Media Insider: Police Raid Australian Public Broadcaster, Americans Weigh in on Fake News, Newsweek Upheaval Continues

Welcome to Media Insider, PR Newswire’s round-up of media stories from the week.

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Police Raid Australian Public Broadcaster Over Afghan Leak

Australia’s Federal Police raided the offices of the national public broadcaster on Wednesday in connection to a 2017 story based on leaked military documents. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said the raid, the second in as many days by police investigating government leaks, raised questions about media freedom in the country. “It is highly unusual for the national broadcaster to be raided in this way,” ABC managing director David Anderson said in a statement. “This is a serious development and raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press and proper public scrutiny of national security and defense matters.” The raid came a day after federal police searched the Canberra home of Annika Smethurst, the political editor of The Sunday Telegraph of Sydney, over a 2018 story detailing an alleged government proposal to spy on Australians.

It’s not just Australia; according to a report by Freedom House, freedom of the media has been deteriorating around the world over the past decade.

Americans Think Fake News Is Big Problem, Blame Politicians

A survey from the Pew Research Center found that 68% of U.S. adults believe fake news affects confidence in government institutions. Misinformation was cited more often as a major problem than sexism, racism, illegal immigration, or terrorism. As for who’s to blame, 57% pointed the finger at political leaders and their staffs, while 53% said activist groups bore responsibility. Journalists and foreign actors such as Russia each got the blame from more than a third of the survey participants. Republicans were more likely to blame journalists, while 20% of Democrats said journalists create made-up news. 

Related: Twitter buys machine-learning startup that helps detect fake news.

Vice News Looks to Add to Newsroom Heading Into 2020 Election Season

Vice News is expanding its digital news desk as the company moves forward on its plans to focus on a handful of core business areas, including news, TV, digital, studio production, and Virtue. Heading into the 2020 election, Vice News has hired seven new people to its digital news operation and is still looking to fill two new positions on its politics beat, including a position for senior politics editor. In addition to politics coverage, Vice also is building out its digital audio team. A Vice spokesperson declined to state the exact number of new hires Vice Media is planning to make in 2019, but said Vice News plans to staff up “significantly.”

This is quite the turnaround for Vice Media, which earlier this year announced a restructuring that resulted in hundreds of layoffs.

‘Newsweek’ Staff Replacements Continue at Full Force

There’s more upheaval at Newsweek as full-timers are being gradually replaced by a slate of well-credentialed journalists hired on a part-time basis. Among the recent departures are Deputy Editor Michael Mishak and Executive Editor Mary Kaye Schilling. Nina Burleigh, the national politics correspondent, was told she was being put on a contract-only basis, although she keeps the title on the masthead. Nancy Cooper has been running the publication since the axing of top editors last year for their reporting on an alleged money-laundering scheme with IBT Media, which was Newsweek’s parent company at the time.

Also on the magazine front, 100-year-old Motorcyclist moves to digital only.

Tribune Publishing to Pay $56 Million Special Cash Dividend to Shareholders

Its coffers still full from last year’s sale of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago-based Tribune Publishing announced Thursday it will pay a special cash dividend of $56 million to shareholders. It will be the first dividend paid to shareholders since Tribune Publishing spun off in August 2014 as a stand-alone company and significantly shrinks a cash pile that made it both a potential buyer of other media properties and an acquisition target. The company, which owns the Chicago Tribune and other major newspapers, had $98.2 million in unrestricted cash at the end of the first quarter, according to financial reports. Between the upcoming dividend payment and other recent expenses, the projected cash balance would be about $25 million.

In other Tribune news, the company is reportedly among several companies in talks about a potential deal with Gannett.

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Maria Perez is Director, Web Experience & Operations at PR Newswire. An animal lover, she curates content for @PRNPets – that is, when she’s not busy cuddling with her 11-year-old blind Maltese, Toody.

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