The Daily Beast Outlives Tina Brown, Newsweek

After a week of uncertainty, The Daily Beast announced yesterday they will live on after the departure of creator/editor-in-chief Tina Brown.

The website, introduced in 2008, won the Webby for best news site twice and garners 15 million unique visitors per month.

The Daily Beast notably took over Newsweek after diminishing subscription and advertising revenues made printing and distribution expenses hard to afford, ending 80 years of print publication. Barry Diller, executive of IAC (owner of Daily Beast), later called the purchase “stupid” and a “mistake.”

Why was it a stupid mistake? In 2010, The Washington Post Company sold Newsweek to Sidney Harman for one dollar, plus the liability of $47 million. Then in 2010, Harman merged Newsweek with The Daily Beast, each sharing 50% ownership. Harman made payments toward the debt, without worrying about profit. Then he died in 2011, and Diller wasn’t as willing to resuscitate the unprofitable magazine. He sold Newsweek to IBT Media, the publisher of the digital-only International Business Times.

Although they produce their own content, The Daily Beast is well-known for their curation section known as The Cheat Sheet, a list of 10-20 of the biggest stories from all news outlets. This simple way of keeping up with current affairs, which is updated throughout the day, includes a headline, brief summary (written by a Beast staffer), and a link to the full story (from whatever site broke it, typically). In an information overload state of news content, The Cheat Sheet is a convenient spot to keep up with the most relevant news at the moment, and one good reason the Daily Beast will shine on.

The Amendment to the First Amendment

In a 13-5 vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee sent the Free Flow of Information Act, a federal “media shield law,” to the Senate floor. The bill’s objective is to protect journalists from being mandated to identify confidential sources or disclosing news-gathering details, except in certain instances when national security or an individual’s safety is clearly at risk.

As reported by USA Today, the Obama administration asked NY Senator Charles Schumer to introduce the bill, after criticism of the administration’s surveillance of Associated Press and Fox News journalists.

This proposal is a great enhancement to freedom of the press. It gives those with important, private information the confidence to share it anonymously for the public good without fear of harsh consequences.

“This legislation ensures that the tough investigative journalism that holds government accountable will be able to thrive,” Senator Schumer said.

CA Senator Dianne Feinstein was also involved in the process, specifically introducing an amendment that defines a journalist as someone who gathers news for “an entity or service that disseminates news and information.”

This distinction excludes Wikileaks or any other such organization that simply leaks confidential documents without authorization, as well as independent bloggers; to the chagrin of some, including Drudge Report’s Matt Drudge, who tweeted “Comments from Sen. Feinstein yesterday on who’s a reporter were disgusting. 17-year old ‘blogger’ is as important as Wolf Blitzer. Fascist!”

Though perhaps not perfect, the bill is a valuable protection of journalistic integrity.  It allows journalists to do their job without fear of being jailed and encourages whistleblowers to expose wrongdoing, also without fear of being jailed. The First Amendment gives us freedom of the press, the Free Flow of Information Act gives us freedom of subpoenas.

The Whistleblower on Huffington Post

In an open letter to Arianna Huffington, freelancer and social media enthusiast Alex Mizrahi voices the frustrations of @HuffingtonPost followers on Twitter. “To compare it to high school journalism would be an insult to high school journalists,” wrote Mizrahi.

Mizrahi created @HuffPoSpoilers as a means of counteracting @HuffingtonPost‘s “click-bait” tactic of social media. When @HuffingtonPost tweets a teaser headline with a link to the full story, @HuffPoSpoilers retweets it with the omitted information, to humorous and informative effect.

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Teaser headlines is not the only flaw Mizrahi points out about @HuffingtonPost. They overuse the same words (see below), give strong focus to gossip and ultra-soft news, and repost the same “news” multiple times.

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The Beneficial Controversy

In mid-July, when Rolling Stone unveiled their latest cover that featured the Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar “Jahar” Tsarnaev, the magazine came under heavy fire – before anyone was able to read the story.

The choice to put him on the cover, many argued, glorified the terror suspect and portrayed him as a celebrity. The fierce media backlash led several stores to boycott the issue.

However, despite the seemingly universal disdain, Adweek reports that traffic to the magazine’s website hit a high the week the article was posted. From July 17, the day the story was posted, to July 21, 1.5 million unique U.S. visitors went to the website, a 41 percent increase from the previous week, according to comScore. The payoff for Rolling Stone, nevertheless, will be minimal, as the article was available at no charge and the boost wasn’t anticipated (in which case more advertising could have been sold.)

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev boston bomber

In the days that followed the tragedy at the Boston marathon, while the manhunt for the Tsarnaevs was underway, the consensus seemed to be that the best case scenario was to catch them alive. We wanted answers.

Our hopes were half met. The younger brother was captured alive, though badly wounded. We would have to wait to get our answers.

But in the journalism world, getting a story first is a high priority. In this regard, Rolling Stone and the article’s author Janet Reitman should be praised for giving the public the first investigative report into the life of Jahar.

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