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March 12, 2021, 12:13 p.m.
Business Models

The Front Page, 3/12: Unpaid internships, HuffPost layoffs, and Gimlet union negotiations

Plus: A.H. Belo seeks a new, non-Confederate name; Ebony and Jet find a new home in Atlanta; and a lawsuit alleges that Haskell Indian Nations University violated its student newspaper editor’s First Amendment rights.

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.

We’ve seen this one before: Media person tweets that unpaid internships are good, Twitter erupts, discourse ensues, repeat. This time it came from NFL Network reporter Jane Slater, who wrote, “there is a reason not everyone makes it in this business,” implying that early-career journalists should take unpaid or underpaid opportunities. She later issued a statement, acknowledging she comes from familial wealth, and adding she doesn’t think people should work for free.

Twitter didn’t respond kindly to the initial sentiment. Many journalists pointed out that they had to work multiple jobs to afford unpaid opportunities or were completely shut out from them.

Unpaid internships are exploitative and elitist, rewarding students who can afford to take them them and leaving behind students from underrepresented backgrounds.

BuzzFeed lays off dozens of HuffPost employees

Three weeks after it formally acquired HuffPost from Verizon Media, BuzzFeed is laying off 47 U.S. HuffPost employees and shuttering HuffPost Canada, for a total of 70 jobs lost.

BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti had said he “believe[d] in the future of HuffPost and the potential it has to continue to define the media landscape for years to come.” Evidently, dozens of journalists who were laid off earlier this week will not be part of that future.

Reportedly, several of the laid-off staffers were international employees who relied on their work to maintain visa status. The already dwindling international coverage from the frankensteined BuzzHuffFeedPost will become even sparser with the impending shutdown of HuffPost Canada — just two weeks after employees unionized with CWA Canada. (The HuffPost Canada Union was told the decision wasn’t related to organizing.)

Defector reported on how the layoffs went down:

According to a recording of the all-hands call obtained by Defector, Peretti told staffers that if they “don’t receive an email” by 1:00 p.m. EDT then their jobs are safe. The HuffPost staff received an email at 10:00 a.m. EDT announcing the meeting. According to an attendee, the password to join the meeting was “spr!ngisH3r3.”

If you have a few bucks, you can support those journalists here. You can also share available openings that will be added to an internal spreadsheet.

“There was a union and they would protect me”

At 3:00 AM this morning, members of Gimlet Union secured their first contract.

Among other items, the unionhas prioritized clear pathways to promotion with salary minimums, the right to derivative works, across-the-board raises, and “initiatives to address anti-oppression, diversity and inclusion.”

Former Gimlet staffers who are Black have written recently about the poor treatment and exploitation they faced at the company. Codified additions to organization’s employee manual would be a welcome development.

Ringer Union also bargained for its first contract, putting an emphasis on talent retention. In past bargaining sessions, members reached tentative agreements for parental leave, an anti-harassment policy, and a 40-hour work week. With a contract, these bargaining successes would be granted a significant level of protection.

Likewise, members of Parcast Union are presenting their newest counterproposals, which push for non-discrimination, pay equity, and health and safety regulations.

A bit more media

Lawsuit alleges university violated First Amendment rights. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has filed a lawsuit against Haskell Indian Nations University on behalf of campus newspaper The Indian Leader and its editor-in-chief, Jared Nally. In October 2020, University president Ronald Graham sent a directive to Nally instructing him to stop reporting on stories deemed unfavorable by Graham. FIRE also alleges that the “federally-operated tribal university in Kansas shorted funding for [The Indian Leader] by over $10,000 without any explanation and ignored emails for months.”

Iowa journalist acquitted of all charges. Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri was found not guilty by a jury on Tuesday. Last May, Sahouri was pepper-sprayed and arrested while covering a Black Lives Matters protest. Sahouri, a Palestinian American, told Axios that race played a “huge part” in her arrest; Katie Akin, a white former Register reporter, was with Sahouri but did not get arrested.

Ebony and Jet will find a home in Atlanta. New company executives say Ebony, which relaunched digitally on March 1, will be based in Atlanta. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also reports that Jet will return in June and that three previous employees are included in the new hires. The company that had owned Ebony and Jet forced into involuntary bankruptcy last year; former NBA player Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman acquired both publications for $14 million in December.

Teen Vogue staffers reject McCammond’s statements. Last week, Alexi McCammond was named editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, prompting Diana Tsui, editorial director of recommendations at restaurant recommendation site The Infatuation, to create an Instagram post calling attention to racist and homophobic tweets McCammond posted in 2011. Since then, a group of over 20 Teen Vogue staffers said they reject McCammond’s statements and wrote a letter to Condé Nast about the hiring decision. McCammond responded on Wednesday, writing that she was “sorry to have used such hurtful and inexcusable language.”

Native American Journalists Association member survey. The Native American Journalists Association is considering updating its name to the Indigenous Journalists Association and expanding to allow for international partnerships. NAJA members are invited to take a survey that will help the organization determine its path forward.

What Marty Baron’s send-offs miss. The Washington Post’s top editor eased into retirement at the end of the February, making room for retrospectives from his former paper and its competitors. Wesley Lowery, formerly a national correspondent at the Post, wrote about what’s missing from those retrospectives — acknowledgment of Baron’s behavior during last year’s “racial reckoning.”

Baron’s claims that racial tension was unexpected are “absolutely nonsensical and ahistorical,” Lowery said.

A.H. Belo Corporation seeks a new name. The company, which publishes The Dallas Morning News and Al Día, will ask shareholders to approve that change to “DallasNews Corporation” in May. The corporation’s founder, A.H. Belo, was a Confederate officer, a fact which “is the source of discomfort, even pain, for many of our fellow citizens,” said Robert Decherd, who serves the company as CEO, chairman, and president.

What’s happening.

$$$ denotes a paid event.

  • March 12–13: The Parenting Journalists Conference ($$$). Workshop topics include podcasting, productivity tips, and ways to protect children’s privacy in written work.
  • March 15: Sunshine Week: Press freedom, investigative journalism and opening closed doors, hosted by the National Press Club Journalism Institute and press freedom team. Panelists are expected to share “methods for diversifying investigative teams.”
  • March 16–18: The Spring National College Media Convention ($$$). The event includes more than 100 sessions on topics including multimedia reporting, career advice, and staff management, among others.
  • March 18: “Informing the public on the promise and perils of algorithms,” a Society of Professional Journalists virtual panel. In addition to explaining how algorithms are created, speakers will discuss tactics for limiting bias in artificial intelligence.
  • March 24: How to research, write and publish a solutions-focused book. In this panel discussion, hosted by the Solutions Journalism Network, journalists Linda Villarosa and Andrew Wear “shed light on the ins and outs of nonfiction book writing through a solutions lens.”

This issue of The Front Page is by Holly Piepenburg and Chelsea Cirruzzo with editing by Curtis Yee.

Photo by Michael Longmire on Unsplash.

POSTED     March 12, 2021, 12:13 p.m.
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