Media Insider: VOA Editors Resign, LA Times Journalists Demand Change, Post-Gazette Sued

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

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Top Voice of America editors resign amid strife with White House, arrival of new Trump-appointed director

Two top editors at Voice of America resigned following the appointment of Michael Pack to head the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees VOA. In a memo to staff on Monday, VOA Director Amanda Bennett and Deputy Director Sandy Sugawara jointly wrote, “It is time for us to leave,” but provided no specific reason. The appointment of Pack has heightened concern within the news agency that the Trump administration is seeking more control over what VOA reports. The public rift between VOA and the Trump administration escalated recently after news broke that the CDC, influenced by the White House’s criticism of VOA, instructed its communications staff to deny interviews to VOA reporters. In response, Bennett issued a strongly worded statement: “Efforts such as those outlined in the CDC memo can result in the kind of chilling effect on our journalism that we regularly see in the markets we broadcast to that have no free press.”

Rumors of additional leadership changes at the U.S. Agency for Global Media raise concern that the White House aims to build a propaganda empire.

Rancor Erupts In ‘LA Times’ Newsroom Over Race, Equity And Protest Coverage

Los Angeles Times Executive Editor Norman Pearlstine is scrambling to placate journalists of color during what some call an “internal uprising” in the newsroom. Staffers are demanding real change after years of empty promises to bring more diversity to the newsroom’s ranks. The journalists expressed their anger over racial inequity at the paper, stating Pearlstine has allowed the newspaper to pander to white readers, ignored gaps in pay and desk coverage, and approved the creation of training programs that bring in new journalists of color to meet diversity quotas instead of helping elevate tenured journalists of color. In response to these objections, Pearlstine has vowed to make changes such as hiring a new senior news executive for diversity; filling open roles on the metro desk with black journalists; performing a formal review of the way the paper has covered the protests; and capitalizing the “B” in the term “Black Americans” going forward.

In the last week, a wave of employees at some of the biggest fashion media companies have spoken up about racism at their companies.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter sues newspaper over protest coverage ban

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Alexis Johnson has filed a federal lawsuit against the newspaper after being banned from covering protests. Post-Gazette Executive Editor Keith Burris said the actions against Johnson were taken after she posted a tweet on her private Twitter page showing bias toward subject matter she was covering for the newspaper. The lawsuit states the tweet was meant to “…mock, ridicule and protest discrimination against African Americans by society in general and by whites who equate property damage with human life,” and alleges that the Post-Gazette violated the Civil Rights Act of 1866 by barring Johnson from protest coverage. The lawsuit seeks to force the Post-Gazette to lift the ban placed on Johnson and to compensate her for any diminishment of career advancement due to its action.

Read more: The standoff between owners and journalists that’s eviscerating Pittsburgh’s biggest newspaper.

‘Facebook doesn’t care’: Activists say accounts removed despite Zuckerberg’s free-speech stance

The Facebook accounts of several Tunisian, Syrian, and Palestinian activists and journalists have been deactivated over the last few months on the pretext of terrorism and were said to violate the company’s policies prohibiting “praise, support or representation” of terrorist organizations. The activists and journalists believe that Facebook is miscategorizing their accounts due to the increased use of automated tools for content moderation decisions. Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly defended the company’s policy of taking a hands-off approach with statements from politicians. However, civil liberties and human rights groups believe Facebook’s free speech principles only protect those in power. 

More on Facebook: Civil Rights Groups Push for Facebook Ad Boycott.

How The New York Times is producing quarantine videos without being live and in-person

When NYC went into lockdown, Quarantine Diaries series producer Alexandra Eaton had to figure out how to produce a new video series without being in-person with the series host, editing team, and the video character. They found that the restrictions actually helped them capture stories in a more raw and authentic way by giving characters more autonomy to capture the story from their own perspective. Barbara Marcolini, video producer on the Times’ visual investigations team, coaches sources via video chat on how to get the images she’s looking for and enjoys seeing the events through another person’s eyes because it gives her another perspective to work with. Video producers also are introducing themselves in the comments section, giving information about the reporting process and answering viewer questions. Zainab Khan, the Times’ audience strategy editor for video, said newsroom video views went up 140% in March.

Chad Mumm, SVP of Entertainment at Vox Media Studios, discusses how his team made the transition to remote production and how they were able to create new programming within isolation.

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Erin Wade is a Senior Customer Content Specialist with PR Newswire. She is also an animal lover and aspiring world traveler. Tune into her insights as a social curator at @TotalCSR.

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