Media Insider: The Messenger Set to Launch, WGA Strike Begins, Vice on Road to Bankruptcy

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

The Messenger to launch May 15 with 150 journalists
Axios | Sara Fischer

Jimmy Finkelstein’s news startup The Messenger will launch in beta on May 15. Two-thirds of the company’s 200 employees will be newsroom staffers. At launch, The Messenger’s core coverage will focus on news and politics, “where everything needs to be balanced, trusted, nonpartisan,” according to the company’s president Richard Beckman. Nine additional verticals, including entertainment, sports, and tech, will roll out before the end of the year. The company is hoping to eventually grow to 750 employees, with about 550 working in the newsroom, and has an ambitious goal to reach $100 million in revenue in 2024.

More launches: Politico founder Robert L. Allbritton has launched a nonprofit focused on journalist education and former writers at The Toast and The New Republic have debuted a new blog.

Hollywood writers go on strike after contract negotiations fail
NBC News | Daniel Arkin

After high-stakes negotiations between the Writers Guild of America and a trade association representing Hollywood’s marquee studios failed, Hollywood writers are headed to the picket line. The strike began Tuesday and has brought television production to a halt. “The companies’ behavior has created a gig economy inside a union work force, and their immovable stance in this negotiation has betrayed a commitment to further devaluing the profession of writing,” the union said in a statement. Late-night talk shows went dark immediately and this week’s episode of SNL was canceled. WGA members are, in part, fighting for higher wages, arguing that the explosion of streaming platforms has led to shorter seasons and fewer residual fees. They also cite the growth of AI and its potential to take over writing jobs.

Read next: For the New York Times, Maureen Down pens “the final obituary for the American newspaper newsroom.”

Biden Pledges to Secure Journalists’ Release, Defend Free Press
Bloomberg | Mario Parker

During the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, held last weekend, President Biden called on the country to defend democracy and pledged to work to secure the release of journalists being held by foreign governments. Addressing WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich, currently wrongfully detained in Russia on charges of espionage, Biden said, “Everyone in this hall stands with you.” He also called for the release of Austin Tice, a freelance journalist kidnapped in Syria in 2012, and Paul Whelan, the former US marine serving a 16-year prison term in Russia. Biden ended his speech by calling for unity and for Americans to defend democracy and embrace truth.

On World Press Freedom Day (May 3), the U.N. revealed “unbelievable” trends in deadly attacks against journalists.

Vice Is Said to Be Headed for Bankruptcy
New York Times | Lauren Hirsch, Benjamin Mullin

Vice is preparing to file for bankruptcy in the coming weeks, according to sources. The company may still find a buyer and avoid bankruptcy — and more than five companies have expressed interest — but chances are getting slim. The once-promising digital media disrupter was valued at $5.7 billion in 2017 and is now worth a tiny fraction of that. The company has been trying for years to turn a profit but has consistently failed to do so, losing money and repeatedly laying off employees. “The company, its board and stakeholders continue to be focused on finding the best path for the company,” the company said in a statement.

The news of a potential bankruptcy came days after Vice announced cuts and the end of Vice News Tonight.

Twitter Will Let Publishers Charge For Article Clicks, Musk Says
MediaPost | Ray Schultz

Over the weekend, Twitter owner Elon Musk tweeted “Rolling out next month, this platform will allow media publishers to charge users on a per article basis with one click.” He said the move would be a “major win-win for both media orgs & the public” by driving revenues to publishers and allowing readers to avoid paywalls. A study by Toolkits and National Research Group found that 53% of consumers attempt to bypass paywalls on publishers’ websites. Companies have tried to find ways around the need for full subscriptions, introducing pay-per-click and article credit models.

ICYMI: Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey backtracked on his earlier endorsement of Elon Musk, saying Musk “should have walked away” from the acquisition.

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Rocky Parker is the Manager of Audience and Journalist Engagement at Cision PR Newswire. She's been with the company since 2010 and has worked with journalists and bloggers as well as PR and comms professionals. Outside of work, she can be found trying a new recipe, binging a new show, or cuddling with her pitbull, Hudson.

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