This Business of Art Fix: Fake News From Sick People

Welcome to the 37th “This Business of Art / Media / Web Fix,” in which I share with you things I read that I loved relating to the work I do here — online media, business, entrepreneurship, women in tech, start-ups, journalism, publishing, management, queer visibility, and so forth.


Hello! It’s been a while — since September, actually. I stopped doing the Business of Art Fix ’cause I’m exhausted by the amount of time I’m required to spend doing business stuff instead of creative & editorial stuff and I just lost the energy to spend my limited creative/editorial time on writing about business. But so much has happened lately that I felt it imperative to CHECK IN with this topic today! So let’s dive in.


Trump v. Press

The U.S. Government has always been a somewhat shifty animal when it comes to the press, but Donald Trump’s long record of hostility towards and distrust of the media may turn out to be nothing short of apocalyptic for us all. The lawsuit-happy president-elect ominously declared last February that he planned to “open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money,” and that attitude hasn’t changed since the election. Donald Trump does love suing the media, but he has historically failed at the “winning lots of money” part. At his first press conference as president-elect, Trump referred to CNN and Buzzfeed as “fake news” and paid staffers to cheer for him at opportune moments.

Buzzfeed is also one of the many outlets, including Mother Jones, Univision and the Des Moines Register, who have been at some point blacklisted by Trump’s campaign. The Freedom of the Press Foundation has declared, “Donald J. Trump, now the official President elect, is an enemy of press freedom unlike any we have seen in modern presidential history.” Meanwhile, Politico argues that the Espionage Act is the bigger threat to freedom of the press under Trump, not libel laws.

At The US News & World Report, on the topic of how Trump could impact digital media specifically, Luis Hestres writes that, “Trump’s actions could result in weaker protections for our free press, less competition and higher prices for online consumers, certain forms of online censorship and a return to an intrusive online surveillance regime. The public must prepare to stand up to oppose these infringements on our rights.” Entrepreneur agrees that the online media world is in for a big shakeup.

Following last week’s press conference, a Russian journalist wrote an open letter to American Media on medium:

Congratulations, US media! You’ve just covered your first press conference of an authoritarian leader with a massive ego and a deep disdain for your trade and everything you hold dear. We in Russia have been doing it for 12 years now — with a short hiatus when our leader wasn’t technically our leader — so quite a few things during Donald Trump’s press conference rang a bell.

In Russia, ordinary citizens have been imprisoned for liking anti-Kremlin tweets, and 54 journalists have been killed since Putin rose to power. A Full Frontal with Samantha Bee episode went right into the heart of Russia’s journalism situation last year. Bee was told she’d have to “lick Putin’s ass big time” in order to broadcast her show from Russia. WIRED Magazine sent a photographer to Russia in 2014 to document Russia’s journalism industry and found that, “There’s no such thing as exclusive access to a politician or to a business. There’s no ‘behind the scenes. For the media, everything is very manufactured and controlled.”

“It is not freedom of the press when newspapers and others are allowed to say and write whatever they want even if it is completely false!” Donald Trump tweeted in August of 2016, despite regularly saying and writing whatever he wants even if it is completely false.

Now, Trump’s administration is considering moving the press corps out of the White House, and Kyle Pope’s open letter on the Columbia Journalism Review about this issue and many others is worth a read.

In today’s press conference, which’s happening right now, White House press secretary Josh Earnest has said that “Obama will… highlight his concerns about the restrictions on the media that the president-elect put in place during his campaign and transition, and what it might mean for his administration.”

Oh, and here is a frustratingly neutral behind-the-scenes look at how Trump’s transition team is preparing for the press.


This Business of Online Media

+ Shortly into the new year, the Medium Network announced it was laying off 50 employees and shuttering its salesforce, noting that “upon further reflection, it’s clear that the broken system is ad-driven media on the internet. It simply doesn’t serve people. In fact, it’s not designed to.” The company, rich in venture capital but not yet profitable on its own, expanded last year to become a platform for struggling but necessary independent media properties like The Awl, The Pacific Standard, Femsplain and ThinkProgress, promising easy avenues to monetization.

Feminist site The Establishment was moving its URL to Medium the very day these layoffs were announced. “Our plans to monetize through the site, which had comprised the most attractive aspect of making the Medium move,” Kelley Calkins wrote, “were eliminated the very day — after months of careful preparation — we moved to the publisher.” Nevertheless, the publication is plowing forward with a new membership/subscription program, which I think we all agree is the way forward. But I sure am glad we ignored Medium’s email about migrating to Medium!

+ Univision and its buzzy millenial-focused property Fusion also underwent some restructuring and layoffs this month, including 70 cuts at Fusion specifically, equalling one third of the editorial and business staffs. Fusion and The Root will be converting to Kinja as part of a roll into the Gizmodo Media Group (The Root made the switch this week). The sales team is centralizing to enable selling advertising across the entire 11 sites within its network. Univision has been losing between $20 million and $35 million a year on Fusion, but growth has accelerated since acquiring the Gizomodo Media Group, which includes the affiliate-powered Kinja Deals.

+ xoJane posted for the last time on December 30, 2016, and nobody told me!

+ The Washington Post has debuted The Lily, “an experimental, visually-driven product designed for millennial women that will boldly reimagine The Post’s award winning journalism for distributed platforms.”

+ Axios, which aims to “serve up news for social media addicts,” has gone live with a big Trump interview.

+ Marisa Siegel is the new editor of The Rumpus.


This Business of Journalism

+ The 2020 Report: An extensive and fascinating outline of The New York Times‘ strategy and aspirations, which includes a commitment to a revenue model primarily driven by subscribers, not advertisers.

+ Buzzfeed News and The New York Times have partnered with ProPublica and other news organizations and civil rights groups to track hate crimes across the United States.

+ The Christian Science Monitor is betting big on constructive, non-depressing (but paid-for) news

+ Conde Nast has slowly begun restructuring.

+ From Headline to Photograph, a Fake News Masterpiece.

+ Covering climate change just got a lot harder.


The Businesswoman’s Special

+ a new book for you: scratch: writers, money and the art of making a living

if your newsroom only has one meeting, make it this one

5 manageable, cheap ways to stay politically engaged

+ how small actions help you take control of your finances

+ rewarding company culture, core values, opportunity and good senior leadership mean more to employees than higher pay

4 follow-up emails that’ll backfire on you real fast

+ how to write a resume like a boss

+ the costs of self-publishing


Be The Pitch You Wanna See In The World

Black History Month is in February, so we’re looking for any and all pitches that would relate to that theme with a queer and/or feminist and/or womanist focus. Submit here.

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2715 articles for us.

15 Comments

  1. I must confess that I clicked on this article because the cover image featured Jane Villanueva in a tank top.
    I promise to pay due dilligence to the links herein tomorrow, I just can’t muster up due dilligence right now.
    Keep rockin’ it, Riese!

  2. Thanks for rounding up these links! This column is one of my favourite to share with friends!

    Also, am I the only one who is slightly bothered by the marketing of WaPo’s new product “for millennial women” – as someone who would fall into that category I wish that “content relevant to all aspects of women’s lives– from the big stories that affect us all to the individual interests that shape who we are” was actually presented in a way that would also showcase how such issues and content is of interest for all? But then I also don’t really understand the product – how is it not like a sister magazine that also advertises on various social media platforms?

  3. Moving the WH press room out of the current WH location is no biggie in practical terms. I wouldn’t pay any attention to anything emanating from Trump or Trump’s press secretary. I wish that the media would stop listening to Trump and start covering his ACTIONS.

  4. I hate to say this but media was dead not because of lack of advertising but because of its nature. Think about it for a minute how much money does NBC nightly news make for NBC, very little. Why because it is a small chunk of programming. Yet here on the internet you try to capture the same amount of people as nbc nightly news. Yet we forget why it makes so little money. Because its only on a half an hour and you don’t have a large audience so advertising is cheap. Same with all of the existing online media. Its cheap and not a lot of people look at it. If it was apart of something bigger then it would have a chance.

    I have an idea. Spoken articles. Speak your articles like on a news show. But pair up with a few other media outlets to each have an article read allowed so a person can watch or listen to a program for a half an hour. From there Allow the person to choose what catergories they want to watch and then the media company combines them all together with advertising in between. So to start a local media company gives you the rundown on your national news. Then maybe another group gives you health news. Then technology news. Finally give us Autostraddle with their chosen articles. That way we watch the news we want. You get advertising the same way tv does and then it all goes to the website hosting everyone with the money given out on the basis of who gets chosen the most. Of course the articles could have links so a person could choose other articles to read from AutoStraddle.

  5. Love me some daily AS but….

    I have also been following The Young Turks online for many years now and they are the largest completely INDEPENDENT news network on the internet with subscribers on its youtube channel surpassing 3.2 million, with over 5 billion views and growing fast considering the very shaky state of things.

    I support their coverage because they are unapologetically progressive and will always, always, speak truth to power. Their audience demo is under 35 years of age and they have people both in front of and behind the screen that really represent the diversity spectrum including of course those of us within the LGBTQ community. I highly recommend TYT to any American who values progressive ideas especially going forward into the next critical few years.

    What I also appreciate is that they have a effective way of breaking down and dissecting most of the garbage released by many forms of corporate owned media which makes it easier to understand how all this filthy dirty money works its way around.

    TYT also does its own independent and genuine investigative journalism.

    Written from their own website:

    “we’ve already broken so many important stories. We broke the Donna Brazile story, we broke the lead poisoning story in Indiana before the New York Times (based on a tip from one of our viewers), we covered the DNC tilting the primaries toward Clinton before any of the emails ever came out confirming it and we have been the only media outlet to be at Standing Rock from the beginning to end. And it was our very own Wes Clark and Michael Wood, responding to Jordan’s (TYT reporter) coverage, who brought 4,000 veterans there to protect the water protectors.”

    So they also had a real direct hand in applying the pressure and getting that permit denied at DAPL.

    And to top it all off, the TYT show on youtube in particular is not only super informative it can at times often be wildly entertaining and hysterical. So there is that.

    By the way I have no vested interest here, just wanted to share where my own go-to news hub is.

    BTW I am in fact Canadian, and I only wish more concerned Americans would catch on to the TYT network as well!

    http://www.youtube.com/user/TheYoungTurks/videos

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