Media Insider: 2021 World Press Freedom Index, Facebook Focuses on Audio, Insider Journalists Unionize

Welcome to Media Insider, PR Newswire’s roundup of media news stories from the week.

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2021 World Press Freedom Index: Journalism Blocked in More Than 130 Countries

The 2021 World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders, shows that journalism is completely or partly blocked in 73% of the 180 countries ranked by the organization. These countries are classified as having “very bad,” “bad,” or “problematic” environments for press freedom. The Index data reflect a dramatic deterioration in people’s access to information and an increase in obstacles to news coverage. The pandemic has been used as grounds to block journalists’ access to information sources and reporting in the field. The data shows that journalists are finding it increasingly difficult to investigate and report sensitive stories, especially in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.

Here in the U.S., a comprehensive look at the Supreme Court’s opinions reveals an increasingly dim view of the news media. 

Facebook to Focus on Audio Products With Podcast Features, Virtual Rooms, and More

Facebook is pushing hard to compete with Clubhouse and Twitter in the audio category. The company is launching a suite of new tools and features “designed to help users better connect with each other and their favorite creators,” according to Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook is working on three main products: Soundbits, a short-form audio product that will serve users a stream of brief clips; Podcasts, a podcast discovery tool for creators to share their podcasts; and live audio. Zuckerberg also said Facebook is focused on the creator side rather than the consumption side, and that the company “is building out infrastructure for things like donations or subscriptions that can help creators monetize their products that could one day be applied to audio.” 

Reddit also unveiled its take on social audio, Reddit Talk.

Journalists at Insider Join a Union Wave

Journalists at Insider, formerly Business Insider, have formed a union, joining a wave that has swept digital media companies. A majority of more than 300 editorial workers, including reporters, editors, and video journalists, signed cards in support. The Insider Union is asking the company for voluntary recognition. It is represented by the NewsGuild of New York, which also represents editorial employees at The New York Times and other publications. William Antonelli, an editor at Insider, said the union would focus on diversity and inclusion, pay equity, and more transparency on how company executives rate employees.

The COVID-19 crisis has triggered a massive uptick in news media unionization efforts.

Associated Press Building Local News Collaborative

The AP is doubling down on its local news experiment, StoryShare, which helped newsrooms quickly share information around COVID. There are now more than 130 newsrooms participating in the program. In coming months, the network will expand from geographic networks to topical ones. Newsrooms will be able to create networks where they can share stories, photos, videos, etc., around topics as specific as a single storm or as broad as something like gun control or climate change. The networks are available for free for local newsrooms that are AP clients or nonprofits. Non-AP customers can access the networks through grants or a fee.

Also on the local news front: The Biden White House is launching a new strategy of focusing more on local and specialty media. 

The Village Voice Is Back on the Streets of New York

“New York’s Coming Back. And So Are We,” reads the cover of the Spring issue of The Village Voice as it hit New York streets again in print this weekend. The publication shuttered online in 2018 after 63 years. In December, the New York Times reported that Brian Calle, the chief executive of Street Media, owner of LA Weekly, acquired the publication from its owner. Calle promised at the time to start publishing again online this year with quarterly print publications.

ICYMI: Morning Brew shuffles leadership, continues to see growth.  

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Maria Perez is director of web operations at Cision. In her spare time, she enjoys kickboxing, baking, and cuddling with her dog, Toody.

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