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BuzzFeed Is Going Public. Now What for Vox Media, Group Nine and Vice?

“For us, it’s a question of ambition and opportunity, and we are ambitious,” said Jim Bankoff, Vox Media’s chief executive. “We are going to evaluate our options, but we’re going to do it from a position of strength.” He would not comment on financial details or any potential deals.

Group Nine had talks with major publishers, including Vox Media, about a possible merger for its own SPAC listing, but so far none have materialized, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. Ben Lerer, the head of Group Nine, said in an interview that the company was “in an enviable position” given its recent sales growth.

“The SPAC obviously allows us to be even more ambitious,” he said.

An option for Group Nine would be a deal with one of its largest backers: Discovery Inc. The media giant recently orchestrated a daring takeover of WarnerMedia in an effort to better compete in streaming. Group Nine’s properties have helped drive hundreds of thousands of new customers to Discovery’s streaming platform through content partnerships, making it an attractive takeover target.

The digital ad market thrived during the pandemic, as people started spending more online; BuzzFeed, Vox Media and Group Nine all benefited. Still, their gains were nothing compared with the amounts brought in by the digital giants.

“Facebook, Google and Amazon’s crumbs are Vox, Group Nine and Buzzfeed’s cake,” said Brian Wieser, the lead analyst at GroupM, the media investing arm of the ad company WPP.

That disparity underlines the need of the ad-driven publishers to keep getting bigger.

BuzzFeed’s entry into the public markets is likely to give it an advantage. In addition to cash, it will be able to use its stock as currency to make another deal along the lines of its HuffPost purchase.

“We’ll have opportunities to pursue more acquisitions, and there are more exciting companies out there that we want to pursue,” Jonah Peretti, a BuzzFeed co-founder and the chief executive, said last month.

When asked if BuzzFeed would consider entering the subscription business, he said in a recent interview: “Sure, we’d consider it. Why not?”

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Here’s a Look Inside Facebook’s Data Wars

“Reach leaderboard isn’t a total win from a comms point of view,” Mr. Silverman wrote.

Mr. Schultz, Facebook’s chief marketing officer, had the dimmest view of CrowdTangle. He wrote that he thought “the only way to avoid stories like this” would be for Facebook to publish its own reports about the most popular content on its platform, rather than releasing data through CrowdTangle.

“If we go down the route of just offering more self-service data you will get different, exciting, negative stories in my opinion,” he wrote.

Mr. Osborne, the Facebook spokesman, said Mr. Schultz and the other executives were discussing how to correct misrepresentations of CrowdTangle data, not strategizing about killing off the tool.

A few days after the election in November, Mr. Schultz wrote a post for the company blog, called “What Do People Actually See on Facebook in the U.S.?” He explained that if you ranked Facebook posts based on which got the most reach, rather than the most engagement — his preferred method of slicing the data — you’d end up with a more mainstream, less sharply partisan list of sources.

“We believe this paints a more complete picture than the CrowdTangle data alone,” he wrote.

That may be true, but there’s a problem with reach data: Most of it is inaccessible and can’t be vetted or fact-checked by outsiders. We simply have to trust that Facebook’s own, private data tells a story that’s very different from the data it shares with the public.

Mr. Zuckerberg is right about one thing: Facebook is not a giant right-wing echo chamber.

But it does contain a giant right-wing echo chamber — a kind of AM talk radio built into the heart of Facebook’s news ecosystem, with a hyper-engaged audience of loyal partisans who love liking, sharing and clicking on posts from right-wing pages, many of which have gotten good at serving up Facebook-optimized outrage bait at a consistent clip.

CrowdTangle’s data made this echo chamber easier for outsiders to see and quantify. But it didn’t create it, or give it the tools it needed to grow — Facebook did — and blaming a data tool for these revelations makes no more sense than blaming a thermometer for bad weather.

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Fox News Intensifies Its Pro-Trump Politics as Dissenters Depart

Fox News once devoted its 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. time slots to relatively straightforward newscasts. Now those hours are filled by opinion shows led by hosts who denounce Democrats and defend the worldview of former President Donald J. Trump.

For seven years, Juan Williams was the lone liberal voice on “The Five,” the network’s popular afternoon chat show. On Wednesday, he announced that he was leaving the program, after months of harsh on-air blowback from his conservative co-hosts. Many Fox News viewers cheered his exit on social media.

Donna Brazile, the former Democratic Party chairwoman, was hired by Fox News with great fanfare in 2019 as a dissenting voice for its political coverage. She criticized Mr. Trump and spoke passionately about the Black Lives Matter movement, which other hosts on the network often demonized. Ms. Brazile has now left Fox News; last week, she quietly started a new job at ABC.

Onscreen and off, in ways subtle and overt, Fox News has adapted to the post-Trump era by moving in a single direction: Trumpward.

amounted to an existential moment for a cable channel that is home to Trump cheerleaders like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham: the 2020 election.

Fox News’s ratings fell sharply after the network made an early call on election night that Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, would carry Arizona and later declared him the winner, even as Mr. Trump advanced lies about fraud. With viewers in revolt, the network moved out dissenting voices and put a new emphasis on hard-line right-wing commentary.

the network fired its veteran politics editor, Chris Stirewalt, who had been an onscreen face of the early call in Arizona for Mr. Biden. This month, it brought on a new editor in the Washington bureau: Kerri Kupec, a former spokeswoman for Mr. Trump’s attorney general William P. Barr. She had no journalistic experience.

opinion shows at 7 and 11 — with segments that lament “cancel culture” and attack Mr. Biden — are attracting bigger audiences than the newscasts they replaced. And the niche right-wing network Newsmax has failed to sustain its postelection audience gains.

In some ways, the Murdochs are making a rational business decision by following the conservatives who have made up the heart of the Fox News audience; recent surveys show that more than three-quarters of Republicans want Mr. Trump to run in 2024.

But under Roger Ailes, the network’s founder, who shaped its look and feel, Fox News elevated liberal foils like Alan Colmes, a Democrat who shared equal billing in prime time with Mr. Hannity until the end of 2008, and moderates like Mr. Williams.

Credit…Andrew Toth/FilmMagic

“Roger’s view was you had to have some unpredictability and you had to challenge the audience; you couldn’t just be reading Republican talking points every night,” said Susan R. Estrich, a Democratic lawyer and former commentator on Fox News who negotiated Mr. Ailes’s exit from the network amid his sexual misconduct scandal.

Ms. Estrich recalled that Mr. Ailes had defended Megyn Kelly, the former Fox News host, when Mr. Trump, then a presidential candidate, attacked her in misogynist terms. Now, she said, “instead of trying to broaden their audience, Fox News is narrowing it and digging in.”

Rick Santorum, after he was criticized for remarks about Native Americans.

Ms. Brazile said she had left Fox News of her own accord.

“Fox never censored my views in any way,” she wrote in an email. “Everyone treated me courteously as a colleague.” Ms. Brazile added: “I believe it’s important for all media to expose their audiences to both progressive and conservative viewpoints. With the election and President Biden’s first 100 days behind us, I’ve accomplished what I wanted at Fox News.”

an outcry from the Anti-Defamation League.

A pro-Trump drift at Fox News is not new: George Will, a traditional conservative who opposed Mr. Trump’s candidacy, lost his contributor contract in 2017. Shepard Smith, a news anchor who was tough on Mr. Trump, left in 2019.

Some Fox News journalists, though, say privately that they are increasingly concerned with the network’s direction. Kristin Fisher, one of the network’s rising stars in Washington and a White House correspondent, left Fox News last month despite the network’s effort to keep her. She had faced criticism from viewers in November after a segment in which she aggressively debunked lies about election fraud advanced by Mr. Trump’s lawyers.

The longtime Washington bureau chief, Bill Sammon, resigned in January after internal criticism over his handling of election coverage, around the time that Mr. Stirewalt was fired. (Mr. Stirewalt was let go along with roughly 20 digital journalists at Fox News, which the network attributed to a realignment of “business and reporting structure to meet the demands of this new era.”)

Mr. Sammon has effectively been replaced by Doug Rohrbeck, a producer with extensive news experience on Bret Baier’s newscast and Chris Wallace’s Sunday show. Still, some Fox journalists were surprised when the network hired Ms. Kupec, the former Barr spokeswoman, to work under Mr. Rohrbeck. (In 2019, CNN hired Sarah Isgur, the spokeswoman for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as a political editor. After protests from staff, she was shifted to an on-air role and later left the network.)

Fox News International, a streaming service available in 37 countries in Asia and Europe.

Despite continuing criticism from liberals, Fox News remains a financial juggernaut for the Murdoch empire; it is expected to earn record advertising revenues this year, the network said.

Even as its programming decisions seem aimed at attracting Trump supporters, Fox News does face one roadblock: Mr. Trump. The former president has maintained his stinging criticism of Fox News, which, he has claimed, betrayed him by calling the election for Mr. Biden.

On Friday, after criticism from Paul Ryan, the former House speaker, Mr. Trump wrote that “Fox totally lost its way and became a much different place” after the Murdochs appointed Mr. Ryan to the Fox Corporation board.

“Fox will never be the same!” Mr. Trump wrote.

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Associated Press Begins Review of Social Media Policy After Emily Wilder Firing

The Associated Press has started a review of its social media policy after more than 150 staff members publicly condemned the firing of a young journalist for violating that policy.

In a memo to its global newsrooms on Monday, The A.P.’s top editors said they had heard the concerns from many journalists over the weekend and were “committed to expanding the conversation taking place about A.P.’s approach to social media.”

The news agency faced a backlash after Emily Wilder, a 22-year-old news associate who had joined the company in Arizona, was dismissed on May 19, three weeks after she was hired.

Ms. Wilder, who graduated from Stanford University in 2020 and had worked at The Arizona Republic, said in a statement on Friday that she had been the subject of a campaign by Stanford College Republicans, whose social media posts drew attention to her pro-Palestine activism at the university. She added that her editors had reassured her she would not be fired for her past advocacy work.

one tweet, she said that “using ‘israel’ but never ‘palestine,’ or ‘war’ but not ‘siege and occupation’ are political choices — yet media make those exact choices all the time without being flagged as biased.”

Dozens of A.P. journalists signed an open letter after Ms. Wilder’s firing, criticizing the news agency and asking for clarification on how she had violated the company’s social media policy.

“The lack of clarity on the violations of the social media policy has made A.P. journalists afraid to engage on social media — often critical to our jobs — in any capacity,” the letter said.

Ten newsroom leaders responded Monday in a memo to the staff announcing a plan to review its guidelines. They said that formal groups would discuss ideas and make recommendations, and a committee of staff members would review the recommendations by Sept. 1. Any changes to the policy would then be raised in the next round of contract negotiations with the union that represents A.P. employees, the News Media Guild.

“One of the issues brought forward in recent days is the belief that restrictions on social media prevent you from being your true self, and that this disproportionately harms journalists of color, L.G.B.T.Q. journalists and others who often feel attacked online,” the memo said.

The editors said in the note that “much of the coverage” of Ms. Wilder’s dismissal “does not accurately portray a difficult decision that we did not make lightly.”

Lauren Easton, a spokeswoman for The A.P., said the company generally refrained from commenting on personnel, but confirmed that Ms. Wilder was dismissed for violating the social media policy.

“We understand that other news organizations may not have made the same decision,” she said. “While many news organizations offer points of view, opinion columnists and editorials, A.P. does not. We don’t express opinion. Our bedrock is fact-based, unbiased reporting.”

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Fox News to Replay Prime-Time Shows on Streaming Platform

Fox News entered the streaming video market in November 2018 with Fox Nation, a digital subscription service that now encompasses hundreds of hours of original programming including political commentary, documentaries and travel specials like “Castles USA,” in which the host Jeanine Pirro tours castles around the country.

Until now, the network had resisted rebroadcasting its marquee prime-time shows on the streaming service. That is set to change next week, in a significant shift in digital strategy for the Rupert Murdoch-owned channel.

Starting June 2, episodes of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” “Hannity” and “The Ingraham Angle” will be available on demand on Fox Nation the day after they are shown live on cable. The shift “will add incredible value for subscribers,” Fox Nation’s president, Jason Klarman, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Fox News had reasons to initially avoid duplicating its traditional TV programming on Fox Nation. The channel earns significant revenue from cable distributors that pay to carry Fox News. And the network has the largest total weeknight audience in cable news; viewers who switch over to watch the programs on Fox Nation will not be counted by Nielsen.

Other networks, though, have seen benefits from making their cable programs available in digital venues. The shows can attract new subscribers and widen their viewership to the younger audiences that prefer streaming services.

A monthly subscription to Fox Nation costs $6. The network has declined to share its total number of subscribers. Lachlan Murdoch, the executive chairman of the Fox Corporation, said on a recent earnings call that the first quarter of 2021 had generated Fox Nation’s “highest number of customer acquisitions since launch.”

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Eurovision-Winning Damiano David Did Not Use Drugs, Broadcaster Says

“Online, people are suggesting that you were taking cocaine,” the reporter said. “What was it?”

Mr. David denied the speculation, saying that he bent down because another band member had broken a glass.

“I don’t use drugs, please, guys,” he said. “No, please don’t say that. Don’t say that, really. No cocaine. Please, don’t say that.”

A moderator of the news conference quickly tried to cut off the line of questioning.

“Let’s keep the questions about the artists and the music for tonight,” she said.

The European Broadcasting Union said in a statement on Sunday that a broken glass had been found after a check of the site.

Barbara Pravi, the French singer, finished second at Eurovision.

Before the show’s broadcasters announced that Mr. David had passed a drug test, Clément Beaune, the French minister of state for European affairs, suggested during an interview with the television network BFMTV on Monday that there should be sanctions against Maneskin, including the band’s possible disqualification, if Mr. David tested positive for drugs.

In an Instagram post on Monday, Ms. Pravi said that Maneskin’s win was well deserved and that the band had been chosen by the viewers. She said it was their victory and their moment.

As the band’s members hoisted the glass microphone trophy that is given to the winners of Eurovision, Mr. David declared that rock ’n’ roll was here to stay.

“We just want to say to the whole Europe, to the whole world,” he said, “rock ’n’ roll never dies.”

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It’s the Media’s ‘Mean-Too’ Moment. Stop Yelling and Go to Human Resources.

Perhaps even worse, Ms. Cooper remarked early on that she’d never heard of Brian Lehrer, the beloved WNYC morning host whose gently probing, public-spirited interviews embody the station’s appeal, and that she didn’t “get” why he was popular. She has since come to the view that “Brian is the soul of the station and, in many ways, the city itself,” a WNYC spokeswoman, Jennifer Houlihan Roussel, said in an email.

In fact, Ms. Cooper’s mission was to jump-start the station’s lagging digital transformation, something she had done with unusual success in San Francisco and that requires a willingness to make enemies. She has ambitious plans to hire 15 to 20 more reporters — but first she had the near-impossible assignment of bringing together a group of traditional radio journalists, used to working for days and occasionally weeks on colorful local features, with the reporters at Gothamist, the scrappy local blog that WNYC bailed out in 2018. Ms. Cooper sought to professionalize Gothamist away from its bloggy and irreverent roots, telling reporters to be less openly hostile to the New York Police Department in their reporting, two reporters said. Ms. Roussel suggested that Ms. Cooper was trying to rein in Gothamist’s habit of adding “an element of editorializing to its coverage that can be interpreted as bias.”

And Ms. Cooper started pushing the radio journalists to pick up their pace and to file stories for the web. That seemed like a reasonable request, but it led to another stumble in early February, when an 18-year veteran of the radio side, Fred Mogul, filed a story with one paragraph printed in a different font. The editor realized it was Associated Press copy; Ms. Cooper promptly fired Mr. Mogul (who declined through his union to be interviewed) for plagiarism without a review of whether he’d ever done it before.

Ms. Cooper declined to speak to me about Mr. Mogul’s termination. But one thing I learned this week about public radio is that no matter what is happening, someone is always recording it. And that was true when Ms. Cooper called a virtual meeting Feb. 5 over Zoom to inform the full newsroom of her decision to fire Mr. Mogul. According to a copy of the recording provided to me by an attendee, Ms. Cooper told the staffers, “It’s totally OK to be sad.” But then several stunned radio reporters questioned the move, explaining that they regularly incorporated A.P. copy into stories on air and had imported the practice to WNYC’s little-read website, crediting The A.P. at the bottom of the story.

“Go through every single one of our articles and fire all of us, because that is exactly what we have all done,” one host, Rebeca Ibarra, told her.

On Feb. 10, more than 60 employees — including Mr. Lehrer — signed a letter asking Ms. Cooper to reconsider and calling the firing a “troubling precedent.”

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Belarus Scrambles Ryanair Jet to Force Down Plane Carrying Dissident

MOSCOW — The strongman president of Belarus sent a fighter jet to intercept a European airliner traveling through the country’s airspace on Sunday and ordered the plane to land in the capital, Minsk, where a prominent opposition journalist aboard was then seized, provoking international outrage.

The stunning gambit by Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, a brutal and erratic leader who has clung to power despite huge protests against his government last year, drew disbelief among European leaders. But it also underscored that with the support of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Mr. Lukashenko is prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to repress dissent.

The Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, carrying some 170 passengers — among them the journalist, Roman Protasevich, 26 — was flying over Belarus when Belarusian air traffic controllers notified its pilots of “a potential security threat on board” and directed the plane to divert to Minsk, the Ireland-based airline said in a statement.

Mr. Lukashenko, often referred to as “Europe’s last dictator,” personally ordered a MiG-29 fighter jet to escort the Ryanair plane to the Minsk airport, his press service said. According to the statement, Mr. Lukashenko gave an “unequivocal order” to “make the plane do a U-turn and land.”

NEXTA Telegram channel, one of the most popular opposition outlets in Belarus, where most independent media organizations were forced to shut down following large-scale protests that convulsed the nation following a disputed presidential election in 2020.

Over the past few years, Mr. Protasevich has been living in Lithuania in exile, fearing imprisonment in Belarus, his home country, where he is accused of inciting hatred and mass disorder and faces more than 12 years in prison if convicted. In November, the country’s main security service, still called the K.G.B., put Mr. Protasevich on its list of terrorists.

Mr. Protasevich’s arrest demonstrated the lengths to which Mr. Lukashenko is ready to go in order to pursue his political opponents. Many of them have sought safe heaven in exile in Lithuania and Poland, but Sunday’s events showed that Mr. Lukashenko can reach them even in the air.

called it “abhorrent” in his Twitter account and demanded that the Belarusian authorities release Mr. Protasevich.

The Belarusian authorities said they took the action after receiving information about the bomb threat and did so even though Vilnius, the plane’s destination, was much closer than Minsk when it was forced down. Mr. Lukashenko and his government are known to use ruses to pursue their political opponents.

The country’s Defense Ministry said in another statement that the country’s air defense forces were put on high alert.

violence, Mr. Lukashenko managed to successfully crack down on protesters, with the country’s security apparatus remaining loyal to him.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Mr. Lukashenko’s main opponent during the last presidential election in August, which was widely regarded as rigged, called the episode with the Ryanair flight “an operation by the special services to hijack an aircraft in order to detain activist and blogger Roman Protasevich.”

“Not a single person who flies over Belarus can be sure of his safety,” she said.

Matina Stevis-Gridneff contributed reporting from Brussels, and Niki Kitsantonis from Athens.

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