Skip to main content

tv   The Media Show  BBC News  January 16, 2022 5:30am-6:01am GMT

5:30 am
the headlines: judges in the australian federal court have retired to consider the arguments made by lawyers about the withdrawal of novak djokovic�*s visa on public health grounds. the number one men's tennis player is facing deportation and a three year ban on obtaining a visa if he loses the appeal. police in texas say a hostage taker has been killed after a siege at a synagogue in the city of colleyville. four people who were held for ten hours are now free and safe. it happened as a service was being streamed live over the internet. the prime minister of new zealand says a tsunami has inflicted significant damage on the island of tonga. there are no known deaths, but communication with the island is difficult, and mobile networks are down. the tsunami was caused by the eruption of an underwater volcano near tonga. those of the headlines here on bbc news.
5:31 am
now on bbc news it's time for the media show. i'm ros atkins, welcome to this week's edition of the media show. and there's no doubting one of the big media stories of the week, the columnist of the new york times ben smith has announced he is leaving the paper and he'sjoining forces withjustin smith, no relation, who has been head of bloomberg media. together they're going to create a new news organisation. they say within the next 20 years it could take on the mighty cnn, new york times, bbc and others. well, ben smith is our guest on the media show today and, ben, i would like to understand a little bit more about what you are planning. of course — and yes, thanks for having me on. i hope you'll... there's been a tonne written in the ft and thejournal and times, and all these good places, so, there is a lot
5:32 am
to read about what we're doing, but basically, we think there's a huge space to create a new global news organisation. obviously, we're going to start in a handful of markets and try to be competitive domestically, to give people who — i think, if you talk to people certainly in the us and the uk, and many other places, if you either look at public opinion research or you ask them, you know, "are you delighted, are you satisfied with the way the news being delivered to you, with the news you're getting?" they will mostly say no, unfortunately. and i think there's a lot of things that we hope we can do well. one is hiring really great journalists and, you know, having their names, their faces prominent enough that the audience can feel like they know who they are getting their news from and feel connected to the people they're getting their news from, without stepping away from having a real news organisation and a guarantee, a central guarantee, of trust and a style and a voice.
5:33 am
so, is this is substack with a newsroom attached? no, but i think that newsrooms that don't learn what's happening — you know, substack�*s a small example, but really all of the talent industries, the whole media industry, certainly the entertainment industry, have shifted in a way that individuals, journalists like you and me, have direct connections with audiences on social media, and a lot of institutions — the bbc, the new york times, the washington post — are built to sort of have, you know, in which the brand, really, you are talking to the brand. thejournalist�*s name is in tiny font, and i think these days, the reality is that our audiences are connected to us, and the big challenge for any of these organisations to figuring out how to balance those two equities, and i think it's one of the things are starting from scratch gives you a real advantage. help me understand this gap you have identified. you sound like you say you can see a gap which the bbc, the ft, the new york times, the washington post, cnn and many other big news organisations have not spotted. well, i wouldn't say they haven't spotted them. it may be different over there, but when you talk to people in us newsrooms, they're
5:34 am
really concerned about how alienated their audience is, how many people they've lost, how many people say in surveys and, you know, directly, in e—mails, tweets, how unhappy they are with what we are doing. that's not to say it's easy to solve. certainly i think there's a huge audience that feels news has been — and there's a lot of different things happening, but one of them is that they feel news has been in some way poisoned by social media, not to say that twitter is not my favourite place in the world, butjust that there is form of journalism that takes the form of you tweeted something, i'm going to now write a trend story with finding three examples to support your pre—existing opinion, i will then feed it back to you, and you will share it because your views are being affirmed — and what i found, actually, is that while that's sort of a cheap high, something, i come back to you and say, "hey, i dug into it and actually the situation is more complicated and weirder and more interesting." but, ben, if i listed
5:35 am
the things that you just said, the risk of polarisation via social media, the risk of targeting people who already agree with what you're saying, the need to further engage with audiences who aren't consuming your news, i would imagine the top executives at all the biggest news organisations in the world would say, "yes, those are challenges for us." what i want to understand is what are you going to offer that is different to what is being offered by all of the big news organisations of the moment which would mean you managing to address that more successfully than they are. right, and i guess i would say, for one thing, that i've been around this business and done new things in it long enough that the idea that there's one killer app is silly, and we're not pivoting to video, we're not doing one simple thing, but i think the combination of great talent and a couple of other things, you know, one is that there have been enormous changes in story form. most of these big organisations continue to write things that look basically like newspaper articles, and that's not mostly the way people want to consume information. and if you look across the industry, at places like axios, at business insider, buzzfeed and all sorts of different places, there's a lot of innovation there. i think we are eager to push that forward. obviously, i have...
5:36 am
today is actually my first day leaving the times, we haven't absolutely nailed that down yet, but that's a huge direction and a huge opening — and then finally i do think, this is something where, certainly not — less of an issue for the bbc than almost anybody else, but the big stories in the world are fundamentally global in their dna these days, coronavirus, the rise of the far right. they're stories that get covered in a lot of places by the national press, like they're really kind of a city hall problem, or what did the president do wrong? and often a lot — that's a great story. you can also really misunderstand those stories if you don't see the commonalities between what's happening all over the world. which is a really, on one hand, totally banal thing to say, i realise, and on the other hand, if you read the national coverage, it is a big opening, i think there's, most broadly on the internet, there is a huge audience of people in our generation and younger who are connected
5:37 am
on the internet, who are consuming a lot of the same news, and who, when they read the national press of the united states or of britain, do not feel like it's talking to them at all. do you think — and i'm wondering this as i listen to you, there's been a potential contradiction in your plan, in that you're saying people want further in depth, impartial coverage of what is happening, further explanation, and yet you're putting an emphasis on individuals, and largely in the past 20 years, the most high—profile individuals within news have been opinion providers. for example, rupert murdoch's in the process of putting together a tv station, talktv, here in the uk built around piers morgan who's on a footballer�*s salary to hire the most... and it crushes me, it crushes me that rupert got to piers morgan before we did, honestly. well, is there a contradiction, there? it's easier to build a brand around an individual with a strong opinion. i think that's... certainly one of the trends of the last few years is just this rise of opinion, and opinion blurring into news.
5:38 am
i guess i would say i don't think that consumers are broadly thrilled with the way the news industry is, and with that development. some are, absolutely, and in a subscription business, maybe enough are — for a lot of the businesses, it's actually very successfulfor them — but my own experience of the times, in my own journalism, has been that people respond most strongly to the stories that don't disguise the journalist, aren't free of sensibility, aren't "just the facts, ma'am", but at the same time leave space for — you know, are fundamentally reliant on the reporting and the information and leave space for a smart reader to disagree with you. so, are you already thinking about how you might do stories? so, the novak djokovic story is one of the biggest in the world at the moment. how would you do that differently to how other, established news organisations are doing it? one of the things is, we would compete with everybody to break it, right? i'm not sure who broke it,
5:39 am
maybe it was reuters. and another thing that i've done in my career and which you just need to do is break huge stories that i would want, you know, that story fast and delivered in a great way by somebody with whom you feel you have a relationship and you trust. but also who is not pandering to you and not giving you the anti—serb propaganda you crave and i don't think this is absolutely rocket science, and again, having been through the waves of innovation in news, i think anyone who tells you, "well, we've figured out the one thing," you know, obviously this isn't that kind of business. can i ask you a practical question? as you know very well, breaking news is an expensive business, reporters have to spend a lot of time working on stories, some of them do not come to fruition. if you want to be first on stories on the global stage, you have to hire a lot of people. have you thought about what kind of scale newsroom you're trying to build? i don't have a number, but, yes, we will certainly be hiring dozens ofjournalists.
5:40 am
some in london. i think that is one of the opportunities, is that a lot ofjournalists are restless and interested in something new right now. for the sake of the discussion, let's assume that happens — you hire some brilliant journalists, you start making some innovative and different journalism. what is the business model that you hope to serve? well, i think we aim to have a blend of advertising, subscription events, other businesses, but that's the core of the media business and if you look at my partner justin's career at the atlantic, and at bloomberg, what he has found in his career is if you have a really high quality product, there's a lot of appetite for it in all of those areas. and you will be aware, almost more aware than anyone, because you worked at buzzfeed news and you'll have monitored very closely, for example, what huffpost has done in the news arena, you will be aware how challenging it is for anyone new to enter an arena where a big beasts like the new york times, the bbc and others have been around for an awfully
5:41 am
long time. have you looked at how this news businesses have fared and learned some lessons, perhaps? absolutely, i was also part of the launch team at politico, which had a big impact. i guess i would put it differently, which is that there have been some new entrants into this very old business who have shaken it up and had a lot of impact. you know, politico uk's morning newsletter is a thing people seem to read in london right now. and they really came in very hot and particularly on the editorial side showed how big an audience there is that's looking for something new. i think they all have taken a while to figure out their business models and there's a lot to learn from them. but as you know, let's take politico. politico targets a particular section of society, normally professionals, often people who work in the media or in politics — you say people who read the politico email in the morning, well, as a percentage of london it would be a very small, but as a percentage of the target audience that advertisers are interested in,
5:42 am
perhaps it would be higher. are you trying to make a product that targets high income individuals who may be appealing to advertisers, or are you trying to make news for everyone? i mean, ithink literally only the bbc, god bless, tries to make news for everyone. any other publication in the world thinks about who their audience is. i actually don't really think of them as high income. i think there's a class of mostly educated and self—educated people who are reading all of our work on the internet, talking to each other all over the place — i think there's lots of those folks in places like nigeria and india who have college degrees and are consuming global news who were not before, and also even more in the us, obviously. you just left a business which also targets those kind of consumers — the new york times would say those are the kind of people it wants to have subscribing to its content. how do you explain to all of us why the new york times has been
5:43 am
so effective at driving subscriber numbers in the last few years? the times in the us, it's been, actually, a delight to be there and to help, but to try to understand their success, which is totally real. there are lots of reasons. they have 1700 journalists, great ones, the break big stories, they benefited and the subscription business benefited massively from the rise of trump, in the sense that the were a key voice of reality check — and they also built, and increasingly are building — it is an interesting story of a broad media business in which their cooking and crossword products are driving huge shares of subscriptions. but if you want to hire some of the bestjournalists in the world, you will be well aware that to prise them away from established media organisations to come to something new is going to be expensive — so, who is paying for it? not ready break that news, but we are totally confident we will have the resources
5:44 am
we'll need, and honestly, having been prised away from various places, and maybe i'm particularly restless, i actually think many journalists are eager for a new thing. i think there's been a pendulum swing, as it always does in this industry, you know, ten years ago towards lots of interesting new stuff, and then sort of a rush of people like me back to the new york times, back to the safety of these big established institutions, and i think there's a lot of appetite among journalists, actually, to try something new. could they be people who have strong opinions who are known for being public and strident about how they see the world? it's hard to answer that in the abstract, but i think, basically. . .i don't want to hire people who a fair—minded reader is going to think that they cannot totally trust on the subject. for any reason — including because they have such a public stake in a side of an argument that you as a normal person are going to feel like it's
5:45 am
going to be hard to trust them. i'm interested to ask that question, because obviously rupert murdoch is investing heavily in opinion, and substack is really built around people whose opinions are really seen as valuable in and of themselves outside of a larger organisation. presumably, opinion has to be part of the equation here. i don't think we anticipate launching with much opinion journalism. i think there are ways, particularly getting scoops and breaking news, and a sort of open—minded analysis that can connect with an audience without that kind of strident opinion that is often just about affirming peoples pre—existing beliefs. that's been my personal experience. can i ask you how you're planning to handle opinion? you would've been well aware within the new york times there was a big row internally... i covered it. you covered it! ..after the op—ed article which suggested military force might be used to respond
5:46 am
to back lives matter protests. how did you view the times�*s handling of that, and how might that inform your approach to covering subjects on which staff do not agree? yeah, ithink... i covered that at the time. the summer of 2020 was an extraordinary moment around the world, and sometimes it's hard to separate out what was happening in newsrooms from what was happening in the offices of, you know, sneaker companies and everywhere else. i think it doesn't make sense to analyse sometimes outside of the context it was happening in every workplace in the us, that people were in a moment, both of this intense racial reckoning and also the peak of the coronavirus, there was this very intense conversation about these issues boiling for a long time. and in american newsrooms in particular, i think there's long been this deal that there was this tacit agreement that they want diversity and they want blackjournalists essentially on the unspoken condition that they never complain about racism. which is — and i think that broke down, and part of the newsroom explosion
5:47 am
was partly about that. i also think that.. i actually don't mean speak typically about the times here, but i do think corporate leadership across industries has this outsized reaction to twitter, this outsized reaction even to employees voicing complaints, that we must immediately chop someone�*s head off and delivered it to them on a platter, and i don't think that's what even people internally want. so, i think, it was a specific moment in time but also corporate manager reactions are a huge part of this story. it was a specific moment in time, but lots of people looked at that specific moment
5:48 am
and looked at how newsrooms are handling it and said actually, what we're seeing is a generational divide between how youngerjournalists see the issue of freedom of speech and how older journalists see the issue of freedom of speech. did you buy into that analysis that that is the case? i'm not sure if freedom of speech is the right issue. ido think... the point being that some older journalists arguing that, yes, we should run this op—ed, even if it's highly offensive to us, whereas the younger journalists were saying, actually there is just no place for this whatsoever in our media organisation. yeah, i think there's obviously a bit of a generational shift around speech, and around the notion, is speech harmful and where's the line in an op—ed, and what about an op—ed from the taliban, what about an op—ed from vladimir putin, both of which the times had also run. i don't think... i guess i don't think
5:49 am
the things happening in the summer of 2020 were mostly about speech, i think they were mostly about race. there is a generational shift on that particular question. and there's a wide range of news organisations, i think one of the healthy things in this environment is that there are going to be different organisations with different views on some of these questions. it strikes me as i'm listening to you, the issue of trust becomes ever more fundamental to news media organisations. trust between employees and the organisation and then trust between organisations and its audience. do you think that is a significant calculation as you create this new news media organisation, how you re—engage people who have stopped trusting the news? yeah, and i think there's a big opportunity to connect with people, and often if you talk to people about the news, they say, you need to read between the lines and means a lot of different — it means a lot of different
5:50 am
things to a lot of people. everybody hates us these days, but for a wide variety of reasons. i think it's an opportunity and i think, proving in various ways that you're open—minded and that you can and that the reader can trust you is totally central. and i want to ask you about a decision you took around the steele dossier, and whether you feel that had an impact on trust between americans and the media. for listeners who don't recall this, buzzfeed, when you were editor, published the steele dossier containing allegations linking donald trump to russia, those allegations have not been stood up — you justified publishing it all the same because you said this dossier was being shared in washington and therefore it was relevant. but a lot of what was within it has not been established to be true. did that impact trust between americans and their news media? i think, actually, the details
5:51 am
of this story really matter. which describes in early january of 2017, and after this document had been briefed to the president of the united states and the president—elect, donald trump, and it was circulating in us senators and diplomats were reading it and making decisions based on it, cnn reported that there is this document, there's a secret document with compromising information on the president of the united states. and that is the context in which my view, our view at buzzfeed, which was, it's perfectly reasonable, as a lot of people were, looking at this document and being sceptical of it and try to run down the information. once people are out there saying, i hold in my hand the secret document compromising the president and i'm not going to show you what it is, that to me was a situation which, well, actually, we ought to show the audience what it is. with caveats by saying, here's this document, you know it exists, better that you see it then you are just told that there is a secret
5:52 am
document with compromising information about the president. but it will burn your eyes out if you look at it. but... we published it saying we had not been unable to stand it up or knock it down but there were errors in it and you should be careful. two questions here, the question of whether you should've published it, which you just addressed, and a secondary question about whether publishing it impacts on trust in the news media because the reality is many americans are saying that the volume of attention and particularly the liberal us media paid to the allegations around donald trump and russia combined with the fact that not all of those allegations added up, eroded trust in significant sections of the society. do you think that is the case? i think that's true and it's a feature of what were talking about earlier that there was a, sort of an impulse, particularly on cable news to tell people what they wanted to hear, and impulsive and often feel in this business for he felt like the indictments of donald trump
5:53 am
a right around the corner. that is a complicated story because there was in fact this very unusual wikileaks centric operation that purportedly was staged by the russians the donald trump had. so, it was a question worth asking about donald trump and russia and on the other hand, donald trump politics are essential for attacking the media. and they really had a very powerful megaphone to do it. so trust in the media was eroded because he did a greatjob of doing it an independent of the russian investigation. far predating the russian investigation.
5:54 am
that set a lot of those dynamics up there really present there. lots of different dynamics that led to an erosion of trust which leads us to the point where, ok, what can i do this new organisation that potentially addresses that an extra talking, a thing about tech websites which sometimes publish amounts of information attached aware of things are being sourced from. is that too much for the average consumer or to techniques like that work in terms of building back the trust that has potentially been eroded? i think transparency is important and transparency can take the form of one too many footnotes. butjust in general, i think it's really early to spitball about the formal details, but i think specifically the notion that you feel that yes, not only is this coming from a journalist that you trust, but if you wanted to, you could reproduce their work, is contextually important in one of the greatest gifts of the internet. the documents, the source materials can be shared. none of the stuff
5:55 am
is easy full proof. one of the greatest things that people can share information freely but with the individual country, their different rules on the internet and i would imagine there are certain countries for your new organisation may struggle to share itsjournalism. of course. china being the giant and obvious example. a huge challenge to anybody is this increasing balkanisation of the internet and a sense of some national governments and the realisation that this is data travelling on service that had to be located somewhere and hosted by people who they can arrest.
5:56 am
thank you very much forjoining us on the media show and will check back in with you in a few months to see how this new venture is going. that is it for this week's edition of the programme. thank you for watching, goodbye. hello, there. saturday was a rather cloudy day across much of the country. sunday looks brighter once we lose this weather front which is spreading southwards across the country, being a band of cloud and showers. and you'll also notice it will be a breezy day pretty much across the board, but certainly in the north, where we'll have gales across northern scotland. you can see why on the pressure chart, quite a few isobars here. this is the weather front spreading its way southwards across the country — this one brought some showers to southern areas overnight, that will eventually clear
5:57 am
away and take any showers for the far south—east of england. this weather front in the north will continue to sink southward through the day — barely anything on it by the time it reaches england and wales, in fact, and to be fragmenting to allow for quite a bit of sunshine to develop. and there'll be lots of sunshine across the northern half of the country. a breezy day, like i mentioned, windy in the north with gales for the northern isles. our air source will be coming in off the atlantic and, with quite a bit of sunshine around, it should feel a touch milder with highs of 8—11 celsius for many of us. now, as we move into sunday evening and overnight, the winds ease down for many — still quite breezy across the north uk, further showers for the northern isles, but high pressure begins to build in clear skies. temperatures will drop — and again, it's going to be a colder one than what we've seen through saturday night, with temperatures below freezing, and also some dense mist and fog patches around. our area of high pressure then, building in for monday, will bring a lot of settled weather — you can see barely any isobars on the chart, so winds will remain light
5:58 am
all day for most of us. still some breeze and some cloud for the far north of scotland, but elsewhere, it's a chilly start with some frost and fog, which will clear and then leave actually a pretty pleasant day. quite a lot of sunshine up and down the country. after the chilly start, temperatures will reach highs of 7—9 celsius for most of us. as we move out of monday into tuesday, we see this frontal system sweep in off the atlantic, and that'll bring a wetter and windy day for the northern half of the country, the south still influenced by this area of high pressure. so it turns wet and windy for northern ireland, western scotland first, spreading across the rest of scotland, perhaps northern england into the afternoon. a chilly start with some fog across central and southern areas, but also a little bit of sunshine tending to break through in the afternoon as temperatures range from 7—11 celsius. thereafter, high pressure dominates the scene for the rest of the week and into the following weekend. so a lot of fine, unsettled weather with overnight frost and fog. see you later.
5:59 am
6:00 am
good morning, welcome to breakfast with rogerjohnson and katherine downes. our headlines today: australian judges are considering whether to deport novak djokovic, just 2a hours before he's due to begin the defence of his open tennis title. a former minister becomes the sixth conservative mp to call on borisjohnson to resign over the downing street lockdown parties. a tsunami has caused "significant damage" on the island of tonga after a volcanic eruption in the south pacific. so far no deaths have been reported. good morning. have england finally
6:01 am
turned up in hobart? it's been a brilliant morning for the bowlers


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on