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Articles by Joshua Benton

Joshua Benton is director of the Nieman Journalism Lab. Before spending a year at Harvard as a 2008 Nieman Fellow, he spent a decade in newspapers, most recently at The Dallas Morning News. His reports on cheating on standardized tests in the Texas public schools led to the permanent shutdown of a school district and won the Philip Meyer Journalism Award from Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has reported from 10 foreign countries, been a Pew Fellow in International Journalism, and three times been a finalist for the Livingston Award for International Reporting. Before Dallas, he was a reporter and occasional rock critic for The Toledo Blade. He wrote his first HTML in January 1994.
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“The economic problem for journalism was not competition, in other words, but surveillance and monopoly.”
COVID-19 is “a nearly perfect weapon against alternative weeklies.” In dozens of cities, papers are asking for donations, laying off staff, or abandoning print as social distancing dries up their revenue streams.
But Patrick Soon-Shiong’s outside business dealings show the importance of disclosure — especially in an era when more important news organizations are owned by billionaires with business interests in the topics journalists cover.
There are thousands of journalists either working from home or in full self-quarantine this week as news outlets try to limit COVID-19’s reach within their organizations.
Declines in ad revenue and all those canceled events might prove manageable. But the real risk would come with a virus-inspired recession — and how the industry’s hedge-fund owners might respond to it.
Twitter’s version of the ubiquitous format is an important advance for people wanting to separate the public and long-lasting from the private and ephemeral. But publishers aren’t likely to benefit from a less broadcast-oriented Twitter.
Losing the chance to gather together to swap stories and ideas is very low on the list of the virus’ negative effects, of course. But it’s a harbinger of the sort of disruption that could be coming on a larger scale.
“I just don’t believe where the stock is trading” is not a thing you want to hear from one of your biggest investors. And in Chicago, some of the most prestigious positions in journalism are now either eliminated or part-time gigs.