Year-End Review: Top Media Stories for 2018

Top media stories 2018

Calling 2018 a tumultuous year in media would be putting it lightly.

“Enemy of the state” and “war on media” were phrases that came out this year. Then bits of this began to play out and, tragically, journalists lost their lives.

Jamal Khashoggi was a Saudi Arabian journalist and columnist with The Washington Post. He lost his life at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.

Also in October, a pipebomb was discovered at the New York offices of CNN.

In June, five staffers with the Annapolis Capital Gazette were gunned down at the newspaper.

This week, TIME named its 2018 Person of the Year: The Guardians — honoring journalists who have been murdered, indicted, or persecuted because of their work to serve their audience and produce news. (Miss the release? Here you go.)

TIME Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal discussed the reasoning behind the magazine’s 2018 selection: “From Russia to Riyadh to Silicon Valley, manipulation and abuse of truth is the common thread in so many of this year’s major headlines, an insidious and growing threat to freedom…. In its highest forms, influence — the measure that has for nine decades been the focus of TIME’s Person of the Year — derives from courage…. This year we are recognizing four journalists and one news organization who have paid a terrible price to seize the challenge of this moment…. They are representative of a broader fight by countless others around the world — as of Dec. 10, at least 52 journalists have been murdered in 2018—who risk all to tell the story of our time.”

Sexual misconduct in the newsroom

The #metoo movement reached nearly every facet of society. Even newsrooms.

This year, the Newseum helped lead the charge to turn things around, inviting more than 130 newsroom leaders, editors, reporters, and advocates to its Power Shift Summit in January.

The summit aimed to identify problems and generate solutions to the issue of sexual misconduct in the newsroom.

Early this year, the summit released a 21-page report: Ending Silence and Changing Systems in the Media Industry. The report identifies seven key principles. It also calls for the repair of systemic failures, including the ability to report misconduct without fear of retribution, harassment training for employees at all levels of an organization, and a human resources process free from apparent and inherent bias.

By this summer, the Newseum graduated its first class of workplace integrity trainers for newsrooms.

“It was an extraordinary experience to see these journalist leaders prepare to take this curriculum into their own workplaces,” said Jill Geisler, Freedom Forum Institute Fellow in Women’s Leadership.

The beta class came from a variety of news organizations, including CBS, The Washington Post, and Politico.

The training curriculum was designed to advance the Power Shift Project goal of workplace integrity, defined as environments free of harassment, discrimination and incivility — and filled with opportunity, especially for those who have traditionally been denied it, says a release.

… And layoffs

While 2017 saw some of the deepest cuts in newsroom staffs — with about one-third of large U.S. newspapers suffering layoffs — 2018 was another banner year for newsrooms releasing staff members.

Some of the newsrooms affected include:

  • The New York Times metro section braced for a shakeout in October. New York Post reported that “eighty-three percent of the Grey Lady’s metro desk — that is, 44 of the 53 editors and reporters who cover the city’s local news — are eligible for a wave of voluntary buyouts.”
  • Refinery29 announced plans to slash its workforce by 10 percent, or about 40 people, in October. New York Post reported the millennial women-focused site faces a revenue shortfall. “It’s the second major downsizing at the New York-based beauty and fashion site in less than a year,” New York Post reported. “While the company said it is still growing, it acknowledged it expects to miss its goals for the year.”
  • N.Y. Daily News had its staff cut in half this summer. Publisher Tronc, which also owns the Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun and Orlando Sentinel, acquired the Daily News last year for a dollar. The tabloid, founded in 1919, faced “significant financial challenges,” said the Tronc email to employees, USA Today reported. It continued: “As a result, the Daily News would see its editorial team reduced by 50 percent and coverage would refocused on “breaking news–especially in areas of crime, civil justice and public responsibility,” employees were told.”
  • Upworthy laid off 31 employees this summer. CNN reported in August: “More than 30 people were let go from the whole company, a spokesperson for Good Media Group confirmed to CNN. The company cited “an increasingly challenging media environment.”
  • Univision laid off 6 percent of its staff. Reports Deadline: “Numbers are not specified in the company-wide memo, but a source close to the company tells Deadline 6 percent of jobs will be eliminated. Before the reductions, the company had a workforce of about 4,000 people, meaning the ranks of the departed will number about 250.”
  • Eleven workers were laid off at the Aberdeen and Watertown newspapers in South Dakota. In July, U.S. News reported: “Dakota Media Group has laid off seven employees at the American News and the Farm Forum in Aberdeen and four workers at the Watertown Public Opinion.”
  • Vice Canada trimmed 23 jobs in another round of layoffs after ending its joint venture with Rogers Media Inc. in July. The Financial Post reported: “Twenty-three union positions were cut, Canadian Media Guild national president Kamala Rao said based on the union’s understanding on Wednesday afternoon. The CMG represents employees who work in editorial, production, marketing, design and administration.”
  • Casper Star-Tribune in Wyoming shut down its press; 20-plus employees were laid off. Newspaper publisher Dale Bohren told newsroom ​staff t​hat the paper will be printed at the printing press of the Adams Publishing Group in Cheyenne, K2 Radio reported.
  • Layoffs hit the business side of the San Antonio Express-News. San Antonio Current reported in July: “The newspaper announced the downsizing in a short story on its website, in which Publisher Susan Lynch Pape said she’s evaluating “how we align our resources with the current economic conditions.” The move comes after the paper trimmed 14 jobs in its newsroom in May.”
  • Layoffs hit Chicago Tribune newsroom. “The Chicago Tribune went through a new round of layoffs on Thursday,” NPR reported in March.  “The newspaper’s parent company Tronc has big plans to change what readers will see on the websites of its newspapers.”
  • Sacramento Bee lays off 23 staff members. The move targeted 15 editorial staffers and eight on the production and copy desk. Comstock’s magazine reported: “The move follows several rounds of reorganization by the Bee and its parent company McClatchy, as local and regional newspapers across the country cope with losses to circulation and revenue.”
  • The Village Voice ceases all publication. The newspaper has faced “increasingly harsh economic realities” in recent times, reported ABC News.

But the news wasn’t all bad

Whereas in 2017, the story was fake news. 2018 talked about fact checking.

In fact, the rapidly expanding fact-checking movement faced growing pains, according to The Washington Post.

We even talked about the new rules for fact-checking: building trust credibility with your audience. And, we covered some of the ABCs of digital journalism tools with a list of helpful apps and sites.

Among the organizations that continues to help lead the charge on fact-checking and accountability: American Press Institute. In November, API announced that Craig Newmark Philanthropies donated $200,000 to support research and convening on journalism ethics.

“With these funds, API seeks to help put into practice the growing body of ideas on how journalists can better provide accurate and truthful reporting amid today’s backdrop of distrust and media manipulation,” API said. This is Newmark’s fourth grant to API.

Finally, there was a Google News Initiative that was announced this spring to fight fake news and support journalism. Among the changes, Google search would highlight useful data journalism from news stories.

“It’s one of the steps Google News Initiative is taking to make data journalism more visible, with the field quickly growing across media,” The Verge reported. “Over half of all newsrooms now have dedicated data journalists, and this feature aims to pinpoint the most useful results from pages containing data tables.”

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Christine Cube is a senior audience relations manager with PR Newswire and freelance writer. Check out her latest on Beyond Bylines or follow her at @cpcube.

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