Media Insider: More Newsroom Layoffs Expected, NYT Buys Serial Productions, Twitter Confirms Subscription Test

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

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Newsroom Layoffs Will Be Brutal in 2020

Even after the financial crisis, the annual number of newsroom layoffs won’t come close what we’re expected to see this year during the coronavirus pandemic, according to new data from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. In the first six months of 2020, more than 11,000 newsroom jobs have been lost, nearly as many as were lost in all of 2009. It could take years for the industry to recover from the thousands of lost jobs and cuts. And it will ultimately push thousands of talented journalists out of the industry, many for good. Just last week, a slew of media organizations announced more cuts: McClatchy laid off 85 furloughed staffers last week, most in advertising; The Guardian laid off 180 people, including 70 in editorial; BBC laid off 70 people, adding to the hundreds of job cuts its already made; and Vox Media laid off 72 furloughed staffers. 

Also from Axios: Opinion sections become newsroom battles in the Trump era.

New York Times Acquires Serial Productions

The New York Times Co. has agreed to acquire Serial Productions, the company behind podcast hit “Serial,” as it looks to build out its audio business. The deal will allow the studio, which will continue to commission and edit its own stories, to produce more projects than it did previously. “Serial” was originally developed by Julie Snyder and Sarah Koenig while they worked at “This American Life.” The show’s first season became a hit (each episode has been downloaded 20 million times on average) and has been credited with helping introduce podcasting to many Americans. Alongside the deal to acquire Serial Productions, the newspaper also is entering into a strategic alliance with “This American Life” to produce longform audio stories with Serial and to collaborate on marketing and sales. “This American Life” will remain an independent company and continue its weekly radio broadcasts.

In more podcast news, Spotify announced it now supports video podcasts, setting it up to compete with YouTube.

COVID-19 Is Hurting Journalists’ Mental Health

A significant number of journalists reporting on COVID-19 show signs of anxiety and depression, according to the early results of a survey into the current state of journalists’ emotional wellbeing. Even experienced reporters working for large, well-funded media organizations are often struggling to cope with the demands on reporting on the pandemic. The survey, by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and the University of Toronto, asked reporters a range of questions about their work, mental health, and concerns in June, during a period where all countries were affected by COVID-19 in some way. The majority of respondents, around 70%, suffer from some levels of psychological distress, and responses suggest that 26% have clinically significant anxiety compatible with the diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Around 11% of respondents report prominent symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The reasons for the distress, as well as possible solutions, will be discussed in further analysis and subsequent publications.

Are you struggling? Read these tips on how to stay mentally well while reporting on COVID-19.

Twitter Confirms Subscription Test Amid Ad Slump

Twitter has confirmed plans to test a subscription service later in the year. “We do think there is a world where subscription is complementary,” Co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey told analysts during Twitter’s second-quarter earnings call on Thursday. “We are now at a place where we can explore other ideas, and you will likely see some tests this year.” Twitter recently published a job posting, which noted the development of a “subscription platform,” code-named “Gryphon.” Without offering additional details, Dorsey said on Thursday, “We have a really high bar for when we would ask consumers to pay for aspects of Twitter.” For Twitter, word of a subscription service comes amid a steep decline in revenue. During the second quarter, the company took in $683 million in total revenue, a decline of 19% year-over-year.

ICYMI: LA Times places columnist Arash Markazi on leave amid plagiarism investigation.

New Nieman Visiting Fellowships to Focus on Newsroom Representation, Coronavirus Coverage

The coronavirus pandemic and the movement for racial justice present American newsrooms with urgent challenges and opportunities for change. In response, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University is dedicating its next round of Visiting Fellowships to journalism projects that address these dual challenges. For one year beginning this fall, Nieman will offer remote Visiting Fellowships in support of projects that advance racial justice and public health journalism in the U.S. This special initiative will provide targeted research opportunities and specialized training to individuals with concrete and innovative ideas supporting one or more of the following goals: advance the representation of journalists of color throughout the news industry; improve coverage of underreported stories and communities; explain the impact of coronavirus on an area or group; enhance reporting expertise and coverage of public health in a community. There is no age limit or academic prerequisites, and a college degree is not required for application.

Related: OpenNews announced it is creating a DEI coalition for anti-racist, equitable and just newsrooms.

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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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