Although Mastodon is my preferred Twitter alternative, there’s every indication that Threads is going to emerge as the closest thing we get to a true Twitter replacement. It’s missing a lot — browser access, a reverse-chronological feed of your followers, and lists, to name just a few. I can really do without the celebrities and brands that Threads is pushing. But it’s already got mass appeal, a precious commodity that it’s not likely to relinquish.
There are reports that Mark Zuckerberg and company rushed this out the door before it was ready in order to take advantage of Elon Musk’s meltdown last weekend. Musk rewarded Zuckerberg by sending him a cease-and-desist order — precious publicity for an app that is taking off. As I said yesterday, you only get one chance to make a good first impression, but I suspect users will give Zuckerberg some time to get it right.
In addition to Twitter, I suspect the big loser in this may be Bluesky, started by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey. I finally scored an invitation earlier this week and have been playing around. I like it. But Dorsey has got to regret the leisurely pace he’s taken.
For now, I’m posting mainly to Mastodon because I want to, Twitter because I have to, and Bluesky and Threads because I’m checking them out. I’ve given up on Post. (If you’re reading this on the Media Nation website, my social media feeds are in the right-hand rail.) But it wouldn’t surprise me if this quickly devolves into a war between Twitter and Threads, with everyone else reduced to spectator status.
They say you only get one chance to make a good first impression. If that’s true, then Mark Zuckerberg missed that chance with the debut of Threads. There’s no browser access, so you’re stuck using your phone. You can’t switch to a reverse-chronological non-algorithmic feed of accounts you follow. Even Elon Musk still lets you do that at Twitter. No lists.
The whole thing, teeming with brands and celebrities you’re not interested in, feels very commercial in a forced-joviality, trying-too-hard way. These things can be fixed unless Zuck thinks they’re features rather than bugs. For now, though … not great.
Elon Musk isn’t laughing with us. He’s laughing at us. Photo (cc) 2022 by Steve Jurvetson.
Update:Ivan Mehta of TechCrunch reports that Twitter may have already reversed itself on requiring log-ins to view tweets. I’ll test it later and think about whether I want to go to the trouble of restoring our Twitter timeline to What Works.
Today I want to return to a topic that I write about from time to time: the ongoing travails of Twitter under Elon Musk and the future of what I’ll call short-form interactive social media, which some people still refer to as “microblogging.” It’s something that’s of no interest to the vast majority of people (and if I’m describing you, then you have my congratulations and admiration) but of tremendous interest to a few of us.
You may have heard that a number of changes hit Twitter over the weekend, some deliberate, some perhaps accidental. They cut back on the number of posts you could read before encountering a “rate limit” of 600 per day for non-subscribers and 6,000 a day for those who pay $8 a month. Those limits were later raised. Now, very few people are paying $8 for those blue check marks and extra privileges, and you can reach 600 (or 800, or 1,000, or whatever it is at the moment) pretty quickly if you’re zipping through your timeline. It was and is a bizarre limitation, since it means that users will spend less time on the site and will see fewer of Twitter’s declining inventory of ads.
Twitter also got rid of its classic TweetDeck application, which lets you set up columns for lists, notifications and the like, and switched everyone over to a new, inferior version — and then announced that TweetDeck will soon be restricted to those $8-a-month customers.
Finally, and of the greatest significance to me and my work, you can no longer view a tweet unless you’re actually logged in to Twitter. We’ve all become accustomed to news outlets embedding tweets in stories. I do it myself sometimes. Well, now that has stopped working. Maybe it’s not that big a deal. After all, you can take a screenshot and/or quote from it, just as you can from any source. But it’s an extra hassle for both publishers and readers.
Moreover, this had a significant negative effect on What Works, the website about the future of local news that Ellen Clegg and I host. Just recently, I decide to add a news feed of updates and brief items to the right-hand rail, powered by Twitter. It was a convenient way of informing our readers regardless of whether they were Twitter users. And on Monday, it disappeared. What I’ve come up with to replace it is a half-solution: A box that links to our Mastodon account, which can still be read by Mastodon nonusers and users alike. But it’s an extra step. In order to add an actual Mastodon news feed we would either need to pay more or switch to a hosting service and put up with the attendant technical challenges.
What is Musk up to? I can’t imagine that he’s literally trying to destroy Twitter; but if he were, he’d be doing exactly what he’s doing. It’s strange. Twitter is now being inundated with competitors, the largest of which is Mastodon, a decentralized system that runs mainly on volunteer labor. But Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey is slowly unveiling a very Twitter-like service called Bluesky (still in beta, and, for the moment, invitation-only), and, this Thursday, Facebook (I refuse to call it Meta) will debut Threads. If Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t screw it up, I think Threads, which is tied to Instagram, might prove to be a formidable challenger.
Still, what made Twitter compelling was that it was essentially the sole platform for short-form interactive social media. The breakdown of that audience into various niches makes it harder for any one service to benefit from the network effect. I’ve currently got conversations going on in three different places, and when I want to share links to my work, I now have to go to Twitter, Mastodon and Bluesky (which I just joined), not to mention Facebook and LinkedIn.
And speaking of the network effect: Twitter may be shrinking, but, with 330 million active monthly users, it’s still by far the largest of the three short-form platforms. Mastodon was up to 10 million registered users as of March (that number grows in spurts every time Musk indulges his inner sociopath), and Bluesky has just 100,000 — although another 2 million or so are on the wait list. What that means for my work is that just a handful of the media thought leaders I need to follow and interact with are on Mastodon or Bluesky, and, from what I can tell, none (as in zero) of the people and organizations that track developments in local news have budged from Twitter.
It will likely turn out that the social media era was brief and its demise unlamented. In the meantime, what’s going on is weird and — for those of us who depend on this stuff — aggravating. In some ways, I would like to see one-stop short-form social media continue. My money is on Threads, although I suspect that Zuckerberg’s greed will prevent it from realizing its full potential.
Former Boston Globe Media Partners (BGMP) president Vinay Mehra has filed an explosive lawsuit against the company, charging that he was fired in 2020 because Globe owners John and Linda Henry didn’t want to pay him the commissions and other compensation he’d earned for transforming the newspaper into a profitable operation. Adam Gaffin of Universal Hub has all the details as well as a copy of the suit.
Mehra was hired in 2017 from Politico, where he was executive vice president and chief financial officer. Before that, he worked as chief financial officer at GBH in Boston from 2008 to 2015.
According to the lawsuit, BGMP owes Mehra more than $12 million in lost commissions, wages and other compensation. Gaffin writes:
In his suit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, Mehra charges that despite returning the Globe to profitability, John Henry and his corporate minions decided to cheap out — and then ousted him after threatening and lying about him with an unquenchable “thirst for vengeance” sending him a termination letter alleging “fraud, misappropriation, embezzlement or acts of similar dishonesty.”…
At this point we’re only getting one side of the story, as BGMP has not yet filed a response. But if Mehra’s numbers are accurate, then the lawsuit provides some insight into how the Globe transformed itself into one of the country’s most financially successful large regional newspapers. In 2019, for instance, Mehra claims that the Globe implemented $10 million in cuts “through a combination of targeted layoffs, reduction in vendor costs, reduction in distribution costs, and other measures.”
The result, Mehra claims, was a turnaround from a money-losing operation to one that was enjoying a positive cash flow of “tens of millions of dollars” by the time he left. Indeed, it was at the end of 2018 that John Henry told me, unexpectedly, that the Globe had achieved profitability. “As our digital growth continues the sustainability of a vibrant Boston Globe is coming into view,” he said at that time. “It’s been a long time coming.”
Mehra apparently expects BGMP to flesh out its accusations of fraud and embezzlement as the case moves forward, as he offers some details in what might be regarded as a pre-emptive strike. The lawsuit also includes a statement that I suspect former Globe editor Brian McGrory might disagree with: “He [Mehra] also shifted the focus of the Globe’s reporting to be more strategic, to prioritize the Globe’s strengths, and to drive viewership.”
That sounds a lot like McGrory’s January 2017 memo to the staff in which he talked about repositioning the Globe’s coverage, which I wrote about in “The Return of the Moguls”:
The most important takeaway was that the Globe would no longer attempt to be a “paper of record,” publishing obligatory stories about the minutiae of city and state government, the courts, and the like. Rather, it would seek to become an “organization of interest,” developing enterprise stories out of those traditional areas of coverage that made more of a difference to readers’ lives.
But Mehra didn’t join BGMP until six months after McGrory wrote that memo. No doubt he and McGrory had conversations about how to make the Globe more compelling to its audience. The shift in focus that the lawsuit talks about, though, had already taken place, and in any case fell under the purview of the editor, not the president.
It will be interesting to see how the Globe responds — and, of course, whether this goes to trial or is instead settled out of court.
I don’t want to come off as a total Luddite when it comes to artificial intelligence and journalism. Well, OK, maybe I do. Because even though I have no problem with using AI for certain mindless, repetitive tasks, such as transcribing interviews and finding patterns in public records, I think we need to be cautious about using such tools to actually produce journalism — whether it be reports about real estate transactions (thus missing the opportunity to dig more deeply) or stories about high school sports. With that in mind, I want to call your attention to three troubling developments.
For those who thought the notion of robot reporters was still quite a ways off, the first development is the most alarming. According to a recent article at Nieman Lab by Sophie Culpepper, an independent publisher has been experimenting with just that in his spare time, and the results are, well, not bad.
Mark Talkington, who runs a hyperlocal start-up called The Palm Beach Post in California, has been feeding governmental meetings that are available on YouTube into an AI system designed by a friend of his. Importantly, it’s not an off-the-shelf product like ChatGPT or Google Bard. Rather, it’s been trained on reliable news and information from his coverage area, which reduces if not eliminates the likelihood of “hallucinations,” the term for false but plausible-sounding output produced by AI.
The example Culpepper quoted from reads like what journalism professors disapprovingly tell their students is an “agenda story” — that is, it begins with something like Members of the board of sewer commissioners began their meeting by saluting the flag rather than with a lead grounded in the most interesting thing that happened. Nor has Talkington actually published any AI-generated stories yet. He said in his interview with Culpepper that he’s concerned about AI missing out on body language and, of course, on the ability to snag an elected official in the hallway during a break in the meeting.
But he said he could see using it to take notes and, eventually, to cover meetings that his thinly stretched staff can’t get to. And that’s how it begins: with a sympathetic hyperlocal publisher using AI to extend his reach, only to see the technology adopted by cost-cutting newspaper chains looking to dump reporters.
My second example might be called “speaking of which.” Because Gannett, whose 200 or so daily newspapers make it the largest corporate chain, announced recently that it, too, is experimenting with generative AI. Helen Coster of Reuters reports that, at first, AI will be used to generate content like bullet points that summarize the most important facts in a story, and that humans will check its work. That feature will be rolled out in the chain’s flagship newspaper, USA Today, later this year.
Gannett is hardly the only news organization that’s playing with AI; The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and others are all looking into ways to make use of it. But Gannett is notoriously tight-fisted and, as Coster notes, has slashed and burned its way to tenuous profitability. “Gannett’s journalists are fighting to ensure that they aren’t replaced by the technology,” she wrote. “Hundreds walked off the job over staff cuts and stagnant wages on June 5. Generative AI is a sticking point in some negotiations with the company, the union said.”
The third warning sign comes from Sebastian Grace, who passed along a truly disturbing item that the German tabloid Bild is laying off about 200 journalists while ramping up its use of AI. (Seb recently wrote a fine piece on journalism and AI for our website What Works: The Future of Local News.) Although those two developments at Bild are said to be unrelated, Jon Henley of The Guardian writes that Mathias Döpfner, the CEO of Bild’s corporate owner, Axel Springer, has said that ChatGPT and its ilk could “make independent journalism better than it ever was — or replace it.”
Axel Springer, by the way, also owns Politico, an important U.S. outlet for news about politics and public policy.
Do I think AI will soon replace reporters who do the hard work of going out and getting stories? No — at least not right away. But we’ve been losing journalists for 25 years now, and it seems certain that AI will be used, misused and abused in ways that accelerate that trend.
At least two daily newspapers owned by Alden Global Capital’s MediaNews Group will end reader comments on July 1.
The Boston Herald announced the move earlier today, saying that the change was being made to “dramatically speed up the performance of the website” as well as on its mobile platforms. The Denver Post took the same action last week, although editor Lee Ann Colacioppo cited bad behavior rather than technology, writing that the comment section has become “an uncivil place that drives readers away and opens those trying to engage in thoughtful conversation to hateful, personal attacks.”
Both papers emphasized that readers will still be able to talk back at them through social media platforms.
Wondering if this were a MediaNews-wide action, I tried searching about a half-dozen papers in the 60-daily chain and could find no similar announcements. I found something else interesting as well. The eight larger dailies that comprise the Tribune Publishing chain, which Alden acquired a couple of years ago, are now included as part of MediaNews Group, although they are still listed separately as well. (A ninth, the Daily News of New York, was split off from Tribune and is being run as a separate entity.)
The moves by the Herald and the Post represent just the latest in the long, sad story of user comments. When they debuted about a quarter-century ago, they were hailed as a way of involving the audience — the “former audience,” as Dan Gillmor and Jay Rosen put it. The hope was that comments could even advance stories.
It turned out that comments were embraced mainly by the most sociopathic elements. Some publishers (including me for a while) required real names, but that didn’t really help. The only measure that ensures a civil platform is pre-screening — a comment doesn’t appear online until someone has read it and approved it. But that takes resources, and very few news organizations are willing to make the investment.
The best comments section I know of belongs to the New Haven Independent, where pre-screening has been the rule right from the start. Keeping out racist, homophobic hate speech opens up the forum for other voices to be heard. The New York Times engages in pre-screening as well.
So kudos to the Boston Herald and The Denver Post — and I hope other news outlets, including The Boston Globe, will follow suit.
As we wait to see how Yevgeny Prigozhin’s rebellion against the Russian government turns out, it’s worth remembering that Walter Lippmann conceived of objectivity as a response to the Western press’ — and especially The New York Times’ — being guided by wishful thinking in its coverage of the Russian Revolution. And here we are again.
As Lippmann disparagingly observed more than 100 years ago, the thrust of Western coverage was that the Bolshevik forces and, later, the nascent Soviet state were bound to fall. In “Liberty and the News” (1920), Lippmann and his co-author, Charles Merz, wrote:
In the large, the news about Russia is a case of seeing not what was, but what men wished to see…. From the point of view of professional journalism the reporting of the Russian Revolution is nothing short of a disaster. On the essential questions the net effect was almost always misleading, and misleading news is worse than none at all.
We don’t know what’s going to happen in the hours and days ahead. Prigozhin has come out against Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, and so of course we hope Prigozhin might somehow prevail, even though his venality is at least the equal of Putin’s. If nothing else, it seems logical that chaos in Russia is good news for Ukraine.
As a number of observers have lamented, the days when you could curate a reliable news feed on Twitter are over — although Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo has put together a good list of analysts tweeting about the Ukraine crisis. I’m also following live coverage at the Times (which is behind a paywall) and at BBC News (which is free). And hoping for the best.
Daniel Ellsberg. Photo (cc) 2020 by Christopher Michel.
There are a couple of Boston angles to the Pentagon Papers, the government’s own secret history of the Vietnam War. The documents were leaked to the press in 1971 by Daniel Ellsberg, who died Friday at the age of 92.
Most people know that the papers were published first by The New York Times and then by The Washington Post. The story of the Post’s race to catch up with the Times is depicted in “The Post,” a 2017 film starring Tom Hanks. What is less well known is that The Boston Globe was the third paper to publish the documents. Former Globe editor Matt Storin wrote about the Globe’s role in a 2008 reminiscence (free link):
It was a significant milestone in the effort of the Globe’s editor, Tom Winship, to lift a formerly modest local paper to national prominence. Before that day in 1971, the Globe had won a single Pulitzer Prize. Since then, it has won 19 more. [And seven more since then.]
It was no accident that the Globe was one of the first three papers, either. “I definitely chose the Globe … because it had been great on the war,” Ellsberg told Storin. The tale Storin relates is pretty wild. Ellsberg, who had access to the documents as an analyst with the RAND Corp., had made a copy of them. The news of the documents’ existence was broken by Globe reporter Tom Oliphant after he interviewed Ellsberg, which in turn led Ellsberg to make still more copies and start disseminating them to the press before the FBI could come calling.
The whole story, including phone-booth document drops and the decision to hide the papers in the trunk of a car parked at the Globe, is well told by Storin.
The other Boston angle is that Beacon Press, a small independent book publisher that is part of the Unitarian Universalist Association, published the Pentagon Publishers after a number of other houses passed on the opportunity because of the legal risks involved. The Beacon Blog quotes Gayatni Patnaik, Beacon’s current director:
Daniel Ellsberg’s incredible fortitude stands as an example for all who believe in fighting for democracy and government accountability and who oppose war and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. We are incredibly proud to have taken the stand we did in releasing the Pentagon Papers. Today, over 50 years later, we are still guided by the principles that led to that brave decision.
Federal authorities have charged three men in the vandalism and harassment case involving two journalists at New Hampshire Public Radio. In the press release below, issued Friday by the U.S. attorney’s office for Massachusetts, “Victim 1” is NHPR reporter Lauren Chooljian; “Victim 2” is her editor, Dan Barrick; and “Subject 1” is Eric Spofford, the founder New Hampshire’s largest network of addiction treatment centers.
Spofford has denied any involvement in or knowledge of the vandalism. He has filed a libel suit against Chooljian and NHPR, which drew the attention of The New York Times (free link) after a judge ordered that NHPR let him examine the transcripts of interviews so that he can determine if they are relevant to Spofford’s claim. The full press release is as follows:
BOSTON — Three New Hampshire men have been charged in connection with a conspiracy to harass and intimidate two New Hampshire journalists employed by New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR). The alleged harassment and intimidation of the victims included the vandalism — on five separate occasions — of the victims’ homes, as well as the vandalism of the home of one of the victim’s immediate family members with bricks, large rocks and red spray paint.
Tucker Cockerline, 32, of Salem, N.H., Michael Waselchuck, 35, of Seabrook, N.H. and Keenan Saniatan, 36, of Nashua, N.H. were each charged by criminal complaint with conspiring to commit stalking through interstate travel. Cockerline and Waselchuck were arrested this morning and, following an initial appearance in federal court in Boston this afternoon, were detained pending a hearing scheduled for June 20, 2023 at 2 p.m. Saniatan remains at large.
“The critical role that the press plays in our society goes back to the founding of our nation. Today’s charges should send a clear message that the Department of Justice will not tolerate harassment or intimidation of journalists. If you engage in this type of vicious and vindictive behavior you will be held accountable,” said Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy.
“Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of any healthy democracy and these three men are now accused of infringing on that freedom by conspiring to harass and intimidate two New Hampshire journalists who were simply doing their jobs,” said Christopher DiMenna, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division. “Everyone has a right to express their opinion, but taking it over the line and committing vandalism will not be tolerated.”
According to the charging document, after a year-long investigation, an NHPR journalist (Victim 1) published an article in March 2022 detailing allegations of sexual and other misconduct by a former New Hampshire businessperson, identified in the charging document as Subject 1. Another NHPR journalist (Victim 2) also contributed to the article, which appeared on NHPR’s website during and after March 2022. Thereafter, it is alleged that Cockerline, Waselchuck and Saniatan conspired with each other and with at least one other individual – allegedly identified as a close personal associate of Subject 1 — to retaliate against NHPR and Victims 1 and 2 by vandalizing the victims’ homes with bricks and large rocks, as well as spray-painting lewd and threatening language on the homes’ exteriors. It is alleged that the following acts of vandalisms occurred in April and May 2022:
At approximately 11:00 p.m. on April 24, 2022, a brick was thrown through a front exterior window of Victim’s 1’s former residence in Hanover, N.H. The word “C*NT” was spray-painted in large red letters on the front door;
On the evening of April 24, 2022 or during the early morning hours of April 25, 2022, the word “C*NT” was spray-painted in large red letters on the front door of Victim 2’s home in Concord, N.H. The exterior of the home was also damaged by a large rock, which appeared to have been thrown at the house;
Shortly before midnight on April 24, 2022 or during the early morning hours of April 25, 2022, a softball-sized rock was thrown through a front exterior window of Victim 1’s parents’ home in Hampstead, N.H. The word “C*NT” was spray-painted in large red letters on one of the garage doors;
At approximately 12:54 a.m. on May 21, 2022, Victim 1’s parents’ home in Hampstead was vandalized a second time. The word “C*NT” was spray-painted in large red letters on one of the garage doors. Although no windows were broken, a brick was discovered on the ground near the house’s foundation as if it had been thrown at the house; and
At approximately 5:54 a.m. on May 21, 2022, a brick was thrown through an exterior window of Victim 1’s house in Melrose, Mass. The phrase “JUST THE BEGINNING” was spray-painted in large red letters on the front of the home.
The charging documents allege that Cockerline, Saniatan and Waselchuck are responsible for committing all five of these vandalisms.
The charge of conspiracy to commit interstate stalking carries a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000 and restitution. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.
Acting U.S. Attorney Levy and FBI Acting SAC DiMenna made the announcement today. Valuable assistance was provided by the Concord, Hampstead and Hanover, New Hampshire Police Departments and the Melrose, Massachusetts Police Department. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Hampshire provided valuable assistance. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jason A. Casey and Torey B. Cummings of Levy’s Criminal Division are prosecuting the case.
The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Back in January, The Washington Post was struggling, and publisher Fred Ryan had some difficult decisions to make. What he chose was to eliminate 20 newsroom positions and leave another 30 openings unfilled. Oh, and there was this: He decided (or, at the very least, agreed) to phase out Launcher, a Post vertical devoted to covering video games, and lay off the site’s five staff members.
At a time when the Post was fighting for ways to differentiate itself from its larger rival, The New York Times, Launcher should have been considered a key part of that strategy. Gaming is the largest entertainment medium, larger than movies and music combined. And Launcher was doing well. As editor Mike Hume tweeted, the move was “sad, upsetting, and perhaps most of all, mindboggling,” adding that Launcher had drawn “tens of millions of users, the majority first-time readers of The Post and almost all of them under the age of 40.”
In the video game world, Launcher made a name for itself as a high-quality games media site with a focus on first-rate reporting, often taking the lead on difficult stories beyond the scope of the traditional enthusiast press. It stood out as one of the few examples of serious games reporting in a legacy newspaper, often landing major interviews and exclusives as a result.
It’s been obvious for quite some time that the Post needs a major reset. After years of growth, profits and what owner Jeff Bezos once called “swagger,” the paper has been stumbling since Donald Trump left the White House. Paid digital subscriptions are down from about 3 million to about 2.5 million, traffic to its website is on the wane, and the paper is losing money.
So it may have been met with a huge sigh of relief when Ryan announced Monday that he was stepping down as publisher and CEO. “I’m deeply grateful to Fred for his leadership and for the friendship that we’ve developed over the years,” Bezos wrote, according to an account of Ryan’s departure in The Wall Street Journal. Ryan told the staff in a note: “Together, we have accomplished one of the most extraordinary transformations in modern media history. We have evolved from a primarily local print newspaper to become a global digital publication.”
I didn’t interview Ryan when I was reporting on the Post’s revival in 2015 and ’16 for my book “The Return of the Moguls.” (I didn’t interview Bezos, either, but that’s a long story involving emails, snail mail and phone calls. Suffice to say he doesn’t give interviews to anyone, even the Post.) I spoke with then-executive editor Marty Baron and then-chief technologist Shailesh Prakash, who were leading the Post’s revival. I made a few attempts to connect with Ryan, but it didn’t happen. In any case, Baron and Prakash were the ones who were doing the transformational work.
So I was fascinated with Charlotte Klein’s account of the Post’s decline in Vanity Fair earlier this year. Bezos had paid a rare visit to the Post, and everyone was wondering what it all meant. At the time, it seemed like Ryan was feeling empowered with legends like Baron and Prakash having moved on. There was even talk that Baron’s replacement, Sally Buzbee, was musing with her inner circle that she might leave if Ryan didn’t stay in his lane. But in reporting on Ryan’s departure Monday, Klein writes that Buzbee had smoothed things over in recent months even as Bezos has been a more visible presence.
“Bezos, I’m told, has brought refreshing candor to the discussions, in which he’s asked about things like the Post’s paywall strategy and, notably, plan for growing subscriptions,” Klein writes. “At times, he sharply questioned Ryan, one of the sources said.”
For now, the Post will be led by an interim CEO, Patty Stonesifer, former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The way forward is not clear at all. Being just like the Times, only smaller and not as good, is not a business strategy. The Post is still a great newspaper, rivaled only by the Times and The Wall Street Journal. But it needs to find its own identify, as the Journal has with an emphasis on business news and a right-wing editorial page. (I’m not suggesting that the Post emulate the Journal’s opinion section; the Post’s is bad enough already.)
More than anything, the Post needs to identify coverage areas that the Times has ignored and doesn’t seem to be interested in. Like, you know, video games. Did I mention that it’s the largest entertainment medium in the country, and that Launcher was bringing in tens of millions of young readers before the Post decided to shut it down? Yes. Yes, I did.