Media Insider: NYT Opinion Editor Resigns, Facebook Launches Revamped News Section, MSN’s AI Journalists Stumble

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

The New York Times building exterior

NIEMANLAB | SARAH SCIRE
After Newsroom Protests, The New York Times Opinion Page Editor and the Top Editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer Have Resigned

Last week, the editor of The New York Times opinion section, James Bennet, and the top editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Stan Wischnowski, faced crises in their newsrooms over an op-ed and an offensive headline, respectively. Over the weekend, both men resigned. Staff at the Inquirer, particularly journalists of color, said they were “tired of shouldering the burden of dragging this 200-year-old institution kicking and screaming into a more equitable age” after the paper ran a front-page article with the headline “Buildings matter, too.” At the Times, Bennet’s resignation followed an uproar over an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton that called for an “overwhelming” show of military force to stop civil unrest. The Times’ own staff participated in an unprecedented protest over the Cotton op-ed, publicly stating that the piece put black colleagues in danger and demanding corrections where the op-ed contradicted the Times’ own reporting and misquoted the U.S. Constitution.

Over at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, journalists are fighting back after editors banned two black reporters from covering local protests.

THE VERGE | NICK STATT
Facebook’s Revamped News Section Launches in the U.S. With a Focus on Local Sources

Facebook has launched its revamped news tab in the U.S. The launch includes a dedicated local news section, among other topics, and a George Floyd-specific section. In an online FAQ detailing the structure of the new Facebook News, the company outlines its editorial strategy, including which publishers it decides to promote and what metrics it uses to pick a story from one outlet over another. The company is employing a human team and vetting sources through a new effort called the News Page Index. To qualify as one of its partnered publishers, outlets need to have a big enough audience and pass the company’s integrity standards, although the FAQ does not make clear where the line between objectionable and passable content is. It remains to be seen to what extent Facebook will try to make this editorially curated and paid partnership program a larger focus within the company and how much it will be willing to cut news organizations in on the financial rewards.

Some advertisers are taking a timeout from Facebook over its policy regarding President Trump’s posts.

POYNTER | KRISTEN HARE
Google’s Putting $15 Million Into a ‘Support Local News’ Campaign

Local newsrooms hurt by the shutdown and its impact on advertising might get some relief from a new ad campaign in support of local news. “Support Local News,” from the Google News Initiative, Local Media Consortium, and Local Media Association, will spend $15 million in ads in local newspapers, their sites, radio, TV, and online-only newsrooms in North America for the next six weeks. “This is a significant moment for the local media industry,” said Nancy Lane, CEO of LMA. “People may not understand why they need to support local news organizations with digital subscriptions, donations, memberships and advertising, if applicable. This $15 million ad campaign will help us change the conversation.”

More than 30 newsrooms in the U.S. have closed since the pandemic began.

THE VERGE | JAMES VINCENT
Microsoft’s AI Journalists Confused Mixed-Race Little Mix Singers on MSN Homepage

Microsoft’s decision to replace human news curators with AI to run its news and search site MSN.com has been criticized after the automated system confused two mixed-race members of British pop group Little Mix. The newly instated robot editors selected a story about Little Mix singer Jade Thirlwall’s experience with racism to appear on the homepage but used a picture of Thirlwall’s bandmate Leigh-Anne Pinnock to illustrate it. Thirlwall drew attention to the mistake on her Instagram story, writing: “@MSN If you’re going to copy and paste articles from other accurate media outlets, you might want to make sure you’re using an image of the correct mixed-race member of the group.” The tech giant laid off the editorial staff of MSN late last month. Around 50 journalists were reportedly let go in the U.S. and 27 in the UK. It’s not clear exactly what caused this error, but in an updated statement, Microsoft said it was not a result of algorithmic bias but an experimental feature in the automated system.

COVID has been hard on journalism — is AI the answer?

FORBES | ANDREW SOLENDER
Trump Campaign Demands CNN Apologize and Retract Poll Showing Biden up 14 Points

As part of an effort to refute a recent flurry of bad polling, the Trump campaign sent a cease-and-desist letter to CNN demanding it apologize and retract a poll showing former Vice President Joe Biden leading by a wide margin, which CNN refused to do. The poll evoked a strong reaction from Trump, who announced on Twitter that he hired conservative pollster McLaughlin & Associates to “analyze todays CNN Poll (and others),” which he said is fake “based on the incredible enthusiasm we are receiving.” In a letter sent to CNN president Jeff Zucker, the Trump campaign asserted that the poll is “designed to mislead American voters through a biased questionnaire and skewed sampling.” A CNN spokesperson said they “stand by our poll,” and CNN White House reporter Kevin Liptak tweeted that they are not retracting it. 

Earlier this year, the campaign also sued The New York Times and Washington Post for libel.

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Maria Perez is Director, Web Experience & Operations at Cision. In her spare time, she runs Bags of Love Foundation, a local nonprofit that provides cancer patients with care packages aimed at making their treatment more comfortable. She also enjoys kickboxing, baking, and cuddling with her dog Toody, who thinks he rules the world.

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