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Nov. 20, 2020, 12:14 p.m.
Reporting & Production

Why should Trump supporters get media coverage that other groups of voters don’t?

Plus: The Committee to Protect Journalists has its first union contract, Wisconsin Public Radio tracks source diversity, and who is Substack for?

Editor’s note: The Front Page is a biweekly newsletter from The Objective, a publication that offers reporting, first-person commentary, and reported essays on how journalism has misrepresented or excluded specific communities in coverage, as well as how newsrooms have treated staff from those communities. We happily share each issue with Nieman Lab readers.

It’s Friday, November 20. This is issue 12 of The Front Page. Before we get into it, a quick plug: If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve been reading over the last few weeks (or months!), we’d love your feedback. If you have time for a 10-15 minute Zoom or phone call, please contact us and we’ll connect with you. In return for your time, when we eventually offer paid membership, we will provide six months free.

After “reckoning with racism,” the L.A. Times’ ed board dedicates an entire page to Trump voters. We need to understand Trump voters — at least according to the L.A. Times’ Nov. 14 editorial page.

In the editorial pages of the paper, which endorsed Biden, eleven Trump voters shared the reasons they voted for him: They wrote about benefiting from the economy under Trump, shared values at odds with “unreasonable positions” like open borders, and “the left” failing to understand their beliefs.

But Nikole Hannah-Jones, who spearheaded the 1619 Project in The New York Times, rightfully asked: “Why not any other group of voters?”

It’s important to understand why one group of people chooses one presidential candidate over another, but the rationale of Trump supporters has been extensively covered even before this year’s election, even in the L. A. Times itself. The Times held space for reactions to Trump’s election in 2016. While Biden cobbled together a different coalition than Clinton, the Times covered Clinton and Trump voters’ perceptions of each other. And it covered California Republicans’ reactions to Trump’s 2016 win.

Paul Thornton, letters editor for the Times, called the page “an attempt to facilitate communication between the two sides of our profoundly polarized nation.”

While the decision may have been intended to promote mutual understanding, it created a backlash, instead implying that Trump voters were the more important group to center post-election. Covering the beliefs of Trump supporters’ is different from allowing them free reign of the letters page of a major national newspaper.

And if mutual understanding was the goal, why was equal space not extended to Biden voters? Or socialists, non-voters, or libertarians? The Times could’ve done better elevating other voices: Trump voters who voted for Biden this election, queer folks, non-voters, Black women, the Navajo nation, low income Angelenos. We’ll see who they decide to give their letters page to next.

Substacking. Is Substack a content management system or a publishing platform? That’s one of the central questions in “The Substackerati,” a Columbia Journalism Review piece written by Clio Chang.

Chang asks: “Will Substack replicate the patterns of marginalization found across the media industry, or will it help people locked out of the dominant media sphere to flourish? To a large extent, the answer depends on whether or not Substack’s founders believe they’re in the publishing business.”

We don’t have a comprehensive answer. This newsletter is published on Substack, but we weren’t recruited to be here. And it’s not certain that we’ll be here forever. We started publishing on Substack, after a brief stint on Medium, because it was a convenient way to build our email list and understand who’s actually reading (that’s you). But that doesn’t mean we’ll be using the platform forever.

Substack has become a refuge for some writers who refuse to confront their critics in a serious way but who have benefited from existing power structures within the industry. From CJR:

If you visit Substack’s website, you’ll see leaderboards of the top twenty-five paid and free newsletters; the writers’ names are accompanied by their little circular avatars. The intention is declarative — you, too, can make it on Substack. But as you peruse the lists, something becomes clear: the most successful people on Substack are those who have already been well-served by existing media power structures. Most are white and male; several are conservative. Matt Taibbi, Andrew Sullivan, and most recently, Glenn Greenwald — who offer similar screeds about the dangers of cancel culture and the left — all land in the top ten. (Greenwald’s arrival bumped the like-minded Yascha Mounk to eleventh position; soon, Matthew Yglesias signed up for Substack, too.)

None of that is so surprising — it’s hard to earn four-fire-emoji status without having already built up a reputation within established institutions. And, as this year’s anti-racist activism has made all the more visible, those institutions are built from prejudiced systems, which form working environments that are often unsustainable for people who are nonwhite or non-elite. “I think one of the reasons why we often see that the top-twenty-five board at Substack is mostly white authors is because that’s an extension of the type of audience and recognition they get for their work on other platforms,” [Darian Harvin, the author of Beauty IRL] said.

After a year, CPJ Union secures a contract. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has its first union contract.

Though management voluntarily recognized the union in July 2019, it had been over a year since the CPJ Union, represented by Writers Guild of America, East, was able to hold a bargaining session. Prior to the stalemate, guild members asked the organization to “foster a more diverse, equitable, and sustainable workplace through increased salary minimums and fair across the board pay increases,” plus commit to clear health and retirement benefits in a contract.

On November 4, a petition signed by more than 600 Writers Guild of America, East members was presented to CPJ in another effort to highlight the demands. Less than two weeks later, members were back at the bargaining table. CPJ has not yet issued an official statement.

Writers Guild of America, East is also standing behind Gimlet, Parcast, and The Ringer unions as they demand that their parent company Spotify commit to “prompt and good-faith negotiations.” While Spotify recognizes the guilds, the company continues to post jobs that ignore union obligations. A Gimlet Union representative told Hot Pod that a future contract would set a strong example for other organizations in the audio industry.

Who is The Objective? We usually use this section for a Q/A, but since we’ve been at this for a few months, we figured we’d pause and tell you a bit about who exactly runs The Objective. First and foremost: we are an all-volunteer collective, several of us with full-time jobs outside of this work. But we believe this kind of coverage is not an occasional way to cover journalism, but the focal point.

Even though we are a collective, we do have folks that lead up coverage. Here’s a quick list:

Gabe Schneider (he/him) is the lead editor and cofounder at The Objective. He is a journalist based in Washington D.C. He is the Assistant Managing Editor for Votebeat and takes care of a very cute dog, Murphy. You can follow him @gabemschneider.

Marlee Baldridge (she/her) is the administrative director and cofoounder at The Objective. She is a graduate student at the University of Missouri studying who makes the news (and in whose interest). Outside of school & work, she’s playing D&D, watching Star Trek, or playing games. You can follow her @MarleeWith2Es.

Janelle Salanga (they/she) is the deputy editor at The Objective. They are a fellow at CalMatters, a team lead with the Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies and a current fourth-year at the University of California, Davis, studying the interplay between science, society and media. They’re also a big fan of cooking for other people and themselves to stave off the approaching-graduation dread. You can follow them @janelle_cpp.

Chelsea Cirruzzo (she/her) is the social media manager at The Objective and a big Avatar: The Last Airbender fan. She is a health care reporter in Washington, D.C. She’s been published in DCist, Washington City Paper, The Washington Post, The Lily, Eater, and more. You can follow her at @chelseacirruzzo.

Holly Piepenburg (she/her) is the Newsletter Manager at The Objective. She is an outreach coordinator for the Pulitzer Center, and previously worked in broadcast television news. In her free time, she plays with her cat, Willa, and reads mystery novels. You can follow her @HollyPiepenburg.

— 2008: “Washington doesn’t sleep here.” Ashley Parker, now at The Washington Post, wrote about how Matt Yglesias, then 26, lived with Spencer Ackerman and Kriston Capps. A few blocks away, Ezra Klein, then 23, lived with three other journalists, including Julian Sanchez and Dave Weigel.

What’s happening. $$$ denotes a paid event.

  • Today: Belonging in the News: Part Two with Maria Hinojosa. Registration is free for today’s event with Maria Hinojosa, the executive producer of Latino USA.
  • Saturday, Nov. 21: NABJ 2020 Regional Conferences & Career Fair ($$$). NABJ’s four regions are coming together to host the virtual regional conferences this weekend.
  • Sunday, Nov. 22: “How to write better service journalism,” a webinar hosted by Tim Herrera. Also on Sunday, Herrera hosts “How to get into and succeed at copywriting.”
  • Tuesday, Nov. 24: News Impact’s Data Journalism: Build Trust in Media Summit. The three-day program features workshops in English, French, and German.
  • Monday, Nov. 30: Inspired by Excellence: A Conversation with Yamiche Alcindor. Alcindor is one of RTDNA’s 2020 Paul White and John F. Hogan Award winners.

A bit more media.

  • Wisconsin Public Radio tracks source diversity. WPR’s Source Demographic Survey, released in August, revealed an urgent need for diversity. Now, the station is sharing its methodology. Read more from Wisconsin Public Radio or the Reynolds Journalism Institute.
  • “She was incredibly angry at them.” In a profile of his co-worker Maggie Haberman, New York Times media columnist Ben Smith wrote that part of the White House correspondent’s former morning routine included yelling at her sources. Journalists have since questioned Haberman’s process and highlighted her privilege.
  • Quartz goes independent. More than six months after Quartz announced dozens of layoffs under the management of Uzabase, co-founder Zach Seward is making the site private. In his statement, Seward wrote that all staffers, including editor-in-chief Katherine Bell, will share equity. The new company will continue to recognize the Quartz Union, according to editorial staff members.
  • L.A. Times, Tribune Publishing settle pay dispute. Though both companies deny allegations of gender, race, and ethnic discrimination, $3 million will be paid to resolve the class-action lawsuit filed by “nearly 240 current and former reporters and editors.” Black, Latinx, and female staffers employed by the Times during a five-year period could receive a portion of the settlement.
  • Celebrating Abby Phillip. During the excitement of Election Week (yes, it was a full week), CNN Political Correspondent Abby Phillip stood out. While other reporters and anchors pointed at maps and spoke at record speeds, Phillip notably slowed down, offering smart analysis that showcased her vast political knowledge. The New York Times’ profile of Phillip celebrates the poise, context and clarity she brought to that intense week.
  • New Yorker fires Toobin. The New Yorker has fired reporter Jeffrey Toobin less than a month after Vice reported that Toobin had masturbated on a work call. Toobin, who had previously called the incident an “embarrassing stupid mistake,” said he will always love the magazine.
  • NAJA demands apology from CNN. The Native American Journalist Association is demanding an apology after CNN used the phrase “something else” to describe voters who are not white, Latinx, Black or Asian on election night. “This type of language continues the efforts to erase Indigenous and other voters who don’t neatly fall into the race categories listed in the graphic,” the group wrote, asking for a public apology as well as the opportunity to meet with CNN leadership to discuss their coverage of Native communities.

This edition of The Front Page was written by Holly Piepenburg, Gabe Schneider, Chelsea Cirruzzo, and Janelle Salanga, with editing by Curtis Yee. Gabe Schneider. The Objective was cofounded by Schneider, the Washington correspondent for MinnPost, and Marlee Baldridge, a Master’s student at the University of Missouri (and a former Google News Initiative fellow at Nieman Lab).

POSTED     Nov. 20, 2020, 12:14 p.m.
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