Media Insider: Vice Files for Bankruptcy, The Messenger’s Rocky Start, CNET Staff Unionizes

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

Vice Media files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
Axios | Sara Fischer

Early Monday morning, Vice Media Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The digital media company was once one of the most highly-valued media startups of the internet era, valued at $5.7 billion at its peak just a few years ago. The Chapter 11 filing marks the end of a long, strenuous effort by the company to sell itself after its business stopped growing. Vice said it has agreed to an asset purchase agreement with the “Fortress Consortium,” led by Fortress Investment Group and with participation from Soros Fund Management and Monroe Capital. The group has agreed to buy out Vice’s assets for a value of $225 million. Vice’s assets include Refinery29, marketing agency Virtue, fashion platform I-D, its production arm Vice Studios, and more.

Read Vice’s press release announcing the filing.

Jimmy Finkelstein’s The Messenger Launches to Confusion, Scorn
The Wrap | Rosemary Rossi

The new digital media outlet The Messenger, created by former co-owner of The Hill and the Hollywood Reporter Jimmy Finkelstein, launched this week and was met with a less-than-warm welcome. After its debut, readers called the site’s content “literally unreadable” while another said, “They have no idea what they’re doing.” The mix of hard news and clickbait headlines on the free, ad-supported site is clearly not going down well with industry insiders, who called Finkelstein’s goal to hire 175 journalists to start and 550 journalists within a year “delusional.” Peter Kafka, host of Recode Media, said, “Launching a news site is hard but ooof…Btw I’m not saying people won’t click on these links. But you don’t need to launch a heavily funded site to distribute these links. They’re already all over the internet.”

ICYMI: Cision released its annual State of the Media Report this week. MediaPost broke down some of the findings.

CNET staff are unionizing, citing editorial independence and use of AI tools
The Verge | Mia Sato

More than 100 CNET staffers, including reporters, editors, and video production teams, are forming a union with the Writers Guild of America, East. The move comes just months after the tech outlet came under fire for quietly running articles written with AI tools — many of which were found to have inaccuracies and required corrections. “In this time of instability, our diverse content teams need industry-standard job protections, fair compensation, editorial independence and a voice in the decision-making process, especially as automated technology threatens our jobs and reputations,” the union says. Workers are asking Red Ventures, the private equity-backed marketing firm that owns CNET, to voluntarily recognize the union. CNET would be the first union shop under Red Ventures, which also owns digital outlets The Points Guy, Healthline, ZDNet, and Bankrate.

More AI news: NiemanLab takes a look at how AI-generated search results will affect the traffic that Google sends to publishers’ sites.

Elon Musk Appoints Linda Yaccarino Twitter’s New Chief
New York Times | Tiffany Hsu, Sapna Maheshwari, Benjamin Mullin, and Ryan Mac

Last Friday it was confirmed that Linda Yaccarino, NBCUniversal’s former advertising chief, would become the new CEO of Twitter. In his announcement, Twitter owner Elon Musk said Yaccarino would mainly handle business operations while he would continue working on product design and technology. The appointment is a sign that advertising, not social media know-how, is Musk’s top priority at Twitter. Ms. Yaccarino has been “a force” in the advertising world for decades and will be crucial to repairing Twitter’s damaged relationship with advertisers. Another of her priorities will be wooing media companies back to the platform, potentially with partnership deals, according to a source.

Read next: Yaccarino warned advertisers off social media pretty darn recently. Vanity Fair asks if she’ll be able to sell the opposite message.

Dow Jones, Columbia Journalism School Launch Inclusionary Media Collective
MediaPost | Ray Schultz

Dow Jones and Columbia Journalism School have teamed up to launch the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Media Collective. The program will provide newsroom and journalism school training on how to cover breaking news of timely financial topics and incorporate diverse voices and perspectives in a news report. The goal is to “support journalism education, financial acumen and to build a strong pipeline of diverse talent for news organizations,” says Jelani Cobb, dean of the Columbia Journalism School. Nine emerging journalists were selected for the first cohort and will work in Dow Jones newsrooms to learn financial reporting skills and gain experience working alongside professional journalists.

Style change: The Wall Street Journal is bucking tradition and eliminating the use of honorifics (Mr., Mrs., Ms., etc.) to make its writing “livelier and more approachable.”

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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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