mediazona’s publisher Pyotr Verzilov and editor-in-chief Sergey Smirnov are among the individuals added to the list.

Another prominent journalist Roman Dobrokhotov, chief editor of investigative outlet The Insider, has come under a criminal investigation for allegedly “illegally” crossing the border when he had left Russia this summer. The authorities raided the homes of his family members on Thursday; Dobrokhotov itself denounced the charges as an attempt to silence his reporting.

More from The Fix: Meduza counters Russian authorities’ “foreign agent” attack with appeal to readers 

Earlier this fall, The Fix wrote about the Australian court having ruled that media organisations are liable for user comments posted on their Facebook pages – and the potential impact this might have.

This week, we saw some of the anticipations materialise as CNN disabled its Facebook page in Australia, becoming the first major media organisation to do so. CNN blamed the platform, claiming it had no choice after Facebook hadn’t provided a possibility to turn off comments in the country.

Obviously, CNN is an American news organisation that isn’t critical to the Australian news landscape (and disabling a Facebook page still leaves a lot of other distribution channels). However, this might be “the first domino to fall,” as an expert quoted by Reuters aptly notes

More from The Fix: Weekly Digest: Russian Misinformation in Germany, Important Vacancy at BBC

Photo by Cameron Venti on Unsplash


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